Kenneth Wain and the Lifelong Engagement with Education
6. The Dangers of Liberal/Rationalist Policy Discourse and the Role of the Philosopher in Disrupting It
Popular educational policy discourse promotes a limited relationship between policy and philosophy, which is dominated by a liberal/rationalist conception of both. Such conceptions do not allow for alternative possibilities in envisioning and actualizing creative and more meaningful relationships between policy and philosophy. Moreover, the liberal/rationalist policy discourse has not been successful in challenging the neoliberal agenda, especially in education. In fact, albeit unwittingly, the predominant policy discourse reproduces dangerous neoliberal myths such as, (a) the possibility and desirability of neutrality, (b) the view that the only meaningful notion of evidence is empirical evidence, and (c) the view that to achieve equity we need standardization enforced through technical accountability mechanisms. In other words, one could argue that the liberal/rationalist positioning in policy discourse has set the foundations for, if not the “natural” emergence or development, neoliberal stances and practices. In other words, political rationalism reduces public policy to clear-cut solutions to easily identifiable problems while masking the role of democracy, the needs of citizens, and the power of the problem definition itself (Bacchi, 2000).
“May and should the philosopher retire from public life?” remains a debated question, particularly given the marginal role that philosophers play in liberal-democratic constructions of policy (Nussbaum, 2000, p. 471). In this chapter, we look to the relationship between philosophy and policy, unpacking underlying assumptions, and critiquing narrow conceptions of ← 89 | 90 → democracy, policy, and public life. The aim of this chapter is twofold: (1) to argue against liberal/rationalist myths and the assumptions underlying contemporary...
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