13 SES 02 A, Educational authority and pragmatist humanism in Education
Long Paper Session
In recent debates about a posthumanist education, the question was posed whether humanism is still a useful set of thoughts for education. While I follow most of the criticisms of problematic aspects of the humanist way of speaking in education, I still argue that it is – however, only highly modified. The modification I propose consists in a shift from a traditional humanism in the following of Humboldt that has a strong view about what ‘a human’ is and should be to a pragmatized humanism that focuses on the relations between humans which in line with Ingoldt’s proposal continuously shape and reshape our lives.
The argument for this shift consists of six parts. As a start, 1.), I will outline my pragmatist perspective on the question of usefulness since the question of this paper is not whether or not humanism is right but whether it is useful for education. From this perspective I will explore how a humanism could look like that would be productive in educational language and practice. 2.) I will argue for maintaining a descriptive openness regarding the questions of what is ‘human’ and what ‘the human being’ is. Educational practice should not hope for an anthropological foundation. For my undertaking of pragmatizing humanism, openness would 3.) also be required in a normative sense, that is, in relation to the question of how ‘man’ should become, how education can make individuals ‘truly’ or ‘more fully’ human and contribute to a ‘humanization’ of the world. Education should not indulge in a normative meta-narration – especially not if it hides its own normativity under the cloak of necessity. This would be 4.) a matter of not succumbing to theoreticism in humanism, that is, of using the term’s ‘-ism’ as ironically as possible. An educationally appropriate humanism would be a theoretical attitude that does not constitute itself in disparaging demarcation from practice. The problem of much of what is called ‘humanistic pedagogy’ is that instead of turning to concrete people, it fully relies on pathos formulas such as ‘humanity’. This thought style I will call ‘theoreticistic’.
The last three points taken together suggest, 5.), that an educational humanism should be understood as radically relational. If one accepts the challenge of recognizing other people as the only relevant authority, without prescribing what and how they are, a radically relational humanism allows individuals not to be played off against society (and vice versa), but to take into account the manifold interrelationships of actors acting in educational situations. Finally, 6.), I want to point out that a pragmatized, postanthropological, and radically relational humanism could be useful for education because it offers a vocabulary for defending education against all ‘higher purposes’.
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