Power and Politics in Childhood

C&S SIGN Seminar

Date & time: Wednesday 15th February, 12-1.30pm

Location: Middlesex University – College Building, Room C126

Seminar 4: Power and Politics in Childhood

Dr Nathan Fretwell, Middlesex University – Anarchist Education and the Paradox of Pedagogical Authority

Education has a special importance for anarchists. It is linked, on one hand, to the possibility of social transformation; to the possibility of forging a new social order based on mutual aid and direct democracy. And, on the other, it serves as an arena in which anarchist ideals might be prefiguratively practised (Mueller, 2012). There is one issue, however, that strikes at the heart of anarchist education: the place of authority in pedagogical relationships. Whilst anarchism consists in the principled opposition to all forms of coercive authority (Jun, 2010), there will undoubtedly be occasions when some form of coercive intervention in educational settings is not only necessary, but justified. This, then, is the paradox of anarchist education. Anarchists are impelled to both deny coercive authority in the name of justice and at the same time to effectively reinstitute it. In this paper, I explore this paradox through a reading of Derrida’s later ethical work (Derrida, 1990), and, in particular, his conception of justice as requiring an openness to the singular situation. To be open to singularity, is to accept the burden of responsibility for taking decisions on an uncertain ethical terrain in which there are, and can be, no clear guidelines for action. It is this route, I argue, down which the anarchist pedagogue travels. In asserting her authority, she encounters the aporetic moment of anarchism and experiences what Derrida calls “the ordeal of the undecidable” (Ibid.). But in so doing, the paradox, I suggest, becomes less an indication of anarchism’s limitations than it does its value; for it is only in anarchism, perhaps, that the exercise of pedagogical authority is treated with the gravity that all questions of justice deserve.

Dr.Nick Mead, Oxford Brookes University – School Direct: training apprentice teachers or developing morally and politically engaged professionals?

In this paper I draw on Aristotle’s concept of phronesis and Crick’s understanding of Citizenship Education in order to make the claim that identity and autonomy play a critical part in developing the relationship between trainee teachers’ personal moral and political values. I then examine aspects of current standards-based teacher education practice with the intention of evaluating the extent to which performativity can enable identity and autonomy to flourish. The view I reach is that contextualised school-based teacher education has the potential to contribute to the self-realisation of the identity of the teacher as citizen, thereby securing autonomous moral and political decision-making which is the hallmark of a critical and strategic professional knowledge. However, I argue that such potential will not be realised in much School Direct training without a new interpretation of teacher education process, pedagogy and provision. After consideration of each of these aspects of teacher education, I reach the conclusion that the reinterpretation of each which I am recommending will only be achieved if school-based training such as School Direct, is fully embedded in the rationale and the purpose of the school itself. School Direct, therefore, rather than an apprenticeship model, offers a significant opportunity for senior leaders and school-based teacher educators to critically engage in reflecting on the degree to which their trainees, teachers and indeed pupils, are flourishing as autonomous citizens whose identities are being fully realised.

A summary paper and the slides from Nick’s talk can be downloaded here:


This event is free to attend and open to all, please sign up here:

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