23 SES 08 D, Education Policy Analysis: Methodological Challenges
We are encouraged today in contemporary liberal, democratic and capitalist societies to turn our gaze towards our inner self, scrutinizing who we are and disclosing this to teachers, counsellors, parents, friends and strangers (See Foucault, 1998; Fejes and Dahlstedt, 2013). This disclosure as confession has become quite familiar in educational settings. Pupils are asked to scrutinize themselves as learners, to evaluate their behaviour and disclose themselves so that they can be corrected and correct themselves. Disclosure of the self through confession is a technique embedded in the use of individual study plans, assessment tasks and in dialogue. It is a technique that has acquired the support of pedagogical knowledge, as knowing who we are as a learner is now understood in educational scholarship and research to be a support to effective learning and is become accepted by teachers, students, parents and politicians. It is increasingly across such practices in education and in other walks of life that we come to know, judge, and shape ourselves and others. (See Fejes and Nicoll, forthcoming)
This technology of confession, as operating in the present time, is then not solely relegated to the classroom. It has a long history in Western societies supported through emerging scientific knowledge of the inner workings of the mind across societies from the 19th century. Burgeoning in the practices of hospitals and asylums for the criminal and insane (Foucault 1991) and law and order (Rose 1992) it has proliferated as technology and as a particular form of the government of people. It has been psychologized and is now familiar in practices of counselling, of the workplace and market, the family and parenting. However, confession has been taken up and mobilized again with perhaps intensified effect over the last years in practices of education and more widely, in part supported through the emergence of new technologies of information and communication.
It is within these and wider changing contours of the present that this paper situates itself. The taken for grantedness of education and learning and its associated technologies and techniques for the production of self knowledge as ‘truth’ of the self are productive, but also potentially ‘dangerous’ (Foucault 1983: 231) - they do something to our subjectivities as learners, teachers and researchers. We argue that confession has emerged as a central technology of the self operating within educational practices. It operates through emerging techniques that encourage us to disclose who we ‘truly’ are. Confession as technology then does not take one form, its techniques are disparate and dispersed, and differing forms and effects are to be found in the differing locations where it operates, and as it has been historically practiced. These forms and techniques however can be characterized and have changed in function over the years. Thus, historically there are forms of confession positioning the person as sinner or in a continuing search for self-knowledge (cf. Foucault 1998; Fejes and Dahlstedt 2013). These forms have never been stable although regularities in their function appeared at different times. They emerged in Ancient Greece as a practice aiming at self-mastery and care of the self then reshaped with Christianity and continuing until the 17th Century, with an emphasis on the relationship between the disclosure of the self and the dramaof the verbalised renunciation of the self (Foucault 2003). Later, with the emergence of practices of the human sciences and psychological knowledge, confession became scientized (Fejes and Dahlstedt 2013).
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