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The Makeover: A New Logic Of Practice In Policy Making?

Date: 20 June 2006 Time: 1.00 - 2.00 pm

Pat Thomson, Nottingham University

The makeover is a genre of (televised) activity which aims to produce a transformation in appearance, behaviour and/or identity. One well known variant, seen in programmes such as What not to wear, Groundforce and How clean is your house, has the following characteristics:(1) the object of the activity - self, home, garden etc - becomes a project.(2) the object must be subjected to critique - voluntary is best - and shown to be deficient. The critique mobilises normative presentations of class, gender, race and sexuality(3) because the object of the activity is incapable of self correction - it lacks appropriate know-how and networks (cultural/social capital), this must be provided in the form of the expert/expertise.(4) the object of the activity is made over in public - the transformation must be seen to be done(5) the object of the activity cannot be trusted to continue with the game and must be inspected and updated. (6) The self as ongoing project is thus established together with the ongoing need for external expertise.We suggest that this is the dominant form at work in UK policy, with schools recently subjected to both leadership (Gunter, 2001) and creativity (Hall & Thomson, 2005) makeovers in an effort to mop up the worst effects of the institutional makeover/takeover (Beck, 1999) effected by neoliberalism and New Public Management. This variant is not the only version of makeover. I look at other makeover manifestations such as the simulation promoted in Faking it, the development of counter perspectives offered via The Unteachables and the clout wielded by celebrity educational makeover Jamie's Dinners. I also note that some makeovers , specifically the Pop Idol, X Factor talent quests and Who do you think you are geneology projects, do not presuppose that makeover subjects begin as empty vessels and work from the base principle that the people featured do possess skills, knowledges and the capacity to manage their own learning. I argue that the transformative potential offered by the makeover should not be simply dismissed: policy activists could gain from playing with the implications of makeover variants, and thinking how they might translate into public action against the excesses of teacher deskilling, centralized curriculum prescription, crude steerage via inspections and tests and false promises of new kinds of self determination.

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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