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A Time for Dissent Kathleen Lynch, UCD Equality Studies Centre, School of Social Justice VTOS 20 th Anniversary Conference,

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Presentation on theme: "A Time for Dissent Kathleen Lynch, UCD Equality Studies Centre, School of Social Justice VTOS 20 th Anniversary Conference,"— Presentation transcript:

1 A Time for Dissent Kathleen Lynch, UCD Equality Studies Centre, School of Social Justice VTOS 20 th Anniversary Conference, Limerick February 5-6 th 2009

2 2 Education is a basic Human Right that is indispensable for realising other rights 1. People have a right to education – Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social And Cultural Rights (ICESCR) 2. Education enables people to overcome other social disadvantages 3. Education has an intrinsic value for the development of the individual 4. Education credentials play a crucial role in mediating access to other goods, notably employment, culture, health and well being. 5. Education has a care function as well as a development function that is costly in terms of time and needs to be protected 6. Education is a Public Good as well as a Personal Good- it enriches cultural, social, political and economic life locally and globally All of the above cannot be guaranteed in a commercialised education system as the right to education is made contingent on the ability to pay

3 3 Rights under threat from Neo-Liberal Policies – Issues for Educators Neo-liberal politics is dominant intellectual framework underpinning public policy-making in Ireland for the last 10+ years The core value of neo-liberalism is that the market should replace the state as the provider of all services, including education - services are to be run commercially The goal is the reduction in the cost to capital (i.e. business) of expenditure on public services What are the Outcomes: a) privatisation of services, increased social segregation in education and health b) loss of resources to fund public services such as education, rise of private services as taxes are reduced (grind schools, for-profit hospitals and nursing homes for those who can afford them) c) no democratic means to hold the private sector to account d) a generalised privatisation of interest – lack of respect and support for public services (and the voluntary and community services) and those who work in them

4 4 How have we come to accept a neo-liberal commercialised model of education Anti-Intellectualism of Irish public life We have pseudo politics – no party now claims to have any core values - led by pragmatism that conceals the values and principles underpinning policies We have no intellectual language to name our very real ideological differences - we live in an ideological fog This obfuscation of ideology conceals the interests of the powerful Yet There is no view from nowhere Language does not just name the world, it defines it;  e.g. Concept of ‘customers’, in education defines the learner as a person buying an optional service on the market (like cars, cinema tickets etc.); it undermines the concept of education a right, a right that must be vindicated by the State under human rights law

5 5 Educational Deceptions: the Myth of Choice  The metaphor of ‘Choice’ is the myth that makes commercialisation palatable  The concept of the citizen as ‘free chooser’ completely ignores the well-researched reality that those without resources have no choices about school, education, hospitals or other services  Implications of market-led policies for education:  They create a culture in which individuals are held responsible for failure and success – The individual is responsible for being an lifelong learner, an active citizen, responsibility shifts from the State and its agencies to the individual  There is a development of ‘the anxious classes’, through the intensification and glorification of competition All groups have to compete for funding- time is devoted to ‘the competition’ (tendering for funding) instead of running the service

6 6 What happens when a market-led model of the citizen guides educational policy ‘ You are what you can buy’ – the core assumption is that: The market can replace the State (the people), and all other values systems, as the primary producer of cultural logic and value  It defines the citizen as a ‘consumer’, an economic maximiser, a ‘free chooser’ –prioritises freedom of individuals over collective rights  Neo-liberalism offers a Hobbesian in model of society; focus is on creating privatised citizens who care only for themselves/ families  Because a ‘Market Citizen’ only needs education for market participation – non-market forms of education (esp. if not accredited) are trivialised  Cutting back and limiting informal adult and community education that is not market relevant is inevitable within a marketised citizenship framework

7 7 What is the challenge to Adult and Community Education from Neo-liberal (marketised) policies? Markets are driven by concerns by profit maximisation so commercialisation undermines non-market education, including Education for Critical Thinking Education for work and activities that are not marketable (e.g. for public service, civil society, the arts, carers etc.) Education of those who will never be major producers in market terms– older and isolated people, people who have long-term mental health difficulties, people with intellectual disabilities  Outcomes of adult education are not always quantifiable and measureable – yet they are very real in quality of life terms- education with non-quantifiable outcomes will not have a place in a market-led system  The TINA mentality (There is No Alternative to the market) must be challenged

8 8 How do we move to a new vision of society and education? breaking silences Be honest with ourselves --moving away from illusions – about politics, ideas Naming ideological differences and making choices –we need a politics that declares its values not one built on personalities or pragmatism Owning the conservatism (and political complacency) that has brought us to our current crises Recognising the serious lack of critical analysis in much of our education – we need teaching and learning that recognises there are multiple perspectives on all subjects

9 9 Moving to a new vision in education – breaking educational silences  What are the limitations of having a small group of powerful middle/upper class interest groups controlling education? (as per the Education Act)  Why are civil society organisations and dissenters generally excluded from policy-making in education (disabled groups, women’s groups, community groups)?  Why is there no substantive funding for research on equality in education – no national data on social class difference in educational attainment in public examinations at second or third level?  Why have we no national data on all levels of education, including adult and community education?  Why is there no Education Research Board like the Health Research Board?  Why is there no public discussion about the entry requirements to primary teaching that exclude so many disabled people? How are we incorporating new communities into teaching?  Who is controlling our thinking in Ireland – are we aware we are being manipulated and controlled? What is education doing about the closing down of dissent?

10 10 Time for Choice 2 types of Ireland are possible  An egalitarian and inclusive Ireland where the right to education is guaranteed at all levels, for adults as well as children  Or an Ireland in which access and participation in education is made contingent on market resources (ability to pay) especially for adults

11 11 Equality in Education as a basic human right Education is a basic human right and a necessity in a globalised economy The State is an in-eliminable agent in matters of justice in vindicating educational rights: only the state can guarantee to individual persons the right to be educated.  If the state absolves itself of the responsibility to educate all members of society, rights will be contingent on the ability to pay. Democratic Accountability must be distinguished from Market Accountability In a democratically accountable system, each individual has an equal right to education In a market-led system accountability will be contingent on market capacity or resources Adult Education programmes such as VTOS often serve the most vulnerable in society – adults’ rights to be educated cannot be made contingent on their market capabilities


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