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The fantasy of the populist disease and the educational cure

Sant, Edda and Brown, Tony (2020) The fantasy of the populist disease and the educational cure. British Educational Research Journal. ISSN 0141-1926

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Abstract

The populist turn has produced contrasting conceptions of education. Research suggests that individuals educated to university level are unlikely to support populist discourses. Related to this, populism is often understood as a social illness – a disease – that needs to be addressed through education – its cure. In contrast, this article argues that both the populist and the anti-populist discourses are fantasies that utilise education as an ideological grip. In the populist fantasy, education is perceived as being ideologically controlled by the elite. In the anti-populist fantasy, education is seen as being inherently emancipatory, liberating us from irrationalism and economic inequality. The paper concludes not by showing how these ideological alternatives might be reconciled but by suggesting that we can only proceed by creating new discursive landscapes where emancipatory education can be understood differently.

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