Issue n° 45

Opening, Alain Vergnioux

Moral chronicle : Scholastic Exercises by Félix Pecaut, Félix Pecaut

Felix Pécaut, collaborator with Ferdinand Buisson, wrote an article for the Dictionary of Pedagogy (1887) devoted to « scholastic exercises ». For Republican reformers, it was a matter of defining a new concept of work demanded of the student, in fact a new conception of pedagogy. Instead of « mechanical » work based on memory, repetition and application, it appealed to « active » involvement of the learner to his « initiative ». It was also necessary to strike a balance between oral and written exercises to ensure that students moved at their own pace and to test what they had learned. These exercises are still said to be « natural », i.e, adapted to the capacity and age of each child, and her or his « degree of culture ». This is also a « spiritual » pedagogy because what is sought in sum is « learning to think » by developing in each person all the perfection of which she or he is capable and by promoting a democratic and humanist culture of the school.

Notion : Screen(s), Christine Seux (Caen University)

The author draws on the Foucauldian concept of device to analyze the different forms and functions of « screens » – film, television, telephone, computer, etc. Their first paradoxes are to allow to be seen and to become invisible, to be static and dynamic, to place at a distance and to take place in private privacy. The screen leads to one forgetting its artificial character and to accept its naturalness, « landscape » format offers a window on the world and normalizes our perceptions. If the movie screen open spaces of the imagination, the television captivates by its immediacy to the real and the screen of video games supports the illusion of virtual activities, thus confirming its hypnotic power. The screen of the computer and its avatars is a gifted ubiquitous universal interface, shaping for the user a feeling of omnipotence when it governs our choice and governs us.

Report: Education in exercice(s)

Presentation, Didier Moreau

Educate or train? Towards a critique of « post-humanism », Didier Moreau (Paris VIII University)

The author explores the narrow boundary, often imperceptible, between education (formation/acquisition) and training, between freedom and subjugation – which is reflected disturbingly in a circus setting. The « exercise » carries the possibility of this « bifurcation » the humanization of man demanding the reduction of his animal self, which further supports the Kantian position. The reference to the Stoics shows instead that the obstacle is not the animal but what separates man from himself, stultitia. Avoiding this requires certain types of exercises on oneself, of care for oneself as P. Hadot and Foucault have shown.. But on the side of training, one finds the Augustinian position based on a nature perceived as flawed. It must recover a kind of self-denial by ascetic self-affirmation of the subject as proposed by Descartes .The author then reflects on the proposal of Ignatius of Loyola situating the exercises in the relation of a master to disciple which aims at access to one’s own interiority; understanding oneself and interpreting oneself through one’s own process of formation. The article concludes with W. Benjamin: if training refers to the domination of machinery on the individual, the exercise incorporates the child into the world through the experience of language and contributes to the formation of the social community and provides freedom to be oneself.

The three sources of philosophical life in John Dewey, Michel Fabre (Nantes University)

How the question of the philosophical life or philosophy as life in John Dewey is the subject of this article at the convergence of three sources: ethical, religious and aesthetic. Ideas of moral development and self-realization, developed first in an idealist and then in a naturalist climate, define a new Bildung as self-education and continued engagement in democratic causes. The secularization of the religious combines with that of the aesthetic to produce an experience of metamorphosis, « fit », which marks the stages of self-improvement. Dewey draws together the legacy of transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau, and through him, the Stoic lesson to propose a re-elaboration in a philosophy of becoming.

Exercises and ethopoetic practices : ethical competence in teacher training, Jean-François Dupeyron (Bordeaux University)

By introducing the concept of « ethical competence » into the aims of teacher training, the Ministry of Education raised a twofold problem. The first is theoretical and it calls into question the relevance of the concept of competence in the field of the secular moral education of students and of professional ethics. But there is a second problem that Jean-François Dupeyron addresses head on: what is the meaning ultimately of this question, and what sense should made make sense of the idea of ethical « knowledge » in training? He examines the issue based on the work of Foucault, Durkheim and Gadamer to show that if it is knowledge of social codes, the issue is still that of their interpretation and the « work on oneself » in and through action that follows, or indeed the question of their application that is a matter of phronēsis rather than technique. Such an orientation invalidates any Kantian position of the subject but the theory of care is not according to the author a satisfactory alternative. There remains the issue disclosed by Michel Foucault’s « autopoietic » but JF Dupeyron also shows that it cannot be accepted without critical caution.

« The referent of expression »: Literature as exercise, Valérie Pérez (La Rochelle University)

When we study a literary text in French class, after determining its educational objectives, are we sure to sending students in the right direction? What are the objectives knowingly pursued by our apprentice readers? Knowing an author because it is part of the cultural heritage of a country is enough. Reading a poet because he uses few words or figures of interesting style is not reading poetry. Many pupils and students conflate literature and general culture. The difficulties students experience in commenting on literary texts come in part from this vision of literature as a mere object of general culture. Hence their inability to appropriate literary texts: they maintain a distance from the texts that prevents them from understanding, and consequently, from commenting on them. The teaching of literature might instead take the form of an activity that would make of the word of the writer a true word, a word that teaches, a word that is transmitted. It is urgent and necessary that pupils and students listen to this word and that they learn to pay attention to it, they learn to pay attention to it in order to make it their own.

Proper use of stays abroad for young people: a tension between knowledge of and knowledge about, Lucette Colin (Paris VIII University)

The author addresses the issue of language stays abroad, especially long stays as in the Voltaire program in the tradition of the  » Grand Tour » that aristocratic youth in Europe undertook in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The results of her investigation are twofold. On the one hand institutions maintain an educational conception of these stays (scholastic framework, evaluation) but on the other hand the motivations and effects on teenagers involved may well be quite different: to escape for a while from the clutches of school and family in a sub-conscious search for adventure and the experience of otherness, of the unknown, self-discovery and personal transformations. The length of the stay is decisive and it allows gradual adaptation as part of detachment, and it makes these trips similar in many respects to archaic rituals of initiation in the transition to adulthood.

Mimesis and cultural learning, Christoph Wulf (Free University of Berlin)

Recent studies in primates have shown that man is by far the most likely to learn by imitation. Aristotle believed that the ability for cultural learning and the pleasure to engage in it there were a peculiarly for human gift. These mimetic skills enable young children to take part in the production and cultural processes of their society. The young child assimilates the material and symbolic production of her or his cultural community, which thus preserved are transmitted to the next generation. To a large extent, cultural learning is mimetic learning, it is essential in many processes of formation and of self-education. It extends to others, to the social community and to cultural benefits and it ensures their freshness. Mimetic learning based on the body and the senses allows learning of images, patterns and practical activity. It occurs in a manner that is largely unconscious, which induces long-lasting effects in all areas of cultural evolution.

Studies : Educate or provide care: a common ethic?, Guillaume Durand

Medical ethics and the ethics of teaching both have to address a fundamental problem: reconciling freedom and constraint. In care, it is often for the good of the patient, such as a schizophrenic for example, to compel hi to undergo treatment. In education, if the ideal for any teacher is that his students would always agree to, and want to learn, the reality of the educational relationship involves a tension between constraint and freedom, between the refusal to work and the desire to learn. It is a matter today in education and care, of establishing an ethic that is a kind of third way between an outdated and illegitimate radical paternalism and moral minimalism that may reduce the relationship between agents to a purely contractual one.

Studies : Aristocratic philosophy and religion of the people, the relationship between the teaching of philosophy and religion in the nineteenth century, Lucie Rey (University of the french Antilles)

How should we understand the ambivalent relationship of philosophy and religion in the writings of Victor Cousin? Indeed, according to the eclectic doctrine of Cousin, religion provides, in the form of a spontaneous feeling, early representation of the true system of reality and thought of which it is the task of the philosophy to produce a totally considered analysis. In this sense, religion is subordinated to philosophy and not the reverse. However, because of controversies that agitated the nineteenth century about the role of religion in education, discourse of various kinds followed in the writings of Cousin with respect to religion. Indeed, if Cousin began by defending the autonomy of teaching in relation to different religions, he nevertheless joins most often in the struggle of Catholics against the educational principles of Republicanism. Some later texts even transform the philosophical discourse into a real moral catechism, subject to the dogmas of the Catholic religion. It is these ambivalences in Cousin’s discourse on the relationship of philosophy and religion that this article seeks to examine.