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Access and Equity: Futures of an Educational Ideal



This paper offers an analysis of the concepts access and equity using CLA to highlight the complexity of the discourse and the nature of the contested conceptual space. An historical context is used to situate the dis- course and place the tension between open ended and closed interpretations of these terms in their historical- cultural context. The social imaginary is applied to the field of social ordering in order to recognise the power of myth and metaphor in determining social context. The paper concludes with an exploration of alternative defini- tions of access and equity and the roles of fear and hope in defining the possible.
Access and Equity:
Futures of an Educational Ideal
Marcus Bussey
University of the Sunshine Coast
Journal of Futures Studies, February 2006, 10(3): 33 - 48
This paper offers an analysis of the concepts access and equity using CLA to highlight the complexity of
the discourse and the nature of the contested conceptual space. An historical context is used to situate the dis-
course and place the tension between open ended and closed interpretations of these terms in their historical-
cultural context. The social imaginary is applied to the field of social ordering in order to recognise the power of
myth and metaphor in determining social context. The paper concludes with an exploration of alternative defini-
tions of access and equity and the roles of fear and hope in defining the possible.
"Since its election in 1996, the Howard government
has pursued an extreme version of neo-liberalism in
its approach to education. The government has sub-
jected education to market forces, and has made
competition, choice, and accountability central pri-
orities. These policy directions have affected all sec-
tors of education in detrimental ways. This agenda
has been taken up in narrow ideological ways and
has threatened the social-democratic traditions in
Australian education. ... In general, we have seen a
shift from a view of education as a public good –
central to the operation of a civil society – to a view
of public education as a safety net operating in a
system characterised by competition, stratification
and individualism. The policies have reshaped pub-
lic education – built on notions of universal access,
diversity and democracy – and have marginalised
programs addressing educational inequality."
(Taylor 2005: 8)
The neo-liberal policy attack on access and equity
and other pillars of the Australian social-democratic tra-
dition that Sandra Taylor describes here, has a long and
noble history. The Australian prime minister, John
Howard can chart his moral and intellectual roots back
beyond his families' colonial roots to such western lumi-
naries as Socrates and Plato. The struggle to defend and
develop concepts such as access and equity shares the
same lineage, being rooted in the stand off between the
Athenian citizenry and Socrates. In this contest
Protagoras, the great sophist teacher parodied by Plato,
can be seen to represent the opinion that education
was of universal value and the right and responsibility of
all citizens.
Socrates nor Plato, nor for that matter the
Australian prime minister, share such an opinion. The
Socratic position is that education is differential: it is an
unspoken but firmly held belief that most people are
Journal of Futures Studies
unable to ascend to the heights of great minds
and that culture, far from being universal, is the
particular province of cultivated and cultured
sectors of any community. In our age of political
correctness this can no longer be stated so
boldly, but in the Athens of Plato he could quite
happily compare the average citizen to a don-
key (Jaeger 1939/1965: 307; James 2005).
When exploring the futures of concepts
like access and equity it helps to place them in
their historical and cultural context. It is here
that we find the fears and hopes of cultures as
well as the contested value systems that form
the intellectual and moral fabric of societies.
From fear and hope, and the myths and
metaphors that give them form, we come to
understand why social expressions take the
form they do when challenged in particular
ways. Similarly, it is the dominant values of a
culture that underwrite the definitions for what
is possible and what is not and also set the lim-
its of official knowledge and shape the nature of
Throughout this article the historical
standoff between Socrates and Protagoras will
be used as a metaphor for the tension that lies
at the heart of current definitions of access and
equity and provide the context for thinking
about the futures of such educational ideals.
An Ancient Wound
Werner Jaeger describes how education
for the Sophists was a revolution that chal-
lenged patrician power. Their purpose in edu-
cating was to create good citizens. They posited
that their vision was an advance on the earlier
conception of education as a process of encul-
turation for the ruling patrician families. This
tradition is represented by Protagoras, Hippias
and Prodicus (Jaeger 1939/1965: 308). Patrician
education, which aimed at creating good lead-
ers through the amassing of cultural capital, was
aligned with power and fostered a high culture
that was felt to be beyond the reach of the ordi-
nary populace. Amongst the critics of popular
education were Socrates, Plato and later
Aristotle (the teacher of that archetypal great-
man, Alexander the Great). The 'culture' in ques-
tion, for both groups, was essentially political
(Jaeger 1939/1965: 300). Who had access to it
was determined by the aims and political ideol-
ogy of the leading educational thinkers of the
For Jaeger, this tension lay at the heart of
Greek educational and cultural creativity.
Protagoras, whom Jaeger describes as a proto-
humanist, spoke of an egalitarian universal cul-
ture and developed the concept that "Man is
the measure of all things". The patrician thinker
Plato turned this idea on its head and posited
instead that "The measure of all things is God"
(Jaeger 1939/1965: 301). By placing knowledge
in a transcendent context Plato strategically
reinforced a dualism that fostered the splitting
of humanity into two groups, the elite leaders
who were gifted with culture, and the followers
who were incapable of it. Plato offered a tran-
scendent, yet authoritarian, culture and taught
mostly nobles while Protagoras offered an
immanent, egalitarian and universal culture and
sought to bring his teaching to all
Both approaches saw education as essen-
tial for effective governance. To both threads of
Athenian-Greek consciousness culture was
essentially political. The individual did not exist
in a vacuum but was contextualised within the
polis (James 2005). All meaning came from their
being a part of the functioning of the city.
Political culture was 'universal', as social organi-
sation, the sharing of values and ideals, was the
culture that bound human beings of all walks of
life together in an effective polity. In this way
access was determined by the need to be
equipped with the skills to participate in the life
of the polis. Obviously, the elitist perspective
had no need for the concept of equity because
people were essentially unequal. In democratic
Athens however, Protagoras and the other
Sophists taught that equality was earned
through education and demonstrated through
civic engagement. Culture was the cement of
the polis, and had universal application to both
camps. Thus Jaeger concludes that:
"This conception of the nature of universal
culture summarizes the whole history of
Greek education: ethics and politics taken
together are one of the essential qualities of
Access and Equity
true paideia...the close connection between
higher education and the idea of society
and the state is an essential feature of clas-
sical Greece." (Jaeger 1939/1965: 300)
These two strands, the egalitarian and the
elitist, have been in a constant dialogue ever
since. Yet the balance has always been in favour
of elites. This is not simply because Plato was its
most eloquent advocate. Christianity too, with
its equally pessimistic assessment of humanity,
the 'fallen', as in need of constant rectification
has perpetuated the distrust of authority for the
crowd. Furthermore, Ziauddin Sardar has point-
ed out that the authoritarianism of Socrates has
been a defining feature in both the western and
Islamic traditions. The question of educability
lies at the heart of this tension and it goes back
to the argument between Socrates and Athens.
Socrates had argued we were not equal and all
were certainly not educable to the same
degree. The Athenian polity took and imple-
mented the reverse position, namely that any
cook could rule. Greek thought is stamped with
this standoff and modern intellectual history in
general, and educational theory in particular,
perpetuates it.
"Greek thought envelopes the ways of
knowing as well as the very being of
Western and Muslim civilizations. We live
and breath it, it is our perpetual shadow,
our eternal guide from the dark Cave into
the world of reason and light, our road to
reality." (Sardar 1989: 3)
Roberto Calasso explores this tension fur-
ther, pointing out that although the demos was
a Greek discovery, it went hand in hand with
their gift for subverting both freedom and jus-
tice via public opinion (Calasso 1993: 255-256),
which acted as a form of popular authoritarian-
ism. The contempt that Socrates had for the
crowd was mutual. Thus, I.F. Stone observes
that Socrates would not claim as his defence his
entitlement to freedom of speech, that defining
feature of the Athenian polis. Socrates treated
that freedom with contempt and taught others
to view the average citizen as little better than a
donkey. Stone concludes:
"Socrates would have found it repugnant to
plead a principle in which he did not
believe; free speech for him was the privi-
lege of the enlightened few, not of the
benighted many. He would not have wanted
the democracy he rejected to win a moral
victory by setting him free.
His martyrdom, and the genius of Plato,
made him a secular saint, the superior man
confronting the ignorant mob with serenity
and humour. This was Socrates' triumph
and Plato's masterpiece. Socrates needed
the hemlock, as Jesus needed the crucifix-
ion, to fulfil a mission. The mission left a
stain forever on democracy. That remains
Athens' tragic crime. (Stone 1989: 230)."
Education has been living with this 'stain'
for two and a half millennia. It is deep and the
tension is as alive and vigorous today as it was
in the time of Socrates.
The Reasons for Educating
This historical overview reveals that the
reasons for educating are linked with the way
we educate, the range and scope of how we
educate and the way we define the group we
educate. Access in this sense becomes a ques-
tion not just of delivery but of definition. Equity
no longer refers to the single issue of a facilitat-
ed and selective access but to the systemic
response to the human right to a rich, diverse
and empowering education. At the risk of per-
petuating a dualism, these two positions,
encapsulated in the standoff between Socrates
and the people of Athens, help us to establish
the boundaries of the question: what does and
can access and equity mean?
In exploring this question a spectrum of
possible positions emerge. These positions are
the result of attempts to resolve the wound of
Socrates' death. Socrates won a profound moral
victory when he goaded the people into sen-
tencing him to death. Were they right to do so?
Did they prove their ignorance and pettiness by
passing sentence? Is human nature essentially
mean, sinful and vindictive?
If the answer is Yes, then education will
focus on control and discipline, on what
Gordon Tait calls 'individuation, differentiation,
normalisation' (Tait 2004). If however, the
Journal of Futures Studies
answer is No, then the focus will be on the child
and their family, on holistic learning and on
building strong critical and personal relevance
into learning. If the answer is Yes, then access
becomes a means of selection and assimilation,
of the division of labour and of maintaining a
belief in merit and of the rights of the individual
over the collective. Equity, too becomes a differ-
ential concept, which when linked to the con-
cept of merit rationalises the individual's, and
whole sections of the populace's, inclusion or
exclusion from power and wealth. If the answer
is No, then access becomes a means of engag-
ing with social division, the impoverishment of
culture and the selective discrimination against
various vulnerable groups within the communi-
ty. Similarly equity, becomes a social justice
issue as opposed to a neo-Darwinian tool and
education becomes a vehicle for social renewal
and a resource for community and regional
Furthermore, if we were to step beyond
the dualism implicit in much of western
thought and embrace the 'synthetic' position of
many non-western traditions we find a space of
possible interpretations and actions based on
an entirely different set of principles. Such a
space Edward Soja describes as a 'third space' in
which hybridity of values and voices sets the
scene for inclusive but not homogenised possi-
ble solutions to the tensions inherent in west-
ern dualism. (Soja 1996)
Yoshiharu Nakagawa makes a similar point
when he states that "Eastern philosophy does
not see language as the all-embracing matrix or
as the highest organ to grasp the universal laws
(logos)." (Nakagawa 2000: 148) The tension that
is the hallmark of the western educational tradi-
tion becomes a non-tension in this context.
Access can mean openness and equity can
mean fulfilment. In this context learning and
unlearning become linked in a dance between
ignorance and knowledge, both in this 'other'
educational space holding a meaningful place
within a seemingly paradoxical holistic educa-
tional setting.
The neohumanism at the heart of this
position is a reformulation, one might say a
transvaluation, of the Greek ideal as expressed
by Protagoras and taken up two millennia later
by Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas More. It
offers a new critical dimension to educational
thinking in which relationship and community
are as important as analysis and individuation.
When both positions are allowed to step out of
the straight-jacket of binary logic, access must
reconcile with the conceptual and social tension
that there is no even playing field and equity
must allow for both personal ability and struc-
ture to form fluid solutions to the personal and
the social paradox that no two human beings
are the same and therefore at some ultimate
level the notion of equity is flawed.
The point here is that civilizations are net-
works of values that define our expectations
and generate the reasons for human individual
and collective action. The dualism at the heart
of western educational discourse is but one way
of defining what is knowable and therefore real.
Beyond dialectic there is the possibility of a
third or neohumanist space that is a creative
synthesis that is forever fluid and responsive to
shifts in human and social order. This is the liv-
ing space of cultural ordering where concepts
are mutable and genealogical analysis opens the
present up to its past.
Whose Definitions?
Institutions tend to be blind to history.
Educational systems are no exception. This
however does not exempt them from the play
of history. As it stands, modernity has taken
Socrates' side in the debate over human nature.
This is why the issues of access and equity exist.
Western society is not as free and liberal as our
leaders would have us believe. Our educational
institutions are dominated by systems that per-
petuate exclusivity and inequity. Education is,
we are told, about merit, excellence, perform-
ance and accountability and these concepts
generate hierarchical, discriminatory and selec-
tive values. Furthermore neoliberalism, the ide-
ological and economic structure of late moder-
nity, perpetuates myths of ascendance and dif-
ferential reward (Apple 2003; Illich 1971;
Postman 1969; Pusey 1991)
This situation is maintained by the ahistori-
Access and Equity
cal nature of the educational gaze. From this
neoliberal context the ideological struggles of
the past are deemed to be over and modern
education, for all its recognised problems, is
heralded as one of the great victories of moder-
nity. The subtext is simple: Why quibble about
issues of access and equity when we are getting
education to a vast and diverse population,
meeting a vast array of needs and challenges
and skilling our populations with new and excit-
ing technologies, known in the trade as 'essen-
tial learnings' and/or 'multi-literacies'? The impli-
cation is that it is the future that education must
respond to, not the past. The imperative, politi-
cians and large tracts of the media would have
us believe, is to prepare children for the threats,
challenges and possibilities of a future that is
essentially unknowable, yet darkly forbidding.
Fear thus becomes the fuel for our educational
Yet, from the expanded humanist position
exemplified by Protagoras and the perspective
of critical futures education, how education
responds is moulded by its past, the choices.
made and the values that informed these choic-
es In this sense, the future becomes a magnet,
the past the context and the emergent present
provides a range of possibilities.
Still, to push our metaphor further,
Socrates casts a long shadow. The modern
state, threatened as it is by the dual forces of
globalism and resurgent community action,
stands in that shadow, and its perspective is
shaped by unconscious assumptions about
human nature being ignorant, lazy, short-sight-
ed, chaotic, deceitful, etc. One logical response
is to seek to extend control over this unruly
nature via increased central control over educa-
tion and other vehicles of civic and cultural
cohesion. However, as James Scott dryly
observes "the administrator's forest cannot be
the naturalist's forest" (Scott 1998: 22). Similarly,
the administrator's school cannot be the child's
For the administrative mind, control
requires legibility, the quantification of natural
space. So education, as an activity of the mod-
ern bureaucratic state, demands legibility (Scott
1998: 183); it requires practices that enable
schools, teachers and their students to be
assessed, measured and quantified. Such prac-
tices become internalised and act as a form of
social control. Foucault described this process
by analogy to Bentham's panopticon, a revolu-
tionary prison design that builds self-surveil-
lance into the prisoner's psyche. (Foucault
1977). State surveillance via testing and report-
ing operates in this way, actively changing the
way students and their teachers function
(Meadmore 2004: 27). Such self-regulation is
only required when social institutions such as
education are felt to be under-performing. The
logic of neoliberalism, encapsulated on this
occasion in the concept of 'performativity' is
rooted in a lack of trust of the citizen/
child/teacher and promotes the application of
what Daphne Meadmore has called 'disciplinary
technologies' (Meadmore 2004: 26). The need
to measure the performance of schools is an
administrator's response to the need to manage
a populace, characterised by the flaws Socrates
attributed to it, for a future that is described as
unpredictable and complex.
The modern state's response is encapsulat-
ed in a recently released educational framework
from the Australian state of Queensland. The
focus here is to increase that state's competitive
edge. The framework, from Education
Queensland, opens with the following observa-
"The world is changing rapidly.
Queenslanders need to be highly skilled
and educated to excel among their competi-
tors overseas, and their skills need to be
updated continually to keep pace."
(Queensland Government 2005: 1)
The future is used here not in the futures
sense of an open domain to stimulate the emer-
gence of what Richard Slaughter calls 'social
foresight' (Slaughter 2004: 170ff), but as a tool
for the further colonisation of social and person-
al space by the state. In the Australian context
this escalation of bureaucratic surveillance in
education has been described as a function of
the nation's powerful, yet shadowy, elite to
define the language and values of the populace
(Connell 2004). State intervention, through the
promotion of reforms and the rewarding of per-
Journal of Futures Studies
formance, is an appropriate tool for this activity.
This is important as concepts such as 'access'
and 'equity' have been defined by policy in nar-
row quantifiable terms that fail to acknowledge
the social aspiration inherent to them.
Damien Cahill (Cahill 2004) stresses the
central role that definition, the ability to define
the real, has in the contestation of a hegemonic
political/ideological landscape. Resistance today
is often bound by the language and agenda of
the state. Futures thinking helps to see beyond
that agenda by proposing an analysis that
acknowledges the roots of the present in the
past, identifying the forces shaping the present
and generating a sense of agency based on
future images that acknowledge both that
which is feared and that which is desired.
Without such an approach we remain, as Cahill
notes, bound by the rhetoric of those interests
driving an aggressive, future-colonising agenda.
"Too often the language of the elite is being
adopted by those resisting its agenda, and
in doing so the words, ideas and the lan-
guage of the powerful are accepted as the
platform on which strategies are then mis-
takenly built. If it is accepted that the state is
central to the program of neoliberalism
then movements for change will be in a bet-
ter position to strip away the propaganda
behind such terms as 'free trade' and 'dereg-
ulation'." (Cahill 2004: 84)
The same can be said of terms such as
access and equity.
Mapping the Tension
Let's return for a moment to the Greeks.
One way of interpreting the present and explor-
ing the future is to look at the dualism
expressed by the elitism of Socrates and the
egalitarianism of Protagoras. The present set of
educational ideals embodied in western state
education pay tribute to both and educational
policy documents are stamped with both the
authoritarian need to administer and control
and the egalitarian wish to affirm the rights of
the child and the innate drive to learn that lies
at the heart of humanity (Bussey 2001). Here we
see that a consensus has been negotiated and a
compromise arrived at. Reading such docu-
ments is like performing an archaeological dig
in which we meet merit and access, excellence
and equity, the vocational and the intrinsic, per-
formance and process, information and knowl-
edge. These terms define the central concerns
and processes of education, but depending on
whether the writer is placed in the Socratic or
Protagorian traditions, the intent and practical
result is different.
The thrust of the argument is that the
mythic roots of civilisations, their ancient
'wounds', actually generate much of the instru-
mental logic that orders our cultural institu-
tions. Cornelius Castoriadis reminds us of this
when he describes the social imaginary
the col-
lective magma of humanity, as a set of forms.
"A form – an eidos as Plato would have
said – means a set of determinations, a set
of possibilities and impossibilities that are
defined starting from the moment the form
is posited." (Castoriadis 1997a: 103)
Of the social imaginary itself he notes:
"Social imaginary signification brings into
being things as these here things, posits
them as being what they are – the what
being posited by signification, which is
indissociably principle of existence, princi-
ple of thought, principle of value, and prin-
ciple of action" (Castoriadis 1997b: 313)
The dualism we are exploring as a process
of the social imaginary is a social form in
Castoriadis' sense – it demarcates the possible
from the impossible while setting limits on the
probable and the preferable (Bell 1993). Form,
draws on deep narratives that, as Sohail
Inayatullah points out, are often unconscious to
the actors (Inayatullah 2004: 66-67). These
forms order our reality by limiting the possible
and establishing the criteria for measuring pres-
ent activity. Despite periods of hegemonic con-
straint these forms are never unitary
(Hetherington 1997: 10), but contain within
themselves the contradictions and tensions
that, as Jaeger noted of the period of Greek
democracy (Jaeger 1939/1965: 300), are the
source of a societies' creative energy.
Ernest Laclau and Chantal Mouffe point to
the fact that such forms of hegemony are root-
Access and Equity
ed in deeply held images, at once plural and
indeterminate, that institute the social (Laclau
1992: 151). The definition of these forms is a
field of contestation that constitutes the politi-
cal. The twin poles of access and equity as rep-
resented by Socrates and Protagoras are in reali-
ty broken down. The political becomes a sub-
jective process that concerns the ability to
define. Hence Laclau and Mouffe assert, there
can be no politics without hegemony.
"...politics as a practice of creation, repro-
duction and transformation of social rela-
tions cannot be located at a determinate
level of the social, as the problem of the
political is the problem of the institution of
the social, that is, of the definition and artic-
ulation of social relations in a field criss-
crossed with antagonisms." (Laclau 1992:
For Laclau and Mouffe it is the inner con-
struction of the outer world that needs to be
addressed when we are seeking to engage with
the power of definition. This inner process is
both richly inhabited by sign and signifier, but it
is also paradoxically open and empty. Laclau
sees this emptiness as the source of the force of
any ideal (Laclau 2002: 125). Richard Slaughter
captures this process of interpenetration in a
modification of Ken Wilber's four quadrant
model in which each quadrant (the inner, outer,
collective and individual) is seen to fold into the
other (Slaughter 2004 Image on: 142).
This leads to a theoretical sensitivity to the
creative process of the social imaginary and also
to the appreciation of the 'radical impossibility'
of an end point to this process, be it a perfected
democracy or a stable empire (Laclau 2002:
128). It is too temping to place constructions
such as authority and egalitarianism in mutually
exclusive camps (Laclau 1992). In fact they
mutually interpenetrate one another. The natu-
ralist's garden may not be the administrator's
garden but they usually cohabit. Similarly,
Socrates' life was spent in the vibrant intellectu-
al world that was democratic Athens, he may
have rejected it, but he also benefited from its
vitality (James 2005).
CLA of the Ancient Stain
Laclau and Mouffe point to the problem of
the institution of the social that takes place out-
side of the arena of the determinate. This is the
arena of the symbolic in which collective 'mind'
shapes and validates, and thus institutes, the
real. This institution they see arising from the
break down between the internal and external
social world, a division which was in reality only
a theoretical construct of nineteenth century
Marxism as it focused on class relations (Laclau
1992: 151ff). One way to explore this arena of
the political imaginary is to apply causal layered
analysis (CLA) to the standoff between Socrates
and Protagoras (Inayatullah 2004).
CLA is designed to unpack the social as it is
constituted through the interplay of elements
of the social imaginary. It begins with the area
of the social Laclau and Mouffe call the determi-
nate – that which is expressed through dis-
course and social process in the objective exter-
nal world. The surface of this expression is the
day-to-day litany that we hear in the mouths of
politicians, read in headlines and see on the
evening news. This is the unreflective discon-
nected social space that can be so easily manip-
ulated by the powerful, the media and politi-
cians. Below this level is the social-institutional
that describes how society, or any organisation,
functions as a system. There are two other areas
that CLA interrogates and these are the layers of
social reality that are not directly accessible on
the external level. They constitute the deeper
processes of social ordering around which soci-
ety orients itself, instituting new forms of social
relations as the narrative strands gain ascenden-
cy or loose ground to emergent alternatives.
These are firstly the layer of world-view and dis-
course. This is constituted by the civilisational
and hinges on ideology and discourse as a
process for constituting the real and defining
both the possible and that which is of value.
Beneath this sits the mythic-metaphoric which
represents the deep images, archetypes, memo-
ries and unconscious urges that drive and ener-
gise social expression.
The following table offers an analysis of
the standoff between Socrates and Protagoras.
Journal of Futures Studies
Both figures take the form of an ideal type. The
point is to reveal strands in the present that are
recognisable as referents in the ongoing
process of social ordering. In this sense CLA acts
as an epistemic map that exposes what we
might call the psycho-social DNA of a compo-
nent of the current social and political order.
Access and Equity
Such a schema provides an overview of
some of the characteristics of both positions,
although it is incomplete and partial and cannot
be closed. As we are looking at the Greeks I
sought out Greek-specific imagery for the myth-
ic. The purpose of CLA is to expose the cultural,
historical and epistemological roots at work in a
specific context and offer an ontology of the
Four Educational Futures
Through the use of CLA we begin to
understand how various definitions of access
and equity inform specific systemic and individ-
ual responses to the future. Here four differing
forms of schooling are presented (Bussey 2004)
as ideal types in order to lay the foundations for
our exploration of the concepts of access and
equity as they function in each setting. The
focus here is the emergent context. The typolo-
gy offered draws upon current and emerging
educational practice and spans a range of possi-
ble educational settings.
Fortress school is explored as the domi-
nant short-term possibility with recognisable
features and clear roots in the Socratic-elitist
tradition. It is already present in many ways
today and, as was noted at the opening of this
paper, can be heard in the rhetoric of neoliberal
policy. This model simply draws the present
into the future as social division increases in
response to the negative social, cultural and
economic trends of a triumphal globalisation.
The stresses inherent in such an historical
process will increase all forms of social inequali-
ty and build a sense of isolation and antagonism
into elite educational systems.
The multicultural school is considered as a
future possibility in decline, many features have
been trialled in educational systems in an ad
hoc manner and are now the object of a sus-
tained critique from conservative pedagogues,
social commentators and politicians. Such
schools can be seen to have roots in the
Protagorian humanist tradition as they privilege
culture as a birthright, access as a necessary
ingredient for social solidarity and renewal and
community over vested interest. Future decline
of this type can be attributed in a large measure
to the fact that multicultural principles are being
forced into systemic contexts which are a direct
product of elitist managerial practice and theo-
Virtual schools are a source of much
excitement and speculation. They are much less
immanent than either the fortress or multicul-
tural school, both of which adopt as unprob-
lematic many of the assumptions at the root of
this type. There is an implicit elitism in the virtu-
al revolution in general and in much thinking
about virtual schooling in particular. This
schooling therefore is linked to the Socratic tra-
dition with its confidence in knowledge sys-
tems, its inherent virtual versus real world dual-
ism and its insensitivity to the socio-economics
of access and thus tacit acquiescence to a gated
community of learners.
The eco-school is another emergent possi-
bility. The ideology and idealism for such a pos-
sible future is certainly present today but such
schools exist in many ways beyond the current
construction of the real. They will have a deep
commitment to sustainable social action which
privileges community over isolated individual,
responsibility over freedom, and participation
over control. Many themes are present today in
educational discourse yet the social structures
needed to support them are rudimentary. They
are strongly linked to the Protagorian tradition
in that they value the collective as an extension
of the individual, participatory engagement
with questions of social and environmental con-
cern, and learning as an ongoing collective
engagement with personal and social reality.
Yet they have the potential to move beyond
humanism by affirming spirituality as a form of
social action that has strongly integrative prop-
erties and the capacity to engage deeply with
the forces that maintain the current imaginary
institution of the real.
A CLA of Educational Futures
In applying the four educational futures
sketched above to concepts of access and equi-
ty we find that a range of possible meanings
emerge. The fortress-school model with its
Journal of Futures Studies
emphasis on fear and intensification is a form of
educational authoritarianism that currently
dominates neoliberal thinking. It owes a strong
debt to the authoritarianism of Socrates as indi-
cated by the
+ at the bottom of its col-
umn. Rooted in our present it colonises the
future through the propagation of a strongly
hegemonic image of immanent loss of social,
cultural and economic coherence in the face of
a host of threatening 'unknowns'. Access here
becomes a right and equity is the result of per-
sonal merit.
Multicultural schools offer a less authori-
tarian response to the current social and educa-
tional climate. Such schools will contest the
dominant fortress school for some time and
may emerge again to shape a positive learning
culture. This future is currently in retreat as
aspiring multicultural schools are being forced
into line by new legislation. Essentially they owe
their roots to the idealism of the welfare state
and also to liberal-humanist education. They are
softly authoritarian, in that the welfare state was
highly interventionist and centralised, yet they
owe their intellectual roots to a humanist faith
in the human beings' inherent curiosity and
goodness, hence they are categorised as
Protagoras-. Access in such a context is deemed
relatively unproblematic, the door is always
seen to be open and all are welcome. A raft of
policy actions are offered to facilitate entry (ie
there is an appreciation of structural barriers to
access) and equity is defined as a right with con-
siderable attention given to social forces of
exclusion and the role of structure in the defini-
tion and maintenance of the real.
Access and Equity
The virtual school, for all its claims to inclu-
sivity, is highly selective. It has a systems view of
knowledge and little real interest in the student
as a learner, focusing instead on the student as
a part of an information-generating web. It is
softly authoritarian in that it is less interested in
power and control than in the generation of
knowledge as the new form of capital. Hence it
receives a Socrates- classification. Access in this
context is also deemed unproblematic however
there is little appreciation of the structural
impediments to access and therefore the solu-
tion is simply one of money and skill. Equity is
also a non-issue as the assumption is that all are
equal on line. Gender, ethnicity and the like
become invisible and therefore no longer inhib-
it the educational process.
The eco-school on the other hand values
the student as an individual. Such schools will
have a self-imposed charter to act as social
change agents and will seek to strengthen com-
munity and sustainable praxis. Proto-typical eco-
schools exist today although they account for a
small fraction of the total educational system.
They are usually holistic and even spiritual in
orientation (Milojevic 2005), seeking to heal
the psychic and cultural wounds inflicted on the
western psyche by the hyper-rationalism of
modernity (Palmer 1983/1993). They often tend
to perpetuate the contemporary obsession with
individualism and ego-identity, yet though their
educational philosophies are diverse, they are
all premised on the belief in the essential good-
ness of humans, and as such are classified as
Protagoras+. Access in this context is a right
that must be actioned through a shift in con-
sciousness arrived at via a break with the mod-
ernist emphasis on utilitarian, neoliberal and
individualist values. Equity too must be fought
for, as it cannot simply be legislated but must
be seen as a process not an end in itself.
Defining the Real
If we look at the level of myth and
metaphor we come to understand the power of
the deep image to frame the working realities
of schools. Access and equity are seen to mean
quite different things when placed in the con-
text of their root myths. In the fortress school
access is seen as a non-issue, the door in such
schools is always open: all one needs do is
enter. Similarly equity is defined as the result of
hard work. In this context all are equal in the
competition of life and thus we can all be win-
ners. The fortress school is blind to the social
processes that enable some while disabling oth-
ers. Schools, defined as knowledge factories,
are places of hard work and require constant
scrutiny to run effectively.
In the multicultural school all are welcome.
Access here is also unproblematic as there are
many pathways in the global village leading to
the school door. Equity hinges on ones' com-
mand of the knowledge economy and the
embracing of and tolerance for difference which
is a hallmark of the emerging global reality.
Students are consumers and effectively earn
knowledge shares through their own merit.
Furthermore, such schools are sensitive to
social processes that offer differential opportu-
nity to students and seek to mitigate against
such imbalances through an open door policy.
Virtual schools also find the concept of
access unproblematic as they construct it in
terms of access to information technology. In
this setting money solves all problems and the
only losers are those unable to log on. Social
activism thus becomes a question of getting a
computer into every home and computer banks
into every classroom. For the global brain the
construction of knowledge is unproblematic
and equity is constructed as the freeing of the
individual from their social and corporeal identi-
ty in cyberspace, where we are all equal.
In the eco-school we find access is defined
as the extent to which we are able to free our-
selves from external authority and construct
pathways to learning via community. Equity in
this context hinges on both the acknowledge-
ment of the inherent worth of the individual
and also on an appreciation of their social and
ecological embeddedness. Education in the
context of the global commons is a community
resource that builds on empowerment.
The power to define the language that
governs educational ideals such as access and
equity is key to the control and maintenance of
Journal of Futures Studies
social processes. The neoliberal ascendency of
the past decade has successfully corralled edu-
cation into the discourse of the fortress school
thus making it the most likely future. In colonis-
ing the future this discourse draws on the rhet-
oric, aspirations and processes of the multicul-
tural, virtual and eco schools in order to forge a
consensus of sorts, yet there is less and less
interest in consensus as neoliberal politicians,
academics and media successfully manipulate
the litany of fear and anxiety.
It is the potential of the future to strike
fear into the populace that is exploited by con-
servative governments with an eye on the
State's bank balance and the next election.
Capital is narrowly defined as GNP and commu-
nity is regarded as a resource to be exploited.
Here we find the power of litany used to draw
on the ancient fears of populations all too will-
ing to trade security in the present for prefer-
able futures for their children. Thus, as Lewis
Mumford observed many years ago, the irra-
tional becomes the rational, and all social
processes are subjected to the 'ideology of the
machine' (Mumford 1934/1986: 132).
Towards a Wild History
Futures analysis however, uncovers the
rich range of myths that hold a place in the
social imagination, and it is from this arena that
alternatives to the present can emerge. When
we redefine, we begin to transform the forms
that maintain and order reality. Tobin Hart
maps this movement when he links it to both
the emergence of new categories and new self-
"To transform is to go beyond current
form. This means growth, creation, and
evolution, an expansion of consciousness.
When education serves transformation, it
helps to take us beyond the mould of cate-
gories, the current limits of social struc-
ture, the pull of cultural conditioning, and
the box of self-definition..." (Hart 2001: 12)
Philip Wexler also links it to the emer-
gence of a living history. The educational gaze,
shaken from its ahistorical blindness becomes
alive. This coming back to life of learning and
being is rooted in our sense of self and commu-
nity. Wexler observes that:
"If we need a 'wild' hunger to quench our
ontological thirst, a dialogue with place
that creates wholeness that we feel as
ecstasy, then we also need a 'wild' history
to satisfy our being in time. This is an
active, living, remembered history and not
a facticized accumulation of dead, inert
otherness." (Wexler 2000: 143)
Critical futures offers such a wild history in
which the human engagement with the contin-
uum of past, present and future brings us alive
to the context of our being and the potential of
our life to actively co-create the future we wish
for our children. It is in this discovery of agency
that the dissolution of the present neoliberal
hegemony is to be found.
The Politics of Fear and Hope
The potential for any reconstruction of the
social lies in our ability to rediscover agency. It
is important to realise that this fragile concept is
caught (one might say bound) perpetually by a
range of fears and drawn forward by an, often
less clearly defined, range of hopes. Popular pol-
itics and the media are adept at manipulating
the fears and hopes that are deeply rooted in all
social constructions of the real.
To map our hopes and fears requires us to
define the context that gives rise to these
because once again, each context is situated
within its own social construction. If you were
to ask what does Socrates fear? You might
answer, ignorance or freedom or perhaps,
equality. For Protagoras the answer would be
different, perhaps elitism or instrumentalism or
radical individualism. At one level the answer is
academic yet at another, deeply profound, as
these iconic figures represent something of our
reality today. They have a mythic power and
authority that defines a set of human aspira-
tions and concerns.
To better understand how definitions of
access and equity are informed by social con-
structions of fear and hope we need to return
to our four typologies all of which are anchored
in present value systems and cultural processes
Access and Equity
that stretch out into the future for 'radical' fulfil-
ment. In this future the fortress school is an
embattled school. It focuses on the individual
whose future is paradoxically the hope of the
social. It fears the loss of freedom in the name
of equality and sees learning as the building of
armour so that the 'educated' adult can battle
through life. The future for the fortress school is
dark and menacing.
Multicultural schools of tomorrow will fear
fragmentation and the loss of coherence. They
distrust competition and seek to balance the
individual with the collective by acknowledging
diversity. Those fighting for such schools will
hope for a global world in which all have access
to the benefits of education and can therefore
contribute to the global village. The virtual
school on the other hand will hope to get the
entire world on line and fears luddites and the
rediscovery of the body and relationship as the
core of meaning.
Finally the eco-school will fear technology
and its ability to define reality. Those develop-
ing such schools will hope that individuals redis-
cover the cosmos and community and thus
reinstate meaningful relating into the learning
and living equation. Such schools offer a vision
of the sacred in nature (as opposed to the end
of nature) and of the unique place humans have
within this. Technology in such a context will be
both human and artificial and will weave seam-
lessly into learning and culture.
The power of fear as a tool for maintaining
social order cannot be under-estimated, yet it
can also act as a goad to positive social engage-
ment. We have all experienced the politics of
fear, as terror both in its fundamentalist and
state sanctioned forms, defines a whole set of
current social relations. Yet it is in hope, the
source of inspiration, that we find the power to
transform the social. The politics of hope and
fear need to be actively explored in order to
redefine the current context. Hope here is of
particular relevance.
Mary Zournazi sees hope as both a person-
al and social force that can effectively deal with
the alienation and apathy that characterises the
present neoliberal hegemony. She emphasizes,
however, that in the dominant political climate
hope has been redefined, or constrained. There
is, she says, a new context in which hope acts as
a negative social force. Here social order is
reduced to minimal or impoverished settings in
which, "for the benefit of our security and
belonging, we evoke a hope that ignores the
suffering of others, ...[and]... create a hope
based on fear" (Zournazi 2002: 15).
Hope however can be much more, and
Zournazi underscores this:
"Hope can be what sustains life in the face
of despair, and yet it is not simply the
desire for things to come, or the better-
ment of life. It is the drive or energy that
embeds us in the world – in the ecology of
life, ethics and politics." (Zournazi 2002:
In this context access and equity can link
up with both personal and social aspirations
that affirm human relationship and underscore
a social commitment to justice and an ethical
engagement with the powerful interest groups
that benefit from maintaining a social imaginary
that is divisive and exploitative. By exploring
hope and fear and filtering concepts such as
access and equity through this lens we develop
more subtle and more robust understandings
and strategies.
Implications for Access and
To engage the causal strands that under-
pin current thinking on access and equity will
require a shift in awareness and practice. These
concepts are embedded in constructions of
social reality and therefore cannot be simply
dealt with in the abstract. This is the problem
alluded to by thinkers such as Castoriadis,
Laclau and Mouffe. To deal with access and
equity outside of the question of context is to
base the analysis on a 'radical insufficiency'
(Laclau 1992: 151) that dooms attempts to legis-
late social justice in all its forms to failure.
We need to challenge the rules confining
the definition of access and equity to narrow
and instrumental policy processes. To do this
we must realise that new rules need new roots
Journal of Futures Studies
(Myth/Metaphor) and that these roots may lie
outside conventional wisdom and cultural con-
ditioning. This is the possibility alluded to above
as the 'third space' that generates new stories
and draws on new cultural and civilisational
imaginings. Humanism itself expresses the
ideals at the heart of current thinking on access
and equity, yet provides no capacity building
structures to frame a redefinition of the dis-
course. Neohumanism provides a 'third space',
human technology for reframing discourse on
access and equity and also affirms the contem-
plative and spiritual ground for an engagement
with human consciousness and the ethical and
subjective roots of meaning. What emerges
then is a new map and the processes outlined
in the various layers of the causal analyses pro-
vided above act as sets of bearings in this
The central problem with any analysis of
hegemony is that it usually remains in the realm
of the theoretical and often is forced to use the
terms and tools of the dominant knowledge
system (Cahill 2004). At present the neoliberal
attack, described in the opening of this paper,
on the social-democratic traditions that have
been the hallmark of Australian society for sev-
eral generations is dominating the intellectual,
moral and economic landscape that in turn
defines the possible in education. To go beyond
Sandra Taylor's critique of such an attack (Taylor
2005) and to define new possibilities for the
social will require us to clarify the causal roots
of the neoliberal position. Only then can we
actually begin thinking and acting in open-
ended ways to create alternatives to the domi-
nant system. Furthermore, when dealing with
access and equity we must recognise that they
are the products of specific civilisational histori-
cal, social, economic and political processes.
How education engages with access and
equity this century will be determined by how
the interplay between the various contested
educational futures is resolved. There are
important and irreconcilable positions too that
must be embraced in the movement towards
greater access and equity in its most socially
just context. For instance, there will always be a
tension between the concept of freedom and
that of equality. Similarly, there is a necessary
tension between an individual's identity and
their communal context, between biography
and history, agency and structure. Such ten-
sions are the source of the creative energy that
defines social processes. They are politically
charged by virtue of the fact that ideology seeks
to define, maintain and control the construction
of the real and what constitutes the valid
The redefinition of access and equity hinge
on our ability as individuals and groups to re-
engage with alternative images of the social in
order to activate memories, traditions and
dreams founded on a trust in human agency.
Only when we turn our back on the long shad-
ow of Socrates, and his disdain of the common-
place and ordinariness of the human, will we be
able to realise how much he (we) lost when he
chose death over life.
Marcus Bussey
Box 879
Australia 4552
1. We need to remember that 'all' meant all citi-
zens – Athenian Greece, even at its most
enlightened still had slaves (helots) and a
large disenfranchised 'alien' population. Even
so, both slaves and 'aliens' were given an
education according to need and demon-
strated ability.
2. "The symbolic orders of all societies have
their actual centre of meaning in a world
which is not merely perceived or rationally
constructed, but rather in an imagined refer-
ential world, an imaginary. From it, society
creates the interpretations and explanations
which give it a unified meaning" (Honneth
1986) 70.
Access and Equity
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... Ecoschools In Indonesia consist of various types of schools. One of the alternative schools that are holistic and spiritually oriented is the eco-school [2]. With learning methods and playing equipment that focus on nature, Nature schools can increase children's sense of care for the natural environment. ...
... The specific objectives are (1) To study the assessment for the current state of eco-school playground. (2) To see that eco-school concept can match with the playscape approach ...
Full-text available
The purpose of this research is to study whether the application of the playscape approach concept for natural schools in Jakarta can be integrated with ecoschool. This is done by determining the quality of the form of playing with natural components that already exist in nature schools and is fully related to the components of the playscape approach. The object of the case study chosen were two eco-schools that were active in the South Jakarta area. The results obtained are in the form of an assessment of the components of the playscape approach in the play area in both schools. With the following study steps: (1) study of building mass and outdoor play spaces in school areas, (2) study of playscape components in school play area.
... In this we meet the aporia at the heart of the entire Western intellectual and cultural project. I believe this lies in the West's commitment, ontologically, to a Platonic dualism that separates idea from matter, the inner from the outer [5]. The integral thinking of Ken Wilber can certainly be shown to replicate this ancient division. ...
... However, in Wilber's hands, it seems unnecessarily formulaic and legalistic; traits again to be associated with the Platonic need to provide detailed maps that capture the esoteric and insubstantial in complex formulations. 5 No doubt we have in the futures arena the prophets who seek to save, and those Sufi types who do not wish to be saved but to experience and grow. This dichotomy, the law-givers and the gnostics, are two central ordering categories -what Wilber would call 'types' -that can be clearly seen to be at play here. ...
This article questions the use of the term integral. It argues that although the use is well intentioned it draws its energy from the geophilosophical drive of the Western project. This project is imperialist in nature and bases its power on its ability to define. So although IF claims to be inclusive it actually establishes a self-referential dialogical relationship between itself and its interlocutor that privileges its position. This is clearly counter to the integral rhetoric of its most ardent exponents. It is argued that this imbalance is central to the entire Western philosophic project and is rooted in the geophilosophical gaze. Such a gaze is ultimately about assimilation not mutual discourse and should be set aside for more inclusive and less culturally aligned forms of cultural analysis such as Causal Layered Analysis which accounts for the primacy of context and local knowledge and finds agency in the working of those who constitute the multitude. Such work is process oriented and stands in real contrast to the definitional power (and terror) of the integral gaze.
... In this we meet the aporia at the heart of the entire Western intellectual and cultural project. I believe this lies in the West's commitment, ontologically, to a Platonic dualism that separates idea from matter, the inner from the outer [5]. The integral thinking of Ken Wilber can certainly be shown to replicate this ancient division. ...
... However, in Wilber's hands, it seems unnecessarily formulaic and legalistic; traits again to be associated with the Platonic need to provide detailed maps that capture the esoteric and insubstantial in complex formulations. 5 No doubt we have in the futures arena the prophets who seek to save, and those Sufi types who do not wish to be saved but to experience and grow. This dichotomy, the law-givers and the gnostics, are two central ordering categories -what Wilber would call 'types' -that can be clearly seen to be at play here. ...
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25 -40 As a musician I often find myself thinking about society, culture, history and education via analogies with music. I know there are certain limitations in doing so: the most obvious for a post structuralist being that music imposes an artificial order on any moment that is read 'musically'; while, for instance, a structuralist might express doubts over music's romantic proclivities that somehow blur the distinctions between rational and somatic categories. So, having had some months to think about the question of "Global education from a Neohumanist perspective", and knowing that I am going to be meeting some friends who had gathered with me in Israel last year just before the 'disaster' of the Israel-Lebanon action and just after Daniel Barenboim had given the last two Reith Lectures in Jerusalem on music as a form of socio-political engagement, I thought to pick some of the thematic-melodic strands of that meeting and work them here into something resembling a fugue. Abstract I frame my exploration of global education with reference to two of the Reith Lectures given by Daniel Barenboim in 2006. Three possible models of global education are mapped, the neohumanist, the flat class-room and the multicultural world, and then the possibilities of a neohumanist inspired global pedagogy are expanded upon. Issues of epistemology and the tension of the local/global, agency/structure dichotomies are referred to in order to shift the discussion from the usual neo-liberal Western concerns over content and out-comes to an appreciation of service as a pedagogic context and of the possibilities of a prophetic yet pragmat-ic strategic pedagogy of hope.
The strength of futures studies is its epistemological pluralism. Integral futures as defined by Slaughter and Riedy loses sight of this strength. Instead of an interpretive dialogue, the “Integral Extension” seeks to frame and define causal layered analysis (CLA) within its own terms. Its proponents do so by constructing their version of Integral as above—more evolved, higher, more… and CLA as lower. Integral, in Riedy and Slaughter's terms, appears to inhabit the totalizing linear modernist paradigm, not to mention the straightjacket of the masculinist discourse. Their strategy is the classic defining of the other within the terms of the person who seeks to define. Riedy's piece in particular makes a strange series of errors in that it: (1) confuses Vedanta with Tantra; (2) misreads subjectivity—arguing that subjectivity does not exist for the poststructural, instead of seeing how the self is contextualized with structure and genealogy (as in Foucault's work); (3) misses the entire work around inner CLA; (4) adopts the Orientalist discourse of constructing CLA as cultural (instead of recognizing that it seeks to move up and down layers of data, systems, worldviews and myths), and (5) is not grounded in the practice of conducting layered analysis with varied groups. This essay concludes by arguing that there is no need for this battle. We do not need to be either for or against Integral or CLA. We can live in multiple spaces, use different theories and methodologies, each having its purpose, each useful depending on the person, time and particular space we inhabit.
In Mystical Society Philip Wexler, a well-known critical theorist with a background in social psychology and a special interest in spirituality, examines the revitalization of spirituality manifesting itself in society and in education. Describing what he calls “cultural changes toward the sacred,” he documents a cultural shift, brought about by technological and societal changes, toward a new mysticism. Wexler explores the meaning for this new spirituality for our daily lives, for social theory, and for education. From the pervasiveness of a spiritual vernacular to the integration of spiritual practices into our highly individualized and technologized lives, Wexler lays out the evidence for a growing movement, and then draws parallels to periods of mystical revitalization from the past. In the course of this discussion, he draws on the work of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, as well as from contemporary social theory.
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Two central assertions are made in this article. The first is that our present historical moment is marked by the ever-increasing cultural, social, demographic and epistemic complexity. The second is that even though a number of pedagogies have been developed in response to this complexity most fall short in terms of the practical implementation of their own theoretical and ethical principles.
How can dystopian futures help provide the motivation to change the ways we operate day to day? Futures Beyond Dystopia takes the view that the dominant trends in the world suggest a long-term decline into unliveable Dystopian futures. The human prospect is therefore very challenging, yet the perception of dangers and dysfunctions is the first step towards dealing with them. The motivation to avoid future dangers is matched by the human need to create plans and move forward. These twin motivations can be very powerful and help to stimulate the fields of Futures Studies and Applied Foresight. This analysis of current Futures practice is split into six sections: The Case Against Hegemony Expanding and Deepening a Futures Frame Futures Studies and the Integral Agenda Social Learning through Applied Foresight Strategies and Outlooks The Dialectic of Foresight and Experience. This fascinating book will stimulate anyone involved in Futures work around the world and will challenge practitioners and others to re-examine many of their assumptions, methodologies and practices.
The question of man is a question of philosophical anthropology. It raises a particular problem because man is both the subject and object of any knowledge of man. This question has ontological consequences, because man is the one being that can have knowledge of himself and can change himself and the laws of his existence. Such knowledge and change, however, are not innate to man but are creations that have both psychical and social-historical presuppositions and implications. The question of de jure validity arises with the creation of politics and philosophy and can be made more precise in the question: How can the valid be effective and the effective be valid? Politics, as the lucid and reflective activity that interrogates itself about society's institutions and attempts to change them, is a creation of a new anthropological type: reflective and deliberative subjectivity. Today's 'liberal oligarchies', falsely labelled 'democratic', proclaim liberty and equality, but an analysis of the present heteronomous situation of a majority of the world's population and of the compromise nature of liberal oligarchic regimes shows how partial has been their realization.