23 SES 11 B, Post-Critical Policy Scholarship? Deliberations around Ontological and Epistemological Politics
In this paper we first analyse how Australian education policies power-drive schools and universities into accountability for simplistic performance criteria. Such centripetal policy force, from governance outside schools/universities, induces governance within schools/universities to focus on institution-centred ‘success’ in market-competitive terms. In turn, institutional ‘leaders’ act to compel academics and teachers to align with their strategic plans. This vertically upward-compelling chain of governance generates negative effects, which we diagnose. We then conceive how academics and teachers could counter policy’s vertical compulsions by research collaborations that focus, horizontally, on working educatively with local-community needs and aspirations. In outlining both the urgency, and grounds of possibility, for such research, we draw on Berlant’s analysis (2011, 2016) that people in diverse communities now encounter material-historical conditions of ‘cruel optimism’: lifeworld infrastructures, precariously fraught with glitches—reflecting macro-structural crises of ecology, employment, governance and more—which threaten hopefulness needed to live-on in pursuit of viable futures. As key elements of local infrastructure, schools and universities, we argue, should (re)purpose labours towards working with communities on knowledge-abilities to address glitches. This requires de-centring institutionalised pulls of both universities and schools. Yet, when Australian education academics seek school partnership projects—along lines that ‘university education programs have a prime responsibility to serve schools; so we should serve purposes schools ask of us’—they often miss the point that, like managed universities, managed schools are policy-induced towards market-competitive institution-centricity. We thus argue for a de-centring impulse that does not deflect policy’s compulsive effects to another institutional sector, but enlists academics and teachers to prioritise community-based needs and aspirations. This offsets policy’s vertical power-drive via ethics-driven, horizontal repurposing of schools-and-universities towards co-labour with/for communities. Drawing on Stengers’ ethics-driven pragmatism (2011, 2012), we outline a methodo-logic for research collaborations to redress infrastructural problems, featuring proactive knowledge-democracy wherein academics, teachers, community residents and students share diverse knowledges that the problem gathers. Such collaborative focus on community-based glitches de-centres institution-centric compulsions of schools and universities. Drawing on our research that took steps towards such an approach, we identify affording and inhibiting factors (Zipin & Brennan, 2019). We argue that such horizontal de-centring can re-invigorate academic research in capacitating teachers, students and community actors to address lifeworld glitches knowledge-ably. Such efforts could inspire new imaginaries of schools-universities that work for communities, exerting ground-upward pressures on institutional managers and policymakers to support horizontal knowledge co-labours to (re)generate better futures from precarious times.
Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Berlant, L. (2016). The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times. Environment and planning D: Society and space, 34(3), 393–419. Pignarre, P. & Stengers, I. (2011). Capitalist sorcery: Breaking the spell. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Stengers, I. (2011). The care of the possible: Isabelle Stengers interviewed by Erik Bordeleau. Scapegoat: Landscape, Architecture, Political Economy, Issue 1. Stengers, I. (2012). Reclaiming animism. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/36/61245/reclaiming-animism/; viewed 14 May 2017. Zipin, L., & Brennan, M. (2019; in press). Pursuing pragmatic-radical curriculum democracy: Students as co-researchers on problems that matter. In S. Riddle, & M. W. Apple (Eds.), Re-imagining education for democracy. London & New York: Routledge. Zipin, L., Sellar, S., Brennan, M., & Gale, T. (2015). Educating for futures in marginalized regions: A sociological framework for rethinking and researching aspirations. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47(3), 227–246.
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