Saturday, June 26, 2010

Journal of Education Policy- 25th anniversary seminar

Had a very enjoyable experience in room 828 of the IoE in London on Thursday at the gathering convened to mark the JEP's 25th year of publication with the discussion centred around responses to Andrew Gamble's book 'The Spectre at the Feast: Capitalist Crisis and the Politics of Recession' . Despite the baking heat of central London and a struggling air-conditioning unit, attendance was well worth while and provided if not a feast at least a series of intellectual tapas (less bloating, different flavours and textures, etc) from well-established members of the academic commentariat. Andrew's opening presentation (softly spoken, a challenge against that air-conditioner at times!) gave an overview of the political and economic context, before the others each made their own contributions all on the theme of multiple potential crises: existential, structural, political, and not just economic. The challenges of developing an alternative narrative against the dominant neo-liberal discourse are of course not underestimated, but suggestions regarding the exploration of understandings of 'crisis', of the disconnect from politics or at least the reframing of how political action is manifest, the rhetorics of regulation (particularly in education), the manufacture of public complicity ("how will you take ownership of the cuts you agree we have to make?') and the concept of the 'refraction' of neo-liberal ideas and the variation in responses by different national cultures (with some sad reflection emerging from broad European studies that show a dispirited detachment by English teachers, for example, when questioned about their beliefs about their work reply 'It's just a job, I'm waiting for retirement' contrasted with other countries where the ideas have either not being fully incorporated into national policies or where the local culture disregards policy statements as a matter of course) - these and many more ideas all floated through the room and triggered thoughtful reflection.

A particularly warm welcome was given to 'an accountant' (modest understatement) Pamela Stapleton who had forensically dissected the complexity of PFI in the English school building programme -the corpse laid bare with entrails attached to multinational corporations, shady think tanks, corrupt (only in the moral and not legal sense, you understand, but which counts most to you?) authorities and agencies, consultants and government - an all too illustrative example of the extent to which this fatal disease is eating away at language, logic and society.

Now we just have to wait until the papers themselves are published for the proper feast. As to where the barricades are to be set up, who's prepared to raise the flag first and when the precarious stuctures finally tumble Jenga-like? Ah, those are the eternal questions!

As for the Journal, itself, well going from strength to strength, the publishers have released their top ten downloaded paper list for free access for the rest of the year.

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