Post-Pedagogy as Performing Empathy

Week two of trying to post something every day. I spent this morning working on an article responding to Martha Nussbaum's Not For Profit. Here's a snippet dealing with post-pedagogy.

In place of pedagogies of control insisting upon the traditional forms of cultural/Socratic critique, Rickert advocates a pedagogy of surprise in which

[...] we might advocate our own particular pedagogies with insight into education's general culpability [its will to control and ironic performance of compulsory liberation] to the extent that we grant students possibilities for a writing that would be their own Act. This asks us to acknowledge that we do not always know best how to rectify social problems for them, and this further necessitates a partial relinquishing of control and learning from students. (Acts of Enjoyment 165)

Rickert's qualifying hedge is important here, since he makes it clear that he is not merely echoing calls for a decentered classroom in which students and teachers share power (or where power relations are dissipated, etc). Rather, he calls for what he terms a remodification of power relations, such that teachers reflexively inhabit their authority and explicitly discuss that inhabiting with students. The egalitarian classroom is an ideal made impossible by the institutional demands placed upon us. Unless one is willing to give up grading (or convert all courses to pass/fail), then the teacher will always occupy a hierarchical position of authority--and virtually any attempt to subvert that power, no matter how noble the intention, is more likely to amplify the cynicism pervading 21st century life. Of course, the remodification for which Rickert calls requires an appreciation for risk that runs counter to the economic model of contemporary education--one that increasingly turns to standardization as a form of investment insurance. But this is the battleground for post-pedagogic education: a realization that empathic training concerns both what and more importantly how we teach; our institutional and disciplinary systems have to be comfortable with the surprising possibility of alterity if we hope to foster a citizenry appreciative of difference.

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