13 SES 12 A, The Language of Pedagogy: History, Theory, Policy and Practice
This symposium features papers from scholars engaged in an ongoing cross-cultural and cross-linguistic dialogue aimed at returning to the question of pedagogy as a relational practice and as practical theory—as a theory of practice for practice (Biesta, 2011, p. 186). In a time of increasing politicization and instrumentalization of education as well as increasing cultural and racial strife and diversity, we seek to return to education’s practical and human roots.
As understood in this panel, pedagogy refers first of all to practices that have their own dignity prior to and independently of theory: “The dignity of practice exists independently from theory. Theory only makes practice more conscious” (Schleiermacher 1826/2021, p. 6). The first paper in this panel argues that pedagogy or “the pedagogical” arises as an unavoidably ethical activity undertaken primarily for the sake of the young person or child. Pedagogy and education are thus not primarily grounded in any institutional or organizational configuration or set of directives, but in terms of the intention and influence that seeks to guide children and young people in an ongoing collective, transgenerational project that is common, in one form or another, to all cultures.
Such a conception of pedagogy has emerged through a history that can be traced back to the ancient Greece, and that received its most decisive articulation in the Enlightenment and Romantic periods—when education was seen as thefundamental human enterprise. As the second paper in this panel shows, significant traces of these ideas can still be found in the work of John Dewey and Hannah Arendt, both of whom were deeply influenced by late 19th and early 20thcentury developments in Germany. Both of these figures introduced still-recognizable notions whose inspiration can be traced back to figures like Hegel, von Humboldt, and Schleiermacher and whose meanings are thus open to rediscovery and revitalization.
However, for the significance of continental pedagogy to be more fully appreciated in the English-speaking world, it is also necessary to reconsider the relation between theory and practice as well as the relationship of this pedagogy to hegemonic English-language discourses. In seeing theory as secondary to practice, as always playing catch-up to practical realities, the Continental perspective rejects the idea that improving pedagogy is “simply” about “the application or implementation of pre-existing educational theories.” (Bollnow 1989, 2020, p. 12). Instead, as Bollnow also explains, practice-sensitive theory can only be developed hermeneutically (i.e. cyclically, tentatively) through careful reflection on practice. Only in this way can “education rise above the level of technical ‘production’ to attain the dignity of the creative engagement of the whole person” (p. 12).
The fourth and final paper in this panel regards the understanding of education as “technical ‘production’” as the first of two dominant discourses in English-speaking education. The second, equally prominent, can be described as the discourse of “criticality”—one that sees education as an exercise in power and hegemony, particularly of Western hegemony that has excluded values and expressions of groups and cultures of color. While greater parity between races and cultures in education represents a laudable goal, this paper argues for an expanded understanding of culture that extends beyond both critiques of cultural hegemony and efforts to instrumentalize issues of culture in programs of school reform.
Arendt, H. (2006). The crisis in education. Between past and future. London: Penguin. Autio, T. (2013). Subjectivity, curriculum, and society: Between and beyond the German didaktik and Anglo-American Curriculum Studies. London: Routledge. Biesta, G. (2011). Disciplines and theory in the academic study of education. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 19 (2), 175-192. Bollnow, O.F. (1989/2020). Theory and practice in education. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333295910_Bollnow_1988_Theory_and_Practice_in_Education Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. Macmillian. Doll, W. & Gough, N. (2002). Curriculum visions. Peter Lang. Gay, G. (2018). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. Teachers College Press. Grossman, P. (2018). Teaching core practices in teacher education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Humboldt, W.v. (1794/1999). Theory of Bildung. In: Teaching as a reflective practice: The German Didaktik tradition. Routledge. Paris, D. & Alim, H. S. (2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world. Teachers College Press. Pinar, W. (2016). Character of curriculum studies: Bildung, currere, and the recurring question of the subject. Palgrave Macmillan. Schleiermacher, F.D.E. (1856/2021). Outline of the art of education: A translation and discussion. Peter Lang.
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