From active to activist parenting: educational struggle and the injuries of institutionalised misrecognition

This paper centres on the experiences of parents fighting for educational justice. Drawing on qualitative data collected from parent-led campaign groups contesting funding cuts to education or the academisation of local schools, it documents how parents reinvented themselves as educational activists in response to the uncertainty generated by policy developments adversely affecting their families and communities. The paper has two aims: firstly, to detail how parents’ activism disrupts norms of active and involved parenting that have been dominant in education policy since the 1980s; and, secondly, to explore the resistance parents encountered in their dealings with institutional authorities. Honneth’s theory of recognition is employed in this context to foreground the powerful emotions conflict provokes and the injustice of marginalising parents’ collective interests. The paper concluded by arguing for a more socially just conception of parental involvement, one that recognises parents’ collective right to contribute to key decision-making processes in education.