Turning resistant students into allies: governing young people through adult learning

Year: 2010

Author: Bye, Jayne

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper uses Foucault’s concept of governmentality (1991) to explore the ways in which young people are governed through education and training. It is within the governing milieu of neo-liberalism, with its concern for the production of the entrepreneurial self, that young people in education and training have become the targets of government today. Specifically, this paper is concerned with the means by which neo-liberal governmental agendas concerning education and training participation and the shaping of responsibilised identities become part of the daily lives of students and teachers. The central question of ‘[w]hat makes government possible’? (Rose 1999, p. 47) is explored by examining the teaching and learning practices at a senior college in a metropolitan area of NSW and asking how they function to keep young people in education and training. Specifically, the appeal to adult learning at this site will be viewed as a governing strategy through which a complex interplay of both enticement and regulation operates to enable a range of students to engage with what the College has to offer. Through the process of translation, adult learning operates as a powerful shaper of conduct, particularly in the areas of self-regulation, self-direction and responsibilisation, the “authoritative norms” (Miller & Rose, 1990, p. 18) most often associated with adult learning. Essentially, although ill-defined and contested, adult learning represents a large body of expert knowledge that purports to know about the needs of adults in teaching and learning contexts. As such, it exerts the authority of expertise which can serve the purpose of aligning subjects with the goals of government (Rose & Miller, 1992).