The duty to resist: Redefining the basics for today´s schools

Gert Biesta


In contemporary societies there are many expectations about what schools should do. These include equipping children and young people for the world of work, turning them into democratic citizens, or bringing about a cohesive and inclusive society. What unites such expectations is that they all approach the school as a kind of instrument for solving societal problems. In sociological language we could say that the school is treated as a function of society and thus as an institution that should be functional (and useful) for society. The danger with this way of thinking about the school is that other questions — such as ‚What is it that the school itself should take care of?’ or ‚What is it that the school should stand for?’ — easily disappear from sight. In this contribution I explore how we might answer the question about the special and unique ‘task’ of the school. Being able to answer this question makes it possible to argue that the school should not just be a function of society but also has an important duty in resisting what society desires from it.

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