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A service, a ‘way of working’, or a profession? A discourse analysis of community education/community learning and development in Scotland

Mackie, Gordon and Sercombe, Howard and Ryan, Anne (2013) A service, a ‘way of working’, or a profession? A discourse analysis of community education/community learning and development in Scotland. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34 (3). ISSN 0159-6306

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Abstract

Community based informal education, like other practices, is fundamentally shaped by the discourses under which it is constituted. In Scotland, since 1975, the practice has been formally established by government policy as an amalgam of youth work, adult education and community development under a discourse of informal education. This combination carries its own internal tensions alongside the continually contested relationship between the field of practice and the State. This study analyses key documents in order to chart the shifts in discourse around the constitution of Community Education/Community Learning and Development (CE/CLD) since 1975. The analysis reveals the force of managerialist discourses which transformed understandings of the practice from post war welfare state discourses as a Service, to its reshaping as technique under New Labour. Current discursive work is directed to its reconstitution (still somewhat ambivalently) as a profession. This ‘re-professionalisation’ connects with similar movements in medicine, social work, parole and teaching which are attempting to reduce the costs of actuarial disciplinary techniques (in record-keeping, reporting, and the generation of outcome data) by returning professional trust and judgment to practitioners. There are wider indications of what might be called an ‘ethical turn’ from the market-driven and outcomes-focused ethos of managerialism, of which the phone tapping scandal at the News of the World may be the most public and dramatic instance.