One of the greatest symptoms of approaching a nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. ~Bertrand Russell
In his latest, Derridian post, Professor Iguana interprets Derrida as saying “that we should ‘say everything’ even if it is experimental performance, or a work of ‘fiction’—and this ‘even’ is not an aside but feels like an imperative or a challenge to do the work in this way…” I think that Prof. Iguana’s insight is both true and directly applicable to education questions.
For one, we see an inversion of the truth of Iguana’s passage in present-day schooling, in their policies and curricula. To riff somewhat playfully on Iguana: we are to say nothing unless it is precisely NOT an experimental performance or a work of fiction—and this ‘unless’ is not an aside but an imperative to do the work in this, and only this, way.
What can be said is, of course, to be based strictly upon “science-based research.”
The modern University is emulated in all the “lower” mini-university institutions and they all share and serve the same god: Science. In fact, science itself has devolved into thinking of itself as a science. The art of science—the process of saying everything, even through performance and fiction—has been replaced by a strange, incestuous idol: the science of science.
As a result, teaching is thought to be a science. Everything is thought to be a candidate for science. It is either available to science or it is nothing at all. Since modern science has created a metaphysical, existential confusion, a phenomenological confusion about what things are, it is no surprise that education is often (mis)understood and measured in terms of its production of science and its progeny, technology.
This begs the question: does education really need science to survive? Can education be attained without modern science as its means and its end? Is “education” possible beyond the servitude of science?
Moreover, if science gets rid of art from schools—as we see happening today across the country—what spaces will emerge where we can ‘say everything.’ In the age when art becomes profane, where will profanity be spoken?
I have recently written elsewhere about whether we can imagine the possibility of a world after—not only before or during—the reign of science. This world-to come (monde à venir) recalls Derrida’s most consistent insistence: the need for a futuristic phenomenology that has the creative capacity for something “to come” that is beyond the future. (Derrida is very clear that the “to come” is not the same as the future.)
By asking whether education needs science—or, more specifically, whether teachers (and students) need to be scientists—we might begin to imagine in a similar, if not the same, spirit. A spirit of hope.
This begins, for me, in abandoning the insane idea and false hope that our present work is terribly important, that it matters or, using my previous post’s profane lexicon: amounts to more than shit. Derrida and Prof. Iguana put more meat on those emotional bones by pointing to the more important, impossible work that lies ahead and beyond.
Regarding science and teaching, I’ll end by recalling the words of William James in his Talks to Teachers on Psychology:
You make a great, very great mistake, if you think that psychology, being the science of the mind’s laws, is something from which you can deduce definite programmes and schemes and methods of instruction for immediate schoolroom use. Psychology is a science, and teaching is an art; and sciences never generate arts directly out of themselves.
* The point I am driving in this essay at has nothing to do with the longstanding craft of science. I am not questioning the value, merit, or beauty of the art of science and its many products. Again: I have no desire to see an abolition of the natural sciences. No. In this post I am tilting at a very different windmill: the ideology of science, an ideology that has very little to nothing to do with the actual sciences themselves.