The Politics of Public Education: Reform Ideas and Issues 9781447339595

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The Politics of Public Education: Reform Ideas and Issues

Table of contents :
1. Thinking politically: challenging public education
Thinking politically
Thinking politically with Arendt
Thinking politically about public education with Arendt
EPKP and Arendtian scholarship
Thinking differently for public education with Hannah Arendt
2. Action: professionals learning to labour
Common knowledges?
Labour, work and action
The possibilities for labour, work and action
Thinking politically with labour, work and action
3. Plurality: the idea and reality of choice
Common purposes?
The possibilities for plurality
Thinking politically with plurality
4. Natality: the opportunity to do new things
A common education?
The possibilities of doing something new
Thinking politically with natality
5. Promising: school diversity and competition
Common provision?
Promises and promise making
The possibilities for promising
Thinking politically with promising
6. Responsibility and judging: producing and using numbers
Common powers?
Responsibility and judgement
The possibilities for responsibility and judging
Thinking politically with responsibility and judging
7. Forgiving: the end of public education
Common commons?
The possibilities of thinking with forgiveness
Thinking politically with forgiving
8. Thinking politically again: the conditions for public education
Public services education as a case for concern
Totalitarian tendencies
The conditions for public education

Citation preview

Helen M Gunter


THE POLITICS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION Reform ideas and issues Helen M. Gunter

First published in Great Britain in 2018 by Policy Press North America office: University of Bristol Policy Press 1-9 Old Park Hill c/o The University of Chicago Press Bristol 1427 East 60th Street BS2 8BB Chicago, IL 60637, USA UK t: +1 773 702 7700 t: +44 (0)117 954 5940 f: +1 773-702-9756 [email protected] [email protected] © Policy Press 2018 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN 978-1-4473-3958-8 hardcover ISBN 978-1-4473-3960-1 ePub ISBN 978-1-4473-3961-8 Mobi ISBN 978-1-4473-3959-5 ePdf The right of Helen M. Gunter to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved: no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of Policy Press. The statements and opinions contained within this publication are solely those of the author and not of the University of Bristol or Policy Press. The University of Bristol and Policy Press disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any material published in this publication. Policy Press works to counter discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability, age and sexuality. Cover design by Robin Hawes Front cover image: iStock Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY Policy Press uses environmentally responsible print partners

In loving memory of David William Warren 1951–2015 The Commander

Contents Acknowledgements v Biography vii one two three four five six seven eight

Thinking politically: challenging public education Action: professionals learning to labour Plurality: the idea and reality of choice Natality: the opportunity to do new things Promising: school diversity and competition Responsibility and judging: producing and using numbers Forgiving: the end of public education Thinking politically again: the conditions for public education

1 25 47 69 91 113 135 157

References 179 Index 217


Acknowledgements This book is dedicated to my late brother-in-law, David Warren. On 1 May 2015 he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and this vicious and cruel disease took his life on 9 September 2015. He was a great storyteller. In a conversation about work he once asked me what I was doing, and I told him about a bid I was writing and how research funding worked. He looked perplexed and thought for a moment and then said: “You should have the money you need to do research, this is ridiculous.” I could only agree, and, as I sit down to write a bid, and when I receive an ‘excellent bid but no funding’ rejection letter, I think of David’s argument about investment rather than rationing. As I sat down to write this book I also thought about David, and how thrilled he would have been to hear the ideas and to talk things through. Barry and I are looking after Jan for you. She has been elected as a trustee for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and is working hard with colleagues to find a cure and to help families. I am deeply in debt to the funders of the projects that underpin this book, specifically the Economic and Social Research Council and the funding of the Knowledge Production in Educational Leadership Project (RES-000-23-1192); and the British Academy and Leverhulme funding for the Consultancy and Knowledge Production in Education Project (SG121698). The data from these two, and other projects, have been vital for supporting the approach to political thinking that I develop in this book. Thank you to the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester for awarding Professorial Enhanced Research Leave to enable me to have the time to write this book. This support and investment in the Manchester Institute of Education is much appreciated. Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank my colleagues in the Critical Educational Policy and Leadership research group at Manchester for their support for my study leave, and for their friendship and research insights. I would like to thank Dr Steve Courtney in particular, for reading and giving feedback on the draft. Of course, I take full responsibility for what unfolds in the following pages. Finally, in re-engaging with Arendt and in writing this book I have been reminded of this poem by Martin Niemöller, and I am indebted to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for helping me to reference this:


The politics of public education

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. Source: Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller, as stated in Franklin H. Littell’s Foreword to Exile in the Fatherland, Martin Niemöller’s Letters from Moabit Prison, edited by Hubert G. Locke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1986), p. viii. Here is my version for public common education in England: First they came for the local authority adviser, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a local authority adviser Then they came for the teacher, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a teacher Then they came for the headteacher, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a headteacher Then they came for the children, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a child Then they came for me (as researcher) – and there was no-one left to speak out for me.


Biography Helen Gunter is Professor of Educational Policy in The Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester, UK. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and recipient of the BELMAS Distinguished Service Award 2016. Her research focuses on the politics of education policy and knowledge production in the field of school leadership. Her most recent books are: Leadership and the reform of education, published in 2012 by Policy Press; Educational leadership and Hannah Arendt, published in 2014 by Routledge; An intellectual history of school leadership practice and research, published in 2016 by Bloomsbury Press; and Consultants and Consultancy: the Case of Education, coauthored with Colin Mills, published in 2017 by Springer.



Thinking politically: challenging public education

Introduction Let me begin with a quotation: Those who have always lived in liberty do not appreciate the enormous power of freedom that earlier generations fought for. Hundreds of millions of people reap the benefits of freedom and stability but have no memory of life without democracy. For those lucky enough to live without the scars of lost generations, without the fear of brutal oppression, and for those who have never tasted their own blood at the hands of oppressors, let me warn you: never turn your backs on politics. (Flinders 2013, p172) I intend claiming solidarity with these dangers by thinking politically about politics. I locate my analysis within thirty years of primary and scholarly research about and for education policy, where evidence demonstrates that the gains accumulated by public services common education are being demolished and defeated through the deployment of governing strategies that are restricting thinking politically. By examining fundamental changes to the supply of school places, the status and contribution of teachers, and the role of parents and children in exercising ‘choice’, I consider how classrooms, offices, homes and communities are sites where we are drawn into and participate in everyday practices that promote totalitarian thinking and doing. I argue that seemingly benign and popular changes are in effect generating an unfolding catastrophe in public services education, and that the reform of schools is a site where democratic political cultures are being rapidly degraded. People are learning to fear rather than depend on each other, to win rather than collaborate, and to claim distinction rather than give recognition to shared humanity. I confront these trends by engaging with Hannah Arendt as my ‘discussion partner’ (Biesta 2013b, p7), where I think out loud ‘with’


The politics of public education

and ‘against’ Arendt (see Benhabib 1988), using her insights developed through deploying a network of concepts: action, plurality, natality, promising, forgiving, responsibility and judgement. Using Arendtian scholarship leads me to argue that a human who is enveloped in ‘possessive individualism’ (Macpherson 2011) is the object of animated empowerment, where we are each told that ‘I’ have new freedoms, opportunities and aspirations but in effect such claims originate with elites in the interest of elites. By thinking politically I antagonise the pernicious durability of alliances between education, eugenics and elite interests located in corporate, faith and philanthropic power structures and cultures. While these elite interests are diverse, their positional claims in what is said and done reveal shared dispositions and defend borders that are advantaged through deals and networks (Gunter et al 2017b). Notably, I draw attention to how this is visible in the claims made for and realities of educational and school segregation, where children do not learn together based on the promotion of ‘biopolitical distinctiveness’ espoused through superiority–inferiority binaries. In doing so I ally my research with Fraser’s (2004, p254) critical call that ‘we should creatively transform Arendtian thinking to account for new modes of negating the human in the 21st century’. The research reported in this book is such an account, where children, parents and teachers are not only facing and experiencing segregated exclusion but are also being enabled to participate in their own and others’ disposability. The evidence and arguments are based on research observations and analysis that are historical and contemporary, empirical and conceptual. It has become very clear that public services education within westernstyle democracies remains a major challenge to the dominance of private provision that seeks to structure bodily identities for personal gain in order to exclude others. Public ‘common’ education is premised on the disconnection of the body from outcomes, based on notions and practices for inclusive entitlement, miscellaneous achievements and in support of democratic dispositions and practices. Consequently, the gains made through funded, regulated, and universal public and ‘commons’ schooling are evident but continue to be questioned, reformed and replaced. Public services education is endemically under threat because access to high-quality education for all children was borne more out of elite concessions rather than shared entitlement ideals. Promoters of education as a private ‘uncommon’ matter are seeking to reoccupy and re-control debates and reforms that they had yielded to and had seemingly lost. This restoration of elite control is evident in reform agendas that are focused on the transformation and


Thinking politically

replacement of local schools with autonomous providers, where parents negotiate within marketised exchanges and/or seek out faith schools that protect their beliefs. The narrowing of the purposes and design of the curriculum and pedagogy, and the re-professionalisation of the ‘workforce’ as enthusiastic delivery operatives means that schools as sites for thinking and taking action about educational purposes are in peril. Accounts of the impact of reforms continue to be codified and presented by researchers (for example, Adamson et al 2016), policy actors (for example, Ravitch 2014), parents (for example, Benn and Downs 2016), professionals (for example, Winkley 2002) and by investigative journalists (for example, Beckett 2007), and this burgeoning evidence, analysis and commentary is providing important insights into the damage that is being done to children’s lives and opportunities. What is distinctive about this new contribution is not only the scope of the research brief regarding the range of illustrative cases but also the prime focus on thinking politically. The field of critical education policy studies does consider political matters but tends to give more attention to thinking historically and sociologically about politics (see Gunter 2012), and while significant gains have been made, my contribution is to focus on how thinking politically can bring new insights not only by revealing the normalised destruction of public services education, but also the way this interplays with totalitarian tendencies. Central to these arguments is how I identify and expose trends within governing strategies designed to depoliticise education policy, where research from the field of political studies is an important resource for thinking differently (Fawcett et al 2017a). While research projects have tended to have a main focus on the state (for example, Moran 2007), increasingly attention is being given to alternative sites of decision making through governance networks (for example, Bevir and Rhodes 2003) or forms of replacement through ‘extrastatecraft’ or ‘nested forms of authority’ where private elite interests exercise sovereignty in ‘free zones’ (Easterling 2016, p15). Building on this tradition I break new ground by focusing less on politics as rule, and more on politics as a relational knowledge production process. Core to exchange relationships is the way the state and public policy interplay with knowledges, ways of knowing, knowledge actors and the knowledgeabilities in what is said and done in making claims. I present a new conceptualisation that I call Knowledgeable Polities (KPs), and I identify and deploy the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP) as the methodological means of examining the dynamics of the state, people, practices, ideologies and networks. Such an approach


The politics of public education

allows the study to consider the conditions for rethinking politically ongoing ‘reforms’ of education and I provide access to ideas, evidence and practices vital for the re-politicisation of public services education. By partnering with Arendt I am enabled to think productively about a range of ideas and arguments, and so I present a standpoint ready for the questions and alternatives provided by entering the public realm.

Thinking politically Politics matters: ‘it is crucially important to our freedom and wellbeing’ (Stoker 2006 pxi). An important site where politics matters is in the border territories between agenda setting in the ‘realm of contingency and deliberation’ and agenda delivery in the ‘realm of necessity’ (Hay 2007, p79). A political system is therefore the organisational arrangements where everyone is deemed to be a political actor who debates and votes within civil society regarding what must and should be done, through to practices by those who hold public office as politicians. Indeed politics is mainly identified as the key process about, within and for government (that is, elections and the workings of public institutions) along with how this interplays with networks within civil society known as governance. Consequently, politics is viewed as antagonistic (Mouffe 2013), is primarily concerned with the exercise of power in regard to choice options, along with the authority and legitimacy of enactment. Politicisation takes place when an issue becomes the site for public discussion and resolution that was previously the concern of the few or no one at all (Hay 2007). At a very basic level, thinking politically means that ideas, evidence and debates are politicised through political activities within political institutions. However, what prompted Flinders (2013) and other political scientists (for example, Marquand 2004; Stoker 2006; Hay 2007; Fawcett et al 2017a) to publish ‘health warnings’ regarding forms of ‘anti-politics’ (Fawcett et al 2017b) is that data and events demonstrate a lack of trust in the system and in professional politicians to deliver mandated policies. Political disenchantment and disengagement is being fuelled by myths, evidenced through low levels of voter turnout combined with a rise in support for ‘populist politicians’ who take up ‘anti-establishment’ agendas. There are at least two interconnected challenges: first, Flinders (2013) identifies how ‘democracy is a “double-barbed concept”’, where we are told we have freedoms ‘to own, to speak, to congregate, to travel, to vote, to choose’ but at the same time we must curb our demands and be ‘willing to set aside individual demands for the greater collective good’


Thinking politically

(p107); and, second, this interplay between the citizen and commons means that: ‘the real problem with politics, even in democracies, is that it is inevitably destined to disappoint because it is about the tough process of squeezing collective decisions out of multiple and competing interests and opinions’ (Stoker 2006, p1). In a democracy the citizen must accept the decisions of others through elections and referenda, and so it is likely that a person could be dissatisfied where the legitimate process of opposition and working for alternatives is for the long game. The identification of democratic cultures and practices as being in peril is located in the resilience of powerful socially, politically and economically embedded elite interests: first, within the pre-democratic ancien régime of authoritarian monarchy the person as body was owned through the complexity of serfdom, faith and fealty; and, second, overlaying rather than replacing this, from the 17th century onwards, is the equation of democracy with the assertion of the person as individual, which was championed through colonial trade and property rights, where the elite stakeholder demanded political rights to pursue profit through the control of wage labourers. This subjugation of the body to state-elite power structures as a form of ‘biopolitics’ (Foucault 2008) has been confronted through the demand for rights and equity that are disconnected from inheritance, faith and wealth (for example, the abolition of the slave trade, the emancipation of women). While gains have been made (constitutional and human rights charters), the legacy and potency of aristocratic, faith and corporate elite location and narratives within and external to state ‘public’ institutions means that the person (body, identity, practices) may exist within the rhetoric of liberty but in reality is subjected to domination. The biopolitics of distinction focuses directly on how the person is told they must manage the self (with needs to be primarily fulfilled through consumption rather than citizenship), but in reality the differences between people have been recognised, classified and structured in ways that shape notions of superior–inferior agency regarding aspirations for or acceptance of a particular way of life (Agamben 1998). Research into the development and current state of democracy has tended to focus on specific vantage points regarding government and the legitimate exercise of power through public institutions (for example, Moran 2007), with increased attention given to governance and the relocation of power to networks, agencies and civil society (such as Bevir and Rhodes 2003). The approach I intend taking is to situate my analysis within KPs, that is, the spaces created for policy scoping, design and enactment that are within, but also in between, the functional operation of government and the complexities of


The politics of public education

networked governance. Specifically, I intend focusing on governing strategies for change that are developed and utilised at the interface of the state and networks, where I give prime attention to knowledge production for and within exchange relationships that are structured by biopolitical distinctiveness. I give recognition to what I call the ‘4Ks’ or knowledges (ideas, ideologies, evidence, data) and ways of knowing (beliefs, opinions, research methodologies), and I identify the knowers (with claims to and evidence of knowledges and ways of knowing) and their espoused knowledgeabilities (with thinking, speaking, language and deportment) (see Gunter 2016). The trend in governing strategies that is revealed through examining public policy through KPs is depoliticisation, where the 4Ks are deployed to close down spaces for debate within government institutions through the adoption of templated solution strategies, the transfer of services to delivery agencies and the removal of issues from public agendas (Wood and Flinders 2014). Hence biopolitical distinctiveness is used and co-constructed through espousing freedom from political matters in ways that generate the illusion of the freedom to do, speak and accumulate social and economic capitals. Depoliticisation as a governing strategy for public policy is evident within interrelated change strategies: first, consumption as a form of authorised inaction, where citizens are disciplined into accepting and applauding, not thinking and acting politically; second, colonisation, where citizens are enculturated into simulating, accepting and enabling elite privatism as integral to their own and the public interest; third, personalisation, where citizens are authorised to access services through a focus on the needs of the self, or those they are related to through biology or the law; fourth, contractualism, where citizens articulate and have their needs met through formalised agreements; fifth, calculation, where citizens have access to specific data and provide data themselves through feedback, in order to determine their relationship to and by service qualilty; and sixth, privatism, where citizens view the self as paramount, and engage with others in order to secure advantage. Depoliticisation means that issues that previously were about the public, for the public, funded by the public and done in public are increasingly private matters and handled in private, and so only matter when individuals decide to make a difference publicly (through social media or philanthropy or terrorism). The reworking of politics (and certainly elections and referenda) as a form of supply–demand ‘retailing’ means that people witness the vendor promise as identifying and meeting their needs, but soon realise that the vote cannot be spent like currency. The reality is emerging endemic powerlessness – people


Thinking politically

vote but may not get their chosen MP or government – and this has enculturated an isolated ‘no alternative’ disposition, where the world is as it is (competitive and can do, or full of debt and rigged in favour of elites). It seems that all that individuals and families can usefully do is to tactically position and reposition themselves in order to keep alongside or perhaps ahead of the game. In summary, the idea and reality of public services education through the commons and democratic participation are in danger: consumer accumulation matters more than citizenship participation; private beliefs matter more than public debate; profit maximisation matters more than public investment; contracting corporate-supporting personnel and solutions matters more than public service employment and ethos; security matters more than confronting the conditions which produced threats and attacks; and the gap between ‘the haves and have nots’ is now so wide that political systems based on elite consensus are fragile due to frustrated dissensus.

Thinking politically with Arendt Politics matters for Arendt: ‘the raison d’être of politics is freedom, and its field of experience is action’ (Arendt 2006a, p145, original emphasis). Arendtian thinking provides insights into the meaning and practices of politics in productive ways, and in ways that raise challenges about and for depoliticisation as a governing strategy. Notably Arendt is concerned to examine the problematics of how and why humans have learned (and learned to want) to consume rather than participate politically in the public realm. Arendt (2005, p95, original emphasis) disputes the ancient and accepted notion that humans are political animals, and that politics is located in especial jobs, roles and institutions: man is apolitical. Politics arises between men, and so quite outside of man. There is therefore no real political substance. Politics arises in what lies between men and its established as relationships. Therefore freedom is not based on biopolitical distinctiveness, where one ‘type’ of human can say, do, own, or trade on the basis that they are nobler or righter than others, but instead ‘freedom exists only in the unique intermediary space of politics’ (p95). Such relationality is about thinking, saying and acting as present with others: ‘politics is inescapably public, making possible and inevitable the disclosure of the


The politics of public education

individual who acts upon the public stage’ (Canovan 1995, p181). So the sites, opportunities and practices that enable politics are crucial. Arendt’s gift to thinking politically is through what Bernstein (2013, p82) identifies as a ‘network of concepts’: Action: Arendt (1958) distinguishes action from labour and work: we labour to survive (for example, to grow and prepare food), and when we work we produce goods (for example, a building) that stabilise society because craft production outlasts our own mortality. Action is integral to politics and is distinctive from labour and work because it transcends routine, and is about presenting the self and a standpoint in the world so that ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’ understand and can be understood. Action is spontaneous and is enacted in the space between people, where in the public realm ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘we’, do and say, where speech, listening, thinking, doing and discussing enables understanding in regard to standpoints. Action cannot take place without plurality and natality: that we share humanity but are unique humans, and we are born with the potential to do new things. Arendtian thinking enables us to identify and confront the need for action, and in doing so speaks to concerns about consumption as a change strategy for authorised inaction. Plurality: Arendt (1958) identifies that acting ‘together’ is premised on the notion of plurality or the infinite variety of people and their standpoints. This means, as Bernstein (2013, p83) neatly illuminates, that how citizens ‘seek to persuade each other about how to conduct their public affairs’, and thus ‘speech and debate’, can be ‘contentious and agonistic; they do not necessarily result in, or presuppose, consensus’, and, importantly, citizens need to realise that ‘politics requires a commitment to persuasion, and when we fail to persuade, we must at least agree to fair procedures for making decisions’. Arendtian thinking enables us to seek and value standpoints, and the need for spaces in which to understand and persuade, and in doing so it speaks to concerns about colonisation as a change strategy. Natality: Arendt (1958) identifies the opportunities afforded by natality or the spontaneity to do something new, where: ‘freedom can only arise from something that is not the determinate product of a causal chain’ (Bowring 2011, p22). The conditions in which natality is in evidence are related to the actions of doing and talking, and listening about and for the understanding of standpoints, within the institutions that are set up to provide legitimacy and stability for the plural person: ‘politics deals with the co-existence and association of different men’


Thinking politically

(Arendt 2005, p93, original emphasis). Arendtian thinking enables us to examine the possibility for doing something different and in doing so it speaks to concerns about personalisation as a change strategy. Promising: Arendt (1958, p243) contributes to a form of politics that is based on promising and forgiving, where the ‘power of stabilization inherent in the faculty of making promises has been known throughout our tradition’. While plurality and natality are human facts, they generate the predicament of instability, so there is a need to make and keep promises. Arendt questions claims about morality as providing stability, where she notes that having and espousing values did not stop the Holocaust, and there is: ‘nothing more insidiously harmful to genuine politics than genuine morality, whether Socratic or Christian. If politics is authentic, it does not occasion the need for real morality, except in untypical circumstances’ (Kateb 2010b, p371). Arendtian thinking enables us to identify the necessity of promising, and in doing so it speaks to concerns about contractualism as a change strategy. Responsibility and judging: Arendt (2003) confronts how politics through action relates to plurality, natality and promising, so requires the taking of responsibility and the exercise of judgement. Responsibility and judging are located in the public realm and so are vital for discussion and debate, and the making of promises, but can be limited through ‘the terrifying strength of the idolatrous human imagination’ (Kateb 2010a, p41). In other words, citizens may unreflexively accept the ‘false gods’ of ideology and how this categorises people and events in ways that prevent authentic exchanges. Arendtian thinking enables us to recognise that politics requires the capacity to make decisions about what is said and done, and so persuade and be persuaded, and in doing so it speaks to concerns about calculation as a change strategy. Forgiving: Arendt (1958, p237) recognises that we may take action where the outcome is not known: so we need to forgive and be forgiven: without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell.


The politics of public education

Arendtian thinking enables us to focus on who can be forgiven and who is ready to be forgiven, and in doing so it speaks to concerns about privatism as a change strategy. What underpins Arendt’s contribution to thinking politically is how freedom is located within relational politics in the public realm, and consequently she is troubled by notions of sovereign power that are enabled through how biopolitical distinctiveness works to limit democracy: The most obvious salvation from the dangers of plurality is mon-archy, or one-man-rule, in its many varieties, from outright tyranny of one against all to benevolent despotism and to those forms of democracy in which the many form a collective body so that the people ‘is many in one’ and constitute themselves as a ‘monarch’. (Arendt 1958, pp220–1) This is what Kateb (2010a, p30) identifies as ‘Arendt’s attentive worry’ regarding the importance but fragility of constitutional government, where ‘I’ leave the public realm to ‘others’ who work within state institutions on the basis of ideologies, practices and networks that ‘I support’. The relocation of decision making from representative institutions into corporate-controlled arenas within and external to government continues to strengthen the conflation of politics with ruling in ways that are even more distant and opaque (see Stoker 2017). The interplay of depoliticisation with anti-politics puts the focus on how people learn not to do politics through their critique of the ‘not to be trusted’ system and players, where the trend is to oscillate between the demand for a hero to rescue the situation or clamour for resignations when people disapprove of what is being done. Arendt (2009) goes further and recognises that politics can actually ‘disappear’ through the production and intensification of isolation in the most extreme form of totalitarian biopolitical distinctiveness, or ‘the radical elimination of politics brought about by the methodical elimination of the very humanity of first a selected group and eventually any group, by making humans superfluous as human beings’ (Arendt cited in Young-Bruehl 1982, pxvii). While Arendt (2009) deals with the exceptionality of Stalinism and Nazism in detail, and the dangers for the crystallisation of totalitarian conditions are with us all of the time, the end of politics is not inevitable. The potential within depoliticisation, when scripted in


Thinking politically

relation to Arendt’s position on politics as ‘between’ people, means that democratic renewal becomes a possibility because politics could be returned from the ‘sovereign’ (elite person, interests, institutions) to re-politicise the public realm in ways that are ‘pro’ rather than ‘anti’ politics (Flinders 2015). Arendt provides some optimism regarding ‘the ability to recover freedom’ (Hitchens 2010, p18), and I conclude the book by considering the opportunities for doing things differently.

Thinking politically about public education with Arendt Arendt wrote two essays that speak directly to educational matters: first, in the ‘Crisis in education’ (Arendt 2006a), she opposed ‘progressive’ education by examining a decline in authority and argued for responsible teachers and teaching; and, second, in ‘Reflections on Little Rock’ (in Arendt 2003), she opposed the ruling by the Supreme Court on school desegregation by examining how this positioned children as solvers of adult problems (see Duarte 2010a; Morey 2014). In summary: Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world. (Arendt 2006a, p193) Such provocations are about enabling plurality and natality, and how adults take action through responsibility and judging for promising and forgiving. While Arendt was responding to events over sixty years ago, no doubt she would find my data sufficient for her to be provoked into writing about contemporary issues: Restructuring of schools project: Schools in England are being depoliticised by being handed over to elite interests (see Butt and Gunter 2007; Woods et al 2007; Gunter 2011; Gunter and McGinity 2014; McGinity and Gunter 2017). For example, primary research shows how children talk about how the schools they previously attended have been labelled and so closed as ‘failing’, and replaced


The politics of public education

with an academy. While children were told repeatedly that they are the beneficiaries of a new and higher quality education in an academy, the data includes testimony by the children about poorer quality experiences, an overemphasis on testing, and how they escaped compulsory ‘after school clubs’ by climbing over the wall. It seems that education policy is premised on conformity to elite ‘at-a-distance’ adult plans to produce the right type of ‘successful school’ data, and in Arendtian terms the children are being required to solve adult problems of ‘failing schools’, while teachers as local deliverers are being prevented from exercising authority and responsibility for education. Restructuring of professional identities and practices project: Education professionalism in England is being depoliticised through major interventions into identities and practices in order to accept ‘leaders’, ‘doing leading’ and ‘exercising leadership’ (see Gunter 2012, 2014, 2016; Gunter et al 2013, 2018). For example, changes to the curriculum, pedagogy and the purposes of schools are premised on the delivery of reforms that are to be enacted through localised implementation by headteachers as transformational leaders with ‘new’ products focused on distributed, instructional and system leadership (Gunter 2018). Research into the formation of new types of schools provides graphic evidence of how principals set out to corporatise (Gunter and Mills 2017) or even dispose of staff (Courtney and Gunter 2015; Gunter and Hall 2012). In Arendtian terms, professionals are required to labour and work as organisational leaders, and are denied the opportunities to take action as responsible educators (see Gunter 2014). My thinking with Arendt is located mainly within project data regarding the UK government’s reform agenda in England, though what is happening to and within public education there is a situation that is not unique, and the dangers to children and teachers are being made explicit through research charting events and experiences in a range of settings (see, for example, Ravitch 2010; Smyth 2011b; Adamson et al 2016). Public education services are less ‘in common’ and are sites for profit – from personal profit (about status) through to financial profit (contracts from the state to provide services). Research is demonstrating the depoliticisation trends within public services education, not least through how citizens and professionals are seduced into biopolitical distinctiveness by being encouraged, and even required, to escape into what Arendt identifies as ‘private or collective fantasies’ (Canovan 1995, p11). Let me say some more about this.


Thinking politically

Depoliticisation of public services education is based on claims that are anti-state but actively use the state to bring about changes. So knowledge production is focused on how the quality of a service is determined by the family, faith and business where those with high-status capitals (family, wealth, beliefs) can purchase education while the rest do without or rely on the serendipity of good fortune from charitable philanthropists and faith organisations. Corporate, philanthropic and faith elites operate outside of mass education (their children do not attend the local state school) but support forms of politicisation that enable them to have a view about, want to profit from and so seek to control the education of other people’s children (see Gunter et al 2017b). Such control is based on normalised but violent forms of biopolitical distinctiveness where inclusion–exclusion builds advantage and disadvantage on the basis of the body (Duarte 2007), particularly through the intersectionality of biological sex, physical and cognitive capabilities, faith, race, family networks and wealth. The construction and conservation of segregation is located in a complexity of eugenics and structural technologies (such as supply of and demand for school places). Eugenics is ‘the study of methods of maintaining and improving the innate quality of the human race, especially by selective breeding’ (Chitty 2007, p1, original emphasis), where, for example, Francis Galton ‘set out to prove that “genius” was inborn and confined almost exclusively to certain types of privileged beings with social standing and innate qualities of leadership’ (Chitty 2007, pp1–2). As Chitty (2007) has demonstrated, the fear of mass education in England has limited the development of public ‘common’ education, where genetic determinism remains linked to elite class, gender and race privileges, and where the children of elites should only be allowed to be educated (and so potentially breed) with ‘their own kind’. Such ‘othering’ engenders ‘triumphalism’ of feeling, being and doing as arrogant superiority (Morrison 2017, p34), but also strategising where forms of co-option combined with a caricature of elite norms (for example, parental choice) protect elite agendas. This is normalised by proactive forms of segregation such as setting and banding within the school, through to boys’ and girls’ schools and faith schools as examples of system-level access discrimination, and is evident in how schools actually reproduce wider social and economic segregation (for example, how setting and banding work in regard to class, gender and race). The banner of ‘social mobility’ is often waved where those who demonstrate intelligence can ‘climb up the ladder’ as a concession, and those who have fallen on hard times can use the elite public system of


The politics of public education

selection (for example, grammar schools in England) to regain their status. Elite hegemony is endemically fragile but is protected through the veiled conceit that only those with inherited abilities and preferred identities (bodies, accent, language, sexuality) can achieve in approved of ways (dispositions, espoused values and practices). Segregation is co-constructed through the acceptance of hierarchy, where the public realm is cleaved into neighbourhood, classroom and playground spaces in which differentiated entitlements are enabled through transport, health, housing, welfare and security policies. The autonomy (often labelled as ‘freedom’) to have particular needs and to seek to meet those needs as an idea and reality is seen as a human civil right, where providers of educational products are located as causally responsive to those distinctive needs (see Apple 2001). The necessary intellectual frameworks (for example, Hayek 1944; Friedman 2002), along with the translation (for example, Chubb and Moe 1990; West 1994) and popularisation of ideas (for example, Tooley 2000), are well established and enables modernised traditional strategies (for example, Boyson 1975; Caldwell and Spinks 1988), with ‘victory’ stories that demonstrate what can be done (for example, Astle and Ryan 2008). Notions of equity are located in seemingly benign and durable ‘survival of the fittest’ claims (for example, ‘the world is tough and so you must make the best choices for your children’) and underpinned by eugenics (for example, ‘my child will do better than your child because they have the breeding’, and ‘your child should know their place’). The construction of segregation seems to be less about the outcome of private choices and is more to do with proactive public policies that not only set out to build borders but also to perpetuate the conditions in which those who feel advantaged will reject the politicisation of integration (Rothstein 2017). The dynamics of segregation have been scoped (for example, Chitty 2007; Levine 2017) and while claims regarding the science of heredity continue to be refuted (Feinstein 2017), policy actors continue to use it in policy decision making. For example, in 2013 Dominic Cummings (former adviser to Michael Gove, UK Secretary of State for Education) made the case that public money is being wasted on education disconnected from scientific measurement, and where it seems ‘genetics outweighs teaching’ (Wintour 2013, np). Indeed, Young (2015, p14) has argued for ‘progressive eugenics’ for ‘parents with low incomes with below-average IQs’ , so that the ‘poisonous heirlooms’ of ‘teenage pregnancy, criminality, drug abuse, ill-health’ are no longer passed on from one generation to the next (p15). Consequently, proactive segregation policies abound regarding


Thinking politically

the public funding of intelligence testing that determines aptitude for a ‘suitable’ curriculum within different types of schools. Current independent primary research findings from different national contexts are rapidly putting into the public domain accounts about the resilience of such ‘private-for-me’ dispositions and practices, and how this can be obscured by the ‘private-for-all’ claims in the supply of and demand for educational services (see Gunter et al 2017b). Research is charting and seeking to understand debates about and changes to demand (for example, Feintuck and Stevens 2013) and supply (for example, Gunter 2011; Courtney 2015), and the impact on system ruptures and redesign (for example, Buras 2015; Seppänen et al 2015). Research is also under way that further contests ‘segregationist reform’ claims through exposing the vitality and successes of common education as public provision (for example, Fielding and Moss 2011; Lubienski and Lubienski 2014). The state is seen as a force for public good, with ideas about the common purposes of education, and with practices and networks that focus on ‘in common’ schooling. Such civic welfare approaches are supported through alliances between those in publicly funded organisations (for example, Wrigley et al 2012; Benn and Downs 2016). There are accounts by those who have worked in and for ‘public education’ (for example, Apple and Beane 1999; Pring 2013), with projects that are generating alternatives to the private and are respectful of those who are meant to work within and be beneficiaries of ‘mass education’ (for example, Ranson 1993, 2012). The ‘othering’ of other people’s children is revealed as an act of learned ‘deception’ that is open to challenge and ultimately its own ‘self-destruction’ (Morrison 2017, p34), particularly since research demonstrates the contribution of all children to learning (see Fielding 2006) and the importance of what Chitty (2007, p7) calls ‘the liberating concept of human educability’. What Chitty means is that segregated schools are premised on ‘the fallacy of fixed ability or potential’ (p131), and where distinctiveness can be disconnected from sanctioned bodies. For example, Simon (1955, p51) confronts intelligence testing by arguing that there are ‘differences between the attainments and reactions of children of any given age, [but] there is absolutely no scientific evidence that these are controlled by a single, hereditary, mental power’, and he goes on to demonstrate ‘the power of education’, which, along with other ‘influences’, actually brings ‘about human change’ (p52). In other words, equity is located in the ‘capability’ of all children to learn from formal teaching, and while there are variations in ‘interests and aptitudes’ (p51) all children share humanity, and ‘it is the function of the school to provide activities and


The politics of public education

opportunities through which these human qualities can be encouraged and developed’ (pp51–2). That all children can learn through investment in teaching and learning is integral to public commons education, with claims that common schools and teachers with common purposes do make a difference. This argument has been appropriated in recent decades by school improvement and effectiveness agendas, where intellectual work has been deployed in order to secure ‘neoliberalising’ reforms, where narrowing the data-determined ‘achievement’ gap matters more than confronting the depoliticised conditions which produce the gap (Thrupp 1999). The persistence and enhancement of segregation as proactive government policy needs to be confronted again, and it is now time that the educational potential of all children was recaptured and relocated within political debates, where the issues of the relationship between eugenics, structural injustices and achievement are met head on. Thinking politically about these matters is not of itself new, and I am mindful of the growth and potency of research that has undertaken Arendtian analysis of education (for example, Gordon 2001; Duarte 2010a, 2010b; Norris 2011; Nixon 2012; Biesta 2013b; Gunter 2014; Veck and Jessop 2016). The contribution presented in this book is based on thinking about data and ideas regarding a range of standpoints, where I outline my standpoint in advance of entering the public realm. What is distinctive is that I intend thinking politically through a comprehensive deployment of Arendtian scholarship with regard to education reform ideas, processes, people and outcomes, particularly through the development and deployment of an EPKP.

EPKP and Arendtian scholarship If KPs are the spaces in the public realm where knowledge production and exchanges do and can take place, then Arendtian scholarship is important because such spaces are where freedom can be enabled as ‘between’ humans. Following Biesta (2010, p558): ‘the appearance of freedom is not contingent upon the existence of individuals who possess a particular set of moral qualities, but depends upon a particular way of being together; namely, “being-together-in-plurality”’. Consequently, he goes on to say: ‘instead of thinking that it is morality that makes politics possible, Arendt (2010, p568) suggests that it is political existence that makes morality possible’. This is problematic and could be seen as ‘materially empty’ but what it does is to enable us to focus on ethical questions, rather than assume that they are settled (Antaki 2010, p69). Hence I do not begin this book with an espoused fixed morality,


Thinking politically

but the issues I am addressing have generated a standpoint about and for a morality regarding eugenics and segregation. I take this forward by examining knowledge production regarding governing strategy in public services education through a focus within and for EPKP. The EPKP enables what is known and regarded as worth knowing to be examined, where a range of standpoints can be investigated through a study of the interplay of the state and networks, ideas and ideologies, people and practices. This enables the politicisation of education for the commons and ‘in common’ as a morality generating agenda to be considered in regard to current trends regarding depoliticisation as a governing strategy for imposing the morality of the ‘uncommon’. Framing my role as thinking of, about and for a politics of public education as an EPKP is enabled by Arendtian scholarship where I will think with a range of concepts such as action, plurality and natality. However, a major confrontation comes from Arendt’s (2006a, p192) analysis of the public realm and education, where she argues that in order to restore authority and responsibility to teaching there is a need to: ‘decisively divorce the realm of education from the others, most of all from the realm of the public, political life’. Indeed, in her essay on Little Rock (first published in 1959, in Arendt 2003), Arendt made a distinction between the political in regard to accessing services, and the social or who we associate with, where for Arendt her experience of Nazi Germany means that if the law enters the personal and social then tyranny is afoot. Certainly history generates issues that can only be addressed through public institutions: ‘the color question was created by the one great crime in America’s history and is soluble only within the political and historical framework of the Republic’ (p198), but at the same time for Arendt there are borders where the state should not interfere in regard to families. This remains a controversial matter, and so requires some thinking with but also against Arendt’s analysis. For Duarte (2010a, p495, original emphasis) Arendt’s two ‘education’ essays help to pose a fundamental question: ‘how can the life of the student be both educational and prepolitical, that is, remain apart from, and yet in some way also engaged with, the world?’ This separation provokes me to think about how children can be unnecessarily and unfairly politicised (see Gordon 2001), where I agree with Levinson (2001) that, in saying this, Arendt is ‘attempting to distinguish the kinds of responsibilities and qualities demanded of us when we teach from those required of us in politics’ (Levinson 2001, p30). In public service ‘common’ teaching we are giving access to the world on the basis that children will be ready to change it, whereas in politics as citizens we are seeking to understand and persuade in public.


The politics of public education

There are more complex matters to embrace, where I intend thinking against Arendt by aligning with Biesta’s (2010, p567) standpoint: ‘I do not believe that her argument for the separation between the sphere of education and the sphere of politics is valid’. What is convincing about this argument is twofold: first, I have read, and talked and listened to researchers, teachers and children over the past sixty years as a student, teacher and researcher and it seems to me that education is not primarily a private matter (Gunter 2010); and, second, Biesta (2010) examines Arendt’s claims that there is something known as adulthood that comes after childhood, and so the latter is ‘temporal’ and ‘developmental’, whereas research shows that political readiness does not just happen within humans because they reach a ‘stage’ of being ‘grown up’. Trying to keep political readiness out of schools is probably impossible and indeed unwise, and so: ‘whereas children can never be ready for political existence, they also always have to be ready for it’, this is because ‘political existence, bearing with strangers, is not something that we can simply postpone when it is not convenient for us’ (p571). What does this mean? Biesta’s (2010) analysis enables me to think politically about education through recognising that schools are not just sites of preparation, but also sites where experiences of action, plurality and natality are learned about and from, and developed. Building on Biesta’s (2010, p568) questions regarding the conditions in which ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’ can exist politically, there is a need to focus on ‘a way of existing together in which we bear with strangers and they bear with us’. My argument is that ‘I’, ‘you’, and ‘we’ are less and less able to act politically because it seems that nothing is allowed to be strange (purposes, processes, outcomes and visions must be explicit), people are not allowed to present themselves as strangers (who we spend the day with in school, in person and/or through learning resources, is overcontrolled) where teaching and learning is not premised on strangeness (what we produce in the form of data is predicted and predictable). It seems that that ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’ are known about, are described and evaluated on the basis of eugenics (which may not be named as such): (a) consuming education – how all could be consumers but only those who are capable of exercising choice can survive and win in the education market; (b) salvation education – how all could be believers but only those with preferred faiths can access the right type of moral behaviour for their child; and (c) modern education – how all could be exposed to ‘what works’ education processes and outcomes but only those who can grasp populist ideas can access the most upto-date packages for learning and accreditation.


Thinking politically

Consequently, my examination of the EPKP through Arendtian scholarship demonstrates the dominance of biopolitical distinctivenessshaped segregation and the denial of common humanity, and so I focus on depoliticisation as a governing strategy evidenced by interlinked change strategies: Action: Consumer-authorised inaction – a culture of authorised busy activity that is a denial of action is in evidence, particularly through the impact of performance target delivery, where in chapter two I examine how teachers as followers primarily learn to labour on behalf of categorised children. Plurality: Colonisation – a form of rhetorical plurality is in evidence, and in chapter three I identify that while claims are made about diversity, research evidence demonstrates constraints on the plural, particularly through imitating elites through the technologies of school choice. Natality: Personalisation – a form of regulated natality is in evidence, and in chapter four I examine how claims are made that parents can do new things for their children, but research evidence demonstrates constraints particularly through segregated aspirations and accreditation. Promising: Contractualism – a form of contractual promising between the provider and the consumer is in evidence, and so in chapter five I show how schools are sites for product design and marketing, as a means of protecting and enhancing elite interests. Responsibility and judging: Calculation – a form of fabricated responsibility and judging is in evidence, where in chapter six I examine how evaluation by template enables myths and even lies to be integral to transformational leadership practices. Forgiving: Privatism – a form of forgiveness denial is in evidence where in chapter seven I examine how privatisation is normalising the disposability of children within and outside of public services education in ways that render the perpetrators unforgivable. Public service schools may currently remain open, and are used by the public and funded by the public, but ‘commons’ education for the public is in danger because ‘depoliticisation as a governing strategy is the process of placing at one remove the political character of decision-making’ (Burnham 2001, p128, original emphasis). Analysis through the


The politics of public education

EPKP reveals how change strategies espouse ‘inclusion’, ‘mobility’ and ‘empowerment’ where thinking with Arendt illuminates how such claims are underpinned by eugenics but are framed and fabricated in ways that are popular and populist but negate the public. People may vote but are denied access to politics through forms of ‘arena shifting’ (Beveridge 2012), where actual decisions are made ‘at one remove’ through elite-controlled debates, organisations and cultural norms. Researching this is problematic and, following Arendt, I need to ask some serious questions about whether the social sciences provide a productive investigative agenda. I therefore turn to thinking about methodological and conceptual matters regarding my engagement with Arendt scholarship.

Thinking differently for public education with Hannah Arendt Canovan (1995, p1) argues that ‘Hannah Arendt is one of the great outsiders of twentieth-century political thought, at once strikingly original and disturbingly unorthodox’. In addition to major texts (for example, Arendt 2009) there are essays and letters (for example, Arendt 2007) and interviews (for example, Arendt 2013) where she responds to peer review, sometimes with changes to her thinking. Such are the complexities that Arendtian scholars fruitfully face, where her work ‘both enchants and baffles her readers’ (Baluch 2014 p154). So let me begin by saying that my experience of working with and against her contribution has demonstrated that she speaks with valuable insights about the situation outlined above but whether and how Arendtian thinking should be accessed and deployed is open to debate (Gunter 2014). Arendt is regarded as ‘a deeply paradoxical figure’ (Baehr 2003, pvii) who defied settled codification regarding disciplinary pigeonholing and labelling, and so those who work with certainties cannot always get a grip on who she is or what she stands for (see Butler 2007). As ‘one of the most “political” political thinkers of the 20th century’ (Biesta 2010, p558), she is concerned with the realities of the public realm. Those who sit in libraries seeking definitional truths in Arendt’s outputs will usually be disappointed, and those who read through the lens of a particular ideology will find that her work does not fit an ‘ism’. Furthermore, she is ‘viewed as a figure very much of her own time’ (Baum et al 2011, p7), and so thinking with Arendt could be deemed anachronistic, lacking in methodological logic (see Miller 1995; Judt 2009). Indeed, Canovan (1995, p3) argues that ‘Arendt’s books invite


Thinking politically

misunderstanding’, and the problems involved are crisply identified by Judt (2009, p83): ‘Arendt may or may not have been confused, but she is certainly confusing and it does her little service to pretend otherwise’. That said, Judt (2009, p90) concludes that while ‘she made a good many little errors, for which her many critics will never forgive her’ in the end ‘she got the big things right, and for this she deserves to be remembered’. While embracing this I would also note that ‘criticism’, ‘feedback’ and ‘evaluation’ of a person’s work may well be a matter of interpretation, where Arendt was often judged on what she did not write or say. And as a writer I can appreciate that! Those who think politically have claimed that Arendt incentivises the researcher ‘to think for oneself ’ (Kohn 2003, pxi), and even if at times she is ‘an irritating thinker’ (Bernstein 2013, p97) it is the case that ‘we have to think big, even if we often feel overwhelmed and powerless’ (Cornell 2010, p221). In her studies of Nazi Germany she demonstrates the shocking realisation ‘that cleverness does not immunise us against thoughtlessness and the temptation to do wrong’, and her ‘determination to think through, clarify, and then judge the human component in the most inhuman of events and deeds is perhaps the most challenging and controversial of her intellectual gifts’ (Bowring 2011, p4). Furthermore, what her analysis of the Eichmann trial (Arendt 1963) demonstrated was the potency of careerism, and how it could be ‘as lethal as idealism’, whereby forms of routine tyranny are within everyday life: ‘some of the worst crimes are the result of ordinary vices rather than extraordinary ideas’ (Robin 2007, n.p.). Given the dangers to public services ‘common’ education there is a need to think politically about anti-public values, attitudes and practices that may be forms of ordinary tyrannies. Within the EPKP there is therefore a need to examine the role of the state, people, ideas and practices, but also to think differently about intellectual work and the 4K resources that are constructed and drawn on to think with and about. In order to do this I need not only to be mindful of the pitfalls that critics outline regarding Arendtian scholarship but also to take inspiration from those who have provided significant contributions through Arendtian analysis. I want to address this by tackling some key issues and making my position explicit. The first issue that Arendt addresses is whether the social sciences are a helpful resource to deal with the type of agenda I have set for myself. For Arendt, there are serious issues about political science, where there is a recognised danger of ‘antipolitical politics’, with a tendency to ‘to replace politics with rule’ (Gottsegen 1994, p134). So to view the EPKP from the perspective of the hollowed-out state and the vibrancy


The politics of public education

of networks will fail to generate robust understandings of the world (Davies 2011). In addition, disciplinary boundaries impact in other ways, where it seems that if people are included within theorising and research then it tends to be from a sociological perspective, and hence ‘political activities are explained in terms of the social functions they fulfil, and political allegiances and opinions are traced to membership of a social class or social role’ (Canovan 1977, p2). There is a need to counter this through an EPKP, where for Arendt ‘politics is the realm of freedom, the defence of politics against sociologism is a defence of human freedom and dignity against determinism and abject submission to fate’ (Canovan 1977, p2). Arendt contends that understandings and explanations of human experience as political experience are limited by determinism, where the intellectual history of the discipline is about protecting the canon and methodological purity is about dataset production, and so research ‘is bound to catch only the predictable routine behaviour and reactions’, and is thus be blinded to ‘the unique actions and thoughts that make history’ (Canovan 1977, p119). Importantly, Arendt (1994, p11) articulates her horror about how intellectuals went along with Nazism, with ‘fabricated ideas’ and so are ‘trapped by their own ideas’. Consequently, a focus on ideas and ideology and associated practices will enable state and sociological networked categorisations to be revealed but the EPKP will remain limited through deterministic thinking. Interestingly, Arendt set herself the task of examining the ‘crystallisation’ of the conditions that created totalitarianism, where she did not set out to present cause-and-effect schemas (see King and Stone 2007). Though she did work with ‘real and immediate boomerang effects’ (Arendt 2009, p206) of totalitarian dispositions and practices that were trialled in the colonies before the empire was brought home. My task is ensure that I do not apply predetermined categories, because to do so would ‘put to sleep our common sense, which is nothing else but our mental organ for perceiving, understanding and dealing with reality and factuality’ (Arendt 1970, p8). In fact I need to give recognition to how ‘I do not believe that there is any thought process possible without personal experience’ (Arendt 1994, p20), and so my engagement with public services education (see Gunter 2010), combined with my practice as researcher, teacher, supervisor, public speaker and blogger, means that I need to be transparent about the relationship between the events and issues I address, and their link with my subjective experience and objective data production for this project. I intend drawing on data from a number of primary research


Thinking politically

projects (see Butt and Gunter 2007; Gunter 2011, 2012; Gunter and Mills 2017), where I embrace at least two Arendtian approaches: Pearl diving: Arendt (1993, px) drew on Walter Benjamin, and used ‘fragmentary historiography’ , where ‘one treats the past by acting either as a collector or as a pearl diver, digging down for those treasures that lie now disjointed and disconnected’ (Benhabib 2000, p173). I will pearl dive by examining the rapidity and seeming complexity of reforms to public services education, and, inspired by Ball (2013) and Chitty (2007), I deploy the EPKP and so reveal eugenics and the normalisation of segregation as the main determinant for what is happening and why it is happening. Thinking without a banister: Arendt demonstrates a ‘habit of following trains of thought’ (Canovan 1995, p138) and when approaching an issue she ‘sets off, then, to think “without a banister” to hold on to, reflecting freely upon events’ (p6). This makes sense because methodologies and categories had been rendered redundant following the Holocaust: ‘If we are to engage in the activity of thinking after the break in tradition, then we can’t rely on banisters or fixed points; we are compelled to forge new ways of thinking and new concepts’ (Bernstein 2013, pvii). Through the deployment of the EPKP I identify how the current education policy ‘banisters’ are underpinned by the espoused neutrality of ‘improvement’ and ‘effectiveness’ policy science, but where primary research not only reveals this to be non-neutral but also challenges this policy by thinking differently. Arendtian scholarship does have implications for myself as writer. As someone who has been thinking about, and for and with data for at least thirty years, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the dangers of ‘organized loneliness’ (Arendt 2009, p478) in the leaderisation of academia. I have also valued the opportunity to think outside of, and as a part of, sharing of the data and analysis with professional researchers and researching professionals (Gunter et al 2014; Courtney et al 2018). Following Kateb (2010a, pp36–7) I have benefited from thinking as ‘effort’ and ‘empathy’ for and about fellow human beings, and trying to use thinking to ‘undo systems by continuous questioning’ (Kateb 2010a, p37). Hence, while methodologies and methods may not guarantee the truth, opportunities are presented to think alone as a ‘mode of inventive reflection’ (Canovan 1977, p112), followed by sharing insights and standpoints with others. I do share a provoked anger disposition that inflects much of Arendt’s writing (Swift 2011),


The politics of public education

and if she were alive today no doubt she would be an avid blogger, but it is in her advocacy for storytelling that I think I am most at home: ‘she was committed to the idea that each event that happens in the world is new and unique, and that we always risk doing violence to the event’s newness and uniqueness by trying to fit it into an overall world view’ (Swift 2009, p4). Thinking about the spatial interplay of the state, practices, people, ideologies and networks as an EPKP through Arendtian scholarship is tough, but in setting this agenda I am aware that she did not write to report project findings or to codify the canon or provide a manifesto for change (see Heller 2015 for an account of life and work). Indeed, she recognised that by confronting matters that demonstrate ‘that the whole is at stake’, then she is honest about such a task where the author ‘can hardly be expected to come forward with perfect books’ (Arendt quoted by Judt 2009 p74). Her project was to understand, and she obtained satisfaction from understanding (Arendt 1994). If she did not think an issue worthy of such activity then nothing was written, and so: ‘rather than being contributions to public discussion, her best-known writings were essentially inward-looking, part of the endless dialogue with oneself that seemed to her to constitute the life of the mind’ (Canovan 1995, p3). In doing so, then, she was (and I am currently) a member of ‘self-selected elite’ that ‘seeks … neither rule nor power, but spaces of freedom. Some of these spaces are public and political. One such space, however, is the private life of solitude’ (Berkowitz 2010b, p245). Importantly, and here I pause on this matter for now, Arendt argued that thinking and acting are different (see Duarte 2001). I am thinking alone but following Arendt I do go visiting within my thinking, and I have come out of the library at various times to be present with others. And so I provide some ‘illumination’ (Arendt 1993) through explicating my standpoint, and there is an opportunity to listen to other illuminations in the public realm, and so ‘thinking is counterhegemonic, an interruption through which difference makes its appearance in the world’ (Duarte 2009, p250).



Action: professionals learning to labour

Introduction The following quotation is from a headteacher: it’s still that thing about making sure that every child actually can thrive in terms of our social democracy, making sure that you create a sense in which you open up what it counts to be successful in terms of a learner rather than just five A to Cs and, that you have an absolute remit to work in a sense of social justice and community and to build up fairness … (Gunter and Forrester 2010, pp63–4) What is being articulated is a standpoint about the importance of professional agency that interrelates knowledge production and ethical questions within a wider context of democratic renewal: how the professional is a knower about the purposes of education and their role in shaping inclusion. This headteacher speaks to what Arendt (1958) identifies as action, but is now retired because of the demand that headteachers deliver reforms through labour and work. Such experiences need to be contextually sited at a time when there has been a shift to ‘the importance of production of needs’ (Norris 2011, p13), where professionals are trained for and recruited into a segregated school system that identifies, categorises and so meets their own and children’s needs. This has impacted on trust networks and notions of what it means to be an expert and to do a good job, with teachers re-positioned as enthusiastic performance followers. So the teacher is not only labouring on a data and form-filling production line that fixes and labels children as a form of biopolitical distinctiveness but is identifying and responding to consumer demands in ways that render exchanges about public service values obsolete. The deployment of the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP) to the reform of the teaching profession in England is a site where it is possible to examine direct interventions by the state as a form of depoliticisation by consumer-


The politics of public education

authorised inaction, where practices are controlled and underpinned by particular ideologies regarding what it means to be a professional, and these practices and ideologies are promoted by globalised policyoriented networks.

Common knowledges? Working with learners regarding learning processes, achievements and outcomes through teaching, pastoral care and accreditation is the remit of teachers with professional qualifications and credentials. For example, in Finland: Curriculum planning is the responsibility of teachers, schools, and municipalities, not the state. Most Finnish schools today have their own customized curriculum that is coordinated with and approved by their local education authorities. This correctly implies that teachers and school principals have key roles in curriculum development and school planning. (Sahlberg 2015, p122) This example enables the focus to be on professional educational knowledge where teaching matters. Biesta (2013a, p460) argues that learning can happen anywhere, but a school is premised on the notion of teaching, where there is a need ‘to give teaching its proper place in education … if our aim is to give teaching back to education’. In comparing the situation in Finland with other countries where school effectiveness and improvement dominates policy reforms, Sahlberg notes: The questions of teacher effectiveness or the consequences of being an ineffective teacher are not relevant in Finland … teachers have time to work together during the school day and to understand how their colleagues teach. This is an important condition for reflecting on teachers’ own teaching and also for building a sense of professional leadership and shared accountability between teachers. The school inspection system that previously provided external feedback and evaluation of how teachers taught and schools operated was abolished in the early 1990s. Today, school principals, aided by their own experience as teachers, are able to help their teachers recognize strengths and areas of work that need improvement. The basic assumption



in Finnish schools is that teachers, by default, are welleducated professionals and are doing their best in schools. In real professional learning communities, teachers trust one another, communicate frequently about teaching and learning, and rely on their principals’ guidance and leadership. (Sahlberg 2015, pp125–6) Such an account demonstrates the shift towards teachers and teaching in Finland, and away from what Sahlberg (2015, p174) identifies as the Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM), where interventions are focused on externally measured and acclaimed ‘good’ and ‘effective’ teachers and teaching (or the binary opposite of shamed ‘bad’ and ‘ineffective’ teachers and teaching), whereby pedagogy is ‘teacher proofed’. GERM is reversing the commons approach adopted to great effect in Finland and in the US (see Gorski and Zenkov 2014), and here I intend focusing on England. Teacher identity and practice as teaching and learning for and with the commons has gone through major professionalising processes in public service systems. Common knowledges are about having a shared sense of the purposes of education, along with an affiliation to disciplinary knowledges which interplays with ‘in common’ accredited professional expertise and ongoing development in regard to child development, pedagogy and assessment. Certainly this was an unfolding agenda in England from the post-1945 period: Education and training: Graduate status with either integrated (for example, Bachelor of Education) or postgraduate training (for example, postgraduate certification) qualification and licensing. Culture and practice: A combination of training and experience as a teacher was valued where a code of commitment to children’s learning dominated thinking and activities, and job satisfaction was located in intrinsic factors (such as designing learning opportunities) rather than external factors (such as performance-related pay and bonuses). Quality and standards: Curriculum and pedagogic knowledge mainly controlled by the profession in partnership with examination boards; and subject to peer review and local and national inspections. Employment and deployment: New appointments and promotions based on job descriptions, qualifications and experience, with deployment based on agreed workload formulas, and remuneration


The politics of public education

based on national and public salary scales. Professional associations (or unions) representing teachers and/or headteachers, and negotiating pay and conditions. Career and professional development: Agreed career structure with published roles, remuneration and progression expectations, with opportunities for professional learning within school, within local authority and through postgraduate programmes. Organisation and system: Generally regarded as a ‘national system that is locally administered’ where within-school organisational arrangements are normalised through classroom teacher roles, ‘middle’ roles in regard to pastoral care, coordination and management of teaching, and senior roles in regard to whole-school responsibilities. Schools are often part of local partnerships (or ‘families’) that connect nursery, primary and secondary schools, and within recognised local authority regions. Gewirtz (2002, p1, original emphasis) identifies such gains as being located in ‘a welfarist settlement’, whereby coordination was undertaken through a form of ‘bureaucratic administration and professionalism’ in the local education authority (LEA) as the intermediate democratically accountable level between the school and the national ministry. The partnership between schools and the locality was through elections to local councils that oversaw the raising and spending of local/national taxes, school budgets and resources (including staff). Central to this was the network of professionals: professionalism … had an important part to play in the LEAs where teams of experts – for example, educational psychologists, welfare officers, advisors and inspectors – were based. Moreover, education officers were not ‘just’ administrators. Having been a teacher was a prerequisite for employment as an education officer and officers played a significant role in providing support and expertise to teachers, for example, through staff development services. In schools, teachers operated as relatively autonomous professionals, with the head as leading professional and ‘senior architect’ of the school’s curriculum. (Gewirtz 2002, p2)



This approach was built incrementally and never fully achieved nationally, and was tested at various times through disputes over pay and conditions, restructuring (for example, comprehensivisation from the 1950s), and the development of the curriculum and pedagogy through the work of subject associations and the role of Her Majesty’s Inspectors. Increased recognition was given to the need to question the notion and reality of a settled settlement from within the profession: first, while legislation created equal pay and opportunities there was substantial evidence of discrimination in regard to culture and practice, and so there was an ongoing need to work for fairness (see Coleman 2002); second, while professional values and codes of practice were childcentred, there was ongoing recognition of a need to more proactively involve children (see Rudduck and Fielding 2006); third, aspects of the curriculum and pedagogy were externally controlled (for example, examination boards in secondary education; the role of faith groups and school ownership), but where the profession did have autonomy there were continued challenges to traditional disciplinary knowledge boundaries, with a need to be more innovative in learning resources (see Thomson 2010a); and, fourth, debates about the professional knowledge and skills base for teachers and teaching were ongoing, with a stronger sense of the need to establish a more codified and evidenced approach regarding training, accreditation and appraisal (Wragg et al 1996). The progress towards a common framework for teaching and learning was enabled through both specialisation (for example, age range of children, subject knowledge) and integration (for example, mixed ability teaching and learning), which continued to be threatened through a proactive segregation policy (for example, retention of grammar schools in some areas) that generated hierarchies of status and remuneration within the profession. Such ‘within-education’ debates and developments continued from the 1950s, however, the destabilising and fracturing, and then replacement of the welfarist settlement, interrupted and in many ways terminated agreed understandings and strategies for professional preparation and development (McCulloch et al 2000). Ironically, while the restructuring of supply and demand in education from the 1980s was premised on the notion of autonomy, the type of autonomy identified by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 2011, 2013) as integral to improved student outcomes was taken away from teachers in England through site-based management from 1988. The professional control of the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment was removed and replaced by corporate


The politics of public education

control of organisational effectiveness and improvement cultures and practices. Thinking about this through the EPKP enables recognition to be given to the direct role of the state in making significant changes based on right-wing ideologies and preferred practices, and networked globally in regard to the extension of corporate interests. The palpable shock in response to the changes is evident in a range of texts and events, where it is argued that reforms seem to be designed to take away from teachers what had motivated them to join the profession; that ‘magic moment’ when learning is visible on the face of a learner (Galton and MacBeath 2008, p115). Helsby (1999, pp1–2) provides a summary of the trends: Despite some clear differences of emphasis between nations, the general pattern of reforms is remarkably consistent. The dismantling of large educational bureaucracies, the introduction of new and devolved forms of governance, school-based financial management and school-businesscommunity partnerships are rapidly becoming commonplace as former public monopoly schools are subjected to the discipline of the market. At the same time, central control is tightened through goal-steering devices such as the development or recasting of a prescribed national curriculum, and increased emphasis upon learning outcomes and associated assessment, more stringent and more overt accountability requirements and/or increased surveillance of classroom practice. Meanwhile, teachers themselves are given more onerous and more diverse responsibilities, are increasingly exhorted to collaborate with their colleagues over the means (although not the ends) of education and are subject to greater managerial control by school leaders. Finally, a closer specification of duties and changes in terms and conditions of service point towards a transition from a body of state professionals to a more flexible and differentiated workforce … The reforms were generated from what Gewirtz (2002) identifies as ‘the post-welfarist education policy complex’ (p3, original emphasis) that acted as a portmanteau carrier for a range of ideas, beliefs and pragmatic responses to events. The bureaucratic professional was confronted by neoliberalisation processes with claims about the self-serving and unaccountable teacher who was paid regardless of performance, and by neoconservative accusations about the lack of discipline in schools,



union and left-wing infiltration of the profession, and giving children access to curriculum and pedagogic practices that parents did not want (see Boyson 1975). A complex coalition of elite interests enabled major reforms to unfold from the 1970s onwards, with demands from neoliberals for ‘corporatised’ responsive-to-consumer professionals, connected and juxtaposed with the ‘moral guardian’ demanded by neoconservatives. This is evident in two interrelated changes: to the curriculum and to the teacher. Curriculum packages that integrate practice with preferred knowledge and pedagogies is both global (for example, the Knowledge is Power Program [KIPP] model, Ellison 2012), and national through the design and implementation of national strategies in England (see Cameron 2010). While the regulation of the teacher is embedded in such packages, there are reforms that set out to redesign the teacher and teaching, from initial training through to in-service development. For example, New Labour policy strategy (1997–2010) invested symbolically in the ‘modernised professional’ (DfEE 1998) where problems with recruitment and retention were confronted through the ‘remodelling’ of teachers and teaching (see Butt and Gunter 2007). Commercial knowledge actors and producers have responded to and enabled such interventions into identity and practice, by entering the education product market in the form of the ‘consultant’ who ‘swoops in and out but never nests’ (Sennett 2006, p105). By codifying and popularising ‘what works’ packages as ‘on offer’ to the needy profession, the teachers’ mastery of their own experiential craft and its relationship to research evidence is never allowed to develop (see Gunter 2012; Gunter and Mills 2017). Biopolitical distinctiveness enables this complex coalition to simplify the causal connection between teaching and learning – where certain needs are labelled as ‘special’ and ‘additional’ while other needs are given positive distinctiveness as ‘talent’ and ‘aspirational’. Teachers and children deliver learning outcomes through branded, ambient and public displays of distinctive identities (dress, deportment, conduct and systems). Once children’s needs are identified and met then there is no need for professional expertise, and professional responsibility and judgement is now framed as ensuring that the teacher is not distracted. Expert 4Ks regarding pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment are inauthentic and potentially seditious, because what is needed can be ‘scientifically’ identified and predicted, and so learning outcomes can be calculated and planned. In summary the main changes are:


The politics of public education

Education and training: Teaching is now an ‘occupational’ profession with those who teach being labelled as the ‘workforce’, whose members may or may not be trained and accredited as teachers, and where training is primarily within school and ‘on the job’. Culture and practice: Learning from best practice is valued and there is an intensified commitment to ensuring that children meet national standards through testing and data analysis in order to demonstrate workforce and school effectiveness, and that reforms are delivered with impact evidence. Quality and standards: Curriculum and pedagogic knowledge is controlled by centralised government, its agents (for example, Ofsted, National College for Teaching and Leadership), and contractual partners who collaborate through the sponsorship of schools and/or provision of educational products such as consultancy. Employment and deployment: Increase in localised pay and conditions frameworks and contracts, with incentives (performancerelated pay, bonuses) based on reaching targets. There is an emphasis on the ‘fit’ between the employee and school vision and outcomes, while those who do not meet performance requirements face contract termination. Career and professional development: Within-school or -network (for example, multi-academy trust [MAT]) training and career progression, with opportunities to (a) fit the school or MAT brand; and (b) ensure efficiency and effectiveness regarding data and positioning of the school in the market is retained and extended. Organisation and system: A diversified (or even fragmented) system of ‘autonomous’ schools competing in local markets, where school organisational arrangements are focused on enabling effective and efficient output delivery. Schools may be stand-alone (for example, free schools), or may be part of national brands (for example, university technical colleges) or part of national chains (for example, MATs) (see Courtney 2015). The combination of the ‘uncommon’ knowledges for and about the curriculum and teacher readies both for schools as businesses, where data about pupil outcomes has come to dominate the design and delivery of the curriculum and pedagogy for a segregated marketplace.



Core to this has been a shift in accountability away from collegiality and peer review towards data-determined performance measurement as competent teaching (Beck 2009). Numbers are counted from exam results and attendance registers, with tracking and monitoring of pupil progress through online systems and value added calculations. Children and teachers rank order the self and each other, so they know who is best at meeting the required standards. Senior staff watch and grade lessons according to predetermined templates, examine the fit between teaching and requirements, and make judgements on performance. Headteachers and teachers are trained in corporate leadership identities, practices and processes, where teachers are being transformed into performance followers and teaching is now performance delivery and professionalism is now about process delivery based on templated numbers and language. While the rhetorical claims are about ‘all’ children, in reality teachers and teaching are differentiated in accordance with system segregation of both children and teachers. Teachers and teaching are now directly implicated in the construction and maintenance of sectarian divides based on uncommon knowledges. I intend thinking about these trends using Arendt’s identification of labour, work and action, so in the next section I outline her ideas and, following that, I critically engage with the notion and realities of performance accountability.

Labour, work and action For Arendt politics is relational: ‘men are free – as distinguished from their possessing the gift for freedom – as long as they act, neither before nor after; for to be free and to act are the same’ (Arendt 2006a, p151, original emphasis). So politics is between people rather than within a person: We cannot act in isolation. If I was to begin something but no one would respond, nothing would follow from my initiative and, as a result, my beginnings would not come into the world. I would not appear in the world. But if I begin something and others do take up my beginnings, I do come into the world, and in precisely this moment, I am free. (Biesta 2010, p560, original emphasis) Consequently, there is a need to scope and understand the range of activity within the common world, and Arendt (1958) does that by identifying action as distinct from labour and work within the vita activa:


The politics of public education

Labor assures not only individual survival, but the life of the species. Work and its product, the human artifact, bestow a measure of permanence and durability upon the futility of mortal life and the fleeting character of human time. Action, in so far as it engages in founding and preserving political bodies, creates the condition for remembrance, that is, for history. (Arendt 1958, pp8­–9) For Arendt labour is focused on ‘animal labourans’ (Arendt 1958, p136), where: Labor is the activity which corresponds to the biological process of the human body, whose spontaneous growth, metabolism, and eventual decay are bound to the vital necessities produced and fed into the life process by labor. The human condition of labor is life itself. (Arendt 1958, p7) Labouring such as producing food does not have a legacy because effort is expended quickly through consumption. It is what Arendt called ‘worldlessness’ where what we labour over produces ‘the means of its own reproduction’ where ‘the labor of some suffices for the life of all’ (Arendt 1958, p88). There are at least two features: first, the cyclical nature of labour: life is a process that everywhere uses up durability, wears it down, makes it disappear, until eventually dead matter, the result of small, single cyclical, life processes, returns into the over-all gigantic circle of nature herself, where no beginning and no end exist and where all natural things swing in changeless, deathless repetition. (Arendt, 1958 p96) And, second, labour is relentless; it is a ‘constant, unending fight against the processes of growth and decay through which nature forever invades the human artifice, threatening the durability of the world and its fitness for human use’ (Arendt 1958, p100). While labour is necessary and concerned with necessities, Arendt considers different activity, which she identifies as work, that breaks the cycle of existence through the durability of products: where ‘their proper use does not cause them to disappear and they give the human artifice the stability and solidity without which it could be not be relied upon to house the unstable and mortal creature which is man’



(Arendt 1958, p136). For Bowring (2011, p18) this does not only mean ‘material objects like buildings, tools and works of art’ but also ‘the less tangible but not necessarily less durable forms of cultural, legal and political institutions, including the “web” of human relationships and narratives, and shapes the way actors are understood, responded to and remembered’. Permanency is the product of work, and this is different from labour because ‘animal laborans does not use tools and instruments in order to build a world but in order to ease the labors of its own life process’ (Arendt 1958, p147, original emphasis). Building the world through ‘homo faber’ means that we make ‘the sheer unending variety of things whose sum total constitutes the human artifice’ (Arendt 1958, p136). So work is: the activity which corresponds to the unnaturalness of human existence, which is not imbedded in, and whose morality is not compensated by, the species’ ever-recurring life cycle. Work provides an ‘artificial’ world of things, distinctly different from all natural surroundings. Within its borders each individual life is housed, while this world itself is meant to outlast and transcend them all. The human condition of work is worldliness. (Arendt 1958, p7) The processes and outcomes of work have a legacy beyond the mortality of those who produce them. The fabrication processes that do violence to materials (from wood to a chair, from stone to a building, from pigment to a painting) are prior to and outlast the making and the maker. So there is independence from those who have produced them, and goods or objects may well decay but they do not have to unless deliberately put into those conditions. The individual can undertake labour and work, but action is relational: Action, as distinguished from fabrication, is never possible in isolation; to be isolated is to be deprived of the capacity to act. Action and speech need the surrounding presence of others no less than fabrication needs the surrounding presence of nature for its material, and of a world in which to place the finished product. Fabrication is surrounded by and in constant contact with the world: action and speech are surrounded by and in constant contact with the web of the acts and words of other men. (Arendt 1958, p188)


The politics of public education

As a human enters the public realm they present the self as ‘strange’ and engage with others as ‘strangers’, whereby standpoints can be articulated for understanding. So relational exchange requires thinking, doing, speaking and listening that is different from labour and work because of the possibility of spontaneity, where the doing of deeds is different to the activity of doing (as labour or work). As Biesta (2010, p561) argues: ‘Arendt is committed to a world in which everyone has the opportunity to act, appear, and be free’, and how we do this ‘appearing’ matters because we should not read a situation through adopted and unreflexive categorisations. In other words, danger lies in entering the public realm already knowing others because they are pre-known by virtue of family name, body, place of birth or school attended. This matters in two ways: first, ‘human beings are not simply “speciesbeings” obeying natural laws’ (Canovan 1995, p130), and so we need to be wary of social and behavioural science research methodologies that assume predictions are the truth, and so deny the necessity for action (see Arendt 1970); and, second, we should be equally cautious about the adoption of ‘political’ predictions as the truth, particularly since ‘totalitarianism enables us to recognize circumstances in which worldly principles of action have been supplanted by rigid ideologies’ (Cane 2015, p7). Nixon (2012) argues that thinking is a solitary activity but action is with others, and so the first condition for action is plurality. Plurality is concerned with the fact of people having the capacity to be distinctive and similar through how standpoints are recognised by others (see chapter three). It seems that this ‘resides neither in the maker nor in the thing made, but in the “space of appearances” where tastes are communicated and decisions about the common world are shared’ (Bowring 2011, pp25–6). The notion of space that can be too squeezed (as in totalitarian regimes, see Arendt 2009) or too distanced (as in the isolation of the labourer or worker, see Arendt 1958) is an important metaphor for Arendt, where she is seeking to consider politics where people are both separate and together. Action is not based on consensusseeking approaches, but on ‘difference, singularity and dissensus’ (Biesta 1996, p95), and so Arendt uses a metaphor of sitting at a table: To live together in the world means essentially that a world of things is between those who have it in common, as a table is located between those who sit around it; the world, like every in-between, relates and separates men at the same time. (Arendt 1958, p52)



Arendt illuminates these ideas in her work on the American Revolution where change was not because of a ‘leader’ or ‘consensus’ but because of ‘the interconnected principle of mutual promise and common deliberation’ (2006a, p206). Such plurality is interconnected with natality as the second condition for action, or how humans have the capacity to do something new (see chapter four). Arendt argues that ‘with word and deed we insert ourselves into the human world, and this insertion is like a second birth’ (Arendt 1958, p176). Sitting at a ‘public realm table’ is political: this insertion is not forced upon us by necessity, like labor, and it is not prompted by utility, like work. It may be stimulated by the presence of others whose company we may wish to join, but it is never conditioned by them; its impulse springs from the beginning which came into the world when we were born and to which we respond by beginning something new on our own initiative. (Arendt 1958, p177) Consequently, action may be abundant with possibilities but it can be precarious, and so Arendt (1958) presents a number of conceptualisations that help to develop thinking about and for action, particularly since we may be present in the public realm but we may not know what will happen, and so we need to make and keep promises (see chapter five). In crossing boundaries and raising questions, we take responsibility for decisions where we do not seek acclaim for the self but we have made judgements (see chapter six). If we transgress then we cannot change what has happened but we can forgive and be forgiven (see chapter seven). Arendt sums this up by stating that we promise to bring stability ‘in the ocean of uncertainty’, and we forgive to be ‘released from the consequences of what we have done’ (1958. p237). And while we are conditioned into categories, we are not totally conditioned, and so there is always the space for spontaneity: ‘the presumption that the results of action can be known in advance, like the results of natural and productive processes, so that the main problem of politics becomes finding the means to achieve those results is what Arendt … rejects’ (Kohn 2006, pix). So action is the core Arendtian concept for the thinking about the research data and ideas outlined in this book, where the real danger that I identify in education policy is authorised inaction. People may be in association with others in public but are too constrained to take the risk of spontaneity in the public realm, and where, in reflecting


The politics of public education

on the breakdown in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, Arendt (2013, p18) notes that ‘the problem, the personal problem, was not what our enemies did but what our friends did’.

The possibilities for labour, work and action The potential of thinking for and about labour, work and action for education raises some important questions regarding educational services, and here I would like to focus on the question: what forms of labour, work and action are enabled through performance followership? The deployment of the EPKP to examining the recent history of teachers as professionals in public services education in England demonstrates major interventions by the state and contracted networks into practices, status, work and identities. Public policy is shaped and informed by knowledge production technologies about how to do the job efficiently and effectively, based on corporate claims, languages and images. Labour and work are enabled but action is not, and so inaction is authorised through the culture and practice of doing the job. It seems that the marketisation of school supply and demand means the adoption of ‘a labour relations strategy designed to cut labor costs by circumventing the rights of public employees’ (Becker 1988, p88). Or, in the style of Jim Collins (2001), the employer can dispense with obligations to support and develop the teacher, and so the teacher (and the headteacher) can be disposed of by being turfed off the organisational ‘bus’ (see Courtney and Gunter 2015). While I am giving particular attention to UK government education policy in England, research shows global trends in uncommon knowledge production and the promotion of inaction through the demonisation of unions (Compton and Weiner 2008). Certain key features of this trend can be identified in England: Delivery: Training to conform and implement ‘what works’ packages. Data: Numbers provide an accurate descriptor of the outcomes from delivery. Evaluation: Outcome calculations enabled through Ofsted inspections. Outcomes: Performance linked to contract termination or renewal, pay stagnation or increase.



Employer: Private individuals and consortia control identity, practice and outcomes. Living and studying such changes, it is difficult to examine or get a grip on them because, as McCulloch et al (2000, p113) argue, everything is shifting, and not always in a coherent way: ‘policy oscillates between trust and mistrust, between control and subsidiarity, between simple, common-sense thinking and complex explorations, and between collaboration and confrontation’. The risks for teachers as ‘performers’ show them to be ‘highwire artists and acrobats’ (Gleeson and Husbands 2001, p67), and the perils of ‘falling off’ have been charted by showing the relentless intensity of reforms: from the ‘discourses of derision’ that enabled the restructuring of schools as businesses (Ball 1990a) to the impact of assertive managerialism (Ball 1990b) and the terrorizing of the soul (Ball 2003), through to the experience of school leadership that reduces teachers to busy inaction (Courtney and Gunter 2015). While educational professionals have sought to think through tough issues regarding the curriculum and pedagogy, it seems that corporate technologies such as Transformational Leadership have demanded, in Arendtian (1978) terms, a form of ‘willful’ leaderisation (see Gunter 2012, 2014, and chapter six in this volume). The education professional ‘table’ has been removed because there is nothing to talk about any more; the teacher is atomised within consensus-determining visions and teams. The workforce has become even more segregated through hierarchical performance cultures (a complexity of fear and acclaim) along with niche identification with particular types of schools and customers. Biopolitical distinctiveness enables the teacher to identify their delivery skills for the espoused categories of children, and so teachers learn which schools are suitable/unsuitable to seek employment in. Teachers are now performing followers who are active in the sense of being busy with a heavy workload, but who mainly labour, possibly work, but rarely take action. Research shows the dominance of labour: the provision and delivery of approved of learning and assessment packages, designed with outcome measures, numbers and reporting software (see chapter six). Biopolitical distinctiveness means that some teachers, children, families and communities are made disposable, where children are born to fail and teachers are trained to underperform: ‘we are perhaps the first generation which has become fully aware of the murderous consequences inherent in a line of thought that forces one to admit that all means, provided that they are efficient, are permissible and justified to pursue something defined


The politics of public education

as an end’ (Arendt 1958, p229). Teachers and children must plan (or as the managerial and leaderised ‘recipe books’ claim: plan to fail), set targets based on ‘key performance indicators’ with ‘milestones’, and then produce a ‘score card’ based on calculating the ‘value added’ (Gunter 1997). Arendt identifies a strong sense of ‘futility’ if all we do is labour, and certainly speedy labour through information and communication technology (ICT), where teachers and students are: ‘caught in the smooth functioning of a never-ending process, would no longer be able to recognize its own futility’ (Arendt 1958, p135). The labouring teacher and student has consequences: the last stage of the labouring society, the society of jobholders, demands of its members a sheer automatic functioning, as though individual life had actually been submerged in the over-all life process of the species and the only active decision still required of the individual were to let go, so to speak, to abandon his individuality, the still individually sensed pain and trouble of living, and acquiesce in a dazed, ‘tranquilized,’ functional type of behavior. The trouble with modern theories of behaviorism is not that they are wrong but that they could become true, that they actually are the best possible conceptualization of certain obvious trends in modern society. It is quite conceivable that the modern age – which began with such an unprecedented and promising outburst of human activity – may end in the deadliest, most sterile passivity history has ever known. (Arendt 1958, p322) Reforms to the curriculum, pedagogy and the education system that were meant to motivate teachers and pupils have in effect generated a form of compliance that is rarely broken except through episodes of work: building a new school and generating learning resources. But such work is tempered by the need for security: Am I doing this correctly? Where do I move to next in order to avoid intensive and unfair performance evaluations? In effect, teachers have lost control over the purposes of education, and the meaning of their practice, which is ‘the essence of deskilling’ (Ozga 1995, p35). A crisis in the sufficiency, stability and health of the ‘workforce’ is therefore endemic in schools in England (Henton and Brennan 2017). The retention rate for headteachers is falling as the culture and practice of improving a school tends to be through the removal of a head, and more lucrative posts are available in corporate roles heading up MATs



and working as consultants (Turner 2017). Research over time has demonstrated how teaching is not an attractive job, and those who do enter the profession find that their expertise is not respected or enabled to develop (Gunter 2005; Butt and Gunter 2007). So the media is reporting that ‘by 2025 there will be 3 million pupils of secondary age’ but not enough teachers: first, not enough people are applying for training, with serious gaps in physics and maths; and, second, ‘10,000 departed the profession between 2010 and 2015’ (Fearn 2017, np). A range of reasons is provided relating to the political context in which teachers are positioned both politically and within schools as the problem, and, when combined with intensive workloads, this creates a toxic situation (Adams 2017). While successive governments have sought to deal with this through allowing unqualified people to teach (Syal 2017), and with schemes such as Teach First to train highflying graduates on the job before they move on to lucrative careers (Fearn 2014), the urgency of such ideologically driven interventions into professional practices and networks has meant they have not always trusted or waited for research outcomes that enable them to understand the realities of working lives (Butt and Gunter 2007). What is impacting the idea and reality of teaching as a profession is the installation and intensification of performance followership that is premised on a particular conceptualisation of accountability as a form of technical prowess, and it is to this that I now turn.

Thinking politically with labour, work and action Researchers are trying to make sense of how and why ‘teachers have learned to labour’ (for example, Hoyle and John 1995; Ozga 1995), with analysis that mediates and accommodates reforms (for example, Day et al 2007; Day and Gu 2010), and arguments that demand a stronger sense of radical agency (for example, Hall and Gunter 2009). At the core of the debates are notions of accountability, and a useful encryption of what is at stake comes from a New Labour policy text: ‘the time has long gone when isolated, unaccountable professionals made curriculum and pedagogical decisions alone, without reference to the outside world’ (DfEE 1998, paragraph 13). Such a situation has never existed as teachers are endemically accountable in classrooms, but it is a seductive misrepresentation that crosses party political divides and successive UK governments have used it to dismantle professional networks and corporatise teacher identities and teaching practices. Studying the EPKP and the teaching profession shows that teachers have been positioned as ‘a not to be trusted privileged group’, and in


The politics of public education

this context the professional teacher has resisted for as long as possible, and either left or succumbed to the demands of re-professionalisation. Following Bottery (2003), the general public have been encouraged to be calculative about exchanges over their child’s education, where satisfaction may enable repeat experiences that build some trust. But what is now broken is the ‘identificatory’ forms of trust, ‘when people work together over time’ and so ‘they can intuitively trust one another’ (Bottery 2003, p253; see also Gunter and Hall 2013). Such dependence has been fractured by what Ranson (2003, p461) identifies as ‘hierarchical answerablity’, whereby the person is evaluated through externally determined standards: first, by the consumer – how and why parents are choosing the school and the teacher for their child; second, by contract – how school outcomes are good value for money; third, by performing – how teachers are compliant with school and national standards; and fourth, by corporatisation – how teachers deliver a product that is worth investing in and so generate profits (Ranson 2003, p463). Consequently there has been a shift towards a ‘trust in mechanisms of explicit, transparent, systematic public accountability that seeks to secure regulatory compliance of professional practice’ (p468). The combination of surveillance with confessional appraisal (Ball 1990b) has shifted accountability from a normalised process of answering and discussing towards an embodied disposition of acceptance of what can be said, thought and done (Ranson 2003). Following both Foucault (2008) and Arendt (1958), the argument is made by Agamben (1998, p3) that ‘biopower … through a series of appropriate technologies, so to speak created the “docile bodies” that it needed’. Such ‘docility’ is located in the evaluative compliance of the audit, where the focus is on distinctiveness through delivery and the potential improvement to the delivery system. Teacher labour, combined with work that focuses on tactical implementation (for example, plans, schemes of work, audit data), has a range of consequences, such as ‘teaching to the test’ and ‘counting on what is counted’. What is then witnessed is a situation where ‘perverse incentives are real incentives’ (O’Neill 2002, p55, original emphasis), and ‘the Sisyphean task of pushing institutional performance up the league tables is made harder by constantly redefining and adding targets and introducing initiatives, and of course with no account taken of the costs of competing for initiative funding’ (2002, p56). What is being witnessed is what Sennett (1999) identifies as a ‘corrosion of character’ regarding production technologies impacting on identities and practices, with an exodus into retirement or other occupations, and with mental health issues for children as data production machines.



Ravitch (2010, p169) encapsulates this situation in the US by writing about her favourite teacher, and asking: ‘What would Mrs Ratcliff do?’ She concludes that while she can give testimony that Mrs Ratcliff was a great teacher, she knows that Mrs Ratcliff would have failed to produce the right type of data in the right way. Locating performance followership within the bigger picture of depoliticisation means that the ‘rights of possessive individualism override substantive conceptions of the common good’ (Ranson 2003, p470), and so the public realm is abandoned as a site where political exchange and spontaneous action is enabled. Ironically, ‘this regime of neo-liberal accountability, designed to restore trust to public service has, however, had the unintended consequence of further eroding public trust in the stewardship of public services because it has embodied flawed criteria of evaluation and relations of accountability’ (p470). In other words, performance followership is designed to fail and will fail, particularly because examination results are outside-in modes of control rather than productive pedagogies from the ‘inside-out’, where learners are enabled ‘to recognize their capability … motivating them to enter into and remake the narratives that give meaning to their lives’ (Ranson 2003, p470). Gillies (2016) has used Arendtian thinking about action by educational professionals in ways that require a different form of accountability, that in Ranson’s terms is ‘reflexive’ where: this discursive practice of accountability is not merely confined to organizational procedure, but defines the reasonableness of communication that must inform any just civil society. The obligations we have to each other; that is, to give and take reasons/accounts for our beliefs and actions, enable mutual understanding and agreement. Accountability in this view, as discursive reason, is the very expression rather than denial of our reflective agency. Our accounts of action make intelligible their intentions and the narrative histories we have authored and are responsible for. Accountability in these interpretations is not a summons to compliance but rather provides understanding … of how we constitute the sense we have of ourselves (our identities) as well as shared ways of constructing the meanings that inform our social orders. (Ranson 2003, p461) For Arendt (2006a), teachers would be unable to tell a convincing story because they have not taken responsibility and authority for pedagogy,


The politics of public education

and so could not enable children to understand the world in which they had the opportunity to do something different (see chapter four; see also Levinson 2002). Action is premised on entering and exchanging in the public realm – of articulating a standpoint rather than exiting with silent support or even the calculative support of what has been called ‘passive evil’ (Samier 2008). I am not calling for a restoration project of returning to a form of ‘golden age’ teacher self-regulation because this would require the public to accept teacher sovereignty as a form of rule by experts. Instead the EPKP could enable the interplay of the state, networks, practices, people and ideas to create and sustain forms of democratic accountability where teachers, as public and publicly remunerated appointees, are answerable in ways that are ‘grounded in consent’ (Ranson 2003, p475): Trust and achievement can only emerge in a framework of public accountability that enables different accounts of public purpose and practice to be deliberated in a democratic public sphere: constituted to include difference, enable participation, voice and dissent, through to collective judgement and decision, that is in turn accountable to the public. (2003, p476) This is no easy task (as my reporting of Flinders’ [2013] assessment of the current state of politics at the start of chapter one testifies), and, as Nixon (2012, p62) has shown, Arendt’s: ‘work teaches us, both by example and by its substantive content, that thinking is difficult, that the relation between thinking and acting is complex and indeterminate, and that thoughtfulness alone (notwithstanding its central importance in humanizing the world) cannot provide us with the necessary power to withstand violence and achieve collective agency’. So action is vital, enabled by arguments that expertise and skills are located in discourses of participation, and where the humanity of the educational process is not automatically characterised as lacking in transparency (see the discussion about Mrs Ratcliff by Ravitch, 2010). Such a stance requires a form of policy activism that Smyth (2012) identifies is located in debating courageously about values, and as Grace demands: If the professionals fail to resource and renew their social, moral and ethical commitments, then Durkheim’s great project that professionals should be the necessary social



intervening institutions between individuals and the State will not be realised. This will mean a future in which the Strong State and the Strong Multinational Corporation will possess an almost total hegemony. (Grace 2014, pp27–8) Such a call to action within the public realm is risky because ‘the remedy against the irreversibility and unpredictability of the process started by acting does not arise out of another and possibly higher faculty, but is one of the potentialities of action itself ’ (Arendt 1958, pp236–7). However, research is demonstrating that such risks are being taken in order to work on pedagogy within the public realm and where values regarding the purposes of public services education are being enacted and learned from (for example, Gandin and Apple 2012; Wrigley et al 2012). Such action is demonstrating that, without the sponteneity that action affords, the teaching profession is denied the opportunity to engage with moral issues (see Wright 2001, 2003), because hierarchical forms of accountability pronounce on rather than enable learning for and about morality. As Arendt argues, morality arises ‘directly out of the will to live together with others in the mode of acting and speaking, and thus they are like control mechanisms built into the very faculty to start new and unending processes’ (Arendt 1958, p246). Accounts about values, with theorising within and about and for practice, do exist as a professional resource (for example, Evans 1999; Young and Muller 2014), but are largely marginalised in favour of training by bullet points as a form of reform ‘embalming’ (Gunter and Willmott 2001). Nevertheless, there are forms of resistance in different parts of the world, not least because the contextual impact of globalised neoliberalisation is full of contradictions that have created the spaces in which to act otherwise (see Robertson 2008). Returning to this matter is a recurrent theme of this book.

Summary Arendt argues that: ‘the teacher’s qualification consists in knowing the world and being able to instruct others about it, but his authority rests on his assumption of responsibility for that world’ (2006a, p186). Teachers, like other adults, therefore need opportunities to take action in the public realm and, following Biesta (2010), the school is more than a site for preparation, it is where children are actually and should be readied for the public realm. However, thinking by using the EPKP to think about the reforms to common knowledges for and about teaching and the teaching profession, and their role in


The politics of public education

knowledge production with and on behalf of children, suggests a trend towards creating the conditions for teacher and wider public inaction. Biopolitical distinctiveness means that teachers are exhaustingly industrious as performance followers, but in ways that prevent them from taking authority and exercising responsibility for teaching in school, and engaging in action beyond the school. So depoliticisation through relocating decision making into civil society and families has potential to renew politics for and within the public realm, however, evidence and analysis shows how the denial of the common means that decision making is actually relocated to alternative sites for sustained elite domination. Arendt is helpful in trying to understand why this might be so, where she notes the challenges for action: Exasperation with the threshold frustration of action – the unpredictability of its outcome, the irreversability of the process, and the anonymity of its authors – is almost as old as recorded history. It has always been a great temptation, for men of action no less than for men of thought, to find a substitute for action in the hope that the realm of human affairs may escape the haphazardness and moral irresponsibility inherent in a plurality of agents. The remarkable monotony of the proposed solutions throughout our recorded history testifies to the elemental simplicity of the matter. (Arendt 1958, p220) These substitutes for action are in the glossy claims about ‘empowerment’ in order to ‘make a difference’, while in reality teachers actually labour and work for survival followership, and to prevent the worst excesses of reforms from damaging children. The elevation of activity variously defined and labelled as ‘administration’, ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ is the site of such ‘monotony’ in public education services, where the rhetoric of the ‘freedom to innovate’ is loud but the reality of novelty is limited. I intend, in the next two chapters, to take this further by examining how plurality and natality are integral to the possibility and actuality of taking action in the public realm, and so I next focus on plurality or the fact of difference as common humans.



Plurality: the idea and reality of choice

Introduction The following quotation is from a headteacher: I love to see the kids’ faces when they achieve. I like to see the fact that you can impact, you can help to shape children’s lives by giving them opportunities. And I really enjoy to see those opportunities taken by children. (Gunter and Forrester 2010, p60) What is being said gives recognition to what Arendt (1958) calls the fact of plurality, where education is a site for all humans to develop and accomplish. Hence knowledge production for plurality within and for education is concerned with recognising variety within standpoint formation, communication and persuasion. At the same time such plurality is located in values-generated understandings of the purposes of education: it is not enough to know that there is a range of ways to know, learn, teach and assess, it is vital also to know that how to access knowledges and knowings, combined with the opportunities to demonstrate knowledgeabilities, is a colonised power process. The continued dominance of the private over the common purposes of education is the focus of this chapter, where I focus on access to a school and examine what this means for plurality. Notably, through the deployment of the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP) I give prime attention to the demand side and how deregulation by the state means that parents have been offered ‘choice’ in the public system through schemes such as vouchers. The practices involved in offering and responding to the exercise of a preference for a ‘good’ school place is enabled through a form of depoliticisation by colonisation of globally networked market ideologies. Instinctively it seems that vouchers are enabling of plurality, but I identify how parental choice mechanisms are primarily rhetorical, by facilitating and strengthening segregation as a form of biopolitical distinctiveness.


The politics of public education

Common purposes? Debates about the purposes of public services education are historically located. The idea of free universal education for all children is based on the standpoint that all children are actually and necessarily educable as integral to their humanity (Dewey 2011). As Brighouse (2006, p18) argues, it is not possible to predict how children will engage with the life into which they have been born, and ‘so to guarantee that all children have the opportunity to live well, the state must ensure that all children have a real opportunity to enter good ways of life other than those into which their parents seek to induct them’. Hence a public ‘common’ system enables ‘all’ children to have parity of recognition, and this is what Biesta (2007, p740) means when he talks about how children learn to be ‘subjects’, where schools ‘focus on opportunities for democratic action and democratic “learning-in-action”’. So plurality is about recognising the uniqueness of a human, and how this is concerned with developing autonomy and connectedness, particularly the necessary and vital disconnect between the school and family: The ethos of that school will encourage genuine and serious engagement between the children, and between them and the adults, in an atmosphere that is emotionally stable and physically safe. The aim is not to promote toleration between different groups (though that, too, is important) but to enable children to learn more about alternative ways of living and new perspectives. These are resources for the children, which enable them to reflect critically on opinions and values received from their families and from the mainstream culture. (Brighouse 2006, p22) Learning together means that knowledge production is related to the teacher as someone who can provide children with access to a range of knowledges and ways of knowing (Fielding and Moss 2011). The challenges of achieving the common through inclusion, along with respect for, but not indoctrination into, cultural traditions, means that class, gender and race are important sites for working for fairness (Lauder and Hughes 1999). This provokes professional debates about the codification of the curriculum, pedagogy, learning resources and assessment, where there are decisions to be made and where, Fielding and Moss (2011, p28) argue, the approach should be ‘to think more in terms of “and, and, and” rather than “either/or”’. Such a dynamic approach enables all children (and their families and communities)



to be recognised as knowers in ways that both act as a resource in support of learning, and as a site for development by new forms of learning (for example, Apple and Beane 1999; Smyth 2011a). For example, Finland has radically reformed its education system with comprehensive schools, a common curriculum and syllabus with mixed ability teaching, resulting in global recognition of rapid improvement (Sahlberg 2015). Such an example demonstrates the interplay of the commons with differentiation in regard to learning and pedagogic preferences, and in relation to outcomes in the form of accreditation and career preparation as well as citizenship contributions and cultures. Ongoing debates are about how best to enable all children to have access to the benefits of education (or the claim that all children have the right to reject Shakespeare!) but at the same time ensure that aspirations are focused and responsive to wider social, economic, political and cultural responsibilities. There have been victories for common purposes around notions of citizenship and democracy, and accounts of the breakthroughs in investment in the supply and demand side of provision, however, the drive to establish the legitimacy and practicality of such common purposes tends to be scripted against the normality of segregation, or the idea that educational purposes are related to private and distinctive ‘uncommon’ needs. At the core of this are claims made about the commons (see chapters two and four), whereby shared approaches to knowledge production can be regarded as utopian and even dangerous. Pro-segregation arguments for uncommon purposes as essential are located in a complex interplay of eugenics and hierarchical social structures that are colonising everyday practices within what is still referred to as public services education. In Agamben’s (1998, p5) terms, there are ‘concrete ways in which power penetrates subjects’ very bodies and forms of life’, from assumptions about entitlements to demands from providers, and/or by driving a child across town and away from the local school, and/or paying for private tutors to raise test results, and/ or making that phone call to put pressure on admissions. At least three interconnected biopolitical distinctiveness trends can be identified. The first trend is evident in the notion of exclusivity, where a particular curriculum within a particular school is ‘right for your child’ and where a parent can be safe in the knowledge that their child will only mix with approved of children. At the same time there is a relentless drive to build distinctiveness into the child’s achievement profile, and the choice of which opportunities are accessed enables education capital to be accumulated in ways that build on inherited family capitals (see Prosser 2017; Sinclair and Swalwell 2017). Inflected


The politics of public education

with notions of privilege and family requirements, there is segregation based on wealth through the direct purchase of a school place and/or biology based on boys’ and girls’ schools/classrooms and/or intelligence based on testing and setting and/or faith based on parental beliefs. The second trend mimics the opportunity for elite exclusivity by reproducing segregation through a structured market within the public system. Hence the purposes of education are to give children in families that do not have certain resources ‘the chance that they deserve’, and so knowledge production remains elite through ‘official knowledge’ encoded in the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (Apple 1993). Restricted access is provided through state grammar schools based on testing, state girls’ and boys’ schools based on bodies, and state subsidies for faith schools based on religious observance. While the majority of children are excluded, this offer of pseudo-elite forms of schools remains a strong feature and underpins the deregulation of school provision through new opportunities to access differentiated school products (see chapters four to seven). Not all parents have the resources to operate in the elite fully private market but, through forms of ‘cloning’ (Gewirtz 2001), they are enabled to parody elites by exercising ‘preferences’ for particular schools based on state-regulated technologies of data production where ‘standards’ are measured and visible through student, teacher, headteacher and school performance audits. The complexity of information, combined with travel costs, prevents some families from identifying and accessing the preferred school, while others can gain advantage through paying premium house prices close to the school that is deemed by ‘parents’ to be popular (Leech and Campos 2003). The third trend promotes the opportunity for exclusivity through exercising a preference, but in reality such ‘choices’ are based on the child having the education that they are deemed (or assessed) to ‘need’ (see Gove 2012), where ‘need’ is actually structured through class, gender and race. There is basic knowledge that all children need to have transmitted to them (numeracy, literacy, moral codes of conduct), but there are individual needs that link the child to their place in society and the economy (where, for example, access to Shakespeare for the majority of children is an irrelevant waste of public money). Vocational, traditional and domestic forms of enculturation and training enable most children to access what they need in order to work productively (in jobs and as consumers) and be satisfied with their lot. The purposes of education are therefore to serve the economy and democracy in a restricted way, through basic skills training combined with disciplinary acceptance of hierarchies in the workplace, communities and homes.



Consequently, elite and privileged forms of education enable exclusivity to operate in ways that are accepted as common sense by those who are othered. Children learn to eschew dependency on strangers to fund a broad and balanced education as they learn to be motivated acceptors, where social mobility is based on fabricated opportunities to compete in the jobs market. Common educational purposes are successful (for example, Fielding and Moss 2011; Sahlberg 2015), but attacks by the right (for example, Chubb and Moe 1990) have been influential in ridiculing common purposes. As Apple identifies: The ‘panic’ over falling standards and illiteracy, the fears of violence in schools, the concern with the destruction of family values and religiosity, all have had an effect. These fears are exacerbated, and used, by dominant groups within politics and the economy who have been able to move the debate on education (and all things social) onto their own terrain, the terrain of ‘tradition,’ standardisation, productivity, and industrial needs. Since so many parents are justifiably concerned about the economic futures of their children – in an economy that is increasingly conditioned by lowered wages, unemployment, capital flight and insecurity – rightist discourses connects with the experiences of many working-class and lower-middle-class people. (Apple 1993, p23, original emphasis) The demand to participate as a consumer rather than as a citizen, with chances to break out of what life has allocated, has resonated with people who want nothing more than the best for their children (see Apple 2006). This is particularly important because the idea of common purposes for education has remained more of an aspiration rather than a reality, and where, for some, the espoused ‘common’ system seems to be stacked against particular communities. So the idea of using new freedoms to lever an advantage was and remains an attractive development in how equality of opportunity was being framed. In this context, notions of parental choice have made a difference to the discourses and practices within public services education, where plurality of people has been reworked as a form of consumerism. So I now examine Arendtian meanings of plurality before I going on to use this to examine choice and how parents with no or limited resources are required to make marketised rather than political demands.


The politics of public education

Plurality In everyday terms, ‘plural’ is used to describe a numeral condition, but in Arendtian thinking, ‘plurality is not merely multiplicity, otherness, or distinctness’, rather it is how a human ‘discloses’ their uniqueness that is the issue for Arendt (Bernstein 1997, p160). The starting point with political action is the human condition, where Arendt (1958, p8) argues: ‘plurality is the condition of human action because we are all the same, that is, human, in such a way that nobody is ever the same as anyone else who ever lived, lives, or will live’. In appearing in the world, a human both demonstrates this plurality, and through action lives it: Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter, corresponds to the human condition of plurality, to the fact that men, not Man, live on earth and inhabit the world. While all aspects of the human condition are somehow related to politics, this plurality is specifically the condition – not only the conditio sine qua non, but the conditio per quam – of all political life. (Arendt, 1958, p7, original emphasis) What is said and done in the world is the site for the interplay between sameness and difference or ‘equality and distinction’ because: If men were not equal, they could neither understand each other and those who came before them nor plan for the future and foresee the needs of those who will come after them. If men were not distinct, each human being distinguished from any other who is, was, or will ever be, they would need neither speech nor action to make themselves understood. (1958, p176) This form of distinction is not biopolitical – the body is a site where individuality is expressed but not externally structured to warrant superiority for the few and performance docility for the many. So distinction and distinctiveness are different from otherness: but only man can express this distinction or distinguish himself, and only he can communicate himself and not merely something – thirst of hunger, affective or hostility, or fear. In man, otherness, which he shares with everything



that is, and distinctiveness, which he shares with everything alive, become uniqueness, and human plurality is the paradoxical plurality of unique beings. (1958, p176) Arendtian scholars are interested in how action is not just activity or doing: ‘it is only in action, in initiating undertaking and interacting with one another, that men, these unique individuals, reveal what they personally are’ (Canovan 1977, p59). Indeed, Arendt makes it clear what this revelation to the self and others means: Speech and action reveal this unique distinctiveness. Through them, men distinguish themselves instead of being merely distinct; they are modes in which human beings appear to each other, not indeed as physical objects, but qua men. This appearance, as distinguished from mere bodily existence, rests on initiative, but it is an initiative from which no human being can refrain and still be human … A life without speech and without action, on the other hand – and this is the only way of life that in earnest has renounced all appearance and all vanity in the biblical sense of the world – is literally dead to the world; it has ceased to be a human life because it is no longer lived among men. (Arendt 1958, p176, original emphasis) Much of Arendt’s writing is focused on the potential and actual destruction of the conditions in which plurality can be revealed (Arendt 1993). Notably plurality can be feared: ‘the chaotic and unpredictable nature of politics and history is a consequence of human freedom and plurality’ (Canovan 1977, p60). Accordingly, Arendt gives attention to the limitations and even destruction of plurality, and in ways that can seem to be based on forms of consent. Plurality can be limited through contractual agreements that can constrain or even deny political action through the relocation of power as a form of ‘sovereignty’. Modernisation and revolutions may have seen a shift from a dominant sovereign towards democracy, but Arendt (1970, p81) argues that bureaucracy can mean ‘rule by Nobody’, where civil society is left powerless. It seems that the historical conflation of democratised sovereignty with freedom is a conceit that has ‘always been taken for granted by political as well as philosophical thought’ (Arendt 1958, p234). Such sovereignty can be focused on the individual as ‘self-rule’ and/or be ‘given up’ to a higher ‘ruling’ authority such as an employer or a government. For example, Arendt questions notions


The politics of public education

of how a human is deemed to be free because they can self-rule, or agree to a social contract to enhance security. Her concern that humans now labour and consume rather than take action, means that there is a freedom fallacy: if it were true that sovereignty and freedom are the same, then indeed no man could be free, because sovereignty, the ideal of uncompromising self-sufficiency and mastership, is contradictory to the very condition of plurality. No man can be sovereign because not one man, but men, inhabit the earth … (Arendt 1958, p234) Arendt’s concern is more than making the case that the reality of sovereignty is not actually possible, rather she shows the dangerous consequences involved in creating, sustaining and accepting that it is possible: ‘the result would be not so much sovereign domination of one’s self as arbitrary domination of all others’ (Arendt 1958, p234). For example, the aggregation of consumer choices by individuals as activity must be recognised as a proxy for action, and so while humans may consider they are free, in reality action is denied. Arendt goes further than this and so I want to confront security in ways that are beyond the sovereignty compromises as features of consumerist representative democracies. Arendt says: The calamities of action all arise from the human condition of plurality, which is the condition sin qua non for that space of appearance which is the public realm. Hence the attempt to do away with this plurality is always tantamount to the abolition of the public realm itself. (1958, p220, original emphasis) Arendt (2009) is trying to understand the conditions in which human plurality is extinguished in ways that may not be fully realised as it is happening, for example, through the ‘acceptance’ of branded lying within democracies (Arendt 1972), or how fear is ratcheted up due to a complete break of human bonds (Arendt 2009): this can happen under conditions of radical isolation, where nobody can any longer agree with anybody else, as is usually the case in tyrannies. But it may also happen under conditions of mass society or mass hysteria, where we see all people suddenly behave as though they were



members of one family, each multiplying and prolonging the perspective of his neighbor. In both instances, men have become entirely private, that is, they have been deprived of seeing and hearing others, of being seen and being heard by them. They are all imprisoned in the subjectivity of their own singular experience, which does not cease to be singular if the same experience is multiplied innumerable times. The end of the common world has come when it is seen only under one aspect and is permitted to present itself in only one perspective. (Arendt 1958, p58) Totalitarian tendencies exist outside of and can outlive totalitarian regimes. The need to deal with crises can mean that political processes are elided in favour of doing what seems to be necessary in ways that limit or forgo plurality, and indeed such crises can be manufactured in order to justify the denial of politics: ‘totalitarian regimes, with the use of total terror, deliberately attempt to eliminate all traces of human plurality and individual spontaneity’ (Bernstein 1997, p161), and where humans are denied: ‘the right to have rights’ (Young-Bruehl 2006, p59). In focusing on the importance of human plurality, and how this is related to the unique human being in the public realm, Arendt is asking humans to examine both seemingly totalitarian and non-totalitarian regimes, and to do two things: first, to question the meaning of exclusion in ways that are more humane than asking: what must they have done to deserve that? Such a question is more than how history is read but is about how people access media reports that challenge their humanity. So Young-Bruehl (2006, p59) argues: a crime against humanity is one that assaults the right to belong to a human community: the right not to be reduced to a mass, not to be made superfluous, not to be stateless and rightless. It is the right to be remembered truthfully in stories told about plural human beings by plural human beings, not to be erased from history. Second, to question how action needs to include people in ways that enable the views of others to be heard and understood: what is their standpoint and what does it mean? Consequently: ‘people must relate to one another, must come together, find ways to live together, negotiate their differences, exchange opinions, found relational political institutions in the world they have created’ (Young-Bruehl 2006, p81). The implications are that freedom is not individualised regarding ‘I


The politics of public education

need’ and ‘I want’ but is focused on how human sameness and difference are recognised and respected.

The possibilities for plurality The potential of thinking for and about plurality for education raises some important questions regarding educational services, and here I would like to focus on the question: is schooling premised on the recognition and realities of plurality? The deployment of the EPKP in examining the debates and strategies regarding the purposes of education in England demonstrates major interventions by the state into both the common and uncommon. The common is reworked as economic purposes, where teaching, learning and assessment is relevant to and providing of a skill set that connects work with profit; and the uncommon is retained and restored through parental choice as the mantra of school reform. For example, allowing parents to exercise a preference for a school ‘of their choice’ has transcended the political divide from the 1970s onwards in England (Thatcher 1989; Blair 2004; Cordon 2007). Importantly, right-wing globalised ideologies and networks have framed and navigated the policy and discourse trails this has generated, and have been variously interpreted and adopted in the trend for the state to regulate supply and parents to choose. Governments have increasingly standardised school outcomes through the demand for the production, publication and evaluation of certain types of data about school outcomes. Angus (2015) identifies the introduction of the ‘My School’ website in Australia in order to facilitate between-school comparisons. In England, secondary schools produce data about examinations, where particular thresholds are used to determine quality (for example, five passes per child for grades A*, A, B and C at GCSE level, normally taken at the age of 16), and made public through performance league tables and schools are audited by Ofsted inspections using a published template that identifies schools on a grading scale from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’, and where reports are publicly available and schools are required to respond (see chapter six). Such regulation is about enabling parents to be able to compare school ‘products’ through benchmarked national standards, and so be able to review the options and make a choice. Known as ‘parental choice’, the demand side of the market has been liberalised through the end of local planning of school places using ‘catchment’ or ‘zoning’ areas, towards parents being offered the opportunity to exercise a preference for a ‘good’ school place. The 1988 Education Reform Act was meant



to facilitate such parental choice, enabled through formula funding (money moves with a child), open enrolment (offering of school places up to legal capacity) and through the deregulation of the supply side, where schools could leave the local planning system (for example, grant maintained status) or through new entries into local provision (for example, city technology colleges) (see chapters four and five). Globally influential ideological thinking has been undertaken by Friedman (2002), who argues that parents should not be denied the right to directly pay for their children’s education, where even lowincome families can ‘pay’ for low-cost schools (see Tooley 2009; Reisz 2015). The corporatised colonisation of civil society has generated aspirations for segregation (to live differently and better than others), where the ultimate segregation is to live outside of civil society. In everyday terms this is the use of a coffee app where you don’t have to associate or queue with others (see Gunter et al 2018) or in science fiction terms to live ‘off world’ (as in Blade runner), which in current realities means residence in a tax haven, moving from yacht to private jet to limousine and so arrive at a gated mansion with security (known as a ‘panic room’) that protects ‘us’ from ‘others’. Such a segregated better life is only achievable for the 1% whom the 99% are enabled to imitate through the fabrication of market demand (see Gunter et al 2017a). However, research is providing evidence of: a new social elite, quite different culturally (if not socially, functionally or genealogically) from the historic ‘establishment’ … [that] … has arguably crystallised from the interconnections between the worlds of finance, commercial media, information and communications and technologies, and some branches of government, in recent decades. Less powerful social groups – most notably managers of both commercial and public-sector organisations – have been able to acquire power and obtain privileges to the extent that they have been willing and able to reproduce the culture of that elite while serving its interests. (Gilbert 2016, p23) Such new elite formations are spatially shrewd, mobile and transnational, and so illuminate the potential to reach beyond the limitations of a nation state bureaucracy. Consequently, libertarians argue for ‘freeing up’ the motivated to succeed, and how this can only be secured through removing the state from creating and maintaining the ‘commons’, allowing what Friedman identifies as ‘denationalizing schooling’ through consumerised solutions:


The politics of public education

If present public expenditures on schooling were made available to parents regardless of where they send their children, a wide variety of schools would spring up to meet the demand. Parents could express their views about schools directly by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another, to a much greater extent than is now possible. In general, they can now take this step only at considerable cost – by sending their children to a private school or by changing their residence. For the rest, they can express their views only through cumbrous political channels. Perhaps a somewhat greater degree of freedom to choose schools could be made available in a governmentally administered system, but it would be difficult to carry this freedom very far in view of the obligation to provide every child with a place. Here, as in other fields, competitive enterprise is likely to be far more efficient in meeting consumer demand than either nationalized enterprises or enterprises run to serve other purposes. (2002, p91) It is argued that competition improves the provision of the educational product by removing the ‘dead hand of state bureaucracy’ through proactive depoliticisation (Leach 2014), that the profession has to be responsive to parental demands particularly through de-unionisation, and demand generates good school expansion, while unpopular schools will either improve or close. While the research evidence about vouchers delivering such changes is ‘lackluster’ the case is made that ‘the theoretical rationale behind school vouchers remains compelling’ (Barrow and Rouse 2008, p12) where the problem may be in format design and implementation rather than the idea. A range of schemes have been developed to facilitate the capability and capacity to exercise choice, such as tax credits to reimburse for private school expenses, but here I will focus on one major way of securing choice through vouchers: Governments could require a minimum level of schooling financed by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on ‘approved’ educational services. Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum they themselves provided on purchasing educational services from an ‘approved’ institution of their own choice. The educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated



for profit, or by non-profit institutions. The role of the government would be limited to insuring that the schools met certain minimum standards, such as the inclusion of minimum common content in their programs, much as it now inspects restaurants to insure that they maintain minimum sanitary standards. (Friedman 2002, p89) Vouchers are evident in certain national systems for schools (for example, Chile, see Seppänen et al 2015), and with experiments in federal systems (for example, 14 US states have large-scale schemes, Pribble and Erkulwater 2017), where it is argued that state and political traditions impact on the decision to adopt and the design of particular schemes (Klitgaard 2008; Patrinos 2014). Friedman’s (2002) arguments remain vibrant through the activities of translators, developers and popularisers in influential texts (for example, Chubb and Moe 1990; West 1994; Tooley 2000; Bobbitt 2002); global organisations (for example, OECD 2010; Patrinos 2014); ‘think tanks’ (for example, Johnson 2009; Croft et al 2013; Sahlgren and Le Grand 2014; Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal 2016); and the advocacy of politicians (for example, DeVos in the US [see Pribble and Erkulwater 2017], and in England former Secretaries of State, Keith Joseph [see Hansard 1981], and Michael Gove [see Martin 2010, Ainley 2016]) and major celebrity/philanthropic players (Buchheit 2015). Claims and counterclaims are being made through meta reviews/summaries of the evidence (for example, Gill et al 2001; Rotherham 2011; Banchero 2012), and what are now labelled as ‘opportunity scholarships’ are the subject of debate in the US (NCSL 2013, np), particularly regarding making the practicalities clear and supportable (Peacock 1983). Pro-voucher advocates are concerned to enable all, but certainly low-income families, to demonstrate biopolitical distinctiveness by accessing current and new forms of private schools, and/or to ensure that public education is responsive to their needs. Wealthier families can potentially access elite private schools through payment (or forms of co-payment – voucher plus fees), which can be combined with other admissions criteria (such as testing), so these schools can retain consumer differentials in the market (West 1982). Those who are against vouchers not only raise the constitutional and faith issues involved (see Indiana Public Media 2014; NCSL 2013) but also show that the voucher, on its own, does not guarantee parity of opportunity in the marketplace unless, for example, there can be subsidised transport costs to enable children to actually access the school of their choice. In addition, opponents focus on the impact of vouchers on the ‘public’


The politics of public education

nature of schools, and the need to preserve the collective approach to a service that should be universal, where the structuring impact of class and race continue to determine access to and experiences of education (for example, ADL 2012; Angus 2015). Finally, research from Chile – as the major laboratory for voucher schemes – shows how biopolitical distinctiveness works against the consumer, through how it is schools that choose children (Castro-Hidalgo and Gómez-Álvarez 2016). Historically, vouchers both as an idea and an implemented reality, seem to ebb and flow over time according to who is in office and whether the time is deemed to be right for both the right wing to commit to policy change (see Abrams 1995) or for the left wing to be urged to consider adopting vouchers to secure egalitarian goals (Brighouse 1994). Indeed, interesting alliances have been forged: Apple and Pedroni report on the pro-voucher collaboration in the US between the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and the right wing in Milwaukee, where tactically vouchers provide an opportunity in response to the Black community’s ‘growing frustration with ongoing White resistance to developing comprehensive and equal school desegregation policies’ (Apple and Pedroni, 2005, p2070, original emphasis). Such ‘moves’ demonstrate how there is an interplay between pragmatics and the claims for rational choice in ways that are a form of historically located sense making. While the ‘payment’ technologies and the arguments being proposed and used may disappear and then reappear on the agenda, choice remains an integral part of education and of educational provision in western-style democracies, and so the relationship with plurality is important. Thinking with Arendt helps to bring insights into whether providing the opportunity to exercise a preference as a parent in regard to their child enables uniqueness to be disclosed in the public realm. At face value, it seems as if it does, where spending a voucher is a biopolitical expression of being in control of what you and your family want from education. However, research is showing that before the choice-based reforms were introduced from 1988 onwards in England, savvy parents with resources operated in an ‘unrecognised’ market by moving house in order to locate in the catchment of a ‘good’ school (Allen and Vignoles 2007), and what 1988 did was to openly legitimise and so intensify competitive dispositions through reforms to supply and demand. The consequences being that parental choice is now working in ways that limit how and why a parent presents the self. First, parental decisions about what is a ‘good’ school place are inflected with class, race and faith belief systems regarding how information is accessed and assessed (Weekes-Bernard 2007; BBC 2017b), where it is argued



that traditional residential segregation (through historical patterns of settlement, housing costs, etc) will not be challenged by choice, and may intensify and extend segregation (Gewirtz et al 1995; Söderström and Ussitalo 2010). Second, parents are not a homogeneous group. Research shows how some parents access and use the market more effectively than others, where class and race impact on the deployment of economic and social capitals (Fitz et al 1993; Audit Commission 1996; West et al 1998; Lauder and Hughes 1999). Third, while preferences can be exercised, this does not mean that children want the ‘chosen’ school or want to keep moving school as ‘dissatisfied’ customers (Mortimore 2013), or that parents receive the school place that they have ‘chosen’ where dissatisfaction leads to appeals processes that again may fail (Feintuck and Stevens 2013). And, fourth, certain individual needs require subsidy beyond the resources of families and charity (such as special educational needs), and certain collective needs require coordination (such as planning for places in response to increases/decreases in the birth rate) (Feintuck and Stevens 2013). It could be that the logic of pure competition is one that is inappropriate for a service that the majority of people/families access at some point in their lives, where the OECD advises that choice needs to be managed due to the impact on equity (Field et al 2007). Furthermore, it seems that education through schooling could be too big and too important to be allowed to fail through the aggregation of consumer choices, where school opening and closure may well generate inefficiencies and fail to meet a wider ‘community’ or ‘national’ need: The model of accountability promoted or prioritised within the quasi-market system is a narrow one, based on scrutiny and choice by actual or potential individual serviceusers in relation to a particular range of factors that will be individualistic to the exclusion of collective concerns. The model relates to the choices of individual parents and the actions and priorities of individual schools, it may be non-educational, and the criteria applied tend to value the measurable rather than measure the valuable. Such a model will be likely to neglect substantially the systemic needs of schooling in a locale. (Feintuck and Stevens 2013, p178) The dominance of primarily valuing what can be measured is a key concern, where the combination of parental preferences with high stakes testing has generated ‘teaching to the test’ preparation and delivery by teachers, and where organisational processes, along


The politics of public education

with professional identities and practices, have become corporatised (Courtney and Gunter 2015). For those who support marketised parental choice, the problems are due to the fact that authentic choice is not yet achieved, and the fundamental problem is that the state is involved in what is essentially a private matter, hence innovative experimentation is worth it because parental choice will ensure success (see Tooley 2000). However, research is challenging such conclusions (see Glatter et al 1997; Boyle 2010; Feintuck and Stevens 2013; Seppänen et al 2015), and Arendtian plurality is helpful in thinking about this. For parental choice to work in a market system then, plurality can only be about the ‘plural’ as the multiplication of needs. Put simply, there are customers with espoused (and possibly unrecognised) needs, and markets work by using predetermined categories based on, for example, academic status, the biology of a child and the faith of the parents. Consequently a parent seeking a school place in a market is not the same as a citizen presenting the self in the public realm. Parents are just one ‘group’ in civil society and they cannot disclose their uniqueness if ‘other’ citizens are denied a standpoint about education because they do not have children or their children are grown up. Furthermore, as already noted, parents are not a group, and what markets do is to enable other factors to come into play (such as income, education, networks) that build advantage and disadvantage, where ‘sorting’ processes determine who matters and what counts (see Allen and Vignoles 2007). Indeed, Benn makes the point: what choice can a family on a joint income of £20,000 or less exercise to apply for a school that charges £12,000 a year – before the inevitable add-ons – not to mention the difficulties their child might well face trying to integrate in a social environment where the majority of families can comfortably afford such fees? (Benn 2011, pxi) In Arendtian (2005) terms, the ‘between’ space is squashed as likeminded and/or successful consumers use their own and their children’s bodies (health, intelligence, deportment, accent, physicality) to engage with what it means to win, while those who have lost out are discounted because the spaces are too large to enable alternative standpoints (and bodies) to be recognised and understood. In this sense, freedom of choice is not actual freedom, where the risk of consuming a school place can mean anxiety-inducing delusions for those who win (have we really got the good-best school place for our child?), and where



some will be frustrated that the process is not fair (why has your child got a place when mine has not?). It seems that what is actually taking place, and certainly when reforms to other services are added into the mix, is a shift in ‘the relationship between citizen and the state, rather than anything focused on the purposes of schooling’ (Feintuck and Stevens 2013, p50). In other words, education is one of many sites in which the public realm is being dismantled through depoliticisation as a form of privatism. A way of characterising this move is provided by Whitty et al (1998, p107), who have argued: ‘parental entitlements come from the right to choose rather than the right to participate’, where Ravitch (2014) examines the irony of how such a right is now civil rights issue in the US. Thinking with the EPKP has enabled me to examine the possibilities of plurality as a means of understanding the discourse of parental choice for a school place having primacy over the pedagogy and the curriculum. I intend taking this forward in the next section by thinking politically about admissions processes through lottery systems.

Thinking politically with plurality Admissions codes and procedures form an important site for thinking politically about education because, as already noted, this is where debates about purposes are evident. One way in which this can be handled is through lotteries, where both primary research and anecdotal reports (usually from disgruntled parents) suggest there is a need to consider disconnecting access to schools from either public agreed criteria (or hidden criteria, as some contend) that serve planning decisions or private demands that serve ‘personal profit’. Lotteries work by randomly allocating children to a school through ‘luck’, with advocacy that this is better than academic selection in popular schools (Field et al 2007). Feintuck and Stevens (2013) have identified that lotteries tend to be used to make ‘tie-break’ decisions in over-subscribed schools, but in the two cases in England where they have been used to allocate places in a locality it seems that other criteria were also used (such as catchment area; see Allen et al 2012). Debates continue over this approach, where the disconnection between the service and the outcome of a lottery means that there is a separation between deliberation about values and chance-based outcomes (see Boyle 2010). As Feintuck and Stevens (2013, p155) consider, the winning or losing of a raffle does not necessarily change a person’s life, whereas winning or losing a school place does. This leads to the conclusion that ‘simply put, decisions regarding the “scarce necessity”


The politics of public education

of high-quality state-funded schooling seem too important to be left to chance, other than in the last resort’. In addition, while the claim can be made that school mix is improved by breaking the link between catchment and school, research is showing that the ‘playing field’ on which a lottery is located is not equal, where social justice matters impact on ‘the game in play’ regarding which parents enter the lottery pool and how they ‘play the game’ to obtain a better chance of ‘winning’ the school they want (see Stasz and van Stolk 2007). Following Arendt (1958), this suggests that action about educational purposes within the public realm is necessary, and it seems that the use of criteria for admissions, and their content, should not be abdicated in favour of decision making by lottery. Much might be repeated here about the negative impact of parental choice on the public realm, particularly the impact on the ‘between’ space. It seems that lotteries constitute a public space on the basis of structured serendipity, and all that humans can do is to react to randomness rather than seek to understand facts and various standpoints. While Arendt’s essay about desegregation, ‘Reflections on Little Rock’ (in Arendt 2003) is controversial, she raises important issues that are pertinent to thinking politically about lotteries. Arendt responded to a photograph of Elizabeth Eckford under attack from angry crowds while walking home from school. Arendt (2003, p194) asks whether adults were abdicating their responsibilities, with a shift in ‘the burden of responsibility from the shoulders of adults to those of children’. She asks: ‘And do we intend to have our political battles fought on in the school yards?’ (p204). In addition to this she returns to an enduring issue of nonaction: ‘the sorry fact was that the town’s law-abiding citizens left the streets to the mob … law-abiding Southerners had decided that enforcement of the law against mob rule and protection of children against mobsters were none of their business’ (p202). Lotteries in the contemporary admissions system have also generated public events and the actuality of children taking on actual adult responsibilities, where they are surrounded by inaction. For example, Ravitch provides a review of David Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’, about education in the US, in which she identifies that the film: tells the story of five children who enter a lottery to win a coveted place in a charter school. Four of them seek to escape the public schools; one was asked to leave a Catholic school because her mother couldn’t afford the tuition. Four of the children are Black or Hispanic and live in gritty



neighbourhoods, while the one White child lives in a leafy suburb. We come to know each of these children and their families; we learn about their dreams for the future; we see that they are loveable; and we identify with them. By the end of the film, we are rooting for them as the day of the lottery approaches. (Ravitch 2012, p21) She then goes on to describe and consider the denouement: In the final moments of Waiting for ‘Superman,’ the children and their parents assemble in auditoriums in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, waiting nervously to see if they will win the lottery. As the camera pans the room, you see tears rolling down the cheeks of children and adults alike, all their hopes focused on a listing of numbers or names. Many people react to the scene with their own tears, sad for the children who lose. I had a different reaction. First, I thought to myself that the charter operators were cynically using children as political pawns in their own campaign to promote their cause. (Gail Collins in The New York Times had a similar reaction and wondered why they couldn’t just send the families a letter in the mail instead of subjecting them to public rejection.) Second, I felt an immense sense of gratitude to the muchmaligned American public education system, where no one has to win a lottery to gain admission. (Ravitch 2012, p30) There is much to say about this film and others in the genre (see Swail 2012; Swalwell and Apple 2011), not least the integrated demonisation of public education with the misrepresentation of the evidence about replacement schools such as charters. Arendt is helpful not only in recognising how depoliticisation is working to remove decisions from adults making decisions in publicly accountable institutions to children who experience the triumph of winning or the cruelty of losing involved in subjecting life chances to fate (whether in public or through the mail). This form of choosing is also made to work as a salvation narrative of rescuing children from bad teachers and bad schools, and so the authorisation of inaction is justified. In reality, there is much evidence that public education in the US (and in other countries such as England) may need reform, but it is of a high standard and is not being replaced by much that is better (see Ravitch 2010; Lubienski and Lubienski 2014). It seems that the call for privatisation


The politics of public education

(of which lotteries are a part, see chapter seven) is a magnificent but very dangerous hoax (Ravitch 2014).

Summary Arendt (1958) argues that plurality is a condition for action, where the fact is that we all share humanity and that we are all unique humans who present ourselves as and with strangers in the public realm. By foregrounding thinking politically and by using the EPKP to investigate ‘choice’ and ‘chance’ in regard to the sourcing and securing of ‘a good school place’ I have revealed the threats to the public realm through biopolitical distinctiveness as a colonising power process. It seems that we learn the logic of the spectacle of mimicry regarding elite processes of excluding other people’s children from a school through the exercise of power over and by bodies. The denial of common purposes enables diversity to be rationalised as consumption rather than citizenship, where biology, faith, wealth and race are used to make claims for superiority based on predetermined categories of people and situations. The drive for consumerist technologies such as vouchers is the product of ideological positions that are about securing and protecting normalised discrimination, where wealth and structural advantage is being used to impact on knowledge production in favour of producing and justifying such schemes (see Lubienski and Lubienski 2014). The extension of the private realm through the pursuit of rhetorical plurality as a consumer (and school products on offer to meet and structure such demands) is furthering segregation in ways that are dangerous for politics and the public realm. Again, depoliticisation could provide opportunities for action in the plurality of the public realm, but the acceptance of and the imitation of elite predispositions and partial practices is a denial of the fact of plurality, and so legitimises inaction. These are perilous times, where for Arendt: a crisis becomes a disaster only when we respond to it with preformed judgements, that is, with prejudices. Such an attitude not only sharpens the crisis but makes us forfeit the experience of reality and the opportunity for reflection it provides. (Arendt 2006a, p171) This statement is a call for plurality, not least because plurality is ‘what essentially must be preserved against totalitarian threats’ (Young-Bruehl 2006, p58). When combined with the denial of natality through



reforms to the supply side, this danger reaches alarming levels, and it is to this that I now turn.



Natality: the opportunity to do new things

Introduction I want to begin with two different school situations. The first is a city academy that was formed from the closure of two ‘failing’ secondary schools (policy launched in 2000), and where data shows how the children were bewildered about the process they had been forced to accept and responded to this by often absenting themselves. The second is a comprehensive school, where in working in a research team one of the students stated: “You know, this research we’re doing, could really change things in this school.” Both situations speak differently to the capacity and the opportunity for children to do something new. For the city academy students the world is one that positions children like them as objects to be moved around and impacted upon, and so children have learned that the world is hierarchical, structured, and is one that holds limited prospects for active participation. Whereas in the second school the student voiced a twinkle of recognition that teaching enables them to see the world as a space where they can make a contribution through collaborative knowledge production. Both data extracts have something to say about what Arendt (1958) identifies as natality or the fact that when children enter the world they can do new things. For some, as in the first case, students are being structured to fit the world but in the second case students are learning they can change the world. For Arendt (2006a) education ‘turns children toward the world’, and so ‘it is care for the world, not technical skills or moral development, that is its hallmark’ (Zakin 2017, p122). However, in this chapter I show how the trend in this ‘turn to the world’ is usually the first rather than the second case as a form of regulated natality within a segregated education system, where biopolitical distinctiveness means that ‘elite’ children know their entitlements while the majority of children know their place. The deployment of the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP) to the reforms of school restructuring in England enables an examination of direct interventions by the state as a form of depoliticisation by personalisation. Ideological investment has


The politics of public education

been made in hierarchical diversity within school supply, underpinned by globally networked competition ideologies that provide knowledge production to support the practices necessary to legitimise the ‘independent state school’.

A common education? I want to begin by considering the provision of public education as a common good by engaging with the Beveridge Report (1942) that outlines the standpoint for post-war reconstruction in the UK. Beveridge (1942, paragraph 8, p6) identified the need to confront ‘Want … Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’ by adopting an underlying principle of social security based on contribution rather than means testing and personal wealth: it has been found to accord best with the sentiments of the British people that in insurance organised by the community by use of compulsory powers each individual should stand in on the same terms; none should claim to pay less because he is healthier or has more regular employment. In accord with that view, the proposals of the Report mark another step forward to the development of State insurance as a new type of human institution, differing both from the former methods of preventing or alleviating distress and from voluntary insurance. The term ‘social insurance’ to describe this institution implies both that it is compulsory and that men stand together with their fellows. The term implies a pooling of risks except so far as separation of risks serves a social purpose. There may be reasons of social policy for adjusting premiums to risks, in order to give a stimulus for avoidance of danger, as in the case of industrial accident and disease. There is no longer an admitted claim of the individual citizen to share in national insurance and yet to stand outside it, keeping the advantage of his individual lower risk whether of unemployment or of disease or accident. (Beveridge, 1942, paragraph 26, p13) The report signifies a demonstrable shift from dealing with paupers as an enduring problem towards a sense of solidarity and mutuality for all in a society. What we all hold in common is our humanity, and how the fact that we are born is more important than the fact that we die. Human potential, rather than humans being fitted into classed, raced,



and gendered categories, is at the core of this claim. What does this mean for education? A common education has a number of features: • agreement on the core purposes of education for all children as educable; • a curriculum for all to follow in common and with appropriate specialisation; • pedagogies that are designed and deployed to meet in common and differentiated learning experiences; • assessment that evaluates and provides a record of achievement that respects a range of learning outcomes; • educational organisations/services that are accessible for all children; • pastoral and welfare arrangements in educational organisations that integrate children and are based on the right to participate; • identified and accredited professional knowledge, development and skills compulsory for all personnel involved in teaching (and working with) children. Underpinning such claims are notions that: first, intelligence is not inherited or fixed, and so all children can gain from education; second, the curriculum can be designed to be ‘in common’ but be respectful of the ‘virtual school bag’ of family and community knowledges that children bring with them into the classroom as a resource for learning (Thomson 2010a), and the multiplicity of languages that children use to think and talk, and how they seek to represent their ideas and achievements (Fielding and Moss 2011); and, third, learning is not about absorbing codified and transmitted knowledge as ‘training’ but based on questioning and listening through engaging with a range of ontological and epistemological claims within a ‘pedagogy of relationships’ (Fielding and Moss 2011, p6). Such common education can be realised through schooling, where research has given accounts of local innovation, that can be community schools (Gandin and Apple 2012) and democratic schools (Apple and Beane 1999), and where the ‘comprehensive ideal’ is more than a school but is about ‘the sort of society it is that we want to see’ (Haydon 2007, p536). For example, Fielding and Moss (2011) promote the notion of the ‘common school’ as a more radical development of comprehensive schools in England, and where they contrast ‘common’ with ‘uncommon’:


The politics of public education

Those who advocate ‘uncommon’ schools, schools based on selection on grounds of intelligence, aptitude, religious belief or parental choice have a clear image of the school. The school is primarily concerned with the effective reproduction of predetermined outcomes and with either selling on performance to consumer parents or selecting children who will best enable it to enhance its own performance by producing outcomes effectively. The school is akin to a commercial enterprise, applying technologies to achieve output and a business whose success is measured by output, sales and profit; selection is important for effective performance (getting the right raw materials) and market share (finding a niche where it can successfully sell its services). (2011, p108) This is then juxtaposed with ambitions for the common school as: a public space, a forum or place of encounter and connection, interaction and dialogue open to all citizens, young and old. As a public space it is capable of many collective projects, democratically determined and implemented … [and so it is] a place for ethical and political practice, not of technical practice driven by an instrumental rationality of means/ends … so it is a place where a common democratic identity is formed and constantly validated and expressed, both amongst members of the school community itself and in the community that the school serves. (2011, p108) So the school is not common in the sense of ‘ordinary’ or ‘bland’, or what one government spokesperson described as ‘bog standard’ (Clair 2001), but is common because schools are owned, shared and for the commons: The application of pejorative and unjustified terms such as ‘bog standard’ to existing comprehensive secondary schools … and the grandiose names given to proliferating selective school – ‘academies’, ‘charter schools’, ‘foundation schools’ and so on – may encourage the view that a ‘common school’ as we envisage here must be a mediocre and standardized place, offering a ‘lowest common denominator’ and ‘one size fits all’ experience to all children who are treated similarly without regard to diversity of identity, need or



interest. This is very far from the case. The ‘common’ in the common school does not mean uniform, standard, homogeneous. (Fielding and Moss 2011, p113) The connection between the school and civil society is directly made, where a school in a democracy needs to serve democratic cultures and practices, and democracy needs to enable, control and sustain such schools (see Apple and Beane 1999). The school is therefore ‘premised not on uniformity but on diversity and plurality’ (Fielding and Moss 2011, p113). In summary, education is too important to be left to individuals, parental beliefs, powerful faith groups or the market, and can achieve important experiences and outcomes that only the common can provide (see Benn and Chitty 1997). Common education has been worked for and variously reported on (see Fielding and Moss 2011), where in Finland the comprehensive school is widely supported and with global recognition for high-quality provision (see Kalalahti et al 2015; Kauko et al 2015; Sahlberg 2016). In England the ‘commonness’ of educational provision and access remains more aspirational than achieved, where primary schools (from age 5 to 11 yrs) have traditionally been common, but for secondary schools the move towards the ‘common’ with different approaches to the ‘common school’ has been recent. There is a rich history of accounts by the profession (e.g. Campbell 1956; Pedley 1956; NUT 1958; Chetwynd 1960; Cole 1964; NAS 1964) and researchers (e.g. Taylor 1963; Hargreaves 1967; Lacey 1970; Ball 1981, 1984; Green and Ball 1988) about progress and agendas for development in the face of ‘often hysterical criticism on public platforms and in the press’ (King 1958, p139). Benn and Chitty’s (1997, p469) research shows that by the 1990s ‘ninety per cent of all pupils and students in schools and colleges up to 19 – funded by public money – are in comprehensive institutions, according to official government statistics’, and where there is majority support ‘for the educational approach embodied in a system that assumes every single human being is educable and that given the right support and opportunities, and a diversity of goals that develop the full range of human intelligence, we are all capable of reaching the highest standards’ (p468). This development of the secondary comprehensive school in England from the 1950s is embedded historically in reforms and debates that make the case for the common school, and is interplayed with challenges to the claims for segregation. In the post-Second World War period the division in the state sector between those who passed or failed an intelligence test at the age of 11 (known as the 11+) was


The politics of public education

the location of the case for the comprehensive secondary school. Estimates show that about one third of children passed the test and so went to grammar schools with an academic education suitable for professional careers and university degrees, and the remaining two thirds who failed went to secondary modern schools with a focus on occupational preparation through vocational and domestic skills training with a limited academic education. The arguments against such segregation are not only located in the claims for the common as outlined above (and see Simon 1955), but also how a denial of the common was detrimental. For example, Benn and Chitty (1997, p8) present the evidence that: first, ‘one research project after another delivered the undermining message that intelligence testing was fallible and intelligence is probably not inherited’; second, ‘errors in school placements were high’; third, ‘there was a great deal of inequality in outcome’; and, fourth, ‘talent was wasted and many young people left far too early’. Major studies demonstrated the class divide, where children from middle-class families dominated grammar school places due to cultural and social capitals, and the tactical strategising by families who, having fallen on hard times but who could not afford private schools, used grammar schools to restore their social position (Halsey and Gardner 1953; Jackson and Marsden 1962). However, some children who may have expected to get a place did not, and those who did obtain a place found themselves socially excluded through narrow cultural tropes and attitudes. If Ofsted had existed in the 1960s then it might well have identified that grammar schools did not always add value to learning aspirations and achievements. Some working-class children did break through, and this not only put pressure on middleclass families who had to compete for places, but also threatened established hierarchies. For example, Todd (2014, p227) reports on how the Catholic Church did not support such social mobility because ‘grammar school pupils had the confidence and capacity to question the priest’s religious and social status’. Overall, the research evidence suggests that academic segregation worked in ways that were classed and gendered, and in ways that generated tensions through the interplay between the anxieties of some parents for their children to do well and the acceptance of some parents that their children had to endure their lot in life. Elite interests promoted eugenics through publicly acceptable notions of inherited educability, and manipulated tensions between parent groups, with claims made about those who variously did or did not deserve the investment of additional resources into a pseudo-elite education. I intend thinking about the questions generated by the idea and reality



of common/uncommon education and the common/uncommon school using Arendt’s work on natality. In the next section I begin the thinking process by outlining her ideas, and following that I critically engage with the notion and realities of the comprehensive school as the opportunity for new beginnings in England.

Natality Canovan (1998, pvii) articulates how ‘Hannah Arendt is pre-eminently the theorist of beginnings. All her books are tales of the unexpected (whether concerned with the novel horrors of totalitarianism or the new dawn of revolution), and reflections on the human capacity to start something new pervade her thinking’. Such human capacity is called ‘natality’ and what Arendt means by this is how: action has the closest connection with the human condition of natality; the new beginning inherent in birth can make itself felt in the world only because the newcomer possesses the capacity of beginning something anew, that is, of acting. In this sense of initiative, an element of action, and therefore of natality, is inherent in all human activities. Moreover, since action is the political activity par excellence, natality, and not mortality, may be the central category of political, as distinguished from metaphysical thought. (1958, p9) So natality is replete with possibilities, where the ‘newcomer’ is about opportunities, spontaneity and unpredictability, and so is disconnected from the causality of categories such as behavioural identity (put simply, assumptions and assertions that girls do this and boys do that). So freedom is located in the action conditioned by the fact of natality, rather than about ‘choices’ because such a ‘freedom’ ‘implies rational selection from already-known alternatives’ (Bowring 2011, p23). Thinking about natality requires a reconnection with ideas introduced in earlier chapters, whereby taking action is based on plurality – we are all the same because we are human but we are not ‘endlessly reproducible repetitions of the same model’. Rather there is a need to recognise that ‘nobody is ever the same as anyone else who ever lived, lives, and or will live’ (Arendt 1958, p8). As we are ‘born into the world as strangers’ (Arendt 1958, p9), there are relationships between the individual and others to consider, and it is this relationality that matters. Yeatman (2011, p70, original emphasis) outlines what this relationality means: ‘it is one in which human beings desire to


The politics of public education

appear as distinct beings to their fellows and in which their fellows are receptive to such appearance’. She goes on to say that Arendt works on the conditions in which this happens: the appearance of individuality has two modes. One is birth: someone new with a given set of characteristics appears in the human world. The second is a ‘second birth’ when the individual risks disclosing herself to others in action. In her emphasis on individuality as appearance, Arendt turns it into a relational and worldly phenomenon. She decisively cuts away any suggestion that individuality is monadic in character or that its relationship with others articulates something already in existence. (2011, p70) Unlike eugenics, where a person is predictively determined and categorised before birth, for Arendt (1958) who a person is and who a person might become is located within relational conditions with others: Whatever touches or enters into a sustained relationship with human life immediately assumes the character of a condition of human existence. This is why men, no matter what they do, are always conditioned beings. Whatever enters the human world of its own accord or is drawn into it by human effort becomes part of the human condition. The impact of the world’s reality upon human existence is felt and received as a conditioning force. The objectivity of the world – its object – or thing-character – and the human condition supplement each other; because human existence is conditioned existence, it would be impossible without things, and things would be a heap of unrelated articles, a non-world, if they were not the conditioners of human existence. (Arendt 1958, p9) Arendt’s examination of these conditions is often through seeking to understand crises, and this leads her to recognise that humans can do something new, such as in the American Revolution, but also to question the capacity to do something new through the crystallisation of totalitarian conditions. What is evident in her study of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia is how terror operates in order to deny thinking for, or the actuality of, action. There is no spontaneity as humans are born into predetermined categories that structure and regulate a form



of ‘natality’ that allows certain privileged groups to assume that they can and do make a difference that is importantly different. Biopolitical distinctiveness is scripted in regard to how those who fit within the ‘one of us’ category (such as Aryans in the Third Reich) are different from those who are not (for example, Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, communists). The dynamics of totalitarianism as a movement that ‘thinks’, ‘speaks’ and ‘does’ in this way should not be confused with action, because the identification and segregation of humans through the law and factory-style murder eradicates natality for all – even those who biologically live: Men insofar as they are more than animal reaction and fulfilment of functions are entirely superfluous to totalitarian regimes. Totalitarianism strives not toward despotic rule over men, but toward a system in which men are superfluous. Total power can be achieved and safeguarded only in a world of conditioned reflexes, of marionettes without the slightest trace of spontaneity. (Arendt 1999, p255) While the rendering of humans as disposable is vital for totalitarian conditions, the capacity to do something new in dark times is evident in the endurance of thinking and thinkers (Arendt 1993) and events of the 20th century such as the defeat of Nazi Germany (Arendt 2009). So an enduring issue is about the conditions in which change can happen from inside a totalitarian regime in ways that demonstrate that it is not totalised, and from outside where such totality is seen as a threat and so must be opposed. This major thread of thinking is beyond the scope of this chapter (or book) but it does shed light on the role of the body in the framing and practice of distinctiveness as the means through which a particular form of natality is strived for and acclaimed. Agamben (1998) makes the point that in The history of sexuality Foucault (1990) gives an account of how the turn to modernity illuminates how ‘natural life begins to be included in the mechanisms and calculations of State power, and politics turns to biopolitics’ (1998, p3, original emphasis). And yet, almost twenty years before Foucault published this text, ‘Hannah Arendt had already analyzed the process that brings homo labourans – and, with it, biological life as such – gradually to occupy the very center of the political science of modernity’ (1998, p3, original emphasis). Agamben (1998) considers the contextual challenges of doing this thinking and, importantly, notes the silences in Arendt and Foucault’s analysis, and in particular that Arendt did not connect her thinking


The politics of public education

in the Human condition and On totalitarianism. Arendtian scholars are concerned to examine such links, and it seems to me that as a theorist of ruptures, Arendt’s claims for thinking politically do recognise forms of exclusionary but structured natality – or how certain bodies are deemed to matter more than others. This has been examined in a range of Arendtian accounts and here I intend focusing on Arendt’s 1959 essay about the racial desegregation of schools in the US. This is controversial territory and, as already noted in chapter three Arendt walked boldly onto it in her essay entitled ‘Reflections on Little Rock’ (in Arendt 2003). She raises concerns about major legal interventions that impose adult public policy decisions onto children, and in turn generated a range of questions about the conduct of the Republic. Notably, any alteration to the admission rules impacts on the relationship between the law, community and schools, where Arendt (2003, p195) is concerned with the need for change processes to be educative: ‘I would try – perhaps with the help of the Quakers or some other body of like-minded citizens – to organize a new school for white and colored children and to run it like a pilot project, as a means to persuade other white parents to change their attitudes’. Certainly more recent experiments with desegregation have generated important analysis about public services education in divided communities, and it seems that Arendt’s claim for the time needed for all involved to learn about each other makes sense if reforms are to actually make a difference (for Northern Ireland, see McGlynn 2007; for South Africa, Meier 2005). However, research also shows that interventions that speed up progress are vital, particularly since the gains made are often fragile due to historical legacies that produce coexistence rather than cohesion based on respectful recognition of diversity. While Arendt (2003, p198) notes that: ‘the color question was created by the one great crime in America’s history’, there is a need to link this to the wider public policy and legal frameworks that structure the public realm, and consider what this means for natality (along with plurality as the second condition for political action). Certainly, Rothstein (2017) literally examines The color of law in the US, and in doing so he shows how the consequence of proactive legal segregation regarding where people live ‘was so systematic and forceful that its effects endure to the present time’ (2017, pviii). He goes on to make the following point: The false sense of security that segregation fosters in whites contributes to their rejection of policies to integrate American society. The lower achievement of African



American children that results from life in a segregated neighbourhood adds another impediment to those children’s ability to merge into middle-class workplaces. In these ways, segregation perpetuates itself, and its continued existence makes it even harder to reverse. (2017, p197) This is troubling for Arendt’s analysis, where Locke (2013, p554) argues that she does not give enough attention to the situation in which racism works in US society and local communities: ‘her work illuminates how people with social power use the state and occupy the common world in order to maintain and exploit their own social and economic advantage’. Consequently, in thinking with and against Arendt, it seems that bottom-up change in communities does matter in regard to the realities of school admissions, but there is also a need for proactive legal interventions in order to break the direct link between policy, practice and segregation. Natality can be eradicated through totalitarianism, and for the ‘winners’ it can be manipulated into a form of structured and regulated form of biopolitical distinctiveness evident in the superiority of having secured a ‘good school place’ at the expense of other people’s children. It is to this that I now turn in regard to how segregation works in UK government education policy in England.

The possibilities of doing something new The potential of thinking for and about natality for education raises some important questions regarding educational services, and here I would like to focus on the question: do all children have their potential for new beginnings enabled? The deployment of the EPKP to examine the recent history of the supply of educational services demonstrates major interventions by the state and contracted networks into both the building and dismantling of segregated schooling. Common education may be embedded in some countries such as Finland, but globally it is under threat, where segregation is being constructed and intensified in a range of contexts (see for example Kauko et al 2015; Ledwith 2017), with projects in some countries that are designed to prevent public common education from taking root (Tooley and Dixon 2003). The retention and extension of segregation is deeply embedded in the popularisation of elite ideas and the operation of elite power that generate forms of structured or hierarchically differentiated and regulated natality. It seems that: ‘because a child will be this kind of adult, he must be brought to a


The politics of public education

given degree of education’ (Williams 2011, p176). So here I am going to focus on the categorising, selection and segregation of children in ways that limit common education and so prevent the opportunities for natality that Arendt called for and linked so persuasively to the public realm. Research shows that reforms of education by successive UK governments in England are not realising the common aspirations of Beveridge’s report, and where the 2017 Social Mobility Commission outlines how economic disadvantage is geographically located, with major impact on educational experiences and outcomes (Whittaker 2017a). Segregation is structurally and culturally endemic: first, the gender divide is normalised through public segregation of children into boys’ and girls’ schools, and through the hidden curriculum of how stereotypes are routinely adopted in textbooks, practices and expectations (and where research shows how evidence that there are more differences between boys than between boys and girls is ignored) (see Eliot 2010; Halpern et al 2011; Rivers and Barnett 2011); second, attainment is related to wealth, where data shows that children in receipt of free school meals (FSM as indicator of poverty) do less well in English and maths at 16 years of age than those who do not have them (Gov. uk 2017); third, exclusion from schools data show racial disparities where the rate for white children is 0.1%, but for those (more likely to be boys) from Roma and Gypsy families the rate is 0.49% and 0.33% respectively, and for those with Black Caribbean heritage it is 0.29% (Staufenberg 2017c; see Gillborn et al 2017 on the achievement gap), and children with special educational needs and disabilities are more likely to be excluded (O’Brien 2016). Here I am going to focus directly on segregation by ‘ability testing’ where selective ‘academic’ education remains in some areas of England with a total of 164 schools (out of 3,400) having grammar status (see Benn and Chitty 1997), with recurring calls for more grammar schools (e.g. May 2016) and evidence of expansion of places in existing grammar schools (Harding 2017). While the focus is on the assumed causal link between segregation and social mobility, research evidence actually demonstrates a different problem: that a common education has been too successful in England (and has been deliberately ‘wrecked’ [see Mortimore 2013], and ‘killed off’ [see Davies 2000]). Let me illustrate this by presenting a quotation from a civil servant in the UK government at the time of the first Thatcher government: ‘there has to be selection because we are beginning to create aspirations which increasingly society cannot match’, with the potential for social unrest, and so ‘people must be educated once more to know their place’



(Ranson 1984, p241). The right-wing press has been unrelenting in its attack on public education (see Elliott 2007), where the common school has been branded a ‘failed experiment’, or what Adonis (2012, pxii) graphically calls ‘a cancer at the heart of English society’. The EPKP provides insights into how myths and evidence control are being used within and by networked interests in the state to undermine common education and so promote a privatised elite restoration project as new, modern, innovative, accessible and in-demand. It seems that the opportunity and capacity to do something new is based on the personal resources of particular people and families who are enabled to gain at the expense of others: there are a number of research studies that show that the working classes are often left with the choices the middle classes don’t want to make. Choice for the working class involves either a process of finding out what you can’t have, what is not open for negotiation and then looking at the few options left, or a process of self-exclusion that originates in a deeply engrained sense that selective and high-status schools are not places for ‘people like us’. This focus on choice has entrenched processes of segregation and polarization in English schools. Parental choice policies mean that now only half of English secondary school pupils attending a state school actually go to their nearest school, whereas research shows that if more students attended their nearest school, levels of social class segregation would be lower. (Reay 2017, pp189–90) The impact of how the class system continues to structure advantage and disadvantage within the system is evident from data about the remaining grammar schools: only 3% of pupils in grammar schools receive FSM welfare support (Cribb et al 2013a, 2013b; Policy Exchange 2014; Benn 2016), and where, for example, ‘the poorest children in Kent and Medway … have a less-than-10% chance of getting into a grammar. For children in the very richest neighbourhoods, it is over 50%. This means poorer children are pressed into the non-grammars’ (Cook 2016, np). The claims regarding improvements to the test have been discounted as it cannot be tutor-proofed (Weale 2016), and family resources mean that investment in private tuition can enable success (Cribb et al 2013a; Millar 2016). In summary, the data show that:


The politics of public education

there is robust evidence that attending a grammar school is good for the attainment and later earnings of those who get in. But there is equally good evidence that those in selective areas who don’t pass the eleven plus do worse than they would have done in a comprehensive system. (Sibeita 2016, p18; see also Atkinson et al 2006; Sutton Trust 2016) In spite of the evidence about the success of common education (Benn and Chitty 1997; Boliver and Swift 2011), majority public support for the quality of education provided by primary and secondary schools (Pavett 2015), and the limitations of academic segregation from research and a range of viewpoints (see BBC 2017c; Gunter 2017), the persistence and enablement of segregation is current UK government policy in England. While the 2017 general election result may have paused the policy to proactively generate the rapid expansion of new grammar schools, claims made for the necessity of separate academic education for the few are alive and well. For example, policy texts focus on social mobility by creating a system where ‘schools work for everyone’ (DfE 2016) through segregation: • the number of good school places is increased through selection; • the selective schools enable non-selective schools to improve; • the relationship between class and school places can be broken through making selection work better (e.g. improving the test, positive discrimination through reserving a number of places for particular types of children); • the obstacles preventing parents from accessing such good school places are removed. These arguments have been disproved by research from a range of organisations and projects (e.g. Policy Exchange 2014; Sutton Trust 2016). Indeed, evidence from highly selective systems demonstrates that schools choose children and not the other way around (see Seppänen et al 2015), and ‘where there are opportunities for schools to seek to manipulate their intake, given particular incentives, some will do so’ (West et al 2011, p16). Contrary evidence against selection is abundant, where research shows that provision for the common in early years is vital, and where there is major financial and status investment in common schools and partnerships (for example, see Ainscow 2015; Brighouse 2016) improvements can be made (Sibieta 2016). And yet not only is this ignored but the plans for the expansion of academic segregation in England is based on the top 10%, rather than the current



25% that grammar schools educate, with plans for ‘super-selective grammars’, where the contention is that the impact on other local schools will not be as dramatic as it has been traditionally (Hurst 2017).

Thinking politically with natality It seems that, in spite of the gains made for a common education, the dominant model of the ‘independent’ school place for ‘my child’ is based on private smart choices where there are ‘publicly visible opportunities to “escape” an otherwise entrenched position of social subordination’ (Littler 2016, pp76–7). Other people’s children may be unsuitable for such new beginnings because of beliefs, discourses and entrenched interests that are concerned to protect the notion that ‘there is no alternative’ to the benefits of segregated structured natality. For example, at Prime Minister’s Question time on 14 September 2016, Theresa May responded to a question from Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Opposition) about grammar schools by saying: We want to ensure that children have the ability to go where their talents take them. I gently remind the right hon. Gentleman that he went to a grammar school and I went to a grammar school, and it is what got us to where we are today … (May 2016, np) This speaks to notions of meritocracy, where, ‘for all practical political purposes, these ideologies always result in the same “law” of elimination of individuals for the sake of the process or progress of the species’ (Arendt 1994, p341). It seems that ‘talent’ should be ‘unlocked’ so that potential is ‘fulfilled’ (Whittaker 2017b), and UK government policy in England is based on assumption about: ‘an ability which is inborn and either given the chance or not to “succeed”’ (Littler 2016, p75), and where children who do not succeed academically are categorised as ‘the tail’ in need of remedial action (Machin and Silva 2013). And so: it endorses a competitive, linear, hierarchical system in which by definition people must be left behind. The top cannot exist without the bottom. Not everyone can ‘rise’. Unrealised talent is therefore both the necessary and structural condition of its existence. The forms taken by contemporary celebrity and the reality/talent shows have exemplified this structure, publicly dramatizing their assumptions while offering the basis of public


The politics of public education

entertainment. Meritocracy offers a ‘ladder’ system of social mobility, promoting a socially corrosive ethic of competitive self-interest which both legitimizes inequality and damages community … (Littler 2016, p75) Following Agamben (1998), it seems that segregation produces replicable ‘avatars’ or an incarnation of the required body-identification: the grammar school academic child, the faith obedient child, and the gender stereotyped child. Wider power structures, such as patriarchy/ matriarchy, define the body, and interrelate with class, race and sexuality to produce educational outcomes that parents are required to ‘buy into’. Biopolitical distinctiveness means that people may believe of themselves and others that ‘they are especially gifted’ and significantly ‘that they are a gift to others who should be grateful for their talents and who should reward them appropriately’. Furthermore, it seems that ‘under elitism education is less about learning and more about dividing people, sorting out the supposed wheat from the chaff and conferring high status upon a minority’ (Dorling 2011, p35). Legitimation is therefore based on social management, on those who are classified in a binary as ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’, or ‘striving’ or ‘skiving’, where the constructed dangers afforded by the common are prevented through notions of intelligence measuring, where: ‘eugenics had in whole variety of ways “done its work” and ensconced itself firmly within policy, in institutional and classroom practices, and in the language and concepts of teaching’ (Ball 2013, p95). Glimpses of how eugenics is ordinarily enacted is evidenced by Boris Johnson’s call when he was mayor of London for the return of grammar schools based on the claim that ‘the harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top’ (Watt 2013, np). Some politicians romanticise the importance of children accepting their place in the cornflake packet. For example Chitty (2007) quotes Quintin Hogg in the House of Commons describing how a visitor to a secondary modern school would experience the training in work and home-ready skills. Such a visitor would sense productivity: ‘the banging of metal and sawing of wood … and a smell of cooking with rather expensive equipment would come out of the front door to greet them’, and, importantly ‘they would find that these boys and girls were getting an education tailor-made to their desires, their bents and their requirements’ (Chitty 2007, p20). Some commentators are more brutal about the capability status of their fellow citizens. Carey (1999), for example, argues that the end of grammar schools means that



the public school representation at Oxbridge colleges among students and, as a consequence, among staff, is high and will get higher: This is because the Socialist policy of converting the country’s non-fee paying grammar schools into massive comprehensives, in which the clever and the cretinous are jumbled together, means, in effect, that the non-publicschool university entrance candidate will receive less individual attention from the teaching staff than formerly. The more crackbrained type of educational theorist will actually defend this, arguing that teachers should devote their time to the dullards, whose need is greater. But the result is that a candidate whose parents haven’t the cash to pay public-school fees is no longer able to compete with his intensively coached public-school counterpart. (Carey 1999, p511) It seems that the best and brightest can be identified and enabled through IQ testing, rendering the majority as stupid, without aspirations or hope, and with acceptance of inequality underpinned by recognition and investment in particular talents. In reality, and thinking with Arendt, these arguments are a form of personalised, regulated and hierarchically differentiated natality, where only some children are being allowed to make the contribution that birth and entry into adulthood herald. An adult – from whatever family background – cannot be present in the public realm if they have been educated within and are accepting of gated learning communities, as evidenced by Joseph (2017, pp99–100), who describes how witnessing privilege enabled him to recognise a form of alienation that comes from ‘distinct detachment’ as a result of ‘losing touch with the plight of the normal world’. While I have focused on one form of structured segregation through intelligence testing in England, there are other forms that take place in classrooms, schools and higher education, where humans are formally separated based on the biology of males and females, and/or faith, and/or family wealth and networks, and the way such processes work is to generate classed and raced education. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to examine this in detail; suffice to say that the educational evidence supporting segregation is limited, but the relationship to elite power structures and cultural preferences for separation are the key determinates. Proactively structuring natality is a denial of the human condition, and there are three things to say about such insights: first, natality does


The politics of public education

not develop without plurality, and segregation prevents plurality; and, second, segregation is fixed – you either are or are not in or out of the predetermined identity – and so those who are denied access must learn to labour and possibly craft but never to take action. Indeed, even those who are meant to be beneficiaries of elite segregation are limited in their capacity to enter the public realm and do something new. Graduates from grammar schools, boys’ schools, faith schools and topflight universities may assume action (in the top jobs in government, law, business, media, etc), but their capacity to act is largely restricted activity veiled as action. As Yeatman (2011, p71) argues: ‘Arendt refuses to ground the worldly appearance of individuality in something that is said to already inhere within the individual’, rather ‘uniqueness can appear only in relationship, that is, the uniqueness of one can appear only as it is welcomed and acknowledged by another unique being’ (pp73–4). The in-between-ness of humans is where political thinking and action takes place, and if that is prevented through segregation or even removed through totalitarianism, then people can be rendered disposable. As McGowan (1997, p268) argues: ‘Arendt thinks the good of plurality (which makes each individual life precious, nonsuperfluous) is so overriding that it must be carefully insulated from the threat to stability (which is needed to underwrite plurality) represented by group conflicts about the allocation of resources’. Uncommon education depends on such group conflicts, where building and defending borders of difference that children are inevitably born into is made high stakes, where ‘we have produced the consumer society we now inhabit, where the only way we know how to respond to abundance is to produce even more goods’ (McGowan 1997, p268). So we consume an uncommon education for our children because we believe in it, and/ or believe that there is no alternative, and so we are located in forms of corporate and faith personalised natality – we trade in educational products that are exclusive, branded and demonstrate that ‘I want to give opportunities for my child.’ Dorling (2011, p55) names this as ‘apartheid schooling’, where ‘separation is not very palatable once carefully considered’ (p66), and as Brighouse (2007) argues, desegregation may be a worthwhile goal but it is difficult to achieve. Those who are working for such change remain puzzled by just how difficult it is, where Benn and Chitty (1997) not only identify how the shift to comprehensive education was regarding as a ‘positive accomplishment’ by successive UK governments, but go onto ask:



what kind of a society then spends so much time trying to undermine the education system upon which almost all its population actually depends, while declaring its commitment to the welfare and educational development of these very same pupils and students and their parents? If we want to know what is holding up educational development in Britain, it is not comprehensive education and it is not the failure to have selection, it is the debilitating and longstanding contradiction that lies at the heart of the education system. (1997, p469) It could be that the common school in the US was directly related to nation building, whereas the durability and expansion of uncommon schools in England is directly related to what the legacy of the end of empire building means for elite interests. The contradictions of support and attack, reform and restoration, accepting and fabricating research findings, enable elite forms of exclusive educational provision to remain in place. A UK government minister has declared that current plans to provide more grammar school places mean that parents have more choice (see Elgot 2016), when in reality that choice is to enter their child for an examination where the majority fail and where passing does not necessarily guarantee a school place. Choice is increasingly about investing family resources in order to play the game of paying for private schooling and/or private tutoring and/or home schooling up to the age of 11 in order to secure no-fee grammar school places for post-11 education. Research shows that whether parents of wealth and/or faith actually make such choices regarding which school or university their child goes to is structured through tradition and the obvious patterns of practice among similar families (Reay et al 2005). Parental choice within ordinary families is colonised by elite interests, providing the opportunity to mimic their choice to purchase a faux independent education through attending an ‘independent state school’, but experience this choice as authentic (Gunter 2015). Young (2008) may be parodying this, but he makes the point well that, in order to retain elite interests, there is a need to win over those who aspire to join. This is not new, where the common school has been undermined by the struggle for prestige, where Banks (1955) concludes that ‘parity of esteem in the sphere of secondary education is likely to prove elusive so long as the social system is dominated by what Veblen has called “pecuniary emulation”’ (p248). The fear and risk for parents who are presented with choice is real and visceral, where the struggle to win


The politics of public education

status for your child against other people’s children is a form of ‘terror’ constituting a ‘preemptive strike against society’s ever settling into a stability in which plurality can emerge once more’ (McGowan 1997, p268). It seems that while individuals are revealing individuality to providers of educational products they are not seeking to participate in the shared debates and choices within the political spaces between us: ‘for those who are disposed to establish a politics among equals, this is the basis of the assurance that humans are capable of bearing the weight of equality and that politics among equals can be open to anyone’ (Waldron 2010, p37). Segregation denies such equality, and works to depoliticise the issue of equality as one that requires a public agenda.

Summary Arendt (1958) argues that natality is a condition for action, where the fact that we are born heralds the capacity to do something new, and where she goes on to argue that the responsibility of the teacher is to enable children to know ‘our world’ (see Arendt 2006a) and so children need to have opportunities ‘to think something new, and thus to be someone new’ (Duarte 2010b, p264, original emphasis). What deploying the EPKP demonstrates in regard to education policy is how knowledge production is being structured and funded in order to both dismantle common education (as entitlement, a national and local system, and relational practices) and to bring the idea of teaching and learning ‘in common’ into disrepute (or even make this idea unthinkable). Biopolitical distinctiveness is being used to justify the identification and meeting of needs in ways that justify personalised segregation that advantages certain ‘types’ of children. So instead of depoliticisation enabling the public realm to examine and understand standpoints about and for the provision of public services education, the control over the processes of need identification and how such needs are to be met is relocated to elite interests (through wealth, faith, class, race) who decide for all children through how they decide for their own children. Other people’s children are disposable and so attend ‘sink’ and ‘failing’ schools, where poor and unmotivated parental choice is used to justify how and why this happens, and where philanthropy rather than taxation can enable elite interests to demonstrate how in tune they are with needs beyond their own family. What is emerging is a form of structured and regulated natality, where certain children are entitled to assume that their birth heralds the capacity to do new things, but in reality such agency is about sustaining elite interests that depend on denying and preventing inclusive natality. In summary,



the legitimisation of authorised inaction based on forms of rhetorical plurality and regulated natality has implications for relationality in supply and demand in public services education. The chapters that follow examine this; next, in chapter five, I move to think with the Arendtian contribution to promising.



Promising: school diversity and competition

Introduction The following quotation is about an academy sponsor: Lord Harris of Peckham, sponsor of seven Academies plus other specialist schools, keeps a very close eye on his schools. He does not interfere with the professionals on a day-to-day basis, but he does judge quality and ask searching questions. His own success has permeated the culture of his schools and he will visit them, keeping his finger on the pulse. He makes a particular point of speaking to the students, who are aware of him and his role as sponsor. (Specialist Schools and Academies Trust 2007: p90) This quotation suggests that the especial experiences of an entrepreneur (combined with a sense of private ownership of ‘his’ schools) should be invested in public services education in order to make them successful. It seems that particular types of know-how, knowings and knowledgeabilities is what matters in the re-purposing of schools as effective educational products, where schools are now businesses that retail differentiated merchandise (such as charters, free schools, academies). Educational products are designed, marketed and sold, improved and withdrawn, where all consumers are offered a ‘good school place’ as a means of displaying and securing biopolitical distinctiveness. In reality what is on offer is moderated by market share, and can only be accessed and purchased through having the right type of resources (funds to pay fees, social capital to be accepted). These reforms question what Arendt (1958) identifies as the importance of promising in the public realm, based on active security and enabling stability. The deployment of the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP) shows how the state has adopted a form of depoliticisation by contract as a form of risk-management-promising, where the trend is towards proactive private as distinct from public contractualism based


The politics of public education

on the binary risk of failure–success designed to secure and extend segregation. Underpinned by globally networked corporate ideas regarding education as a site for investment, the identification of success and the eradication of failure has become policy in school reform. Importantly, the pursuit of child and school failure as public policy is integral to this process, where schools and children do and, indeed, have to fail in order for segregation to be effective.

Common provision? Contracts are concerned with formalising agreements and, following Rawolle et al (2017), the power relations with which contractualism is imbued are illuminated in voice, practices and the interdependencies within exchange relationships. Education is a site where formalised private contracting has come to dominate both within the organisation (for example, performance followership and remuneration deals) and between the organisation and consumers (for example, the purchase of an educational outcome), and in ways that impact in diffuse but tangible ways as a form of what Yeatman (1997) identifies as ‘new contractualism’ where the distinctive status of the individual (as body, as identity) is reworked: Private contracting: The idea and reality of education as a private matter for parents and families is evident in a range of ways: first, the payment of fees from private resources for educational services from ‘private’ providers (for example, elite ‘public schools’ in the UK) in the home country or internationally (Peel 2015, Spring 2012); second, the provision of education by the family through home schooling (Aurini and Davies 2005; Ball 2017); third, accessing various ‘supplementary’ educational groups or events (evenings and weekends, holidays), for example, tutoring to prepare for examinations (Ireson 2004), through to community-located cultural, language and religious ‘complementary’ schools or organisations (Arthur 2009). The importance of the private is integral to ideological work that validates individual choice (for example, Friedman 2002), with claims that the state and democratic institutions be removed from the supply and demand for educational services (for example, Chubb and Moe 1990). The private means that risk is carried by the individual/family, where insurance in regard to investment is secured through the



articulation of needs and the contracting of a service that meets those needs. Private forms of contractualism are based on exchange relationships that are pursuing private gains – for faith affiliation and/or social capital advantages regarding status. So parents access the education they determine their child should have, and providers make ‘profits’ from vending educational products. For example, corporate contracts focus on compliance by codifying the deal as a delivery remit with technical specifications, allocated responsibilities, planned outcomes and accountability measurements. Parents may move into and out of contracts depending on their assessment of needs and how best to meet them. But it is more than this, as Yeatman (1997) argues there is an emerging ‘contractual personhood’ that is different from classic libertarian notions of individual freedom. This contractual personhood is to do with how the status of the person is structured within society as individualised, and that is founded on and protected through economic, political, legal and cultural exchange relationships. Education is too important to fail for the private individual and where the right type of education is vital to the public display of distinctiveness. Common education requires a different approach to contractualism: Public contracting: The provision of educational services and schools in a democratically controlled system is based on universal access and funded by the taxpayer (see for example the Nordic model, Telhaug et al 2006). The power relations that Yeatman (1997) identifies as ‘new’ do not feature in this form of public contractualism; instead the individual is in relation with others in ways that are ‘in common’. Following Newman and Clarke (2009), it is not so much that education is publicly funded but that the ideas, structures and people are ‘made public’, or the concern of all for the benefit of all. They go on to say this means that: ‘public services served members of the public, were funded by public resources and organized in a public sector, were accountable to public bodies, and were staffed by public employees (who embodied an ethos of public services)’ (2009, p2). This is evident in a range of ways in educational services in England and beyond, particularly


The politics of public education

the local ‘common’ or ‘comprehensive’ school (for example, Fielding and Moss 2011) and the university (for example, Filippakou and Williams 2015) as public goods, and with publicly trained, accredited and accountable professionals (for example, Goldstein 2014). The importance of the public is integral to ideological work of shared and relational choices (for example, Dewey 2011), with debates about social justice reforms (for example, Apple and Beane 1999; Orr and Rogers 2011). The public means that risk is pooled and where insurance in regard to public investment is secured through the common school in which both mutual and diverse interests and needs are identified and developed through accessing a universal service. Public forms of political contractualism are based on exchange relationships that are pursuing public as well as private interests – the public invests in all children, enabling all parents to access high-quality education disconnected from their personal resources. Public contracts focus on the economic, social, political, legal and cultural constitution of the public realm (for example, election of parents to governing bodies; local and national taxpayer investment in school provision; national terms and conditions of teacher employment), where children can develop agency and autonomy in relation to each other and with adults, and where delivery, responsibilities, outcomes and accountability are located with professionals who are trained, accredited, developed and answerable through the active involvement of civil society in the system and through democratic participation. Parents alongside other citizens take action politically, and so give recognition to all children’s needs and how this interrelates with the public interest. Education for individuals and for civil society is too important to fail, and so the focus must be on investing in success for all. The borders and relationship between private and public forms of contractualism are not settled and are deeply rooted in historical (for example, Green 1990) and contemporary (for example, Gunter et al 2016) contexts. In England, research demonstrates the demand for and growth of public and democratic forms of education based on ideas and political practices for public contractualism (for example, Carr and Hartnett 1996) but with increased evidence of the restoration of the private through forms of faith-based and, in particular, corporate



contractualism: first, in the restructuring and reculturing of public sector (or mainstream) schools to become more ‘business-like’ through markets, choice and competition (for example, Local Management of Schools in England; see Levačić 1998); second, through ‘opting out’ of the public system (for example, schools adopting grant maintained status in England 1988­–98; see Halpin et al 1997), and the removal of schools from the public system (for example, academy schools in England from 2000; see Gunter 2011); and, third, the replacement of public education through the entry of new types of schools into the market (for example, city technology colleges [Whitty et al 1993], free schools and studio schools in England [Courtney 2015], and charter schools in the US [Goldring and Mavrogordato 2011]). Such challenges to ‘in common’ public provision are evident in long-term struggles regarding reform proposals, with a shift from debates and parental ballots in the public realm for changes to school status (for example, votes for a school to take on grant maintained status) towards managed consultation (for example, answering questionnaires about the setting up of an academy) (see Gunter 2011). Evidence was and remains controlled, and even discounted, regarding such changes, and certainly these changes were enabled through globalised strategy sharing by policy actors that confirmed the corporate reform agendas within nation states (Whitty et al 1998). Revisions to the role of the state, with shifts in England from provision to commissioning, show the strengthening and dominance of private agendas within the public system (see Woods et al 2007), particularly through philanthropy (see Ball 2008) and networking (see Ball and Junemann 2012). The supply of educational services is currently undergoing major and speedy change, whereby identifying and satiating private purposes, needs and choices is having a resurgence and rapidly advancing. There seems to be a globalised popularisation of particular ideas underpinning reform claims and strategies regarding eradicating the notion of public services as common (for example, Bobbitt 2002), and education in particular (see Whitty et al 1998; Ravitch 2010). Notably, Chile is recognised as having a highly privatised system of school providers (see Seppänen et al 2015), with other countries developing diverse competitive systems such as free schools in Sweden (see Allen 2010), and in India private education is being extended to those without resources (see Tooley and Dixon 2003). Significantly, the archetypal school is ‘independent’ or ‘autonomous’ within a publicly funded system, ‘owned’ by an individual or consortia or faith groups, a ‘business’ within a competitive market and/or a site of ‘moral protectionism’ within an increasing secular society, and offering curriculum and


The politics of public education

pedagogic ‘products’ and/or ‘traditions’ that are subject to parental preferences. What this brief overview illuminates is a range of evidence and debates about school types, the profession, curriculum and pedagogy, together with fundamental ‘public’ and ‘private’ issues regarding the purposes and provision of education as a public and/or private good. What is emerging is a very complex and often contradictory situation, where the trend is towards the dominance of private contractualism that is increasingly corporatised, but with the resilience of public contractualism that both challenges this trend and presents alternatives. So claims are made: first, for private provision as key to improving standards (see Tooley 2000), alongside research that suggests the public education is better (see Lubienski and Lubienski 2014); second, for site-based management (and other variations) so that decisions are made close to where the problem is located (for example, Caldwell and Spinks 1988), but research shows the rapid growth in private administration such as multi-academy trusts (MATs) in England (Wilkins 2017), and education management organisations (EMOs) in the USA (Fabricant and Fine 2013) outside of accountability processes in public administration; and, third, for the ‘community’ setting up schools with bottom-up ‘free’ initiatives (for example, Harrison 2011), but with research that shows how advantages are being gained by the already advantaged (for example, Higham 2017), and that somewhat contradictory situations can arise whereby diversity can be based on centralised interventions rather than community-driven initiatives (Whitty et al 1998). Such complexities raise questions about the experiences of children and parents in regard to navigating provision: identifying what is on offer and how it can be accessed. Deeper questions are also raised about the risks involved as a citizen in regard to a public service and as a consumer in regard to a private product. It seems that a serious issue that needs thinking about is whether all members of the public can access high-quality education from a universal service, or whether resourcerich individual consumers can access high-quality education from a competitive market. At the heart of this issue are the implications of a public monopoly, with a school staying open because it is local, free and for all; or a private product that may not be local, may charge a fee, may be segregated (based on entry exams or faith) and could close if there are not enough customers. I intend thinking about depoliticisation by private contract by using Arendt’s work on promising, where in the next section I outline her ideas and, following that, I critically engage with the notion and realities of failure as public policy.



Promises and promise making Taking political action is located in what Arendt (1958) identifies as plurality and natality. I have already established how and why humans need to ‘interrupt’ rather than accept the ‘fatality’ of the life span from birth to death, and ‘though they must die, are not born in order to die, but in order to begin’ (Arendt 1958, p246). Natality and plurality are therefore indefinitely demanding, and while replete with possibilities there is also risk. What happens when we present ourselves in the public realm may do damage as we cannot control for all eventualities. Indeed, when action is taken it cannot be reversed; there is the problem ‘of being unable to undo what one has done’ (Arendt 1958 p237), and so we need to understand the process of promising (and forgiving; see chapter seven). Promising is concerned with forming, giving and communicating pledges, it is not trivial or temporary but has a sense of solemnity: ‘the purpose of promise-making is to establish, and where necessary to codify in the form of treaties, contracts, and legal statutes, limitations on action which protect the public space from endangering its own existence’ (Bowring 2011, p38). There is a sense that human action has legacies that are beyond the individual life: Just as promises and agreements deal with the future and provide stability in the ocean of future uncertainty where the unpredictable may break in from all sides, so the constituting, founding, and world-building capacities of man concern always not so much ourselves and our own time on each as our ‘successor’, and ‘posterities’. The grammar of action: that action is the only human faculty that demands a plurality of men; and the syntax of power: that power is the only human attribute which applies solely to the worldly in-between space by which men are mutually related, combine in the act of foundation by virtue of the making and keeping of promises, which, in the realm of politics, may well be the highest human faculty. (Arendt 2006b p166-167) For Arendt (1958, p244), there are two situations related to unpredictability or ‘darkness in human affairs’ that warrant promise making: first, ‘the basic unreliability of men who never can guarantee today who they will be tomorrow’; and, second, ‘the impossibility of foretelling the consequences of an act within a community of equals


The politics of public education

where everybody has the same capacity to act’. Promising and the action of promise making is therefore about practice that is rooted in history, where in writing about the US revolution, Arendt uses the example of the American colonists who made covenants that enabled the transformation to be located in the reality of agreement and a history of agreement making rather than in idealistic theory. This has productive consequences, where J.M. Bernstein (2010, p118, emphasis in original) argues: ‘promising reaches out toward the future through the very gesture in which one individual reaches out toward her other; in the act of promising the I binds herself to her other to form a we whose future together the act of promising legislates. In promising, a we and an orderly future arise together’. The relationality of ‘I’ and ‘we’ as a form of mutuality does more than stabilise, it also has something to say about sovereign power. Let me begin with the traditional notion of the individual who can claim sovereignty by virtue of having individuality, and who may give (and take back) their consent to others to dominate them through forms of government. Arendt (1958, p245) challenges ‘the will power of the isolated individual’, and how in handing over power to a sovereign government the individual ‘resigns his power’ (Arendt 2006b, p161). Accepting ‘mastery’ and ‘domination’ by others means that a human accepts a contractual relationship as the means of controlling the unpredictability of identity and outcomes, and as such this is ‘isolated islands of certainty in an ocean of uncertainty’ (Arendt 1958 p244). Such defensive promise making is indicative of a limited public space: Without being bound to the fulfilment of promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities – a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfils, can dispel. (Arendt 1958, p237) For Arendt (1958, 2006b), sovereignty is with people who are ‘bound and kept together’ rather than subjected to inspirational visionaries who pronounce on what is the right thing to do or to those who claim to be individually free and so are ‘unbound by any promises and unkept by any purpose’ (Arendt 1958, p245). The argument is made that:



power comes into being only if and when men join themselves together for the purpose of action, and it will disappear when, for whatever reason, they disperse and desert one another. Hence, binding and promising, combining and covenanting are the means by which power is kept in existence; where and when men succeed in keeping intact the power which sprang up between them during the course of any particular act or deed, they are already in the process of foundation, of constituting a stable worldly structure to house, as it were, their combined power of action. (Arendt 2006b p166) Promising is therefore active, and the processes and outcomes cannot be taken for granted. This requires consideration not only about the making and breaking of promises, but also the meaning of keeping promises. It may well be that we need to interrupt certain promises in order to confront power structures and so bring about change (see Honig 1995; Orlie 1995; Fraser 2014).

The possibilities for promising The potential of thinking for and about promising for education raises some important questions regarding educational services, and here I would like to focus on: what forms of promise making have been taking place in regard to the reform of school supply? The deployment of the EPKP to examine the recent history of the diversification of school supply in England demonstrates major interventions by the state and contracted networks into the idea and realisation of niched educational products and practices designed to fit family and child needs. The trend is in private promising through contractual deal making, whereby parents are promised choice in order to meet their children’s needs. Claims are made about the failures within public contracting processes and outcomes, and hence the new freedoms located in private contracting and processes: • Education is a private matter where public systems prevent parents from exercising the right to pay for their children’s education (Friedman 2002). So public forms of promise making create dependent and unmotivated parents, and use other people’s resources to invest in education without any visible and causally linked direct return.


The politics of public education

• Education in public systems can never be as good as private because it is subject to political deal making that benefits private interests who have control over public bureaucracies (Tooley 1995). So promise making for public education creates self-serving interests who use institutionally located power to frustrate parental demands. • Education in public systems is controlled by education professionals who are privileged and protected through notions of autonomy and judgement resulting in ‘provider capture’, which is enabled through trade union collective bargaining agreements which sustain high salaries disconnected from performance (Tooley 1995). So promise making for public education creates and sustains professional cultures and practices that are a drain on public resources, where new schemes for spending public money escalate the demands on the taxpayer. • Education through a professionally controlled curriculum and pedagogy is unresponsive to parents and employers who have a right to demand what children are exposed to and actually learn (Cox and Dyson 1968). So promise making for public education is disconnected from those private interests who should have a say in or even control what children learn, how they are taught and what they can achieve. • Education as evidenced through examination performance is not up to the right standards, with too many children who do not have basic skills when they leave school (and so are unemployable and costing business too much to train them) and where too many children are not passing examinations at the right level. And when children do well it is because the standards are not what parents remember them to be when they went to school (Marshall 2013). So promise making for public education is not delivering on the basic promise to ensure that children leave with the right type and level of qualifications, and the right type of moral dispositions to enable them to function in families and the workplace. In summary, it seems that public contractualism is failing: (a) the promises of universal educational services for all within a locality are not being kept; and/or (b) such promises should not be made as they prevent the kind of high-quality education that the private sector can provide; and (c) parents do not really want such public promises to be made for them, they want choice and the right to provide for their children through private promising. These claims have a commonsense ring to them and speak to the concerns that parents have (Apple 2006). As Haydn (2004, p429) has argued, such arguments dominate the right-wing press, and so ‘the erosion of the comprehensive ideal’



is located in the responses of policy makers who are more concerned about how policy plays out in the media than with the evidence that the common school actually works. The attractiveness and impact of private forms of promising are evident in the dynamics of the supply side, where forensic work by Courtney (2015) has identified that in England there are now between 70 and 90 different types of schools, with differentiation regarding access and branding. Such reforms are not isolated but are part of a shift away from a common education system, for example in the US: both the size of the teaching workforce and its base salaries have been systematically slashed over the past five years. Simultaneously the boundary between public and private forms of education is rapidly disappearing as charter schooling, and entrepreneurial profit-making centers, drive school reform. As a result, the autonomy of the state in setting public education policy has been largely supplanted by the intensifying corporate desire to capitalize public education resources. (Fabricant and Fine 2013, p10) It is within this unfolding and complex setting that promising and promise making need to be examined. On the one hand the situation generated by consumer-authorised inaction (chapter two), rhetorical plurality (chapter three) and regulated natality (chapter four) could be seen to be productive: because action is spontaneous and because it constitutes the way that something new comes into the world, Arendt’s contract does not provide protection and the negative liberty of rights, but instead creates the public space in which the new can emerge. (McGowan 1997, p283) On the other hand, there is danger afoot! Arendt considered promise making within the American Revolution to be more helpful than the French Revolution, where events showed that the latter was based on a confusion of power and authority (Arendt 2006b). Both revolutions had been based on rebellion and liberation from centralised sovereign power, but the French Revolution then stalled while the American Revolution continued to build on the mutual promising embedded in the pre-revolution covenants. What does this mean for education? I am going to focus on the revolution that has been taking place regarding the shift from public to private contractualism regarding


The politics of public education

the claims made about the failure of public education in general and failing public schools in communities. For example, in England data is used to demonstrate failure, where Sir Chris Woodhead, former Chief Inspector of Schools (1994–2000), stated in 1999 that: about 40% of children leave primary school to a greater or lesser extent illiterate and innumerate. (BBC 1999, np) It is reported in 2010 that: only 18 teachers have been struck off for incompetence in the past 40 years, with heads simply palming underperforming staff on to other schools. (Peev 2010) And Woodhead is quoted saying that: as many as 15,000 bad teachers are working. (Peev 2010) Sir Michael Wilshaw, former Chief Inspector of Schools (2012–16) reports in 2015 that: the number of students in poor-performing secondary schools shot up from 100,000 to 170,000 in the space of just a year. and: more than 400,000 children in the North and Midlands were attending schools deemed either inadequate or requiring improvement. (The Telegraph 2015, np) Wilshaw is reported as commenting on Ofsted data that shows: leadership in 24 per cent of schools – the equivalent of 5,500 establishments – is rated less than good. One per cent of schools are rated as having inadequate leadership, and in a further 23 per cent the leadership is said to be ‘satisfactory’. Sir Michael told the Sunday Times he plans to replace the ‘satisfactory’ category with ‘requires improvement’, saying the current label ‘falsely denotes acceptable provision’. (The Telegraph 2012, np)



It seems that the failing professional is failing children, families and communities, where truancy rates (known as ‘unauthorised absence’) are leading to increases in parental prosecutions (ITV 2017) and dropouts at key transition stages are just too high (for example, reportedly 1 in 5 students leave school at 16 years of age [Paton 2012]). So the identification of failure as public policy is framed and promoted through arguments, language and the use of data. Standards are identified, with thresholds that move people and organisations into and out of categories that embrace positions that are above or below the level expected, with regular revisions to what constitutes an acceptable benchmark and hence what is regarded as failure and failing (see Staufenberg 2017b regarding nuanced developments in categorisations). While claims are made that tackling failure is essential for keeping resourceful parents in the state system, there is evidence that it is leading to exiting, where one parent states: the fixation on choice and constant assessment has created a mad scramble to get to the top of the pile, without, to my mind, any overall improvement in education – possibly quite the reverse. Instead, the results are insecurity for parents and institutions alike – panic, constant tinkering with curricula and teaching methodologies, and an obsession with ranking and tests. These are not just interfering with education but subverting its purpose. (Ball 2017, p59) The construction of a ‘crisis’ is integral to the framing and fabrication of a failure narrative (see Koyama 2010), where responses are varied and, following Hirschman (1970), parents could remain loyal (or at least not have the resources to authentically choose), or voice concerns and potentially leave a school or the system. Integral to discrediting forms of public contractualism is the need to construct the logic of exiting, whereby tax cuts are premised on the idea that civil society should not be paying for the education of other people’s children, and parents should act on the data provided about their local school to demand improvement by either threatening to or actually moving their children. Such is the dominance of this policy narrative that Tomlinson (1997, p82) identifies ‘the failing schools movement’, which focused on ‘the failing school’ as a ‘demonized educational institution whose Head, teachers and governors were deemed to be personally responsible for the educational underperformance of its students’ (p81). Consequently, new entrants to the market actually position themselves as the opposite to failure, where, in a letter to parents in 2017, the new ‘headmaster’


The politics of public education

of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy scripts his regime against the failed predecessor school, where children and parents are contractually required to make ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’ choices (Familiesonline 2017). The impact of private contractualism in framing and using failure on the capacity of those involved in public education to make and keep public promises is manifest in ‘rescue’, ‘replacement’ and ‘resistance’ narratives and strategies. Rescue: is focused on reworking public contractualism as quasi-private, by making public education in a locally provided school (overseen by a local authority, or board, or municipality) the first choice for parents (essentially to prevent exiting from the state system). The idea is based on confronting, naming and sorting out poor standards through major interventions: first, establishing the culture and practice of children, school and teacher data and targets regarding what is an acceptable level of education through inspections (that is, Ofsted from 1992), performance-related internal audits that are linked to contract renewal and pay, and public league tables that demonstrate which schools are meeting/not meeting ‘national’ requirements (for example, five A* to C grades at GCSE); second, restructuring to enable schools to become businesses and so be responsive to the market, and where professionals are be trained to become entrepreneurial leaders, so adopting transformational leadership models from business and delivering on standards through a relentless focus on pupil data (for example, attendance, behaviour and examinations) and teacher performance; third, school effectiveness and school improvement research from the 1970s onwards had trialled organisational strategy and cultural turnaround interventions (see Gunter 2016) to warrant demand from successive UK governments for Better schools (DES 1985) through to Excellence in schools (DfEE 1997). High-profile school failures (with media stories of ‘the worst school in England’) have led to major interventions (for example, Clark 1998; Stubbs 2003). In addition, New Labour governments (1997–2010) invested in ‘Fresh Start’ initiatives of closing and then reopening a school with ‘turnaround’ super-heads; ‘challenge’ initiatives in major urban conurbations (see Ainscow 2015); and building on corporate models of autonomous schools regulated by central government (see Gunter 2011). The rescue narrative is enabling of public education in the sense that there was a reform imperative in some mainstream schools, but the rescue was in adopting the effervescent private rather than through public renewal. Indeed, much of the improvement narrative involved in rescuing was adopted by the claims for replacement where research was used (or even misused [see



Tomlinson 1997]) to create the conditions for selling off and enabling professionals and parents to reveal private dispositions and demands. Replacement: is focused on introducing new types of schools and professionals into the market. There are a number of features: first, identifying failing local authority schools and superseding them with a new type or brand of school (Courtney 2015); second, creating the conditions in which successful local authority schools are converted into academies and taken over by MATs (McGinity and Gunter 2017); third, allowing new types of schools to enter and compete with local authority and other schools, for example city technology colleges and free schools (Courtney 2015); and, fourth, allowing private interests such as faith-promoting individuals and/or organisations to take control of schools, admissions, the curriculum and pedagogy (Woods et al 2007). Educational professionals are required to conform (for example, Astle and Ryan 2008), with retirements and relocations to the private sector (see Gunter and Mills 2017). Private, and in particular corporate identities and practices have come to dominate (Courtney and Gunter 2015; Courtney 2017), with plans to appoint unaccredited people to teach and assess (Butt and Gunter 2007) and to lead (Gunter 2012). Designed to generate a new form of promise making based on private contractualism of meeting consumer needs, the promise is located in the trade exchange relationship of a parent having a private requirement ‘need’ for an educational product. Hence failure has been relocated to parental choice (to identify and choose the right form of education for their child) and to private provision (to identify, market and trade the right type of products for parents to buy). If a parent or provider terminates a contract then it is a private matter for the interested parties, with the opportunity to shift provider for the parents, and it may only become public through access to legal redress as required. The general trend has been towards replacement as the norm and with rescue focused on residual services that will act as a ‘safety net’ for those who are unable to identify needs and make a choice, or deemed to be unmotivated to do so. Hence promise making for all is being reworked and redefined as promise making for individuals and families regarding themselves and in exchange relationships with potential and then contracted providers. Public opposition is emerging: Resistance: is based on a combination of defending public education and highlighting fabrications in the case being made for


The politics of public education

the reconceptualisation of promise making from public agendas to private certainties: • Resistance arguments are located in claims that public education is not failing in the ways outlined by pro-private alliances, neoliberals and neoconservatives. While reform and change is identified as necessary, influential commentary (for example, Ravitch 2010; Benn 2011) and primary research (for example, Lubienski and Lubienski 2014; Buchheit 2015) demonstrate that public schools and the profession are keeping their promises to parents and children. Public education continues to be supported by parents and children, with disputes regarding the reform process and closure of schools (see Gunter 2011; Flury 2016). Indeed, the argument can be made that public education is concerned with giving children access to knowledge that parents cannot or do not want to provide. For example, the Anti-Academies Alliance (2017) in England continues to report on communities that are supporting their local schools, and actively opposing school closure and new forms of schools on offer. Such is the panic about this resistance that major speeches are made where the ‘enemies’ of private contractualism are exposed as ‘ideologues’ and caricatured as the perpetrators of ‘the same old ideology of failure and mediocrity’ (Gove 2012, np). • Resistance arguments are also located in claims that public education is being directly and deliberately undermined because it is too successful. Elites who control the media, corporate investment and faith are concerned that their interests are in danger, hence the approach is to infiltrate and use public systems to benefit wealth accumulation (see Gunter et al 2017b). This is what Harvey (2005) identifies as the problem of ‘over-accumulation’, where capital is inactive, and so the fabricated crisis in public education is about ‘accumulation by dispossession’, or how money is put to work by gaining access to new markets (see Beckett 2007). Two other trends are linked: first, the way philanthropists are using their wealth and status to shape educational provision and outcomes based on their private views of what is needed (Saltman 2010); and, second, the way tax cuts and austerity budgets are enabling disinvestment, so schools lack the resources to respond to major economic crises. For example, Tomlinson (1997) argues that the ‘failure’ of Hackney Downs school in London was due to socioeconomic changes in the locality that impacted on the composition of the school population, and where simplistic blame and shame strategies were used instead of investment (see O’Connor et al 1999). Such illuminative cases



impact in a range of ways, not least through the fear generated among professionals of losing out in the newly emerging marketplace (see McGinity and Gunter 2017). Narratives from those within the public system are noting successes with evidence and arguments from the profession (for example, Winkley 2002), parents (for example, Benn and Downs 2016) and from crossinstitutional alliances (for example, Bangs et al 2011; Wrigley et al 2012). There is still a lot of support for public contractualism, with a range of contributions that accept this as a settlement that must be secured, thus enabling reforms to take place within and for the system. National strategies can be put in place through policy, as the OECD (2010) reports on Finland: Finland has successfully tackled drop out and school failure. Their measures are both targeted and universal; the strategy is to intervene with young people who have fallen behind as well as to reform the school system as a whole…. In the 1970s, Finland changed the age at which students choose a pathway from 11 to 16 and put into place a uniform curriculum for lower secondary school. These measures have improved equity, moving all students to higher levels of achievement…. Today, only 1% of Finnish 15-year-olds are unable to demonstrate basic reading skills, as opposed to 7% across the OECD countries. (2010, p14) Consequently, Finland is a site where public contractualism has been a proactive change strategy in which promise making is rooted in espoused values and practices (Sahlberg 2015)

Thinking politically with promising Failure is increasingly a proactive strategy and it operates at a number of levels: first, private contractualism is premised on the technicalities of remit definition and delivery to market-segmented customers, and so even if the contract is delivered it remains the case that scope and access will exclude those that a universal system would embrace; second, private contractualism does not prevent failure, and so schools as autonomous businesses not only do fail but also have to fail in order to enable competition to work. Marketised services such as education operate on the basis of scarcity, and so schools and children have to fail in order to intensify the demand for ‘good’ school places. Contracts can


The politics of public education

be terminated on both sides of the deal, where the state as contractor can terminate a contract or be left without a delivery agency if a company or consortium decides to pull out. Failing promises to provide better schools is evident in research, where Machin and Silva (2013, p102) conclude that changes to school structures and governance in England, ‘shows at best only small beneficial effects on overall pupil performance and very little consistent evidence of improvements for tail students’. It seems that new types of schools set up to ‘rescue’ and ‘replace’ are actually failing: More than a quarter of a million children are getting a sub-standard education, figures reveal. This includes youngsters at three of the Government’s flagship free schools. Hundreds of state secondary schools fell below base targets, failing to ensure that enough pupils gained five good GCSE grades and made sufficient progress in English and maths, the statistics show. An analysis of the data, conducted by the Press Association, also reveals that a child’s chances of attending a decent school still depend heavily on where they live, with some areas having ten or more under-performing secondaries, while some have none. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the results, based on last summer’s GCSE grades, show how far the nation has come in raising standards, but added that the Government still has to tackle the ‘pockets of persistent under-performance’. Overall, 329 state secondary schools in England did not meet the minimum benchmarks this year. Of these, 312 failed to ensure that at least 40 per cent of their pupils gained at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, and that students make good enough progress in these two core subjects. The other 17 schools were among 327 schools that opted in to a new ‘Progress 8’ performance measure, which looks at the progress of pupils across eight subjects and fell below a certain threshold for this target. From next year, all schools will be measured against ‘Progress 8’. The Department for Education does not publish a list of schools falling below its floor targets but according to the analysis, using the DfE’s [Department for Education’s] methodology for calculating under-performing schools, three of those falling below the benchmark this year were free schools – a key part of Conservative education reforms. These schools are: Robert



Owen Academy, in Hereford; Saxmundham Free School, in Suffolk; and St Michael’s Catholic Secondary School in Camborne, Cornwall – which was the only state secondary school to fall below the floor standard in the county. A total of 188 under-performing schools are academies, the analysis shows, while 50 are council-run schools, 45 are foundation schools, 14 are voluntary-aided and the others include university technical colleges, studio schools and further education colleges catering to 14- to 16-year-olds. (Yahoo News 2016, np) This descriptive analysis enables the reader to recognise how standards are measured through the meeting of targets, and the use of benchmarking (for example, 5 A* to C grades at GCSE, or Progress 8) and categorising (for example, National Challenge Schools; see Lythgoe 2012), and the use of inspections where schools can be identified as ‘inadequate’ and so put into ‘special measures’ (education unacceptable with no capacity to improve) or ‘serious weaknesses’ (aspects of education unacceptable but with capacity to improve) (Ofsted 2016, p4). Interconnected is the removal of the headteacher as a form of policy effectiveness technology (Lepkowska 2014), where the strategy has been to convert the school to an academy with high-profile ‘turnaround’ cases such as Burlington Danes in London, where there has been a rapid increase in results even though Ofsted has identified ‘40% of pupils speak English as a second language, and nearly half are eligible for free school meals’ (Stringer 2012, np). The momentum for ratcheting up organisational distinctiveness means that all headteachers are rendered disposable through intensified demands for ‘raising standards’ (see Anonymous 2017). The analysis also shows the problem with contractual forms of promise making, particularly how the depoliticisation of education as a public matter means that supply, demand and quality become noone’s issue when a school closes. For example, the quotation above reports on how the new replacement schools are not always successful, where academies, free schools and studio schools may close due to quality issues (see Richardson 2013; Hargreaves 2015) or market failure, with not enough students enrolled or not enough of the right type of students enrolled (see Clough 2016; Mansell 2017a; Weale 2017a), or disinvestment (Belger 2016). We know that parents try to ‘game’ the system through tactically responding to biopolitical distinctiveness (James 2017), but little is actually known about what happens to children, parents and families when a school is closed, and where the


The politics of public education

decision tends to be so abrupt that resistance is futile. Accounts from Sweden demonstrate the problems with the profit motive when using public money (see Weale 2015), and reports from the US (for example, Santos 2010; Cohen 2016) demonstrate that corporate promises made by the owners have not been kept, with an impact beyond the issue of children finding a school place, particularly the symbolism of closure in already ‘labelled’ communities. It seems that the replacement approach to educational services provision is not only based on the rescue approach actually failing, but also how the new schools that are created within and outside of the previous public system are based on the need to fail. Indeed, Mansell (2017b) shows how 60 schools he names as ‘orphans’ are not safe investments for funds and reputations, and so the pupils, parents and staff do not know who will be running the school in future. In addition, in the first week of the 2017 new school year, one trust reported that it was pulling out of running 21 schools in England due to inspection grades that showed that only four met national standards (BBC 2017a). Schools that are waiting to be transferred from one trust to another have been characterised as ‘zombie schools’; at the time of writing there are 64 schools educating an estimated 40,000 children that ‘are waiting to find a new sponsor after being abandoned by, or stripped from, the trust originally managing them’ (Perraudin 2017b, np). This promise of failure means that parents, children and professionals are required to be motivated to operate in a form of what Tomlinson (1997) identifies as Social Darwinism, or how schools are sites where providers and consumers struggle to survive, or to avoid business extinction. It seems that there is money to be made through asset stripping (Perraudin 2017a) and money to be made in failure, where in 2017 the taxpayer paid out £7 million to academy trusts in England to give a home to the ‘orphan schools’ that are not linked into a chain or brand (Robertson 2017). As Harvey (2005, p148) argues: ‘capitalism internalizes cannibalistic as well as predatory and fraudulent practices’, and so parents as consumers (as well as teachers and children) are ‘eaten’ and ‘spat out’ by trusts that invest in surviving and thriving. In this sense, businesses choose customers through product design, costing and pricing, and so children succeed or fail as a binary in or out, according to family wealth and capacity to relocate if necessary according to faith, biology, test results and cultural norms (behaviour, accent, taste). The promise of equity is that parents can be assured that their child will sit next to and mix with children that they approve of, where ‘the new arrangements seem to be just a more sophisticated way of reproducing traditional distinctions



between different types of school and between the people who attend them’ (Whitty et al 1998, p42).

Summary Arendt (2005) argues that promising is integral to the public realm, particularly since action underpinned by plurality and natality could be destabilising in regard to the presentation of the self and understanding standpoints. The spontaneity of action would not get us very far if we had not made some promises to mitigate risk and enable settlements for legal and institutional frameworks. Using the EPKP in regard to knowledge production I have revealed how and why common provision as a promise for public services education continues to be broken in ways that reinforce rather than question established power structures. The main trends in promising are private – that you and your family are on your own and should not seek to be inclusive in how you access ‘a good school place’. So the elite restoration project to replace common education is based on the validity and vitality of private contracting and power-imbued contractualism that structures exchange relationships in both educational and other services. The prowess involved in biopolitical distinctiveness depends on the binary of school success and failure, and in order to enable rhetorical plurality and regulated natality to work for some there is a need to promote failure in the public promise of good school places for all. This is operating in two main ways: first, the construction of public education as failing creates a faux rescue promise, and a promise to replace with a better offer; and, second, the construction of a privately contracted market makes the promise of failure a form of commercial innovation, where, in order to keep making a ‘new’ and ‘better’ offer, there is a need for some types of children and schools to fail. Depoliticisation is relocating decisions about failure into the privacy of homes and away from public agendas, where there are only glimpses of the consequences for children and families. However, the incompleteness of the promise of private contracting means that resistance is evident in a range of sites, where parents, children, politicians and researchers are taking action in the public realm regarding understanding what this means and the opportunities for the common. I take up this trend in chapter eight, but for now I move on to the construction of success and failure through responsibility and judging.



Responsibility and judging: producing and using numbers

Introduction The following quotation is from an academy principal: ‘This is how it’s gonna be. You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus. And if you’re on the bus, then we’ll do everything we can to help and support you. But if you’re not, then you’re off the bus. And that’s either through redundancy, through a restructure, through a change in roles, through a capability, through, “do you know, what? This isn’t the job for me, I’m applying elsewhere.”’ (Courtney and Gunter 2015, p17) What is being said is how surveillance works to control staff performance through number production and evaluation, where data dominates what matters in regard to educational purposes. The professional can only know about the ‘business’ of that school if the numbers ‘add up’ in order to determine which activity is worthwhile, and this can only be through self-regarding forms of leaders, leading and leadership. And so: ‘I suppose being a head means to me, right now, is about having that leadership and having that … vision and having that drive’ (Courtney and Gunter 2015, p12). This professional is ventriloquising the orthodoxy of transformational leadership, where the use of visioning and missioning enables the elite leader to narrate the meaning of data and so determine what this means for practice. It seems that selecting data and using it to make performance claims by smoothing a narrative is what matters in a high stakes context of biopolitical distinctiveness. I intend examining how this is integral to segregating the system by using Arendt’s (2003) thinking about responsibility and judgement where she identifies what happens when people are rendered thoughtless, particularly in how a situation is framed and understood through fabricated myth-making. The deployment of the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP) to


The politics of public education

the creation of ‘data-rich’ schools in England enables an examination of a form of depoliticisation by calculation where the interplay between standards, numbers and school leadership is being deployed to change identities and practices. The state has been able to make contractual alliances with elite individuals, companies and networked knowledge producers who have used particular ideologies in order to present a seductive, trainable and measurable model for the modern professional.

Common powers? Traditionally, educational professionals hold ‘in common’ a promise for teaching and learning with and on behalf of their students – whether children in schools or adults in further and higher education. So questions can be raised about the organisational arrangements for translating intentions into decision making. The location and exercise of power is therefore crucial to professional practices, where choices are evident in educational dilemmas that are political, social, economic and cultural, and where resolution is through focusing on the relationship between values and participatory processes (Greenfield and Ribbins 1993). Training is involved but much requires preparation through confronting and thinking about major issues that impact on the lives of children, families and communities. For example, headteachers have written about the interplay of the child and pedagogic processes within an unjust world as being at the core of professional concerns and strategies (see Evans 1999; Winkley 2002), and where researchers put into the public domain how headteachers are active policy makers rather than policy deliverers (see Tienken and Mullen 2016). Historically, such approaches have tended to be known as educational administration (see Foster 1986), educational management (see Grace 1995) and educational leadership (see Smyth 1989). Where ‘educational’ is more than a decorative adjective but is focused on teaching and learning, and is itself educative for all involved. For example, Foster (1989 p57, original emphasis) argues ‘that leaders are embodied individuals, while leadership is a shared and communal concept’ that is a ‘temporary designation’ and disconnected from role or person. Such an approach is evident within the structuring of educational services provision through: first, teachers (Ozga 2000) and children (Smyth 2006) as ‘bottom-up’ policy makers, with a ‘first among equals’ role for headteachers (Grace 1995); second, the design of participative decision making (Hatcher 2005; Grubb and Flessa 2006) or what Davies (1997) calls ‘headless schools’; third, the design of performance review based on agreed and shared research projects


Responsibility and judging

with data collection in classrooms (Gunter 2005); and, fourth, the networking of educational services in school with local communities and democratic structures so that professional and communal activism can confront and resolve social injustices (for example, Gandin and Apple 2012). Power as a communal resource is evident within public service traditions in a range of national systems, where in Finland teachers are the ones who lead, and where a principal is an accredited and experienced teacher who teaches (Sahlberg 2015). In England, the notion and reality of such ‘common’ powers have been glimpsed in the enactment of post-1945 welfare agendas through notions of collegial child-centred practices, teacher education and accreditation, along with career structures, conditions of service and remuneration that were subject to public scrutiny. This is what Grace (1995, p38) argues characterises the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, where: ‘a well-managed school was one in which social control arose not out of authoritarian, imposed and punitive systems but out of the voluntary cooperation of its members, working together as responsible participants in the school regarded as a valued educational community’. However, it remains the case that hierarchy has tended to dominate in England, where the morally authoritative ‘headmaster tradition’ from 19th-century ‘public schools’ endures (Grace 1995). This classed, gendered and raced legacy has shaped and structured the modern professional, where the notion of ‘my school’ enabled autocratic identities and cultures to persist in ways that raised the headteacher out of the classroom and above their ‘colleagues’. While research shows that many headteachers sought to resist this legacy, there is evidence of the tensions involved in exercising professional autonomy, particularly of demands by heads to allow them to get on with their job in their school (Thomson 2010b). What connects back into the 19th century is the emphasis on ‘strong’ leadership, where the move towards and then the dismantling of commons education revitalised and re-purposed the hierarchical role of the leader who does leading with leadership as the exercise of power over and for teachers and children. Globalised reforms regarding performance leadership have played out differently in national systems, but there are some shared features of biopolitical distinctiveness: first, the emphasis on the school as an organisation that must be efficiently and effectively led and managed – so it is proving success through audited data that matters; second, the use of systems models to secure organisational structures and cultures that relate outputs to inputs – so it is measurable and templated ‘value-added’


The politics of public education

outcomes that matter; third, the adoption of change processes that enable externally determined interventions to be delivered – so it is technologies of implementation combined with local savvy tactics that matter; and, fourth, the economising of education where costs are lowered, investment controlled, the ‘price for access’ determined and value for money secured through the liberalisation of supply and demand – so it is income streams based on pupil numbers, bidding for targeted resources and negotiating philanthropic gifting that matter. Such changes have variously taken place through a combination of reforming legislation, training and general cultural adoption of embodied identities. For example, headteachers have shifted their focus from pedagogy, curriculum and assessment to leading a business – planning, targets, audits, bidding and data production (Whitty et al 1998). Privatised knowledge production generated forms of training that connect entrepreneurial dispositions and practices necessary for the school to run as a business with traditional demands for autonomy (Gunter 2012, 2016; Gunter and Mills 2017). As Grace (1995, p42) identifies: ‘the most important characteristics of effective school leaders are now less to be found in their moral, scholarly or professional qualities than in their “street-wise” capacity to survive in and exploit market opportunities for education’. The domination of the ‘performing leader’ is evident in accounts by those who have bought in, where professional titles, qualifications and relationships are either being restored to the norm of the ‘headmaster’ from a past golden age, or being eschewed in favour of rebranding as ‘principal’. Either way, all are ‘school leaders’ in a delegated hierarchy, where advocacy of such a move is based on how this is claimed to make a difference to data (Gunter et al 2013). What is emerging is a form of corporatised leadership, whereby the school, or the chain to which the school belongs (in England this is usually a multi-academy trust or MAT), has a corporate identity in regard to the workforce, the children and parents who gain and retain a place, and the purposes of the educational product. A number of consequences are emerging: first, education accredited and enculturated professionals are either removing themselves through retirement or are being made redundant through austerity cuts (Gunter and Mills 2017); second, those predisposed to and/or who misrecognise corporatising strategies and practices are enabling reforms to work in ways that provide role models and aspirational career routes for those who are charmed by elite status (Gunter et al 2017b); and, third, the professionalisation of private beliefs combined with training, enabled through networked ‘corporate ready’ work-based connections means


Responsibility and judging

that the answers to the problems for educational services are already provided. Corporate leaders hold and exercise corporate powers over the school, and over other schools where takeovers are encouraged for officially endorsed forms of leading and leadership practices. Localised populism is emerging. If an executive head says something is the case, then de facto it is the case, and when combined with the concerns of parents for their children, then educational standards become a matter of popular views about what matters. The corporatised education executive therefore builds the business as a segregated service to meet and serve needs, and in doing so renders the self and workforce disposable when ‘things go wrong’ (or are claimed by the consumer or MAT bosses to have gone wrong) (see Courtney and Gunter 2015). Primary research evidence and experts who undertake independent enquiries and speak to different narratives are denounced as ideological interrupters, and so are also disposable. The construction of children, parents, teachers and researchers as potential and actual ‘external enemies’ is integral to policy making that cuts across political ideological divides (Hyman 2005; Gove 2012). Sustaining the legacy of the strong leader, and remodelling it into a secular corporate executive is an ongoing process – there is no date when this was formally introduced but it is rooted in a range of events, ideas and people. Certainly, many of the stories provided by those involved show just how risky the job has become (Thomson 2009), and endorse the accuracy of Gleeson and Husband’s (2001) analogies of headteachers as ‘lion tamers’ (p5) and ‘ring masters’ (p137). Notably, some professionals do speak out; for example Leslie (2015, p35) reports the response of one former teacher to Gove’s reforms: ‘then they whack you over the head for teaching media studies instead of computing, and tell you that if you fail on this, all your senior leaders will be sacked and replaced by an academy trust. You don’t need to know who this trust is, or why it’s going to be running your school – that will be decided by a hedge-fund manager. Oh, and we’re changing the curriculum, so every lesson you’ve ever planned in the last five years is obsolete, and you can’t use any of it again. Imagine the panic, in any workplace, if all of those things hit you! And every week he’s announcing this stuff in the Sunday f*****g Times, which is owned by his previous boss.’ But, in the main, research is showing that those in the job are getting on with it, and in ways that demonstrate not only corporatised


The politics of public education

collaboration but also the leadership of the changes through localised innovation that is rewarded: Management through dictation, not consensus-building, is portrayed as a more efficient, effective strategy than taking the opinion of teachers, parents or students into account. Listening to others is presented as a time-consuming distraction and could disrupt the ‘well-oiled machine’. (Kulz 2017a, p98) This case (for example, Kulz 2017a,2017b) and others (for example, McGinity and Gunter 2017) enables us to witness the integrative impact of performance, where people are personally liable for delivery and if they don’t like it then they should stop whining or leave; and people are under permanent surveillance (including the headteacher) and can literally disappear (Anonymous 2017). I intend examining this through Arendtian (2003) thinking on responsibility and judgement. I then go on to examine the corporatisation of leadership and its role in fabricating data.

Responsibility and judgement Human beings are confronted daily by the necessity and relationality of decision making: this is about recognition of an issue, taking responsibility for that issue, and going through a process of evidence collection, analysis and judgement. Arendt’s thinking is helpful, particularly through her concern that a person should: ‘try not to escape into some utopias – images, theories, or sheer follies’ (2003, p274). By this she means that we should not be made passive by branded promotions, or accept ideologies and beliefs that impose meanings and ways of thinking onto events, or seek temporary solutions that are known to be foolish. Importantly for Arendt (1963), the 20th century had shown the full horror of how moral codes and social science theories had not prevented forms of ‘thoughtlessness’ that had led to the disposability of humans through genocide and/or the rendering of people as ‘rightless’ and ‘stateless’ refugees. For Arendt, responsibility and judgement are political where thinking is ‘the silent dialogue with oneself ’ (Berkowitz 2010a, p5), but always in relation to others. You can be present in person, and if you are on your own then others are present in your imagination. Arendt’s argument is that we should not be unreflexive rule followers of ‘universal’ truths, while Bowring (2011, p260) states:


Responsibility and judging

Arendt does not claim that judgement must proceed without any standards or guidance. But she had good reason to doubt that conformity to rules was a solid foundation for moral action, just as she had good reason to be suspicious of the sociological reliance on functional generalisations which rendered the novelty of human enterprise – including the enterprise of totalitarianism – undetectable. Arendt positioned this thinking about responsibility and judgement in contradistinction from Kant with a rejection of ‘determinant’ in favour of ‘reflective’ judgements. Particularly since: ‘reason, she insists, reasons, it does not think’ (Berkowitz 2010a, p5). Such reflection is about communicating with the self and others ‘transcending the “friend/foe” distinction’ (Benhabib 2010, p61) and so coming to recognise and engage with a range of standpoints: the activity of thinking is concerned with what it means for something to be. In the quest for this meaning, thinking spares no certainty or received wisdom. All accepted doctrines and rules are dissolved and examined anew. (Culbert 2010, p147) Being able to be present with others through seeking out their stance and using this to develop a stance enables the interplay between thinking and action (chapter two) to be located in plurality (see chapter three) and natality (see chapter four), and be based on commitments to promising (see chapter five) and forgiveness (see chapter seven). So how does this work in the realities of life? Young-Bruehl (2006, p171) notes: she argued that the ability to make the enlarged mentality of judgment a feature of life by forming a circle of friends made up of contemporaries and people from the historical or literary past is the mark of a person’s ability to live well. The circle of friends should themselves be good or powerful reflective judges; they should be exemplary judges – and the person choosing them should be able to judge them as such. Judgement is the loom of friendship. So thinking both alone and with others, but always in the presence of others, is core to taking responsibilty and forming judgements, where:


The politics of public education

Arendt said that judgment, more than any of the other mental abilities, is exercised in relationships with others. It involves visiting others – physically or in your mind – and consulting them, seeing things from their point of view, exchanging opinions with them, persuading them, wooing their consent (in Kant’s lovely phrase). A judgment appears in the world as an opinion, where it joins, it also reflects, the plurality of opinions that are in the world. (Young-Bruehl 2006, pp165–6) Consequently thinking is not about the localised mediation of previous categories or patterns that pre-judge what is good or not, but: ‘is the ability to see the particular in its own right, to attend to the thing itself instead of treating it as an instance of a pre-existing concept, category or trend’ (Bowring 2011, p261, original emphasis). This approach to responsibility and judgement have been worked through in a range of projects: first, texts that set out to examine politicisation (for example, Arendt 2006a) and the destructiveness of criminal depoliticisation (for example, Arendt 2009) with insights from key people’s ideas and activities who work for political responsibility and judgement in dark times (for example, Arendt 1993); and, second, cases that provide opportunities to think about a situation and what this means, with illuminative analysis from the Eichman trial (Arendt 1963) and the Pentagon Papers (Arendt 1972). Both of these cases have something to say about responsibility and judgement. Arendt identified in On totalitarianism (2009) the ‘mass annihilation of human beings’ by Nazis and Bolsheviks ‘for no humanly comprehensible purpose’ (Kohn 2003, pxix). Her particular focus on concentration camps led her to characterise the Holocaust as ‘the mass production of corpses’ (Arendt 2003, p243), which were both managed and subject to the whims of those undertaking mass murder: ‘death was the supreme ruler in Auschwitz, but side by side with death it was accident – the most outrageous, arbitrary haphazardness, incorporated in the changing moods of death’s servants – that determined the destinies of the inmates’ (Arendt 2003, pp254–5). Hence Arendt is concerned with how and why ‘mass murder, the extermination of millions’ became a ‘legal duty’ in ways that were implemented by human beings, where she identifies: ‘desk murders’ like Eichmann, plus ‘regime criminals who executed orders’, and ‘parasites and profiteers of a criminal system’ (Arendt 2003, p228). In covering the Eichmann trial for the New Yorker, Arendt (1963, p114, original emphasis) was struck by the defence of following orders.


Responsibility and judging

She notes that ‘he was not stupid’ but recognises that ‘he merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing’. Eichmann demonstrates ‘sheer thoughtlessness … that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period’ (p115), and he was one of many, who ‘were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal’ (p103). Such ‘banality of evil’ was how senior Nazis shifted the blame for doing a difficult but essential job: ‘there is an ineffaceable human tendency to feel guiltless while doing great wrong … wrongdoers do not assume that their actions are lamentable but necessary’ (Kateb 2010a, p31). Arendt confronted how this breakdown in society took place through forms of ‘consent’, particularly since the plans were public: ‘Hitler circulated millions of copies of his book in which he stated that to be successful, a lie must be enormous’ (Arendt 1999, p239). So ordinary people as well as those who joined the Nazi administrative machine ‘accepted’ the big lies. How and why does this happen? How this works is important: ‘the extermination of Jews was preceded by a very gradual sequence of anti-Jewish measures, each of which was accepted with the argument that refusal to cooperate would make things worse – until a stage was reached where nothing worse could possibly have happened’ (Arendt 1963, p37). This is not so much about how people like Eichmann lacked the imagination to think otherwise, but how a person responds to what is happening in everyday life (for example, neighbours disappearing from work and school) as a form of consent. For Arendt: ‘the question addressed to those who participated and obeyed orders should never be, “Why did you obey?” but “Why did you support?” (2003, p48, original emphasis), particularly since: ‘total power can be achieved and safeguarded only in a world of conditioned reflexes, of marionettes without the slightest trace of spontaneity’ (Arendt 1999, p255). While Arendt’s work on totalitarianism provides particular perspectives on criminal regimes, she also addresses what happens when the big lies take place in an espoused constitutional democracy. In her essay Lying in politics Arendt (1972) is concerned to examine criminality in the contemporary USA, and in another essay she says ‘the chief common weakness in their character seems to be the rather naïve assumption that all people are actually like them, that their flawed character is part and parcel of the human condition stripped of hypocrisy and conventional clichés’ (Arendt 2003, p268). So who are these criminals in the USA of the 1950s and 1960s? With a particular focus on The Pentagon Papers, she is concerned with both the bombing and killing of non-combatants in Vietnam, where the federal government embraced information management in order ‘avoid


The politics of public education

admitting defeat and to keep the image of the “mightiest power on earth” intact’ (Arendt 2003, p263). What Arendt identifies is how ‘Madison Avenue tactics under the name of public relations have been permitted to invade our political life’ (2003, p263), where lies and fabrications are a normalised part of government (Arendt 1972). She argues that lies in public policy may be necessary in emergencies or to protect defence secrets, the danger is located in the ‘seemingly harmless lying of Madison Avenue’ that has invaded public administration where falsehoods are ‘meant to manipulate Congress and to persuade the people of the United States’ (Arendt 2003, p264). Plausible lies can be used to cover up, and this is related to how public relations managers in government have learned their trade within the advertising industry (Arendt 1972). A particularly serious form of lying is by those whom Arendt (1972) identifies as ‘professional problem solvers’, who entered government from higher education and think tanks and ‘who lied perhaps out of a mistaken patriotism’ (1972, pp10–11). Responsibility and judgement were impaired because they brought with them methods for thinking that limited thinking: ‘some of them [were] equipped with game theories and systems analyses, thus prepared, as they thought, to solve all the “problems” of foreign policy’ (Arendt 1972, pp9–10). Consequently they had trained minds and ontologies that meant ‘they trusted the calculating powers of their brains at the expense of the mind’s capacity for experience and its ability to learn from it’ (Arendt 1972, p39). And so: they were eager to find formulas, preferably expressed in a pseudo-mathematical language, that would unify the most disparate phenomena with which reality presented to them; that is, they were eager to discover laws by which to explain and predict political and historical facts as though they were as necessary, and thus as reliable, as the physicists once believed natural phenomena to be. (1972, p11) These two cases show how Arendt is provoked into working for understanding of responsibility and judgement for all citizens, whether in Nazi Germany or the modern US. An enduring theme is the juridical person and system of law: who is within and beyond the law, and where criminality can threaten or even replace the law. For Arendt (2003, p271) ‘all the chickens had come home to roost’, and so there is a need to focus on what is unfolding and what can impact, and certainly how the past is not actually past but always present: ‘the


Responsibility and judging

world we live in at any moment is the world of the past; it consists of the monuments and the relics of what has been done by men for better or worse; its facts are always what has become’ (p270, original emphasis). Consequently, the focus on problem solving by giving accounts of Berlin and Washington recognises the different nature of the two systems, but also acknowledges similarities within binaries of enemies and scapegoats, obscurantism and blatant lies, and the denial of responsibility. Arendt identifies a tendency to use an ‘unfortunately highly successful policy of “solving” very real problems by clever gimmicks which are only successful enough to make the problems temporarily disappear’ (p273). The resort to short-termism can be justified by applying fantastic ideologies and moral codes, and failing to understand history through how new events are connected but are distinctive. A complexity of fear and aspirations enables ‘compromise with’ rather than ‘questionning of ’ moral codes: but the controversial, challenging, and difficult heart of what Arendt came to see was that the moral breakdown was not due to the ignorance or wickedness of men who failed to recognize moral ‘truths,’ but rather to the inadequacy of moral ‘truths’ as standards to judge what men had become capable of doing. (Kohn 2003, ppx–xi)

The possibilities for responsibility and judging The potential of thinking for and about judging and responsibility raises some important questions regarding educational services, and here I would like to focus on the question: what forms of judging and responsibility have been taking place in regard to professional identity of headteachers as school leaders? The deployment of the EPKP shows how the state has directly intervened in the construction and popularisation of corporate ideologies, networks and practices in order to normalise the transformational leadership (TL) model to enable biopolitical distinctiveness. As noted, the tradition of the promoted teacher as ‘chair’, ‘head’, ‘principal’, had a tradition of ‘strong’ leadership that connects to the moral authority of disciplining children (and their parents) into preferred ways of conduct and identity formation (see Grace 1995). The associated dispositions of exercising autonomy in the interests of the children have been reworked into corporate notions of building and expanding the business. For example, private contractualism requires the school to become ‘data rich’, where all


The politics of public education

personnel are relentlessly focused on important indicators regarding income streams and costs, attendance and student numbers, where identifying a local way forward is the task of the corporate head and senior team, and where debates about educational and/or community issues are silenced (Kulz 2017a, 2017b). The delivery of (and not going beyond) the contract means that ‘there is no alternative’ to a ‘change imperative’ for those who do not comply, and TL provides the infrastructure to enable heads to be transformed into the bodily repositories of corporate power and themselves to be transformational in changing a school into a business (even if this means closing the school down). TL is culturally pervasive where in leader-centric societies, such as major western democracies, there are plenty of examples of corporate leaders to admire and simulate, and the wider population is predisposed to accept the headteacher as a benign ‘on message’ headdeliverer. Translation for an education workforce has taken place (for example, Leithwood et al 1999), with powerful philanthropic advocates who have used their personal wealth to promote corporatisation (see Saltman 2010) and with globalised impact of a model that is regarded as orthodoxy (for example, Yu et al 2002; Geijsel et al 2003; Nguni et al 2006; Balyer 2012). Simplified codification of the key messages means that TL is trainable, and promoted as worth investing in by governments (Leithwood et al 2006). While primary research shows that the profession had its doubts about putting all the emphasis on the headteacher, this did not prevent governments from pursuing the TL agenda and, over time, accepting modifications in line with the change agenda (Gunter 2012; Gunter et al 2013). Business TL has a number of features, where ‘power over’ people is framed as ‘power with and to do’: • Idealised influence: The formation of a viable and uplifting vision for the school, and the use of charismatic language, stories, images combined with thrusting and trusting communication techniques that speak to all but also to each individual in ways that are seductively personal. • Inspirational motivation: The identification of key imperatives for children and the outcomes they deserve, where the focus is on commitment, passion and emotional connections with the classroom, and how investment will allow teachers and children to do what they have really always wanted to do but have been held back from delivering.


Responsibility and judging

• Intellectual stimulation: Change is made legible and achievable for individuals from a range of epistemic knowledge positions in a school by combining soft data (stories and case studies) with hard data (examination results, inspection grades), where teachers and children are empowered to be innovative. • Individualised consideration: The realities of change for the individual teacher and pupil requires a convincing connection to be made between the all-embracing vision and ‘what does this mean for me?’, particularly through how beliefs and the vision have to be aligned as an ongoing process from conversations in corridors through to formalised coaching (Northhouse 2010). TL and its hybrids (for example, distributed leadership; instructional leadership) retain the emphasis on functionality, where the prime focus is on how the job may too big for the headteacher but centralised control should be maintained. Rebranding through notions of ‘distribution’ combined with ‘empowerment’ have been popularised through improvement and effectiveness projects, where research is showing that such labelling has the potential to live on even if practice does not follow (Hartley 2016). Forms of distributed leadership that are located in a commons tradition tend to be named as a form of unproductive transactional leadership and so are usually ignored or denounced as evidence of leadership deficiency (Gunter et al 2013). TL is biopolitical distinctiveness par excellence, and so prevents teachers and parents from presenting the self in the public realm: labour and work are focused on enabling colonising plurality and personalising natality, where the promise to children is a contract and their personhood is contractually dependent on status and voice. When this interplays with responsibility and judgement, some important observations can be made about calculation: professional responsibility is reworked through processes of responsibilisation; and professional judgement is reworked through processes of audit evaluation. Professional responsibility for teaching, learning and assessment is changed through TL into an efficient and effective enthusiastic performance that must take place and is evidenced in public. Following Rawolle et al (2017, p111, original emphasis) it seems that risk is about what ‘might happen’ and so the variety imbued in plurality and natality is too risky and has to be limited by focusing on the responsible individual who is contracted and must only work to the biopolitical distinctiveness inscribed into the remit. Those who deliver education services must be effective and be open to improvement, where rewards and cures are operationalised, and if the person cannot remedy the self, then ‘the


The politics of public education

expert, the authority, the consultant, the moral disciplinarian is at hand to intervene’ (Ball 1990b, p163). It seems that teacher or headteacher dispositions are meant to shift from being responsible professionals who have an inherent and intrinsic sense of caring about what they do for all children ‘in common’, towards demonstrating evidence of responsibilisation through the self-calculation of their worth, and by redefining professional codes of care and provision into corporatised ‘care packages’ that ‘define and meet needs’ through segregated provision. Shamir (2008, p7) accounts for ‘the moralization of markets’ where entrepreneurs are ethical as a form of ‘moral agency’. Companies are actively involved in the delivery of ‘social’ services that were previously in the remit of publicly trained, employed and remunerated professionals, where corporate responsibility fuses the economic with society, and those very professionals have to script themselves in relation to (and potentially against) this development. Emotions are harnessed through productive human resource management processes, which feed ‘fantasies of empowerment’, where ‘teachers feel empowered through a loosening of the legal and regulatory controls of the state’ but ‘this is a distraction from the deepening control of education by the logic of responsibilisation’ (Wright 2012, p291). Consequently, schools retain performing followers, but dispose of teachers and headteachers, parents and children, either directly through contractual processes and/ or through making the workplace inhospitable for those who think otherwise (Gunter 2005; Courtney and Gunter 2015). Responsibilisation impacts on judgement, which means the implementation of pre-existing categories rather than identifying novelty. Or as Kohn (2003, pxvi) argues: ‘when moral and religious commandments are pronounced in public defiance of human opinions they corrupt both the world and themselves’. The vision and mission for a school is a commandment to accept (at least in public), and so the individual teacher or pupil learns how the formation of a high-status opinion only takes into account the predicted judgements of those who can do good or harm to you, there is no quest to understand standpoints. Importantly, what is missing is what Kohn (2003, p36) calls ‘judging as impartiality’ or ‘appreciating the skills of one’s adversaries and the pathos of their struggle, or in the form of one’s assent about the fray in order to look at both sides fairly’. It seems that ‘authentic politics’ (p36) cannot be witnessed, because the idea of accessing other ways of knowing about education is not an option, as epistemologically it seems that blue-skies thinking is not recognised: only specific types of data speak the truth. The days when, allegedly, the teacher would agree in public to a change and then go back to the classroom and


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carry on as normal are long over. Surveillance through lesson-tolesson delivery checking combined with regular data evaluations has closed down how teachers and children may recognise the possibility of different standpoints. There are templates that enable audits to be undertaken and evaluative judgements to be made about and for performance, and this is all that is required. While values may be listed as underpinning evaluations, they tend to be, as Wright (2003) argues, second-order values. So teamwork and collaboration may be valued, but the first-order values that are involved in debating the purposes of education, or the relationship between education and wider social and economic structures, are no longer the remit of education professionals (see Kulz 2017b). TL engenders the reality and legitimacy of the type of thoughtlessness that is characteristic of totalitarian regimes. The individual is part of a movement where ‘the Fuhrer’ is positioned centrally in the ‘onion’ organisational design of the Third Reich and where agency comes from within the centre, where the unrestrained ‘leadership’ can count on follower loyalty (Arendt 2006a). As Arendt (1994) says of Eichmann: ‘really he had done nothing. He had only carried out orders and since when has it been a crime to carry out orders? Since when has it been a virtue to rebel? Since when could one only be decent by welcoming death? What then had he done?’ (1994, p127). Now I am not saying that headteachers are equivalent to Nazis or Stalinists, but as I have already identified there is sufficient evidence to raise some challenging questions about what is shockingly ordinary in education policy in England (Gunter 2014). Researchers have identified the fascist tendencies in TL (see Gunter 2001, 2016) and are putting into the public domain alternative examples of justicefocused transformative professional practices (see Bogotch et al 2008; Normore 2008). However, functionally corporate vision and mission provide security at a time of risk, and form a benchmark from which to acclaim compliance and hence contract renewal. What is becoming normalised is more than the ‘stupidity paradox’ outlined by Alvesson and Spicer (2016, p125), where investment in TL ‘can spare individuals the anxieties of thinking for themselves’, and can be resisted through ‘a mixture of mild amusement, disdain and boredom’ (p126). While everyday resistance in school staff rooms has been evident, not least where the ironies of incoherent and contradictory reforms have been identified (see Hoyle and Wallace 2005), and headteachers have openly fired back and/or worked under the radar (Gunter 2012), the spaces in which to organisationally forbear and contest in schools continue to shrink. While refusal can be an


The politics of public education

‘effective weapon’ (Arendt 2003, p47) in denying consent to these changes, what is being revealed is how teachers are adopting forms of ‘professional death’ by leaving the profession (likewise, children are truanting, or parents are home schooling). It seems as if the conditions for totalitarianism are potentially being crystallised through fabricated responsibility and judging, where robust evidence is emerging about ‘ethical morally suspect actions’ that embed segregation, and where we should be concerned about how this is ‘in the name of doing an unethical job as ethically as possible’ (Berkowitz 2010a, p6).

Thinking politically with responsibility and judging The emerging authenticity of calculated fabrications is framed and made dynamic through the reworking of myths, including downright lies (see Davies 2000; Gorski and Zenkov 2014). The logic of numbers for and about teaching and learning does have some sense. So an account and narrative story of progress is evident in a spreadsheet (or what in my day was a mark book!). There are concerns that need to be raised about power processes where the competence of the teacher and the student can be extrapolated and used to engage with what is called: ‘governing by numbers’ (Rose 1991). The numbers are entered into and processed by software that tracks individual pupils in relation to national standards, where aggregations allow measuring and comparing between children, cohorts and schools at national and international levels. Education professionals are expected to work with numbers ‘as a form of telling the truth’, particularly through being in receipt of ‘useful knowledge’ (Popkewitz 2012, p187, original emphasis). So guidance such as Smoking out underachievement (DfES 2004) enables simplified processes to be intelligible, valid and ready for implementation, and ‘ICT allows educational systems to collect data that potentially could follow students for their entire lives’ (Spring 2012, p161). Numbers produced by such calculations combined with evaluative grades are made public in a range of ways: from posting attendance results on a noticeboard in order to incentivise children to attend (on time), through to published inspection reports and league table positions at a national level, and the international comparative performance of education systems by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) through the use of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) data. Numbers work as ‘data’, ‘facts’ and ‘information’ in ways that control knowledge production regarding not only what is known but also what is worth knowing, and so, as Rose (1991, p676) argues: ‘numbers do


Responsibility and judging

not merely inscribe a preexisting reality. They constitute it’. This is integral to governing change strategies whereby standardisation enables comparisons and delivery to be controlled over large geographical distances – the minister does not need to be in a classroom but the mind and intention of the minister can be enacted (see Barber 2007 in regard to ‘deliverology’). Consequently, numbers are not neutral but enable government to have a ‘calculated’ and ‘calculative’ power, and citizens to ‘calculate about power’ (Rose 1991, p675). Rose (1991, p675) encapsulates the disciplinary processes involved: The organization of political life in the form of the modern state has been instrinscially linked to the composition of networks of numbers connecting those exercising political power with the persons, processes and problems that they seek to govern. Numbers are integral to the problematizations that shape what is to be governed, to the programmes that seek to give effect to government, and to the unrelenting evaluation of the performance of government that characterises modern political culture. The regulatory state requires new forms of expertise (see Moran 2003). This is evident in a range of ways: first, how education professionals develop new skills or even new careers as number experts who ‘figure’ out who and what matters in education, and provide the solutions to the problems that the numbers identify (Rose 1991); second, how in Apple’s (2013, p130) terms there is an emerging ‘new middle class … who are uncritically committed to the ideology and techniques of accountability, measurement, and the “management”’; and, third, the upskilling of the profession combined with a new cadre of number workers is enabled and also peoples the development of what Ball (2017, p39) calls ‘traveling technocrats’, who carry ideas and solutions, are embodied with possibilities and are networked in such a way that they can recontextualise knowledges into and out of situations (see Gunter and Mills 2017). Governing by numbers does violence. Following Strathern (2000), numbers generate a sense of reality through knowing about each other, but numbers are actually a form of opaque clarity through the way they work to conceal what is real, particularly by how the relational trust necessary to talk openly about student progress is lost. The brutality of this ‘transparency’ is evident in the ‘naming and shaming’ of individuals, schools, families and communities, and renders them to be either successful (at least until the next audit) or just plain ‘not


The politics of public education

good enough’ and so in need of improvement. The intensification of pass/fail borders, or grades within the pass category, is achieved by attaching evaluative categories such as ‘unsatisfactory’, ‘in need of improvement’, ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’, where segregation operates to sort people out. Such cataloguing – identification, labelling, movement – is made high stakes through how status and resources are differently invested. Not all categories are equal, even if at 16 all children are entered for the same examination the outcomes are not the same, where a grade A from a grammar school is deemed to be better than one from a comprehensive school. So governing by numbers is about enabling children and teachers to calculate their worth, and make the necessary choices about where people like them should live, work and be educated. At its most benign, governing by numbers is necessary to demonstrate standards, but at its most insidious it is legitimising totalitarian tendencies and so acting as a brake on democratic aspirations and development. Importantly, in the interplay of calculative numbers with eugenics, we learn to connect numbers with ‘natural’ types of people who can only perform ‘as expected’. As Rose (1991, p691) argues, the issue that matters is not numbers per se: ‘it is a question of the “what” and “where” of the deployment of numbers, and the “how” of their alignment with other governmental technologies’. Hence numbers interconnected with the reform of supply and demand has resulted in instrumental cultures where students and teachers cannot be publicly curious through problem-posing, but instead they must do test preparation drills, parents must invest their own resources in tutors, and consultants are bought in to prepare the school for inspections, and then return to repair the damage done by such high-risk grading (Gunter and Mills 2017). Cases are emerging of teachers who write student course work because they are ‘bullied’ by senior staff regarding ‘standards’, and so: welcome to the other side of David Blunkett’s drive for higher standards, to the world of tests and targets, where the career prospects of a teacher or the future of a whole school can be wrecked by one bad set of statistics, a world where teachers have been taught to fear failure with such an intensity that they have learned to cut corners to survive. Welcome to the Big Cheat. (Davies 2000, p150) In higher education, students only want access to knowledge that they approve of, and so ‘we are witness to the fear of judging in the


Responsibility and judging

rampant inflation of grades, a reflection of the increasing unwillingness of professors to evaluate student work honestly’ (Berkowitz 2010a, p7). TL prevents the profession from thinking politically about the design and production of numbers, and so teachers are unable to take on the responsibilities necessary for teaching, and are unable to exercise judgement regarding the curriculum, lesson planning or assessment. TL is a fabricated model that generates the need to fabricate or even lie, where data is controlled, selected and used: in the manipulation of assessments in order to produce the grades that consumers demand; in marketing to give the best image to consumers, or in performance reviews regarding contract renewal. A person is organised into a form of loneliness that destroys the self (Arendt 2009), where the ‘we-ness’ of humanity is wrecked. So, as Stonebridge (2017) identifies: ‘the dangerous thing about living in a political culture that openly trades in lies and fancies is not that we are duped. The danger is that we lose our sense of shared truth’ (2017, p13). Indeed, set within a wider national and global context what seems to be emerging is a ‘lying world order’ (Birmingham 2010, p74) engaged with by ‘post-truth politicians’ (Freedland 2016, np). So our capacity to think, and to think about entering the public realm, is curtailed, and ‘when you live the lie of a political system that cannot own up to its own violence, genuine political – and moral – community vanishes’ (Stonebridge 2017, p13). When the numbers don’t work, then lies can be pursued with relish and the outing of those lies can be lied about by making causal links to ‘ideological extremists’ (usually professors doing independent primary research or investigative journalists who follow a story over time). Claims can be made where the numbers just don’t add up – for example, Chris Woodhead’s use of inspection data that are identified as ‘phoney facts’ (Davies 2000, p48) and the lack of evidence in support of the academies programme from 2000 (Gunter 2011) combined with the official selection of evidence about academies as a ‘mythbuster’ that is itself a replication of myths (see DfE 2010). Or the lack of evidence in support of the privatisation of education, and where there is ample contrary evidence (for example, Adamson and Darling-Hammond 2016). I could go on. What needs to said is how the simultaneous use and ignoring of numbers is linked to power structures, where people who work within these contexts shift in and out of reform delivery and evaluations, and so in the end spreadsheets are overflowing with numbers but actually no one really actually knows. Naming the world is therefore a matter of struggle for the best or most convincing big lie, where: ‘populism tends to be illiberal: for a populist being the holder of the truth means that you know that others are liars and incompetents,


The politics of public education

it can’t just be that they disagree with you’ (Stoker 2006, p133). It is salutary to realise that sophisticated forms of TL based on fabricated forms of responsibility and judgement require populist manoeuvres, which Arendt (1972) examined in regard to policy management in the US, where: American officials in the Vietnam era whom she described not just as thoughtless but as not-judging, judgmentless. They did not judge; they calculated; they proceeded deductively from their false premises. She was looking at and reflecting on the refusal to judge reflectively, the desire to rely on generalities or theories (like the domino theory), and the willingness to fabricate particulars where there were none, that is, to lie. (Young-Bruehl 2006, p175) TL ensures that the histories of the school, children and communities are erased in favour of a vision that will fail but where failure cannot be directly admitted. Ultimately, totalitarian practices lead to the removal of the ‘innocent’ or those who collaborated in good faith, and we can witness that happening through forms of segregated exclusion.

Summary For Arendt (2003), responsibility and judging are integral to the public realm, where presenting the self as unique and seeking to understand the uniqueness of other standpoints requires us to take on the duties vital for plurality and natality, with a considered approach to what is heard and seen. I and ‘we’ must listen, look at facts together, question and I/we may disagree, but exchange relationality means that I and we need to know what I and we stand for and why, and how or why you or I think differently. What Arendt (1994) is concerned with is how we recognise and comprehend: Understanding, as distinguished from having correct information and scientific knowledge, is a complicated process which never produces unequivocal results. It is an unending activity by which, in constant change and variation, we come to terms with and reconcile ourselves to reality, that is, try to be at home in the world. (Arendt 1994, pp307–8)


Responsibility and judging

The deploying of the EPKP demonstrates that knowledge production is being used to discredit and replace common powers through ‘big lies’ where fabricated forms of judgement and responsibility are being adopted that focus on numbers rather than education. For this to work, professionality has been restructured and recultured or modernised through the framing of roles, practices and identities around ‘leader’, ‘leading’ and ‘leadership’, where power is attached to hierarchical structures, rituals and remuneration packages. The construction of biopolitical distinctiveness as a transformational leader, and through the exercise of power as transformational leading and leadership, fits with leader-centric systems where sovereignty is located with an especial person. The corporatisation of this transformation through charismatic vision and mission, and entrepreneurship through the school as a business, means that a particular type of responsibility and judging is required. What is known and is worth knowing, and how supply and demand operates in a locality rests with one person who can use numbers to narrate what is and imagine what might be. This removes the requirement from others to be responsible or judge, where depoliticisation operates through how the individual has to calculate what this means for the self, and how they ensure success or insure against failure. I examine the opportunities to take action against this for education in chapter eight, particularly through imagining the possibility for ‘a witness from within the world of the lie’ (Caruth 2010, p92), but for now I move on to consider in chapter seven whether those who attack common educational inclusion can be forgiven.



Forgiving: the end of public education

Introduction A research project in a secondary school in England enabled discussions with children who identified that they attend a good school where they know that their aspirations will be recognised, enhanced and supported, but who asked: “Why do they keep testing us?” Such a glimpse into the world of children displays their trapped location in biopolitical distinctiveness regarding how they are required to learn to labour rather than act, to fit rather than present uniqueness, to deliver rather than do something new. Where the outcome of promises made is a binary of success or failure, and where responsibility and judgement are about producing the numbers to enable transformational elite adults in and outside of school to furnish the correct standards to the media. Consequently, complex forms of discrimination are developing within and external to schools: within-school segregation is happening through the use of data to determine particular curriculum pathways and ability grouping of children; between-schools segregation through the use of data to determine high-status academic schools in comparison with ‘sink’ schools; and beyond schools, where children are separating themselves from school through absence and parents are making proactive decisions to home school. I intend examining the construction of this fragmented and chaotic ‘system’, where I consider the possibilities for reconciliation through examining Arendt’s work on forgiving. After all, ‘forgiving is among the greatest of human virtues’ (Arendt 2005, p58), and is necessary if humans are to enter and take action politically in the public realm. The deployment of the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP) to the reforms to public services commons education puts the focus on a form of depoliticisation by privatism where the opportunity and capacity for forgiveness is in peril. Globally networked ideas and practices underpinning segregation do not recognise forgiving as a necessity, because the outcomes of a segregated education system are not a problem but are to be welcomed.


The politics of public education

I identify that the corollary of segregation is the disposability of children, and I argue that those who are doing this cannot be forgiven.

Common commons? The development of a commons – or the sense that humans as ‘we’ are custodians of common resources – and the taking of a common approach to what ‘we’ decide is common, is integral to what are known as public services. The arguments I have presented so far have examined what the common means in terms of knowledges, purposes, education, provision, and power, and the implications for developing and working for a shared agenda. All children are equal in their humanity, all are educable where talents and dispositions can be recognised as worthy of merit and so invested in. The development of a common agenda for common education shows a range of victories from across the globe. For example, at the national state level there is evidence from Cuba of an integrated commitment and public investment from pupils, parents, professionals and wider society, though concerns are raised about the lack of creative thinking for democratic dissent and practices (Carnoy 2016). In Finland, Sahlberg (2015, 2016) demonstrates the same ‘common investment’ within a party system democracy, and while governments of different ideological underpinnings come and go, the commitment to equity is deeply embedded. In Canada there is evidence of how public investment at the state level into public education in Ontario has secured higher quality and equitable goals (Fullan and RinconGallardo 2016). More locally, at the city or community levels, there are case reports of a range of examples of ‘common approaches’, for example, Porto Alegre in Brazil (Gandin and Apple 2012), and the London and Manchester Challenges in England (Ainscow 2015; Brighouse 2016), and at the level of the school and classroom (for example, Lingard et al 2003). These few exemplars illuminate that the commons is not a product of irrational utopianism but is about the interplay of aspirational ideas and practices (for example, Simon 1955; Dewey 2011), underpinned by research (for example, Raffo et al 2010), and combined with strategic and tactical change in the public realm (for example, Smyth et al 2014). Such accounts are appropriately normative in that they are about ongoing investment in change, but they are not romantic in the sense of pursuing a vision in ways that violate the commons as diverse publics. Rather there is a sense of struggle and meaning making, where reality checks are about what Raffo (2014) identifies as building



better outcomes, a sense of autonomy with mutual dependencies, and better processes. A key feature can be the naming and confronting of injustices that have to be overcome, through forms of what Fielding (1999) calls ‘radical collegiality’ as distinct from collaborative task completion. This can happen in a range of ways (see Raffo 2014) but the analysis so far reported in this book demonstrates the complexities of what actually doing this means in the cold light of day, and in different countries (Adamson and Åstrand 2016), where history shows that common victories can be dismantled (for example, Chile; see Castro-Hidalgo and Gómez-Álvarez 2016), and gains in civil rights in the US regarding access to educational opportunities were reversed due to marketisation by the Reagan administration (Adamson and Darling-Hammond 2016). The arguments underpinning such radical changes of direction tend to begin with a values position that individualised freedom outflanks notions of distributive justice integral to the commons (Peters and Marshall 1996; Rizvi and Lingard 2010). Indeed, it is argued that the commons denies freedom, where history demonstrates the liberties created through commercial development, and the dangers involved in the normality of social-welfarism in the post-war world (Hayek 1944). Uncommon gains are legitimate and can be made for the self and others: economic arrangements are important because of their effect on the concentration or dispersion of power. The kind of economic organization that provides economic freedom directly, namely, competitive capitalism, also promotes political freedom because it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables the one to offset the other. (Friedman 2002, p8) Hence education is a site for ‘voluntary exchange’ (Friedman 2002, p86) regarding the meeting of needs by the market for the individual and the family. Friedman (2002, p2) identifies the need for limited government ‘to protect our freedom both from enemies outside our gates and from our fellow-citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets’. So beyond security (including the value of currency) the reform agenda for education services is about establishing the borderline between the necessity of a basic education and the economy:


The politics of public education

a stable and democratic society is impossible without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens and without widespread acceptance of some common set of values. Education can contribute to both. In consequence, the gain from education of a child accrues not only to the child or to his parents but also to other members of the society. The education of my child contributes to your welfare by promoting a stable and democratic society. It is not feasible to identify the particular individuals (or families) benefited and so to charge for the services rendered. There is therefore a significant ‘neighborhood effect’. (Friedman 2002, p86) For Friedman (2002, p87), the demand on families to provide is crucial, where the argument is made that if the cost can be met privately then it should be, and ‘extreme cases could be handled by special subsidy provisions for needy families’. Such an approach has shifted notions of equity, whereby individualised choice within biopolitical distinctiveness is the source of opportunity and is: ‘located in the processes of acquisition and production of capital rather than in the need to build social communities based on notions of trust and human dignity’ (Rizvi 2013, p3). This is evident in how problems are identified and resolved: ‘the answer to a policy problem will always be expanded markets, more competition, more flexibility, more entrepreneurialism and more private ownership’ (Rizvi 2013, p7, original emphasis). These debates, and the impact of them on policy and real lives, are polarised (for example, comparing Chile and Finland, see Seppänen et al 2015), where research is demonstrating the dominance of the uncommon commons – or how service provision for the public is through private individualised access in markets and/or faith communities, and how this is being used to bring radical reforms in western style democracies (for example, Au and Ferrare 2015; Verger et al 2016). This has consequences for the public realm because, as Arendt (1958) identifies, our activities have implications where forgiving is vital. I next engage with Arendtian thinking on forgiving before I then go on to examine whether we can forgive those who promote uncommon reform ideas and policies that are dismantling and replacing the commons.



Forgiving ‘Forgiveness is the human faculty for undoing – reversing – deeds and words that have been done and spoken’ (Young-Bruehl 2006 p96), and it is essential to politics: Arendt explicitly distinguished the practice of mutual promise-making from the classical tradition of contract theory, a tradition which saw the relinquishment of public freedom as a rational price worth paying in exchange for private security and protection against interference by others. In Arendt’s version of the contract, by contrast, it is not the protection of life but the enjoyment of collective action and the enablement of human relatedness which is at stake. And what is traded in exchange for public engagement with others is precisely the safety, predictability and certainty that comes from the solitude of the thinker and the negative liberty of the sovereign holder of private rights. That plurality entails risks and uncertainty, that Arendt’s ‘contract’ does not yield an indivisible unity of opinion and will nor rest on an absolute rational foundation the contravention of which justifies violent retribution, is indicated by the importance Arendt attaches to the role of forgiveness in public life. (Bowring 2011, p147, original emphasis) So Arendt addresses the dangers of uncertainty and irreversibility through promising (see chapter five) and forgiving. As Tsao (2010, p53) puts it: ‘through seeking and offering forgiveness, we are spared the otherwise irrevocable doom of mischance and resentment, opprobrium and indignation’. Forgiveness as a process and forgiving as an act are important parts of Arendt’s (1958) thinking regarding the relationality between people, particularly how she confronts the predicaments generated by action: If the initiative taken in action consists in newly inserting oneself in a realm of human affairs, in response to what others have done and are doing; if it is in asserting a claim on others’ attention that this is meaningful, and in eliciting some further response from them that it becomes significant – if all that is so, then action consists in a taking of liberties, a trespass on others’ time and attention. Our every venture


The politics of public education

is in principle an impertinence – not unwelcome, we hope, but that is not for us to determine. The most we can do, if our impertinence is ill received, is to ask that it be forgiven – and that is today, to ask to be given another chance. (Tsao 2010, p53, original emphasis) The spontaneity within natality, in interplay with the opportunities within plurality, may well create situations in which forgiving is essential. And, try as we might, we can never know how things will work out because of the: ‘fundamental obscurity – of the actor to herself as well as to others’ (Bowring 2011, p35). Arendtian scholars have examined these matters, where the interplay of forgiving with promise-making ‘matter[s] as much for what they show that human beings are capable of – thanks to either cultivation or self-overcoming – as for their practical benefits’ (Kateb 2010b, p372). Arendt (2005) is concerned with a number of issues to both establish the importance of forgiving and the implications of what this means for human exchanges. She outlines the enduring issues that impact on action, and how ‘uncertainty’ is ‘the one perplexity of human action which has equally plagued ancient and modern historical considerations’ (Arendt 2005, p56). What Arendt (2005) means is ‘that we never quite know what we are doing when we begin to act into the web of interrelationships and mutual dependencies that constitute the field of action’ (Arendt 2005, p56). She goes on to say: forgiving attempts the seemingly impossible, to undo what has been done, and … it succeeds in making a new beginning where beginnings seemed to have become no longer possible. That men do not know what they are doing with respect to others, that they may intend good and achieve evil, and vice versa, and that never-the-less they aspire in action to the same fulfilment of intention that is the sign of mastership in their intercourse with natural, material things, has been the one great topic of tragedy since Greek antiquity. (Arendt 2005, p58) However, forgiving is vital because it: is the only strictly human action that releases us and others from the chain and pattern of consequences that all action engenders; as such, forgiving is an action that guarantees the continuity of the capacity for action, for beginning anew,



in every single human being who, without forgiving and being forgiven, would resemble the man in the fairy tale who is granted one wish and then forever punished with that wish’s fulfilment. (Arendt 2005, p59) What Arendt (1958, p237) is concerned about is to recognise ‘the predicament of irreversibility’ or ‘of being unable to undo what one has done though one did not, and could not, have known what he was doing’. This happens through: the faculty of forgiving. The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises. The two faculties belong together in so far as one of them, forgiving, serves to undo the deeds of the past, whose ‘sins’ hang like Damocles’ sword over every new generation. (Arendt 1958, p237) Arendt’s approach to forgiving draws from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but she locates it as a secular process, based on the practical necessity of making ‘it possible for life to go on by constantly releasing men from what they have done unknowingly’, because: ‘only through this constant mutual release from what they do can men remain free agents, only by constant willingness to change their minds and start again can they be trusted with so great a power as that to begin something new’ (Arendt 1958, p240). What is important for Arendt is the need to ‘get things into the open’ and ‘clear the air’, otherwise problems with ‘reaction’ or even ‘vengeance’ can be stored up that get in the way of fruitful exchanges: In contrast to revenge, which is natural, automatic reaction to transgression and which because of the irreversibility of the action process can be expected and even calculated, the act of forgiving can never be predicted; it is the only reaction that acts in an unexpected way and thus retains, though being a reaction, something of the original character of action. Forgiving, in other words, is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly, unconditioned by the act that provoked it and therefore freeing from its consequences both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. (Arendt 1958, p241)


The politics of public education

Forgiving is two way, it is about how those who have acted and reacted are ready to forgive and be forgiven. The self cannot forgive the self without relating with others (Arendt 1958), and ‘let us notice that the readiness to be forgiven is part of the concept of forgiving, as if to say that it is no less difficult to accept forgiveness than it is to grant it’ (Kateb 2010b, p371). Young-Bruehl (2006) identifies how relational forgiving has been vital to enabling of the civil rights movement, particularly through how the person to be forgiven must be ready to be forgiven. There is a revelatory process involved where what has happened is recognised, and where misdeeds are opened up to forgiveness: An understanding of the importance of forgiveness is implicit in the Roman principle of parcere subjectis (sparing the vanquished), in the modern constitutional right of Western heads of state to commute a death sentence, and in forms of public inquiry, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa, which may offer amnesty to criminals who are willing to make full disclosure of their crimes. (Bowring 2011 pp33–4, original emphasis) This capacity to learn as a form of natality and the acknowledgement of different standpoints are therefore integral to accepting forgiveness: Truth … is the certainty that prevails either in private solitude or when people are pressed so closely together that there is no space between them in which a common world can appear. Political understanding, by contrast, is not the establishment of a single shared perspective, but an ability to see the world from different sides … (Bowring 2011, p149) So following on from the analysis of responsibility and judging (see chapter six), there is no set of moral codes to be imposed, instead forgiving is premised on how different standpoints are recognised as generating a need for, and as an outcome of, forgiving. Forgiving is a difficult matter to contemplate and to undertake. Arendt identifies potential barriers that connect with her analysis of the meaning of politics as ‘between’ and not within humans. She identifies that love is ‘antipolitical’ because it closes down the spaces between humans (Arendt 1958, p242), and so personal forgiveness is different to that within the public realm. Within political exchanges



there is a need to think about respect, as ‘a kind of “friendship” without intimacy and without closeness; it is a regard for the person from the distance which the space of the world puts between us, and this regard is independent of qualities which we may admire or of achievements which we may highly esteem’ (Arendt 1958, p243). However barriers within the public realm are complex (see Arendt 1972), where we have experienced ‘depersonalization of public and social life’ through a ‘modern loss of respect’ because of the ‘conviction that respect is due only where we admire or esteem’ (Arendt 1958, p243). In other words, we are losing the capacity to respect ordinary people with whom we work, shop and eat, and where there is a growing sense of powerlessness from inhabiting the same territory (shopping mall, sport venue) but not actually being enabled to demonstrate respect. It seems as if the right to think and act is vested in celebrity and ‘important people’, and where ‘this is how the world is’ it cannot be challenged. Arendt (2005) identifies how the Industrial Revolution had brought a marketised hubris of control into human planning: ‘the experience of fabrication achieved such an overwhelming predominance that the uncertainties of action could be forgotten altogether; talk could then begin about “making the future” and “building and improving society” as though one were talking about making chairs and building and improving houses’ (Arendt 2005, p58). Arendt died in 1975, and while her work was unfinished her analysis of the 20th century had tackled head on the breakdown in human relationships in Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia, where notions of managed irreversibility where addressed (Arendt 2009): ‘she thought that a person who goes astray, who trespasses, differed from one who knowingly commits “offences” …’ (Young-Bruehl 2006, p98). In a post-war world, Arendt also recognised that humans had not only rendered ‘othered’ humans disposable through the concentration camps but also developed weapons that threatened the earth itself, where in nuclear weapons ‘we had introduced into the field of human action an entirely new element of incalculability and uncertainty: an element that having once entered the world gained permanency within it’ (Nixon 2015, p46). Such analysis enabled her to ask questions about ‘evil’ where she contended: ‘that men are unable to forgive what they cannot punish and that they are unable to punish what has turned out to be unforgiveable’ (Arendt 1958, p241). What she is talking about is how, ‘in granting pardon, it is the person and not the crime that is forgiven; in rootless evil there is no person left whom one could ever forgive’ (Arendt 2003,


The politics of public education

p95). Hence in her work on the Holocaust, Young-Bruehl (2006, pp108–9) makes the following points: In Arendt’s view, forgiveness for Eichmann was not a possibility, and no reflection on how incommensurate any punishment would be to his crime should have kept the court in Jerusalem from the demonstrations that she thought it had rightly made by sentencing Eichmann to death: namely, a demonstration … that Eichmann, by carrying out a state policy of mass murder aimed at eliminating the Jewish people and others from the earth, deserved that no member of the human race would want to share the earth with him. By phrasing the court’s message in these terms, Arendt made it clear that she thought that Eichmann, a new form of criminal acting as the agent of a criminal state, by carrying out this new form of crime against humanity, had violated the whole order of the international community … It seems that some damage is so extreme that it is ‘permanent and irrevocable’ (Bowring 2011 p224), and so mass murder in camps or in nuclear war means that forgiveness cannot happen as there is no one left to forgive. Even if some do survive, the crimes against humanity are actually beyond humanity: ‘all we know is that we can neither punish nor forgive such offenses and that they therefore transcend the realm of human affairs and the potentialities of human power, both of which they radically destroy wherever they make their appearance’ (Arendt 1958, p241).

The possibilities of thinking with forgiveness The potential of thinking about forgiving raises some important questions regarding educational services, and here I would like to focus on the question: is it possible to forgive those who promote, practise and benefit from privatism in the reform of public education services? The deployment of the EPKP enables recognition of how statepromoted privatised contractualism and calculation: ‘proceeds as if it already knows the answer to policy problems’ (Connell 2013a, p6, original emphasis). So those working in public services are in receipt of neoliberal and neoconservative ideas that authorise inaction, and have to evidence practices that have been codified in particular ways. For example, neoliberalism means that: ‘individual workers are treated as firms, expected to follow a profit-making logic; and are held



accountable to the organisation in these terms, through “performance management” schemes’ (Connell et al 2009, p334, emphasis in original). Thus the answer to the problem of public services is always the private as an innovative modernisation project: first, private as ownership, believing and belonging, where earned income (and accumulated assets such as property) should be maximised and in-common services should be defined as narrowly as possible so public taxation is minimised; second, privacy or being free from the gaze and consideration of others in regard to decisions, processes and outcomes; third, privation as the sense of being deprived of the freedom to be private and have privacy, where privative conditions equate to absent entitlements. Such privatism is being used to promote a liberation narrative, and so frame attacks on the ideas, realities and progress of the in-common commons, and to justify privatisation or return to private control and ownership of accrued public assets, services and decision making. Historically, as already noted, neoliberal ideas and their impact are located in the work of Hayek (1944) and Friedman (2002), their networks (Hayek and the Mont Pèlerin Society; Friedman and the Chicago School; see Dean 2014) including welfare settlement breaking politicians (for example, Pinochet in Chile; Reagan in the US; Thatcher in the UK; see Connell 2013b) engaged in proactive policy design and enactment: ‘neoliberalism was born of crisis during the 1930s and 1940s, readied itself for the crisis through which it came to prominence as a public political force at the end of the 1970s, and has flexibly mutated and adapted through each subsequent crisis’ (Dean 2014, p157). In this sense, neoliberal ideas of freedom from state interference and freedom to engage in economised contractual exchange relationships are the product and beneficiary of what Dean identifies as neoliberalism’s own militancy: ‘that draws its strength and gains its frontal character from that which it opposes’ (p151). Neoliberals clearly oppose public ownership because ‘public enterprises are inefficient because they address the objectives of politicians rather than maximize efficiency’ (Boycko et al 1996, p309). This is a consistent message through waves of codification (for example, Chubb and Moe 1990; West 1994; Bobbitt 2002) and projects (for example, Tooley and Dixon 2003; Tooley and Longfield 2015), where ‘privatisation works because it controls political discretion’ (Boycko et al 1996, p318), particularly how politicians spend other people’s money on a public sector ‘privileged’ labour force. The impact is evident in the evidence examined so far, and can be summarised as follows:


The politics of public education

Issues: relocation of public matters and service provision as the concern of public bureaucracies and professionals to private agendas of individuals, families, and faith and business organisations. Choice operates at the level of whether a concern is recognised as an issue or not; this is subject to pragmatic notions of what matters, often structured through networked morality regimes such as faith communities where there is an emphasis on ‘strictness’ (Griffiths 2016). This is a form of ‘depoliticisation’ (Wood and Flinders 2014) evident in a range of strategies regarding educational services, such as the growth in home schooling (Ball 2017). The complexities are developed through what Mahony et al (2004, p277) call the ‘privatization of policy’, where privatising ideas and businesses are actively involved at national level as a form of ‘consultocracy’ (Hood and Jackson 1991) through evaluations, advice and in delivery (Gunter and Mills 2017); and internationally through the European Union (Souto-Otero 2015), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Ryan 2016) and the World Bank (Klees et al 2012) Interests: increased prominence of private interests over professional experts through the individualisation of need identification and satisfaction. Private interests determine the private–public borderline for issue recognition and resolution, where choice enables the demand side of exchange relationships to be dominant. Networked connections carry, promote and deliver activities into contextualised reality, where flows of ideas, languages and identities have been globalised (Ball and Junemann 2012; Spring 2012; Olmedo 2014; Reckhow and Snyder 2014). The shift in the state from provider to commissioner and regulator, combined with austerity, tax cuts and incentives to enter the market, promotes provision and choice by elite private interests (faith groups, companies, entrepreneurs). Notably philanthropists and charitable foundations ‘gift’ education to the world through their largesse and personalised named contributions (Saltman 2010). Structures: the redesign of the ‘system’ into small businesses with coordination through ‘chains’ and ‘trusts’ means that schools within the public system become more business-like in their purposes and organisational/delivery effectiveness, and schools set up outside of the public system increase competition. This includes charter schools in the US (see Bulkley and Filser 2003; Robertson 2015), academies and other school types in England (see Courtney 2015), and free schools in Sweden (see Allen 2010), and can take place in through experimentation over time (West and Bailey 2013) and as a result of



major interventions (for example, in post-Katrina New Orleans; see Buras 2015; Jabbar 2015). Democratic oversight has been removed, where in England governing bodies have shifted from participatory systems (for example, parent, teacher, political representatives) to executive boards (with a trend towards business and corporate membership) (see Wilkins 2016). One emerging outcome of this is cases of corporate sponsors who generate profit by supplying goods and services to a school ‘at cost’ (Gunter 2011). Funding: a shift from taxpayer investment to state subsidy of services (which must be reduced), where the prime focus is on private/family resources through gifting, fees or co-payment, with reports of schools in deficit writing to parents to ask for donations (see Coughlan 2017a, 2017b) and corporate investment for profit and not for profit (but with profitable businesses interconnected with a service; see Higham 2017; Staufenberg 2017a). The role of professionals is to identify, access and sustain income streams for the school through fees, vouchers/subsidies and gifts, with increasing reports of direct requests to parents to make payments to make up the shortfall in public funding and/or through crowdsourcing for particular learning resources. The entry of global companies into education services, enabled through their accessing of public funds, is being charted (for example, Tomlinson 2005; Ball 2007, 2012; Ball and Youdell 2008; West and Bailey 2013), where there has been an in-depth focus on Pearson (Junemann and Ball 2015; Hogan et al 2016), Edison Learning in the US and England (Pring 2013), and Knuskapsskolan in Sweden (see Pring 2013), and national schemes such as public–private partnerships (see Crump and Slee 2005). Tracking and exposing ideas, practices and policies remains a feature of social science primary research, where what Shamir (2008) characterises as the complexities and contradictions are exposed and examined, and where Apple (2001) examines tactical alliances that are forged between neoliberalism and important belief systems such as neoconservatism. What is significant about research is the charting of what might be considered as the unremarkable or even hidden changes for and within public services (Burch 2009; Venugopal 2015). By naming and examining what is labelled neoliberalism, there is a tendency to give substance to what are in effect powerful and yet constructed ‘fantasies’ (Wright 2012) and to assume a hegemonic settlement. Researchers argue for a move away from the ‘phantom’ of neoliberalism towards examining the relationship between standpoints, ideas and practices (Jessop 2014). In doing this there is emerging and robust evidence of


The politics of public education

hegemonic tendencies in regard to radical changes to dispositions, activities and practices that set out to impact on all aspects of life (see Connell et al 2009; Fraser 2014) but are not yet secure or complete (Hall 2011), and this is consistent with the meta-analysis of neoliberalism as both provoking and feeding off catastrophe (Dean 2014). What are the consequences? Reseachers (for example, Mortimore 2013; Pring 2013), investigative journalists (for example, Davies 2000; Beckett 2007); professionals (for example, Winkley 2002; Brighouse 2016) and narratives from system participants (for example, Bangs et al 2011; Benn 2011; Turner 2015) in England and internationally (see Saltman 2012; Angus 2015) have identified major problems unfolding. For example, educational services are now a major site of capital accumulation, with reports of corporate profit making at the expense of the public purse (for example, Beckett 2007; Castro-Hidalgo and Gómez-Álvarez 2016; Higham 2017). Mortimore (2013, p233) reports on Wilby’s analysis that private provision does not always mean productive outcomes, where Wilby argues ‘we should not expect profit-making companies to behave anymore virtuously when they take charge in schools’. Indeed, the claims regarding the potency of parental choice are nonsensical as ‘choice’ of pupils is located with schools, or rather with chief executives (Wilby 2016). The research landscape regarding pupil outcomes is not clear, but there is a lot of evidence that so called ‘improved’ and ‘effective’ autonomous schools are not achieving the outcomes that it was claimed they would produce (Gunter 2011; Wrigley 2012), and if they do they are not causally linked to restructuring (for example, improvements to student outcomes after academisation in England have been identified as not linked to an ‘academy effect’, see PricewaterhouseCoopers 2008). Such outcomes are not always open to full democratic scrutiny, and professional voices have been scripted through corporatised agendas and practices (Gunter 1997, 2016; Thomson 2000), where people just leave (Butt and Gunter 2007) or are required to leave (Courtney and Gunter 2015). The net effect is summed up in the view that the shift in the public–private border has gone too far, where ‘strengthening over time the private regulation and management of public institutions’ the outcome is the subversion of ‘the practice of public democratic accountability of the public sphere’ (Ranson 2003, p468). Can those who are doing this be forgiven? A review of research outputs and opinion pieces demonstrates that there is a lot of concern and anger that important principles, practices and dispositions (as well as professional expertise) has been ridiculed and lost, and that important evidence that demonstrates the success of common education



is variously ignored, sidelined and scorned. The arguments for the uncommon provision of educational services are premised on both a denial of the public realm and the political processes necessary to enable people to present the self to others (Hartley 2012). In Arendtian terms a person as consumer does not set out to understand, but only to satiate needs, and while those needs may not be met, a consumer cannot forgive someone who sets up and then closes a school if there is no one ‘in common’ to forgive or to seek forgiveness from, and nothing to be forgiven for because choices are knowingly risky. What Macpherson calls ‘possessive individualism’ is historically embedded, whereby the individual is ‘an owner of himself ’ and so ‘is free inasmuch as he is proprietor of his person and capacities’, and so: ‘political society becomes a calculated device for the protection of this property and for the maintenance of an orderly relation of exchange’ (Macpherson 2011, p3). Such an individual does not require any understanding of the standpoint of others, rather the individual sets out to secure contractual agreements on product delivery (backed up by the legal and security systems), and so is incentivised to seek out hierarchically controlled outcomes so that as a winner, others are labelled as losers (and to deflect claims from the self as loser). Those who argue for this form of self-regarding freedom are disposed to create the very conditions that require forgiveness, but are unable to recognise a need to be ready to be forgiven. Indeed, it could be argued that the real damage has been done by the commons agenda, that is, by building and settling public education as the norm, where ‘I’ am forced to depend on strangers. So perhaps the real question I should be asking is: is it possible to forgive the collectivised elision of private interests, needs and provision caused by the nationalisation of education services? MacLean (2017) reports about such matters in the US by addressing the question: who will care for children and the old? And the answer from the right wing is: ‘You will’. She goes on to report the contention that: ‘And if you can’t, you should have thought of that before you had kids or before you grew old without adequate savings’ (2017, p221, original emphasis). Indeed, key texts have argued that such ideas and agendas are a direct response to the totalitarianism of the 20th century, not least the ‘freedom-destroying’ forces of socialist regimes (see Hayek 1944). While Arendt’s (2005) analysis is also a response to such forces, she would see the argument as one categorisation strategy seeking to outflank another through the denial of common humanity. Following Arendt (2009), what needs to be publicly demonstrated is how the criminalisation of the private (like Nazism, Stalinism and other


The politics of public education

totalising yet irrational regimes of truth and activities) uses catastrophe to dispose of children and families. It is to this that I now turn.

Thinking politically with forgiving Following Dean (2014) what I have identified so far is a form of militant opposition to a commons agenda for public services education: Education policy in England becomes ever more extreme: no other country in the world subjects its pupils to such an extensive battery of national tests. Government policy on testing, as enacted by both Conservative, New Labour and now Coalition administrations, has resulted in teaching to the test; a narrowing of the curriculum; teachers being forced, often against their wishes and values, to adopt methods of transmitting information to pupils in order to ‘cover’ overfull curricula; and a serious neglect of those pupils who are unlikely to meet the official target of five ‘good’ GCSEs. The Coalition Government is also tightening the straitjacket by introducing more stringent criteria by which schools are to be judged. For example, the minimum percentage of passes at GCSE that the Government considers acceptable is being increased form 30 per cent to 35 per cent in 2010–11, to 40 per cent in 2011–12, and to over 50 per cent by 2015. This will enlarge the number of ‘failing’ schools which can then be privatised. (Coffield and Williamson 2012, p47) Education policy in England is designed to retain and strengthen segregation through forms of biopolitical distinctiveness. What children and families and education professionals have been offered is the chance to possibly secure, but more likely to parody, hierarchical distinctiveness and triumphalism: ‘I am better than you because …’. In Connell’s terms: ‘what is sold, then, is a privilege – something that other people cannot get, that is no longer common property’ (2013a, p3). So while the commons agenda recognises singularity, what privatism has done is to translate individual dispositions and abilities into branded forms of services with differential investment and status in the market. While such change to the legitimacy and gains of the commons does take time, the message is relentless because ‘people must be made to see anything that is public as ‘bad’ and anything that is private as ‘good’ (Apple 2005 p384). So children and parents can ‘choose’ home schooling as



the most radical form of segregated ‘cocooning’ (Apple 2000, p269), while those who ‘choose’ in the performing schools market (Gleeson and Husbands 2001) are provided with performance data that enables ‘cream-skimming’ of particular children (with the right test results, or the right faith, or the right genitals, or the right skin colour) – attracting the right children (and staff) to obtain the right outcomes. This ‘neo-isation’ of educational services is defendable through ‘the use of moral and biological logics to “explain” widespread inequalities’ (Apple 1998, p3), where discourses of dependence, fecklessness and inadequacy result in poor choices. Parents need security regarding the ‘sorts’ of children their own child will be learning with (Saltman and Gabbard 2011), where risk is located in taking on the responsibilities that previously belonged to the state, and through forms of energised agency the individual calculates and takes on board prudent forms of insurance against loss in the market place (Shamir 2008; Peters 2017). It seems as Starr (1988, p10) argues that ‘a confidence that pursuit of private gain serves the larger social order leads to approval for both self-interested behavior and private enterprise’. Furthermore, when markets and segregation are underpinned by beliefs in, or at least an acceptance of eugenics as the rationale for why some people’s ‘talented’ children are more deserving, then, as unpalatable as it may be, some children and families are rendered wilfully disposable. While segregation and exclusionary practices pre-date contemporary neoliberal/conservative reforms, such practices have been extended and intensified through ordinary notions of the commons as purposefully and inevitably stratified (for example, Jabbar 2015; Kulz 2017b). Socioeconomic segregation is evident (for example, Wilkinson and Pickett 2009) with 30% of children in the UK living in poverty (Butler 2017) and with increased mental health problems (The Children’s Society 2017), and where ‘the more economic inequality, the unhealthier a country’s people are on average’ (Joseph 2017, pxix). Children self-segregate as they know where they and others are in the internal and external grading systems, and so are experiencing forms of intensified success or failure in regard to the workings of the market (not being chosen for a school of their choice) leading to more segregation, where there is mounting data and analysis about the damage that is being done (for example, Ranson 2012; Åstrand 2016). Worldwide, children are on the street as daily truants, or actually live on the street (estimated at up to 150 million street children by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, 2018). Supply and demand for educational services is raced, classed and gendered (for example, Tomlinson 2005; Weekes-Bernard 2007;


The politics of public education

Mansell 2011; Scott 2011; Shain 2011; Saltman 2012; Fabricant and Fine 2013; Robertson 2015; Adamson and Darling-Hammond 2016; Keddie 2016; Ryan 2016), where Peters and Marshall identify ‘the way assumptions of homo economicus covertly screen out different cultural and gender values’ (1996, p195, original emphasis). It is the low-key ways in which segregation works that require especial attention, where Weale (2017b) reports how 16 students at St Olave’s grammar school in England have been excluded and cannot complete their A-level programme (necessary for access to university) because ‘they failed to get the required three Bs’ in the AS examinations. Using the predictive capacities of these grades, the students may damage the school’s datadriven reputation: ‘on its website it boasts that this year’s A-level students achieved 96% A*/B grades; 75% of all grades were at A*/A, three percentage points up on last year, and 32 students gained straight A* grades in at least 3 subjects’. This did not remain low key; one parent ‘accused the school of dumping his son like “old garbage”’ (see Weale 2017b, np). Publicity on such cases is leading some grammar schools to back down (or perhaps pause) and review their admissions policies (Marsh et al 2017). What is emerging into the public domain is what is called ‘off-rolling’, where children, particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities, are ‘informally’ taken off the roll so that school performance is not adversely affected by examination underperformance (Savage 2017). Such legal cases help to repoliticise education, but it is forensic research that puts such events into a wider context of normalised contractual relational exchanges regarding what is offered to and taken from children. Kulz’s (2017b) study of Dreamfields Academy in London uses ethnographic narratives to illuminate the intersectionality of race and class in the professionalised missionary work of communicating approved of dispositions and practices in assembly and lessons, and by school leaders to the staff. Attainment is disconnected from the context that structures identities and experiences: ‘racism and class bias are obscured and subsumed beneath neoliberalism’s focus on individual achievement and future successes’ (2017b, p169). Saltman (2011, p6) enables this to be understood through how he identifies ‘the insidiousness of the TINA thesis’, where there is no alternative, only the need to deliver permitted outcomes: ‘the goal being the eradication of anything and anyone that calls the present order into question’. Children and staff at Dreamfields Academy are not allowed to talk about race issues that visibly impact on teaching and learning:



to mention racism is to risk being branded a racist; this problematic elision creates silences. These structuring structures have become unspeakable and there is a distinct lack of vocabulary to name inequalities that are now reframed as individualised problems. Teachers are left to solitarily grapple with how to modulate their practice and interpret the myriad black boys sitting outside teacher offices… When something does not quite feel right, most teachers and students are uncomfortable articulating their concerns and struggle to discuss them. Students, parents and teachers are meant to be happy, colour-blind subjects as difficult pasts have been transcended; to remind anyone of their persistence is to become a killjoy. (Kulz 2017b, p169–70) Modernised agency necessary for the job-ready pupil is based on notions of individual owning their skills that are invested and consumed in the competitive market, where, in Brown and Tannock’s terms, children and parents are located in ‘the global war for talent’ (2009, p377). The reworking of equity in regard to doing your best for your child has been powerful but also complex (see Rizvi 2013). Numerous sites can be identified for where this is happening, in the home, in the supermarket queue, and at a school opening evening (and as the St Olave case illustrates, see above, the ‘war’ can be vicious). What links all of them are notions of privatism glossed by the positive notion of personalisation, where the professional and parent and child move beyond matters of preference and choice towards what Hartley (2012, p107) identifies as forms of consumerised co-production that he called ‘prosumption’, where relationalities, exchanges, dispositions are structured in ways that connect the individual into reproductive collaborations. Consequently humans subsume themselves into their own and other’s potential disposability, on the basis that the risk is worth it, particularly since as the advertising industry codifies, it’s ‘because you’re worth it’. Such trends are taking place in public. When did the education of other people’s children become nobody’s business? It seems that what we are witnessing and experiencing is what Arendt (2005) metaphorically calls ‘the spread of the desert’ where we cannot take action, we are no longer plural with the opportunities that natality affords, and we are unable to judge, promise or forgive. So ‘the danger lies in becoming true inhabitants of the desert and feeling at home in it’ (p202), where totalitarian regimes enable desert living to be safe and


The politics of public education

secure, and where modern psychology makes sure that ‘we suffer less’ because it we learn or are medicated into ‘adjusting human life to the desert’ (p202). Oases are drying up because we are losing the capacity to enter and create a public realm, and if we seek to leave the desert it is on the basis of escapism rather than to present the self in order to understand the world and to take action. This leads me to ask a key question: can those who secure the disposability of children be forgiven? This is not an easy matter. Certainly ‘in Arendt’s view one does not forgive a deed at all, but the doer of a deed, a person’ (Young-Bruehl 2006, p97), and so it is incumbent on us all to consider those in the public eye and those who are working behind closed doors who may need to be forgiven and to seek forgiveness. Switching forgiveness off and on is not really possible: ‘since we cannot stop acting as long as we live, we must never stop forgiving either’ (Arendt 2005, p57), particularly as Arendtian scholars are very clear that we cannot really move on unless we do forgive (Canovan 1995; Orlie 1995): ‘a person always has the power to forgive, acting in relationship with the one forgiven; such potentiality cannot be radically destroyed unless – through violence – every last person is destroyed’ (Young-Bruehl 2006, p122, original emphasis). I have developed a standpoint about the impact and outcomes of the ‘neo-isation’ of everyday life through thinking politically where I am open to forgiving but I find myself unable to forgive those who have designed and delivered the disposable child. We need to think and act politically in the public realm about whether eugenics and segregation is a crime against humanity. The challenges involved are huge because the denial of all children as educable is not recognised by those who live with and for such ideas and practices, and so they do not see themselves as in need of forgiveness and so there is nothing to forgive. Naming the situation is enabling but the implications could be considered to be deeply depressing. However, the fact that research is making this public suggests that betweenness may not yet be fully closed. I intend examining such possibilities in more detail in the next and final chapter.

Summary For Arendt (1958) forgiving is integral to the public realm, because action is risky (and so promises are needed) and demands consideration and evaluation (and so responsibility and judgement are needed), but spontaneity means we may do or say something that requires redress. So a person needs to be ready to forgive and to be forgiven as the means



of enabling plurality and natality to operate as the conditions necessary for politics ‘between’ people. The deployment of the EPKP shows how knowledge production is taking place that constructs and legitimises privatism or how the public is an irrelevance (and possibly dangerous) to educational issues, structures, interests and funding. The case is made that the common commons denies liberty because freedom is a property that is owned by the individual and it should not be yielded except through trade deals that secure advantage. It is through this legitimising of the ‘uncommon’ that biopolitical distinctiveness can be seen symbolically in public (accent, deportment, and the school uniform for the child and the ‘old school tie’ for the parent), and for this to operate there is a need to render other children as expendable. Depoliticisation may be generating an effervescent fizz in particular media outlets about aspiration and social mobility, but it is not renewing the public domain as a site for plurality and natality. Put simply, there are children who cannot access and are actively prevented from accessing privatised advantage, and so residual services and charity provide the basics that enable segregated survival. The normality of the advantaged isolated life means that Arendtian analysis is irrelevant because there is no one to forgive and no one ready to be forgiven. It seems that the conditions for totalitarianism are in evidence but, as I examine in chapter eight the dangers are avoidable and there are alternatives. The ghettoisation of ideas, experiences and lives is not yet complete, where there are standpoints generated within the public realm that recognise, evidence and name those who seek and enact the proactive disposability of children.



Thinking politically again: the conditions for public education

Introduction The research reported in this book has been prompted by Arendt’s (1958, p5) call to do ‘nothing more than to think about what we are doing’. In doing so I have used her thinking to help to think about the catastrophe that is unfolding in plain sight in public services education and the wider political culture in which it is located. The investigation into education policy reveals what Fraser (2004, p254), quoted in chapter one, identifies as the ‘new modes of negating the human’ through the disposability of children and the professionals committed to educating them. The trenchancy of eugenics within a lucrative elite restoration project underpins this refusal of a common humanity, or ‘the active conditions that nourish oblivion on the part of those who benefit and the radical enclaving of those who do not’ (Curtis 1999, p3). The argument has been made and evidenced that the segregation of children on the basis of their ‘inherited talents’, means that wealth, biology and capabilities, race and/or faith are power structures that create social and political voids for those who ‘profit’, while the ‘others’ who are ‘othered’ have to accept their lot based on having a basic education that ‘meets their needs’. It seems that: ‘such are the conditions in which human beings are made superfluous’ (Curtis 1999, p3). In examining knowledge production regarding the dynamics of the state, people, practices, ideologies and networks, I have used Arendtian scholarship to think about and present a standpoint regarding biopolitical distinctiveness, where authorised inaction disciplines the body, where colonisation denies plurality for all and personalisation equates natality with the few. Contractualism regulates exchange relationships, where promising is reduced to consumption, and where fabricated responsibility and judging are enabled through calculation. Public services common education in England (and internationally, see Adamson et al 2016) is now a shatter zone where militant neoliberalism and neoconservativism have set out to infiltrate and ultimately destroy


The politics of public education

the vital idea that all children learn together in their local common school. Privatism underpins reforms that are about self-profit through winning a good school place and making strategic support alliances (including with those who will not gain) in order to legitimise and sustain the importance of superiority (I win!). Such privatism means the public realm becomes a desert and so there is no one to forgive. I begin this final chapter by summarising what is unfolding and testing it against the conditions for totalitarianism that Arendt (2009) identifies. I note the trends in the crystallisation of those conditions, and the dangers that are evident in the death of political thinking, talking and action. A study of public services education is a site where this can be recognised, but it is also where politics is in evidence in regard to both resistance and the resilience of a commons approach.

Public services education as a case for concern Let me begin with a quotation: we certainly need a more focused determination that all children, and most especially these children, should have equality of access to high-grade education at all levels. (Winkley 2002, p255, original emphasis) As a headteacher Winkley (2002) is concerned with how a universal service with targeted investment for inclusion is created and secured. In other words, recognition of and access to schooling is related to the conditions that children are born into and in which they grow up, where he argues that we should not tidy away the ‘unfortunate’ and the ‘unbelievers’ but instead we should use our resources to realise the educability of all children. What Winkley is provoking us to think about is education as the commons, for the commons and achieved ‘in common’, and in doing so he is speaking about how we have common knowledges (chapter two), purposes (chapter three), education (chapter four), provision (chapter five), powers (chapter six), and commons (chapter seven). Following Monbiot (2017) the commons are people, resources and systems, where we hold land, knowledge and assets in common, and we develop rules for making decisions and for agreeing how we might allocate gains from our common endeavours: ‘a true commons is managed not for the accumulation of capital or profit but for the steady production of prosperity or wellbeing’ (2017, np). This is what Ostrom (2015) identifies as how people engage in ‘self-organizing’ and ‘self-governing’ thinking and action, where in


Thinking politically again

Arendtian terms we enter the public realm to learn about and develop standpoints, and to persuade and be persuaded. This is different from the ‘self-management’ required to match with uniform state one-sizefits-all provision or the ‘self-promotion’ required to win in a school/ education-product market, and where, as Ostrom (2015) argues, such binary thinking and policy development is integral to the problem. ‘Seeing like a state’ (Scott 1998) or seeing like an entrepreneur (Bobbitt 2002) may mean that we don’t see that the educational potential of all children is a common resource, and how over the centuries people have organised and constructed institutions for and about common resources differently – for common access and shared gains. However, the actuality and potential of the commons is so powerful that the ideas and factual realities have to be discredited and dismantled for elites to protect their interests. There are currently two interconnected ways in which this is happening: first, the propaganda of ‘the tragedy of the commons’ is endemic, where ‘the free-rider problem’ is used to show that people take advantage by taking rather than contributing, and so human nature means that common approaches will inevitably fail (Ostrom 2015, p6); second, the wealth gap is premised on the commons being dispossessed of their resources and assets, and so, just as people who could not afford to rent or own the land were evicted from the common land at the time of the agrarian revolution in 18thcentury England, their descendants are now being removed from the commons in schools and universities. With elites in control of the state, the economy and major organisations in civil society (for example, faith organisations), this means that public education services may be funded by ‘the public’ but are being taken from their publics, prevented from developing within communities, and are rendered uncommon through modernised supply and demand processes. The trends that primary research data and analysis are identifying are problematic for the conditions that sustain public services common education. The idea of the high-quality local school for all children has never been fully realised in England, but we have come close to it and that is the problem. Public services common education has been too successful. At the same time, major trends such as climate change, population movements, creation of low-wage globalised economies, terror and security, and digitisation, all impact and are crossing borders where ‘politically no one was prepared for them’ (Geiselberger 2017, pxiii). It seems that the conditions in which public services education is being attacked, dismantled and replaced is part of a wider governing by depoliticisation strategy, where the grand challenges of our time are confronting and threatening the very democracy that is vital to


The politics of public education

public services. Indeed democratic ideals, cultures, institutions and practices are in danger, and this is more than the overload identified in the 1970s (King 1976) but is a visceral attack on the conditions and realities of democratic aspirations and demands. It is to these trends that I now turn.

Totalitarian tendencies Depoliticisation through the relocation of decision making into elitecontrolled and mimicked ‘privatised’ arenas (agencies, businesses, networks, homes) is intensifying and extending isolation in ways that are putting democratic development in jeopardy. Segregation is legitimised through forms of normalised categorisation that rework and sanitise bodies, and that make discrimination ordinarily acceptable as necessary distinctiveness. The biopolitics underpinning access to schools and the organisation of children conflates the state with violence towards differentiated humans: those who need to learn to labour and those who can take action (see Duarte 2007). This is historically embedded through empire and imperialism, and in a postcolonial world such assumptions have been rehomed into the everyday learning of knowing my place. People read, hear and connect with common-sense ways of labelling and evaluating humans. For example, the former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, spoke to the Conservative Party Conference in 2012, where in justifying austerity he stated: Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits? (Osborne 2012, np) The power of this myth is located in the strategy of juxtaposing the commons with the self, and how the depoliticised individual is enabled to emote and potentially to resent their fellow humans. In the UK, the language used to legitimise such division encapsulates the ‘strivers and skivers, or the deserving and undeserving poor’ (Mendoza 2016, p86), and in the US ‘society can be split between makers and takers’ or ‘the “moocher class”’ or ‘the “parasite economy” that divides us into “the predators and the prey”’ (MacLean 2017, p211). In Mason’s (2017a, p89) terms, what we are witnessing is ‘the collapse of a narrative’, a story that we tell about the self and others about dignity in the community and at work. So the local common


Thinking politically again

school cannot work as it is predicated on the collective ownership of education, the shared humanity of children and their educability that is independent of private parental resources and conduct. Indeed, the common school cannot be allowed to be successful because any demonstration that it works would breach the proactively created and policed borders in neighbourhoods, imaginations and practices. For example, in 2013 UK civil society witnessed the ‘Go Home’ campaign, where vans drove around parts of London displaying an advertisement warning of the consequences of overstaying your visa and for citizens to report such offenders. People on the high street were expected to learn how they or their neighbours were breaking the law, and how not reporting such an offence is a dereliction of civic duty. Alternative ways of thinking and taking action about this issue were not offered, and so in Arendtian terms, people were learning to be thoughtless. Indeed, Biesta (2016, p190) suggests that: ‘Eichmann had become immune … [to] the experience of “being taught”’. This is important because teaching is a process for engaging in the public realm as distinct from learning how to fit into a pre-designed category. Arendt helps us to think about the perils of such trends through outlining ideology, total terror, the destruction of human bonds, and bureaucracy as the conditions for totalitarianism. For Arendt (1994, pp349–50) ‘ideologies are systems of explanation of life and world that claim to explain everything, past and future, without further concurrence with actual experience’. Such ideologies are codified and may well be named (for example, ‘Conservatism’, ‘Marxism’, ‘Christianity’), and what they all share is a predictive prefiguration of a situation that is separate from that situation. So we know who people are, what they believe and do through classifications that sort and re-sort. This is a form of ‘organized lying’ (Arendt 1972) that transcends time and is mediated within context. What is therefore enabled and sustained is a ‘fictitious world’ (Arendt 2009, pp417–18) of entitlements, practices and attitudes, where the accumulation of power is historically rooted and assumed to be without end. Consequently, a complexity of medieval superstitions combined with ‘humbug scientism’ (Arendt 1994, p339) is being used to structure narratives about a better world for ‘decent people’ and their ‘talented children’. There are big lies being told (Gorski and Zenkov 2014), where the sorting of children according to bodily classification (genitals and a range of cognitive and physical dis/abilities) have become unquestionable facts, and where actual facts, based on independent primary research, are traduced as biased and the product of researchers who are working against the interests of parents and taxpayers. These are examples of what Arendt


The politics of public education

(2009, p351) names as ‘traditionally accepted mysteries’ that can have ‘a hypnotic effect’ (Arendt 1970, p8). Arendt was speaking about what is now examined as ‘reactionary populism’ (Fraser 2017, p46), whereby social, economic and political elites have deployed powerful narratives that are repressive and regressive but have captured support beyond those elite networks. It seems that: ‘the leaders hate democracy because it is an obstacle to their monomaniacal pursuit of power. The followers are victims of democracy fatigue who see electoral politics as the best way to exit democracy itself ’ (Appadurai 2017, p8). There are two main trends regarding the impact of this elite privatism on knowledge production: first, ‘I am afraid’ – generating forms of actively passive consent ‘by enabling the experience of precarity and individualised impotence to be experienced as normal and inevitable’ (Gilbert 2016, p21); and, second, ‘I don’t know’ – through the ‘celebration of ignorance’ (Nichols 2017, p218), where in the US ‘we’re proud of not knowing things – we Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue’ (Nichols 2017, px, original emphasis). Total terror feeds, and feeds off, such fears and espoused stupidity in the shift from tyranny to totalitarianism. Whereas tyranny is about the removal of ‘enemies’, there is something more dramatic about dominating the ‘innocent’ through total terror. Terror-induced collaboration is no guarantee of survival, where those who lose their jobs or their chance of a good school place may be ‘objectively innocent’ but ‘they are chosen regardless of what they may or may not have done’ (Arendt 2009, p6). The expansion of the ‘gig economy’ or ‘zero hours contracts’ are the means by which the idea of a career with a salary and rights is made obsolete, and where collective memories of working lives actually disappear. Furthermore, the idea that parents should not want to choose, or children should not want to fail a lifechanging examination at 11, or that numbers do not speak the truth, is ludicrous. Strategies are varied but there are at least two that have been shown to be effective. One is the use of rupture production, where crises and solutions are ‘manufactured’ and ‘vital’. This is what MacLean (2017, p224) identifies happened in Chile: ‘sudden percussive policy bombing, akin in nature, one could say, to the military doctrine of shock and awe, which uses colossal displays of force and calculated interlinked maneuvers to shock the enemy into submission’. Consequently education policy has legitimated the ‘bombing’ of the common school (and community) with judgements of failure, where the spectacle of


Thinking politically again

humiliation matters. Media headlines display ‘the worst school in England’ in order to ready the rescue and replacement narratives of investment and consumer-friendly (and often repentant) professionals. Stealth is a second and connected approach used to normalise total terror, where the solutions for the crises in public services education are ‘value-factured’ over time so that the individual’s choice is the causal reason for success and failure. So an unpopular agenda is enabled to thrive: ‘terror is needed in order to make the world consistent and keep it that way; to dominate human beings to the point where they lose, with their spontaneity, the specifically human unpredictability of thought and action’ (Arendt 1994, p350). It is not in the interests of the majority of people in England to support forms of segregation based on eugenics, but there does not seem to be massive opposition to the logic or realities of discrimination. To use the vernacular – it is what it is and we have to get on with it. Gilbert (2016) argues that people may witness or experience the inhumanity of segregation (and the damage it does to their family and to education), but may not oppose because: as long as feeding one’s children (still the principal preoccupation of most adult humans, as it has been throughout history and before) remains an achievable but difficult task, then energies are likely to be devoted to the accomplishment of that goal: energies which cannot then be channelled into political activity of any kind. (Gilbert 2016, p20) Curtis (2016, p103) has brought additional insights and argues that ‘people carry on regardless’ as a form of ‘idiotism’ (p105), where ‘idios’ is not the pejorative use of ‘idiot’ but is concerned with ‘that which is distinct and separate, to a realm that is separated or closed off’ (p105). The world is a private one, and so when there is a crisis then the home is where the heart is: ‘in the age of idiotism with its privileging of private enclosure, personal experiences and intimate desire, the need to sure up one’s world at the expense of others seems even more “natural”’ (pp107–8). Indeed, Mason (2017a, p98) asks us to think about how we may be predisposed to hide in the private, where he refers to Fromm’s analysis about the rise of fascism in Germany: ‘an authoritarian mindset among the German petit bourgeoisie and some workers made them react to their own powerlessness through the “desire to be dominated”’.


The politics of public education

It seems that we are losing our ‘publicness’ where, in the imitation of approved of identities, the private has been conflated with the public (Sennett 2002). Consequently, ‘how I am feeling’ matters more than encountering the unknown and respecting stranger standpoints, and this is what Sennett (2002, p337) calls ‘intimate tyrannies’ or ‘the belief that social meanings are generated by the feelings of individual human beings’ (p339). Glimpses of how this operates can be incidental but it is certainly evident in how schools choose children, and so parents are disciplined into knowing how questioning this will be denounced in public as atrocious conduct. Importantly the ultimate security of total terror is premised on the redundancy of indoctrination: ‘systematic lying to the whole world can be safely carried out only under the conditions of totalitarian rule, where the fictitious quality of everyday reality makes propaganda superfluous’ (Arendt 2009, p413). So faith schools, single-sex schools and grammar schools no longer need to espouse that they are the best, they just are. Totalitarianism is a mass movement ‘of atomized, isolated individuals’ (Arendt 2009, p323) with a ‘demand for total, unrestricted, unconditional, and unalterable loyalty of the individual member’ (p323). This is what Arendt (2009) identifies as the destruction of human bonds, or the denial of plurality and natality: ‘by using the permanent threat of betrayal to create an atmosphere of paranoid distrust between family members, colleagues and friends, totalitarian regimes sought to destroy all non-political bonds which might have formed a bulwark against the demands of the movement’ (Bowring 2011, p19). Such totalitarian tendencies are revealed in the depoliticisation of supply and demand for the good school place, where entry into the public realm is structured through marketised segregation. Consumer exchanges in the education marketplace communicate who the person is, and here trust does not operate beyond the technologies of the contractual ‘deal’. So what is happening is what Norris (2011, p99) identifies as ‘a “republic” of consumers’ which is: a community of private persons all behaving in a normalized and predetermined fashion without any experience of plurality or sense of their political character. Arid, impersonal, and inhospitable, it is a collection of grasping persons united only by their self-preoccupation, unable to leave behind the self-absorbed self. Faux agency is evident in the relentless seeking of new providers where there is a ‘mob mentality’ (Arendt 2009, p307) of pursuing


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the best deal with and against ‘others’. There is a driven dynamic, where a permanent change imperative is evident in order to prevent settlements and openings for alternatives. Forms of ‘marketised’ deaths (not getting the good school place) means that children are ‘sorted’ through the betrayal of parents’ poor choices where they have to accept a school place that is good for them. This is defendable as good parents are enabled to prosecute and sentence themselves for their failure to achieve superiority, and so act as warning stories for those who are thinking of resisting. Ironically, the fictitious world of the depoliticised private requires forms of organisation to facilitate framing and communication. There are those who are integral to the movement: parents who have children to be educated, those who provide services in the form of schools (trustees, owners, chief executives, principals, teachers, faith leaders, business and HR managers), those who undertake commissioned evaluations that provide evidence of improvement and effectiveness, and those who seek election based on the productive impact of reforms on school output data. What Arendt (2003, p268, original emphasis) identifies as the glamour of ‘the aura of power’ is integral to attracting people to make depoliticisation work to their advantage. While they know this is a fabrication, they ‘can no longer conceive of a life outside the close knit band of men who, even if they are condemned, still feel superior to the rest of the uninitiated world’ (Arendt 2009, p381). A large number of a population are not necessarily a part of this core movement – not everyone is a parent of a child in school. However, totalitarian institutional systems and cultures operate on the basis of including everyone in the movement: the Nazis enabled this through ‘front organisations’ that made the lies confidently true for everyone both prior to and during their occupation of the German state (Arendt 2009). Increasingly the case is being made that there is no need for elections or direct political control nationally or locally (austerity requires democracy to be costed and cut) so faith-based and/ or corporate organisations are the best models for educational services; and liberal democracy is being infiltrated, controlled and replaced (see Lubienski 2014; Anderson and Donchik 2016; Gunter and Mills 2017; Gunter et al 2017a). Front organisations include the National College for School Leadership from 2000 in England (from 2018 renamed the Teaching Regulation Agency) that set out to corporatise the profession as process leaders in order to deliver reforms, and so co-opt the public as sympathisers in the modernisation of supply and demand (see Gunter 2012, 2014). Research is replete with accounts of emerging ‘fronts’ (see Ball 2005; Hatcher 2014) where, as Pring (2013,


The politics of public education

p162) argues, ‘the parents and community have even less knowledge of who is responsible for what’. These four interwoven conditions for the development and evidence of totalitarianism as identified by Arendt (2009) continue to play out in public services education. I am not the first to identify that public professionals are experiencing terror (Ball 2003); what Arendtian scholarship does, however, is to enable the complexities through which depoliticisation is working to be revealed, particularly through how various governing change strategies are in play. Notably, governing by authorised inaction is what is killing politics – people are encouraged and even required to labour and work hard but not to understand how and why they and others are categorised in ways that cannot authentically be challenged. Importantly, Levinson (2002, p200) talks about how Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism shows the ‘profound failure on the part of most people to see themselves as active shapers of a shared world’. Indeed, governing by colonisation and personalisation generates the fictions that limit narrow forms of plurality and natality to being the aspirational property of particular categories, and where the interplay of ideology and total terror channels and sustains the binary of the hope of accessing those categories versus the resignation that you are dispensable. The destruction of human bonds is enabled through governing by contractualism, where trust is only ever technical and never relational. The emotion of winning, belonging and collaborating is not the basis on which promising can be made and should never be confused with humanity. Normalised segregation is furthered through governing by calculation, where responsibility and judgement are disciplined forms of self and other regarding evaluations of those who fit and those who don’t fit. An individual who is alone amidst a controlling but destabilising movement is integral to governing by privatism, where the designers and deliverers of exclusionary borders do not recognise themselves as in need of forgiveness. Totalitarian conditions seem to be, in Arendt’s terms, ‘crystalising’ within the reform of public services because liberal democracy is not only under attack, it is also recent and shallow in its roots. There are moments when these trends are revealed, where, for example, Hasan (2017, p25) has identified the emergence of ‘kakistocracy’ or ‘government by the worst people’. MacLean (2017) argues that this is visible in how austerity enables tax cuts and the redirection of public funds to private profit making in education. It also operates through how elites work to secure the right not to have to fund the rights of others (for example public health, through ensuring clean air and water). Interestingly, the anti-state thinkers and doers in business, faith,


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academia, media and civil society actually use the state to maintain and extend their private interests (see Gunter et al 2017b). The UK and the constitutional status of England are problematic, not only because of the lack of codification, which allows medieval government to continue to operate (for example, the use of Henry VIII powers regarding Brexit), but also how the system of government can change very rapidly as a form of permanent ‘re-disorganization’ (Pollitt 2007). Democratic rights have been grafted onto an authoritarian culture and system and are not safeguarded through especial constitutional procedures. Concessions that have limited the monarchy as ‘constitutional’ have enabled democratic progress, but the oligarchic privileges of elite social, political, business and faith interests mean that the default position is always undemocratic. MacLean’s (2017, p233) description of the state of affairs in the US seems apposite to the UK, where we have learned ‘to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form’. In other words, the issue in the UK is not the damage to democracy that can be witnessed through the attack on public services such as education, but the tenacity of authoritarianism, and the centralised control of the occupied unitary state. But is this totalitarianism? Certainly democratic gains are under threat from militant elites and, when allied with aggressive authoritarian populism, then a moral, political and social breakdown is a possibility, as the quotation from Flinders (2013) at the beginning of chapter one illuminates. However, as Flinders (2015) also argues, there may well be disquiet and disengagement with politics, but there is a strong bond with democracy. Furthermore, we do need to note that, while the trends and conditions are in evidence, the actuality of totalitarianism is exceptional. Fraser (2017) argues for caution, and in earlier writing she adopted ‘modified adjectival forms [such] as “proto-totalitarian” and “quasi-totalitarian”’ (Fraser 2004, p260). What I am arguing here, based on Arendt, is that ‘totalitarian elements do not necessarily lead to totalitarianism’ (Young-Bruehl 1982, pxxiii), particularly since the belligerent neoliberalism and neoconservatism that promotes and uses depoliticisation so effectively is itself in danger. While elites are diverse, the use of strategic alliances to further shared purposes has been remarkably effective, but we are now getting glimpses of vicious and destructive struggles that are endangering those deals and discourses (Mason 2017b). The narrative about segregation is fracturing; the neoliberalisation of people and communities in particular is facing rejection, and there is a call for alternative ways of thinking about civil society. As Fraser (2017, p47) argues:


The politics of public education

rather than accepting the terms presented to us by the political classes, we should be working to redefine them by drawing on the vast and growing fund of social revulsion against the present order. Rather than siding with financializationcum-emancipation against social protection, we should be focused on forging a new alliance of emancipation and social protection against financialization. In this project … emancipation does not mean diversifying corporate hierarchy, but rather abolishing it. And prosperity does not mean rising share value or corporate profit, but the material prerequisites of a good life for all. Emerging analysis is giving recognition to how something potentially calamitous is taking place, but, importantly, the space and appetite for democratic debates and action is not yet defeated. How this is engaged within and for public services education needs our especial attention, because Arendt’s (2009) analysis shows that ‘common sense morality’, along with ‘religion’ and ‘philosophy’, could not prevent totalitarianism in the 1930s, where democratic renewal and preservation are located not only in the public realm but also through ‘the defence of those republics by citizens who understand what they are defending’ (Canovan 1995, pp161–3). It is to this that I now turn.

The conditions for public education In 1937 Lowndes completed his account of the ‘silent’ revolution in regard to the early development of public education in England by stating: In the creation of an educated democracy complacent satisfaction with the degree of progress so far achieved can find no place. The millennium is still a long way off. So long as there is one child who has failed to obtain the precise educational treatment his individuality requires; so long as a single child goes hungry, has nowhere to play, fails to receive the medical attention he needs; so long as the nation fails to train and provide scope for every atom of outstanding ability it can find; so long as there are administrators or teachers who feel no sense of mission, who cannot administer or who cannot teach, the system will remain incomplete. But when the social historian of the future comes to write of the development of public education in England in the first


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60 years of its existence as a compulsory force, he may feel that, considering how much had to be accomplished, the task was worthily begun. (1937, p248) Well the millennium is here, and the beginning that this account heralds has really only just begun and is in danger. So in studying the World Bank and its role in privatisation, Klees (2012, p58) states: privatization is supposed to help meet the growing education gap resulting from years of attack on the public sector, but all it does is replace an attempt to develop good public policy with the vagaries of charity or the singlemindedness of profit-making. It boggles the imagination how we have let neoliberal ideology run so rampant that we accept ‘low cost private schools for the poor’ as good educational policy. The complex optimism from Lowndes has been replaced by incredulity from Klees, where I am provoked to ask the question: is a different kind of change possible? This is a difficult question to address, and is dependent on people (this book is replete with them) taking up the position of: ‘a courageous truth-teller amidst particularly risky situations’ (Tamboukou 2012, p56), and where it remains the case that ‘for every story that sees the light of day, untold others remain in the shadows, censored, or suppressed’ (Jackson 2013, p31). My first response to this question is yes – we can think differently as a means of recovering our freedom. Importantly, doing this by deploying Arendtian thinking has implications: ‘the claim that politics cannot exist until we get past the experience of the concentration camps and what they represent, is crucially enabled by Arendt’ (Swift 2009, p149). So I cannot make the case for public education for the commons located ‘between’ unique humans in the public realm without ‘undermining those beliefs (including ideologies) that make it easy to kill and waste people and destroy their conditions of life’ (Kateb 2010a, p33). While so many resources are being invested in making schools ‘improve’ and be declared as ‘effective’, ‘efficient’ and ‘excellent’, it seems that eugenics is not only unspoken but is also being enabled to work better as a form of public policy enacted in the public interest. For example, the notion and reality of ‘merit’ has to be reworked as important for commons education, particularly through disconnecting it from ‘ocracy’ or the idea that inborn talents determine your entitlement to access elite status.


The politics of public education

Doing this thinking has included a range of standpoints and evidence, and so, following Arendt (1992, p43), I have adopted ‘an enlarged mentality’ where ‘one trains one’s imagination to go visiting’. A major port of call for my visiting is Arendtian scholarship, where I am aligned with others who have found this enabling of their thinking (such as Tamboukou 2010, 2016; Biesta 2013b), and, in being open about forms of ‘knowledge activism’ (Gillies 2014), I am rejecting claims that Arendt is just fashionable (Minnich 2002). By visiting education policy through Arendtian thinking I am setting out to avoid acting as an ‘echo chamber’ (Zakin 2017, p120) by undertaking ‘exercises in political thought’ that are linked to events where ‘my assumption is that thought itself arises out of incidents of living experience and must remain bound to them as the only guideposts by which to take its bearings’ (Arendt 2006a, p14). In this sense, in primarily examining the situation in England, but providing connections with a global reform agenda, I am illuminating the distinctiveness of an event but also tracing connections through my thinking: for Arendt, ‘to think politically means looking at the hard facts without being blinkered by ideological commitments or bureaucratic constraints’ (Benhabib 2010, p58). Essentially I am seeking to do this by bringing new insights through focusing on what is only rarely admitted about public education: eugenics. ‘Pearl diving’ into the segregation of children through a range of dangerous but seemingly attractive ways of building borders, and ‘thinking without a banister’ about such borders enables the policy reality of children as expendable to be made transparent. The current demand for ‘what works’ in education needs to be questioned because eugenics works, and works really well, and so, taking inspiration from Beard, I see my thinking as being about making ‘everything less simple’ (Williams 2016, np). In doing this I realise that much of what I have been thinking about will be misrepresented, and, as a member of Gove’s Blob, then I will again be denounced as dangerous. However, as for Arendt, there is still the need to think and to understand other standpoints, and to make a contribution to other people’s thinking – even if the current situation limits our capacities to think (I am well aware that there are matters that I may not have realised actually need addressing). What I am leading to is what Curtis (2016) identifies as the need to once again legitimise anxiety as integral to the public realm, where we have to be comfortable with not knowing and how we might set out to investigate this with others who do not know and whom we do not know. Importantly, we are not seeking consensus because: ‘when we follow we must be at the same time independent


Thinking politically again

… when we disagree we must respect … when we agree we should at the same time be arguing’ (Gray 1973, p10). If we can think differently my second response to the question ‘is a different kind of change possible?’ is also yes. Arendt (2006a) made children the brief focus of her short and intensive forays into understanding education, and while she may or may not be labelled a ‘conservative’, the point I wish to raise is her concern about the offloading of adult concerns onto children. In my own terms, adults should stop using children to deliver segregated disposability and stop veiling it with the urgent sentimentality of ‘talent’ and ‘mobility’. This may be shocking but there is sufficient research evidence and analytical insights to be able to say this, and to claim there is a need to shift from labouring and working to secure segregation towards taking action to eradicate borders. What the totalitarian trends, in interplay with forces for crystallisation, suggest is that ‘the greatest casualty of the world Arendt describes is our sense of reality’ (Curtis 1999, p7). We cannot know the world if our plurality and natality are erased as in Nazi Germany, or if we are categorised and herded as in Bolshevik Russia (Canovan 1995), or if we accept that ‘politics’ is a ‘dirty word’ that shelters the dishonest (Hay 2007, p1). Our sense of reality is being denied in the ‘modernised’ school system, and the argument I want to make in addressing the question above, and following Curtis (1999), is that while there are significant concerns, the commons is not yet defeated, where I feel a sense of being among ‘brittle but not yet broken democrats’ (1999, p19). As already noted, in Arendtian terms, the notion of depoliticisation is being used to sustain elite sovereignty, but the claims made for it afford us opportunities for repoliticisation as a public realm rather than as an institutional matter. Following Stoker (2017, p280), the argument is that ‘we can only change the way citizens think about politics by changing the way it works’, and so politics needs to operate as a relational exchange between all people in the public realm, where ‘politics needs to become less a vocation for the few, and more an opportunity for the many’. So a good starting point is to consider that while the hollowing out of public services education in England has led to parents and professionals exiting, there is also evidence of staying. There is evidence that reality is being framed differently, with challenges to the big lies, not least because: even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the


The politics of public education

uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth … Eyes so used to darkness as ours will hardly be able to tell whether their light was the light of a candle or that of a blazing sun. (Arendt 1993, ppix–x) Here I intend providing some examples of what Apple (2005) identifies as counter-hegemonic practices through a combination of resistance and the creation of alternative realities, and where research around the world is demonstrating forms of ‘action’ with reports into the complexities involved running a public school (for example, Keddie 2016) through to cases of resistance and push back (for example, Hursh 2013; Karp 2015; Ryan 2016). In England, in Arendtian terms, stories are also being told that make the realities public: not only do stories evade theoretical abstractions, but they reconnect truth and politics by revealing multiple perspectives while remaining open and attentive to the unexpected, the unpredictability and contingency of action, the possibility of change and new beginnings, which is at the heart of what politics is about. In doing so, stories ultimately reconfigure the sphere of politics as an open plane of horizontal connections, wherein the revolution can once again be re-imagined. (Tamboukou 2012, p11) So the narrated campaigns include: Investment: Headteachers are organising, and are making the case about the impact of austerity cuts on provision and have reached out to parents (Coughlan 2017b): 4,000 heads have written to about a million parents to outline how budget cuts will impact (Marsh and Adams 2017). System: Parents are mobilising (Hatcher and Jones 2006) and, notably, the Anti-Academies Alliance is composed of unions, parents, pupils, teachers, councillors, MPs and researchers, and organises locally and nationally against academies and other forms of centralised control and deregulation (Smith 2011; Anti-Academies Alliance 2017).


Thinking politically again

Education: The case is being made to return the control of teaching to teachers (for example, Coffield 2007; Bangs et al 2011), supported with evidence of how and why teachers are taking back control (for example, Allen-Kinross 2017; Berry 2017). These illustrate what is currently in public, and there could well be other cases that are ‘blooming in obscurity’ (Arendt 1973 p11) in order to protect the preservation of teaching and learning in classrooms. Going public is risky but the past few years have seen momentum build in the publication of state-of-the-art reviews regarding ‘what is going on’ and so ‘what is to be done’ (or example, Lubienski 2006; Robertson 2008; Benn 2011; Mortimore 2013; Macfarlane 2016; Pring and Roberts 2016). As Reay (2017, p194) notes, there are ‘growing glimmers of hope’ regarding support for increased taxation in order to fund services, and this is particularly important at a time when research and basic facts are being questioned, and vital projects are not being funded. But the dominance of the uncommon school means that the polarisation in positions, and talking past or even without recognition of alternative data and ideas, makes revitalising a public realm a challenging agenda, where Hatcher (2012) examines the complexities but also the possibilities of local political agency developing. Such change is about what Flinders (2015, p244) identifies as ‘doing politics differently’ rather than ‘doing away with politics’, and while it is urgent, much may be for the long game: While we shall always be faced with substantial differences in learning ability among all children, we have to face the really hard fact that we are now meeting this problem in a particular way which serves in the end to magnify the differences and then pass them off as a natural order. We can only change this way if we get rid of conscious or unconscious class thinking, and begin considering educational organization in terms of keeping the learning process going, for as long as possible, in every life. Instead of a sorting and grading process, natural to a class society, we should regard human learning in a genuinely open way, as the most valuable real resource we have and therefore as something which we should have to produce a special argument to limit rather than a special argument to extend. We will perhaps only get to this when we have learned to think of a genuinely open culture. (Williams 2011, pp177–8)


The politics of public education

Ultimately this requires thinking politically about and for the commons in the public realm, and in the vernacular it requires everyone (not just parents) to think productively about, with and take action for the education of a stranger’s children, or in other words, having obligations beyond ‘my child’. It also means crossing boundaries, naming the dogma that underpins accepted categories as ‘no go areas’ and making visible how right-wing notions of liberty have actually inscribed bodies with notions of state power (Agamben 1998). Though the rapid development of social media now means the possibilities of speedy new connections and associations: ‘in an information economy, the relationship between thought and action changes’ (Mason 2015, pxviii). This is what Stoker means when he identifies that there too much ‘fast thinking’ about and for politics that is ‘anti’, because it is reactive and ‘acquired through socialization and reinforced through experience and exposure’ (Stoker 2017, p273). The politicisation of the public realm, as envisaged by Arendt (2005), requires a form of ‘slow thinking’ that is about seeking to understand in ways that are demanding, but that can be taught and developed through ‘critical reflection’ (Stoker 2017, p273). There are cases of this happening internationally (e.g. Gandin and Apple 2012; Sahlberg 2015), and contemporary history shows how the segregation of children in England can be challenged and replaced through a combination of discourse, evidence and localised policy making (Benn and Chitty 1997). Action is evident in the public realm regarding how the dismantling of local authorities in England is being confronted through recognising the need for and the construction of new forms of coordination for access and admission to schools. The privatism in supply and demand has generated mock-markets where corporatised forms of ‘system leadership’ through takeovers and the formation of chains and conglomerates have come to dominate (see Gunter 2016). So school principals and chief executives have used their entrepreneurial agendas to variously rescue and replace the local school with charismatic delivery packages (see Courtney 2017). This is being problematised politically, and a progressive idea of a national education system for England is being mooted, where in Gramscian terms this is seen as potential ‘good sense’ (Hall and O’Shea 2015, p54). Instead of schools, children and professionals being absorbed into a brand and competing with the family or school next door, there is a need to recognise universal provision and collaboration based on the shared approach to in-common education that is life-long (Rayner 2017). It is still early in the development of such standpoints, but what underpins this commitment is the shift from family, blood and inheritance networks


Thinking politically again

determining access to education towards education as a matter for the public realm. This is not about romanticising the commons or the resuscitation of previous forms of social democracy and welfarism, but is about how, in reforming public services, we should return to and defend: ‘redistribution, egalitarianism, collective provision, democratic accountability and participation, the right to education and health-care – and find ways in which they can be institutionalised and expressed’ (Hall 2013, p30). Importantly, such a settlement is premised on how ‘schools cannot compensate for society’ (Lauder and Hughes 1999, p138), and where the ‘drivers of racism, xenophobia, and similar forms of human bigotry very often link to economic circumstances on one level or another’ (Joseph 2017, p239). So restating commons principles means there is a different standpoint that can be used to reveal and question those ‘failed’ ideas and strategies (such as the independent state school) that keep returning to the agenda. Specifically, we need to create a school admissions system in which choice is located in public accountability processes that enable transparency and equity (West et al 1998). This assumes the renewal of deliberative processes and organisational sites through which education can be repoliticised, and where different forms of governing strategies can be in evidence. There are some issues here for teachers, parents and the wider community in regard to governing by politicisation, particularly how entrance to the public realm as citizens is distinct from received commodified supply and demand providers/consumers (Gewirtz 2000). In Arendtian (1993) terms: If it is the function of the public realm to throw light on the affairs of men by providing a space of appearances in which they can show in deed and word, for better and worse, who they are and what they can do, then darkness has come when this light is extinguished by ‘credibility gaps’ and ‘invisible government’, by speech that does not disclose what is but sweeps it under the carpet, by exhortations, moral and otherwise, that, under the pretext of upholding old truths, degrade all truth to meaningless triviality. (Arendt 1993, pviii) Citizens think and take action, and this is different from the banality of unthinking in a world of templated audits and vacuous vision statements (Morgan 2016), and in doing so we may have to disrupt thinking in order to enable different kinds of understanding. Importantly, we


The politics of public education

can learn from Arendt that teachers need to and can rejoin the world (Gordon 2001; Bates 2006), and how working for plurality and natality ‘illuminates and gives voice to the lives and perspectives of the formerly unseen and disregarded’ (Curtis 2001 p148). So taking action in the public realm can be enabled through deploying the Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity (EPKP), regarding how the state can be seen as potentially productive (government can do good things!) and how the networks that are interconnected within policy design and enactment are not necessarily hierarchical and exclusionary, and so can represent a range of standpoints and actions (Barnes and Prior 2009). This means that the people, processes and ideas involved in policy can acknowledge, scope and conduct within the public realm, and in doing so ‘ethical responsibility in politics involves, most centrally, the obligation to renew the space of the world so that others may begin’ (Curtis 1999, p127). Arendt provides some thinking to think with, but there are some shortcomings that will need us to think otherwise. Biesta (2013b) makes a significant contribution here: where the school as an intermediate institution between the private and public realms means that children ‘cannot learn for political existence, this does not mean that we cannot learn from it’ (p117). Thus the public realm cannot wait for children to grow up and politics to happen, politics is in schools and needs to infuse the curriculum and pedagogy, and so our task as educators is a ‘concern for opportunities to exist politically, a concern for trying to be at home in the world and to bear with strangers’ (p118). Children can and do reject the power processes located in biopolitical distinctiveness, but this can be hindered unless education is located in notions of plurality and natality. I will leave addressing the question regarding thinking and action at this point. With one caveat – Arendtian scholarship does have implications for primary research and identificatory position taking by researchers in universities. The totalitarian tendencies outlined in this book have impacted on educational researchers, some have become parvenus, and/or have transitioned into the corporate world or retreated into retirement (Arendt 1974). However, the situation does require ‘fearless speech’ that ‘is open to everyone’, where ‘academics as teachers and pedagogues, have assumed extra responsibilities in sustaining the web of human relations and opening up potential sites where students can be educated in telling the truth as they see it, but also in listening to others’ (Tamboukou 2012, p61). In this sense there remains the need for ‘accountability’ and ‘humility’ (Jackson and Ormerod 2017) by research experts as ‘teachers’, and much is being done to demonstrate that research does productively impact (Campaign


Thinking politically again

for Social Science 2015) and how it needs to be more impactful (Calhoun 2014). Additionally, there is a need to democratise with regard to access (Noveck 2016) and recognition (Blackmore 2010) for and within knowledge production. We can only operate as listening teachers in the public realm if we recognise and confront ‘the false confidence of presumed omniscience’ (Ostrom 2015, p215) where we accept problems as already defined and seek to solve them through assumed categorisations and pre-packaged models. Research in education is a field that draws on the social sciences, but is not necessarily entrapped by it, where thinking about the public and publics needs our attention but not our compliance (see Fraser 1997). The observations and arguments regarding evidence and conceptual tools in this book have made a contribution to critical education policy studies through bringing new explanations regarding the interplay of everyday experiences in homes, classrooms and offices with wider trends that can only be fully understood and confronted politically. There are serious implications for those who are located directly in critical education policy studies, where design, data analysis and theorising need to take into account the vibrancy of the political sciences, and those who identify as political scientists who, in Goodwin’s (2015) terms, have tended to overlook education policy. Cross-border debates are in evidence (for example, see Ball 2008, 2009; Goodwin 2009), where shared questions and conceptual clarifications are a site of productive exchanges. We need more of this. Importantly, thinking politically for, with and about data enables established research ontological and epistemological categories to be open to challenge, particularly through the experience of researching the experiences of those who access and depend on public services. In Arendtian terms this means that researchers can recognise and live a life where ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’ can do new things, and so: our political responsibility is, then, to hold the space of the world open to the possible communicative presence of others so that we become more vividly, more comprehensively present to one another. As citizens we have an obligation to renew our ability to share the world with others by stimulating and soliciting the capacity of others to begin. (Curtis 1999, p155) But we do have to remember that action ‘has no causes’ and it could be characterised as miraculous (Pitkin 1998, p281), and so ‘you have to just do it’ where ‘we are depressingly the problem; we are encouragingly


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the solution’ (p284). We have resources to enable us to think within and for the social sciences, and to enter the public realm where our action within and for research realities and productive anxieties are worked through with and for the commons.


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A Abrams 60 Adams 41 Adamson 3, 12, 131, 137, 152 Adonis 81 Agamben 5, 42, 49, 77, 84, 174 Ainley 59 Ainscow 82, 104, 136 Allen 60, 62, 63, 95, 146 Allen-Kinross 173 Alvesson 127 Anderson 165 Angus 56, 60, 148 Antaki 16 Anti-Academies Alliance 106, 172 Anti-Defamation League 60 Appadurai 162 Apple 14, 15, 45, 49, 50, 51, 60, 65, 71, 73, 94, 100, 115, 129, 136, 147, 150, 151, 172, 174 Arendt Action 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 25-46, 48, 52, 53, 54, 55, 64, 66, 75, 76, 77, 78, 86, 88, 94, 97, 98, 99, 101, 111, 119, 121, 128, 133, 135, 139, 140, 141, 143, 153, 154, 158, 160, 161, 162, 163, 168, 171, 172, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178 Disposability 2, 19, 118, 136, 153, 154, 155, 157, 171 Forgiveness 19, 119, 135-155, 166 Freedom 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 16, 22, 24, 33, 46, 51, 53, 54, 55, 58, 62, 75, 93, 99, 137, 139, 145, 149, 155, 169 Judging 9, 11, 19, 111, 113-133, 142, 157 Labour 8, 12, 19, 25-46, 54, 77, 86, 125, 135, 145, 160, 166, 171 Lying 54, 121, 122, 131, 161, 164 Methodological matters 23, 170 Natality 2, 8, 9, 11, 17, 18, 19, 37, 46, 66, 69-89, 97, 101, 111, 119, 125, 132, 140, 142, 153, 155, 157, 164, 166, 171, 176 Plurality 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 36, 37, 47-67, 75, 78, 86, 88, 89, 97, 101, 111, 119, 120, 125, 132, 139, 140, 155, 157, 164, 166, 171, 176

Promising 2, 6, 9, 11, 19, 37, 40, 91111, 114, 119, 125, 135, 139, 140, 141, 153, 154, 157, 166 Public Realm 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 20, 24, 36, 37, 43, 44, 45, 46, 54, 55, 60, 62, 63, 64, 66, 78, 80, 85, 86, 88, 91, 94, 95, 97, 98, 111, 125, 131, 132, 135, 136, 138, 142, 143, 149, 154, 155, 158, 159, 161, 164, 168, 169, 170, 171, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178 Responsibility 2, 9, 11, 12, 17, 19, 26, 31, 37, 43, 45, 46, 64, 88, 111, 113-133, 135, 142, 154, 157, 166, 176, 177 Sovereignty 3, 10, 11, 44, 53, 54, 98, 101, 133, 139, 171 Teaching 11, 12, 18 Tyranny 10, 17, 21, 162 Totalitarianism 1, 3, 10, 22, 36, 55, 66, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 86, 119, 120, 121, 127, 128, 130, 132, 149, 153, 155, 158, 160-168, 171, 176 Values 9, 14, 21, 29, 44, 45, 47, 48, 51, 63, 107, 114, 127, 137, 138, 150, 152 Work 8, 12, 25-46 Arendt, use of ideas Authorised Inaction 6, 8, 19, 26, 37, 89, 101, 157, 166 Calculation and fabricated responsibility and judging 6, 9, 19, 33, 38, 77, 114, 125, 126, 128, 144, 157, 166 Colonisation and rhetorical plurality 6, 8, 19, 47, 57, 157, 166 Contractualism and contractual promising 6, 7, 9, 12, 19, 32, 38, 42, 53, 54, 79, 91-111, 114, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 131, 137, 139, 144, 145, 149, 152, 157, 162, 164, 166 Personalisation and regulated natality 6, 9, 19, 69, 85, 86, 88, 125, 143, 146, 153, 157, 166 Privatism and forgiveness denial 6, 10, 19, 63, 135, 144, 145, 150, 153, 155, 158, 162, 166, 174 Arthur 92, Astle 14, 105 Åstrand 137, 151, Atkinson 82 Au 138


The politics of public education Audit Commission 61 Aurini 92

B Baehr 20 Ball, P. 92, 103, 146 Ball, S.J. 23, 39, 42, 73, 84, 95, 126, 129, 146, 147, 165, 166, 177 Baluch 20 Balyer 124 Banchero 59 Bangs 107, 148, 173 Banks 87 Barber 129 Barnes 176 Barrow 58 Bates 176 Baum 20 Beck 33 Becker 38 Beckett 3, 106, 148 Belger 109 Benhabib 2, 23, 119, 170 Benn, C. 73, 74, 80, 82, 86, 174 Benn, M. 3, 15, 62, 81, 106, 107, 148, 173 Berkowitz 24, 118, 119, 128, 131 Bernstein, J.M. 98 Bernstein, R.J. 8, 21, 52, 56 Berry 173 Beveridge, R. 20 Beveridge, W. 70, 80 Bevir 3, 5 Biesta 1, 16, 18, 20, 26, 33, 36, 45, 48, 161, 170, 176 Biopolitics 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 19, 25, 31, 39, 46, 47, 49, 52, 59, 60, 66, 69, 77, 79, 84, 88, 91, 109, 111, 113, 115, 123, 125, 133, 135, 138, 150, 155, 157, 160, 176 Birmingham 131 Blackmore 177 Blair 56 Bobbitt 59, 95, 145, 159 Bogotch 127 Boliver 82 Bottery 42 Bowring 8, 21, 35, 36, 75, 97, 118, 120, 139, 140, 142, 144, 164 Boyle 62, 63 Boycko 145 Boyson 14, 31 Brighouse, H. 48, 60, 86 Brighouse, Sir, T. 82, 136, 148 BBC 60, 82, 102, 110 Brown 153 Buchheit 59, 106 Bulkley 146

Buras 15, 147 Burch 147 Burnham 19 Butler, J. 20 Butler, P. 151 Butt 11, 23, 31, 41, 105, 148

C Caldwell 14. 96 Calhoun 117 Cameron 31 Campaign for Social Sciences 176 Campbell 73 Cane 36 Canovan 8, 12, 20, 22, 23, 24, 36, 53, 75, 154, 168, 171 Carey 84, 85 Carnoy 136 Carr 94 Caruth 133 Castro-Hidalgo 60, 137, 148 Chetwynd 73 Chitty 13, 14, 15, 23, 73, 74, 80, 82, 84, 86, 174 Chubb 14, 51, 59, 92, 145 Clair 72 Clark 104 Clough 109 Coffield 150, 173 Cohen 110 Cole 73 Coleman 29 Collins 38 Compton 38 Connell 144, 145, 148, 150 Cook 81, Cordon 56 Cornell 21 Coughlan 147, 172 Courtney 12, 15, 23, 32, 38, 39, 62, 95, 101, 105, 113, 117, 126, 146, 148, 174 Cox 100 Cribb 81 Croft 59 Crump 147 Culbert 119 Curtis, K. 157, 171, 176, 177 Curtis, N. 163, 170

D Darling-Hammond 131, 137, 152 Davies, J.S. 22 Davies, L. 114 Davies, N. 80, 128, 130, 131, 148 Day 41 Dean 145, 148, 150 DfE 82, 108, 131


Index DfEE 31, 41, 104 DfES 128 DES 104 Depoliticisation 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 17, 19, 25, 43, 46, 47, 58, 63, 65, 66, 69, 88, 91, 96, 109, 111, 114, 120, 133, 135, 146, 155, 159, 160, 164, 165, 166, 167, 171 Dewey 48, 94, 136, Dorling 84, 86 Duarte, A. 13, 160 Duarte, E. 11, 16, 17, 24, 88

E Easterling 3, Elgot 87 Eliot 80 Elliott 81 Ellison 31 Equity Business 13, 30, 32, 39, 72, 91, 95, 100, 104, 107, 110, 113, 116, 117, 123, 124, 133, 146, 147, 160, 165, 166, 167 Class 13, 22, 48, 50, 60, 61, 70, 74, 79, 81, 82, 84, 85, 88, 115, 129, 151, 152, 160, 173 Commons 1-7, 26-33, 48-51, 70-75, 92-96, 114-118, 136-138, 157-178 Elites 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 24, 31, 46, 50, 51, 57, 59, 66, 69, 74, 79, 81, 85, 86, 87, 88, 92, 106, 111, 113, 114, 116, 135, 146, 157, 159, 160, 162, 166, 167, 169, 171 Eugenics 2, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 49, 74, 76, 84, 130, 151, 154, 157, 163, 169, 170 Faith 2, 3, 5, 13, 18, 29, 50, 59, 60, 62, 66, 73, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 93, 94, 95, 96, 105, 159, 164, 165, 166, 167, 106, 110, 138, 146, 151, 157 Gender 13, 48, 50, 71, 74, 80, 84, 115, 151, 152 Race 13, 48, 50, 60, 61, 66, 70, 84, 85, 88, 115, 151, 152, 157 Segregation 2, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 23, 29, 33, 47, 49, 50, 57, 60, 61, 64, 66, 73, 74, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 88, 92, 128, 130, 135, 136, 150, 151, 152, 154, 157, 160, 163, 164, 166, 167, 170, 171, 174 Sexuality 14, 77, 84 Social Mobility 13, 51, 74, 80, 82, 84, 155 Evans 45, 114

F Fabricant 96, 101, 152

Familiesonline 104 Fawcett 3, 4 Fearn 41 Feinstein 14 Feintuck 15, 61, 62, 63 Field 61, 63 Fielding 15, 29, 48, 51, 71, 73, 94, 137 Filippakou 94 Flinders 1, 4, 6, 11, 44, 146, 167, 173 Flury 106 Foster 114 Foucault 5, 42, 77 Fraser 2, 99, 148, 157, 162, 167, 177 Friedman 14, 57, 59, 92, 99, 137, 138, 145 Fitz 61 Freedland 131 Fullan 136

G Galton 13, 30 Gandin 45, 71, 115, 136, 174 Geijsel 124 Geiselberger 159 Gewirtz 28, 30, 50, 61, 175 Gilbert 57, 162, 163 Gill 59 Gillborn 80 Gillies 43, 170 Glatter 62 Gleeson 39, 117, 151 Goldring 95 Goldstein 94 Gordon 16, 17, 176 Gorski 27, 128, 161 Gottsegen 21 80 Gove 14, 50, 59, 106, 117, 170 Governance 3, 4, 5, 6, 30, 108 Governing 1, 3, 6, 7, 17, 19, 128, 129, 130, 159, 166, 175 Government 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, 16, 32, 38, 41, 53, 56, 57, 58, 59, 80, 82, 83, 86, 87, 98, 104, 108, 121, 122, 124, 129, 136, 137, 150, 167, 175, 176 Grace 44, 45, 114, 115, 116, 123 Gray 171 Green 73, 94 Greenfield 114 Griffiths 146 Grubb 114 Gunter 1, 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 31, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45, 47, 57, 62, 82, 87, 94, 95, 104, 105, 106, 107, 113, 115, 116, 117, 118, 124, 125, 126, 127, 129, 130, 131, 146, 147, 148, 165, 167, 174


The politics of public education

H Hall, D. 41 Hall, S. 148, 174, 175 Halpern 80 Halpin 95 Halsey 74 Hansard 59 Harding 80 Hargreaves D. 73 Hargreaves G. 109 Harrison 96 Hartley 125, 149, 153 Hasan 166 Hatcher 114, 165, 172, 173 Hay 4 Haydon 71, 171 Haydn 100 Hayek 14, 137, 145, 149 Heller 24 Helsby 30 Henton 40 Higham 96, 147, 148 Hirschmann 103 Hitchens 11 Hogan 147 Honig 99 Hoyle 41, 127 Hursh 172 Hurst 83 Hyman 117

I ITV 103 Indiana Public Media 59 Ireson 92

J Jabbar 147, 151 Jackson B. 74 Jackson H. 176 Jackson M. 169 James 109 Jessop 147 Johnson 59 Joseph 85, 151, 175 Judt 20, 21, 24 Junemann 95, 146, 147

K Kalalahti 73 Karp 172 Kateb 9, 10, 23, 121, 140, 142, 169 Kauko 73, 79 Keddie 152, 172 King, A. 160 King, H.R. 73 King, R.H. 22

Klees 146, 169 Klitgaard 59 Knowledge production 3, 6, 13, 16, 17, 25, 31, 38, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 66, 69, 70, 71, 91, 116, 128, 129, 130, 132, 133, 155, 157, 158, 162, 170, 177 Knowledgeable Polities Education Policy Knowledgeable Polity 3, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 38, 41, 44, 45, 47, 56, 63, 66, 79, 81, 88, 91, 99, 111, 113, 123, 133, 135, 144, 155, 176, 69, Kohn 21, 37, 120, 123, 126 Koyama 103 Kulz 118, 124, 127, 151, 152, 153

L Lacey 73, Lauder 48, 61, 175 Leach 58 Ledwith 79 Leech 50 Leithwood 124 Lepkowska 109 Leslie 117 Levačić 95 Levine 14 Levinson 17, 44, 166 Lingard 136 Littler 83, 84 Locke 79 Lowndes 168, 169 Lubienski 15, 65, 66, 96, 106, 165, 173 Lythgoe 109

M Macfarlane 173 Machin 83, 108 MacLean 149, 160, 162, 166, 167 Macpherson 2, 149 Mahony 146 Mansell 109, 110, 152 Marquand 4 Marsh 152, 172 Marshall 100, 137 Martin 59 Mason 160, 163, 167, 174 May 83 McCulloch 29, 39 McGinity 11, 105, 107, 118 McGlynn 78, McGowan 86, 88, 101 Meier 78 Mendoza 160 Meritocracy 83-84 Millar, F. 81 Miller, J. 20 Minnich 170


Index Monbiot 158 Moran 3, 5, 129 Morey 11 Morgan 175 Morrison 13, 15 Mortimore 61, 80, 148, 173 Mouffe 4

N National Association of Schoolmasters (NAS) 73 National Challenge Schools 109 National College for School Leadership (NCSL) 165 National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 59 National Union of Teachers (NUT) 73 Nazism 10, 17, 21, 22, 76, 77, 120, 121, 122, 127, 143, 149, 165, 171 Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal 59 Newman 93 Nguni 124 Nichols 126 Nixon 16, 36, 44, 143 Normore 127 Norris 16, 25, 164 Noveck 177

O O’Brien 80 O’Connor 106 O’Neill 42 Ofsted 32, 38, 56, 74, 102, 104, 109 Olmedo 146 OECD 29, 59, 61, 107, 128 Orlie 99, 154 Orr 94 Osborne 160 Ostrom 158, 159, 177 Ozga 40, 41, 114

P Paton 103, Patrinos 59 Pavett 82 Peacock 59 Pedley 73 Peel 92 Peev 102 Perraudin 110 Peters 137, 151, 152 Pitkin 177 Policy Exchange 81, 82 Politicisation 4, 13, 14, 17, 120, 174, 175 Pollitt 167 Popkewitz 128 Pribble 59

PricewaterhouseCoopers 148 Pring 15, 147, 148, 165, 173 Prosser 49

R Raffo 136, 137 Ranson 15, 42, 43, 44, 81, 148, 151 Ravitch 3, 12, 43, 44, 63, 64, 65, 66, 95, 106 Rawolle 92, 125 Rayner 174 Reay 81, 87, 173 Reckhow 146 Reisz, 57 Richardson 109 Rivers 80 Rizvi 137, 138, 153 Robin 21 Robertson, A. 110 Robertson, S.L. 45, 173 Robertson, W.B. 146, 152 Rose 128, 129, 130 Rotherham 59 Rothstein 14, 78 Rudduck 29 Ryan 146, 152, 172

S Sahlberg 26, 27, 49, 51, 73, 107, 115, 136, 174 Sahlgren 59 Saltman 106, 124, 146, 148, 151, 152 Samier 44 Santos 110 Savage 152 School reforms Choice 1, 4, 13, 14, 18, 19, 47-67, 72, 75, 81, 83, 87, 88, 92, 94, 95, 99, 100, 103, 104, 105, 114, 130, 138, 146, 148, 149, 151, 153, 163, 165, 175 Democracy 1, 4, 5, 10, 25, 49, 50, 53, 73, 121, 136, 159, 162, 165, 166, 167, 168, 175 Experts 25, 27, 28, 31, 41, 44, 117, 126, 129, 146, 148, 176 Failure 92, 96, 99, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 110, 111, 130, 132, 133, 135, 151, 162, 163, 165 Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) 27 Headteacher/principal 12, 25, 28, 33, 38, 40, 47, 50, 109, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 123-128, 158, 172 Leaders, leading and leadership 12, 13, 19, 23, 26, 27, 30, 32, 33, 37, 39, 40, 46, 102, 104, 113-133, 152, 165, 174 Lotteries 63-66


The politics of public education Markets 3, 18, 19, 30, 31, 32, 38, 47, 50, 51, 56, 57, 59, 60, 61, 62, 72, 73, 91, 95, 96, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 111, 116, 126, 131, 137, 138, 143, 146, 150, 151, 153, 159, 164, 165, 174 Neoconservatism 30, 31, 106, 144, 147, 157, 167 Neoliberalism 16, 30, 31, 45, 106, 144, 145, 148, 151, 152, 157, 167, 169 Numbers 33, 38, 39, 113-133, 135, 150, 162 Performance 19, 25-46, 50, 52, 56, 72, 92, 100, 102, 103, 104, 108, 109, 113118, 125-131, 145, 151, 152 Philanthropy 2, 6, 13, 59, 88, 95, 106, 116, 124, 146 Private and Privatisation 2, 6, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 24, 39, 47, 49, 50, 55, 57, 58, 59, 62, 63, 65, 66, 74, 81, 83, 87, 91-111, 116, 123, 131, 135-155, 157-178 Public services 1-4, 7, 12, 13, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 38, 43, 45, 48, 49, 51, 78, 88, 89, 91, 93, 95, 96, 111, 115, 135, 136, 144, 145, 147, 150, 157, 158, 159, 160, 163, 166, 167, 168, 171, 175, 177 Responsibilisation 125-126 Teachers 1, 2, 11, 12, 16, 18, 19, 2546, 48, 50, 61, 65, 85, 88, 94, 102, 103, 104, 110, 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 130, 131, 147, 150, 153, 158, 165, 168, 172, 173, 175, 176, 177 Testing 12, 15, 32, 50, 59, 61, 70, 74, 80, 85, 135, 150 Trust 4, 10, 25, 27, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 122, 124, 129, 138, 141, 164, 166 Values 9,14, 21, 25, 29, 44, 45, 47, 48, 51, 63, 107, 114, 127, 137, 138, 150, 152 Vouchers 47, 58, 59, 60, 66, 147 Welfarism 15, 28, 29, 30, 61, 87, 115, 137, 138, 145, 175 School systems Chile 59, 60, 95, 137, 138, 145, 162 England 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 27, 29, 31, 38, 40, 56, 59, 60, 63, 65, 69, 71, 73, 75, 79, 80, 82, 83, 85, 87, 93, 94, 95, 96, 99, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 110, 114, 115, 116, 127, 135, 136, 146, 147, 148, 150, 152, 157, 159, 163, 165, 167, 168, 170, 171, 172, 174 Finland 26, 27, 49, 73, 79, 107, 115, 136, 138 Sweden 95, 110, 146, 147 USA 96, 121, 122

School types Academies 12, 69, 72, 91, 95, 104, 105, 109, 113, 131, 135, 146, 148, 152 Charter 64, 65, 72, 91, 95, 101, 146 City Technology Colleges 57, 95, 105 Common/Comprehensive 1, 2, 5, 7, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 29, 49, 60, 69, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 82, 85, 86, 87, 94, 100, 130 Faith 3, 13, 18, 50, 62, 85, 86, 96 Free 32, 91, 95, 105, 108-109, 146, 164 Grammar 14, 29, 50, 74, 80-87, 130, 152, 164 Multi-Academy Trusts 32, 96, 110, 116, 117 Secondary Modern 74, 84 Studio 95, 109 Scott, J. 152 Scott, J.C. 159 Sennett 31, 42, 164 Seppänen 15, 59, 62, 82, 95, 138 Shain 152 Shamir 126, 147, 151 Sibieta 82 Simon 15, 74, 136 Sinclair 49 Smith 172 Smyth 12, 44, 49, 114, 136 Söderström 61 Souto-Otero 146 Specialist Schools and Academies Trust 91 Spring 92, 128, 146 Stalinism 10, 149 Starr 151 Stasz 64 Staufenberg 80, 103, 147 Stoker 4, 5, 10, 132, 171, 174 Stonebridge 131 Strathern 129 Stringer 109 Stubbs 104 Sutton Trust 82 Swail 65 Swalwell 49, 65 Swift 23, 24, 169 Syal 41

T Tamboukou 169, 170, 172, 176 Taylor 73 Telhaug 93 Thatcher 56, 80, 145 The Children’s Society 151 The Telegraph 102 Thomson 29, 71, 115, 117, 148 Thrupp 16


Index Tienken 114 Todd 74 Tomlinson 103, 105, 106, 110, 147, 151 Tooley 14, 57, 59, 62, 79, 95, 96, 100, 145 Tsao 139, 140 Turner C. 41 Turner J. 148

V Veck 16 Venugopal 147 Verger 138

W Waldron 88 Watt 84 Weale 81, 109, 110, 152 Weekes-Bernard 60, 151 West, A. 61, 82, 146, 147, 175 West, E.G. 14, 59, 145 Whittaker 80, 83 Whitty 63, 95, 96, 111, 116 Wilby 148 Wilkins 96, 147 Wilkinson 151 Williams, R. 80, 173 Williams, Z. 170 Winkley 3, 107, 114, 148, 158 Wintour 14 Wood 6, 146 Woods 11, 95, 105 Wragg 29 Wright, A. 126, 147 Wright, N. 45, 127 Wrigley 15, 45, 107, 148

Y Yahoo News 109 Yeatman 75, 86, 92, 93 Young, M. 87 Young, T. 14 Young-Bruehl 10, 55, 66, 119, 120, 132, 139, 142, 143, 144, 154, 167 Yu 124

Z Zakin 69, 170


At a time when public education and reform agendas are changing the way we approach education, this book critically examines the key issues facing the public with implications for education policy makers, professionals and researchers. Drawing on empirical evidence gathered over 20 years, Helen Gunter confronts current issues about social justice and segregation. She uses Arendtian ideas to help the reader to ‘think politically’ about education and how and why public services education can be reimagined for the future. Helen M Gunter is Professor of Education Policy at University of Manchester and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

The politics of public education

“A substantive contribution… recommended to colleagues and post-graduate students.” Michael W. Apple, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Helen M Gunter

ISBN 978-1-4473-3958-8 PolicyPress


9 781447 339588

Helen M Gunter