03 SES 16 B JS, Theorizing Education: A dialogue between philosophy, pädagogik/pedagogikk, and curriculum studies
Joint Symposium NW 03 and NW 13
This paper explores a conceptualization of educational theorizing as universal theory of education. i.e. a form the theorizing that is specifically educational. By picking up on the growing interest in the 19th and 20th century German tradition of pedagogy, I put forward the idea of a distinct and cohesive—in short, a disciplinary—realm of knowledge regarding all questions of education. In particular, this means finding a form of theorizing education that refrains from a simple labelling of the subject matter, and instead reflects on how educational theorizing marks out a specific subject area and develops a specific educational perspective. In the German speaking tradition, the question of the specificity of the educational approach is, first of all, connected with the formation of a distinct academic discipline of pedagogy, which operates much like other disciplines—working on its own terms regarding its organization as well as its research and study. This idea can be traced back to Herbart’s rather psychological and Schleiermacher’s rather sociological attempts to theorize education in the early 19th century. Their conceptions later became the driver for the various specific approaches to understanding education, which—divergent as they may be—arose in the “remarkable ambiance of Germany in the 1920s” (Bernstein, 1994) and developed around the problem of conceiving and formatting pedagogy as an academic discipline. However, there is an underlying understanding that such a distinct academic discipline is not just an arbitrary historic formation, but relies on a specific educational perspective, which asks “educational questions” (Biesta, 2011). Thus, to explore pedagogy’s specificity, the paper will make use of the ambiguity of this phrase. On the one hand, “educational” refers to said broadly academic project of pedagogy distinguished from other disciplines. In this understanding a pedagogue is a particular type of academic scholar. On the other hand, however, ‘educational’ may also be understood to refer to the practice of educating, hence to a pedagogue as educator. In this case, it would be talking about how theorizing has an educational dimension, which might, for example, be seen in the way that Socrates interrogates the Athenians. To conclude, it will be argued that understanding ‘theorizing education’ in terms of educational theorizing is not just “educational” in the sense of being about education, but it is also educational itself – both referring to the subjective or self-formative process of Bildung and the social or intersubjective process of Erziehung.
Bernstein, R. (1994). Rethinking Responsibility, Social Research 61 (4), 833-852. Biesta; G. (2011). Disciplines and theory in the academic study of education: a comparative analysis of the Anglo-American and Continental construction of the field, Pedagogy, Culture & Society 19(2), 175-192.
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