Thursday, March 29, 2007

School Buildings

The British Educational Suppliers Association and the British Council for School Environments have just issued a joint report, saying that school buildings need to be completely redesigned. (Well they would say that, wouldn't they?) [BBC News, March 29th, 2007]

Scribe sent me a link to the story, suggesting that this might represent a move away from the regimented design of traditional schools, as discussed by Foucault in "Discipline and Punish".

Foucault's analysis of instititions, including schools, demonstrates the possible effect of certain physical and social structures; Foucault suggests that these structures have much broader social and political consequences - such as social control. From a POSIWID perspective, these consequences could be regarded as part of the hidden purpose of these institutions.

I am sure it would be an excellent idea to redesign schools to make them more pleasant and productive places for children and teachers to work, and for parents and other stakeholders to visit. Not just the physical buildings, but also the working relationships and working practices within these buildings. In our modern world, this kind of change inevitably needs to be cost-justified in terms of academic, economic and social outcomes. Following a good redesign, the structures may be more flexible, the effects more subtle, and the control more unobtrusive.

Flexibility and creativity are now valued in the workforce as never before. And if we want children to become flexible and creative adults, then it makes obvious sense (at least to the utilitarian minds that govern such matters) to put them in flexible and creative school environments.

But Foucault still rules, okay?

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