Issue n° 14

Opening: Is secularity taking the wrong way ?, Joël Roman (Revue Esprit)

Lexical rudiments, Daniel Hameline (University of Geneva)

In the course of academic year of 1991-1992, D. Hameline, now professor emeritus at the university of Geneva, shared with others within the same university, the responsability of the first year of the Certificate of in-service training for teachers specialized in adult education. To their intention, all confirmed training practitioners, he produced a glossary. After having characterized in the last issue, one might add with a glint of humour, the very distinctive features of the ‘discourse of formation’ , he now broaches the analysis of the concept of ‘method’ , and in particular that of ‘pedagogical’ method.

Notion: The reward, Alain Vergnioux (University of Caen)

The reward takes its place within the logic of gift and counter-gift and, at the same time, it detaches itself from it. The following analysis will show that its true meaning lies in some sort of desinterest aiming at the subject himself as value either in matters concerning school or in the public space of democracy. The analysis of the fairy-tale made by Greimas are there to reinforce this hypothesis as those of Seneca long ago showing that the benefit is equivalent to a sign and finds its reason in the exercise of good will.

Report: Justice and laicity

Introduction: Laicity and social justice, Brigitte Frelat-Kahn (IUFM of Paris) and Hubert Vincent (IUFM of Versailles)

Laicity between philosophy and history, Pierre Kahn (IUFM of Versailles)

First one should refrain from restricting the scope of the idea of laicity to the conditions of its emergence and secondly one should reject a platonistic approach to laicity which treats it as an essence that balances the essence of republic and that of the school system, the Ferry laws being priviledged enough to incarnate this intelligible triad. Laicity must be dealt with as it is, that is as a historically determinated idea of one’s rights. From this idea may nevertheless arise various conditions which found its legitimacy. Yet, the philosophical commitments (which) related to the autonomy of reason, to the autonomy of body politic and to human rights in their very universality pave the way to a democratic space for several possible institutions. French laicity was one of those and a posteriori it is the reason which justifies the fight for laicity yet again laicity is a means the goal of which is democracy.

Citizenship and education : ‘the right to have rights’ in the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt, Marie-Claire Caloz-Tschopp (University of Geneva)

Hannah Arendt considers education in terms of a breach between tradition and modernity. It is capital for her that education should be conservative. ‘It preserves what is new and revolutionary in every child’ . Education installs them in the gap between the past and the future, a weird period in-between which sometimes finds its way in the historic time, a source of hope and a possibility for one to exercise one’s thoughts and actions. It is indeed because education is to be considered in the power of man’s freedom and in the feasability of a new beginning that one should reflect over ‘the right to have rights’ . ‘The right to have rights’ is one’s assurance to have one’s place in an organised community and therefore in the world, to act and to express freely one’s own opinion. The role of education has to be conceived in the ceaseless construction of the public space.

The issue of education at the dawn of democratic times : the analysis of Tocqueville, Philippe Foray (University of Saint-Etienne)

Nowhere in his work does Tocqueville broach the issue of education. He has never considered it as a specific issue. Yet, in his theory of democracy, it has a recognized place on two points. Democratic societies display two essential characteristics : equality of conditions and individualism. On the first point, the author shows that education is meant to distribute positions in society according to the skills and merits it helps to acquire. Concerning the second point, education, if it remains under the control of State, protects the human being from any forme of tyranny and constructs the basis for social bonds. The analysis made by P. Foray show that the Tocquevilian vision makes it possible to satisfy the twofold yet paradoxical requirement of our modern societies towards school : the promotion of individualism along with the inclusion in society.

Interest, justice and laicity, Denis Meuret (University of Bourgogne)

For one to grasp fully the idea of laicity implies that one renounces the idea of laicity being born of a rejection of religion to therefore think a « political » model in which the school system may find its legitimacy in the founding of a social cooperation between men and women free and equal in rights. Excellency in the traditional French system has acquired the same status as saintliness in catholicism and the question for justice in the education system has exclusively been linked to that of social inequalities of access to higher education. In the « political » model – as John Rawls views it – justice has it that the school system gives everybody a chance to live a life that, on the basis of sound and rational judgement, they may find to be good. Merit then ceases to be the main principle of justice and the access to higher education ceases to be the sole purpose of justice. Yet it is important that the (type of) education received by all, equality of the amount and that of acquired capacities, their quality and the means to use them, should become criteria of social justice.

Equity in an open system, Gérard Wormser (ENS of Fontenay/Saint-Cloud)

The French education system once thought that it could preserve its homogeneousness in a society that was but hardly open to the outside world and hardly prone to competition. This system undergoes a crisis when going to university no longer goes together with the hope of improving one’s living standards, and when school merit generates extreme differentiations between people’s destinies without those who have benefited from it feeling indebted to those who have not. As such evolution undermines the social contract, all that contributes to make the system more transparent and easier to use favours equity. Thus, in an open system the importance of representations coming from the outside world can only but grow. The school system just cannot do without the complexity which structures the present-days communities. The « sharing of knowledge » is a phrase (of) which one has to understand the importance of. Complexity begins with a shift towards responsibility.

Studies: Philosophical models of teaching, Israël Scheffler (University of Harvard)

The question of teaching can be reduced to three main points: what sort of learning shall I aim to achieve? In what does such learning consist? How shall I strive to achieve it? These points may be examined on three levels: normative, epistemological and empirical. I. Scheffler chooses to deal with them indirectly by discussing three examples of educational models: those of impression, insight and rules. Organizing detailed confrontations between locke, Augustine and Kant, he shows the assets and relevance, the drawbacks and limits of their different conceptions.

Correspondence: Reason and decision, Francisco Naishtat (University of Buenos Aires)

The finiteness of reason submits human behaviour to the double imperative of choice and of decision. The author shows that ratio is based on a mathematical model and aims at universality of thought, leaving behind it among all the variousnesses of reality the free uncertainty of the mind, mens, whose operations are conditioned by the body. Action thus requires a decision to move forward along and between several paths, without the geometrical clarity of a classical French garden but among the obscure vacillations of lived experience.