Some action research today lacks a critical edge. This article identifies five inadequate forms of action research, and argues that action research must be capable of 'telling unwelcome truths' against schooling in the interests of education. It reasserts a connection between education and emancipatory ideals that allow educators to address contemporary social challenges. It suggests how educational trends in recent decades may have led to the domestication of educational action research, and concludes with three messages about quality in educational action research. It re-thinks educational action research initiatives as creating intersubjective spaces for public discourse in public spheres.