In Radical Education and the Common School (2011), Michael Field and Peter Moss argue for a radical alternative to the failed and dysfunctional contemporary discourse about education and the school with its focus on markets, competition, instrumentality, standardisation, and managerialism. They argue that it is necessary, if we are to progress “social alternatives” in education, to construct micro-histories of schools that have developed as “real utopias” through radically revising their practice. They call these micro-histories “critical case studies of possibilities”. In To Hell with Culture (1963), the art educator and anarchist Herbert Read returned to a theme he had been exploring since the early 1930s – the purpose of education. For him, “education” implied many things, but he saw modern practice as “socially disintegrating”. Instead, Read offered an alternative to the dominant discourse about education under capitalism in the 1960s which would create “that collective consciousness which is the spiritual energy of a people and the only source of its art and culture”. To what extent was Read’s conception of education an ideal, a dream unfulfilled? Following Fielding and Moss this paper will seek to trace “critical case studies of possibilities” drawn from the past which reflect the fundamental connection identified by Read between school learning, “collective consciousness”, art, and culture.
- collective consciousness