Educating to secure the national interest

Year: 2015

Author: Kelly, Stephen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper I draw on Foucault’s (1972, 2007) concepts of governmentality and discourse to examine how one political actor–former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd–uses education for the purpose of securing national productivity and foreign policy. The focus of this paper is drawn from a genealogical study investigating the deployment of education and literacy in the practices of securing civil society by liberal forms of government. I work with Foucault’s (2007) suggestion that the apparatus of security is the essential technical instrument of governmentality and that the production of a milieu, made up of human, spatial, temporal and cultural objects, and the government of risk are key strategies in the bio-politicisation of security. I have chosen to use Foucault’s conceptualisation of milieu and risk, to examine the emergence of literacy and education as technologies deployed by government in relation to concerns about national, geopolitical and global security. To analyse the representation of these spaces and scales of government(ality), I have adopted Bacchi’s (2014) “What’s the problem represented to be ?” approach to support a Foucauldian discourse analysis of Rudd’s account of policy problems, and the discursive effects of proposed policy solutions. The discourse analysis presented here problematises statements in two policy texts–two speeches given by Kevin Rudd as Federal Opposition Leader for the Australian Labor Party in 2007. These speeches are taken as examples of discourse that (a) locate literacy and education as both risk and solution in a security apparatus and (b), represents both the nation and regional neighbours as governable milieu within the ambit of a whole of government approach. First, I analyse An Education Revolution for Australia’s Economic Future, presented at the Melbourne Education Research Institute on 23 January 2007. The speech is examined for the way Rudd problematises the effects of global transformations and the dangers it spells for Australia’s national economy. In this speech education is proposed as a means for securing Australia’s national prosperity. The second speech, Fresh Ideas for Future Challenges: A New Approach to Australia’s Arc of Insecurity, presented at the Lowy Institute in July of 2007, takes to task the ‘problem’ of securing Australia’s future through the deployment of education as an instrument of foreign policy. I argue that in these examples of policy texts education is used as a discursive tool to produce particular constructions of youth, gainful employment and political docility, which are in turn linked to national security.