Kenneth Wain and the Lifelong Engagement with Education
11. Integrity and Subordination in Educational Practice
Kenneth Wain’s educational ideas, in his writings, in his presentations to conferences, and in his contributions to educational policy debates, are a major source of fresh thinking on ideas such as lifelong learning and the learning society. Apart from the incisiveness of his insights and the painstaking erudition of his arguments, Wain’s work is an exemplary instance of self-critical scholarship. His earlier writings sought to provide extensive theoretical resources for understanding and advancing “a learning society of social democrat inspiration” (Wain, 2004, p. 88). His later work, however, calls into question this entire project. His analysis traces how the lifelong learning movement, as originally envisaged by UNESCO and other international bodies in the early 1970s, has been taken over by an ascendant reign of performativity on a global scale. He now emphasises a different imperative for philosophical research in education: “It is the criterion of performativity that needs to be attacked today in the name of education” (Wain, 2004, p. 89). Accordingly, central to his later writings is the new elaboration of a politics of suspicion and resistance, informed by his engagement with a range of thinkers in a postmodern vein, most notably Foucault. This makes the tenor of these writings sceptical of any detailed constructive elucidations of educational practice, though they carry some suggestive remarks in this direction: “If enculturation is to be regarded as the necessary first step to education, as I agree it must be, it must be an enculturation that includes social criticism in its agenda...
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