Educational Philosophy and Theory 39 (5):543-558 (2007)

Derek Sankey
University of Sydney
If education is to make a difference it is widely acknowledged that we must aim to educate for understanding, but this means being clear about what we mean by understanding. This paper argues for a concept of personal understanding, recognising both the commonality and individuality of each pupil's understandings, and the relationship between understanding and interpretation, analysis and synopsis, and the quest for meaning. In supporting this view, the paper advocates an emergentist notion of person‐hood, and considers the neurophysiological reasons for asserting the individuality of human minds, brains, and the creation of personal meanings. The notion of personal meanings would, however, seem to run counter to the post‐modern denial of the autonomous self, and the tradition in philosophy, most recently stemming from Wittgenstein, that insists that meanings and understandings are essentially social, and not personal—a view also advocated by John White in regard to education. In contrast, this paper argues that meanings and understandings are both social and personal. Once we reinstate the notion of personal minds and personal understandings, alongside the social, we may see more clearly what it means to educate for understanding, and why this might begin to make a difference.
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DOI 10.1111/epat.2007.39.issue-5
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