The Traces of a Radical Education Neoliberal Rationality in Sudbury Student Imaginings of Educational Opportunities

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social class, school


The case of Sudbury education, a progressive school model that originated in the United States in 1968, demonstrates how pedagogy can be reimagined toward radically empowering children. Sudbury schools project an idealistic vision of individual self-actualization, self-directed learning, and egalitarian democratic participation in an unstructured pedagogical environment. This article draws on ethnographic narratives of students who have experienced Sudbury education to trace a more complex and contradictory reality of Sudbury socialization. Focusing on the case study of Natalie, a lifelong Sudbury student who transitioned to public school at the age of 15, what emerges is a narrative of self and society imbued with neoliberal discourses of self-motivation, entrepreneurship, and individualistic notions of success, punctuated by brief structural critiques of public schooling. The overwhelmingly individualistic consequences of Natalie's socialization, however, showcase the limits of Sudbury education to promote a collective sense of social responsibility.

Publisher Attribution

Wilson, M. A. F. (2016). The traces of radical education: Neoliberal Rationality in Sudbury student imaginings of educational opportunities. Critical Education, 7(6). Retrieved from http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled/article/view/186143