23 SES 10 A, Power and Emotion
Parallel Paper Session
Critical theorists of contemporary education have identified a trend in European education promoting emotional and social well-being and mental health using behavioristic approaches. The trend can be described as an expression of a general “self-esteem-movement” (Smeyers et al. 2007), “therapy culture” (Furedi 2004, 2009) or “therapeutic education” (Ecclestone & Hayes 2009).
In Swedish schools this trend is manifested by an activity called Livskunskap, Life Competence Education (LCE). These schools often work with specific programs that aim at strengthening young people’s self-esteem and their social and emotional development (Irisdotter Aldenmyr, forth coming). The phenomenon has its counterparts in international educational contexts (Ecclestone & Hayes 2009, Nielsen et al. 2010). In the USA, the “No Child Left Behind” initiative includes similar programs (Furedi 2009), and in England the program “Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning” (SEAL) is widespread (Clouder 2009).
One prominent program related to Life Competence Education in Swedish education is called “Socio-Emotional Training” (SET). SET aims to increase childrens' and young people's mental well being as part of the efforts to prevent mental illness, drug abuse, criminality and other social problems. The program includes teacher instructions for the ages six to eighteen years. The five basic elements, self-awareness, managing feelings, empathy, motivation and social skills, are exercised on a weekly basis, with increasing severity over the years (Kimber 2009).
What this educational trend actualises is that teachers should not only educate students in academic subjects but also promote the emotional well being of their students by following programs of what could be called therapeutic exercises. This trend, we argue, can partly be seen as a movement of turning teachers into “thera-teachers”. It also tends to frame students as “not-yets” in a similar way that is being made sometimes in standardised, international ‘travelling’ studies (cf. Olson 2012a), and in the EU: s education policy (Olson 2012b, 2012c).
Taking on empirical exemplifications from Sweden, we aim to explore and discuss this trend by asking the following questions:
- What features characterise “thera-teaching” and how can this be understood in relation to the role of the teacher?
- What modes of existence come into question as required ones for the students to conquer in relation to this “thera-teaching” in terms of desired skills and emotional repertoires?
- What promises and hazards come to the fore in “thera-teaching” in relation to the educational task of providing the students with competences for a life in society?
Our approach is influenced by a critical sociological outlook, where therapeutic education is seen as part of an overall stress on therapy in society in general and in education in specific (cf. Furedi 2009, Eccelstone & Hayes 2009). Taking on this outlook we wish to mirror features that emerge in therapeutic education, and ask for possible implications of these features as regards the role of the teacher, the role of the student and the relationship between them, and for education itself. Here qualities like responsibility and recognition (cf. Young 2002) are taken into consideration, as well as the commissioned task to see to a formation of children and young that stresses both reproductive and productive dimensions (Mouffe 2005).
Clouder, C. (2009) The challenge of modern childhood, In R. House & D. Loewenthal (eds.) Childhood, wellbeing and a therapeutic ethos. (London: Karnac), pp. 55-73. Ecclestone, K. & Hayes D. (2009) The dangerous rise of therapeutic education. (London: Routledge). Furedi, F. (2009) Wasted: why education isn't educating. (London: Continuum). Irisdotter Aldenmyr, S. (forth coming) Handling challenge and becoming a teacher. An analysis of teachers' narration about Life Competence Education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice Kimber, B. (2009) Att främja barns och ungdomars utveckling av social och emotionell kompetens [SET: teori och praktisk tillämpning för pedagoger]. (2nd. ed.) (Malmö: Epago). Mintz, A. (2010) Has therapy intruded into education? Journal of Philosophy of Education 43(4), 633-647. Mouffe, C. (2005) The Return of the Political. New York: Verso. Nielsen, K., Dalgaard, S. & Senger, S. (2010) Selvbekendelses – strategier i pædagogisk praksis, Nordic Studies in Education, 30, 87-101. Olson, M. (ed.) (2012a) Theme: Citizenship under liberal democracy. To be or not to be a (properly educated) citizen: comments on the ICCS 2009 study. Utbildning & Demokrati [Education & Democracy] 21(1). Olson, M. (2012b) The European 'We': From Citizenship Policy to the Role of Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 31(1), 77-89. Olson, M. (2012c) Citizenship Education Without Citizenship? The Migrant in EU Policy on Participatory Citizenship – Toward the Margin Through ‘Strangification'. In R. Hedke & T. Zimenkova (eds.) Education for Civic and Political Participation: A Critical Approach. London: Routledge (forthcoming) Palmer, S. (2009) What is Toxic Childhood? In R. House & D. Loewenthal (eds.) Childhood, wellbeing and a therapeutic ethos. (London: Karnac), pp. 37-54. Smeyers P., Smith R. & Standish P. (2007) The therapy of education. Philosophy, happiness and personal growth. (Palgrave: Macmillan). Young, I. M. (2002) Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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