Judith Suissa: Anarchism and Education

My decision to go public as an anarchist educator was catalyzed by reading Judith Suissa’s book Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective in 2006. Reading this book made me realize to what a profound extent I had been formed at the anarchist free school I attended as a young man. Page after page, the book vividly reminded me of the values that, it turned out, would so form me as an educator as well. So, I am deeply grateful to her. You can order this wonderful book directly from PM Press.

The Higher Education Review writes:

This is an excellent book that deals with important issues through the lens of anarchist theories and practices of education…The book tackles a number of issues that are relevant to anybody who is trying to come to terms with the philosophy of education.

Here’s what the book offers:

While there have been historical accounts of the anarchist school movement, there has been no systematic work on the philosophical underpinnings of anarchist educational ideas—until now.

Anarchism and Education offers a philosophical account of the neglected tradition of anarchist thought on education. Although few anarchist thinkers wrote systematically on education, this analysis is based largely on a reconstruction of the educational thought of anarchist thinkers gleaned from their various ethical, philosophical and popular writings. Primarily drawing on the work of the nineteenth century anarchist theorists such as Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Proudhon, the book also covers twentieth century anarchist thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, Paul Goodman, Daniel Guerin, and Colin Ward.

Reflecting my own concerns about this blog, Anarchism and Education begins:

“To declare for a doctrine so remote as anarchism at this stage of history,” wrote Herbert Read in 1938, “will be regarded by some critics as a sign of intellectual bankruptcy; by others as a sort of treason, a desertion of the democratic front at the most acute moment of its crisis; by still others as merely poetic nonsense.”

Suissa continues:

After several years of working on this project, I think I have some idea of how Read felt. Anarchism is rarely taken seriously by academics, and its advocates in the political arena are generally regarded as a well-meaning but, at worst, violent and at best a naïve bunch. Why, then do I think anarchist ideas merit a study of this scope? And why, particularly, do I think they have something to say to philosophers of education?

Here are some reviews. I hope they will encourage you to explore this book more fully:
Imagining the Future: What Anarchism Brings to Education
Anarchism and Education
Anarchism and Education: An Anarchist Studies Review

I will be referring to this book from time to time. As a first post, I just wanted to show my gratitude to Judith Suissa. We never can know what impact our work will have on the lives of other people. May that fact give us educators and researchers the hope we need to keep going in a seemingly uncaring, intractable world.

Here is a stimulating, idea-rich, conversation, Anarchist Education and the Idea of the Public,” between Judith Suissa and Diana Morea-Ghergu. See their bios below the video.

This talk will look at some examples of anarchist educational experiments to explore how adopting what James C. Scott calls an“anarchist squint” can challenge some dominant ways of thinking about how notions of “the public” and ideas about “post-capitalist”and “neo-liberal” imaginaries play out in educational policy and practice.

Judith Suissa is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her research and teaching are mostly in the area of political philosophy, with a focus on liberal theory, radical theories of education, utopianism and the role of the state. Her current work is in developing philosophical perspectives on the parent-child relationship.

Diana Morea-Ghergu Before enrolling on the BA in Education Studies at UCL Institute of Education, Diana was part of the team of co-creators of the Alternative University, a Romanian educational experiment self-governed and self-organized by its learners. As the radical ethos of the Alternative University collapsed under pressures she felt unable to decode, Diana decided to retreat for a while from the world of practice in order to explore and reflect on utopias and dystopias in education. Now in her second year of studies, she is especially interested in power, authority, resistance and complicity in radical education.