The possibility of public education in an instrumentalist age

Chris Higgins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In our increasingly instrumentalist culture, debates over the privatization of schooling may be beside the point. Whether we hatch some new plan for chartering or funding schools, or retain the traditional model of government-run schools, the ongoing instrumentalization of education threatens the very possibility of public education. Indeed, in the culture of performativity, not only the public school but public life itself is hollowed out and debased. Qualities are recast as quantities, judgments replaced by rubrics, teaching and learning turned into exchange values. Schools should be central to public life: key locations for the regeneration of values, the cultivation of judgment, and the creation of the conditions for positive freedom. In this article Chris Higgins, drawing on Hannah Arendt and Alasdair MacIntyre, goes beyond typical treatments of the schools as equalizer of individual opportunity to explore three aspects of educational publicity: the school as an object of communal concern, schooling as preparation for public life, and the classroom as public space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-466
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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