New article out now in Critical Studies in Education by Dr Konstanze Spohrer (Hope) and Patrick R. J. Bailey (UCL).
In recent years, character education has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in different national contexts. In England, the publication of a ‘Character and Resilience Manifesto’ by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility in 2014 put character education on the government’s agenda, primarily as a means to improve social mobility. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of ‘problematisation’, this article examines how ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ are constructed and legitimised through expert knowledges in the Manifesto. We find that by drawing on evidence from psychology and behavioural economics, ‘character’ is predominantly understood as a set of skills and dispositions to be developed in order to boost individual labour market outcomes and wider economic growth. Hence, social mobility is framed in (increasingly) biological and psychological terms following a logic of human capital enhancement. Contextualising the findings in Foucault’s work on ‘governmentality’ and ‘biopolitics’, we argue that the call for character education is part of a wider intensification of the demand for self-government and self-investment—a demand that is particularly pronounced for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
KEYWORDS: Character education, biopolitics, governmentality, education policy, social mobility, resilience