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Contemporary educational goals place increasing emphasis on conferring recognition and building self-esteem for people deemed to be marginalised and vulnerable. Such goals coalesce with the language, symbols and practices of therapy inscribed within a broader ‘therapeutic ethos’. The paper relates these trends to broader cultural demoralisation about people's potential for human agency and evaluates their effects on educational debates.  

A therapeutic ethos in education appears benign and empowering. Yet, the paper argues that it produces a diminished view of people and low expectations about people's capacity for resilience and autonomy. One effect is to encourage an alignment between the values and activities of education and welfare. This both legitimises and extends institutional and government influence over people's psychological and emotional states. The paper explores these trends and evaluates their implications for educational ideas about human agency.

Keywords: demoralisation; self-esteem; therapeutic ethos; therapeutic pedagogy

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2004

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