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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The Swedish concept of bildning connects to the democratization process of Swedish society and the struggle for social justice over the last 150 years. It can be regarded as permeating three main Swedish movements and was constituted as a tool for marginalized people to take part in society. Advocates for a holistic approach to learning claim that bildning should be defined as different from education, in the sense that the traditional education system stands for a more instrumental perspective on learning. Advocates for the opposing standpoint claim that bildning is simply the natural result of traditional education. Advocates for holistic bildning ideals have recurrently strongly criticized the formal school system and its cramming culture (“teaching for the test”) and elitist ideals. Their position is rather that learning should be enjoyable, motivational, and voluntary in order to lead citizens to a state of emancipation. In aesthetic activities such as music there are some knowledge elements that can be said to constitute the very essence of bildning, in the sense that the activity does not have to lead to something particular in order to be meaningful. Over the past few decades the focus on testing and grades appears to have increased in school and education discussions in Sweden and worldwide. Using the concept of bildning as a point of departure, this chapter highlights how standardized assessment procedures contradict its holistic ideals. For instance, music education that contains elements of testing may be regarded as conflicting with the bildning concept.

Keywords: bildning, social movements, holistic educational ideals, empowerment, instrumental learning

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