Foucault on the Lecture

Just came across this excellent interview with Michel Foucault from Partisan Review way back in ’71. Foucault articulates a rather original position on the lecture as a pedagogical form. He defends it for being as at least “crudely” honest about the power relations implied in pedagogy involving one teacher and many students. He contrasts this negatively with the, which he sees as more coercive: as more insidiously bringing students into conformity with the teacher’s way of thinking. Here’s an excerpt:

In France, the lecture system has been strongly criticized: the professor comes in, stays behind his desk for an hour, says what he has to say, there’s no possibility for student discussion. The reformists preferred the seminar system because there freedom is respected: the professor no longer imposes his ideas and the student has the right to speak. Of course, but don’t you think that a professor who takes charge of students at the beginning of the year, makes them work in small groups, invites them to enter his own work shares with them his own problem and methods-don’t you think that students coming out of this seminar .will be even more twisted than if they had simply attended a series of lectures? Will they not tend to consider as acquired, natural, evident and absolutely true what is after all only the system, the code and the grid of the professor? Isn’t there the risk that the professor feeds them with ideas much more insidiously? I don’t wish to defend the lecture at all costs but I wonder whether it does not indeed have a kind of crude honesty, provided it states what It Is: not the proclamation of a truth, but the tentative result of some work which has its hypotheses, methods and which therefore can appeal for criticism and objections: the student is free to uncover its blunders.

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