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Agents of Social Control? Resisting the Negative Reversal of Ethics in a Marginal Area of Education Work

By Helen Colley


This paper talks back to ‘urban education’ and mainstream notions of ‘teaching’ from a small, marginalized area of educational work in England, career education and guidance (CEG) for youth. Such peripheral, predominantly female areas of education have been the first and hardest hit by austerity policies since 2008. European and UK policies claim to address the plight of socially excluded youth, by targeting their reintegration into mainstream education, training and employment. Yet the tensions between the formulation of such policies, and the restricted resources prescribed for their implementation, can be seen to produce an effect of reversal, an image in the ‘negative’, which shifts the moral order of this work away from care and towards control. Narrative data from ‘career history’ interviews with CEG workers reveal the ‘ethics work’ (Banks, 2009) created by these tensions: intensified individual decision-making, and resistance against pressures to work unethically. Analysis of the data is framed by Marxist and feminist theoretical understandings of how economic crisis impacts in the ‘living space’ of (marginalized) education work and other human services (Harvey, 2006; Tronto, 2010; Allman, 2010). Ethics work is a phenomenon of on-going international interest, given the likely impact of austerity on all sectors of education

Topics: BJ, LC
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