Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Teaching Nothing, Very Well

Another kind of mastery, disavowed in this case and all the more pernicious for it – I know enough to tell you that you do not need to know. It is the supercilious attitude of the newspaper columnist who chucks in references to Marx, postmodernism, etc. before airily informing the less-informed reader that he or she doesn't need to bother finding out anything about them for themselves. Equality of intelligence is here smothered by the laziness, not of the students, but of the teacher. The fear masked here, both by assuming student apathy and by preserving the knowledge you yourself possess, is the idea that actually there is nothing 'special' about your capacity to learn.

IT, excellent on education, class and confidence, and offering no easy answers to a particularly grim conjuncture. I admit to being extremely suspicious of Ranciere's attempt to do away with 'mastery' here, but haven't read The Ignorant Schoolmaster so I'll shut up on that subject... but reading his The Politics of Aesthetics recently, I realised that in my 'work' I do practically everything he warns against. And being immersed in the Arcades for the last couple of months really brings home by negative comparison the sheer poverty of reference, historical detail, political rigour and general aesthetic conservatism of post-Althusserian French intellectuals (Mallarme, check; Antigone, check; Holderlin, check)...


Blogger Dominic said...

haven't read The Ignorant Schoolmaster

I've got a copy you can borrow...

Ranciere's argument about equality is pretty strange really; it never quite gets as far as actually positing a real intelligence that everybody actually has in equal measure. His debunking of inegalitarian theories of intelligence is quite fun, but not argument-endingly cogent. You end up with a notion of equal intelligence that just sort of has to be taken on faith, which might indeed be the right thing to do (since you never can tell what people might be capable of), but does seem to require quite a bit of disbelieving the evidence of one's own eyes. And I'm not convinced that the whole issue isn't ultimately besides the point - surely people are to be equally valued even if we're not all whizzes at calculus?

11:27 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Quite...although I do adhere to the 19th c utopian socialist view that essentially everyone has some sort of latent-or-not-latent brilliance, but the idea that this doesn't frequently require (or need to be sparked off by) outside help, nurturing, hell, maybe a bit of collective action, seems unduly perverse.

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