History of the Present

Maybe the most certain of all philosophical problems is the problem of the present time, and of what we are in this very moment. 

— Michel Foucault, 1978


For the Spring 2020 semester, students in ED253 will research and write a “history of the present” based on their research of a pressing issue germane to the field of education studies.  (~2000 words)

  • Assignment Due in class | Tuesday 5 May 1:00-2:50 pm


A history of the present is less concerned with understanding the past than with developing a critical understanding of the present. A history of the present endeavors to achieve this understanding by disclosing the historical, economic, political and/or cultural circumstances through which a current issue has emerged and by identifying those circumstances upon which that issue still depends. In this way, a history of the present often begins by identifying a current issue that you have yet to fully questioned because it assumes a certain level of commonsense.  Yet, when seriously researched, the issue is recognized as problematic, in part, because it has been generally overlooked or misunderstood.


What could possibly be the significance of the study of educational foundations to teachers responsible for educating our nation’s students?  While the design of learning environments and the application of teaching methods are central to the teaching profession, designs and methods make sense only with an informed understanding of the historically specific context of the contested field of education. Indeed, as citizens of this great democracy, as agents of the institution of education, and as members of local school communities, the decisions teachers make about teaching methods and learning environments affect the lives and futures of school children in the United States.

In the wider society, the understanding of the historically specific context of education is frequently contested and made the objects of partisan debates. Yet education is perhaps the least understood institution in the United States. While most Americans spend 12 or more years attending school, the issues that define “effective” schools and educated students shift and change through time. From democracy and citizenship to equity and accountability, what are the historical, economic, political and cultural issues that determine “effective” schools right now in this present time?


Complete bibliography in a standard form such as MLA, Chicago or APA.

A History of the Present — What’s going on in this present moment?

Essay Assessment Rubric


Strunk and While (1935) The Elements of Style.

Bevir, M. (2008) What is Genealogy? Journal of the Philosophy of History. 2 (3). 263-275.

Bowdridge, M. m., & Blenkinsop, S. (2011). Michel Foucault Goes Outside: Discipline and Control in the Practice of Outdoor Education. Journal Of Experiential Education, 34(2), 149-163.

Coldwell, D. (2014). The confessing society: Foucault, confession and practices of lifelong learning. International Review Of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft, 60(2), 303-305.

Dehli, K. (2014). Doing histories of education and psychology. Encounters On Education, 15, 103-120.

Garland, D. (2014). What is a “history of the present”? On Foucault’s genealogies and their critical preconditions. Punishment & Society16(4), 365-384.

Jacobson, R. B. (2010). Narrating Characters: The Making of a School Bully. Interchange, 41(3), 255-283.

Kanes, C., Morgan, C., & Tsatsaroni, A. (2014). The PISA mathematics regime: knowledge structures and practices of the self. Educational Studies In Mathematics, 87(2), 145-165.

Koopman, C. (2013)  Genealogy as Critique: Foucault and the Problems of Modernity. Bloomington, IN. : University of Indiana Press.

Kyung Eun, J. (2011). Thinking inside the box: Interrogating No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. KEDI Journal Of Educational Policy,8(1), 99-121.

Saar, M. (2008). Understanding Genealogy: History, Power, and the Self. Journal of the Philosophy of History. 2 (3). 295-314.

Zhao, W. (2013). Teaching with Liangxin (Virtuous Heart) Held in Hands or Not. European Education,45(4), 75-91.

The search is: Education SU / Foucault SU

pick it up here:  #40.