The introduction of the ‘National Strategies’ for primary education in 1998, positioned ‘strategy’ as a powerful instrument for mobilising the school ‘workforce’ in England in the cause of continuous improvement. Government approaches to strategy formulation and enactment appear to reflect an instrumentalist orientation found in many mainstream strategic management publications. This paper reflects on how the strategic pursuit of quick, ‘spectacular’ gains may lead to the loss of ethics of care. Phenomenological insights into modes of being-in-the-world are drawn upon to suggest that a preoccupation with strategy and its accompanying ‘toolkit’ of targets, standards and inspections diminishes a deeper engagement with the meaning and purpose of education. Based on Heidegger’s premise that understanding is at the core of being human, it is posited that the concern with ‘spectacular’ outputs is both superficial and potentially de-humanising. At the root of strategic thinking and the resulting forgetfulness of being is the Cartesian dogma and its dualistic (mis)understandings.