Why is the field of educational leadership abandoning critique?

Year: 2018

Author: Niesche, Richard

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Many educational leadership scholars have, by and large, abandoned critique. While there has always been a steady supply of critical work and the socially critical in educational leadership, the rise of the condition of consumer capitalism and a demise of a democratic public good over recent decades (see Stiegler, 2015) is leading many educational leadership scholars away from critique in pursuit of marketable solutions and projects to be sold and ‘upscaled’. Lyotard raised these issues via the changes to knowledge in the Postmodern Condition (Lyotard, 1984) with the rise of performativity, and since then we have seen a sustained ‘metric fixation’ (Muller, 2018) throughout education both at a school and policy level. However, it is precisely at the university level that this paper it targeted. In this paper, I argue that it is our responsibility to re-introduce critique through a focus on the linking of research in educational leadership to broader issues of history, economics, and philosophy. I draw on the work of French philosopher Bernard Stiegler to show how we are moving from a model of bio-power (as explained by Foucault) to one of psycho-power (Stiegler, 2010); or, a battle for attention as a part of self-destructive consumerism in educational leadership, as demonstrated by the rise of gurus (see Eacott, 2017), edu-preneurs, and a fixation with simple solutions rather than theoretically informed, critical scholarship. In other words, we are witnessing a ‘hollowing out’ of a particular kind of intellectual work in the field of educational leadership, to its detriment.
Eacott, S. (2017). School leadership and the cult of the guru: The neo-Taylorism of Hattie. School Leadership and Management, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2017.1327428.
Lyotard, J.F. (1984). The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
Muller, J.Z. (2018). The Tyranny of Metrics. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Stiegler, B. (2010). Taking Care of Youth and the Generations. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Stiegler, B. (2015). States of Shock: Stupidity and Knowledge in the 21stCentury. Cambridge: Polity.