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(Un)Fixing Education


In this article we consider the material dimensions of schooling as constitutive of the possibilities inherent in “fixing” education. We begin by mapping out the problem of “fixing education,” pointing to the necrophilic tendencies of contemporary education—a desire to kill what otherwise might be life-giving. In this sense, to “fix” education is to make otherwise fluid processes-of-living static. We next point to the material realities of this move to fix. After establishing the material consequences of perpetually fixing schools, we provide a brief overview of two critical perspectives that might be shown as attempts to “unfix” education: critical pedagogy and unschooling. Though both offer critiques of normative education, these approaches are also bound by their failure to fully engage with the material dimensions of schooling. As such, both critical pedagogy and unschooling inadvertently cut off key possibilities for human flourishing within educational environments. In their rush to “unfix”—to counter the necrophilic tendencies of contemporary education—these approaches exclude or otherwise foreclose upon resistive challenges to the normative order that extend from the margins. In response, we turn to the possibilities for unschooling within the materially public spaces of schools. These are the spaces where fixity fails—possibility extends from unschooling in schools, from unfixing the process of fixing education. We end by considering the possibilities inherent in Community Service Learning as a valuable means to engage in a radically public, and unfixed, educational system.

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  1. 1.

    Throughout our article we use terms such as education, schooling, and school with the recognition that they convey both material and discursive properties. That is, one cannot talk about a school, for example, absent the material contexts in which it is immersed or the discursive formations of educational policy and curriculum.

  2. 2.

    In American slang, "the fix is in" refers to an outcome that has been unfairly decided or manipulated in advance.

  3. 3.

    In many ways, our argument here aligns with Peter Roberts’s (2014) recognition that politicians in New Zealand crafted public policy with the assumption that globalization was a material reality, as if it were a concrete thing. Similarly, politicians assume the necessity of fixing schools in particular ways; as if neoliberal rationality was a pre-given reality unto itself.

  4. 4.

    It is unclear in the cited article which meaning of "promise" Giroux and Giroux intend.

  5. 5.

    It should also be noted that the "self" described in self-regulated learning is not universal. As Vassalo notes, "the working class self stands in contrast to the kind of self that underpins self-regulated learning" (p. 572), which is saturated by the values of the white middle and upper middle class self (cf. Lareau 2003).

  6. 6., "What is unschooling?" Despite this definition, it should be noted that most approaches to homeschooling are simply ways of doing traditional schooling at home. Petrovic and Rolstad (2016) argue that a coherent philosophy of unschooling "cannot only not apply to homeschooling but also will disallow it".

  7. 7.

    While it requires far more development than space allows, we recognize here a connection between the emotional disequilibrium dialectically provoking action and the dialectical materialism that informs critical pedagogy. On the one hand, these are markedly different theoretical viewpoints. On the other hand, they are complementary to the extent that Dewey's emotional disequilibrium provokes action to not just understand the empirical situation but also the foundational causes of said situation, which are, a la critical pedagogues and Marx, structural in nature. Thus, we argue that the two come together in CSL.

  8. 8.

    We do not impose a specific ideal of what the space is. It could quite easily and possibly quite effectively be a blanket under a tree, among other "spaces." Thus, by "formal institutional space of school," we mean a purposefully designed encounter between teacher and students. Furthermore, by "teacher," we mean a professionally trained educator, as opposed to less formal understandings (e.g., mentor, apprenticer, etc.).

  9. 9.

    The academic tools would include commonsensical undertakings such as basic numeracy and literacy, of course. But notice that undertaking the learning of such skills would largely be driven by interest in the empirical situation.

  10. 10.

    See Petrovic and Rosiek (2003) for a discussion and applied example of Dewey's "hitch" and his transactional realism in the education of pre-service teachers on heterosexism.


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Correspondence to Aaron M. Kuntz.

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Kuntz, A.M., Petrovic, J.E. (Un)Fixing Education. Stud Philos Educ 37, 65–80 (2018).

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  • Education
  • Geography
  • Materiality
  • Unschooling
  • Public
  • Fixity