13 SES 15 A, Questioning progress in times of ‘no future’. Orientations for education
The problem that situates this paper concerns the relation between learning and progress and how to rethink learning in a non-progressive way so that it can become truly progressive again. Today, it seems as if learning is under a capture of two logics that are each ‘progressive’ in their own way. First, learning has been reconfigured within an economic agenda that aims to promote the individual acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies for a changing labor market (e.g., Biesta, 2006). Secondly, learning seems to have become a central concern within the progressive politics of the ‘woke’-generation. Increasingly, emancipation is being seen as a process of unlearning the racist and patriarchal structures that dominate societies, while political correctness and intercultural skills become things that presuppose learning (e.g., Caldera, 2018). What both visions share is the fact that learning is being recruited to achieve a future that is already known: respectively, a competitive economy with employable citizens and socially just society that respects individual differences (e.g., Facer, 2011). This contribution puts forward a conception of learning that disentangles it from the imaginaries that already predefine the future and the aims of learning. Therefore, the contribution draws on the work of the Belgian philosopher Isabelle Stengers. Both in her philosophy of science and in her work on Whitehead, Stengers repeatedly returns to the concept of learning, granting it a vital place within her work without always giving it a clear theoretical articulation. The contribution discusses the general speculative-pragmatic and post-critical stakes of Stengers’ philosophy and zooms in on three different senses of learning in the work of Stengers: (1) learning something new (cf. practices of knowledge production); (2) learning the art of paying attention (cf. activist practices); and (3) learning as a collective and worldly transformation that requires the use of ‘artifices’, ways of staging an event, relying on both social and material ingredients, that make it possible to relate in a different way to the situation that is of concern (cf. Savransky & Stengers, 2018; Stengers, 2005, 2015). Calling this last form ‘artificial learning’ emphasizes the non-natural way of this sense of learning and its reliance on educational practices that enact this kind of learning. Overall, the aim of the presentation is to reclaim the concept of learning from the different captures that define its ends, while affirming its sense for making different futures possible.
Biesta, G. (2006). Beyond learning. Democratic education for a human future. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. Caldera, A. (2018). Woke pedagogy: a framework for teaching and learning. Diversity, Social Justice, and the Educational Leader, 2(3), 1-11. Facer, K. (2011). Learning futures. Education, technology and social change. London: Routledge. Savransky, M. & Stengers, I. (2018). Relearning the art of paying attention: a conversation. SubStance, 47(1), 130-145. Stengers, I. (2005). Pragmatiques et forces sociales. Multitudes 4(23), 115-124. Stengers, I. (2015). In catastrophic times. Resisting the coming barbarism. London: Open Humanities Press.
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