Curriculum for Liberation in the Neoliberal Era
- Noah De LissovoyNoah De LissovoyCollege of Education, University of Texas at Austin
- and Alex J. ArmondaAlex J. ArmondaCollege of Education, University of Texas at Austin
In neoliberalism, an emphasis on free markets and fiscal austerity, along with a hostility to the commons and the public, coincide with an insistence on the inevitability of capitalism. In education, neoliberalism is associated with the privatization and marketization of schools and districts at the macro level, and an alienation and fragmentation at the level of curriculum, in which knowledge and teaching are reduced to a mechanized sequence of discrete items and acts. As it erodes the relationship between teachers and their work in the name of efficiency, neoliberalism transforms schools into spaces of epistemological and ontological foreclosure. In this context, an approach to curriculum is necessary that is concerned not just with the common senses that education reinforces but also with the basic possibilities for being, knowing, and agency that it makes available. Thus, the deep imbrication of racism in neoliberalism (expressed in the discourse of color-blindness and in state violence) means that in order to imagine alternatives to the latter we need to understand and interrupt the logic of coloniality that has organized capitalism from its origin, and which is intensified in the neoliberal moment. Furthermore, as the ideological work of schooling increasingly inheres in the ubiquitous rituals themselves of neoliberal accountability’s culture of constant assessment and auditing, a liberatory commitment means staging a public curriculum of collective refusal. These broad emancipatory principles suggest that, in practical terms, teachers ought to move beyond private resistance at the classroom level—a form of subversion that leaves intact the material and institutional practices that secure neoliberal governmentality—and begin to participate in larger actions against privatization, standardized testing, and budget cuts. Likewise, at the level of knowledge production, curriculum for liberation should expose the white and Western technicist rationality that undergirds neoliberal education. Affirming epistemological diversity, liberatory curriculum should prioritize non-Western texts and standpoints; explore the links between politics, culture, and spirituality; and ask what it would look like for society as a whole to start from marginalized values and understandings.