Book Reviews

Scripting Feminist Ethics in Teacher Education by Michelle Forrest and Linda Wheeldon, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2019[Record]

  • Lana Parker

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  • Lana Parker
    University of Windsor

In Scripting Feminist Ethics in Teacher Education, Michelle Forrest and Linda Wheeldon offer a rendering of feminist ethics for teacher education that grapples with how to do “good” in a material-realist world focussed on doing “right.” The writers make a case for and employ irony and narrative as methodological tools for radical feminist consciousness raising. They seek to cultivate paradox as a framework for drawing apart the tensions created by the varied perspectives and singularities in any dynamic, difficult teaching scenario. In this project, Forrest and Wheeldon contribute to postmodern explorations of feminism as well as push back against the pressures to conform to the given ethos of logic and positivism as the governing tools for pursuing moral philosophy. The text is enriched with dramatized case studies in the form of “scripts,” personal stories, and an easy-to-navigate structure from chapter to chapter. Forrest and Wheeldon take up the mantra that the “personal is political” as a means of locating their thesis: that radical feminist consciousness raising is an ethical responsibility that must recognize contingency and singularity, rather than aiming for recognition and identity coherence. They make their case by describing feminist consciousness raising in tension with the conventional teaching of professional ethics for educators, which, they aver, often leads to “closed- or empty-mindedness” (Forrest & Wheeldon, 2019, p. 31). They concur with Van den Hoven and Kole’s (2015) critique that John Rawls’ reflective equilibrium lacks the interpersonal dimension that is needed for teaching professional ethics; they use this analysis of reflective equilibrium as a point of departure to further delineate feminist consciousness raising throughout the text. The authors advise that reflexivity is not enough, and that the contemplation and enaction of teaching through a feminist ethics must be enriched by vulnerability and witnessing. As a result, the feminist ethics they delineate are inhabited with a restless spirit. Forrest and Wheeldon develop an approach to scripting feminist ethics which recognizes that although radical feminist consciousness raising may well be the ethos of the approach to teaching ethically, there are no normative recommendations for practice. Rather, through a series of engagements with a feminist philosopher who employs irony as a method, Adriana Cavarero, the authors add layers of nuance and complexity to both their rendering of feminism and their consideration of its usefulness as a frame for teacher professional ethics. Their key discussions of Cavarero’s writings (2005, 2007, 2008) include the concept of beginning the work of feminism by starting from where one is, or “partire da sé,” in chapter 2; the distinctions between singularity and identity and their implications for vulnerability, in chapter 3; and the desirability of paradox, irony, and teaching with “bad intentions,” in chapters 2 and 5. The book contains a prologue, an introduction, five chapters, a conclusion, and an epilogue. The five chapters are structured in the same way. Each begins with a philosophical discussion and contains a dramatized case study script that is then analysed according to the philosophical argument. The chapters conclude with two stand-alone sections, “A Teacher Prepares” and “Teaching Notes.” The former extends the background information and concepts from the chapter, while the latter permits the authors to tell a personal story of radical feminist consciousness raising in conversation with the chapter’s themes. Each section of the text concludes with its own list of references. The outcome of their analysis is satisfying, if challenging. Their scripting of feminist ethics is not a pre-script-ion in the conventional sense, as it offers no solutions to the complex problems of relationality in teaching. Rather, with irony, the authors create dramatized …