Beyond Learning Democratic Education for a Human Future
Many educational practices are based upon ideas about what it means to be human. Thus education is conceived as the production of particular subjectivities and identities such as the rational person, the autonomous individual, or the democratic citizen. Beyond Learning asks what might happen to the ways in which we educate if we treat the question as to what it means to be human as a radically open question; a question that can only be answered by engaging in education rather than as a question that needs to be answered before we can educate. The book provides a different way to understand and approach education, one that focuses on the ways in which human beings come into the world as unique individuals through responsible responses to what and who is other and different. Beyond Learning raises important questions about pedagogy, community and educational responsibility, and helps educators of children and adults alike to understand what a commitment to a truly democratic education entails.
“In this remarkable little book, Gert Biesta leads the reader gently from the query, ‘What does it mean to be human?’ through a series of graceful arguments ending with an answer to his principal question, ‘What does it mean to have educational responsibility?’ Biesta’s is an unwaveringly political and ethical position, and he formulates here a radical strategy for understanding and evoking democracy in education. Overall the book is provocative and inspiring. It offers a nuanced guide for thoughtful educators seeking ways to approach human difference that avoid impasses between moralistic critical pedagogy and universalising market liberalism without languishing in ambivalence. It also provides an excellent introduction to and critique of key philosophical issues and positions in education. All of this is traced with Biesta’s characteristic thorough care, yet rendered with a deft transparency and light touch that is immensely readable. … While rich and dense, Biesta’s vision is presented with such clarity and patience, with much circling back to restate and expand explanations, that most readers will be able to engage it easily. In my view, Beyond Learning is a significant achievement, helping to secure Gert Biesta’s position as one of the more important educational thinkers of our time.
—Tara Fenwick, University of British Columbia
“The book…punches well above its weight for a small paperback”
—Jim Crowther, The University of Edinburgh, from Concept
“This important book explores the question of what it means to be human.”
—Kate Watters in Adults Learning
“Biesta has taken the philosophical discussion of education a good deal further, with a book that offers a wealth of insight and is likely to become an indispensable text in our field.”
—Studies in Philosophy and Education