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Christian Philosophy of Education April 8, 2009

Posted by Andy in Foucault, pedagogics.
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Whilst writing about Negative Theology and Foucault’s take on asceticism, I’m currently doing a teacher training course, and whilst reading up on this, I’ve come across a curiosity and a problem.

The curiosity first then: Bernard Lonergan delivered some really interesting lectures on the Philosophy of Education in Cincinnati. You can find sound files at the Bernard Lonergan archives (to which Dave Belcher recently drew our attention). In any case, in the ninth lecture (I think it’s in part 2), he makes extensive reference to Binswanger’s work, and in particular recommends his students read the French translation, because the translator usefully provides a commentary that ends up being much longer than the work itself! The unnamed translator, as we now know, was Foucault, and Lonergan clearly had his number from the beginning.

The problem, though, is this: whilst reading about education, I’ve been dipping into Dewey on recommendation from everyone at my institution here in Norway. Now much as I love him, I’ve discovered one issue, that I’m planning on expanding on for my essay. Dewey (rightly, to my mind) collapses the much vaunted poles of the child and the curriculum, saying that we are not trying to introduce the child into something that it is unnatural for her to learn. But his main way of joining the notions of child and knowledge is by way of life. Life is both the context of the child and the reference of knowledge. So learning is simply a case of nudging the child into life experiences that knowledge has fully cultivated and wait for him to rehearse the entire history of human ideas.

Problem: does Dewey elaborate on his concept of life anywhere else in his work? I’m totally new to the guy, and don’t know my way around yet. Secondly, isn’t basing an institution on the objective of forcing children to experience life in a particular way a little sinister? How would we go about thinking through this with current thought? I don’t think Dewey really wants us to think his conception of life here is really as naive as it sounds, but the appeal is to nature nevertheless. Is he saved by his embrace of the history of human ideas rather than the unchanging nature of the human species?

I’ll hopefully post on the main tenor of my pedagogical project later. And at some point soon, I’m gonna have to “answer” Foucault I think. Not least as regards obedience.

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