Dr Kevin Flint from the IAPD discusses modern education.
In my last paper presented to this website I was concerned about the style of educational practices in the context of moving into a space for education that may be found in the plus ultra, beyond our current practices. In the focus upon style I wished to create a contrast between a cold detached Cartesian world view that privileges the thinking ‘I’ and a radically contrasting understanding of our everyday pragmatic and embodied practices. I want others to become sensitized to the existing disharmony between the possible style of practices involving people and the dominant Cartesian standpoint which Gilbert Ryle once remarked, amounts to a ‘ghost in a machine’.
Here I wish to approach my earlier paper from a different vantage point. We have seen that disharmony emerges within educational apparatuses – schools, universities, State run educational systems – because they employ systems of education based upon the principle of assessment–‘nothing of educational value is without assessment’, which was born from the principle of reason: nothing is without reason. The disharmony emerges in such apparatuses of education precisely because the modes of assessment create a subject/object grammar in accord with reason. But, human beings variously live and create space for themselves in the plus ultra of heterogeneous economies moving beyond any such grammars.
Looking back while Pink Floyd’s earlier lyrics of their iconic song, Brick in the Wall, in their own way challenged many different forms of physical violence often imparted by teachers in the post-War years to young people in primary and secondary forms of education in the name of maintaining control and order. Indeed, their song with its unmistakable beat pulsed out the rhythm of ‘you’re just a brick in the wall, we don’t need no education; we don’t need no thought control’ emerged as an icon challenging such violence. For many, now, such physical violence may seem strangely outmoded.
At issue is the extent to which there remains the force of violence exerted upon young people and their teachers and others involved within apparatuses of education in the modern world. We have to keep in mind Foucault’s study of Discipline and Punish, which put a spotlight on just how apparatuses of education have a strong tendency to reduce people to a collective docile body. Such a tendency has certainly not been eliminated by the many different approaches taken over the last forty years in response to the question of the improvement of schools.
In reading the works of all of the leading figures working on the issue of improvement in apparatuses of education – Michael Fullan, Bruce Joyce, Emily Cahoun, Andy Hargreaves, David Hopkins, David Hargreaves, David Reynolds, and many others… one would still be hard pushed to find any reference to the problematic issue of the principle of assessment and what Heidegger called ‘the enframing’ [das Ge-stell] in such apparatuses. The reason is clear. People in this field have simply not concerned themselves with the complex question of being.
Paradoxically, as a consequence no one in this field has noticed that it is the sublime powers of being as presence that is driving improvement efforts, not individuals or particular agencies – schools, colleges, local authorities… In the metaphysical determinations of the practices of education supposedly being improved, the sublime violence affecting every school, community in the land, arises from the sovereign powers of language to include, exclude and to make exceptions.
Is it not time that more people begin to feel the disharmony? As human beings we live in the plus ultra of heterogeneous economies, whereas our education systems serve to alienate us from ourselves, in treating us as a collective body located within homogenous economies.
Dr Kevin J. Flint
Reader in Education