Policies of difference, schools of recognition, and enacting difference-in-itself

Year: 2013

Author: Webb, Taylor, Gulson, Kalervo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Parents didn’t think it was ‘Black’ enough, and it really caused a lot of damage…. It was like a mini cultural war again, over ‘Blackness’. - TDSB Trustee This paper discusses the idea of difference in relation to specific policy enactments that produce schools of recognition. For our purposes, schools of recognition are public choice schools or government-funded private schools that enunciate a culturally-focussed curriculum, identity, or brand (i.e., racial, ethnic, religious, gender, dis/ability, etc.). We do not include private schools or non-government funded educational organizations within such a categorization.             Specifically, we review the concept of difference and juxtapose it with Gilles Deleuze’s (2004) concept of “difference-in-itself” as a way to think about educational equality. The analysis is informed from a three-year study on the policy enactments that produced the Africentric Alternative School (AAS) in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).[1] The quote that introduces this paper is taken from this research which mapped the ways the AAS - a school of recognition - was developed through various policy technologies in the TDSB, including: school choice policies, alternative school policies, ethnic commodifications, and quasi-market conditions. These mechanisms are emblematic of the kinds of technologies and practices that enact policies of difference. While we are interested in the differences produced in the name of educational recognition and choice, our analysis is focussed on the ways the concepts of difference and recognition are enacted in educational policy, and specifically in ways that are not divorced from the neo-liberal practices and effects of school choice, school markets, and edu-economics broadly speaking. Indeed, this paper is interested in schools of recognition that rely on economic ideas to enact notions of difference, recognition, and educational equality. Thus, the forthcoming data are not mobilizations of proof for ideas of difference and recognition; but instead, data are used to problematize ideas of enactment, difference and recognition in relation to educational equality. The paper concludes by arguing for a renewed “prophetic criticism” (West, 1990) through revised notions of difference, and specifically, the inclusion of Gilles Deleuze’s (2004) idea about “difference-in-itself”. [1] This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.