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Review: Of What Help Is He? A Review of "Foucault and Education"

Reviewed Work: Foucault and Education: Disciplines and Knowledge
Review by: Jeffrey Roth
American Educational Research Journal
Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 683-694
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1163402
Page Count: 12
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Of What Help Is He? A Review of "Foucault and Education"
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Abstract

The works of French philosopher-historian Michel Foucault (1926-1984) continue to influence discussions about what it means to be human across an astonishing variety of disciplines, known collectively as the human sciences. Foucault's efforts to explicate the processes by which historical subjects come to be objects of scrutiny, knowledge, and control have begun to be replicated in education, a social institution he did not study directly. A recent book, "Foucault and Education: Disciplines and Knowledge", brings together nine essays by British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealander academics who attempt to apply some of Foucault's concepts and analytical procedures to school practices, past and present. The results are mixed. The problem is that Foucault's ideas about the constitution of human subjects have been transferred almost exclusively as negative critique, emphasizing domination, silencing, and categorization. Examples are given of other writers who discern, in Foucault's elaboration of the cognitive structures underlying specific historical periods, forms of social interaction that leave open the possibility of continually undoing and redoing limits and boundaries. Thus, to follow Foucault's lead in investigating pedagogical practices and institutions is to risk embracing a state of perpetual uncertainty about the fabrication of knowledge and power.

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