Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Preparing Teachers for the Neoliberal Panopticon

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Preparing Teachers for the Neoliberal Panopticon

Article excerpt

In this article we critically analyze how neoliberalism, as a political-economic discourse, uses surveillance to produce a stratified student body for economic roles. Panoptic technologies regulate schools and teachers by perpetuating an "ethics of competition" that promote a market mentality of "educational choice" while propagating educational apartheid (Kozol, 2005). We use the current U.S.A. legislation, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), as a foil for our argument and illustrate how some educators have fabricated spectacles in attempts to resist the performance pressure of neoliberal surveillance. We end our discourse by discussing pedagogical fabrications as moments of neoliberal resistance and conclude with ways teacher education might prepare educators to respond more collectively to the educational inequities produced from reducing education to an economic enterprise.

Neoliberal Economics:

Knowledge Stratification and Cognitive Segregation

Neoliberalism is a political-economic theory that de-emphasizes, or rejects, government regulation of the economy, focusing instead on achieving progress and even "social justice" by encouraging so-called free-market methods (i.e., few, if any regulations) on business operations. Neoliberalism asserts that the "divine-hand" of the market is best able to determine optimal economic and social policies, on a national and global scale, and may even bring about needed progress and social change. This economic discourse is largely dictated to dependent countries (those with few financial resources seeking economic development) by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is characterized by privatization, austerity policies, and trade liberalization as conditions for approval of investment, loans, and debt relief. As Martinez and Garcia (2006) noted, neoliberal economics has,

   ... become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the
   word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the
   effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor
   grow poorer. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist
   economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale. (p. 1)

Neoliberal economics relies on the values of choice and competition, rather than values of equity and sustainability, to accomplish its goals. Dependent countries, however, have little choice about whether they adopt the privatization, austerity, and free-trade policies demanded by the IMF when they seek debt relief. Conversely, affluent countries have enormous latitude in their economic decisions. Nevertheless, according to neoliberal economic theory, the increasing national and global economic stratification that occurs in face of neoliberal policies is the result of "free" economic choices and competition (Harvey, 2005).

As a value, competition may momentarily actuate higher standards, learning, and even produce better educators, but this particular economic value is oppressive and dehumanizing when the game is rigged. And, even though democracy itself may promote more political competition than other forms of government, "harmful forms of competition occur when the rules themselves are unfair or unjust. Invidious discrimination, the principal ground of injustice connected with rules, would involve unequal treatment in developing and enforcing rules" (Rich & De Vitis, 1992, p. 12). Unfortunately, the assumptions of competition that the capitalist market utilize to support neoliberalism have failed to produce educational equality and instead exacerbates inequities in order to prey upon and benefit from those who have been disenfranchised. This is particularly true for students who are systematically segregated through anti-egalitarian sorting practices such as eugenics and (dis)ability (Baker, 2002) and classism, and racism (Kozol, 2005).

Economic inequalities (Global and domestic) are supported by knowledge stratification, which may also be thought of as cognitive segregation. …

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