Studies in Philosophy and Education 32 (5):449-461 (2013)

This paper is an enquiry into the meaning of teaching. I argue that as a result of the influence of constructivist ideas about learning on education, teaching has become increasingly understood as the facilitation of learning rather than as a process where teachers have something to give to their students. The idea that teaching is immanent to learning goes back to the Socratic idea of teaching as a maieutic process, that is, as bringing out what is already there. Against the maieutic conception of teaching I argue for an understanding of teaching in terms of transcendence, where teaching brings something radically new to the student. I explore the meaning of the idea of transcendence through a discussion of Kierkegaard and Levinas, who both criticise the maieutic understanding of teaching and, instead, argue for a transcendent understanding of teaching—an understanding of teaching which they refer to as ‘revelation.’ Whereas Kierkegaard argues that revelation—which he understand as a process of ‘double truth giving’—lies beyond the power of the teacher, Levinas interprets revelation as the experience of ‘being taught.’ I use Levinas’s suggestion in order to explore the distinction between ‘learning from’ and ‘being taught by’ and argue that teaching has to be understood in the latter sense, that is, in terms of the experience of ‘being taught.’ To connect the idea of teaching to the experience of ‘being taught’ highlights that teaching can be understood as a process of ‘truth giving’ albeit that (1) this ‘gift’ lies beyond the powers of the teacher, and (2) the truth that is given, has to be understood in terms of what Kierkegaard calls ‘subjective truth’—which is not relativistic truth but existential truth, that is, truth that matters for one’s life. Understanding teaching in these terms also opens up new possibilities for understanding the role of authority in teaching. While my argument implies that teachers cannot simply and straightforwardly ‘produce’ the experience of ‘being taught’—so that what matters has to do with the conditions under which the gift of teaching can be received—their actions and activities nonetheless matter. In the final section of the paper I therefore argue that if we want to give teaching back to education, we need to resist the depiction of the teacher as a disposable and dispensable ‘resource’ that students can learn from or not, and need to articulate and enact a different story about the teacher, the student and the school
Keywords Teaching  The gift  Constructivism  Kierkegaard  Levinas  Derrida  Existential education
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DOI 10.1007/s11217-012-9312-9
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References found in this work BETA

Totality and Infinity.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961/1969 - Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961 - Distribution for the U.S. And Canada, Kluwer Boston.
Collected Philosophical Papers.Emmanuel Lévinas - 1987 - Duquesne University Press.
Philosophical Fragments.Soren Kierkegaard - 1962 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Levinas and the Philosophy of Education.Guoping Zhao - 2016 - Educational Philosophy and Theory 48 (4).
Paulo Freire and Philosophy for Children: A Critical Dialogue.Walter Kohan - 2018 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 37 (6):615-629.

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