Conference: The nature and value of childhood

Currently there is widespread philosophical interest in children’s rights, parental rights and duties, and wider issues concerning good parenting and the social organisation of childrearing. Yet, to fully address these topics one needs to assume an answer to the question of ‘What is a child?’ To know who owes what to children shot_1322619651831in any detail, we need to know what distinguishes childhood from adulthood, and to answer questions about the relative value of childhood and adulthood in the overall life of a human being.

This conference brings together philosophers interested in a cluster of questions that have not been sufficiently discussed so far, but which are starting to draw philosophical attention: What is childhood? Is childhood good intrinsically, or only as preparation for adulthood? If it is intrinsically good, does it have special value – would it be a loss, from the perspective of an entire human life, if one missed out on childhood? Are there any ‘intrinsic goods of childhood’, and what are they? Do we owe children things that are different in nature from the things owed to adults?


Monika Betzler (Berne) ‘Good childhood and the good life’

Teresa Blankmeyer Burke (Gallaudet): ‘The Nature and Value of a Deaf Childhood’

Samantha Brennan (Western Ontario) ‘Trust, time, and play: Three intrinsic goods of childhood’

Matthew Clayton (Warwick) ‘Dignity as an ideal for children’

Jurgen De Wispelaere (McGill) ‘Political rights for Rugrats: Children in the democratic state’

Timothy Fowler (Bristol) ‘Variety is the spice of life?: On the possible significance of their being intrinsic goods of childhood’

Colin Macleod (Victoria) ‘Just schools and good fun: Non-preparatory dimensions of educational justice’

Serena Olsaretti (ICREA/Pompeu Fabra University) ‘Egoism, altruism and the special duties of parents’

Norvin Richards (Alabama) ‘The intrinsic goods of childhood’

Judith Suissa (London) ‘Narrativity, childhood and parenting’

Patrick Tomlin (Reading) ‘Saplings or caterpillars?: Trying to understand children”

Daniel Weinstock (McGill) ‘On the complementarity of the ages of life: Why we wouldn’t want adulthood without childhood, or childhood without

The conference will take place on the 16th and 17th of May 2014 at the University of Sheffield, Jessops West Exhibition Space.


For more details get in touch with the organisers: Anca Gheaus ( or Lindsey Porter (

The conference is sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy, The Mind Association and The Philosophy of Education Society of Great

Some Upcoming Education Conferences

A range of upcoming conferences on issues in education and pedagogy:

Education Meets Neoliberalism and the Political Economy of Precarity

BISA International Political Economy Group & BISA Learning and Teaching Working Group Co-Sponsored Workshop and Film Screening
University of Middlesex (MDX), Hendon. Town Hall, Committee Room 3 (10.30 – 5.15). College building the Ricketts Quadrangle, C114, for film screening .
14 February, 2014, 10.30 – 19.00
All welcome. Please email Merilin Nurmsalu with interest in attending for catering purposes. 

Register: Select eventbrite

This workshop will critically examine the political economy of current changes in education policy in the United Kingdom and internationally as it has impacted and impacts marginalized groups as well as educators. Discussions will touch on the political economy of precarity and ask difficult questions about the flexilisation of the labour market and how it is reflected in every level of education. Participants will look at changes to education in all levels of education from secondary to University, adult, community and trade union education including the depoliticisation of pedagogies and curricula. Further challenges are brought about through introduction of new technologies including distance learning, online administration and new performance indicators, all of which we will argue can be appropriated for critical use.

The changing role of educators will be assessed as we look at critical pedagogies, the seen purpose for private involvement in education and the concept of ‘employability’, internships and possibilities for critique and intervention. In that light we invite educators, public intellectuals and trade unionists who look at the need for specific absences to be revisited. This also includes critical investigations around the understanding of the dangers of precarity for mental health, the costs of precarity for educators and students, political trade union education and the waning of working class and disability representation in recent education policy as well as the classroom.

This event is intentionally set to run the day after a very important event on similar themes run by Middlesex University’s Business, and Law School’s Maureen Spencer, Heather Clay and Alan Durant, entitled  ‘The state, the university and liberal education: a complex relationship between piper and tune’ also on Hendon campus on 13th February. Please email Christiana Rose for more details about this

14th February programme
10 – 10.30 Coffee/tea, registration

10.30 – 11.30 Plenary speaker: Matthew Watson University of Warwick, ‘Taking the Classroom into the Community’
Chair: Phoebe Moore

11.30 – 12.30 Plenary speaker: Mike Neary University of Lincoln, ‘Pedagogy of Excess: an alternative political economy for student life’
Chair: Steven Curtis

12.30 – 1.15 lunch. Over lunch, Steven Curtis, Politics and Economics Lead for the Higher Education Academy (HEA) will take the opportunity to chat to the group about the support that the HEA offers university educators.

1.15 – 3.15 The Future of Trade Union Education. (Workshop one)
Participants: Jo Cain, Ian Manborde, Elizabeth Cotton, Martin Upchurch, Education for Action (Phoebe Moore, Kirsten Forkert, Miguel Martinez Lucio), Industrial Officer PCS, NUT, organiser for domestic workers

3.15 – 5.15 Community Education and beyond. (Workshop two)
Plenary speaker: Joyce Canaan Birmingham Radical Education (BRE(A)D) on political possibilities of informal education alternatives in England today
Participants: Annabel Kiernan, Dave Hill, Johnna Montgomerie, People’s Political Economy (Laura Hill and Sarah Kunz)

5.15 – 7.00  Film screening: We will screen the incredible 61 minute film ‘The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott’ which is a beautiful documentary about the Marxist historian Edward Palmer (E. P.) Thompson, who was employed by the Workers’ Education Association (WEA) from 1946, aged 24, to teach adults in the industrial towns of the West Riding. These WEA classes were open to people for whom university education was not previously available.

Governing Academic Life

Conference at the London School of Economics and Political Science

June 25-26, 2014

June 25, 2014 is the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Michel Foucault. Governing Academic Life marks this anniversary by providing an occasion for academics to reflect on our present situation through our reflections on Foucault’s legacy. The focus of the conference, therefore, will be on the form of governmentality that now constitutes our identities and regulates our practices as researchers and teachers. However the event will also create a space for encounters between governmentality scholars and critics of the neoliberal academy whose critiques have different intellectual roots – especially Frankfurt school critical theory, critical political economy, feminism, Bourdieuian analyses of habitus, capital and field, and autonomist Marxism.

Proposals for papers and panels are welcome until March 15, 2014. Please refer to the guidelines below.

Background and context:

The impetus for this event is the set of changes currently sweeping across UK higher education, which include cuts in direct public funding, new financing arrangements that are calculated to bring private equity into the sector and foster competition between providers, the likely emergence of new corporate structures for HEI’s which will open the sector to commercial providers, the separation of elite from mass higher education and the globalization of ‘trade’ in HE services; but also (and relatedly) the continuing development of instruments for rendering student-teacher interactions visible and comparable, and for calculating and governing the impact, influence and value of academic research.

Governmentality research is featuring strongly in the debates around some of this. Yet though largely ‘diagnostic’ in nature, it is increasingly being enlisted as groundwork for the radical critiques and alternatives offered by autonomist Marxist theorists of cognitive capitalism and immaterial labour. Meanwhile, critical theorists who idealise a public sphere of rational-critical debate (with ‘the idea of the university’ at its heart) are struggling to re-define what makes the university (a) public and to re-think the terms of its engagement with the wider economy and society in less radical ways – often without problematising the forms of (Foucaultian) government, or of complicity with capitalism’s logic of accumulation, that are necessarily involved with these reconstructions.  This conference aims to bring together leading contemporary scholars and activists who draw on one or more of these traditions for a series of mutually challenging discussions.

In general, the conference will be oriented by the concern to think critically about the conditions of possibility of the academy today – where ‘conditions of possibility’ could mean governmental assemblages of one kind or another, capitalist production relations, the forces defining how different capitals (economic, social, cultural, symbolic) register within the academic field, or quasi-transcendental presuppositions of rational communication. Participants will ideally aim to explore how we might think across these usually distinct ways of both conceiving what the university is and contesting what it has become.

Specific foci of debate may include:

  • The idea of the university: ruined or redeemable? Social criticism in the age of the normalized academic
  • Beyond public v. private? Dimensions of corporatisation
  • The role(s) of (contract, competition, corporate, intellectual property) law in constructing the market university
  • The government of academic freedom: constituting competition as a way of life
  • Markets, measurement and managerialism: rankings and ratings, rights and royalties, accounting and audit, metrics … and alt.metrics?
  • Academic career-ism and casualization; discipline and de-professionalisation
  • The conditions for the persistence in the university sector of relations of domination organised in particular around gender and ethnicity
  • Critical political economy and varieties of communicative capitalism
  • Entrepreneurial universities and enterprising academic subjects: personal branding as ‘technology of the self’?
  • What is an author, now? The future of academic authorship and the academic book
  • The potentials and pitfalls of ‘openness’ and ‘commons-ism’ in scholarly communication
  • The ‘technicity’ of academic forms of life: the potentials and pathologies of living with/in digitised work environments
  • The student as consumer – or as producer?
  • The rise of para-academic ‘outstitutions’ beyond the university’s (pay)walls
  • Other strategies for resisting the neoliberal academy
  • Envisioning and enacting alternative futures for the university 

Additional ideas for panels and themes are welcome.

 Proposal submission procedure:

Proposals should be submitted as e-mail attachments to or, or in hard copy form by mail to one of the conference coordinators (addresses below). The deadline for receipt of proposals is March 15, 2014.

 Proposals for papers must include the working title of the proposed paper (which should be suitable for presentation in 20 minutes) together with the author’s name, affiliation, full contact information (including address, phone, fax and email), and a brief (500 words maximum) abstract or outline. Submissions are welcome from graduate students as well as from more established scholars.

Proposals for panels (of up to 4 speakers) must include the information indicated above for all papers that are expected to be part of the panel, together with an overview of the panel theme (max 300 words) and an indication of each proposed panellist’s willingness to participate.

Timetable:  Proposals will be reviewed by the conference co-ordinators, and notice of acceptance will be given by April 15 2014.

Registration: A registration fee of £100 will be payable to cover costs. A limited number of places will be available at a concessionary rate for graduate students, adjuncts and scholars without an institutional affiliation. Please indicate if you wish to be considered for one of these places when sending your proposal.

London Conference in Critical Thought 2014

Goldsmiths, University of London

27-28 June 2014

Call for Papers

The third annual London Conference in Critical Thought (LCCT) will offer a space for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas for scholars who work with critical traditions and concerns. It aims to provide opportunities for those who frequently find themselves at the margins of their department or discipline to engage with other scholars who share theoretical approaches and interests.

Central to the vision of the conference is an inter-institutional, non-hierarchal, and accessible event that makes a particular effort to embrace emergent thought and the participation of emerging academics, fostering new avenues for critically-oriented scholarship and collaboration.

Conceptions and Practices of Critical Pedagogy 

Stream organiser: Jones Irwin on behalf of the Critical Pedagogy Research Group, UK

Developing from 1960s critiques of traditional or ‘banking’ education (in Paulo Freire’s terms), Critical Pedagogy has through the last forty years evolved myriad responses to the political and educational dilemmas framed in Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Fanon’s The Wretched of  the Earth.

Each of these texts articulated a vehement indictment of Western and ‘first world’/colonial systems and delineated a radical practical alternative: as Fanon put it, ‘the human being is also a No’. This articulation of resistance was to inspire several generations of critique and radical movements, from neo-Marxism to feminism to Situationism to neo-anarchism, each of these in turn also looking back to an earlier heritage of thinkers such as Marx, Engels, Bakunin, Lenin, Gramsci etc. More importantly, this period was to see significant developments of Leftist theory and practice across the globe, for example in the people’s movements in Latin or South America (in Freire’s Brazil or Chile), in Africa and in Europe. In many instances, the pendulum swung from intimations of radical change to a conservative backlash and extreme reaction (for example, in Pinochet’s Chile), while in Europe, the Left became increasingly fragmented across a spectrum from radical to moderate. Here, Maoism in France or the Autonomist movement in Italy would be just two instances.

In the last ten years, one can argue that the Left has seen a kind of reunification of sorts, with the so-called critique of neoliberalism in politics and education bringing back together some of the elements of the radical and moderate Left, as a response to an increasingly desperate economic and social plight for many people in society. If this is somewhat evident in party politics across Europe, Latin and South America (for example in the case of the Worker’s Party in Brazil) or further afield, it is perhaps even more evident in educational theory and practice. The neo-liberal revisioning of the university and the school system, from Sweden to Britain to the USA to Ireland, has led to a coming together of many different kinds of alternative and resistance practices and praxis, whether in the university, in schools, in communities or local politics.

In developing the legacy of Marx, Freire and Fanon, this stream foregrounds Critical Pedagogy as a very helpful theoretical-practical perspective to engage some of these new practices and theories in action. As a strongly committed perspective to social and political critique, Critical Pedagogy has developed through thinkers such as McLaren, Giroux, hooks, Kincheloe, most especially, while also engaging with some elements of postmodernism. This stream welcomes panel and or paper/performance proposals on any of the above or related topics and is especially interested in approaches which avoid typical academic presentation.

Please send abstracts for 20-minute papers to with ‘Critical Pedagogy’ in the subject line.

Philosophy and Critical Thought Inside and Outside The University

Stream organisers: [Again] collective. Steve Howard & Maria Dada

There is a growing discourse that is raising pressing questions about the place of philosophy (and the critical humanities in general) within the current English university system. In the context of the tuition fees’ increase and the increasing marketisation of higher education, is the university still the place in which philosophy and critical thought should primarily be located? Can engaged and rigorous work flourish outside the university: perhaps even to a greater extent than inside it? How is the distinction between the inside and outside of the university unsettled by the concept of para-academia, alternative education initiatives and even the influence of government and the corporate sector on the university? What are the implications of these changing conditions for theoretical and critical work?

We are interested in fostering spaces for critical thinking in extra-university settings, and aim to link up existing initiatives and bolster theoretical understanding of these spaces through this stream. We would particularly encourage papers from non- or para-academic initiatives or individuals. Contributors may wish to address either or both the theoretical and practical issues facing alternative education initiatives and the current university system (the theoretical and practical issues being closely intertwined, of course).

Papers submitted to this stream could engage with topics including (but not limited to):

1. Theoretical issues:
– utility and the value and purpose of the humanities
– the concept of para-academia
– spaces, physical and conceptual, inside/outside the institution
– material conditions of a vibrant intellectual culture
– popularised ‘impact’ vs. rigorous thought
– the undercommons
– approaches to the university: reformation, resistance, revolution or other?
– accessibility, elites and barriers: financial and/or intellectual access
– recognition (for teachers or students)

2. Practical issues:
– finances: within academia or for extra-university initiatives
– freedom of thought, government and corporate influence on research
– building a community
– collaborative work
– access to texts and libraries
– open access publishing

Please send abstracts for 20-minute papers to with ‘Inside and Outside the University’ in the subject line.


Finally, it would seem there is plenty of scope to address issues relating to education and charity/philanthropy in the call for papers of this conference:

Why Charity?

The politics and ethics of charity.

University of Brighton, 7th & 8th July 2014.

“From life-saving emergency responses to life-changing development projects and campaigning, our amazing supporters help make all this possible. There’s more vital work to be done, so get involved today.” Oxfam’s website.

“There comes a point where you need to not just pull people out of the river; you need to go upstream and find out who is pushing them in.” Jack, a mum and blogger who once relied on foodbanks, 2013.

Helping others in need through charitable giving and work is surely just obviously a good thing. If we see that someone is starving and we have some food going spare, then it seems self evident that we ought to give it to them. Perhaps not: perhaps charity, insofar as it hacks at the branches of society’s problems and not its roots, is part of the disease, not the cure.

There are (at least) two central aspects of this debate, which might be termed ‘ethical’ and ‘political’. The first is about what we do as individuals; the second is about the role of charity as social institution. And of course, how these aspects connect and diverge is crucial and controversial. This conference aims to think through the ethical and political issues of charity, and their interconnections, with people from diverse backgrounds: charity workers and recipients of charity as well as theoreticians on charity from a variety of academic disciplines.

Issues might include, but are not limited to:

Charity in “a time of austerity”; Charity and capitalism; Charity and class; “Philanthropy”; Charity as substitute for welfare provision; Immediate amelioration versus long-term change; Paying for charity; The politics of charity; The ethics of charity; The history of charity; The theology of charity; Different cultures, different conceptions of charity?; Compulsory charity?; Should we campaign against charity?

The conference fee, which includes refreshments and a dinner, is £75 for full time salaried workers and £35 for students and those working part time. If you would like to present a paper or suggest an area for discussion, please email an abstract or outline (of maximum 200 words) to and by March 15th 2014. If you’ve any questions, please email Toby at and/or Nicola at

HE Symposiums in February

The most progressive among the students have never gone further than endless aestheticizing talk of camaraderie with women students. They did not shrink from hoping for a “healthy” neutralization of the erotic in both men and women. And in fact, with the aid of prostitutes the erotic has been neutralized in the universities. And where it wasn’t, it was replaced by an unrestrained harmlessness, a heady atmosphere of high spirits, and the unladylike young coed has been boisterously welcomed as the successor to the ugly old spinster teacher…

But because students have sold their souls to the bourgeoisie, along with marriage and profession, they insist on those few years of bourgeois freedom. This exchange is effected in the name of youth. Openly or in secret – in a bar or amid deafening speeches at student meetings, a dearly purchased state of intoxication is created, the right to which is not to be denied. This experience arises between a squandered youth and a bought-out old age that longs for peace and quiet, and it is here that every attempt to inspire students with higher ideals has come to grief. Yet just as this way of life makes a mockery of every reality, as revenge it finds itself punished by every natural and spiritual power, by science through the agency of the state, by eros through the agency of prostitutes, and thus, as decimation, by nature. For students are not the younger generation; they are the aging generation.

– Walter Benjamin, ‘The Life of Students’ (1915), Walter Benjamin: Early Writings

A couple of interesting looking symposiums are happening in London in February: ‘Laddism and Higher Education‘, organized by the Student Experience Network of the Society for Research in Higher Education, and ‘The state, the university and liberal education: a complex relationship between piper and tune‘ at Middlesex University.

The first is one-day symposium on Friday 7th February “discussing masculine behaviours and student culture” in light of the NUS’ 2013 important report on “lad culture” in HE, That’s What She Said. The symposium is free to Society for Research in Higher Education members or £45 for non-members (including lunch).

The second takes place on Thursday 13th February and speakers will “debate whether, and if so in what ways, current changes to the longstanding nexus between state and higher education may threaten university autonomy and liberal education values. At a time when the financial arrangement between student ‘consumers’ and universities is primarily a contractual one, and higher education is increasingly judged on the basis of a calculated economic contribution to individual and national prosperity, the event offers an opportunity to reassess what is the content of “the common good” in higher education.” The conference is free but registration is necessary.