Judith Suissa

Anarchist education and social hope

In this talk, I will draw on my research into the educational ideas and experiments associated with the social anarchist tradition in order to consider some of the ways in which this tradition can enrich our thinking about educational practice, policy and theory. I will discuss some historical examples of anarchist schools and look at both the similarities and the differences, in terms of curriculum, ethos and pedagogy, between these educational experiments and other educational experiments in the tradition of libertarian or democratic education. Specifically, I will discuss the anarchist conception of the relationship between education and social change and the central anarchist notion of prefigurative practice.  This perspective, that views social and political institutions as malleable and subject to constant experimentation and change, offers, I argue, a valuable critique of some dominant trends in liberal and neo-liberal education policy and an important defence of the educational value of social hope. My analysis and critique will focus on particular policy initiatives, within the English context, such as the new “free schools” and academies, that are part of a growing global movement towards removing state control of education.

Judith Suissa is Professor of Philosophy of Education at the UCL Institute of Education, London. Her research interests are in political and moral philosophy, with a particular focus on questions to do with the control of education, social justice, libertarian and anarchist theory, the role of the state, political education, and the parent–child relationship. Her publications include Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective (Routledge, 2006) and (with Stefan Ramaekers) The Claims of Parenting: Reasons, Responsibility, and Society (Springer, 2012)