Taking a quick side-step from our usual posts of all things bikey into the straighty-one-eighty world of academia, I was delighted this week to be notified that my first book review has been published!
I found this book review a little nerve-racking to do, for two main reasons.
- The book I reviewed was written by two leading scholars in the field, so it was comprehensive, clearly organised, informative, interesting and very well written.
- It was the first time I have collaborated with my PhD supervisor Prof. Singh on a writing project.
Overall it was a very positive experience.
I enjoyed reading the book, learning some new skills (like how to use Routledge’s online proofreading software system) and having to opportunity to develop different academic writing skills and genres
Most of all, I am so grateful to Prof Singh, who invited me to work on the project with her so I could extend my academic skills, networks and exposure.
She is a wonderful role model and a very positive and inspiring PhD supervisor.
I was previously advised that while undertaking a PhD, it is important to recognise and celebrate the smaller stages of the whole research process – which this first most certainly qualifies!
So here it is!
Ginsberg, N., & Singh, P. (2018). Consultants and consultancy: the case of Education. Journal of Education Policy, 1-2. doi:10.1080/02680939.2017.1420310
Consultants and consultancy: the case of Education
In their book titled Consultants and consultancy: the case of Education, Gunter and Mills explore how the growth of a consultant class, (a faction of the middle class and comprised of knowledge actors) is working to accelerate the privatization of public education in the United Kingdom. This class faction of the new middle class is redefining what the authors call ‘knowledges, knowings, knowledgeabilities and knowers’ (p 12). The authors have considerable experience and expertise in the research area and this is put to good use in the selection of content and theoretical approaches.
The book focuses on the role and implications on the UK public education service of ‘The 4Cs’ (Consultants, Consulting, Consultation and Consultancy). Each of these 4Cs are defined in detail and refer to actors, practices, exchange relationships and power relations. In doing so, this book provides a valuable exposition of the increasing commodification of knowledge and its implications for how educational policy is being designed and enacted.
The authors are unsettled by the ubiquitous and increasing privatization of the UK education process. In recognizing that ‘the 4Cs are generated by privatization, they create and develop it, and are beneficiaries of it’ (p 95), the book seeks to warn there is ‘no alternative to the privatization of public education’ (p 93) and the ‘creeping commercialization within schooling’ (p 93) will continue, as will the ‘setting up and development of a branded and billable education’ p (129).
The central premise of the book is to raise greater awareness and critical analysis for how the 4Cs are impacting educational management and provision. To highlight this, the authors present their arguments in a clearly structured way, with the book being divided into two main parts. After defining key terms and setting the scene in the introductory chapter, the first part of the book consists of three chapters, where the role and contributions of ‘educational experts’ in the form of corporate consultants, university researchers and industry professionals, are succinctly clarified and unpacked. Part two of the book consists of five chapters. In each of the chapters empirical data generated from three large scale studies is presented with the aid of concepts derived from key sociologists of education (Bernstein and Bourdieu) to think about the processes and issues involved in the generation and management of knowledge within education policy and practice. This section describes the ways in which policies and practices of the ‘consultocracy’ are shaping educational dynamics, tactics and reform.
The book has implications for education researchers working not only in the UK, but also Australia and elsewhere that have witnessed the rise of new middle class factions of consultants. Specifically, the book explores the notion of ‘knowledge regimes’ and ‘knowledge politics’ by drawing on theoretical concepts from Bourdieu and Bernstein as thinking tools to explore the ways in which new knowledge forms produced by the consultancy class (consultocracy) are reaching into schools, classrooms and homes. From Bernstein (2000) the authors draw on the concepts of boundary, pedagogic device, pedagogic fields and recontextualisation. From Bourdieu (1992; 2000 ) the authors draw on concepts of misrecognition, logic of practice, codified knowledge as doxa of self-evident truths, habitus, capital and the illusio of the game.
A limitation of the book, however, is that the work of these theorists is not systematically used to present new insights about the marketization of public education. For example, Bernstein has written about the emergence of new middle class factions engaged in processes of symbolic control (see Robertson & Sorenson, 2017; Singh 2015; Singh, 2017). The book needed to provide more detail about the ways in which factions within the middle class positioned in the fields of symbolic control and economic production are struggling over the pedagogic device of knowledge about public education. The authors provide a deterministic account around the production of new knowledge regimes, and what is thinkable, doable within these regimes. However, as Bernstein (2000) clearly indicated the pedagogic device is a site of ongoing struggle because the stakes are high. Ultimately the pedagogic device governs modes of consciousness and conscience – what is knowable, doable, and thinkable in terms of public education.
This book constitutes one of the sites of struggle over the pedagogic device of public education. Consequently, the book and this review are actors in ongoing struggles over ideas about the re/form of public education.
Bernstein, B. 2000. Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity. Theory, Research, Critique. Revised Edition. 2nd ed. Lanham: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers Inc.
Bourdieu, P. 1992. The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Bourdieu, P. 2000. Pascalian Meditations. Oxford: Polity Press.
Robertson, S. L., and T. Sorenson. 2017. “Global Transformations of the State, Governance and Teachers’ Labour: Putting Bernstein’s Conceptual Grammar to Work.” European Educational Research Journal, 1, 19.
Singh, P. 2015. “Performativity and Pedagogising Knowledge: Globalising Educational Policy Formation, Dissemination and Enactment.” Journal of Education Policy 30 (3): 363–384. doi:10.1080/02680939.2014.961968.
Singh, P. 2017. “Pedagogic Governance: Theorising with/after Bernstein.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 38 (2): 144–163. doi:10.1080/01425692.2015.1081052.