chapter  1
14 Pages

Language matters

WithNicole Mockler, Susan Groundwater-Smith

This opening chapter establishes the case for questioning the language of reform and improvement as it is used in education. In examining the ways in which neoliberal discourses of education have distorted understandings of ‘improvement and ‘reform’, we ask ‘for whom and at what cost?’ We argue that current references to improvement and reform simultaneously act to ‘overabstract, overgeneralise and oversimplify’. We suggest that much of the preferred vocabulary could be constituted as ‘weasel words’, scant with meaning. We draw upon lessons from the past, particularly in relation to progressive practices including, but not limited to, Dewey in the US and Plowden in England, to argue for a more generous social orientation that will govern the future chapters of the book.