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date: 25 June 2024

Open-Mindedness and Educationlocked

Open-Mindedness and Educationlocked

  • Susan VerducciSusan VerducciSan José State University

Summary

Open-mindedness disposes us to value and seek truth, knowledge, and understanding by taking a particular stance toward ourselves, what we know, new information, and experience. It aims to improve our epistemic standing, both individually and socially. Widely accepted as a valuable educational aim, scholarship on the nature and extent of open-mindedness’ epistemological and civic value is growing. Epistemological conceptions range from its role in rational inquiry to thinking of it as an attitude toward one’s self as a knower, or as an attitude toward individual beliefs. Conversations on its status as an intellectual virtue, its associations with personal transformation, and its role in aesthetic experiences are also on the rise. Of particular note for schooling are its connections to democratic citizenship. Theorists argue that open-mindedness operates in respecting others, tolerating differences in pluralistic contexts, and exercising autonomy.

Central challenges to its value, however, abound. They include the difficulty of pinpointing the line between open-mindedness and gullibility, and the ways that human cognitive limitations make open-mindedness more aspirational than possible. Its incompatibility with holding strong commitments serve as some of the most relevant challenges to its value. Are there any ideas or beliefs that we ought not be open-minded about? And if (and when) there are, can open-mindedness support structures of power and/or oppressive forces? Additional challenges come from those who explore how open-mindedness fares in posttruth and postfact conditions.

The educational discourse on open-mindedness shows that its objects, occasions, and processes have expanded over time and in response to new understandings of historical, social, and cultural conditions. In this light, educational philosophers may no longer be theorizing about a singular phenomenon with a set of agreed upon characteristics. Instead, open-mindedness may have become a constellation of related and overlapping epistemological phenomena with similar features, much like what Ludwig Wittgenstein calls family resemblances. If so, this constellation requires a conceptual framework, such as the one Jürgen Habermas laid out in Knowledge and Human Interests, to provide open-mindedness with theoretical and educational coherence.

Despite the growing incoherence of thinking about open-mindedness as a singular phenomenon, most educational theorists maintain a fundamental commitment to open-mindedness as an educational aim. Regardless of whether one considers open-mindedness to have essential characteristics, to be a constellation of epistemic phenomena with Wittgensteinian family resemblances, and/or a concept in search of a singular framework (such as Habermas’s), much of the educational discourse on open-mindedness will likely continue to be maintained as it improves our epistemic, moral, and civic standing. This line of thinking assumes and suggests that we simply need to educate for the right orientation, the right attitude, the right sort of openness, and the right skills to attain these goods. However, increasing exploration of the political nature of open-mindedness and emerging perspectives from critical theory seem to be coalescing into a second strand of counterdialogue. Examination of “the goodness” of open-mindedness in contexts of oppression, intolerance, closed-mindedness, and posttruth/postfact conditions provide increasingly serious challenges to open-mindedness’ secure status as an educational aim.

Subjects

  • Educational Purposes and Ideals
  • Educational Theories and Philosophies
  • Education and Society
  • Educational History

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