13 SES 02 A, Educational authority and pragmatist humanism in Education
Long Paper Session
Currently, authority does not have a good reputation in educational research, educational philosophy and educational practice (Reichenbach 2011). At the same time, its ubiquity and inescapability are often emphasized: not only since Hannah Arendt's famous essay on the “Crisis in Education” (Arendt 1954/1993), it is hardly possible to imagine educational contexts without authority. In fact, educational practice without authority seems ethically questionable and leaves ‘blind spots’ on the theoretical level of philosophy of education as well as on the practical level of pedagogical interaction. In this paper, we will argue that ‘classical’ ways of discussing authority in educational theory and philosophy mostly conceive of authority as a ‘good’, i.e. a substance, essence or quality, that one possesses and exercises. Such notions of authority have to rely on legitimations and grounds which themselves remain unquestionable. By exploring two influential conceptions of educational authority, the aim of this paper is to analyse how exactly educational authority is essentialized. After a brief introduction, we will first focus on ethical legitimations of authority within the concept of educational responsibility. Secondly, we intend to show how educational authority is constructed in the field of data-based educational research and practice. To address the problems raised in these two examples, we will then propose a relational concept of authority that applies to pedagogical practice as well as to pedagogical theory in the final part of our paper. With the concept of relational authority, as we intend to argue, educational authority can be understood as a process of ‘authorization’ - a shift in perspective that offers the possibility to analyse, question and criticise educational authority.
Theoretical, discourse-analytic and history of concepts
With such a process-oriented, relational and genealogical perspective, the paradigms and implicit order of authorization processes, i.e. the legitimizing structures that finally help a certain order of authority come into existence and maintain it, can be seen as contingent yet as a necessary outcome of a certain genealogy. With the concept of relational authority, it becomes possible to examine relations of authority as processes of authorization and thus as processes in which the legitimations of authority are – mostly intersubjectively – constructed and recognized. When we speak of authorization instead of authority, it becomes obvious that each existing relation of authority is tied to a specific situation and to specific personal constellations. And each specific process of authorization is built on very specific strategies of legitimizing and maintaining authority.
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