Operationalizing Biesta: Bringing Unique Beings Into Existence in Standardized Spaces

  • Philip Kovacs University of Alabama, Huntsville
  • Alanna Frost University of Alabama, Huntsville
Keywords: Democratic Education, Humane Education, Democracy, Social Justice, Critical Pedagogy, Composition, Gert Biesta, Educational Theory


This essay details the authors’ attempts to implement a “Biestian” curriculum in a large, rural high school. Drawing on the work of Gert Biesta’s Beyond Learning: Democratic Education for a Human Future, the authors discuss a methodology that begins to satisfy Biesta’s theoretical underpinnings of what he calls a “humane education.” Acknowledging and rejecting Biesta’s warnings against turning his ideas into “technique,” the authors call for operationalizing democratic educational theorists despite their protestations, as refusing to do so allows neoliberal pedagogical reforms to maintain their hegemonic dominance. We focus on Biesta in particular as he is an established, highly regarded philosopher of educational practice and policy, and we believe theoretical work such as his is exactly the type of theory that must be turned into practice, despite his protestations.

Author Biographies

Philip Kovacs, University of Alabama, Huntsville
Associate Professor, Department of Education
Alanna Frost, University of Alabama, Huntsville
Director of Composition, Assistant Professor, Department of English