The degradation of teachers’ work, loss of teachable moments, demise of democracy and ascendancy of surveillance capitalism in schooling

  • John O'Neill Massey University


The idea that teachers can and therefore must ‘accelerate’ learning, progress, and achievement for ‘priority’ groups of students has become something of a crusade in official schooling policy discourse in Aotearoa New Zealand over the last couple of decades (e.g., Education Review Office, 2013). The New Zealand sociologist Roy Nash once scathingly referred to this achievement ideology as ‘state-sponsored possibilism’ enacted through ‘bureaucratic fiat’ and fuelled by “impatient political insistence that schools must demonstrate almost immediate ‘equality of results’” (Nash, 2003, p. 187). Here, I offer some very preliminary reflections on the ongoing process of dehumanising teachers’ labour in Aotearoa New Zealand, the accompanying loss of teachable moments that channel children’s innate curiosity about their natural, social and cultural worlds, and the consequential decline in our ability even to imagine the possibility of democratic forms of public schooling. In terms of the provocation for my reflections here, I also comment on what appears to be a foreshadowing of the “rise of digital technology and the creation of elaborate data architectures within and across organizations” (Power, 2022, p. 4), using the example of our national English medium schooling system and, specifically, the proliferation of Microsoft’s Office 365 Education software suite.


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How to Cite
O’Neill, J. (2023). The degradation of teachers’ work, loss of teachable moments, demise of democracy and ascendancy of surveillance capitalism in schooling. Teachers’ Work, 20(2), 179-189.