In August 2017, Ansgar Allen (iHuman affiliate member and lecturer in the School of Education) joined Emile Bojesen and Michael Kindellan in a panel presentation at the Modernist Studies Association annual conference in Amsterdam. Arguing against the automatic assumption that education must be redeemed, the panel explored the educational implications of Ezra Pound’s Cantos (Kindellan), AndrĂ© Gide’s The Counterfeiters (Bojesen) and Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy (Allen).

Building on his recently published book, The Cynical Educator, Ansgar argued that attempts to save education in a time of assumed crisis unduly domesticate educational critique. Educational critique finds itself trapped, based within an educational good it cannot question because it is committed to its rescue.

Drawing from the work of Nietzsche and Foucault, he outlined a genealogy (or critique) of education that would defer the impulse of educational redemption and defy the limits on thought currently imposed by the assumed goodness of education. Claiming that there is still too much of the sacred in education, he imagined a genealogy that would strip education of its dignity, challenge its dominion, and open it up to a form of radical questioning that would pursue doubt to its necessary extremes. Such a questioning of education would risk undermining the status of educated people, including its own status as a cogent intellectual argument.

The overall aim of the paper was to outline a position from which we might approach the feared crisis of education and rise of post-truth politics with something approaching studied ambivalence, rather than horror.