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Article

Barbara Crossouard and Máiréad Dunne

Education has been a central institution in the installation and legitimation of gender binaries and racialized difference in colonial and postcolonial eras. While the term “postcolonial” can refer to the period after which colonized nations gained their independence, a postcolonial critique also engages with the afterlife of the metaphysics of Western modernity. Notably, the imperial project of Western modernity assumed the superiority of the colonizers and provided the legitimation for the deep injustices of colonization to be framed as a “civilizing mission.” In particular, the processes of colonization imposed a “modern/colonial gender system,” which reconstructed the gender norms of many societies around the world, and which subordinated women by binding them to the domestic sphere. Its “biologic” presumed a heterosexual matrix in ways that were also profoundly racialized. Importantly, education was a critical institution that not only legitimated Western knowledges and values, but also secured women’s regulation and subordination. In postcolonial eras, education was given central importance in ways that have tied it to modern imperatives. For the newly independent postcolonial nation, education was critical in the construction of a national imaginary but this framing has reproduced rather than disrupting colonial gender norms. Harnessing education in support of national development inserted the postcolonial nation in a hierarchy of “developed” and “developing” nations. The focus on development similarly permeated efforts at curricular reform, such that they often reproduced the gendered, racialized, and classed hierarchies of colonial education. What counted as legitimate knowledge remained framed by Western elite institutions and their technologies of power. Importantly, from the moment of their independence, the global reach of multilateral organizations has constantly framed the postcolonial trajectories of “developing” nations and their educational reforms. Although often contradictory, the discourses of such organizations intensified the imperatives of education for national development. This compounded pressures to increase educational access beyond elite groups and to include more females. However, the technologies of power that support these international policy agendas bind such reforms to modern imperatives, so that they have become a critical site for the reinscription of binary understandings of gender. This is also true for contemporary international concerns for “quality” education. This is prosecuted largely through promotion of learner-centered education, a concept that is also infused with Western democratic ideals and values. Interrogation of the “hidden curriculum” further shows that the education in postcolonial contexts remains a key institution through which gender is instantiated in essentialized and binary ways, infused by modern ideals of presumptive heteronormativity. Resisting such binaries requires an understanding of gender as something that we “do,” or that we “perform,” within the contingencies and exigencies of particular social and cultural contexts. In turn, these theoretical understandings call for in-depth qualitative studies that can attend to the particularities of the gender regimes in different educational contexts and other intersecting structures of difference (race, ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality) that are rendered invisible by education’s legitimation of difference as a question of disembodied individual merit and ability.

Article

Young people’s experiences with spaces commonly called “the streets” are greatly influenced by gender and sexuality. Because queer and trans youth are policed in specific ways because of their identities and presentations and because queer and trans youth are more likely to experience homelessness than their peers, it is vitally important to understand the ways these young people are making meaning, knowledge, and culture from their experiences on “the streets” within the contexts of the United States and Canada.

Article

Nicholas C. Burbules

Meritocracy is a normative principle directing the distribution of opportunities and benefits based on ability, talent, or effort. It is a central issue in education, which seems centrally concerned with identifying, developing, and rewarding merit. But many have come to doubt the reality of meritocracy, apart from its worth as an ideal; and in a society in which opportunities and benefits (including educational opportunities and benefits) are in fact not distributed based on merit, the belief in meritocracy functions as a kind of legitimating myth. The essay concludes that meritocracy is an ambivalent principle, producing some things that we want and many things that we do not want.

Article

The philosophy of Islamic education covers a wide range of ideas and practices drawn from Islamic scripture, metaphysics, philosophy, and common piety, all of which accumulate to inform discourses of learning, pedagogy, and ethics. This provides a definition of Islamic education and yet also of Islam more generally. In other words, since metaphysics and ontology are related to questions of learning and pedagogy, a compendious and indigenous definition of “education” offers an insight into a wider spectrum of Islamic thought, culture, and weltanschauung. As such, there is no singular historical or contemporary philosophy of Islamic education which avails all of this complexity but rather there exists a number of ideas and practices which inform how education plays a role in the embodiment of knowledge and the self-actualization of the individual self to ultimately come to know God. Such an exposition may come to stand as a superordinate vision of learning framing Islamic educational ideals. Questions of how these ideas are made manifest and practiced are partly answered through scripture as well as the historical, and continuing, importance of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam; as paragon and moral exemplar in Islamic thought. Having said “I was sent as a teacher,” his life and manner (sunnah) offer a wide-ranging source of pedagogic and intellectual value for his community (ummah) who have regarded the emulation of his character as among the highest of human virtues. In this theocentric cosmology a tripart conception of education emerges, beginning with the sacred nature of knowledge (ʿilm), the imperative for its coupling with action (ʿamal), in reference to the Prophet, and finally, these foundations supporting the flourishing of an etiquette and comportment (adab) defined by an equanimous state of being and wisdom (ḥikma). In this sense, the reason for there being not one identifiable philosophy of Islamic education, whether premodern or in the modern context, is due to the concatenations of thoughts and practices gravitating around superordinate, metaphysical ideals. The absence of a historical discipline, named “philosophy of education” in Islamic history, infers that education, learning, and the nurturing of young minds is an enterprise anchored by a cosmology which serves the common dominators of divine laudation and piety. Education, therefore, whether evolving from within formal institutional arenas (madrasas) or the setting of the craft guilds (futuwwa), help to enunciate a communality and consilience of how human beings may come to know themselves, their world, and ultimately God.

Article

The increase of transgender visibility and politics correlates with a renowned interest in gender equity in schools. The diversity of trans* and gender-expansive social identities, along with divergent conceptualizations of the meaning transing/trans*ing, ontology, identity, and embodiment, produces a wide range of ideal and pragmatic approaches to gender equity and justice in education. Fields and analytical frameworks that emerge from Decolonial Feminism, Queer Indigenous Studies, Queer of Color Critique in education, Jotería studies, and transgender studies in the United States have unique definitions, political commitments, and epistemological articulations to the meaning and purpose of transing/trans*ing. These divergent articulations of trans*ing often make projects of transgender equity and justice incommensurable to each other, or they converge at the various scalar aspects of equity design and implementation. By historicizing, or re-membering the rich body of decolonial modes of trans*ing bodies, knowledge, and selves, trans* of color critique in education research makes trans* justice possible by disrupting white-centric approaches to transgender inclusion that may fall short in the conceptualization of trans* justice and what makes a trans* livable life for queer and trans people of color.

Article

Walter S. Gershon

Education is a sensory experience. This is the case regardless how a sensorium is constructed. A sensorium is how a group defines, categorizes, and conceptualizes the senses, a Western five-senses model for example. Regardless of the sociocultural norms and values a sensorium engenders, animals, human and nonhuman alike, experience their lives through the senses. From this perspective, anything that might be considered educational, regardless of context and irrespective of questions of what might “count” as schooling, is a sensory experience. Sensuous curriculum sits at the intersection of two transdisciplinary fields, curriculum and sensory studies. As its name suggests, sensuous curriculum is an expression of ongoing critical educational studies of, with, and through the senses. In so doing, sensuous curriculum brings to the fore the extraordinary nature of everyday experiences in educational ecologies, from entangled sociocultural norms and values to the ways that sensory input and interpretation inform every aspect of educational ways of being, knowing, and doing. Sensoria have always been tools for understandings, particularly for continually marginalized groups whose claims are often dismissed through Western, Eurocentric framings. For the notion and instantiation of framings require both a set of universally understood constructs and their applications as well as the necessity of the act: when framing, someone or something is always framed. Providing critical tools for the interruption of such constructs and their use, sensuous curriculum is a rich site of study in ways that are theoretically and materially significant, while offering often underutilized trajectories for the exploration of educational understandings.

Article

Elisabet Langmann

Tolerance has long been regarded as essential to liberal democratic life as well as to educational theory and practice. In educational policy and research, the school is seen as an important sphere where interpersonal tolerance can be studied and learned, and within schools, teachers and students are frequently asked to embody and practice tolerance. Whereas the need and value of tolerance may be evident in everyday life, the concept of tolerance is regarded as puzzling or even counterintuitive within the fields of philosophy and philosophy of education. Despite its overall harmonious connotation, tolerance seems to require two contradictory yet interdependent responses: in order to be tolerant (open-minded, accepting, welcoming) toward the tolerable, we also need to be intolerant (narrow-minded, resisting, hostile) toward the intolerable. In the philosophical debate, much work has been done to discuss the reasons and justifications for extending tolerance, while less attention has been paid to what determines the way in which an encounter becomes an issue of tolerance in the first place. In relation to the latter, three enduring questions can be identified. Is tolerance to be understood as a symmetrical or a hierarchal relation between the one who tolerates and the one being tolerated (the dilemma of welcoming)? What are the limits of tolerance and how are they to be drawn and justified (the dilemma of drawing boundaries)? And how much “unwanted otherness” can one suffer and bear before tolerance passes into intolerance or converts into pure acceptance (the dilemma of enduring)? In responding to the dilemmas of tolerance, different competing but coexisting discourses or conceptions on tolerance have developed historically over time. Within philosophy of education, two main conceptions can be traced, each of them implying a different way of responding to the dilemmas of interpersonal tolerance: tolerance as permission and tolerance as mutual respect. Besides these more traditional conceptions, a third conception of tolerance as an embodied and lived practice is identified. Taken together, the different coexisting conceptions of tolerance can be seen as an invitation to an ongoing conversation about the meaning and value of promoting tolerance in education, between and within different schools of philosophy of education.

Article

Alex Kostogriz and Nikolay Veresov

The concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) emerged in the cultural-historical theory of Vygotsky as a result of the broader quest for a new psychology and forms of education in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union. The project of unprecedented socioeconomic transformations created a political demand for education that would build intellectual, physical, and moral capabilities of the new generation of young people. Cultural-historical psychology, at that point in time, emerged as a result of such a demand, investigating the development of psychological functions and the role of education and upbringing in mediating this process. This meant an advancement of the study of mental activity as embedded in social and cultural practices where any intellectual function appears, first, on the social plane and then on the psychological plane of the child. The concept of the ZPD was formed as a result of this genetic law of psychological development that laid a methodological foundation of the new psychology. In terms of developing this foundation, Vygotsky was among the first psychologists to apply the principles of dialectics, searching for a fundamentally new approach to the analysis and explanation of psychological phenomena, especially their causal-dynamic nature. The concept of the ZPD is illustrative of Vygotsky’s dialectical method insofar as it represents the development of the child as a unity of contradictory relations between her actual level of development and the potential level that the child can achieve in collaboration with others. Initially, Vygotsky introduced the ZPD as a diagnostic principle of defining the child’s abilities to collaborate with others in order to determine the area of evolving and future intellectual functions, rather than evaluating the outcomes of the child’s past development. By prioritizing the role of collaboration in the development of intellectual functions, Vygotsky’s ZPD bridged the world of psychological development and the world of education. The ZPD, from this perspective, opens up the internal relation between development and education, with the process of education leading the development of intellectual functions. Education creates opportunities for children to build their future capabilities, wakening up, as it were, those processes that could not be possible without their participation in intersubjective encounters or dialogical classroom events. The ZPD, in a pedagogical sense, is a social space of learning and communication in which children can build their consciousness, understandings, self-regulation, and agency. Yet, this is also a space where children’s differences and particularities are most visible. Depending on how diversity is recognized, the process of education can either stimulate or repress intellectual development.

Article

In an age of increasing automation, what separates a human process from automation is the flexibility and autonomy human beings have and operate with in real time. Despite the fact that humans are driven by autonomy to operate and process things, such autonomy is often taken for granted and at times is only alluded to as an afterthought. But what is autonomy? How does autonomy make a person’s actions differ from those of an automated, inanimate being? Autonomy is often talked about as synonymous with freedom. This basic characterization partially responds to the fuller meaning of autonomy. This is the case when freedom is confined to freedom from, which is most often how this concept is used. Autonomy as an internal drive to determine one’s actions necessarily combines both freedom from as well as freedom to. It is no simpler to discuss or pin down “autonomy” within the context of university traditions and practices. The variability of practices and traditions has resulted in different formulations of what autonomy would mean in a university context. Similar to what determines autonomy as concept at an individual personal level, the autonomy of the academic or the academic institution, in this case the university, also brings forth specific understandings of life and its processes. Just as autonomy cannot exist without any forms of life to exercise it, the conditions in African universities today mean that neither traditional communitarian positions nor liberal conceptions are necessarily amenable to the progress of autonomy within these institutions. A neo-communitarian position serves as a more tenable concept that can represent forms of autonomy that are neither alienating nor too deterministic.

Article

Emile Bojesen

Conversation is a topic of burgeoning interest in the context of educational theory and as a prospective means for conducting empirical research. As a nonformal educational experience, as well as within the classroom, or as a means to researching various aspects of educational practice and institutions, research on or through conversation in education draws on a range of theoretical resources, often understanding conversation as analogous to dialogue or dialectic. Although only brought into this research context in the early 21st century, the philosopher who has engaged most extensively with conversation is Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003). His text, The Infinite Conversation, originally published in French as L’Entretien infini in 1969, responded to and took forward many elements of what would go on to be described as poststructuralist or deconstructive thought. Blanchot’s notion of conversation (in French, “entretien”) is distinct from those reliant upon philosophical conceptions of dialogue or dialectic. Itself the subject of philosophical research, Blanchotian conversation has been interpreted variously as either not sufficiently taking into account the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas, or else expanding beyond its more limited scope. Some of these interpretations stress the ethical and political implications of conversation; however, none engage specifically with its educational implications. Blanchotian conversation allows for contradicting and contrasting thoughts to be voiced without being brought to shared consensus or internal resolution. Its “lesson” is not only in the thought that it produces but also in the ethical relation of sincerity, openness, and non-imposition that it develops. Unlike some recent applications of conversation to educational context, Blanchotian conversation does not re-entrench the subject to be educated but rather deprioritizes the subject in favor of the movement of thought and the ethical “between” of conversation itself. This notion of conversation has corollaries in political thought, notably with Jacques Rancière’s understanding of “dissensus” and Karl Hess’s thought of an “anarchism without hyphens,” as well as the politically informed educational ideas of Elizabeth Ellsworth and the educational practice and research of Camilla Stanger.