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Disenfranchisement

An Essay on the Infrastructure of Critique

Rasmus Willig

Why is it important to take a critical approach to your work? And what are the consequences if your critical voice is suppressed? These are the questions that lie at the heart of Disenfranchisement, which focuses on the deteriorating possibilities for a group of kindergarten staff members to utter criticism and influence their work places.
The central point of the book is that the inability to criticise is closely related to a more general process of disenfranchisement that is corroding the lives of staff both professionally and privately. Through interviews with kindergarten workers, the book reveals how these processes have resulted in a widespread sense of powerlessness and paralysis.
This book is for anyone who seeks a conceptualisation of the feeling that it has become more worthwhile to keep silent than to speak your mind – a widespread impression in a time when several groups in the public sector, including nurses, teachers, kindergarten workers and police officers, report increased political control and a lack of tolerance of critical voices in a neoliberal era. The book focuses on the informal norms that determine our ability to criticise, rather than on the formal, statutory rights of freedom of speech, press and assembly.

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Chapter 6 The unenfranchised children

Extract

To put it rather simplistically, unenfranchised children are subordinated to the enfranchised adults as part of their own process of enfranchisement, with the adults acting as role models. But if the adults are themselves disen- franchised, they cannot help the unenfranchised to become enfranchised. On the contrary, the children are kept in their unenfranchised state. The processes of disenfranchisement which af fect the kindergarten teachers are reproduced among the children, and are thus maintained and instilled in the children right from infancy. The point is that under the conditions described, the enfranchised kindergarten teachers have no real possibility to pass on their enfranchisement, either through qualified pedagogical practice or in their capacity as role models. The reproduction of the processes of disenfranchisement takes place in many ways, but these are dif ficult to document. One of the reasons for this – which is also one of the primary processes of reproduction – is that the kindergarten teachers and management no longer have time to talk about the children. The massive processes of disenfranchisement have resulted in the children becoming more anonymous. Doorframe pedagogy There is no time to watch or hear the children. The professional eye of the kindergarten teacher has no opportunity to concentrate upon the devel- opment of one or two children. The ‘professional eye’ has been replaced by a ‘watchful eye’, and professional skills have been reduced to what one 78 CHAPTER 6 teacher describes as ‘doorframe pedagogy’: with one foot planted on either side of a doorframe, they...

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