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Exploring the Contributions of Sara Ruddick, Nel Noddings, and Ayya Khema to Care Theory and Peacebuilding  

Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon

In the Euro-western world, caring is not a new concept in the fields of philosophy or education; we find examples of writings concerning caring that date back to Ancient Greece. Caring, associated with emotions, has never held as high a status as “reason” in Euro-western, male-dominated philosophy. However, there are exceptions that stand out, such as pragmatist John Dewey’s sympathetic understanding and existentialist Martin Buber’s deeply spiritual I–Thou. Attention was drawn to caring in the 1960s and 1970s due to humanistic psychologists such as Carl Rogers and Milton Mayeroff. Feminist work on caring began building strength during this same time frame, although it can be dated back to Jane Addams’s educational work with immigration families at Hull House, Chicago, in the 1890s, and her peace activism during World War I, which resulted in her receiving a Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. As more women were offered the opportunity to earn college degrees, a space opened up for considering what women might uniquely have to offer to their various fields of study. Care theory in the 1960s and 1970s sought to bring out important ways of knowing associated with care work, which included domestic care (care of homes, families’ health, emotional and physical well-being), and fields of study and work focused on caring such as nursing and teaching. The 1980s and 1990s brought further development of care theory and expansion by scholars such as Carol Gilligan, Sara Ruddick, and Nel Noddings, as well as strong critiques by other scholars who worried that “caring” was honoring the relational work women do by overgeneralizing women, ignoring race and cultural differences, for example, by essentializing women and not recognizing gender differences, by being exclusionary of nonchildrearing women who are not care workers in the home, and by ignoring men who do this kind of work, and more. It is important to give a generous description of the earlier work, consider key critiques, and care theorists’ responses to these critiques, for the strong response by scholars to postcolonial, postmodern, critical race and queer theories’ critiques was to devalue care theory. It is also important to note that attention to care theory is returning. Philosophers of education are responding to more recent [since 2000] student assessment trends by reclaiming the importance of teachers’ diverse caring relationships with students, as well as students’ caring relationships with each other and toward their environment. Ecological concerns are bringing a focus back to care theory that is deeply rooted in humans’ connections to nature, given women’s fundamental physical, reproductive, and maternal roles. Care theory continues to contribute to peacebuilding efforts around the world, through a relational ontology that starts with the assumption that we are all born with relationships with our biological mothers, adoptive families, and extended communities. With each child born comes the renewed hope of peace. As can be seen, due to the size of this topic, we must be selective in addressing particular aspects while pointing the reader to other sources they may want to turn to for more insights.

Article

Practicing Care and Compassion  

William H. Schubert and Ming Fang He

To understand the practice of care and compassion in education and curriculum it is necessary to begin with its contextual sources in a diverse array of spheres: historical, religious, social, and educational theory and practice. The legacy of practicing care and compassion in education is embedded in the history of human civilization and the multiple meanings of care and compassion in the Western and Eastern worlds and in the Global South, including dominant cultures and those they dominated. The contributions of women to the understanding and practice of care and compassion in education have been underemphasized, as well as those by unofficial educators, who are not governed by nation-states or wealthy institutions that dominate those who rarely experience care and compassion. By the mid-1800s, an array of cultures and nations began to see a need for public education that attended to all citizens and not just the elite. At the same time, science had become a prime mover in consideration of education and questions were raised by Herbert Spencer and others about what and how knowledge should be selected for members of society. Eventually, a range of ways to conceptualize education were introduced, making curriculum development a site of debate. The practice of care and compassion must be integrated into the development and design of curriculum. Thus, it is important to present curriculum orientations that facilitate the practice of care and compassion. Those who wish to practice care and compassion in education should begin by studying time-honored and still practiced orientations by Ralph Tyler, Joseph Schwab, Paulo Freire, John Miller, Daisaku Ikeda, Nel Noddings, and Martha Nussbaum. The work of these curriculum scholars illustrates the ways in which care and compassion can be incorporated into the practice of teaching and learning. For example, Tyler offers an empirical-analytic perspective; Schwab provides a practical or eclectic approach; Freire provides a critical reconstructionist or radical love orientation; Miller proffers holistic possibilities; Ikeda advocates and exemplifies dialogic and value creation; Noddings calls for a feminine basis for caring; and Nussbaum invokes the intelligence of emotions. Those who wish to teach care and compassion must heed caveats raised by scholars who address individuals and groups who suffer the most, including the so-called wretched of the earth as well as those who have experienced imperialism and colonialism or have had their culture and history removed. Deep and abiding questions must be asked about how care and compassion for these oppressed persons, who make up the majority of the world’s population, can be taught and learned.

Article

Relational Pedagogy  

Mary Jo Hinsdale and Ann-Louise Ljungblad

One could easily argue that the pedagogy of relation is not new: a genealogy of the approach would send us back to the ancient Greek philosophers. However, in recent years relational pedagogy has been taken up in novel and ever-deepening ways. It is a response to ongoing efforts at school reform that center on teacher and administrator accountability, based on a constraining view of education as the effective teaching of content. In this view, methods, curricula, and high-stakes testing overshadow the human relationship between teacher and student that relational pedagogy theorists place at the center of educational exchanges. When relationships are secondary to content, the result can be disinterested or alienated students and teachers who feel powerless to step outside the mandated curriculum of their school district. Contemporary relational theorists offer an alternative vision of pedagogy in a concerning era of teacher accountability. Internationally, teachers experience challenging educational environments that reflect troubled social histories across differences of socioeconomic class, race and ethnicity, gender, and ability status. Climate change, civil and economic instability, and war add global pressures that bring immigrant and refugee students into classrooms around the world. In the United States, histories of slavery, genocide, and indigenous removal continue to resound through all levels of education. Putting the teacher-student relationship at the heart of education offers a way to serve all students, allowing them to flourish in spite of the many challenges we face in the 21st century. Relational pedagogy is inspired by a range of philosophical writings: this article focuses on theorists whose work is informed by the concept of caring, as developed by Nel Noddings, with the critical perspective of Paulo Freire, or the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas. Although these approaches to ethical educational relations do not necessarily mesh together easily, the tensions among them can bear fruit that informs our pedagogy. After outlining the theoretical contours of relational pedagogy, we will turn to more recent empirical work in the field. New studies help us understand how to turn theory into classroom practices that will benefit all students.

Article

Concepts of Care in Teacher Education  

Nel Noddings

Care theory emphasizes relation, attending to the expressed needs of the other in human encounters. It does not ignore virtue and justice, but its central concept is relation. In education, this means that the expressed needs of students must be considered—not always satisfied, but always included in the teacher’s deliberations. Choice, continuity, and connection are central concepts in the application of care theory to education. In consonance with its emphasis on attention to their expressed needs, care theory recommends listening to students and engaging in discussion to learn about their interests and help them to make intelligent choices. It also suggests that we give more attention to continuity—that is, to the possibility of keeping students and teachers together for more than one year. Similarly, continuity and connection may be increased by encouraging interdisciplinary studies. Finally, care theory emphasizes the need for critical thinking and civility—to educate, not fight, those who may be morally mistaken.

Article

Learning from Disequilibrium and Educating the Feminine Voice in Philosophy  

Naoko Saito

This article broaches what can sometimes be seen as the suppression of the female voice, sometimes the repression of the feminine. To address these matters involves the reconsideration of the political discourse that pervades education and educational research. This article is an attempt to disclose inequity in apparently equitable space, through the acknowledgment of the voice of disequilibrium. It proposes to re-place the subject of philosophy, and the subject of woman, through an alternative idea of the feminine voice in philosophy. It tries to reconfigure the female voice without negating its fated biological origin and traits, and yet avoiding the confining of thought to the constraints of gender divides. In terms of education, it shall argue for the conversation of justice as a way of cultivating the feminine voice in philosophy: as the voice of disequilibrium. This is an occasion of mutual destabilization and transformation of man and woman, crossing gender divides, and preparing an alternative route to political criticism that not only reclaims the rights of women but releases the thinking of men and women, laying the way for a better, more pluralist, and more democratic politics. The feminine voice can find a way beyond the dominance of instrumental rationality and calculative thinking in the discourse on equity itself. And it can, one might reasonably hope, have an impact on the curriculum of university education.

Article

Ecofeminism and Education  

Jennifer Hatten-Flisher and Rebecca A. Martusewicz

Ecofeminism is a theoretical, political, and educational movement that draws specific parallels between the domination of women and other marginalized groups, and the degradation of nature. While much of ecofeminist thought is focused on examining the interconnectivity between social and environmental injustices, ecofeminism is as vast and varied as its feminist and ecological roots. Yet, ecofeminism is not without its critics. After being widely accused of essentializing women’s relationship with nature, the term fell out of favor with a lot of scholars in the 1990s. Those who have remained loyal to the term have argued that this was an unfair mischaracterization of the larger foundational ideas within ecofeminist work. Given the global environmental and social crises currently sweeping the planet, ecofeminism offers important, albeit diverse, theoretical, practical, and pedagogical perspectives for developing effective responses to such interrelated crises. As such, scholars across a variety of disciplines are revisiting (and reclaiming) ecofeminist thought. In the field of education, ecofeminism is influencing the ways that we approach questions of justice by offering an intersectional framework that insists on recognizing the interconnected roots of racism, sexism, poverty, ablism, and other social problems with ecological degradation. An ethics of care is woven throughout to form the basis of a pedagogy of responsibility whereby students learn to both critique these cultural foundations of violence and identify practices and relationships that help to create healthy sustainable communities.

Article

Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada  

Lisa Johnston, Leah Shoemaker, Nicole Land, Aurelia Di Santo, and Susan Jagger

The field of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Canada has been informed by a myriad of influences and these factors continue to shift and shape the curriculum, pedagogy, research, and practice in Canadian ECEC. Historically, following many of the theories and practices embraced by the United States, early child-care centers, day nurseries, and kindergartens were established to alleviate pressures on overcrowded schools and allow for mothers to work outside of the home. At the same time, Canadian child care took on a broader role in social welfare and later social justice, working to reduce inequities and inequality. These motivations have not been shared across all ECEC, and this is particularly evident in Indigenous early education. Here, Indigenous children and families have endured the horror of the residential school system and its legacy of colonialism, trauma, and cultural genocide. Along with these underpinning histories, Canadian ECEC has been informed by, is continuing to be shaped by, and is beginning to be guided by a number of models and movements in early learning. These include developmentalism, child-centered pedagogies, Reggio Emilia approaches, children’s rights, holistic education, the reconceptualist movement, and postdevelopmentalism, and many of these approaches are not mutually exclusive. Finally, the policies and practices at federal, provincial, and municipal levels and the unique tensions between these levels of government structure Canadian ECEC policy and practice. Provincial and Indigenous early learning frameworks are created to enhance educator understandings and application of program principles, values, and goals, and these embrace responsive relationships with children and families, reflective practice, the importance of the environment and play in learning, and respect of diversity, equity, and inclusion, to name but a few shared principles. Taken together, the complexity of ECEC in Canada is clear, with historical approaches and attitudes continuing to preserve structures that devalue children and those who work with them, while concurrently efforts continue to honor the rights and voices of all children, advocate for professionalization in the field of ECEC, and reveal and reconcile past and current truths and injustices in Indigenous children’s education and care, in order to support and heal all children, families, and communities.