Learning-as-experience, learning as it one lives or undergoes it everyday, exposes the Achilles heel of any learning “theory:” Namely, that we have almost no quantifiable, empirical access to learning as a phenomenon, and that the only thing of this kind we can grasp—however tentatively—is the supposed result of it, its “outcomes.” Even with advanced MRI technologies, the moment of learning and the exact way it takes place are unclear: all we know is which parts of the brain are active at which times. The best teacher, of course, can neither cause nor guarantee the learning of his or her students. Even students can say that they actually “learned something” only after the fact. This notoriously evasive nature of learning remains an open secret among “learning scientists” and other researchers and theorists claiming to have learning as their central focus.
So what does it mean to live or undergo learning? What is elusive experience of learning actually like? See this paper (a draft submitted for review) for more.
I’ve been working with my colleague, Karsten Kenklies, on translating Schleiermacher’s 1826 Introductory Lecture on Education (Erziehung). Here’s a couple of key passages from the first, translated half of the lecture, which seeks to provide the “Outlines of the Art of Education and Upbringing (Erziehung)”
About a new book, written by Ralf Koerrenz, forthcoming from Palgrave, edited and co-translated by yours truly:
Otto Friedrich Bollnow, one of the most famous of Martin Heidegger’s students, developed a philosophical approach to education that brought Heidegger’s existentialism together with other theories of what it is to be “human.” The result is an approach to education that is at once accessible but nuanced, general and comprehensive but also concrete and particularistic. This introduction to Bollnow is the first to provide a biographical and thematic overview of his philosophy of education. It begins with a summary of the theoretical influences that Bollnow synthesized, and then outlines Bollnow’s highly original account of experiential “educational reality” –namely, as a reality alternately “harmonious” or “broken,” but fundamentally “guided.” This book will be of value to scholars and students of education and philosophy, especially those interested in bringing larger existential questions into connection with everyday educational engagement.
I have a new book out as of the end of May. It’s published by Springer and titled Media Transatlantic: Media and Communication Studies between North American and German-speaking Europe. Here’s the blurb:
This book reflects recent scholarly and theoretical developments in media studies, or Medienwissenschaft. It focuses on linkages between North America and German‐speaking Europe, and brings together and contextualizes contributions from a range of leading scholars. In addition to introducing English‐language readers to some of the most prominent contemporary German media theorists and philosophers, including Claus Pias, Sybille Krämer and Rainer Leschke, the book shows how foundational North American contributions are themselves inspired and informed by continental sources. This book takes Harold Innis or Marshall McLuhan (and other members of the “Toronto School”) as central points of reference, and traces prospective and retrospective lines of influence in a cultural geography that is increasingly global in its scope. In so doing, the book also represents a new episode in the international reception and reinterpretation of the work of Innis and McLuhan, the two founders of the theory and study of media.
Further information: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319284873
Given the socially and technologically contingent nature of symptoms like the “flashback,” neuroscience alone cannot be expected to provide ready answers. This symptomatology of the flashback and its use as a narrative device was developed in the “age of film,” Before this, former soldiers reported seeing ghosts and phantoms. The author argues that we need the humanities, like literature and history, to provide a sense of cultural and historical context to understand whats “going on in our brains.”
On January 27, I gave paper at the Institute of Education at UCL London. The topic was Klaus Mollenhauer’s conception of Education and Bildung –as articulated in his Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing.
Klaus Mollenhauer’s Forgotten Connections: Education as Remembrance
Franz Kafka opens his intimate “Letter to his Father” by admitting that he simply cannot come to terms with his own upbringing and Bildung –“because the magnitude of the matter goes far beyond the scope of memory and understanding.” This admission is used, perhaps paradoxically, to introduce and frame an educational “undertaking of remembrance” attempted by German educationist Klaus Mollenhauer in his book Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing. Here, Mollenhauer also asserts that “further[ing] the cause of memory” is no less than the “purpose of education” itself, adding that he is referring not only to individual biographical recollection, but also to “collective memory – our common cultural heritage whose core themes education attempts to tease out.”
In this presentation, Dr. Norm Friesen (Boise State University) discusses a number of core themes that emerge from this effort for Mollenhauer. These include Mollenhauer’s understanding of Bildung as a biographical and experiential “way of the self” that is marked by a particular “pathlessness.” Referencing Wittgenstein in ways unconventional for education, Mollenhauer shows how this path or pathlessness is characterized not so much by success and triumph as by loss and renunciation. These themes also include the recovery of a concrete, even indexical language for education, rather than one abstract and generalizing. Finally, Dr. Friesen will suggest with Mollenhauer that the broader task of remembrance, and thus of education itself, is as much one of difficulty and paradox as it is one of recuperation and clarification.
This image from Ghirlandaio’s An Old Man and his Grandson (recently restored, left), was used as the cover image by Klaus Mollenhauer for his 1983 book, Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing (translated 2014), and eight years later, on the cover of Max van Manen’s book, Tact of Teaching. In both cases, it illustrates what in both books is called the “pedagogical relation.” This refers to the relation of the young and old for the sake of the young.What does this picture say about relations between the old and the young? Have its connotations changed over the decades or the centuries? Does it bring to mind grandfatherly affection or something also unsettling?
Klafki said this about the pedagogical relation:
What it means for to have “a relation for the sake of the younger” can only be concretely answered in historical terms. What “for the sake of the younger,” what pedagogical responsibility means, this is subject to historical change and must… always be revisited and reconsidered. (1970).
This is just what I try to do –to both affirm and reconsider the pedagogical relation in the 21st century– in the light of ongoing challenges to teachers and scandal among some of those charged with caring for the young.
Here’s the abstract for a short paper I’ve been preparing for a conference:
As a landmark philosopher of language and of mind, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work, particularly in the Philosophical Investigations, has been taken up by philosophers of education in English. Christopher Winch (1998), Michael A. Peters (1999), Nicholas Burbules (2010), and others (e.g. Aparece 2005) have engaged extensively with the implications of the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy of mind and language for education. One challenge that that they face is Wittgenstein’s use of the word “training” throughout his discussions of language learning and in his periodic references to education. This is made all the more problematic by realizing that the term Wittgenstein actually used was Abrichtung, which refers exclusively to animal dressage or obedience training, connoting also the breaking of an animal’s will. This little-recognized fact has broad implications for many important Wittgenstinian insights into education, extending from literacies as language games to teaching as ostensive definition. This paper sheds light on these implications as well as on those more broadly relevant to Wittgenstein’s life and thought.
I’ve been working on this for submission to the John Dewey Society:
Communication and (Educational) Media: Dewey as a Theorist avant la lettre
In addition to being an educational reformer and philosopher nonpareil, John Dewey also theorized media and communication. The inimitable Marshall McLuhan once characterized Dewey as “surf-boarding along on the new electronic wave [that] …has now rolled right over this age.” Dewey himself repeatedly emphasized that “the radio, the railway, telephone, telegraph” had rendered “social life …almost completely changed.” This paper undertakes a historical reconstruction of Dewey’s theory of communication and media avant la lettre, particularly as it relates to education, scholarship and democracy. It then considers his later privileging of “communicative” aesthetics and the “winged words” of oral communication. It concludes that despite its periodic imprecision and ambivalence, Dewey’s “theory” of media and communication in education remains both current and compelling.
ABSTRACT: Franz Kafka opens his intimate “Letter to his Father” by admitting that he simply cannot come to terms with his own upbringing –“because… the magnitude of the matter goes far beyond the scope of …memory and understanding.” Nonetheless, the method of currere –like other autobiographical methods– encourages educators to undertake “a subjective reconstruction of academic knowledge and lived experience.” Kafka’s concerns are used, perhaps paradoxically, to frame a similar educational “task of remembrance” by German scholar Klaus Mollenhauer. This presentation explores Mollenhauer’s understandings of Bildung and remembrance with the hope of opening up a space of dialogue between Continental and North American educational thought.