Is Education Possible Today?
by David T. Hansen ó 2015
Background/ Context: This article was presented as the Weinberg Lecture at Teachers College, Columbia University, on September 26, 2013. On that occasion the author was formally inducted as the John L. and Sue Ann Weinberg Professor in the Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education at Teachers College. In attendance were Sue Ann Weinberg (Ed.D., Teachers College, 1997), President Susan Fuhrman, Provost Thomas James, faculty and students of the College, and guests.
Purpose/ Objective: The purpose of the lecture was to pose the question whether education is possible today. The author begins by contrasting two prevalent responses to the question: (1) that it is obviously possible since we can see all around us teachers and students working in classrooms, and (2) that it is obviously not possible because the educational system has been subverted to serve the ends of a global economic order. The author argues that while there is evidence to support both responses, they dismiss, in effect, the question of educationís possibility and thus undermine its authentic enactment. The article describes an approach to keeping the question open and in public view.
Research Design: The article is a philosophical essay that examines contrasting views of education and the values they foreground.
Conclusions/ Recommendations The author encourages fellow educators to accept the invitation philosophy holds out to them. This invitation is to cross the threshold into a reflective consciousness that our educational actions always mirror underlying values and commitments, which in turn have political ramifications with regards to how we constitute our institutions and practices. Moreover, the invitation to philosophy embodies a gift: in propelling us to examine values and presumptions, it helps make possible education itself, understood as the holistic cultivation of the human being in company with other human beings. The question of education is the one question we need to keep open in order to ensure the continuation of education itself.
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