This essay considers the various kinds of impact that today‘s neo-liberalism is having on the teaching profession. It starts by indi-cating the general features of neo-liberalism: an expanded conception of knowledge and education as goods, education as a personal matter, the individual choice of the „con-sumer of the school“, and the import from the business sector of the idea of the school as an enterprise and the teacher as a „sales manager“. It is evident that this movement in political thought has been impacting on teaching and the teaching profession. Teachers are having to come to terms with the demand that the first criterion in regard to material and skills taught is complete contemporary relevance and usefulness in the market sense. They are also having to introduce methods to make learning more appealing, sometimes in rather superficial form (games, projects, and so-called forma-tive activities at the expense of real learning and understanding), and with the emphasis on skills instead of knowledge. The result is a decline in the autonomy of school culture and therefore of the strength of teachers‘ professionalism.
For teachers and their long-term aspira-tions to being a „profession“ in the sense of functionalist sociology this means a certain weakening: (1) of the claims of the profession to a basis in a clearly defined academic field of knowledge are weaker than before (vague competence, emphasis on managerial skills and non-cognitive premises), (2) of the personal responsibility and independence (autonomy) of teachers, which is paradoxically declining as decentralisation and freedom of individual schools increases, because teaching lacks a structured and binding commission, goal or vocation. Responsible autonomy is impossible for teachers in a situation where „wilful caprice“ rules (3), the prioritisation of so-called „alternatives“ is leading the devaluation of the previous identity of teachers, and all appeals to the social mission of upbringing consisting increasing solidarity and a bond between generations sound increasing unsustainably grandiose and old-fashioned.
The essay ends with a call for restitution of or a new definition of the autonomy of school culture, so that teachers can be given a chance to redefine their professional identity and professionalism.