In ‘obey’-ance: one principal’s critically reflexive engagement with research in a culture of compliance

  • Mark HowieEmail author


Motivated by my attendance at the 2017 AARE conference and Jane Kenway’s 2017 AARE Honorary Life Membership Award, and framed through the case of an event staged by students, this paper seeks to contribute to a ‘grassroots’ challenging of predominant bureaucratic managerialism in discourses of educational leadership, teaching and school excellence. Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s notion of spectrality, a prevailing discourse of generalised excellence and performance standards is interrupted by a (re)turn to moral purpose in and through an engagement with educational research that recognises the affordances of diverse outputs and approaches. I argue that educational knowledge cannot be justly understood and implemented through such neoliberal ideological artefacts as excellence frameworks and codified lists of universal performance standards because of aporias knowingly overlooked in claims as to the efficacy of such measures. Critically reflecting on my own work and being as a principal, through a hauntological reading of relevant documents, I advocate for a halt to an abyssal slide into standardised instrumentalism, which extends in NSW to the limiting restrictions of an ‘evidence hierarchy’ that has been designed to rank educational research and govern teachers’ engagements with it.


Spectrality Hauntology Leadership Standards Moral purpose Neoliberalism 



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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SydneyAustralia

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