It has actually been more than a year since I joined this reading network, so it’s maybe time to take stock and reflect on my experience. Here is a list of the books and authors that the group has read. Most (but not all) the links are to my blog posts about my reading. Further details can also be found on the Philosophy of Education Reading Network website.
|August 2020||Iris Murdoch||The Sovereignty of Good||I found out about the group just before their first meeting, so didn’t have time to read the book, although I did find information about the work online.|
|September 2020||Gert Biesta||The Beautiful Risk of Education||This book was already on my bookshelf|
|October 2020||Mary Midgley||What is Philosophy For?||I knew of Mary Midgley as she wrote a review of Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Master and His Emissary. I have been thinking about McGilchrist’s work for more than 10 years, but his books are too long to recommend to this group!|
|November 2020||Paulo Freire||Pedagogy of Hope. Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed|
See also Paulo Freire’s questions for educators
|This book was already on my bookshelf, as it surely is on many educators’ shelves.|
|December 2020||Richard Rorty||Philosophy and Social Hope||I knew of Richard Rorty as a friend gave me his book ‘Philosophy as Poetry’|
|January 2021||Hannah Arendt||The Gap Between Past and Future|
Chapter 1. Tradition and the Modern Age
Chapter 2. The Concept of History. Ancient and Modern
Chapter 3. What is Authority?
Chapter 4. What is Freedom?
Chapter 5. The Crisis in Education
Chapter 6. The Crisis in Culture
Chapter 7. Truth and Politics
Chapter 8. The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man
|I knew of Hannah Arendt, but had never read her work before. This book was a real eye-opener. It really captured my interest.|
|February 2021||Amélie Rorty||Philosophers on Education (Chapters 1-4 and 26-27)||The Reading Network helped me access this very big and expensive book. Thank you.|
|March 2021||bell hooks||Teaching to Transgress||This book was already on my bookshelf. bell hooks was a legend in education.|
|April 2021||Decolonising Education.|
In April the theme of the Reading Network was Decolonising Education, with a particular focus on Higher Education. The group read a selection of papers from a special edition of Cultural Studies journal (2007 – Vol 21, Issue 2-3)
|I did not read these papers and took a break in April.|
|May 2021||Nel Noddings||A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education|
See also. Nel Noddings. A Feminine Approach to Moral Education
|This book was already on my bookshelf. It was required reading for a Masters module in 1994/5. I enjoyed it and could relate to it more this second time of reading. Age does have some advantages!|
|June 2021||Simone Weil||An Anthology complied by Siân Miles||I didn’t have time to read this book properly but I enjoyed looking into Simone Weil’s background. Quite a tour de force!|
|July 2021||Maxine Greene||Releasing the Imagination||This book had been on my radar for years and I finally read it. An important text for educators.|
|August 2021||Martin Buber||I and Thou||This book had a profound effect on me. The best book of the year for me, together with Hannah Arendt’s book.|
|September 2021||John Dewey||Experience and Education|
See also. John Dewey. Traditional and Progressive Education
|Many teachers will be familiar with John Dewey’s work, but it was good be reminded of it|
|October 2021||Paula Allman||Revolutionary Social Transformation. Democratic Hopes, Political Possibilities and Critical Education||I took a break this month and did not read this book|
|November 2021||Josef Pieper||Leisure the Basis of Culture||This book and author were completely new to me|
|December 2021||John Hattie and Steen Larsen||The Purposes of Education||This is the only book in the list that has irritated me 🙂|
The Philosophy of Education Reading Network meets once a month, on the third Tuesday of the month on Zoom. Details of the zoom call are posted on their website and also on Twitter @PhilofEd. It was set up by two philosophy PhD candidates, Elizabeth O’Brien and Victoria Jamieson. How they have time to organise this and do their PhDs and their jobs, and live their lives, I really don’t know. I couldn’t even have contemplated taking this on, on top of everything else, but as one of the group members (Winnie O’Connell-Wong) has said, engagement with this group means that you end up reading books you would never have come across or got round to reading otherwise.
Every book that I have read so far because of @PhilofEd is not what I would have chosen to read myself, but I have been repeatedly surprised by how good the selection has been so far.
I really appreciate the democratic approach to the organisation of the group. The group is open to anyone who wants to join. If you do join you are not required to be on video or to speak. There is no hierarchy of group members. Each month a speaker is invited (either a group member or someone with expertise related to the text) to introduce the book and raise questions for the group to consider. If you go to the PhilofEd website and click on the images of books read, most of the time this will bring up the list of questions raised for the book. The introduction to the book on Zoom usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The group can then discuss those questions or discuss anything else that is of interest. If you want to speak you simply unmute yourself and start to speak when there is a pause. The meeting lasts an hour and rarely runs over, and even then only runs over for administrative purposes. I like this tight time-keeping.
The selection of books to be read is also a very democratic process. Members of the group can suggest texts that they would like to read and discuss. These are then posted on the PhilofEd website. Every three months texts are randomly selected from members’ suggestions, which are numbered. A random number generator software is used to pick 4 trios of books. A poll is then set up on Twitter and members vote for which trio of books they would like to read over the coming three months.
It took me about 10 months to find my voice in this group. I have no background in philosophy, although since I retired I have attended a number of different adult education philosophy courses, but they have been taught courses, led by a tutor, who invites you to speak. Currently I am attending a face-to-face course on Fantastic Female Philosophers, which is being run over a number of months. The Philosophy of Education group is a reading network not a course.
I am also a member of my local U3A (University of the Third Age) philosophy group which meets monthly in Kendal to discuss a wide variety of topics dependent on members’ interests and who is willing to lead a session. The last one I went to in November was on the question ‘What can Covid teach us about Climate Change?’ with reference to the Stoics. Again, these are structured sessions.
The PhilofEd reading network sessions are only very loosely structured. There are some introductory questions, but I am always amazed that often few of them are addressed, if at all. The discussion goes in any direction that members want to take it. This lack of structure can be unnerving, particularly for newcomers who have to take the initiative and grasp the bull by the horns to speak.
Also unnerving can be the silences. Sometimes there are long pauses when no-one speaks. I was very amused in one meeting which was introduced by a Professor of Philosophy, who could not cope with the silence that followed the questions he raised, so he answered all the questions himself. This went down very well with the group because he was very knowledgeable and informative and as we know it is easier to sit back and be told than to have to think for yourself.
I definitely had to take the bull by the horns to speak the first time (and even to put my video on initially). I find it easier if I have seen the questions to be discussed before the meeting so that I have time to think about them. I have never been good at thinking on my feet. Ultimately I realised that particularly in the cases where I had done a very thorough reading of the book, then I could be confident that I might have something of value to contribute.
So gradually I have overcome the feeling of being a fish out of water and have found the group meetings more enjoyable. The group itself is not at all threatening. Everyone is very welcoming and over time faces and individual modes of expression become familiar. The books that have had the biggest impact on me this past year have been Hannah Arendt’s The Gap Between Past and Future, Nel Noddings’ A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education, and Martin Buber’s I and Thou. And I have also noted, that on the whole, I find the female authors’ works resonated with me more. I think that is probably a discussion for another time.
January 2022 will start with an intriguing book which I have started to read – Lines by Tim Ingold. Sometimes it takes me a while to see the relevance of some of these texts for education and so far Tim Ingold’s book falls into that category, but I have only just started it, and maybe by the end it will have become clear.
I was asked today how long I have been participating in the Philosophy of Education Reading Network and when I said more than a year, I was then asked how long I was going to continue. It was these questions that prompted this post. I will continue to read the texts selected by the network for as long as I find them stimulating and thought-provoking, and for as long as my ageing brain can cope with them 🙂