We left the shores of New Zealand in 2000, after nearly a decade at the University of Auckland and headed for the University of Glasgow. It was a very different political and ideological environment. Radical Islam Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State posed a global threat although less so for Scotland than England. However, Glasgow was not immune to the Jihadist threat as the attack on Glasgow Airport in 2007 indicated. It was the first terrorist attack on Scottish soil since the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and took place only 36 hours after the London car bomb attacks. While five members of the public were injured, some severely, fortunately there were no deaths of civilians. In New Zealand at Canterbury and Auckland Universities we had been closely connected with the so-called Māori political and cultural renaissance, being part of both teaching and research on Māori education and supporting Māori scholars in their efforts to establish kura kaupapa Māori schooling.
In Scotland, we were exposed first hand to the radicalization of young British Muslims although Scotland’s experience differed greatly from that of England that was exposed through more extreme attitudes toward immigration and an aggressive foreign policy. The then British Prime Minister Tony Blair had fallen in with Bush’s war in Iraq. We arrived in 2000 when Scotland was little concerned with the effects of religious intolerance and racism experienced by Muslim communities. It was a time when the threat of radical Islam issued in statements by politicians and commentators about the end of European multiculturalism. We were interested in what philosophy of education could tell us about these issues and conceived a book about the corruption of youth that examined questions of education from a philosophical point of view about education, teaching, and ethnocentrism. We wanted to go back to those labelled ‘corruptors’ of youth at the time – Socrates, Heidegger, Foucault – to see what light they could shed on contemporary matters. Indeed, rather than corrupting youth these philosophers enlightened us with notions of dialogue, truth, criticism and truth-telling that it seemed to us were essential tools of the teaching profession if we were to tackle problems of globalization in a non- ideological way. Of course, we did not claim that any of these philosophers themselves were free from criticism, especially Heidegger whose sullied past implicated him in the very kind of European racism that we were examining. The orientation of the book soon shifted from a philosophical book concerned with philosophers to contemporary issues of teaching and the responsibility for youth, and specifically the difficulties of teaching responsibility in a conflicted world. We also wanted to examine the sources of anti-Westernism and the prospects for interculturalism in what became the agenda for global citizenship (Besley & Peters, 2012). It was in 2014 that Boko Haram, the West African Islamic State, abducted 276 Chinok schoolgirls in a campaign of violence claiming ‘Western education is sinful’.
These matters were exacerbated when what was referred to as the ‘refugee problem in Europe’ began in 2015 and reached its peak soon after with over 1.8 million Syrians, Afghani, Iraqi and others since 2014 migrating to Europe, sparking illiberal policies in hard-line eastern and central European states like Hungary and Poland. Since then the number of migrants to Europe has subsided although the problems have multiplied leading to the rise of Alt-Right parties in Europe since 2010 with fascist and neo-Nazi parties, alongside far-right parties gaining ground in countries where national culture and white identity is perceived to be under threat. How does one teach in this environment? What are the responsibilities for teachers? We don’t mean to reduce responsibility to a narrow neoliberal accountability but to view it in the wider ethical sense of responsibility for Others and to enjoin a notion of responsibility that has a collective and generational dimension tied to action. How else are we to proceed in the Anthropocene?
In 2005 we were invited to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and joined the new program in Global Studies in Education set up by Fazal Rizvi. The program seemed well timed and we taught various courses around the kinds of issues raised in the chapters of this book. Events in Europe, while not exactly the same, had some resonance in the USA. We arrived in time to spend a day campaigning for Obama in his first term. Of course, there is nothing in Europe that approaches the history of US Civil Rights, or the issues and problems of Black and Latino education that plague the US. That was in part the subject for the book Obama and the End of the American Dream (Peters, 2012).
In 2011 we departed the USA to return to New Zealand and the University of Waikato located in Hamilton. We had been away from our homeland for over a decade, and we were amazed at how things had changed! After forty years of neoliberalism, New Zealand, the historic home of the welfare state, was in extreme social disorder with some estimated 290,000 children living on the poverty line, and young couples and families shut out of the speculative housing market in Auckland (Peters, 2011). We were appalled and held several conferences on poverty and Freirean education to try to bring interested scholars together. Neoliberalism had also affected the universities and Waikato was no exception, with strong line management systems that eroded academic culture and collegiality, while accruing power to administrators and managers. We had one line manager who didn’t have a research degree and had been in the institution thirty-five years producing one peer reviewed paper in that time.
The last couple of chapters recognize the prevalence of this political change that makes schools and universities instruments of the marketized and manergerialist state, and inhibits criticism, truth and social justice (Peters et al., 2016). In Chapter 11 we use the Foucaultian term ‘responsibilization’ to indicate the massive changes in political economy that took place with the shift from state welfare to the market. After neoliberalism or alongside it we have seen the rise of the so-called Alt-Right and return of the racism of white supremacist ideology. What does education become in a post-truth world and how do teachers deal with the rise of authoritarian populism? Education in the age of Trump is a very different era from either welfare state or neoliberal market education.
In 2017 Jacinda Ardern, the darling of the Labour Party, with the help of Winston Peters became Prime Minister of New Zealand, leading a Coalition Government including NZ First and NZ Green parties. Just seven weeks before the 2017 general election Ardern assumed leadership of the Labour Party following the resignation of Andrew Little. She became the third female prime minister and the youngest at 37 to lead New Zealand. Immediately she identified child poverty and homelessness as priorities, blaming the ‘blatant failure’ of neoliberal capitalism. She has been identified by more than one commentator as the hero of the global left.
In the years since 2011 we had established the Centre for Global Studies in Education at Waikato but funding for it soon dried up and the University and the Faculty seemed uninterested in such global matters or approaches in philosophy of education. In mid 2018 we were offered positions at Beijing Normal University, having travelled and worked with colleagues there in various capacities for many years, with strong links to Sociology, Philosophy and Education. In September 2018 we took up full time posts as Distinguished Professors and look forward to working with our new Chinese colleagues.
We would like also to acknowledge our colleagues at Waikato University who worked with us in Global Studies including Jayne White, Sonja Arndt, and Carl Mika and a number of PhD students including Richard Heraud, Lynley Tulloch, Maggie Lyall, Robert Stratford, Barnaby Pace, Rene Novak, Shamaila Noreen, Nachia Muthiamal, Thanh Dao, Sally Kim, and Lilien Skudder. These students and staff in Global Studies of Education made our return to New Zealand worthwhile, as did our friends and colleagues of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia who have not given up on the critical project.