13 SES 08, 'Crisis’, Feeling at Home, and Response to the Other’s Exclusion
(‘Psychoanalysis and Education’)
The aim of this paper is to present and discuss some important themes in our European strategic partnership (funded by the Erasmus programme, 2017-2020). This project is focused on the dynamics of exclusion and inclusion in education across four countries, how these are shaped by national and international policies and structures, and how these are interpreted and responded to by specific national and regional initiatives. The shared conceptual framework for the partnership is psychoanalysis and its deployment in the analysis of social ‘pathologies’, by contrast to individual mental health only: the project’s main question is how to make sense of the ‘crisis’ in education across Europe, and how to respond to it constructively, critically, on the basis of a greater awareness of different practices across Europe. The two presenters are members of the partnership, and are concerned with the meaning of ‘crisis’ for the education system as a whole, as well as the different across in it: pupils, students, parents, families, and professionals.
Our presentation will be organised around three main points:
- the concept of ‘crisis’ has been used across Europe – especially in policy-level discussions - to make sense of the failure of education to achieve various objectives, including greater social inclusion and mobility, increased productivity and quality of work, and reduced urban violence and riots, unemployment, and institutional breakdown (including of the family). Yet how this crisis is understood and described is shaped by national education and social histories, with comparative analysis highlighting the different meanings and purposes of education across Europe. We will also consider how attempts to resolve a crisis are also ways of establishing norms, and demarcate boundaries between included and excluded: ‘solutions’ to crisis usually involve some form of disciplining of those who are considered ‘outsiders’ and who are expected to conform to specific conditions of entry.
- The concept and discourse of ‘crisis’ mobilises specific subjectivities, also shaped by social and cultural histories. A teacher or educator working in a context of ‘crisis’ has characteristic responsibilities and ethics. Similarly, students manifest ‘crisis’ in distinct ways. As researchers, the concept of ‘crisis’ leads to certain kinds of research questions and delegitimizes others. The word ‘crisis’ has performative consequences, therefore, opening up domains of action and though, but also constraining these in particular ways. We will explore these through comparative examples, including of members in the partnership. In each case, we will identify what counts as ‘other’ to education, which brings about its crisis; and how responding to a ‘crisis’ often involves undoing boundaries between education and its other, for instance, between education and social work, or education and policing.
The concept of crisis has specific methodological ramifications. We will focus on one of these: how the partnership is developing specific research methodologies by which to compare responses to the ‘education crisis’ across Europe, and specifically, methodologies concerned with exploring the experience of trauma at a collective or social level. Education is often understood to be in ‘crisis’ following events which re-frame its meaning and purpose, and which introduce new terms and discourses into its vocabulary to make sense of something which was previously unintelligible / imperceptible / unknown. We will discuss how we are exploring the meaning and consequences of such events in different countries, using methods informed by psychoanalytic approaches to education research.
The Partnership involves participants from four countries (France, Italy, Luxemburg, and the United Kingdom), working either in teacher education or in initiatives set up and funded to solve some kind of ‘crisis’ in education (but particularly the problem of school ‘drop-outs’ and educational exclusion). Funding was awarded on the basis of making intelligible phenomena which occur across Europe but have not been subject, to date, to extensive cross-national comparison. These include: the questioning of the school as an institution of knowledge transmission; the use of education, in the context of increasing cultural diversity, to inculcate values facilitating ‘integration’; the increasing rate of school exclusions and ‘drop-outs’ as well as of educators leaving the profession, or experience forms of subjective suffering. The partnership is organized around a series of workshops involving all the partners. Many of these are organized around the experiential exploration of texts and practices relating to learning about and from ‘crisis’ in education. For example, the partnership includes an initiative in France set up in the wake of urban riots and which is intended to support greater social ‘integration’ and educational scaffolding, including outreach work on public housing estates on the outskirts of Paris with primarily ethnic minority populations. It includes an initiative in Milan set up to support young people who have been excluded from formal education and who are being taught to re-integrate into the education system. And it also includes an initiative in Luxembourg intended to offer excluded children a ‘second chance’ at educational progression. Each of these initiatives has specific ways of working with ‘excluded’ people and making sense of the boundary between inclusion and exclusion, as well as specific ways of teaching and working with educators in mainstream education. By enabling the observation and analysis of their respective working practices, the partnership is intended to support learning across national boundaries, but also greater reflexivity and critical conceptualization of what a ‘crisis’ is, how it becomes intelligible, how it is shaped by the socio-cultural context of its emergence, and how it can be productively responded to. As a partnership, we are developing specific methodologies, informed by the psychoanalytic literature in education, to interpret these different practices and offer constructive ways of sharing and building on them. We are also analyzing how such practices can inform a shared module available to trainee teachers and teachers undertaking professional development across Europe
The intended outcome from the partnership is a joint, experimental module aimed at educators across Europe and integrated into existing training provision. The module is intended to enable participants negotiate ‘crisis’ in education in a more informed and reflective way. Underpinning this is the development of new concepts of teacher professionalism and teacher subjectivity, which address the changing role of educators, including: the undoing of boundaries between education and social work; mediation with families often deemed ‘problem’ cases or socially marginalized; increasing cultural diversity and geographical mobility; the coordination of activities at different levels (beyond the single educational institution and working with regional, national and European authorities). The theoretical contribution of the project consists of an expanded conceptualization of educational inclusion and exclusion, which takes on board a critical evaluation of the production of inclusion and exclusion within education, as well as of responses to this. We aim to consider how otherness emerges in relation to local, national and European practices to making it sensible, and how researchers across Europe can both critically contribute to the debate about the crisis of education, and also draw on innovative and experimental methods for working with people affected by this crisis.
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