Fn 1: Acknowledgements
I wish to thank:
As human beings, when do we find ourselves working at educating ourselves and each other? As researchers, under what conditions can we say that we are observing human beings educating themselves and each other?
The first question is a philosophical one. The second question is a methodological one. They are also the same question since researchers cannot place themselves outside humanity. Answering one is also answering the other–though, to anticipate the argument I am making here, the issue is not quite one of “answering” (and settling) but one of moving the debate about humanity further. It is a matter of shifting the domains of our ignorance, of discovering what we do not already know (at least discursively), and of proposing how to proceed further.
The questions, as stated, proceed with a play on possibilities opened by the English pronominal system. I start (and end) with “when?” which I develop into “under what conditions”–eschewing other possibilities, like “why,” “how,” “where” and their many variations and expansions. “When” anchors this discussion in a temporal metaphor that is worth exploring much more systematically, particularly if, as I am arguing along with many others, education is about transformation in the life time of a person and the history of a polity.
In these pages, I address the question as a researcher pushing earlier work (Varenne 2007; Gordon and Varenne in process) given a set of questions that many have asked me. Quite rightly, colleagues and students have wonder whether I have been suggesting that everything, all the time, can be "education," thereby gutting the concern that has driven a very long conversation about the particular processes through which human beings find out about the world, and then tell each other about it--in simple word that I will not use, the processes through which people "learn" and "teach." There is something special here that cannot be collapsed into the study of how we produce our material well-being and distribute what we make ("economics"), or the study of how we deliberately organize each other, distribute authority and control power ("politics"), or the study of how we face the very ground of our existence ("metaphysics," "ethics," "religion"). I am tempted to dismiss the question because, at any particular time, when we are faced with deciding wheter it is a good (ethical, religious) thing to buy (economics) something someone has told us is good for us (thereby exercizing political control over us), then, of course, we must bring out what we may already know about the good, the expensive, and the authoritative, and then wonder whether to proceed or not, to convince others that we (they) are right (or wrong), and possibly decide what to preserve ("learn") of the experience. Then, of course, is education.
But all this must be explicated further, including the peculiar insistence on temporality that is indexed by the pronoun "when" in the title. Emphasizing the "when-ness" of social phenomena has been the hallmark of many who have built on the insights of ethnomethodologists and conversational analysts: human practice necessarily unfolds in time as well as in space and there is much to be gained by shifting the metaphors that guide us from the spatial/organizational to the temporal/evolutionary. A local assembly of people ("community") occupies a geographical location, but this occupation requires continuing work in time, "day in and day out," "rain or shine," "in sickness and in health." This is less than a call to focus on the (past) "history" of people than a call to focus on the (present) unfolding of whatever collective task they must now perform, and also a call to focus on the (future) consequences of whatever may end up being accomplished.
This presentation proceeds in steps–at least for those who will read it linearily: