Journal of Philosophy of Education 42 (1):15-34 (2008)
It is well documented that the application of business models to the higher education sector has precipitated a managerialistic approach to organisational structures ( Preston, 2001 ). Less well documented is the impact of this business ideal on the student-teacher encounter. It is argued that this age-old relation is now being configured (conceptually and organisationally) in terms peculiar to the business sector: as a customer-product relation. It is the applicability and suitability of such a configuration that specifically concerns this contribution. The paper maintains that the move to describe the student-teacher relation in these terms is indeed inappropriately reductive, but not straightforwardly so. The problem arises in that we remain unsure of the contemporary purpose of education. We lack any firm educational ideals that, in themselves, cannot be encompassed by the business paradigm. Indeed, the pedagogical critique of education (broadly, that education is only of use in as much as it is of use to society) extends further than has yet been intimated and prevents one securing any educational ideal that does not immediately succumb to critique. This pedagogical logic is unassailable in any linear way but, when pressed, precipitates an aporetic moment that prevents it from assuming any totalising hold over education. We draw on the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida to consider whether one might yet imagine an educational 'quasi-ideal' that will enable practitioners and institutions to counter the effects of customerisation.
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