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Unsettling Education

Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform


Edited By Brian Charest and Kate Sjostrom

Unsettling Education: Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform offers a counter-narrative to the prevailing orthodoxies of schooling and school reform that conflate education and learning with that which can be measured on state-mandated examinations. Despite the push to "settle" the purposes of teaching and schooling in ways that see education as the teaching of a discrete set of skills that align with standardized exams, there are teachers and students who continue to resist standardization and whose stories suggest there are many ways to organize schools, design curriculum, and understand the purposes of education. Unsettling Education shares stories of how teachers have resisted state and local mandates to teach to the test in dehumanizing ways, how such teachers have sought to de-commodify educational spaces, how they have enacted their ethical commitments to students and communities, and how they have theorized such practices, sometimes even reconsidering their roles as teachers and the very purposes of schooling. Volume contributors offer concrete ways in which teachers might challenge the structures of schooling to reveal the full humanity and potential of students through different forms of resistance pedagogy, institutional critiques, and critical self-reflection. Featuring a wide range of voices and contexts, the collections’ chapters blend story and theory, resulting in a volume both accessible and thought-provoking to varied audiences—from undergraduate students of education and concerned citizens to veteran educators, teacher educators, administrators, and policymakers.

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8. Motivation, Mental Health, and the Eclipse of Social Imagination (Kevin Christopher Carey)


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8. Motivation, Mental Health, and the Eclipse of Social Imagination


Education in the era of neoliberal reform is troubling, as can be witnessed by key changes in the educational framework over the past 50 years: the skyrocketing of college tuition and the shifting of financial aid from schools to students; the rising role and prevalence of standardized testing; and the co-optation of public education policy and teacher training by private companies (e.g., Pearson) and philanthropic organizations (e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), to name a few. In this essay, I address what I see as the crucial role played by the logic of individualism as it informs neoliberal thinking and as it structures neoliberal interventions in educational and social policy. What I hope to provide is a sketch of some of the ways in which seeing the world through the lens of neoliberal individualism shapes and limits how we educators understand ourselves, our students, and education, and to show how these understandings lead to and support some material practices while at the same time devaluing or erasing others. One of the major consequences of this worldview, I argue, is what I am provisionally calling a “psychologicalization of the social.” By this I mean a shrinking of what C. Wright Mills (1959, 2000) called “the sociological imagination,” such that we reduce “public issues” to “private troubles,” and in so doing, while we clamor more and more for...

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