ERG SES H 10, Transition and Education
The topic of this paper is the concept of transition and the way education entails it from within. What is the relation between education and transition? Is transition educational in itself? Or does a proper education require a particular kind of transition?
According to the dictionary, transition is defined as “a change from one form or type to another, or the process by which this happens”. From the mid-90s, moving into the so called “knowledge society”, European States have been pushed to reform their educational system, according to the European Union policies on education and training. From the “White Book on Education and Training” (1995) to the latest “Horizon 2020” (2013), EU has been promoting a conceptual and a structural transition, towards an education for highly skilled and flexible “human capital”, aimed at securing Europe's competitiveness in today’s dynamic global markets.
In front of this wide reform process, some questions need to be posed. How do educational researchers relate to this transition and how do they judge the variation it brings about? This might happens by measuring the efficiency of the process, by getting “evidence-based” knowledge that proves if and how change effectively occurs, or by looking for means that could advance the transition. But how do the researchers establish if this kind of transition improves education or not? From which values do educational researchers examine the transition?
The aim of this paper is to involve emerging researchers to rethink the fundamental ideas that support and give reason to their work. Doing so, this paper attempts to fulfil one of the traditional purposes of philosophy of education: to uncover the axiological and anthropological implied premises conditioning educational research (Cambi, 2008). Indeed, consciously or not, any researcher assumes a specific idea of what education is, of what it is to be educated. Furthermore, in agreement with Pring (2000, 2001), Carr (1992, 2003) and Clarck (2005), ‘education’ denotes a moral and normative order and educational values are supervenient upon empirical, social and psychological facts. From this perspective, any researcher could investigate his/her educational values starting from this question: what does it mean to educate a human being? In search for an answer, this paper recovers a set of values from the past, drawing fully from the humanistic tradition.
In the Oration on the Dignity of Man, Pico Della Mirandola lauds the indeterminate nature of humankind: a human being has the power of degrading into lower forms of life and the power, contained in intellect and judgment, to be reborn into higher forms; “we can become whatever we choose to become, we need to understand that we must take earnest care about this”. Similar considerations pass through the centuries, nourishing a serious reflection about education and the transition it is defined by. From the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico, that considers the transition of man from pure bestiality to full humanity; touching Rousseau, who wishes Émile could become, first and foremost, a homme; arriving to Mounier and Maritain, who state the concern for human person attempting to create a new humanism, and “The Frankfurt School”, where Adorno and Horkheimer reconsider the human potential for emancipation and humanity as an end in itself.
“Help your students become human”, wrote a school principal to the new teachers, “your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmans. Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human” (Pring, 2001).
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