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Schools as Architecture for Newcomers and Strangers: The Perfect School as Public School?

by Jan Masschelein & Maarten Simons — 2010

Background/Context: The article reflects on the public role of education on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Hannah Arendt’s essay, “The Crisis in Education” and in facing the current transformation of public policy into “new public management.”

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Based on Arendt’s essay, “The Crisis in Education,” the article explores that peculiar setting and architecture between family and world that is called school. The leading concern for this investigation is the school’s public meaning. The point of departure is that today, the public role of education is an urgent concern, that is, the school’s public role is questioned in view of the current processes of privatization, and what is critically described as the “capitalization of life.” In this contribution, based on a reading of Arendt’s essay and relying on the analysis of a specific school design by the architect Wim Cuyvers, two different ways of thinking the public meaning of school education are explored. One way of thinking takes the school as an infrastructure of “intro-duction,” while the other way of thinking regards the school as an infrastructure of “e-duc(a)tion.”

Research Design: This article is an analytic essay.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The article shows that it is impossible to think “a new beginning in our world” without thinking the school as public space. Drawing on some thoughts of Agamben and the school architecture of Cuyvers, the article offers an outline for elaborating the Arendtian thinking of the “perfect school.” This school is conceived of as a space where people are exposed to things, and being exposed could be regarded as being drawn outside (or as e-ducation), that is, into public space. Public space is a “free space” or the space of “free time.” This free time is precisely the sense that the Greek “scholé” seemed to indicate—a space where (economic, social, cultural, political, private . . .) time is suspended and where people have time at their disposal for “a new beginning.” Whereas the museum is the setting that accumulates time, the school could be seen as the setting for suspending time. The school as “public architecture,” then, is not a space/time of “intro-duction” and “in-between,” but a space/time of “suspension” and “e-ducation.”

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 2, 2010, p. 533-555
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15743, Date Accessed: 12/11/2018 6:33:52 AM

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About the Author
  • Jan Masschelein
    Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
    E-mail Author
    JAN MASSCHELEIN is professor of philosophy of education at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. His primary areas of scholarship are educational theory, political philosophy, critical theory, studies of governmentality, and social philosophy. Currently his research concentrates on the “public” character of education in the age of networks and on the way in which changes in experiences of time and space are related to different ways of organizing and structuring education and research. In addition to this work, he is engaged with architects/artists in the development of experimental educational practices and research practices. He is the author of many articles, special journal issues, and books in these fields. He has published, among others: Pädagogisches Handeln und Kommunikatives Handeln (Deutscher Studien Verlag 1991); Alterität, Pluralität, Gerechtigheit. Randgänge der Pädagogik (Leuven University Press, 1996, coauthored with M. Wimmer); Globale Immunität. Eine kleine Kartographie des Europaischen Bildungsraums (Diaphanes, 2004, coauthored with M. Simons); Europa Anno 2006 (ACCO, 2006, coauthored with M. Simons); and De schaduwzijde van onze welwillendheid. Kritische studies van de pedagogische actualiteit (The Dark Side of Our Good Intentions: Critical Studies of the Educational Present; ACCO, 2008, coauthored with M.Simons). He translated work of Hannah Arendt into Dutch: Masschelein, J., & Peeters, R. (1994). Hannah Arendt. Tussen verleden en toekomst. Vier oefeningen in politiek denken (Translation of H. Arendt: Between Past and Future; Leuven, Belgium: Garant).
  • Maarten Simons
    Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
    MAARTEN SIMONS is a professor at the Centre for Educational Policy and Innovation and the Centre for Philosophy of Education, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. His research interests are educational policy and political philosophy, with special attention to (global) governmentality and schooling, the public role of education/teaching, and changes in (global/national) power and policy mechanisms. With Jan Masschelein, he is the author of Globale Immunität. Ein kleine Kartographie des Europaischen Bildungsraum (2005, Berlin/Zurich, Diaphanes). He is the coeditor of the books Europa anno 2006. E-ducatieve berichten uit niemandsland (2006, ACCO); The Learning Society from the Perspective of Governmentality (2007, Blackwell); De schaduwzijde van onze welwillendheid (2008, ACCO); and the special issue, “The University Revisited: Questioning the Public Role of the University in the European Knowledge Society” (2007, Studies in Philosophy and Education), and the author of several articles in journals and edited books.
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