The educational limits of critical realism? emancipation and rational agency in the compulsory years of schooling

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Shipway, B 2004, 'The educational limits of critical realism? emancipation and rational agency in the compulsory years of schooling', International Association of Critical Realism Conference, Cambridge, UK, 17-19 August, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

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Critical realism is uniquely positioned to provide an antidote to the problems besetting contemporary educational research and pedagogy. However, while the emancipatory mission of CR is most helpful in reaffirming what education should ³be about², Bhaskar¹s concept of emancipation raises some interesting questions regarding the possibility of emancipating students who, for various reasons, do not possess all the criteria for rational agency. These questions have the potential to challenge current conceptions of educational research and pedagogy. What are the implications for students who may lack (i) the cognitive, (ii) the empowered, or (iii) the dispositional components of rational agency? This would seem to be a significant issue for both the relevancy and scope of application of critical realism, not only in education, but for those in other disciplines who work with "pre-rational" agents. This paper argues that a CR perspective on education in the compulsory years of schooling emphasises two main points: 1. The "opening movement" of the emancipatory process from primal scream to cognitive emancipation indicates that there is much important "custodial" work for teachers to do, as they facilitate the articulation of their students¹ "assertoric utterances". 2. The criteria for rational agency can be possessed in degrees, as opposed to possessed or not; thus revealing the universal moral worth of both the agent¹s emancipatory process and the agent¹s being to be independent of the limitations upon them.