Critique & Humanism | 26 | 2008 | Philosophy of Education and Educational Practice
issue editors: Krassimir Stoyanov
Special issue, only English version, 2008, p.224, ISSN:0861-1718
The nature and purposes of education
University of Sheffield, Sheffield
Expanding state provision of education requires huge expenditure, and hence a certain degree of economic prosperity. That prosperity depends upon equipping learners with the skills the modern economy needs. Society at large has a right to expect some kind of return along these lines for the investment it makes. Society qua democracy seems to require universal access to education. But where provision at higher levels is extended, especially where opportunity is uneven, the case for an economic return is more pressing. Expansion along these lines in recent decades warrants, so the thinking goes, a concomitant adjustment in educational aims. As Marples’s book makes apparent, there have been countless attempts to define the aims of education. The present chapter does not attempt to enumerate these. The idea that this might be done – that there should be some kind of categorisation of aims, perhaps the better to identify the ones that best suit our circumstances – seems to distort what is at issue here. For it gives the impression that aims are things that might be chosen and then attached to means adopted or developed in order to realise them. To many the good sense of such a procedure will seem as clear as the light of day. But what goes wrong here has to do with a failure to understand the extent to which aims are internally related to certain kinds of practice.
Responsibilities of contemporary universities
New Bulgarian University, Sofia
The ‘idea of the university’ and its ‘mission’ has been the subject of numerous publications since the end of the First World War. The majority of them are filled with concern. This concern is strongest among people from the academic community itself. Their anxiety bespeaks a disorientation about the long-term tasks of the university. This disorientation appeared with the emergence of the long-term tendency towards massification of higher education. As a result of massification, universities opened up to new social groups. Regardless of the variety of historically established types of academic institutions and the not insignifi cant differences between the major national scientific traditions, the prevalent view throughout the nineteenth century was that the university was, firstly, an institution producing, preserving and advancing scientific knowledge, and secondly, that educating national elites was the other, just as important, task of the university. In Wilhelm von Humboldt’s concept of the university, realised in the Berlin University which he founded at the beginning of the nineteenth century, these two tasks are closely interlinked: educated, i.e. independent responsible individuals guided by well-informed personal convictions, may be formed only at the university through autonomous scientific inquiry. The massification of higher education – a social process in which universities became involved without being able to control it – led to a need for serious reconsideration of the functions of the university and put the issue of university reforms on the agenda.
University of Miami, Miami
In contemporary discussions the cultivation of reason continues to be defended by many as an important educational aim or ideal. Unlike some historical predecessors, contemporary advocates of the ideal do not understand reason as a special psycho logical ‘faculty’; in defending rationality, they do not align themselves with the historical movement known as Continental Rationalism, according to which know ledge is based on the perception or intuition afforded by such a faculty. Rather, what is advocated is that education should have as a fundamental aim the fostering in students of: (1) the ability to reason well, i.e. to construct and evaluate the various reasons which have been or can be offered in support or criticism of candidate beliefs, judgements, and actions; and (2) the disposition or inclination to be guided by reasons so evaluated, i.e. actually to believe, judge, and act in accordance with the results of such reasoned evaluations. Students (and people generally) are rational, or reasonable, to the extent that they believe, judge, and act on the basis of (competently evaluated) reasons. Consequently, to regard the cultivation of reason as a fundamental educational aim or ideal is to hold that the fostering in students of the ability to reason well and the disposition to be guided by reasons is of central educational importance. How do we determine that a proposed reason for some belief, judgment, or action is a good or forceful one (or not)? What are the guidelines, or principles, in accordance with which the goodness of candidate reasons are to be ascertained? What is the nature of such principles? How are they themselves justified? These questions are epistemological in nature; they call for a general account of the relationship between a putative reason and the belief, judgment, or action for which it is a reason.
Coercion and the ethics of grading and testing
University of Rochester, Rochester
Two distinct but related issues in the ethics of grading and testing will concern me in this paper. The first of these is the charge, associated in the past two decades with libertarian educational theory, that the common practice of grading students’ work is intrinsically coercive. The second is the larger national debate about ‘authentic’ assessment, educational standards, and standardised measures of educational outcomes. With respect to the latter issue, my particular concern is the moral grounds that can be adduced in support of new measures of educational achievement or progress. There are important connections between these issues, and one I shall pursue here is that in developing an account of the ethics of grading rich enough to generate a satisfactory response to the charge of coercion, one also uncovers moral grounds for preferring some of the newer forms of standardised measures over the kind of multiple-choice examinations that have prevailed in recent decades. In essence, I will argue that there are morally preferable forms of measures, adaptable to both classroom and standardised uses, which constitute an acceptable middle way between a condemnation of all grading and testing and an acceptance of the status quo that has prevailed.
I will begin, in what follows, with the complaint that grading is intrinsically coercive, a complaint I shall refer to as the ‘Coercion Argument.’ I will then review some conventional answers to this argument, and will conclude that they suffice to show that the normal uses of testing and grading are not ‘strongly coercive,’ that is, not wrongful violations of students’ rights.
Conceptual objectivity and its difficulties in Brandom’s rationalist pragmatism
John Hopkins University, Baltimore
Even though philosophy of education is traditionally placed in the realm of practical philosophy and associated closely with topics in ethics and political philosophy, questions pertaining to epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind are at least of equal importance to the philosophical examination of educational issues. Not only is the acquisition and transfer of knowledge one of the declared objectives of education, but learning, understanding, thinking – central concepts in the philosophy of mind – are fundamental to education as well. Furthermore, the educational situation itself is characteristically one that relies on and is shaped by language use. In this way, Robert Brandom’s 1994 magnum opus Making it Explicit, whose theoretical enterprise extends from an innovative theory of language to a theory of mind and logic, should be of great interest to any serious scholar and student of the philosophy of education. Analytic philosophy has been concerned with the peculiar relationship of language, mind, and world right from its onset in the beginning of the 20th century. Among recent endeavours in the field, Brandom’s work is a truly exceptional contribution. Drawing on Kant, Hegel, Frege, Wittgenstein, and Sellars, Brandom creatively merges current topics of Anglo-American philosophy with Western continental thought in a comprehensive and thoroughly worked out social-pragmatist theory of meaning. But Brandom’s work is not only outstanding in taking seriously in equal measure the Continental and the analytic tradition, thus furthering our thinking beyond this bizarre divide between philosophers: Arguably, the greatest challenge to a pragmatist theory of conceptual content is how to account for objectivity in pragmatic terms without falling into relativism or social conventionalism, how to keep validity distinct from mere social repute.
How to develop a culture of trust in schools? Insights from Martin Buber’s Philosophy of dialogue
University of Agder, Kristiansand
Similar to many other European countries, Norway has implemented several educational reforms in recent years. In order to be better equipped to meet competency requirements related to a globalised economy, a new curriculum containing new learning and skill objectives has been developed for the primary school level. Norway has also implemented tests measuring learning results, established systems for continuing evaluations, and awarded distinctions to schools showing positive performance. These developments have led to a professional focus being directed towards discovering the degree to which the school is an efficient knowledge organisation, the results it produces, and the goals it achieves. The focus on trust expands the debate to include a different point of orientation than goal achievement and system performance. On the contrary, the role of the school and its problems from the perspective of the quality of social relationships receives attention. Are the social relationships in a school class of such character that the students dare to raise questions? Do they trust one another whey they are to work together? Is there a mutually trusting relationship between students and a teacher which can form the basis for an openness that makes a development of moral and human qualities possible? The answer to these and similar questions has significance for the type of learning taking place in class.
Learning by passion. Tracing a passionate dimension within the negativity in learning in philosophy of education
University of Vienna, Vienna
University of Vienna, Vienna
Although the phenomenon of negativity is central to any understanding of human learning, the term ‘negativity’ brings about misunderstandings and a lack of clarity. As Burgos states, “the very issue of negativity tends to be viewed in a negative way because of its association with certain moral or epistemic values”. Our contribution discusses the relation of learning and passion (Leidenschaft) within the negativity of learning. Arguing the possibilities of classical Greek understanding of pathos as passion, we use the term ‘passion’ following the Greek understanding of pathos and the German understanding of Leidenschaft. Contrary to modern thinking, passion in the Greek ‘tradition’ is not understood as a subjective feeling but – far from that – as an indomitable experience one cannot flee from. In this respect, Bernhard Waldenfels clarifies that one does not have passion (pathos) as one ‘has’ a feeling. One is, however, committed to a passion that has happened to oneself. Being committed to passion, learning is set in motion. By focusing on the dimension of passion, we intend to explore the relevance of passion in the process of learning. The article will explore the question of how learning gathers momentum from negativity of experience. Therefore, the passionate aspects of learning will be reconsidered and reflected upon as an investigation into historical and philosophical traces. We intend to present new perspectives on learning in educational theory stressing the constitutive aspects of passion (Leidenschaft) in learning. Our analysis also aims at clarifying the process (Vollzug) of learning in the discourse of educational sciences, precisely in the discourse of philosophy of education.
The liquidation of the subject – reflections on subjectivity and education after Adorno
Technical University, Darmstadt
Today, as the self-overestimation of a pedagogically led emancipation of mankind is becoming more and more obvious, the dark sides, the deep rips and wounds which the process of modernity leaves in the body of society as well as in each individual become increasingly visible. Only with the sharp insight into the hidden contradictions of the modern emancipation process does Adorno, who is ever apostrophised as ‘the eternal nay-sayer,’ become newly and unexpectedly fashionable. His provocative thesis, developed on the basis of Freud, that already in the process of civilisation itself barbarism is present, gains new plausibility due to modernity’s far-reaching self-blockages. The central, motivating question of the Dialectic of Enlightenment is why humanity threatens to sink into a new sort of barbarism instead of entering into a truly human condition. This question speaks to the present situation in society more than ever. Thus, it remains the task of the philosophical reflection on education in our days to face this new uncertainty. In the Dialectic of Enlightenment Horkheimer and Adorno anticipated that enlightenment sacrifices its illuminative power, that reason loses its inner telos and degenerates into the monotonous machinery of thought, as well as that the ongoing domination of nature reveals itself as continued dilapidation of nature. All of this sets in motion a new pedagogical reflection on the subtle forms of the domination of nature in man today.
Patterns of thought in sixteenth century public education
University of Zurich, Zurich
Following a discussion of the sensus communis, we will turn to the consideration of a single sense and its relationship to conceptions of learning. Discussion of the senses is related to Aristotle’s physica where it is dealt with as a part of his treatment of the soul. This is found in De Anima which was widely disseminated in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, generally accompanied by commentaries and supplements. In keeping with the curriculum of the artes
iberales, it was taught at academies and universities as belonging to the study of physics or philosophy. Like other aspects of the physica, De Anima was considered necessary preparation for the study of medicine at the universities. All teaching of the physical sciences was based on the eight books of Aristotle’s Physics. In it, he deals with aspects of the universe ranging from the appearance of the sky to the nature of lifeless substances. Included in the physica are questions appertaining to meteorology, geography, anthropology, mineralogy, and biology. Not included, on the other hand, is chemistry or the manufacture of scientific instruments. The manner in which Gesner, in his widely disseminated Thesaurus Evonymi Philiatri, takes for granted a certain familiarity with the techniques and instruments of chemical distillation suggests, however, that doctors were also expected to acquire, at some point in their training, proficiency in the preparation of medicines.
Anthropological research in education: Towards a historical-cultural anthropology of education
Free University, Berlin
The study and categorisation of these relationships and interconnections constitutes, for Kant, the duty of pragmatic anthropology. In contrast to physiological anthropology which examines the biological conditions of human existence, pragmatic anthropology studies the field of human action and human freedom. It is pragmatic anthropology which must be regarded as the cradle of anthropology of the humanities. If we wish to discharge of this duty properly, it is first of all necessary to resolve one question: What is it that we understand today under anthropology? What meaning does this term have in the humanities? As I see it, anthropology today has to be developed within the framework of the historical and philosophical study of the humanities, that is to say, as historical-cultural anthropology. Historical-cultural anthropology must be guided by a careful reflection of the manner in which anthropology may be conducted after the death of God (Nietzsche), that is to say, in the wake of the disappearance of universal anthropology, and after the death of man (Foucault), in the sense of that abstract and European masculine being which served as the template for conceptualising the individual.
Globalization and the need for cultural perspectives in educational sciences
Institute of International Educational Research, Frankfurt/Main
More and more, it becomes a central topic today – in sciences as well as in everyday life – to ask the right questions instead of producing scientific outputs like mass production is providing goods. Earlier on, one could have a look at the philosophy of education or – at least in Germany – at the general pedagogy (Allgemeine Pädagogik) if one was in search for some systematic discussion of educational ideas and approaches. But it seems that both of these disciplines have lost their guiding position as instances of order, partly due to their own pluralisation. And it is difficult to say whether their position can be revitalised, and how that can be done. In modern societies, there are no more strategic apexes to overview everything and to decide about right or wrong. This is, however, not an avoidable state but a structural characteristic. In consequence, pluralisation of scientific perspectives in general has to be stressed and included in the systematic analysis of educational science, too. Including a cultural theoretical aspect can be seen as a further step in this direction and offer a quite different access to the landscape of educational sciences and the ongoing discussions about educational reforms.
Learning from mistakes – creating a new spirit for a democratic school system in South Africa
Jeanette de Klerk
University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch
University of Salzburg, Salzburg
One of the greatest challenges that the first democratically elected government in South Africa has been addressing since 1994 is the country’s transformation from apartheid education to democratic education. In order to democratise education and redress the inequalities of apartheid, a series of policy changes has taken place in line with the new South African Constitution of 1996. The five main principles identified by the African National Congress that feature prominently in the new education policy documents are non-racism, non-sexism, democracy, a unitary system, and redress. A true democracy is dependent on democratic education, and democratic education requires, among other things, democratic teaching and management, the development of critical thinking, and the development of participative, reciprocal, non-discriminatory relationships among members involved in an educational setting. Although the structures for development in South African schools are in place and current education policy documents are primarily directed towards the democratisation of education, it would be incorrect to conclude that educational life in South Africa is already following a democratic mode.
Education and the free society
London School of Economics, London
I propose in these remarks to relate education to freedom by pointing to three basic experiences in the history of education and by drawing some conclusions from them. I start, of course, from the premise that without freedom, no education is possible. And let me define ‘education,’ somewhat brutally, as the activity of sustaining, extending, and transmitting the culture of a civilisation. These three activities, of course, cannot be clearly distinguished: each involves the other.
The first moral and social philosopher was Socrates, who drew on a tradition that owed much to earlier thinkers, called, significantly, ‘pre-Socratics.’ Socrates promoted a bracing scepticism about both gods and majorities, and the Athenian democracy put him to death for it in 399 BC. Those early dialogues in which Plato represented Socrates are in themselves an excellent education in the logic of inquiry. In particular, Socrates insisted on demanding clarity about the object of discussion as the precondition for advancing understanding. In Socratic thought, philosophy consisted in a critical examination of the ideas we all use in making sense of the world we live in. It was a crucial element in this inquiry that we ought not to be impressed by the fact that everybody accepts the belief being examined. Truth was not a matter of counting votes. The enormous significance of Socrates is that his life and his teaching united to make him not only an exemplar but virtually a martyr in the cause of knowledge. His submission to the verdict of the Athenian people (rather than taking the opportunity to run away from Athens) was itself based on a point of logic – namely, that the very life one leads implies a principle of conduct. To belong entails submitting to the law.
Emancipation is not an all or nothing affair
Interview with Nancy Fraser by Marina Liakova
Prague, 12 May 2007