In this paper, I will argue that relation between the public and the private have been reconfigured in contemporary discourses on popular adult education and lifelong learning. What was previously seen as an effort, through a public concern for education, to shape the desirable future through planning and legislative measures, have now been reconfigured into a private concern for shaping the good future of the individual (and society) through technologies of the self. Thus, the public and private have merged. However, this does not mean that a public concern for education has disappeared. Instead, such concern is integrated into the very concern of each and every citizen.
To make my argument, I will analyze the practices of educational guidance and reflection as confession. Confession is here, inspired by Foucault, seen as a technology of the self which operates to shape desirable subjectivities. Through my two examples, I wish to illustrate how the confessional relation between the one doing the confession and the confessor have changed. No longer is there any need to have a public confessor to which one confesses. Instead, we have partly become our own confessors. Such reconfiguration of the relation to the self will serve as an example a more general shift in the relation between the public and the private.
The paper will be divided in three sections. In the first section I will problematize contemporary discursive shifts in terms of new ways to reason about governance. In focus will be the shift from speaking about education to start speaking about learning. Such shift indicates new ways to reason about governance which will be explicated in the paper. In the second section I will, inspired by Foucault’s genealogy of the care of the self, historicise confession as it emerged within the Greco-Roman period and later on within early Christianity. Such endeavour will then be used as a lens when analyzing the contemporary practices of educational guidance and reflective practices as confessional practices. Such analysis is based on governmental white papers on popular adult education and lifelong learning.