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Professional Life and Work

Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change

Educational Research as a Public Intellectual

But this social democratic moment was about to be extinguished.  In their powerful book, 'Good-bye Great Britain', Kathleen Burke and Alec Cairncross give an insider's view of the financial and economic events of 1976 (Burke, 1992).  Broadly speaking, the International Monetary Fund pronounced an end to the social projects of post-war Britain.  But this was again part of a broader world movement that saw Western economies in the wake of the oil crisis of 1973 begin to struggle with new realities as the long post-war boom came to an end.

As we have seen, movements for social justice had developed sectors of support within the British establishment but such a programme was never likely to win the hearts and minds of the rich and powerful, of those representing industrial and multinational interests.  The advocates of the 'free market' emerged from the spawning think tanks of the 1970s to define a programme that revised the projects of post-war Britain.  The role of the public intellectual shifted towards these groups and in doing so, left centres like CARE detached from the axes of power and policy.  This crisis of positionality was to grow as the New Right programme gathered momentum and new adherents. CARE continued to function and to undertake major projects but what was progressively lost was the link to an overarching social project which expressed the humanistic vision of the founding members.  More and more research projects were generated in response to 'offers to tender' rather than conceived of for their public and moral purposes.  New projects on police training, new technology and nurse training were undertaken.  The rationales for such project work were forced to become more and more pragmatic and thereby less and less infused with broader visions of social justice.

The period of the 1980s and early 1990s has been described in various ways within CARE.  One member argued that the project was, "...  to follow the fireball of New Right policies wherever they go [...] documenting and analysing the effects."

Another senior member at CARE noted with more humility that the Centre was going through a period of 'hibernation' but would, in due course, emerge from its burrow into the light of day.

In fact, in the 1980s as has been noted, major proposals in the field of police training, in the health services, in the media, in libraries and in schools, were undertaken.  The commitment to researching and evaluating the public services continued.  As one member said, "I've not given up on modernism yet!"

Indeed, when I joined CARE in 1994 on sabbatical and subsequently on a permanent basis, I was struck by the continuing force of the value system with regard to social justice and social projects.  It was as if a collective memory of a more decent and compassionate Britain, what one described as 'a Britain that cares', continued to inform the work.  But if the collective memory continued to provide moral guidance, what was palpable was the absence of social movements or indeed social moments in which to locate this value position.

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Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives
  • Date of publication: 01/09/2003
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Open University Press
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
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  • Appears in:
    Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change
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  • Price of book: £23.99
  • ISBN: 9780335204113
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