The limits of "knowledge for all": historicizing transnational school reforms in Kenya.
We will keep growing in Kenya. We will open another 150 academies in 2014. We will between double and triple the amount of children we are serving. Similarly, we will double or triple our workforce so we will have a little more than 3,000 staff employed in Kenya by the end of this year and between 4,000-5,000 by 2014.
In 2014, we will also be expanding across the African continent, and move into our second and third countries.
We are currently hiring for key people to join us on that adventure. --Bridge Co-Founder Shannon May, Democratising Education
In a room with an exposed ceiling and held together by rough timber frames and sheet metal walls a few miles from Nyeri, Kenya, fifty students watch their teacher gesture to a word search posted at the front of the room. He reads to them from a script provided by his tablet, "Who can see the word 'elbow?'" Hands shoot up. "Who can see 'tooth?'" The students encourage each other as they find and point to the hidden words. "Give them a 'super' cheer," he encourages, and the group shouts in unison, "Super!" The scene would be mundane unless one knew that at the same moment this call and response was being repeated, word-for-word, at more than 400 schools in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nyeri, Meru, and towns and villages across Kenya. (1) The wall charts, the teacher's tablet, and the students' shouts are the choreography of the "academy-in-a-box," the proprietary heart of a for-profit corporation called Bridge International Academies. Through this school management system, Bridge (2015c; 2015d; 2015g) seeks to "reengineer the entire lifecycle of basic education," transforming the lives of children and families in "developing countries" by offering "knowledge for all."
The academy-in-a-box is offered as an "innovation" in modern schooling that will "democratize success" and make the world "a better place" (Bridge, 2015d; 2015g). It gathers voluminous data in order to target its desired market (i.e., "700 million families who live on less than $2 USD a day"); it sources construction materials and suggests locations for new academies; it tracks teachers from their recruitment date, through their three-week training, to their firing or retention; it delivers their curricula scripted by U.S.-based teams to their Internet-enabled tablets (Bridge, 2015a, 2015f). New technologies and economies of scale are offered as market-based solutions to make schooling "more accessible" for low-income families and provide an education they "would otherwise never be able to afford" (Bridge, 2015d, 2015f; Wanyama, 2014, February 26). Market principles also allow Bridge to present itself to its investors as a massive opportunity--Pearson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the World Bank's International Finance Corporation, among others (Buchanan, 2014, April 23; Bridge, 2015b, 2015e).
Bridge's disruption of traditional education provision--the new flows of capital it allows, the deregulatory efforts it encourages, and the new links of "network governance" it forges--requires careful scrutiny (see Ball, 2012). My argument in this paper, however, is for the need to think historically about the present, and to treat Bridge, with its mission of "knowledge for all," as a springboard that launches one deep into the thicket of transnational school reforms. These reforms, almost without exception, seek to improve social conditions through transformations in human "reason." They collectively express hopes and fears of human difference and share an educational common sense--that schooling can "save" society. This common sense can be found not only in Bridge's media releases but also in the policies of myriad governmental bodies and nongovernmental agencies dedicated to the promotion of human rights. (2) From this perspective, Bridge's calls to increase access to and improve the quality of education in Kenya are less innovations than rearticulations of an international development imperative of how to improve the lives of peoples in the "developing world." These strategies are linked with increasing "economic growth," improving equity for marginalized groups, and "developing the knowledge, skills, and competencies youth need for ... the labor market" (UNESCO-IIEP, 2015a; UNESCO-IIEP, 2015b; UNICEF-Kenya, 2015; Uwezo, 2015).
Unexamined in this common sense is that improving society also entails producing and acting on notions of human difference that are not natural, but embody historical distinctions and cultural judgments about proper and improper modes of life (Popkewitz, 2008). Bridge's (2015d, 2015e) "target group" for intervention is families residing in "villages and slums" and "living on less than $2 USD a day" (Kayser, Klarsfeld, & Brossard, 2014). This apparent economic distinction doubles as a cultural judgment when this target group is assumed to lack what Bridge (2015d) terms "knowledge for all." The children of this target group are said to require a "curriculum with a lot more time during class where students read or solve problems independently" --"atypical for Kenya and most of the developing world" (Goldstein, 2013, December 4). Bridge (2015d) seeks to transform the educational experience for this target group through highly scripted curriculum and pedagogical practices. To do so, it draws upon the Success For All program in the U.S. that sought to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes "all" children, but especially students labeled "at risk." (Goldstein, 2013, November 27; Slavin & Madden, 2001, p. 5). Improved student outcomes through these school reforms offer evidence of the "higher-order thinking" necessary for Bridge's target group to "start businesses," become "leaders in their community," and, eventually, make the world "a better place" (Bridge, 2015c; Goldstein, 2013, June 25; 2013).
Bridge's intervention--as a collection of U.S. experts applying social scientific research and pedagogical practices to solve vexing educational problems in "developing countries"--has historical parallels. In what follows, I juxtapose two transnational school reforms in Kenya--the Jeanes School, Kabete (1924-1939) and Bridge International Academies (2009present) --in order to analyze how the "failure" of some to participate successfully in a capitalist-industrial mode of life has entailed interventions, then and now, through modern schooling. These interventions seek to include "all" but also differentiate and divide populations on a hierarchy of values premised upon the judgment that some are already "less than."
The Jeanes School, Kabete in Kenya Colony represented the efforts of British colonial administrators, U.S. social scientists, and transnational mission education reformers to intervene in modes of life in the colony's Native Reserves seen as socially unconscionable; Jeanes teachers were to live and work in the villages of the Reserves, identifying elements impeding progress, and acting as agents in the "transformation of village life" (Colony of Kenya Education Department, 1926, p. 13; Jones, 1925, p 9). (3) Jeanes teachers were to identify with their students the "primitive" behaviors of villagers. Employing techniques derived from U.S. sociology and child study psychology, these teachers would direct how to properly "see" and "act" to "make visible the necessary steps of progress" (Davis, 1935, p. 6; CoK Ed. Dept., 1925, p. 26). The dividing and ordering practices embedded in teachers' surveys, interviews, and observation techniques produced observed particulars of village life that also classified them according to a hierarchy of values called the "knowledge of the essentials of social progress" (Davis, 1935, p. 6; Jones, 1925, pp. 19). The Jeanes School, Kabete, like Bridge today, attempted to "adapt" the curriculum and pedagogy of the U.S. Negro Rural School Fund financed by the Anna T. Jeanes Fund as part of a transnational school reform of British Colonial Africa (Mwiandi, 2006, pp. 6466). Like Bridge, transnational school reforms were to effect social transformation by "directing tides into channels that make for permanency in human development" (Jones, 1925, p 4).
Historically comparing Bridge and Jeanes as transnational school reforms is not to suggest equivalencies or continuities in actors' intentions, their institutional designs, or their network of sponsors. Rather, the comparison operates at the level of these reforms' "reason," and treats each reform's unique assemblage of pedagogical strategies as "events." (4) My interest is on the social scientific practices and theories that have made particular notions of human difference available for classification and administration through schooling. As events, at issue in Jeanes and Bridge are the particular ways they express continuities and discontinuities in schooling's reason about difference. Both school reforms, for example, have sought to "include" groups seen as different through strategies of inner transformation that connect with universalizing visions of human development and social progress. At the same time, the ways in which "inner" qualities have been made up and administered are distinct between the two reforms, as are the modes of administration available to each.
The study of how difference is made an object of intervention in these transnational school reforms requires attention directed to what counts as knowledge and how to inculcate proper ways of knowing through schooling. Since the European and American Enlightenments, what and how one should know have entailed a comparative aspect that has rendered other ways of being, thinking, feeling, and acting as contrary or oppositional to the "reason" embodied in notions of improvement and development (Popkewitz, 2008). How notions of "consciousness" or "thinking" are entangled in transnational school reforms' gestures of inclusion, and how these gestures divide, compare, and abject is the subject of this paper.
Turning the Lens on Schooling's "Reason": A Historically Comparative Approach
In school reforms since the early 20th century, notions of "the child," "the family," and "the community" have embodied universal standards and values for conduct. These categories are the "reason" of schooling, and have provided criteria for "seeing" notions of deviance and danger for individuals and groups whose modes of life were found to be "primitive," "uncivilized," "backwards," or "undeveloped," to name only a few (Popkewitz, 2008). The comparative aspect of schooling's reason has been to order and plan strategies of intervention and rescue for these cultural spaces deemed unlivable. As a sociology of knowledge, this paper questions the naturalism accorded to these categories by 20th century sociological and psychological discourses. To turn the lens on schooling's reason is to ask how these categories differentiate and divide populations along a hierarchy of values that "sees" difference as "lacking," "lower," or "less than." To turn the lens is to raise to the threshold of visibility the erasures and exclusions contained in commitments to development and social progress.
Treating Bridge and Jeanes as events in schooling's reason requires a particular notion of historiography and of the archive that authorizes its truths. In examining the Jeanes School, these principles are expressed by U.S. educational commissions' recommendations, Kenya Colony's Education Department's annual education reports, and the Jeanes School's records, worksheets, and observation tools. For Bridge International Academies, I draw upon U.S. and Kenyan media reports, online job postings, Bridge's Chief Academic Officer's (CAO) and a former Bridge business analyst's blogs, interviews with former Bridge employees, and Bridge's lesson plans. I analyze my sources not to center Jeanes or Bridge as the sole or primary "authors" of the statements and practices that bear their mark (Foucault, 1984); rather, past and present are brought together by through the social scientific strategies to reduce doubt in the planning and codifying of ontologies of individual and social development (Stoler, 2009, p. 4). The approach, then, is not an account of actions or records of what people thought happened, but of the hopes and fears of what could and should happen (p. 21). This archive of the subjunctive mood is found in the principles of sorting, classifying, ordering and dividing that make some ways of knowing possible and true, and other ways impossible and invalid. (5) Studying transnational school reforms' reason directs attention to how tools of social science knowledge production (i.e., surveys and questionnaires then, and algorithms and scatter plots today) and organization and management (i.e., recapitulation theory and colonial commissions then, and systems theory and Excel spreadsheets today) divide the normal from the pathological. These rationalities are compared for how they organize and administer these school reforms' calls for humanitarian intervention and their promises of uplift.
I organize the analysis as follows. First, I study the particular ways Jeanes and Bridge operationalize their interventions. Here, my interest is on the practices that differentiate and divide kinds of people at the level of their "consciousness" or "thinking." Second, I study how these theories of human difference "act" through transnational school reforms' curricula in order to normalize and design the child. Curriculum is treated as a window that opens onto theories of individual and sociological development that produce the child, family, and community who-are-different, and locate them in unlivable cultural spaces that require intervention and transformation. I conclude by considering how historicizing transnational school reforms is a way to draw attention to the limits of contemporary humanitarian gestures to include "all."
Comparing Two School Reforms' "Reason": "Living Consciousness" and the "Academy-in-a-Box"
Gifts of prophecy, knowledge, and faith are of no avail without charity.... Such an attitude of mind is unexcelled and invincible in the reconciliation of divergent attitudes and contending forces. We must distinguish between the selfish desire to exploit and the selfless desire to help. (Jones, 1925, pp. 76-77)
You need to have a mindset of accepting to question yourself every day. The best way would be to live in the same context as your target group and to completely integrate in their lives, problems, and challenges. That way you can best design specific interventions that will really make a change in their lives. --Bridge Co-Founder Shannon May, The Broadband Effect
Two school reformers in Kenya, separated by ninety years, speak of difference, how to know it, and their hopes for its reconciliation. Together, they express crucial continuities in transnational school reforms' reason--of where to intervene, how, and its ethical warrant. To play with past and present through these epigraphs is to trouble "who" is assumed to be "speaking." The similarity of their sentiments suggests enduring principles that undergird one's "charity" or "mindset." The first principle appears to be the need to divide self and Other--expressed as the "divergent attitude" of the Other in the past and as a "target group" with their unique "problems" and "challenges" in the present. The second is how self-abnegation secures reliable knowledge of the Other--the "selfless desire to help" must be separated from the "selfish desire to exploit" in the past, while the proper self of the present is revealed by "accepting to question yourself every day." Finally, self and Other are to find resolution, but only upon a new foundation--given as one whose "attitude of mind" reconciles "contending forces" in the past, and as a psychological "mindset" who "really make[s] a change" in the present. In what follows, I explore how these principles organize the boundaries of difference in two school reforms in Kenya, given in the Jeanes School as a "living consciousness of the community's needs," and in the "academy-in-a-box" that seeks to improve schooling in every "village and slum in the world" in Bridge (2015e).
In the Jeanes School, difference was pathologized through a developmental model given form through the practices of U.S. psychology and sociology directed toward Kenya Colony's "Africans." As both a racial and sociological category, "Africans" contained colonial officials' hopes and fears of development and its perils (CoK Ed. Dept., 1924, p. 19). On the one hand, Africans promised a docile labor force for the rapidly growing population of "white settlers"; on the other, their education in literacy through the proliferation of mission schools in the Native Reserves bespoke a revolutionary threat (Peterson, 2004). (6) This sociological and racial fear was individualized through psychology. Colonial officials and U.S. education reformers concurred that Africans' demands for political representation were "immature" owing to their "tribal consciousness" that had also inhibited the development of their "civilization" (Jones, 1925, pp. 24, 26). "Consciousness" was henceforth made a gatekeeper of political participation, representing the necessary sensibilities, dispositions, and behaviors associated with progress and civilization (CoK Ed. Dept., 1924, pp. 19-20; Jones, 1925, pp. 12-13).
To mark off the boundaries for individual and social transformation, the Jeanes School trained "Native" men in the use of surveys, interviews, and observations that would bestow a "living consciousness of the community's needs" and would plot rational courses of action for individual and village development (Jones, 1925, p. 12). (7) These tools provided standards for reflection and action that produced observed particulars (e.g., how and where the village disposed of refuse, or the quality and quantity of food), which doubled as the "social facts" of village life (p. 24). The modification of these facts followed indices of progress towards "the essentials of human progress" (p. 19). This logic can be observed in Jeanes teachers' reports that split observed social facts into two columns: "what I saw" and "what I did" (CoK Ed. Dept., 1930). The "modeling" and "instruction" of how to address these social facts in the proper ways would root out tribal consciousness and impart to students "the rules and responsibilities of individualism" (e.g., "womanhood" as a singular attention to hearth, home, and the nurturing of one's children; "youth" as an elimination of "degrading" dances and development of "self-regulation") (Jones, 1925, pp. 28-29, 34).
The aims and organization of the Jeanes School expressed a double domination. First, it deferred calls for Native political representation on account of a tribal consciousness (empirically verified by its teachers); second, it justified intervention into Natives' daily lives in order to replace that consciousness with a "living consciousness" more suitable to the colonial order of things. That is, the social facts that proved the truth of intolerable social difference also became the locus of reform. Social facts individualized responsibilities and located the causes of social disorder in one's internal failings.
The role of observed particulars as the proof of difference does not disappear ninety years later in Bridge. While no Bridge teacher jots observations of the mundane in order to capture and transform "community life," generating the data of schooling's "everyday" remains a primary concern in a strategy of reform and development. The everyday of schooling--the comings and goings of teachers, the fees paid by parents, and the test scores generated by students--are made into data points collected, standardized, and centralized by the academy-in-a-box. Whereas the living consciousness treated Natives' distance from civilization as causal and deductive (i.e., "A lack of civilizing essential X is due to observed particulars A, B, and C"), the academy-in-a-box defines the problem of development through factors to identified through correlations and risk calculus (i.e., "if A and B are in association with C, then X") (Amoore, 2011, p. 2).
The academy-in-a-box seeks to identify strong correlations among factors of its various interfacing participants (i.e., "students," "parents," "teachers," "academy managers," among others). It tracks the occasions, degrees, and durations that these participants interact with and through Internet-enabled interfaces (i.e., computers, tablets, and smartphones). It standardizes, synchronizes, and codes these interactions in ways that make possible analyses, correlations, and strategizing--some of these automated algorithmically, others requiring human reflection and intervention. These interventions might range from the relatively straightforward (e.g., if a teacher fails to log in with his WiFi-enabled tablet for his shift then alert his Academy Manager to investigate) to the more complex (e.g., if "lagging test scores" and "high teacher turnover" are associated with "decreasing enrollment," then dispatch an Academy Improvement Manager with the appropriate school improvement plan). (8) Data points are nodes of intersecting relations. Whatever these data do is both a matter of the questions posed of them, but also what the data themselves admit as an intelligible question. It is therefore much easier to ask of the data, "What factors correlate with high parent turnout for new school openings?" (Weinstein, 2013, November 19) than it is to ask, "What constitutes a "world-class education" for people living on $2 USD a day? or, "How has 'world-class education' become defined as scripted lessons designed in a Boston office block for children across Sub-Saharan Africa?"
In other words, the academy-in-a-box--as an assemblage of rules, protocols, and data--is the answer to a question in which notions of what constitute teaching, learning, and improvement have already been decided upon. It establishes a "living consciousness" (if I may play with that phrase) of an educational reality to intervene in, but in a manner different from the Jeanes School reformers. The academy-in-a-box enables an awareness of the world through rules and standards through which "self' (i.e., the academy-in-a-box) and "other" (i.e., the data and correlations it generates) are realized and stabilized as distinct objects that we can talk about as if either were really there. Interfaces and protocols spatialize and actualize the boundaries of an intervention to a town, region, or country defined by GPS coordinates; the cobbling of various data points from these zones allows for highly specific statements and terms about targeted individuals and groups--what they have or haven't done, what they can or can't do--that also measure and verify the company's "impacts" (Bridge, 2013, pp. 14, 26). Impact is evidence to customers, ministries of education, philanthropic investors, venture capitalists, development agencies, and educational researchers that Bridge (2013), indeed, "has more information on people living on less than $2 a day per person than any other organization in the world" (p. 7). This knowledge--as an awareness and certitude of how the world is and of how to intervene in it--doubles as a company's proprietary authority of how to make the world "a better place."
I have juxtaposed two notions of educational realities in which transnational school reforms have been made possible, reasonable, and desirable. First, the Jeanes teacher followed social scientific rules provided by questionnaires, rubrics, and reports in order to properly "see" the objects requiring his intervention (Daston, 2011). These rules for seeing and knowing provided a standardized means for separating self and Other (i.e., subject and object), where the seeing (i.e., the making up) of objects was the first step in their transformation. The "living consciousness"--the goal of the Jeanes School--was a state of awareness that would permit villagers to be able to distinguish themselves as responsible individuals from the mere objects of the world, and to distinguish the material from the ideal (Jones, 1925, p. 24). In Bridge, the dual role of making up and acting upon social facts is no longer individualized and invested in the teacher. Rather, the tasks of making up and acting upon data are delegated to Bridge's academy-in-a-box. By both instantiating and ordering what is to be seen, known, and acted upon in schooling, the academy-in-a-box emerges from--but supersedes--a notion of the individual as an agent of awareness and intervention. Awareness of the educational reality and agency to act in it are qualities now found in the system itself.
Scaling Difference: From an Individual's to a System's "Consciousness" The inversion of the "agent" who is to "make" change--from an individual teacher to a school management system--can be traced to a shift in how the social sciences theorized human rationality following World War II. The scientifically organized murder of tens of millions within totalitarian regimes threw existing theories of science and democracy into doubt (Heyck, 2012, p. 100). The once unquestioned relationship between a modern notion of progress and the rational individual who could recognize and direct that progress no longer seemed secure, if even plausible. Assuming irrationality appeared a more promising way for governments, institutions, and organizations to manage risk and change. Organizational management theories developed by armies during World War II made possible the study of individual "decision making." Rather than idealizing "the rational chooser," Cold War social science research began to privilege "the rational choice" (p. 104). This did not mark a wholesale turn away from efforts to shape individuals' thinking and actions; however, the individual could no longer be treated as outside of a system that would apportion and manage one's rational choices. The academy-in-a-box embodies the priority given to the scientific management of "choice." Its production, organization, and evaluation of myriad aspects of schooling are an effort to promote synchronic efficiencies of scale by rationally curating the decisions of its various users (i.e., academy managers, teachers, and customers).
What does not change in the movement from an individual- to a systemlevel agent is the need to generate data that tell the truth of change--referred to by Jeanes as "social facts" and by Bridge as its "impact" (Bridge, 2013, pp. 14, 26). In Bridge's Nairobi and Boston bureaus, the academy-in-a-box generates and standardizes immense amounts of data that both produce its objects of intervention and measure the extent and efficacy of their modification. Whereas the "social facts" provided the grist that an individual Jeanes teacher used to plot a strategy of change, the academy-in-a-box simultaneously integrates inputs from regional staff, academy managers, teachers, and parents to continually reproduce a reality distinct from any of its particular points of reference. Analysts in Bridge's bureaus mine this data in order to make inductive correlations. Here I quote a former Bridge business analyst.
From our market research, we had hundreds of consistent variables about each community. So I built a massive Excel model and ran some basic correlation analyses and scatter plots to identify the most important factors in determining where to open a school. Based on the analysis, I created an algorithm to actually project the size of the school after one year that was accurate within a range of 100 students at 80% of schools. We automated the report creation and incorporated a profitability model into each one, which would dictate land and school size. And just like everything else at Bridge, once we had it right, the new report became part of the Bridge model, and is there to stay until the data proves it wrong. (Weinstein, 2013, November 19)
Amoore (2011) describes this sifting variables through scatter plots for factors as "the ontology of the association," or the heart of algorithmic governance (p. 2). Data "direct" how to think about the truth of the educational reality, producing a view from nowhere. In this "scopic system" (Sobe and Ortegon, 2009), analysts, department managers, and executives in Nairobi or Boston enjoy a system-wide vantage that also permits targeted interventions and modifications to improve outputs. Bridge's Chief Academic Officer (CAO) terms the process of iterative improvement of the system "minimal viable measurements"--a cyclical strategy of prototyping, data collection, analysis, and learning (Goldstein, 2013, October 4).
The possibility for a "minimal viable measurement" derives from the notion that what a data point "is" can be found in what it "does." This pragmatism holds that teaching, knowledge, and learning are defined by the extent they can be observed, standardized, and quantified by the system itself. What is lost in this systems logic is that measurements' minimal validity demand strict protocols in order to ensure their continued validity wherever they are to be recorded. In the everyday of pedagogy for social impact, the academy-in-a-box instantiates new protocols in the name of improvement. Teachers must follow scripts word-for-word; students must not ask questions but give thumbs up or down in order to avoid interrupting a lesson; academy managers track teachers' pacing and tonal cues to measure their classroom effectiveness (Interview with former Bridge employee, 2015, May 29; Goldstein, 2013, July 12). The priority accorded to scripts, surveillance, and continuous assessment is expressed as a practical consideration: the validity of the data demands standardization and replication in different times and places. The effort is akin to what Latour (2000) has described as the extension of laboratory protocols into the field so as to allow for the reproducibility of the lab's scientific reality. On the one hand, Excel spreadsheets and scatter plots suggest that the academy-in-a-box is awash in data; yet, its methods of collection reveal the need for assiduous reduction and control of what kinds of data count as valid if the scopic system is to maintain a utility as a tool to intervene and transform.
How is the academy-in-a-box, as a theory of change, different from a living consciousness of the community's needs? In Jeanes, a living consciousness required collecting observed particulars in order to link them to abstracted notions of civilization. This doubled as a pedagogical strategy that would discipline individual minds and bodies towards a more rational ideal. In Bridge, the degrees and forms of standardization are to ensure data's integrity and interoperability within the academy-in-a-box. The risk that data "from the field" becomes irreconcilable with the system requires the system's participants--teachers, parents, and students--as much as the protocols guiding data collection about them--to be standardized. Whereas the disciplining of the rational individual was the objective of a living consciousness, the academy-in-a-box disciplines its various participants (i.e., academy managers, teachers, parents, and students) as a means to two ends. First, synchronized participants and protocols ensure a system of visible controls and calibrations in which impact can be made legible to various funding and regulatory bodies. Second, participants' observable interactions with this system embody the rationality desired by a developmental logic. In other words, the academy -in-a-box does not merely provide a more objective, total, and dynamic grasp on what is already "out there" (a reality best understood as a complex system the academy-in-a-box seeks to model). Rather, the academy-in-a-box intervenes in reality and to some extent produces it. A homology between the academy-in-a-box and the living consciousness is that U.S. reformers' "awareness" of this reality is presumed to exceed that of their targets of reform--either explicitly through Africans' "tribal consciousness," or obliquely through their "customers'" lack of access to the technology and resources necessary to produce their own "vertically-integrated system" (Bridge, 2015e).
If I return to the three principles of difference with which I began, I have explored how difference is made into an object of practical governance through the distinctions that secure self and Other, the processes for knowing this difference, and the conditions through which reconciliation can occur. This reason seems to remain undisturbed over the ninety-year gulf separating Jeanes and Bridge. The upshot of this observation is twofold. First is the challenge to a Whiggish sensibility that one can speak about reform, improvement, and development today with any greater moral authority than one's predecessors. Second is to suggest the need for the continual scrutinizing of "our" reason--particularly for how it scientifically explains, institutionally organizes, and ethically authorizes certain forms of discipline and domination. To explore this notion of power further, I now turn to these reforms' gestures to include "all" in the processes of development and improvement, and the abjection they have entailed by targeting some as different and in need of rescue from unlivable cultural spaces.
Actualizing Abjection: "Consciousness," "Higher-Order Thinking," and Their Others
Real reform is a new synthesis of knowledge and an adaptation of education based upon the condition and needs of society. Consciousness of community life ... is the key to reform. (Jones, 1925, p. 9)
Children are the same all over the world. What they want is the same.... A good education to help launch their future dreams.... If you can make a kid read, write, and think critically you've changed their future. --Bridge Co-Founder Shannon May, Business Daily
Transnational school reforms require a "who" to which their interventions are directed. This "who" is meant as an inclusive gesture. To speak of "community life" or of "children all over the world" is to evoke a common human condition. Yet these inclusive gestures express double qualities. They simultaneously produce dysfunctional spaces--what Morrison (1993) has called "silent presences"--that are oppositional to the unities presumed by "community" or "children." These silent presences are the "not yet" into which schooling is to fulfill a developmental paradigm. The "communities" that the Jeanes School sought to reform were those who did not (yet) possess the proper "consciousness" of their needs. The "children" that Bridge targets are those who do not (yet) "think critically." Both transnational school reforms draw upon social scientific discourses to express pedagogical difference. "Thinking," like "consciousness" before it, provides a criterion for making ontological distinctions of the relative quality of "human kinds." These pedagogical distinctions become developmental imperatives for how each child, family, or community must change in order to achieve their potential. Full participation is denied to those who inhabit these not-yet spaces until they undergo the internal transformations promised by "real reform" and "good education."
In what follows, I juxtapose Jeanes' and Bridge's curricula to study how sociological and psychological discourses "act" in schooling. That is, how principles of "the mind"--given by a Jeanes reformer as raising students' "consciousness" from "tribal" to "living," or by a Bridge CAO as developing students' "higher-order thinking"--organize and order the everyday practices of curriculum. The analysis is not concerned with how curriculum transfers the formal knowledge of academic disciplines into the didactics of schooling; rather, the focus is on how curriculum translates ways of being, seeing, and feeling about the world that serve as indices of individual and social development (Popkewitz, 2011, p. 8). That is, curriculum must be brought onto the same horizon as the "great responsibility" to provide a "living consciousness" (Jones, 1925, pp. 3, 12), or the "mission" to furnish "knowledge for all" (Bridge, 2015d). "Consciousness" and "thinking" are explored as generating principles of what knowledge is (not) and how to see who does (not yet) have it. These double gestures produce the unlivable cultural spaces that transnational school reforms seek to transform.
The first translation of a mode of life through curriculum can be observed in a Jeanes' reformer's use of mathematical discourse as a means of disciplining the Native body (Jones, 1925, p. 17). A teacher is directed to impart these principles of calculation through a notion of quantifiable "bodily needs." Students calculate the number of hours spent "moonlight dancing" relative to the amount of labor contributed that day and the amount of sleep needed (p. 17). These operations would generate numbers that would narrate how late-night dancing would pose a detrimental outcome to the community's productive potential. Turning calculative practices onto the body was a strategy to direct students to think about themselves as possessing quantifiable energies and forces that was not only about a mathematical concept. Representing these energies as exhaustible implied that labor was the body's fundamental unit of activity--one that determined its proper and improper uses. This insight also served a moralizing end, linking the "cause" of village backwardness in Kenya Colony to its lack of disciplined, calculated labor. (9)
Both Jeanes School reformers and Kenya Colony's Education Department stressed the need for schooling to impart to students the "material processes of development" by drawing on social-scientific theories of the time. Proposals to teach woodworking and handicrafts found justification in a psychological stage theory of "sensory-perception-concept" that bore the mark of earlier recapitulation theories popularized in U.S. social science at the turn of the 20th century (Fallace, 2015; CoK Ed. Dept., 1924, pp. 19-20). These theories held that the psychological growth of the child toward adulthood must align with sociological growth toward civilization, and that pedagogy must differ by the perceived developmental levels of students' races. Just as "Natives" (i.e., Kenya Colony's racialized political unit) were seen as distant from the possibility of conceptual understanding, so must schooling for the individual Native linger on the sensory and perception stages of development. The upshot was that Kenya Colony's Education Department could conclude that the value of "manual instruction [for the Native], with its habits of order, exactness, cleanliness, and mental concentration has been acknowledged [by all] for many years" (CoK Ed. Dept., 1926, pp. 15, 25).
It must be stated that Bridge's curriculum contains no explicit attempt to eliminate a "primitive consciousness" or to modify "backwards" behaviors linked to racialized notions of individual or social development. Instead, the principles of cognitive psychology provide a different means to individualize a developmental problem. Bridge's CAO explains its curricular approach as drawing upon the "higher-order thinking" research of psychologist Daniel Willingham. "Thinking," according to Willingham (2009), is the interaction of "long-term" and "working" memories--where "what is known" provides the background knowledge necessary to catalyze "what is new" from the environment in order to produce "new thinking" (p. 7). Willingham's cognitive psychology finds a pedagogical consonance with the sequence-based learning theory of educational theorist E.D. Hirsch's (1993) Core Knowledge Foundation. Hirsch arrays forms of knowledge in a hierarchy in which the "concrete" is immature and the "abstract" is the marker of adulthood. Akin to earlier psychological stage theories of development, Core Knowledge (2015) treats some facts ("content") and ways of reasoning about those facts ("skills") as easier to grasp than others, depending on the level of abstraction and cognitive manipulation required (pp. vi, 223). For Bridge, Core Knowledge and cognitive psychology offer a blueprint that solves not only how one is to "learn" in a school, but how one is to correctly engage in the problems afflicting the "poorest of the poor" (Bridge, 2015g; Schwab Foundation, 2015).
Unlike notions of a living consciousness and the essentials of civilization, the theories of Core Knowledge and cognitive psychology make no causal links to students', families', or communities' potentiality on account of race or geography. Yet the practices of Core Knowledge pedagogy differentiate and divide human kinds as those who engage in "higher-order thinking" and those who do not, reinscribing sociological and developmental judgments about the world. In a Bridge job posting for a curriculum developer, the prospective applicant is described as needing to navigate a "tension" in which curriculum must "adhere to [Kenya's] national syllabus 100%, while applying the principles of Core Knowledge" (Bridge, 2015a). This tension is clarified elsewhere as Bridge's effort to transform the "rote" learning practices of "developing-world pedagogies" (Goldstein, 2013, November 13). Intended as an antidote to "developing-world pedagogy," Bridge's gesture of inclusion pathologizes their "target population" as lacking the "knowledge" necessary to achieve "success" or to be able to determine their or their communities' future outside of Bridge's intervention.
The simultaneous psychological and sociological inscriptions of difference can be explored through an analysis of a Bridge Class 3 mathematics lesson script "about" place value. The objectives specify that children will be able to "find" and "explain" the place value of numbers by following the correct method (Rangan & Lee, 2010, p. 17). These skills are treated by the lesson in a sequential and causal way: first identify, then explain. In cognitive psychology, the difference between the two is found in that "explanation" requires "metacognition," a "higher-order" skill in which elements of one's thinking are made a public object of reflection and action (Johnson-Laird, 2010, p. 18247). Students, therefore, should not be evaluated by the teacher as "correct" until they explain their thinking through signaling kinesthetically, using manipulables, and making models (Rangan & Lee, 2010, p. 17). These pedagogical strategies are not only means to impart discrete bits of content knowledge, these practices materialize one's "higher-order" thinking, making students' "inner" qualities available for transformation and verification. Manipulables, kinesthetic signaling, and modeling are part of the surveillance apparatus that both order and verify students crossing a developmental threshold--that they have begun to "think critically" and have taken a step towards a higher cognitive state, with its incumbent potential for greater personal autonomy, and economic independence.
I have brought together pedagogies and curricula from past and present to illustrate the ways each links social development to transformations in the individual's mind (given as "consciousness" or "thinking"). The argument has not been to question the intentions of reforms or reformers that seek to include children and fulfill social commitments. Rather, the problem is how "children" and development" entail norms and standards that produce their dysfunctional Others in need of rescue. To ensure the child's development requires curricula directed towards disciplining a disordered inner state. Observations and modifications of "the outer" (i.e., the visible, the measurable, or the quantifiable) offer conduits to transforming "the inner" (the child's "consciousness," "thinking," or "reasoning") that are abnormal. In the Jeanes lesson, a successful calculation is not the object; calculation is a tool directed toward producing in children the consciousness necessary to understand the world and their proper relationship to it as productive colonial subjects. Likewise, the objective of the Bridge lesson is not only the acquisition of a mathematical concept; its value is the extent to which the curriculum makes available the child's "thinking" for transformation towards a "higher" state. At the same moment, the developmental is not only individual but sociological in that children are directed to emerge from "the villages and slums" that double as the "causes" of their cultural impoverishment.
The Limits of "Knowledge" for Inclusion and Development Knowledge for all. --Bridge International Academies, Mission
Knowledge is not made for understanding; knowledge is made for cutting. (Foucault, 1977, p. 142)
Historically comparing two transnational school reforms makes visible continuities and discontinuities in how each mobilizes social scientific practices through modern schooling to rescue particular communities, parents, and children marked as different. I have examined the limits of this reason as it orders and classifies difference within a hierarchy of values. First, in Jeanes, the living consciousness functioned to distinguish those who possessed a tribal consciousness, which ascribed "Native" politicization to developmental backwardness and authorized the elimination of "primitive" practices as the "causes" of village backwardness. Bridge, on the other hand, produces and intervenes in an educational reality at two levels--individually through cognitive psychology's notion of higher-order thinking, and at the scale of educational reality organized and visualized by the academy-in-a-box. To put it schematically, at one level cognitive psychology displays deficits in children's "thinking" to which pedagogy is directed; at another, the academy-in-a-box oversees and organizes tens of thousands of individual transformations as proof of Bridge's efficacy as an intervention. These individual-level transformations--their improvement in learning outcomes--are linked to the reduction of "gaps" that are indices of not just individual but social progress in the "developing world."
Studying Jeanes and Bridge alongside one another is a strategy to demonstrate homologous qualities in how each functions as a mode of social transformation. Principles of change--those that locate the source of social inequities in marginalized communities' lack of "consciousness" and failure to display "civilized" behaviors--do not disappear in Bridge. Rather, these principles are radicalized by a systems logic that demands new forms of compliance and control. The academy-in-a-box links participants' behaviors and choices to a centralized system of constant feedback. Psychologically ordered curriculum determines the ways in which a Bridge student can display the thinking necessary to transform any individual, family, and community and ensure inclusion, cohesion, and social progress. At the center of this systemic intervention remains the child, family, and community who-are -different, whose inclusion in the promise of "knowledge for all" can only occur by first seeing that child, that family, and that community as part of an unlivable cultural space that must be reformed.
Historicizing transnational school reforms' reason is to raise unsettling questions in narratives of progress and of schooling's role in guaranteeing social commitments. What if ontological hierarchies, developmental narratives, and a humanitarian warrant to intervene have not disappeared along with colonial-era relics such as the Jeanes School? What if hierarchies of being reemerge the moment it is assumed some do not (yet) have "knowledge for all?" The upshot for educational research is that a transnational school reform should no longer be evaluated by the efficacy of its "impact" or its ability to "make a difference." (10) Rather, it is the making of difference--the notions of science it invokes, the theories of development it assumes, and the comparative reason it entails--that must be challenged for what these ahistorical norms would presume to exclude and abject. What I have been arguing for is a different kind of analysis of transnational school reforms, one that asks not what is your impact? But what, exactly, has changed? What, exactly, is new?
University of Wisconsin-Madison
(1.) This depiction of the Bridge school day is a composite of quotations and descriptions from reporters' visits and my own visits to Bridge International Academies in 2015. The word chart exercise and quotations are taken from Beaubien (2013, November 12) and Pearson (2011, March 7).
(2.) The common sense of increasing access to education can be found--to cite just one prominent example--in the United Nations' (2015) second Millennium Development goal: "Achieve universal primary education."
(3.) The Crown Lands Ordinance of 1902 authorized the East Africa Protectorate to claim the fertile high-altitude land around Mt. Kenya and the Great Rift Valley for the British Crown. The colonial administration offered 99-year leases to British citizens and relocated the peoples occupying these lands to "Native Reserves." The seizure was justified on the grounds of Natives' lack of education regarding intensive agricultural cultivation. See Berman (1990) for a detailed study of land tenure history during Kenya's colonial period.
(4.) My use of scare quotes around reason is to indicate that, like other contributors to this special issue, I do not treat it as an outcome of a psychological theory of learning or development; nor do I understand it as a condition of the enlightened subject. Rather, I look at reason as historically constituted and treat it as a problem in need of investigation (Cassirer, 2009). This approach studies the epistemological principles that separate self and Other, that classify and order the objects in the world, and that make possible reflection and action.
(5.) For further discussion of constructionist or "against the grain" historiographies, and how a deconstructionist study of reason and its epistemic conventions responds to them, see the aforementioned Stoler (2009), but also Munslow (1997), and Foucault (1977).
(6.) Mission schools predated the Jeanes School, Kabete in Kenya by nearly 70 years and had significant autonomy from British colonial authority and supervision. These schools contained their own principles for seeing difference and purposes of schooling, the elaboration of which is beyond the scope of this paper. See, however, Peterson (2004) for a discussion of mission schooling's role in a social history of Gikuyu cultural articulation, imagination, and resistance to colonial oppression.
(7.) From 1924 to 1939, Jeanes Teachers were almost exclusively male, preferably married. "Jeanes wives" who accompanied those recruited as teachers received a distinct curriculum in order to make their village home a second classroom for community demonstrations and instruction. For an extensive discussion of the gendered history of the Jeanes School in Kenya, see Mwiandi (2006).
(8.) The "if/then" association is an extrapolation of how algorithmic governance might work at Bridge. It is based both upon interviews with former Bridge employees and a blog maintained by a former Bridge business analyst who describes how algorithms aided the testing and implementation of a uniform school opening procedure that would reliably generate high turnout and enrollment (Weinstein, 2013, November 19). Bridge declined to participate in the research.
(9.) The use of numbers as producing "social facts" did not originate in Kenya Colony mathematics lessons. The production of observed particulars through sociological surveys was already well established within U.S. sociology, and particularly the work of Franklin Giddings (Chriss, 2006, p. 132).
(10.) The World Bank recently announced it is undertaking a "first-of-its-kind" evaluation of the impact of low-fee, for-profit schooling in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Bridge. Particular focus will be paid to measuring the effectiveness of for-profit schooling in helping to determine the best means to manage the increasing numbers of students, improve school quality, and ensure all students will learn (Maury, 2015, May 14).
Ten months of data collection in Kenya was generously supported by the Tashia Morgridge Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate and the Scott Kloeck-Jenson Travel Fellowships. I thank Karishma Desai, Jennie Diaz, Antia Gonzalez Ben, Katie Lewkowicz Kirchgasler, Jin Hui Li, Tom Popkewitz, and Brenda Nyandiko Sanya for their insightful readings and critical comments on earlier drafts of this article. Any faults are my own.
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