13 SES 07, Values, the Pedagogy of Interruption, and Publishing Now
This paper begins in the figures of thought implied in the ‘clash of civilisations’ and ‘the end of history’ and the cultural and political tensions that they suggest. In schools, such tensions come to fore in many concrete situations, for instance, in conflicts about Muslim girls’ dress, suggesting that education is the site where cultural and social issues are to be solved. In European societies more generally, value conflicts are articulated as conflicts between passion and reason, the religious and the secular, the particular and the universal, social embeddedness and individual autonomy. The main task for education in this polemical and political staging of cultural conflicts is to turn the classroom into a negotiating table where value conflicts can be either resolved by rational deliberation (Habermas) or disciplined by tuning the passionate antagonist into a political adversary (Mouffe). In both these educational models, the purpose of the school is to prepare children and young people for responsible participation in a democratic society and to become part of the formation of a political community.
Drawing on Hannah Arendt’s separation of the educational and the political, the argument of this paper begins in the idea that the school is not a political arena, but a pedagogical place where the new generation is given time and space to study and renew what present generations hold valuable and what we are held by as human beings. Given this idea of education, the purpose of the school is not about bringing the value conflicts of society into the classroom, but to turn values into objects of study and matters of common concern. In this sense, the classroom can be turned into a studying table, a table where a pedagogical community can take shape and form on the basis of joint interest in and concern for the world (Masschelein & Simons).
By linking critique to affirmation (Braidotti), the argument of the paper is that the post-secular predicament offers a way of rethinking values education that runs against the oppositional ways in which we tend to think about value conflicts in schools (Habermas; Mouffe). The paper suggests that what is educational in values education is not about solving conflicts but about establishing a relationship to what is loved, believed and hoped for in a particular society. This relationship is created by a temporary distancing from societal conflicts, beginning instead in the studying of the values that these conflicts are bringing to the classroom. More specifically, the argument is that although values are historically and culturally contingent they represent something from the world that continuously needs to be profaned (e.g. freed from its regular usage in society) in order to become re-valued (sacred) by the next generation. Inspired by post-secular theory, the paper offers a) an articulation of the work and function of values as generators of sacredness and meaning (Joas; Taylor), and b) a pedagogical response to how values can be turned into objects of study and presented as matters of common concern (Masschelein & Simons; Ruitenberg). The affirmative language we seek to develop refuses the clashes between the universal and the particular, the religious and the secular, the sacred and the profane, offering instead a post-critical pedagogical approach to studying values in schools.
The method used in this paper is a philosophical argument that unfolds in three parts. The first part shows how the images of ‘the clash of civilisation’ and the ‘end of history’ informs the educational models that are implied in Habermas’s and Mouffe’s political philosophy. Drawing on Hannah Arendt and post-secular theory (Joas; Braidotti; Asad), the second part makes the shift from critique to affirmation, and from seeing the classroom as a negotiating table to a studying table (Masschelein & Simons; Ruitenberg, ed.). In the third part we show why values continuously need to be profaned in order to become re-valued (sacred) by the next generation, and how the post-secular predicament helps us move towards an affirmative and content oriented approach to values education. By way of conclusion we sum up our argument, returning to the main contributions of the paper.
The paper offers a post-critical contribution to the question of how to handle value conflicts in schools. In a Europe that seems to have lost its sense of community, fraught by increasing moral and political tensions, it resists an approach to values education that is either too optimistic or too dystopian. By making a shift from the political to the pedagogical, the paper offers a content-focused approach to studying values in school in spite of conflictual times. The core of our proposal is that a post-secular approach to values education offers a more humble act of faith in the possibility of taking on the future affirmatively, as the shared collective imagining of what is or could become valuable in the world.
Asad, Talal; Butler, Judith & Mahmood, Saba (2013). Is Critique Secular?: Blasphemy, Injury, and Free Speech. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. Braidotti, Rosi. 2008. In spite of the times: the postsecular turn in feminism. Theory, Culture & Society, 25 (6), 1-24. Englund, Tomas. 2005. ‘Rethinking Democracy and Education: Towards an Education of Deliberative Citizens’. In The Routledge Falmer Reader in Philosophy of Education, ed. W. Carr. London: Routledge. Habermas, Jürgen. 1987. The Theory of Communicative Action, Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason, Volume 2. Cambridge: Polity Press. Hodgson, N; Vlieghe, J. & Zamojski, P. (2018). Manifesto for a Post-Critical Pedagogy. New York: Punctum Books. Joas, Hans (2000). The Genesis of Values. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Masschelein, Jan & Simons, Maarten (2013). In Defence of the School. A Public Issue. Leuven: E-ducation, Culture & Society Publishers. Masschelein, Jan & Simons, Maarten. (2015) Education in times of fast learning: the future of the school. Ethics and Education, 10:1, 84-95. Mouffe, Chantal. 2005. On the Political. London: Routledge. Ruitenberg, Claudia W. 2009. Educating Political Adversaries: Chantal Mouffe and Radical Democratic Citizenship Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education 28 (3): 269-281. Ruitenberg, Claudia (ed.) (2017). Reconceptualizing Study in Educational Discourse and Practice. New York: Routledge. Taylor, Charles. (2009). A Secular Age. Cambridge: The Belknapp Pree of Harvard Univiersity Press.
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