Schools as Architecture for Newcomers and Strangers: The Perfect School as Public School?

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 112 Number 2, 2010, p. 533-555.

Focus of Study

Based on Arendt’s essay, “The Crisis in Education,” the article explores that peculiar setting and architecture between family and world that is called school. The leading concern for this investigation is the school’s public meaning.

The point of departure is that today, the public role of education is an urgent concern, that is, the school’s public role is questioned in view of the current processes of privatization, and what is critically described as the “capitalization of life.” In this contribution, based on a reading of Arendt’s essay and relying on the analysis of a specific school design by the architect Wim Cuyvers, two different ways of thinking the public meaning of school education are explored.

One way of thinking takes the school as an infrastructure of “intro-duction,” while the other way of thinking regards the school as an infrastructure of “e-duc(a)tion.”

Research Design
This article is an analytic essay.


The article shows that it is impossible to think “a new beginning in our world” without thinking the school as public space.

Drawing on some thoughts of Agamben and the school architecture of Cuyvers, the article offers an outline for elaborating the Arendtian thinking of the “perfect school.” This school is conceived of as a space where people are exposed to things, and being exposed could be regarded as being drawn outside (or as e-ducation), that is, into public space. Public space is a “free space” or the space of “free time.” This free time is precisely the sense that the Greek “scholי” seemed to indicate—a space where (economic, social, cultural, political, private . . .) time is suspended and where people have time at their disposal for “a new beginning.”

Whereas the museum is the setting that accumulates time, the school could be seen as the setting for suspending time. The school as “public architecture,” then, is not a space/time of “intro-duction” and “in-between,” but a space/time of “suspension” and “e-ducation.”

Hannah Arendt, "The Crisis in Education" in Between Past and Future: Six exercises in political thought (New York: Viking, 1961).

Updated: May. 25, 2010