Issue n° 27

Opening, Alain Badiou

Notion : The rough outline, Alain Vergnioux (University of Caen)

The rough outline of a work or of a task sanctions its lack of completeness but also seems to underline its vanity. Taking examples from literature and the arts, the author suggests that in the rough outline the essential features have already been ‘told’ and that any further development, far from being conducive to completion or perfection, would obscure the aptness of first intuitions. The same is true of theoretical systems whose fruitfulness would be greater the more their basic principles were incapable of further development.

Report: The ignorant master

Presentation, Alain Vergnioux (University of Caen)

Conversation with Jacques Rancière

The discussion revolves around the main theses of ‘progressive’ education today and as it was at the time of Jacotot: equality of access to knowledge; Socratic questioning; Cartesian good sense, the issue of transmission versus transfer, the role of motivation, the presence or absence of hierarchy among cultures and the universality of thought. The essay contains a critique of Jacotot’s philosophy, with respect to which Jacques Ranciere both provides a commentary and reveals its radical message for our times.

Calypso was inconsolable after Ulysses’s departure: the island of equality, Stéphane Douailler (University Paris VIII)

When Jacques Ranciere published Le maître ignorant in 1987, Joseph Jacotot, his universal method of intellectual emancipation and his advocacy of learning to read without a teacher’s constant guidance had found a place in the pantheon of pioneers of schooling and pedagogy. Stéphane Douailler reconsiders the status accorded to him since 1911 by Ferdinand Buisson’s Dictionary of Pedagogy. In this short article she traces some of the ways in which Jacques Ranciere’s book succeeded in presenting Jacotot’s work as a paradigm defence of issues to do with equality in intelligence and with a wholesale liberation from the taken-for-granted beliefs on which schools have historically been founded.

A question for Jacques Rancière, Mauricio Langon C. (University of Montevideo)

To be a liberator, the teacher must be rid of the illusion that he is leading the pupil towards autonomy by equipping him with what he needs for this. When Prospero gave Caliban language and civilised values, the latter was enslaved by those very means. Caliban can only express his freedom by talking ‘badly’ or by using his teacher’s words in order to curse him. On the basis of this paradigm, Mauricio Langon analyses the complex dialectic which links the cultures of coloniser and colonised, acculturation and alienation, and explores the contradictions embedded in the notion of universal culture.

On « Le maître ignorant » and its lessons for us. A transferential relationship, Graciela Frigerio (Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios, Buenos Aires)

Given that the Jacotot/Ranciere proJect is to raise the possibility of a non-explanatory pedagogy, the latter must be seen as a pedagogy of transfer, which has the following implications: the possibility of liberation without recourse to any curriculum designed with this aim in view; and the possibility of teaching democracy even if it is outside one’s experience – on the basis of a love of it, no doubt, and one which is hard to share.

Pedagogy and pharasaism. On fostering and humiliating in Gombrowicz, Jorge Larossa (University of Barcelona)

According to Jacotot and Rancière, pedagogy is dehumanising. J.Larrosa builds on this claim, showing first, that the teacher, like the Pharisee, needs children to fall short so as to present himself as lacking imperfections; and secondly, that education reproduces and gives further rein to the social practice of lying and being hypocritical. Education can thus be characterised as a con trick, which one can only avoid by ‘eccentricity’, as found in Jacotot and Gombrowicz.

A stumbling block: equality as starting point, Lilian do Valle (University of Rio de Janeiro)

Analysing the act of teaching quickly brings its paradoxes and dissonances to light and destroys a number of illusions. The first of these is the egalitarian illusion – that education can lead to political equality and emancipation. This is followed by the illusion of equality between cultures and, correlatively, the illusion of autonomy, the illusion of non-hierarchical relationships among pupils.

The politics of  » Le maître ignorant »: Ranciere’s lesson for us, Alejandro Cerletti (National University of General Sacramiento, PCIA de Buenos-Aires)

The author discusses the common sense idea that the ‘naturalness’ of explanation as the basic element of pedagogy involves an asymmetry in power relations which is insurmountable: the initial inequalities can never be lessened. So we must follow Jacotot and change perspective in a radical way. The teacher must be ignorant so that the pupil himself is the one who does the explaining and, contrary to all empirical evidence, equality in intelligence must be taken as the starting point for education (and for the social order).

Pupils and childhood: about pedagogics, Jan Masschelein (University of Leuven)

The author suggests distinguishing ‘pedagogics’, ie knowledge and techniques about pupils as such, from ‘pedagogy’, which is about children. Childhood is a void which disconnects the child from himself or herself. This distinction is then discussed via an analysis of a film of Rossellini’s, Europa 51, and via J. Ranciere’s commentary on it. Knowledge does not come about by explanation, but by getting closer and closer to the truth – by moving beyond oneself , ie., in the domain of pedagogy, by attentive questioning of the other.

Study : Jean-Paul, reader of Jean-Jacques: the hermenutic approach to education, Didier Moreau (IUFM des Pays de Loire)

Jean-Paul Richter’s pedagogy deserves reconsideration in the light of recent work on the origins and development of hermeneutic thinking. Didier Moreau shows that this pedagogy belongs to a universal type of hermeneutics which transcends the basic framework of German romanticism, because it looks for help in overcoming its problems from Rousseau’s ‘pedagogical revolution’. In an original way Jean-Paul considers relationships among individuality, the community and universal values in education, laying the foundation for a theory of learning and of the development of interpretative abilities. He is led to redefine the ethical aims of education, and relevantly to reformulate pedagogical principles to do with the construction of the ethical subject. His discussion of Emile helps to delimit the domain of the hermeneutical approach to education.

Correspondence : Identity and history: a philosophical perspective, Zouaoui Beghoura (University of Constantine)

This essay approaches the issue of violence in Algeria via the problem of identity. In what respects and by what means are national identity and violence connected? It is not enough to see the problems of Algerian identity in terms of belonging and otherness, since the historical story is complex, stretching from Roman and Turkish occupation to French colonialism and the different political movements during and after the war of independence, which had to do with land, language and religion. Violence also takes many forms, and these do not all have the same origin or significance. The author suggests in his conclusion that violence feeds on the weakness of the judicial system and of state legitimacy.