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    Beyond curriculum: Groundwork for a non-instrumental theory of education

    Osberg, Deborah and Biesta, Gert (2021) Beyond curriculum: Groundwork for a non-instrumental theory of education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 53 (1). pp. 57-70. ISSN 0013-1857

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    This paper problematizes current thinking about education by arguing that the question of educational purpose is not simply a socio-political question concerned with what the ends should be and why, but can also be understood as a structural question, concerned with the way we understand education’s directional impetus. We suggest that it is possible to understand education as something other than a curricular instrument designed to facilitate a purpose external to itself. We challenge such an instrumental view by arguing that education is an emergent phenomenon with its own unique aesthetic qualities (like art or music); a phenomenon, moreover, that does not simply serve a purpose, but generates the purpose it serves. In this paper we lay down the groundwork for such a non-instrumental understanding of education by combining the notion of emergence with ideas from Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Aristotle’s teleological notion of the ‘ideal’ as self-generated and the Greek notion of ‘paideia.’ This provides an opportunity to theorise education’s directional impetus as the ongoing and open-ended coordination of three realms of human life: the symbolic, the individual and the political. Given the acute political and social dilemmas that instrumental understandings of education bring forth in multicultural, and so called ‘democratic’ and ‘inclusive’ societies, we hope that by opening the possibility to theorise education as a non-instrumental phenomenon, it may become possible to have more fruitful discussion regarding education than endless political debate about what the curricular ends of education should be.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Cite as: Osberg, D. & Biesta, G. 2021, "Beyond curriculum: Groundwork for a non-instrumental theory of education", Educational philosophy and theory, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 57-70.
    Keywords: Aristotle; affect; Cassirer; educational purpose; emergence
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Education
    Item ID: 17511
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Gert Biesta
    Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2023 13:23
    Journal or Publication Title: Educational Philosophy and Theory
    Publisher: Routledge
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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