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Gewirtz, Sharon

Give Us a Break! A Sceptical Review of Contemporary Discourses of Lifelong Learning
Over the past 40 years a whole cluster of discourses centred on the ideas of the learning society and lifelong learning has emerged. These discourses have moved from being theoretical and aspirational to become increasingly embedded in international and national policies and professional practices. This article raises some concerns about what happens when the aspirational discourses which abounded in the 1960s and 1970s are translated into real-world practice and policies. The article begins with a brief review of the range of discourses bound up in the theory and practice of the learning society, and some of the sociological explanations for the proliferation of learning society and lifelong learning discourses. It then goes on to ask some questions about the potential risks of specific manifestations of these totalising approaches to education, focusing in particular on threats to ‘learning-rich’ and ‘learning-free’ spaces. In the spirit of lifelong learning, the author develops her arguments by drawing on some reflections on her own experiences as a worker (specifically as a supervisor of doctoral students) and as a parent of young children.