On the Lives and Education of Children
Edited By Paul L. Thomas, Paul R. Carr, Julie A. Gorlewski and Brad J. Porfilio
Chapter One: Public Education and the Ethics of Care: Toward a Politics of Kindness?
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Public Education AND THE Ethics OF Care
Toward a Politics of Kindness?
RACHEL K. BRICKNER
During the Wisconsin Uprising in February 2011, a protest against proposed legislation that would curb collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers, some protestors carried signs that said, “Care about educators like they care for your child” (Schwartz, 2011). This effort to insert care into the debate about the controversial legislation did two things. First, it called attention to the fact that education is a caring profession and that schools and individual educators are entrusted with the physical, emotional, and intellectual care and nurturing of students. Second, it was a call to recognize in political discourse and policy the skill, professionalism, and importance of public educators. In what was a contentious political mobilization, these protestors’ “call to care” can be understood as a politics of kindness—an effort to shift away from the punitive and humiliating discourses and policies that characterize the neoliberal era and root them instead in empathy with others and with an eye toward what is necessary for all individuals to flourish.
Neoliberal approaches to public education have reconceived education in terms of a market model and promote policy reforms through discourses of humiliation that belittle and shame students, educators, and schools that fall short of market expectations. In what follows, I argue that to effectively resist neoliberal reform, public education advocates must engage in new...
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