ERG SES C 14, Theories of Education
The letters of Paul of Tarsus, (St Paul), first century apostle and missionary to Europe and Asia Minor have been re-examined by European philosophers Badiou (2003), Žižek (2003), and Agamben (2005) as historical documents with contemporary application for secular philosophers. This paper asks. ‘What lessons might there be in those same letters for contemporary educators?’
Paul’s letters, hitherto the preserve of theologians, New Testament scholars and believers in Christianity, have been used to shape belief, establish a moral code and guide believers in a faith journey. What Badiou, and his contemporaries have done is to show that the letters also deal with universality, identity, separateness and the ontology of event, being and subject, making them accessible to all, not just those who profess a Christian faith.
Whether from a believer’s perspective or otherwise, it is manifest that Christianity has shaped European and Western civilisation and, arguably, the ‘event’ on the road to Damascus has shaped the Europe that we experience. Certainly as a result of the preservation of his letters, Paul’s influence has extended from circa 50AD to the present. With his colleagues Paul transformed the communities of Europe and Asia Minor with whom he interacted. Badiou argues and this paper agrees that his letters continue to shape the world in which we live. In this paper it is argued that Paul’s letters deal with the Platonic quest to live a ‘good life’, the challenge to love at a personal and a societal level for both believers and non-believers. As educators seeking to be transformative in our impact we may be able to learn about ‘practice’ from Paul’s interactions with these early European communities.
Using a narrative inquiry methodology, following the work of Clandinin and Connelly (2000) and their three dimensional narrative model (Temporal, Personal and Social, and Place), and in this paper drawing only on Paul’s letters to the community of Thessalonica, a narrative of Paul as educator is established. The paper then turns to Schatzki’s site ontologies (Schatzki 1997, 2003) as the lens for understanding the personal and societal transformations that took place in Thessalonica (and also Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, Galatia and the communities where Paul’s teaching succeeded).
Emerging from the narrative of Paul as educator are ‘clashing cymbals’ of education as partnership, education as dialogue, education as community, education with an ontological dimension, education as love, echoes of which can be found in the work of Dewey (1938), Freire (1970) and the Communities of Practice of (Lave & Wenger 1991) and (Wenger 1998). These education philosophies, somewhat lost in the current transcendence of neo-liberalism, need a rejuvenated voice to challenge the present and to shape a better future for education in Europe and the West. What this paper suggests is that these progressive education philosophies have antecedents that reach back through 2,000 years of European history. We may have in Paul’s letters the evidence we need to argue for education as ‘the practice of love’.
Reference List Agamben, G 2005, The time that remains: a commentary on the Letter to the Romans, Stanford University Press, Stanford. Badiou, A 2003, Saint Paul: the foundation of universalism, Stanford University Press, Stanford. Clandinin, JD & Connelly, FM 2000, Narrative inquiry: experience and story in qualitative research, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Dewey, J 1938, Experience and education, Collier Books Edition edn, Collier Books, New York. Freire, P 1970, Pedagogy of the oppresssed, Revised edn, Penguin Books, London. Lave, J & Wenger, E 1991, Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge University Press, New York. Schatzki, TR 1997, 'Practices and Actions A Wittgensteinian Critique of Bordieu and Giddens', Philosophy of the Social Sciences, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 283-308. —— 2003, 'A New Societist Social Ontology', Philosophy of the Social Sciences, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 174-202. Wenger, E 1998, Communities of Practice: learning meaning and identity, Cambridge University Press, New York. Žižek, S 2003, The puppet and the dwarf: the perverse core of Christianity, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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