On Education

Peter Abbs has written widely on education, working to join the concept of education to those of ethics and aesthetics. With the distinct sense of being opposed to the dominant trends, he has written on creativity, the arts and of the need for a sense of well-being, of eudaimonia, of human flourishing. 

His book Against the Flow is his most outspoken and most comprehensive. In this book Peter Abbs puts his case as follows:

From time to time one can be haunted by a paralysing dread: that we are stranded at the beginning of the new millennium in a culture where all spiritual resources have been spent, where shopping is the last world religion, where the latest Tesco is the last cathedral and where the concept of consumerism is the last idea. It is as if one had dreamt of the vast ocean or high paths over the Alps and woken to find oneself confined to a shopping arcade for the rest of one’s life. It is as if nothing further remains but the electronic regurgitation of clichés and with it, as an inevitable consequence, the permanent wiping out of sensitive consciousness...

At the beginning of the twenty first century this would seem to be our own peculiar version of hell – a life utterly banal, seemingly happy, becoming increasingly global, yet devoid of all ethical or metaphysical purpose. The end of history with the plausible lie left on replay. On bad days we seem close to inhabiting such an anodyne dystopia. On better days we struggle to tear off the tacky film which covers our educational and poetic aspirations, resist the counterfeit version of consciousness and struggle to locate the smothered springs of renewal.

Against the Flow is an attempt to map and tap these springs of creativity, dialogue and well-being.


Proposal for a New College (with Graham Carey), Heinemann Books

Reclamations: Essays on Culture, Mass-Culture and the Curriculum,  Heinemann Books

A is for Aesthetic: Essays on Creative and Aesthetic Education,  Falmer Press

The Educational Imperative: In Defence of Socratic and Aesthetic Learning,  Falmer Press

The Symbolic Order; A Contemporary Reader on the Arts Debate,  Falmer Press

The Polemics of Education: Selected Essays on Art, Culture and Society,  Skoob Books

Against the Flow: Education the Arts and Post-modern Culture,  Routledge Falmer 

Ever since the publication of Proposal for a New College Peter Abbs has supported the work of small learning communities, especially where the place of the arts in refining and shaping life is recognised. He is a visiting fellow at The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts.