There is no standard definition of empathy, but the concept is assumed to be innately pro-social and teachable regardless of factors such as power dynamics or other manifestations of social injustice within a society. Such assumptions in discursive practices, whether academic, popular, or pedagogical, obscure the emergence of two important questions: What does it mean when we cannot empathize with another? And could it be that we may gain greater insight from the examination of empathy’s limits and failures than the hopes we have for its success? Through an exploration of some of Edith Stein’s and Judith Butler’s work on the subject, I propose that discussions of empathy, particularly in education, must be grounded in social context. Once this is done, assumptions about empathy must be continually troubled if one is to have a cogent conversation—whether as a philosopher, social theorist, educator, or policy maker—about what empathy is (or is not) and what it does (or does not) make possible.
In this paper, I propose that the indexical sign can be used to derive a model for active (touching-and-feeling) learning. The implicit processes involved in the subtle reading of indices contain explanatory possibilities for understanding how students adapt to novelty in the learning process. Besides looking at how indexicality functions in human ontogeny and cognition, I will also examine the human capacity for modeling our world through aggregations of systems of representations (Sebeok, 1994). Modeling systems (with their implicit recognition that the human is a semiotic animal) help us to conceptualize how novelty is assimilated in the learning process. I posit that how we come to terms with new experiences (and new stimuli generally) is of an indexical nature. I am specifically referring to the site where "the new" comes from the outside (like a rain cloud signaling the coming storm) and acts upon us. We can recognize the rain cloud as an experiential pattern (as a semiotic entity) or not; the rain is still going to bear down on us regardless of the success of our interpretations. This existential realness of indexical signs is precisely their power to function as a pedagogical tool, to help us assimilate and accommodate to novel stimulus. The concept of modeling helps us conceptualize the process in which the new stimulus is absorbed and integrated into our cultural/semiotic systems. In short, this paper aims to explore what I call the indexical rub of learning; that initial friction or resistance felt when meeting a new experience. My hope is that this exploration can aid in the cultivation of a mindset in teachers, students and researchers that does not fear this resistance, but can use it to propel positive absorption (in the Deweyian sense) and engaged learning.
This article puts forward moral-philosophical arguments for re-building and re-thinking secondary-level (high-school equivalent) English studies around creative writing practices. I take it that when educators and policy makers talk about such entities as the "well-rounded learner," what we have, or should have, in mind is moral agents whose capacities for moral dialogue, judgement, and discourse are increased as a result of their formal educational experiences. In its current form, secondary English is built mainly, though not exclusively, around reading assessment; around, that is, demonstration of students' "comprehension" of texts. There is little or no sense that the tradition and practice of literary criticism upon which this type of assessment is based is a writerly tradition. By making writing practices central to what it is to do English in the secondary classroom, I argue that we stand a better chance at helping students develop their capacities for self-expression, for articulating their developing webs of belief and for scrutinizing those webs of belief. I thus wish to think about English and Creative Writing Studies in light of Cavell’s moral perfectionism, and to conceive of it as an arts-practical subject and a mode by which one might, in Baldacchino’s sense, undergo a process of "unlearning." My arguments are tailored to the English educational context.
In this paper, I explore the possibility of social justice education as pedagogy of attention rather than simply pedagogy of intention. Drawing on Gert Biesta’s (2010) concept of “strong” education, I begin by explaining how the language of intention in social justice education relies on a discourse in which “in-puts” will result in specific and immediate “out-puts.” In this sense, social justice education can proceed too quickly to action-oriented imperatives. Following this, I take up Jan Masschelein’s (2010) notion of poor pedagogy: pedagogy that requires nothing more than paying attention to argue that creating a space in which the only goal is to pay attention offers the potential of producing a shift in how social justice education proceeds. Pedagogy of attention subverts the primacy of pedagogy of intention by making an important contribution to social justice education, presenting the world in a way that is not contained by the frames (limitations) of what students are told exists, allowing for the possibility of transformation.
Special Invited Symposium: Safe Space in the University
Recent student demands within the academy for "safe space" have aroused concern about the constraints they might impose on free speech and academic freedom. There are as many kinds of safety as there are threats to the things that human beings might care about. That is why we need to be very clear about the specific threats of which the intended beneficiaries of safe space are supposed to be relieved. Much of the controversy can be dissolved by distinguishing between "dignity safety," to which everyone has a right, and "intellectual safety" of a kind that is repugnant to the education worth having. Psychological literature on stereotype threat and the interventions that alleviate its adverse effects shed light on how students’ equal dignity can be made safe in institutions without compromising liberty. But "intellectual safety" in education can only be conferred at the cost of indulging close-mindedness and allied vices. Tension between securing dignity safety and creating a fittingly unsafe intellectual environment can be eased when teaching and institutional ethos promote the virtue of civility. Race is used throughout the article as the example of a social category that can spur legitimate demands for "dignity safe space."
In this paper, we explore Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon and consider its possible contribution to understanding more fully the impact of current assessment protocols and practices within higher education. More pointedly, we ask the following question: Are the plethora of assessment practices within higher education actually designed to improve student academic experience, or are they instead mechanisms of surveillance intended to control, dominate and invoke paranoia among university workers? In response to this question, we argue that the prevailing preoccupation with assessment in U.S. universities is motivated less by a genuine desire to enhance the actual academic experience of students than it is to offer hegemonic interests a psychological instrument of control to eliminate potential dissent over neo-liberal and managerial class imposed policies. To illustrate our central claim, we first review some general details of Bentham’s panopticon. Secondly, we briefly discuss Foucault’s analysis of the panopticon and consider his accompanying postulate on the tendency of individuals to self-regulate their behavior according to externally imposed and monitored expectations. We also examine in greater depth the relationship between the panopticon and the Lacanian gaze, with a focus on considering the latter’s psychological impact. Finally, we contend that the prevailing obsession with assessment in universities is a mechanism of institutional control that hinders rather than enhances the academic quality of contemporary higher education by limiting the scope of academic dialogue, social imagination and democratic structural critique.