NonModern Education, or, Education Without Qualities: An Essay on Robert Musil’s Essayism
Contemporary education systems are premised on the assumption that knowledge can be mapped as official curriculum and learning predetermined as outcomes that all students are expected to achieve; we take it for granted that learning can be measured and compared through standardised assessment; and we assume that teaching can be codified as “evidence based” “best practice” and that teachers’ work can be delineated and prescribed in the form of teacher professional standards. In each case the “qualities” of education—knowledge, teaching and learning—are assumed to be knowable and amenable to modernist tropes of clear, certain, systematic and comprehensive articulation. As a way of opening up space for alternative ways of thinking about education, this paper explores the essayism of twentieth century Austrian writer, Robert Musil, author of The Man Without Qualities (1995 ), in order to consider the idea of a ‘nonmodern’ education without qualities—an education that would engage with ideas and experience without reinscribing them within modernity’s characteristic clarity, certainty, systematicity and comprehensiveness. What would such an education entail for curriculum, pedagogy and assessment? What would it say about who we might be and what we aspire to become as individuals and as a society? This exploratory paper ends with some thoughts on the democratic implications of essayism as a mode of nonmodern education.
Benjamin, G. (2016). The cyborg subject: Reality, consciousness, parallax. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cavarero, A. (2000). Relating narratives: Storytelling and selfhood (P. Kottman, Trans.). New York: Routledge.
Clarke, M., & Moore, A. (2013). Professional standards, teacher identities and an ethics of singularity. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(4), 487-500.
Coffield, F., & Williamson, B. (2011). From exam factories to communities of discovery. London: Institute of Education, University of London.
De Klerk, E. H. (2009). Subject to reading: Literacy and belief in the work of Jacques Lacan and Paulo Freire. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Fink, B. (1995). The Lacanian subject: Between language and jouissance. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. London: Penguin.
Freed, M. (2011). Robert Musil and the NonModern. New York: Continuum.
Hartley, D. (2012). Education and the culture of consumption: Personalisation and the social order. London: Routledge.
Jonsson, S. (2000). Subject without nation: Robert Musil and the history of modern identity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Jules, T. D. (Ed.) (2016). The global educational policy environment in the fourth industrial revolution: Gated, regulated and governed. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Group.
Kelly, A. (2009). The curriculum: Theory and practice (6th ed.). London: Sage Publications.
McBride, P. C. (2006). The void of ethics: Robert Musil and the experience of modernity. Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press.
Musil, R. (1995 ). The man without qualities (S. Wilkins & B. Pike, Trans.). London: Picador.
Neill, C. (2011). Without ground: Lacanian ethics and the assumption of subjectivity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pierce, C. (2013). Education in the age of biocapitalism: Optimizing educational life for a flat world. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2010). Globalizing education policy. New York: Routledge.
Santner, E. (2001). On the psychotheology of everyday life. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Schwab, K. (2016). The fourth industrial revolution. Geneva: World Economic Forum.
Sellar, S., Thompson, G., & Rutkowski, D. (2017). The global education race: Taking the measure of PISA and international testing. Alberta: Brush Education.
Spencer, M. (2013). In the shadow of empire: Austrian experiences of modernity in the writings of Musil, Roth, and Bachman. Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer.
Stobart, G. (2008). Testing times: The uses and abuses of assessment. New York: Routledge.
Stoller, A. (2015). Taylorism and the logic of learning outcomes. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(3), 317-333.
Strassheim, H., & Kettunen, P. (2014). When does evidence-based policy turn into policy-based evidence? Configurations, contexts and mechanisms. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 10(2), 259-277.
Taubman, P. (2009). Teaching by numbers: Deconstructing the discourse of standards and accountability in education. New York: Routledge.
Thweatt-Bates, J. (2016). Cyborg selves: A theological anthropology of the posthuman. London: Routledge.
Toulmin, S. (1990). Cosmopolis: The hidden agenda of modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Tyack, D., & Tobin, W. (1994). The "grammar" of schooling: Why has it been so hard to change? American Educational Research Journal, 31(3), 453-479.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License of their choice (usually CCBY 3.0 unported, but determined at the proofing stage by consultation with the Editor - readers looking for copyright permissions are required to do this on a case by case basis) that allows others to share the work in some way with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. We appreciate authors placing a link to the Other Education site wherever they choose to offer a PDF download to the original OE article.