BOOK REVIEW The Cynical Educator By Ansgar Allen
When I was offered to review The Cynical Educator, I did not know what to expect. I’m familiar with the Cynics, and I know a certain amount about philosophy of education, but to consider both together seemed like a challenging task. Yet as soon as I opened the book I found myself completely at ease with the project. I work in academia and my partner is a soon-to-quit primary school teacher. I know how shit British education is from start to finish (and “shit” is something you will read a lot about in The Cynical Educator). The first pages of the book had me nodding in agreement with Allen’s picture of contemporary education. The book opens with an announcement that education is dead—or, in fact, never truly existed. This provocation sets the tone for further reflections about us, the author and reader, and our roles as educators and academics. Already by the second page we are pushed to critically reject traditional interpretations of academic texts: “‘This book raises more problems than it answers’—a common refrain amongst authors. It defers to the reader in hope of better reception.” (p.7) “‘This book provides no systematic answers; it makes no claim to be definitive’—the scholar’s excuse for inaction.” (p.7)
Encouraging us to relate to his text differently, Allen offers us an approach drawn from the Cynics, a “militant philosophy promoting change through personal discomfort” (p.3). This new way of engaging is achieved through provocation,...
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