Change, hope and commitment
In this chapter I will be discussing the very possibility of education and pedagogy because both are so often severely misunderstood, not only in the public domain, but also in diverse academic disciplines reducing education to the application of the body of theory and knowledge within those disciplines themselves rather than in educational theory. The whole book can as such be understood as an attempt to clarify what educational thought is all about and to call out some of its misunderstandings, and at times not misunderstandings at all, but rather downright calculated misinterpretations for political gains.
I will not claim, though, that all ways of perceiving educational thought other than the one I am exploring in this book are necessarily wrong, particularly if they are ‘rooted’ in educational theory, but rather I will argue for the need to do just that; that is, to start in educational theory, and not in applications of theory to what are considered to be ‘the educational problems of the day’. Simply because the latter tend to lend themselves too easily to the political agenda ‘of the day’ and therefore to uncritically support such an agenda.
Educational thought and research, I think, need to keep a critical distance from solving ‘acute societal problems’, problems defined as problems for ideological reasons alone, and instead foster the historical task of making problematic the very way in which the formation of the real is understood as such through education. This chapter, then, introduces some themes and concepts to that end, which will be discussed from slightly different angles in the following chapters.
Particularly, in this chapter, I will identify what I call the distributive paradigm of schooling, in order to make a distinction between different usages of education and educational concepts such as pedagogy. I am distancing myself from modern education, or maybe more correctly education of modernity, particularly since such education tends to rely on the idea of progress and a sense of linear time, which in essence leads to the reductionof the present for a future that may not arrive, and which therefore tends to make static the present order (this theme will be developed below and in the following chapters).
I am also somewhat critical of the idea that education is to give hope to the powerless and poor for a better (future) life since, as I will be showing in this chapter, hope in the paradigm of schooling tends to be more about keeping the powerless and poor in their place than actually contributing to emancipation and freedom.
This theme, of the possibility for freedom and emancipation in and through educational thought, will also be a theme running throughout the book, and is initiated in this chapter through my readings of particularly Jacques Ranciere’s work (1991, 1999, 2006, 2007a,b, 2009).
The overall questions I keep asking myself throughout the book, sometimes directly, other times indirectly, and which are introduced in this chapter, are: How can education contribute to and verify the freedom of the other in the face of violent, excessive, and expanding inequality, an inequality producing rapidly increasing precariousness of populations, if not life itself, at the same time as it establishes an unprecedented wealth and power for so few? What role and responsibility does schooling have, if any at all, in the continued subordination of people to those elites who threaten to destroy the ver)' possibility of education as well as a decent life for the many? And also, how are we to think education differently, or anew, so as to give energy to the much-needed struggle against the disastrous social and political destruction set into motion by those elites?
These questions are neither too big nor too political, but are, I think, necessary to ask in a social and political situation in the global world in which not only democracy, but also educational thought, which makes democracy possible (Jaeger, 1939), is near extinction (Berardi, 2017). These questions are important to keep asking, not because they can be conclusively answered, and I have no hope of doing so either, but because they need to continue to be asked aloud in order to challenge the given order in which the few are wrecking the lives of so many. If nothing else, that is what education means; that is, education, as I will be exploring, is the very shared capacity among us all to think differently about the order from which the reality appears as such, and also the responsibility to do so for the possibility of emancipation and freedom to emerge in the present. Below, I will identify what I call a distributive paradigm in education, so as to distinguish between two very different ways of understanding education in the first place. I know that this can be seen as amounting to a kind of binary thinking, which in itself would be problematic, and which will be made more complicated throughout the book. Here, though, I want to make a distinction in order to be as clear as possible on how I distance myself from what I consider to be a misreading of the term pedagogy, in order to reconnect pedagogy to educational thought.