Issue n° 15

Opening, Daniel Parrochia

Lexical rudiments, Daniel Hameline (University of Geneva)

In this third part of his lexical guide Daniel Hameline introduces us to subtle and necessary distinctions between ‘process’, ‘procedure’ and ‘proceeding’. Let’s make no mistake. Behind the ‘play’ of words, linguistic usage in this area touches on matters of wider significance, which have to do with the reduction of persons to fonctions and of educational practice to technical mastery.

Notion: Games, Dominique Ottavi (IUFM of Versailles)

The gradual disappearance of traditional games – constrained by rules but leaving room for improvisation – created a new opportunity from the nineteenth century onwards for pedagogical initiatives and the invention of educational games. This development took many forms. Pestalozzi saw in games a privileged site for the exploration of the world. Froebel recognised in them an educational content suitable for developing children’s capacities. Taking a Darwinian point of view, Groos suggested a biological classification of games. Developments are still continuing. In what way can games still be of educational value today ? Perhaps by providing an attractive solution to the Freudian antinomy which contraste subjugation to rules with the pleasure principle.

Report: Teaching sciences

Introduction, Alain Vergnioux (University of Caen)

‘Everything is already prepared’ (round table), Pierre-Damien Huyghe, Brigitte Frelat-Kahn, Alain Vergnioux and Hubert Vincent

The ambiguous relationships, both epistemological and pedagogical, between mathematics and exp?rimental science ; the place of the sciences in the selection of ?lites and in promoting social utility ; the relationship of science to technology : these are some of the questions raised by this Round Table. But it also discusses the connexions between thought, truth and the world ; the relative places of science and art in the culture ; rationality and order ; the role of irritation. These are all considerations bearing closely on the teaching of science, its content, aims and methods.

What education for what society ? Twenty years on, André Giordan (University of Geneva)

The teaching of sciences is dogmatic, inept, practically ineffective, epistemologically erroneous: the 1978 report on the topic was highly critical. A number of ideas which were innovative at the time are now commonplace ; methodological advances, an emphasis on process, student participation. A. Giordan revisits these developments of the last two decades, showing the limitations of this pedagogical « revolution » and pointing out the new problems that scientific progress now poses for society and for education policy.

The role of technological education, Jean-Louis Martinand (ENS of Cachan)

Should the teaching of science be concerned with its practical applications ? Over the last twenty years a new discipline has been included in college curricula : technology. J-L Martinand argues that it should have four different aims : to act as a tangible support in the orientation process ; to provide the necessary knowledge for understanding technology as a basic component of modern society, to guarantee mastery of computing, and to develop a pedagogy to support these developments.

A sociology of mathematics teaching, Patrick Trabal (University of Paris X)

The teaching of mathematics provokes contradictory reactions. Mathematics is a « nightmare » for students who otherwise take on board its educational importance and role in selection. The author demonstrates that mathematics can be seen from two points of view, that of pure rationality and that of formal structure. Charged with cultural arbitrariness, symbolic violence and being an instrument of selection, mathematics does not escape sociological critique. The justification for teaching it rests nevertheless on the institutional authority of the discipline as well as its epistemological credentials. Is it possible to carry on teaching maths ? If so, given what conditions ? P.Trabal distinguishes three possible positions a teacher might adopt and suggests that the issue is not only about pedagogy but also about the status and social function of science.

Why carry on doing maths at school ?, Gérard Sensevy (IUFM of Bretagne) and Alain Mercier (IUFM of Aix-Marseille)

Curriculum subjects often become ‘out-of-date’ and programmes are abandoned along with programmes in neighbouring disciplines so as to leave room for new types of content. The result is that the overall coherence of the curriculum becomes jeopardised. Mathematics has not escaped this process and the rationale for teaching it has suffered. How can it retain its coherence ? By a public redefinition of its aims. G. Sensevy picks out four types of justification, to do with : its modelling fonctions, its role in understanding the world and in critical discussion of proofs, and its contribution to education for democracy.

‘An early twentieth century naturalist’s reflections on science teaching’ by Charles Flahault, Anne-Marie Drouin-Hans (University of Bourgogne) and Jean-Marc Drouin (Center Koyré, MNHN)

Science analyses phenomena in their smallest detail, categorising and classifying them, but as this abstract conceptualisation proceeds ‘real’ knowledge disappears. « The young people who come to us have learnt everything but know nothing », C. Flahault wrote in 1901, adding that one of his brilliant botany students had admitted not being able to tell one tree from another ! Pedagogy should take a different course. It should be based on concrete observations of the most simple phenomena and on the questions that these raise, leading both to laboratory work and to field trips.

Studies : Education and modernity in Bachelard : between joy in learning and happiness in living, Michel Fabre (University of Nantes)

Bachelard’s philosophy is structured along two axes : epistemological and poetic. Are they opposed to each other ? On the contrary, if we look at education, we see there their dialectical coherence. The thinker’s cogito operates in three dimensions : husserlian phenomenology descended from Descartes ; freudian psychoanalysis ; and Cavailles’s philosophy of concepts. The cogito of the dreamer is found in the space between psychoanalysis, the phenomenological development of images, biography and cosmology. Michel Fabre’s subtle analysis throws light on the complex interconnexions between the two main themes and leads to a modernist critique of modernity.

Practices : ‘Enjoying science’ by La Chalotais, Alain Vergnioux (University of Caen)

Wonder and admiration at the natural world harnessed to the study of science : that is the nub of La Chalotais’s thesis in his 1763 Essay on National Education. Children are equipped not only with eyes, memory and curiosity, but also with great powers of understanding : wonder and enjoyment should go along with reason’s insistence on precision.

Correspondence : Philosophy of education in Great Britain : political dimensions, John White (London University)

The recent history of philosophy of education in Great Britain can be divided into three periods. In the 1960s it was seen as a branch of general philosophy with its own special range of concepts. In the second phase, it shifted more towards practical issues and especially, within the political area, towards examining the aims and underlying values of a liberal and democratic education faced with problems thrown up by multiculturalism and communitarianism. The third period added to these previous concerns an interest in international dimensions and exchanges of ideas. These developments, which are still continuing, began in the late 1980s and have involved philosophers of education increasingly in the world of educational policy-making.