Class Notes

Class Notes October 2, 2012

Foundations of Educational Thought — sixth meeting

I was exhausted at the end of class. I don’t know why. We ended the first movement of the course and it ended well enough, I think, leaving room for expectation. Just right, I hope.

I gave a very ungenerous apology for last week’s experience and then turned right around and tried to justify it. I wanted to SHOW why I seem obsessed with this critique of the linguistic turn in philosophy. Of course, anything I SAID using language would only flip around to bite me in the ass so I SHOWED: I played an instrumental (with a vocal melody) song for them — without language.

Then we continued with Dewey. The first thing to note was how Dewey’s metaphysical world view differs from Plato and Rousseau. I didn’t put it this way, but the dark implication of Dewey’s worldview is the same as for most moderns: radical, secular individualism. Tp his credit, Dewey seems to recognize this; and in education he see a way to tether these separate, solitary worlds together, building democracy.

The reading was Experience and Education along with a paper of mine, introducing them to the basics from Democracy and Education. The main points were threefold:

1. Dewey understands “education” in two ways: (a) as education writ large, the political engine that can fix the fragmented liberal worldview and (b) as education writ small, the axiomatic antonym to miseducation. I like the idea of miseducation (for aesthetic not ethical reasons, but I didn’t go into that) but think it gets better treatment elsewhere: in Carter G. Woodson’s Miseducation of the Negro and Lauren Hill’s references to it in her music, especially the MTV Unplugged album. The implicit critique of Dewey here is that the Black intellectual tradition does not share his individualistic and secularist metaphysics, so miseducation is darker and more real through their eyes.

2. Dewey beats Foucault to the punch, sort of. He use the term ‘social control,’ but he basically settles on the simple fact that power is neutral and ubiquitous. Now, Foucault means this in a structural way and Dewey means it in a liberal, social way, but the same insight remains in both. In fact, I think I could tie them together pretty easily.

3. Dewey is very clear that freedom is not to be pursued as an end in itself. This warms my Catholic heart because it requires an understanding of the classic disticntion between “freedom for” and “freedom from,” positive and negative freedom. But this also creates the problem of how to square a positive sense of freedom with an individualistic and secular worldview.

It was a very passive agressive reading of Dewey, but it was the most generous one I could give. Next week we move to my beloved William James.


*** I’m sorry, but I read an amazing interview today in the Paris Review that has me all kinds of distracted. Sorry this class note kind of sucks.

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