Critical Problem Posing Education versus Depositing Knowledge
The truly committed must reject the knowledge-depositing concept, as it is practised in many of today’s business schools, in its entirety. Instead, they have to adopt an emancipatory concept of and with people as critical-reflective human beings. The emancipatory processes must be directed towards a critical engagement with the managerial world, and the emancipatory educator will abandon the training aspirations of knowledge-deposit schemes. The current process of implanting knowledge will be replaced by providing critical problems that have relevance to people in their relationships with the managerial world that is still defined by domination. Perhaps such a method might best be called “Critical Problem Posing Education” (CPPE). It responds to the essence of emancipatory humanity and rejects top-down instructions, master plans, preset training schemes, modules, e-learning, and pre-packaged testable knowledge. Instead, it embodies critical emancipatory communication in the service of education seen as critical pedagogy. In a way, CPPE epitomises the special characteristic of individuals and their ability to learn rather than being filled (up) with knowledge.
Emancipatory management education consists of acts of cognition and recognition but never in the transferral of information as a form of
“knowledge transfer” from one vessel to another. Instead, emancipatory management education and CPPE take place in learning situations in which recognisable human subjects cannot be “means” of training regimes. Emancipatory educators become active intermediaries between actors and objects. The standard “teacher versus student” division vanishes when forms of CPPE are applied. It is for this reason that the practice of CPPE depends on an initial resolution of the domination-enhancing teacher-down-to-student authoritarianism. For this, truly communicative relations based on mutual and equal recognition become indispensable as does the ability of emancipatory actors to cooperate in a process dedicated to what philosopher Habermas once called “reaching universal agreement”.
And indeed, CPPE is designed to end the vertical and pathological patterns of today’s training regimes as practices in business schools. But emancipatory management education will only be able to fulfil its humanistic function of being a practice of human freedom if it is able to overcome the above-outlined forms of domination while contradicting deeply enshrined knowledge-deposit regimes. It is only through mutual and equal recognition and communicative action that the domination found in “instructor-above-student” relationships can cease to exist. What emerges is a horizontal teacher-student relationship. In emancipatory management education, a teacher can no longer merely be “a-teacher-who- teaches”. Instead, the teacher becomes part of a progressive teaching experience in which they themselves are taught inside a critical emancipatory dialogue with students. In turn, students will not only be taught but also be “taught to teach”.
In the process of emancipatory management education, these students will become jointly responsible for an educational process in which all— teachers and students—grow. Arguments based on authority, rank, domination, and power are no longer valid. In order to move towards emancipation, authorities, power relationships, and domination must be overcome. Only then can emancipatory management education move towards human freedom. Set against this are those who rely on domination and authority. They will move against human freedom and might even drag emancipatory teachers back into their way of thinking so that these will become authoritarian.15
In emancipatory management education, nobody is there to simply give knowledge to others, nor is emancipatory management education an autodidactic system that is self-taught. It can never be found by accessing a website, taking up e-learning, nor can it be accessed through downloading an “instruction package”. In emancipatory management education, people teach each other—not through machine-to-human interaction and internet access. Learning takes place cooperatively, collectively, and in community. These learning processes are always mediated by a critical engagement with the managerial world but students will no longer be the previously recognisable “objects” of the knowledge-deposit systems that were “instructed” by teachers and the institutions behind them.
Yet, the knowledge-deposit concept still has an inherent tendency to dichotomise everything as an almost natural outgrowth of the “teacher- above-student” way of thinking. It demands from those cementing domination to distinguish between teachers and students and between institutions and students. But it also thrives on another dichotomy. It perpetuates a two-stage model of action and educators. During the
first stage —always neatly separated from the second one—
teachers “pre”-pare by recognising a recognisable object, the object to be taught. They prepare their knowledge-depositing “lessons” in a study or laboratory prior to teaching. During the second phase, they expose students to the preplanned object of teaching. As part of the
second stage students are not yet called upon to know the object of the lesson but they are made to memorise the contents as narrated by the instructor. Students are not allowed to practise any act of critical recognition and reflection. This is because the “to-be-memorised” object remains the property of the teacher and the institution.
The knowledge-deposit structure avoids critical reflection on the objects being taught and the teacher-student relationship. As a consequence, instead of teaching and developing new knowledge and new insights, the training system neither achieves true knowledge nor does it develop insights. Instead, it asphyxiates students in domination—even when this is rather fashionably labelled eLearning.16 By contrast, CPPE avoids dichotomising the world of education into “students versus teachers+institutions”. Learning becomes a collaborative activity of a teacher-student interface. The teacher is no longer the master recogniser and the master narrator. Instead, they become part of a critical emancipatory management education structure in which they “prepare”—not pre-engineer—projects that engage students in a learning dialogue. Such teachers no longer regard the objects of education as private property or the property of an institution. Instead, they become objects of reflection by the teachers themselves.
In this way, a CPPE educator constantly reforms and reflects on educational processes encouraging reflections and self-reflections by and with students. CCPE demands that students are no longer docile listeners and consumers of e-learning modules but critical and inquisitive co-partners inside what Habermas calls a “domination-free dialogue”17 that is based on Hegel’s mutual and equal recognition between teachers and students. Under CCPE, teachers present material that enhances emancipation rather than domination. Within the “domination-free dialogue”, students and teachers must have the opportunity to re-examine this material and have the ability to express their own views on the material and learning processes. Yet it remains the responsibility of an emancipatory problem posing educator to work together with students to create nondomineering and hierarchy-free conditions that enable both to develop emancipatory knowledge. Whereas “knowledge-depositing” forms of management training asphyxiate students inside domination that inhibits human potentialities of critical-creative and inquisitive education, CPPE necessitates a consistent examination of today’s pathological realities of management that shapes and “damages” (Adorno) our private and working lives. As Adorno noted,18
“There is no right life in the wrong one.”
In short, much of today’s management training issues ideology while attempting to asphyxiate consciousness. CPPE is a version of“domination- free dialogue” endeavouring to support the emergence of a critical consciousness as well as emancipatory interventions and transformations “in” and “of” reality. As many of today’s students are increasingly exposed to managerial pathologies, they can relate to a world that is defined by hierarchies and domination but also to a world without both. Once students experience themselves as being “with” the world, they will recognise themselves and their potentials to increasingly challenge the enforced reality of domination. They will become aware of the obligation to respond to the challenges set upon them by Managerialism.
I t is the goal of emancipatory management education to prepare students to being able to apprehend these challenges and view them as interrelated to other problems that arise in the sphere of work and their private lives. This is designed to occur within a socio-economical context—never just merely as a theoretical question. Out of that comes a comprehension that has a tendency to be gradually more critical, ensuring that alienation increasingly diminishes. In the “emancipation versus alienation” tension, it is the former that eliminates the latter gradually in a step-by-step educational process. But in this successive process of emancipatory management education, student response to these challenges induces ever more new challenges. At a higher level of emancipatory awareness, this enables students to create new understandings. Gradually, they come to regard themselves as co-initiators of emancipatory educational processes.
With that, emancipatory management education becomes a practice of human freedom as opposed to training as a practice of domination. As emancipatory management education it denies the construction of “to-be-trained” objects. Human beings are no longer abstract, atomised, isolated, and dependent on domination. They are no longer unattached to the social, human, and environmental world. The concept of emancipatory management education linked to CPPE and “domination-free dialogue” also denies a world that has been framed as existing as a reality segregated from human beings—often ideologically framed as the “business world”. To support emancipatory management education, critical reflection prevents the construction of abstract human beings or a world without human beings in which blind market forces—Smith’s “invisible hand”—exist. This is what is currently underwritten by neo-liberal ideology run as a cybernetically functioning and self-sustaining “megamachine” like a version of de-humanity. Emancipatory management education, on the contrary, considers people in their relations with the world. Critical emancipatory consciousness can never precede the world, nor can it follow it. This can be shown by using a recent setting of management training where a group of management students discussed the concept of organisational culture. Halfway into the discussion, the following exchange took place starting with one student:
Management student: “I can understand that without people there is no company, no organisation, and no world.”
To this, the educator replied: “Let’s play the devil’s advocate and
assume that all people have died, let’s say, because of global warming and the subsequent environmental destruction but our world, although heavily damaged, has somehow remained. There are still some flowers, lakes, trees, birds, animals, rivers, seas, and, of course, stars. Wouldn’t all this still be a ‘world’”?
To this, the students responded: “Definitely not because there would
be nobody left to say ‘this is a world’.”
In the above exchange, a manager/student set out to articulate the opinion that without human beings there would be a lack of human consciousness about the world. This implies the existence of a world of consciousness. Perhaps the following realisation took place: “I can never exist without there not being an ‘I’.” In turn, this “I” depends on exactly that existence—the existence of human beings. In short, a world that brings consciousness into existence can only be a world of that consciousness. As human beings are capable of reflecting on themselves and on the world, there is an increase in the scope of their perception. And with that, people can begin to direct their observations towards previously unassuming and often ideologically camouflaged occurrences.
The philosopher Husserl (1859—1938)19 thought that in “perception”—which he called “explicit awareness” [Gewahren]—he was turned towards an object. In general, people capture “explicit awareness” as being—here and now. But such an apprehension is always somewhat singled out while every single object can also only ever occur in a background of experiences. Things are “perceived” based on perceptions inside the field of intuitions. Every perception of a thing has a zone of background intuitions or background awareness that comes with it. But even these initial intuitions always remain a conscious experience. In other words, consciousness lies in a co-perceived objective background. This not just challenges Kant’s “thing-in-itself” but it also explains why managerial phenomena such as, for example, organisational culture are no freestanding objects to be recognised and accepted. Instead, they always come with Husserl’s “background awareness” in which we place and understand organisational culture. To damage this remains the ideological task of Managerialism that predetermines Husserl’s background awareness so that we understand “organisational culture” in the way Managerialism wants us to understand it.
Things and even ideas or concepts—or some might say ideologies— such as organisational culture exist objectively but can never be perceived in their deeper implications without linking them to our “background awareness”. This is what ideologies such as Managerialism target. Hence, it is the task of emancipatory education to illuminate the power this serves and the domination it sustains. Upon this, people can begin to single out elements—organisational culture, management training, and so on—from their “background awareness” and from their given ideological context. This is done in order to reflect on the relationship between the deliberately created ideologies that shape or better distort our “background awareness”. In emancipatory management education, such a process becomes a key element which highlights how objects, concepts, and ideologies are created by forces of domination in order to establish an ideologically shaped background of a distorted awareness or no awareness at all. As such, the relationship between ideology and managerial elements becomes the object of critical emancipatory reflection.20
In CPPE, people develop the power to critique the way in which they have been made to exist in a world with which they can no longer define themselves but are defined by the alien forces of Managerialism. They start to recognise that “their” world is in reality not their world at all but determined by non- or even anti-human forces such as markets and ideologies. And neither is “their” world the static reality of eternal consumer capitalism as corporate mass media is pretending. Instead, their world is the reality of human progresses directed towards the humanisation of life which inevitably includes a transformation from domination to emancipation. Although there are dialectical relationships of “human-to-human” and people with the world, these have never existed i ndependently of how these relations are recognised. This gives rise to the following question:
When these dialectical relationships are perceived as combined forces of domination (e.g. capitalism, Managerialism, neo-liberalism, corporate mass media and, of course, management training), do these forces do everything in their powers to prevent critical illuminations on their powers to dominate others and the world?
Through critical emancipatory communicative action individuals can change the way they perceive themselves in the world. This can lead to changes that remove domination in favour of emancipation. In that the “teacher^student” relationship is reflective of a critical consciousness and the world. Overcoming domination in management training can lead to the establishment of authentic forms of thought, communication, and actions. With that, the two educational concepts and practices come into conflict:
1. The “knowledge-depositing” method of management training—for reasons outlined above—attempts to perpetuate the mythicism of reality while rehearsing ideologies to conceal the pathologies of managerial capitalism and the destructive—moral, environmental, human, and so on—facts of domination. Yet, these are the ideological facts that explain the alienated ways under which people exist in the world.
2. By contrast, the critical emancipatory and CPPE education set themselves the task of demythologising and de-ideologising the above by
making the human, social, and environmental pathologies of management and capitalism visible.
To prevent the latter from occurring, the “knowledge-depositing” form of management training resists “free” dialogue, largely through pre-constructing modular classroom communication and—increasingly—e-learning, while CPPE regards the domination-free dialogue as obligatory to inform communicative action and the recognition of the world with the telos of unveiling reality. Meanwhile the “knowledge-depositing” form of management training treats students as “objects” that enhance domination. Critical emancipatory problem posing education on the contrary is designed to enable individuals to become reflective and critical thinkers. The “knowledge- depositing” form of management training inhibits free dialogue, inquisitiveness, and creativity while it domesticates thinking to remain inside the confinements of Managerialism. While it is incapable to completely destroy thinking, it redirects and asphyxiates it. To secure this process, the inquisitiveness and intentionality of critical consciousness is isolated from, for example, the historical perspective of management in order to eliminate the brutalities of management’s origins that are found in the factory administration of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House” and William Blake’s “Satanic Mills”.21 As a thoroughly ahistorical form of training, management training rejects the concept that individuals have a history and that capitalism is a historical phenomenon. Perhaps this occurs under the ideological motto:
Without historical consciousness people can never become fully human.
CPPE, on the contrary, always bases itself on human potentials such as inquisitiveness, curiosity, historical awareness, critical questioning, and creativity while encouraging true communication and reflection upon reality in an historical context. It thereby responds and corresponds to the human vocation of people being authentic and having a history. Authenticity can be established when it is underwritten by emancipatory inquiries and social transformations. In short, the “knowledge-depositing” model and practice of management training immobilise individuals by being an asphyxiating force. It can never acknowledge people as people, only as “managers” and “human resources”. For ideological reasons, it can never see historical beings and managerial capitalism as a historical contingency. By contrast, CPPE takes the history of individuals as the starting point from which education engages. It affirms people as human beings engaged in a process of becoming unfinished and still-incomplete human beings in an unfinished project of modernity. These individuals are not human resources to be filled with managerial knowledge to function better in managerial regimes. Contrary to Managerialism’s concept of human resources placed at an office desk and asphyxiated by KPIs, people recognise themselves to be unfinished, and they realise that the project of modernity lies in them becoming main elements of moder- nity—a global humanity still to be achieved. These individuals are aware of their incompleteness and of the incompleteness of modernity as long as the world remains defined by domination like a “Planet of Slums”.22 Combining the incompleteness resulting from an exposure of individuals to the pathologies and ideologies of capitalism with the completeness of human life under the unfinished project of modernity, such a double awareness constructs the very foundation of emancipatory management education. The project to end pathologies and to complete modernity remains exclusively human, but the necessarily unfinished human character of people and the transformational demands of today’s realities for a humane future necessitate that education must be an ongoing activity, perhaps until both the end of pathologies and domination and the development of a global humanity are achieved.
Emancipatory management education is therefore constantly made and remade in praxis and as a reflection on these two incomplete issues. In order to be emancipatory, management education must also be in a process of becoming. It must move. Meanwhile testable knowledge can never be the end point of emancipatory education. The process of emancipatory management education is also to be found in a critical interface of two opposing fields: “stability versus transformation”. Set against that, the “knowledge-depositing” method of management training emphasises permanence and thereby becomes solidified and reactionary. Meanwhile, CPPE neither accepts a well-ordered and cybernetic functioning, present as an asphyxiating eternity, nor does it rely on a predetermined future.
Perhaps emancipatory management education houses itself in a dynamic present. But at the same time, it is also directed towards becoming. CPPE remains committed to transformation. Hence, it always remains hopeful in the sense conveyed by Philospher Walter Benjamin:23
“It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us.”
The future of humanity corresponds to a historical-educational task directed towards ending domination. As such, emancipatory management education affirms people as human beings who transcend themselves and move their circumstances with them. It is a form of education that moves forward and looks ahead far beyond the ideological confinements of markets, Managerialism, and capitalism. For emancipatory management education, the immobility found in management training that focuses on functionality with an ingrained support of the pathologies of managerial regimes represents nothing but a lethal danger. Critically examining the past always means understanding more clearly “what”, “why”, and, above all, “who” human beings are so that they can proceed towards global humanity. As such, emancipatory management education always identifies itself with movements that engage people as human beings reflective of their own incompleteness. It also remains a movement that departs from the standpoint of a critical examination of reality as seen from the subject-object dialectics.
The point of departure rests primarily on people themselves. People have never existed apart from the world and remain part of a worldly reality. Hence, the movement of emancipatory management education always starts with them. As a consequence, the true departure point of emancipatory management education can only ever be with people in real socio-economical relationships that can indeed be seen as starting from “here and now”. This establishes a situation within which people continue to be embedded. But it is also a situation from which people emerge when they engage critically with the managerial world. And this engagement must always reflect on a managerial world with which they not just engage but in which they intervene with the telos of emancipation. Only by starting from a position of being in the managerial world— which not just determines our perception but also includes ways to change it—can people begin to move towards emancipation. In order to do this in an authentic way, people need to recognise that the current state of managerial affairs is not an element of faith nor unalterable. As a consequence, emancipatory management education must critically examine the intellectual pathologies of determinism and fatalism. The thought asphyxiation of its underwriting ideologies must be shown. It is from there where challenges to domination become viable.
Whereas the “knowledge-depositing” method directly and perhaps often indirectly reinforces the fatalistic perception that has been anchored into people by corporate mass media and traditional management training programmes, CPPE presents this very situation as a problem. As soon as the pathologies of the current situation become the object of educational recognition, the naiveties of these rather dangerous ideological perceptions that have produced fatalism give way. The end of the pathology of fatalism often incurs rather fundamental changes in perceptions. It is this emancipatory perception that enables people to perceive themselves in a new light but it also allows for new perceptions of managerial realities.24 And this can be the critical recognition of the managerial realities and the functioning of Managerialism.
As a result one finds not just a more truthful recognition of managerial reality but also a deeper recognition of people’s own situations within managerial regimes. This might lead people to capture their situation as a historical reality susceptible to those transformations that have defined the entire history of humanity. Fatalism, pessimism, and resignation might give way to a more critical recognition of managerial reality that in turn might drive new initiatives, a renewed form of inquisitiveness, a move towards transformation, and new inquiries into managerial reality. This is a thoroughly educational process over which people—as conscious and reflective actors—have control. It signifies a “domination^emancipation” move. As a historical and educational necessity, people need to engage with other people in an emancipatory movement of inquiry. This can never be achieved via modular management training and e-learning. Under these training regimes, people do not have control over such a movement. This non-control (domination) is a violation of human dignity and human self-determination. Many educational situations in which people are in a position of institutional power often prevent others from engaging in the process of critical inquiry.
The emancipatory movement of critical inquiry must remain directed towards humanisation as an emancipation from the deeply engraved pathways of history. The pursuit of full humanity, however, can never be conducted in isolation, for example, by e-learning, and from the ideological standpoint of individualism.25 It can, however, be accomplished from the standpoint of human fellowship and solidarity. Therefore, it can never be conducted inside antagonistic relationships engineered by those furthering domination. Nobody can truly be authentic while preventing others from being so. Equally, all attempts to be an emancipatory human being while being asphyxiated inside the ideology of individualism will only lead to the selfishness of wanting ever more, an egotistic form of dehumanisation. Instead, it remains fundamental to see others as human beings within the social context of mutual and equal recognition (Hegel). As a consequence, human beings cannot be seen as atomised individuals. The prevailing ideology of individualism must never be allowed to constitute obstacles to other human beings. To consolidate the ideological power of individualism with education means to crush emancipation.
Meanwhile, the non-individualistic but social project of CPPE remains deeply humanistic and liberating. At CPPE’s most fundamental level, it is imperative that people subjected to domination must struggle for their own emancipation from domination. To that end, it will enable teachers and students to become subjects of a critical emancipatory educational management process by overcoming the authoritarianism of Managerialism and by eliminating the hidden ideologies of anti-intellectualism that plague much of today’s management training. It will also enable people to overcome the false perception of reality imposed on them through the “ideological teaching apparatus” (Althusser) set up by business schools. Through that, the managerial world will no longer be prescribed and described using pre- and deceptive words; it will become the object of communicative action by people and result—in its finality—in humanisation.
CPPE can never serve the ideological and factual interests of those furthering domination. Neither structural violence nor any form of domineering others can be permitted by those seeking emancipation. In such an educational process, the key question is no longer confined to “how” but moves towards “why”. Meanwhile only an emancipated educational institution can comprehensively and fully carry out this version of eman?cipatory education in a systematic way. Emancipatory educators may not need to take power before they can employ emancipatory methods. Inside emancipatory processes, they can utilise what is given to them to further critical emancipation. But they cannot carry forward the “knowledge- depositing” methods of management training—not even as interim measures. These methods can never be justified on the grounds of efficiency, not even with the intention of moving to genuine emancipatory management education “later”. Education must be emancipatory from the outset and linked to communicative action as the next chapter will highlight.