Schooling, Community of Philosophical Inquiry and a New Sensibility

Childhood and Philosophy 19:01-21 (2023)
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Abstract

This paper seeks to reconstruct the role of schooling in a moment of accelerated social, political, economic, geo-political, climatic, indeed planetary crisis. It identifies the school as a potentially prefigurative institution, an evolutionary social frontier, capable of nurturing the democratic social character, a form of sensibility apart from which authentic political democracy is not possible. As theorized by Herbert Marcuse and Richard Hart and Antonio Negri, the “new sensibility” or “multitude” is characterized by greater psychological freedom, individuality, social creativity and self-rule, comprising a “whole of singularities” that “acts in common”. It suggests a human subject with a vital, biological drive for liberation, with a consciousness capable of breaking through the material as well as ideological veil of a society based on hierarchy and domination, and is associated politically with democracy and social-anarchism, or what Murray Bookchin called “communalism”. This paper identifies three main characteristics of an institution informed by this form of modal subjectivity, all of them based on student-teacher dialogue: an emergent, project-based curriculum, whole-school direct democratic governance on all levels of the community, and the regular practice of communal philosophical inquiry, through which we problematize the concepts we live by, in the interest of their ongoing reconstruction.

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