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Noah W. Sobe
Professor, Cultural and Educational Policy Studies

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Current Research

Professor Sobe's research examines the global circulation of educational policies and practices with a particular interest in the ways that schools function as contested sites of cultural production for the making up of people, peoples, societies and worlds.

One of his current lines of scholarship examines research methodologies in comparative education, specifically around how notions of context, the nation, transnationalism and globalization/the global can be reconceptualized.

Professor Sobe is also presently beginning a set of projects related to merit and meritocracy in education, oriented around the idea that researchers and policymakers too often simply treat merit as a predetermined and prediscursive concept, with the challenge being to engineer just systems of access and reward. Typically, a concern with merit crosses all dimensions and levels of an education system. However, what is recognized as "merit" is a cultural and historical production that simultaneously produces certain "kinds" of human beings -- and this too requires careful study. Over the past century schooling has become an increasingly important factor in forming societies around the globe, and merit systems and practices have been increasingly institutionalized. Nonetheless, given the contemporary globalization of economies, labor markets and education, there is urgent need for comparative international education research that examines the past, present and future of educational meritocracies. The measurement and mobilization of merit pervades nearly all educational practices, and Professor Sobe's interest in the intersection of achievement and the attention of the child has led to a book-in-preparation that historically examines the problem of student engagement and disengagement by tracing the cultural history of boredom in school.

Working with a set of colleagues around the globe, and with funding from the Spencer Foundation, Professor Sobe is currently (October 2015-December 2016) undertaking a historical study of the globalization of educational merit titled Educational Merit on a Global Stage: The History and Conceptualization of Merit and Educational Meritocracy in China, Italy, Russia and the United States.

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Modified: March 22, 2017
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