Issue n° 37

Opening, Pierre-Henri Tavoillot (Paris IV University)

Moral chronicle : Change life, Jean Géhenno

When he wrote these lines Jean Géhenno was seventy one years of age. This writing involved both the re-living of a life and a reflection on its different stages. The stages went from a carefree childhood in the home of his minder in the country, because his parents were too poor to bring him up, to his arrival in Fougères and his encounter with the harsh reality of working class life. Then came studies and the opening of a new stage, that of the life of a teacher and of political activism. Memory seeks continuities and encounters only fragments, breaks rather than coherent passages. How can one conceive of a life over its whole span? Jean Géhenno suggests the ideas of debts and fate; but how can we draw together all the ‘characters’ that we have been?

Notion : Situation, Marc Weisser (University of Alsace)

The idea of Situation often appears in educational discourse. Accompanied by the most varied adjectives and qualifiers, for example, adidactic situations, learning, problem-situations. Two principal oppositional concepts are to found on the philosophical level. For Marxists, the situation exercises a determining and ultimately, alienating influence. For existentialists, the situation alone is the guarantor of our liberty. Consequently, we interpret pedagogic approaches on the basis of their capacity to lead learners to autonomy, that is to say, to mastery of the Situation that they are living through.

Report: Ages and passages – the stages of life

Presentation, Dominique Ottavi (Caen University)

Stages of life and of education in the work of Auguste Comte, Laurent Clauzade (Caen University)

Comte’s whole philosophy is driven by his political philosophy and this is inseparable from his reflections of education. The question involves how to go beyond the phase of Revolution and for this modern societies first need intellectual reorganisation. The distinction that Comte makes between temporal power and spiritual power attributes this task to the latter. This involves, on the one hand, an early education from birth to 21 years of age that is preparatory to life in society and, on the other hand, it ensures a more normative ‘life long’ function that reminds persons of the principles that underpin social consensus. It is within this framework that the projects of popular and professional education have their place. But this would not be sufficient; if the initial scientific and encyclopaedia-based education is to be capable of leading society to positive knowledge, it is through its moral and religious dimension that Comte’s system can retain the ideal of a universal education open to all humankind.

The notion of growth in the work of Dewey and Rorty, Laurent Dessberg (University of Bourgogne)

The notion of growth has two aspects: quantitative and qualitative. The first suggests growth, increase or physiological change. The second concerns enrichment and personal fulfilment and this is linked to the task of education. The American philosophers John Dewey et Richard Rorty agree in emphasising the necessary indeterminacy of the notion of ‘growth’ in order to leave evolutionary perspectives open. Their points of view diverge, however, when is comes to valorising the period of childhood. One emphasises the creativity and individuality of adolescence, while the other refuses to allow such a distinction. An analysis of the two conceptions of the ‘ages of life allows the author to identify two philosophies of education. Richard Rorty wishes to foreground literary education and the relations between teachers and students. For him the notion of growth finds its real home in the university, whereas John Dewey highlights the importance of a general method applicable in all educational institutions. How accordingly do the two authors help us to appreciate the ideas of maturity and of personal and collective fulfilment? How do they offer an educational alternative and social choice based on their particular epistemological models?

Turbulences about stages of life temporalities, Jean-Pierre Boutinet (Université catholique de l’Ouest)

How do children and adults view the stages of life?, Julie Delalande (Caen University)

The author offers a contribution towards a reflection on the age of childhood by observing the interactions between the other stages of life. The childhood group can understand one another through the shared culture of peers as well as through its difference with other age-groups. With the help of interviews conducted with children of 4-5 and 8-9 years of age and also of questionnaires administered to adolescents of 14-15 years, the anthropologist notes how different groups represent the three groups and the interactions between children, teenagers and adults. By allowing children and adolescents to speak discloses their representation of the stages of life. Childhood is thus illuminated through a comparison with the ages that follow.

Proper care for young children, Éric Plaisance (Paris V University)

Due to the constraints of parental work schedules, the institutional and social opportunities in minding and caring for young children have grown. This has led sociologists to redefine the ‘ages’ of early childhood. These are 0-2, the crèche, 2-3 the kindergarten and from three years, play school. To this must be added home care with a child-minder for wealthier classes. Based on interviews with parents, É. Plaisance shows that those involved put freedom of choice first (even when the choices are rare) and the weight of evidence underlines that the solution arrived at was the best for them and their child. But the responses also show that they try to inform themselves by ways that favour word of mouth and give room for rumour and hearsay. The ‘choice’ of those involved is constrained, but as if to reassure themselves and to show that they are assuming their responsibility, they willingly describe it as ‘free’.

Plus belle la vie; does the television series offer young people and senior citizens an education of the emotions ‘à la française’, Laurence Corroy (Paris III University)

The undoubted success of the television series Plus belle la vie is based on a subtle and balanced mixture of several elements. Its main source of originality is to put together three generations with their interactions, developing especially the collusion between teenagers and grandparents. The series has several selling points: it plays on one of the features of adolescent culture, its thirst for dialogue: explaining, commenting upon and justifying behaviour. It presents daily life with its little problems or its dramas. It is not reluctant to raise personal subjects such as love and sexuality. In this respect it can act as an ‘education of the emotions’. In dealing with larger social issues (racism, unemployment, alcoholism, drugs), it tries not to reinforce stereotypes and it even challenges them in order to suggest a form of dynamic and contradictory morality that continues in the discussion forums.

Studies : Error or the imaginative space of the empowered subject, Sarah Goutagny (Paris VIII University)

The pedagogic conception of error has a certain paradoxical quality. On the one hand, the business of the educator is to correct and to eliminate mistakes but, on the other hand, they have need of errors. It is necessary to make mistakes in order to learn and one part of the teacher’s task is to put learner into situations where they can make mistakes. The educational institution has to select and distinguish those pupils capable of success – at the risk of having a long lasting negative effect those who make mistakes. Moreover, according to the author, the conditions of educational error can be imputed to an epistemological rupture. This is the rupture made between written and oral culture. This makes learners experience a ‘linguistic insecurity’, that marks a source of inequality in learning.

Studies : Modernity, individuality and the crisis in schooling, Marie-Hélène Dubost (Paris VIII University)

The classical humanist conception viewed the person as thinking subject finding in her self-determination the foundation of her freedom and of her responsibility in the world. Contemporary individualism, by privileging the values and features of the private sphere, encloses the person within the limits of her own independence. In a society thus atomised, as has already been condemned by Durkheim, every educational project seems impossible. This project at most promotes peaceful and tolerant co-existence between single individuals, a basic form of socialisation and personal flourishing. For the individualist, education is then broken down in terms of potential and of non stop ‘live long learning’ with civic education aiming to teach knowing how to live rather than providing an apprenticeship to reason.