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The 'Grand Simulation' and Dreams of Success by Assessment: Baudrillardian reflections on (trans-)national school policy

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Since the 1990s, European school policy has been steered by management
dreams that systematic monitoring and assessment would
guide schools and society toward a future of greater quality, efficiency,
and growth. This article, drawing on Jean Baudrillard,
explores whether it makes sense to rearticulate this dream of optimization
by assessment in terms of a ‘grand simulation’ that brings
into circulation a play of signs in terms of global quantifiable
comparability supported by the aura of objectivity, statistics and
big data. Does this dream of optimization suck us into a virtual
world of ‘ingrowing obesity,’ where an uninterrupted supply of
statistics and digital platforms loosens our grip on the real by the
alchemical use of numbers, algorithms, and signs? The article
argues that by observing school policy as seductive effects of
a larger crisis-producing and competition-motivating (self-)assessment
simulation, it becomes possible to rearticulate a persistent
trend in (trans)national school policies in a language different from
this trend’s own self-referencing logic – and thus to question the
trend itself. Danish school policy demonstrates as a European
national case how the simulation changed local educational traditions
by building up a national curriculum that made schools and
students comparable and hereby amenable to increased
assessment.

Received 20 May 2019
Accepted 2 September 2019
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Volume36
Issue1
Pages (from-to)24-43
Number of pages20
ISSN0268-0939
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

John Benedicto Krejsler is Professor at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, DENMARK.
His research on new conditions for (pre-)school and teacher education in a
transnational perspective brings together research on education policy, new conditions for producing ’truths’ & social technologies. His work on theory development draws on Baudrillard, Deleuze and Foucault among others.
He is President of the Nordic Educational Research Association and council member of the European Educational Research Association (2009-2018). He was a Visiting Professor at Kristianstad University (Sweden) (2009-2010) and at UCLA (2015-2016).

    Research areas

  • simulation, Baudrillard, transnational school policy, governance by numbers, theory development

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