Breathing Spaces in Neoliberal Places: An Essay Review of Peter Taubman´s Teaching By Numbers


  • Debbie Sonu


In 2009, Peter Taubman published Teaching By Numbers: Deconstructing the Discourse of Standards and Accountability in Education. Since that time his meticulous and detailed analysis of neoliberal policies and practices in the field of education continues to gain explanatory momentum. For those concerned with private venturing into public education, this book methodically maps out key players and provides substantial discussion on their tactics for takeover. It delves into language and ideological persuasion yet remains grounded within articulations of law, policy, and district mandates. Committed to the welfare of teachers and students, Taubman asks how systems of control and surveillance have become accepted, even invited, into classroom work, and by doing so utilizes his expertise in psychoanalytic theory to frame an understanding of complicity and resistance. This essay presents a discussion of Taubman's work while intermittently drawing from cases around the world in which teachers are carving breathing spaces for resistance.

Author Biography

Debbie Sonu

Debbie Sonu is assistant professor of curriculum and teaching at Hunter College. Sonu's research interests include urban schooling, youth cultural studies, curriculum, and educational philosophy. Theoretically, she is drawn to the revolutionary spirit of critical theorists as well as the poststructural concern for ambiguity, subjectivity, and encounters. In her dissertation, she uses these conceptual lenses to explore youth performances in relation to classroom practices and the social justice prerogative, particularly as they rely on interpretation, representation, and the control of knowledge and consensus. Her most recent publications examine the institutionalization of activism in schools, the problematics of home-and-homeland, and the ethics of friendship in pedagogical decision-making.






Cultural Studies and Curriculum