13 SES 13 B, Mindfulness is Not Educational and "Diving for pearls": Thoughts on pedagogical theory and practice.
Long Paper Session
This paper examines the metaphor of pearl diving as a potential corner stone in re-thinking educational or rather pedagogical theory and practice. Not in the sense or reforming or beginning again, but as an attempt to recover and reimagine our practices as pedagogues. The paper will present pearl diving first as something, which was central to the works of Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin, and secondly as both metaphor for and as a way of thinking that points to something essentially pedagogical in its form and practice. Through use of this metaphor we can begin to make sense of the troubling double task of education to on the one hand ‘hand over’ a common world, and on the other hand, the task of protecting the newness of the new generation and their ability to re-make the common world in unpredictable ways.
In the wake of what they coined ‘the break in tradition’ Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin in similar fashion attempted to recover a way of engaging with history and the present, in the face of the breakdown in political and ethical structures in the 20th century. How do we make sense of and try to understand the common world when we can no longer simply rely on tradition – in whatever form – to guide us? For Walter Benjamin the answer was to collect and gather fragments of the crystalized past that spoke in a genuine way about the past to us. Fragments that in some way or other had suffered a change through the passing of time, but still contained and carried something which spoke to us in the modern condition. Arendt referred to Benjamin as a collector of such genuine pearls, and named this inspiration as the basic assumption of her work (Arendt, 1981, p. 211-2). The discipline of pedagogy has often been portrayed as a theorizing over what it is valuable to hand over to the coming generations (Mollenhauer, 2016, p. 8, Peters, 1964, p. 17). What are the ideas, things and subjects we wish to introduce our children to. If we can no longer rely on tradition or ideology to provide us with these answers, pearl diving may well be a ‘refuge’ for pedagogical thinking and practice. Both in the sense of working to recover the genuine pearls from the history of pedagogical ideas that ‘speak to us’ and can help us to make sense of the past and the present, but also as pedagogues. What do I want to bring to class today? What are the central and exemplary parts of my subject that I want my students to encounter? What are the historical and exemplary experiences that can help to elucidate this task?
This paper engages Arendt and Benjamin’s idea of pearl diving as an attempt to recapture a vocabulary for education understood as both a practice of thinking and a practice of educating in the face of these conditions. It is a hopeful account and offers nothing more than an opportunity to think again about what it is we do when we think and theorise about education and when we teach and educate. The first part of the paper will explore the role of pearl diving in the work of Arendt and Benjamin, describing how they both sought to find new ways of speaking and theorizing without a fixed tradition or method, arguing instead, that it is the language and events that must speak to us. The second part will attempt to argue for the inherently pedagogical dimensions of their thoughts on pearl diving and how this might connect to and perhaps expand on ideas found in Mollenhauer and elsewhere in contemporary philosophy of education.
In this paper the notion of pearl diving as a metaphor for historical methodology is explored from a pedagogical vantage point. Pearl diving in the thinking of Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin refers to a process of bringing to life and coming to terms with a fragmented past, and requires of the thinker a form of Homeric impartiality. This they contrast with the processual and functional modern understanding of historiography, were events and things are subsumed a causal linearity and a concept of progress. According to Arendt and Benjamin, our past cannot be understood as though in one piece, but should rather be engaged as fragmented and crystallised into events - or pearls – which can be retrieved and can help us to illuminate our past and to understand our present. This paper considers what such an approach would entail for pedagogical theory and practice, as well as for the work of the pedagogical thinker and the teacher.
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