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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: What should Educational Institutions be for?
Author(s): MacAllister, James
Keywords: Biesta
purposes of education
common good
Issue Date: 2016
Citation: MacAllister J (2016) What should Educational Institutions be for?, British Journal of Educational Studies, 64 (3), pp. 375-391.
Abstract: In this article, I respond to the work of Gert Biesta regarding the question of what education should be for. He maintains education ought to be oriented towards the ‘good’ rather than measurement, accountability and efficiency. While sympathetic to such claims, I nonetheless question his avowal that discussion of the purposes of education needs to entail reflection upon tripartite processes of qualification, socialisation and subjectification. I also argue that the concept of subjectification presented by Biesta is elusive. He says educators cannot plan to produce it in students. He also suggests there is an unhelpful surplus of reason in education that constrains possibilities for subjectification. According to Biesta, education partly reproduces ‘rational communities’ that stifle the emergence of human uniqueness and inhibit persons from challenging accepted social orders. In response to this, I argue there is currently a deficit rather than a surplus of reason in education concerning the common good. Following MacIntyre, I claim that educational institutions should support students to learn how to think for themselves and act for the common good. I conclude that such utopian thinking about the purposes of education may be needed, now, more than ever.
DOI Link:
Rights: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in British Journal of Educational Studies on 20 Jan 2016, available online:

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