28 SES 01, Governing by Data and Standards: Normalization, Paradoxes and Resistance
In the last three decades, most of the European education systems have undergone projects of modernisation that have reframed the ways education is understood, practiced and evaluated, as well as its subjectivities. Although with different timings and degrees of intensity, those projects of modernisation heavily mobilised standardising discourses such as NPM and School Effectiveness within the European Education Space. Those discourses promoted a new epistemology of objectivity and measurability and performed a deterministic nexus between the establishment of calculative standards (Rose, 1999) and the possibility to conceive, speak about and evaluate the qualit(ies) of education. At the same time, a plethora of educational technologies moved throughout the sites of educational practice crossing national, local and organisational boundaries, and enacted processes of standardisation and fabrication (Ball, 2001; Perryman, 2009).
In this paper we want to offer a critical contribution to the debate on the performative effects of these processes of standardisation in the field of education. We move from the assumption that standards are constitutive elements of social landscapes (Mulcahy, 2011). What we are witnessing is, then, a progressive unmaking of the welfarist educational standards and the assembling of a new regime of practice (Dean, 1999) inspired by different understandings of quality, effectiveness, success and failure in the field of education. Rather than offering a reading of these processes of standardisation as immanently negative, we assume the paradoxical face of standards (Lyotard, 1987), reflecting on the conditions in which they act as technologies of control, performing powers of normalisation, and the potentials they have to generate creative practices of reflexivity/resistance and empower/free the subjects.
Drawing on a foucauldian conceptual framework, we present our analyses of some recent policy processes in the Italian education system as tales of normalisation and resistance from the field in order to show:
a) how the new standards in education inspired by discourses such as NPM and School Effectiveness are constructed ‘in the making’ of education policy, as the result of the assemblage of old and new discursive and technological devices;
b) the effects produced through the enactment of these new standards in terms of normalisation and fabrication both on educational practices and subjectivities, also as a result of the contradictory clashes between old (welfarist) and new standards;
c) the eventual or potential spaces (and their conditions) for the development of forms of resistance/reflexivity that escape the framing powers of the new standards and generate practices that challenge the new epistemology of closure and certainty and the educational truth they establish.
Ball, S., (2001), Performativities and fabrications in the education economy: Towards the performative society. In The performing school: Managing teaching and learning in a performance culture, ed. D. Gleeson and C. Husbands, 210–26. London: Routledge-Falmer. Dean, M., (1999), Governmentality. Power and rule in modern society, London: Sage. Lyotard, J.F., (1987), ‘Rules and Paradoxes and Svelte Appendix’, Cultural Critique, 5, 209-219. Mulcahy, D., (2011), ‘Assembling the ‘Accomplished’ Teacher: The performativity and politics of professional teaching standards’, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43: 1, 94-113. Perryman, J., (2009), 'Inspection and the fabrication of professional and performative processes', Journal of Education Policy, 24: 5, 611 — 631 Rose, N., (1999), Powers of Freedom: reframing political thought, London: Sage.
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