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Having the courage to measure up for education
conference contributionposted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Scott Webster
In this “age of measurement” it is increasing difficult for educators to educate (Biesta, 2010). The pressures to conform to the demands of bureaucratic authorities generally trump over educators and their aims to educate. One of the factors contributing to this is because as Dewey (1929a, p. 133) has argued, our aims and our desires to educate don’t have deep enough roots. He suggests that educators ought to have “cultivated” and “significant conscious desires” and a disposition to be “courageous” (1929a, p. 134; 1929b, p. 38) in order to attain the independence to ensure that our practices in education are indeed educational. Dewey (1934) called such a disposition a “religious attitude” because it engages with the ultimate concerns that people can aspire towards. In this paper I shall argue that this religious attitude of Dewey’s which can enable our roots to deepen, does not just pertain to our aims of education as an intellectual phenomenon. Rather it can be understood as existential (Webster, 2009) in the sense that aims of education are specific to individuals in situation – not to abstract or universal understandings of education. It shall also be argued that this existential aspect of our being is emotive, and deepening its roots might enable us to become more courageous and thus more able to challenge the barriers inherent in our current ‘age of measurement’ so that education may become more of a reality.