Philosophical and Historical Perspectives

In this special version of the class, undertaken during a time of multiple emergencies, under unusual circumstances, we will will focus our attention on issues relevant to our struggles to collectively understand the existential questions and choices facing us right now. To this end, we will investigate social and personal identity, educational technologies, youth and pandemic, coming of age, the crisis of higher education, and the pernicious histories of racism and violence perpetrated against Black and indigenous youth. Students will be called to actively assert responsibility for their own development, for the creation of viable identities, and for engaging fully with their peers and with the world. Our work together will be historical, philosophical, and self-reflective, with an emphasis on process more than on pre-determined product.

The class will be conducted largely (but not entirely) online, at a physical and often temporal distance from one another. We will stipulate, from the outset, that this cannot be some kind of inferior, degraded educational experience, destined to fall short of what might have been accomplished in a traditional classroom. No doubt something inherent to embodied, face-to-face interaction will be lost missing this format, but there is not reason to believe that we might not fill that empty space with something just as satisfying. Our task — in a course on the philosophy and history of education — will be to understand what the potential meanings of embodiment/virtuality and closeness/distance in an educational situation, not to presume that we already know what has value and what does not. I propose that we set a collective goal to engage as fully as possible with each other, to establish a community of care, and to commit to cultivating our mutual intellectual and moral characters.

This course has been expressly designed to fit a specific, but open, digitally-mediated format, and will employ a variety of digital tools to achieve our purposes. Students will work together in several modalities, synchronously and asynchronously, with an emphasis on self-reflective collaborative (and individual) process, rather than on the production of familiar educational artifacts, like exams and term papers. Students will enjoy considerable freedom to explore the content of this course, and to find their own means and methods to best express themselves. The focus of evaluation — teacher evaluation, peer evaluation, and self-evaluation — will be on engagement, participation, presence, communication, and effort.

What we’re reading

E-learning in the 21st century, G. Randy Garrison

The beautiful risk of education, Gert Biesta

All fall down, Sally Nicholls

The Nickel boys, Colin Whiteside

There there, Tommy Orange

The idiot, Elif Batuman