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The current Conference time is: 14th Aug 2022, 10:55:45pm CEST

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Parallel session - A.4.2 What is the aim of education?
Wednesday, 02/June/2021:
5:45pm - 8:00pm

Session Chair: Massimo Baldacci
Location: Room 1

Session Panels:
A.4. What is the aim of education?

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ID: 714 / WED-PRL-E2-A.4.2: 1
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Panels: A.4. What is the aim of education?
Keywords: Education, Coronavirus, Complexity, Critical pedagoy


Alessandro Tolomelli

Bologna University- Education Sciences Dept., Italy

The "state of exception" determined by the global pandemic, above radically changing our habits and way of life, it is manifestly enlightening the inadequacy of our decision-making apparatus and the latent injustices of our society.

Suddenly it appeared also extremely clear that science has not all the answers, especially the certain ones.

Although, some neo-positivists delude themselves, and trying to make us believe it, science does not produce cast-iron certainty, especially when we are approaching complex objects and new situations (E. Morin). Moreover, science cannot reassure the human community about the illusion of control and supremacy over nature (D. Quammen).

In the Italian case, there were no adequate respect for the rights of childhood since during the lockdown period there were not provide any educative and social alternative to the schools closing.

Despite some bright cases (e.g. Finland, Denmark, New Zealand) where even in the darkest periods and with the hardest lockdown policy the rights of child were be guaranteed, the public discourse in many countries as in Italy has been polarized into a binary way. On one extreme side we found (and still find) people who believes that defensive sanitary paradigm based on control and lockdown are the only safe way, and on the other extreme side people who thing covid is not so dangerous, or does not exist at all. Those are the two wings of the polarization, but very often the media and the politics discourses have followed these argumentations.

The crisis we are crossing suggests we are approaching not only a health care systems lacking, but managing with complex and inedited situations means first to change epistemology and paradigm. Since our cultural position is not ready yet to face what is off from our perception, we cannot even consider a black swan in a world of white ones (N. N. Taleb).

Critical thinking (C.R. Twardy), Divergent thinking (K. Robinson), Capacity to aspire (A. Appadurai) would be the rational aims toward to education should be addressing.

"Decentering" refers to the ability to consider multiple aspects of a situation and in Piaget's theory of cognitive development, it is a logical process present in the Concrete Operational stage achievable by a 12 years kid. Obviously, when you are worried it becomes more difficult to stay a little aside from your viewpoint, but it is something that can be learn and which would be expect from an adult. Our society and its opinion leaders (scientists, politicians, journalists, etc.) seam do not have or use this ability in this period. The "cognitive democracy" (E. Morin) need to put again education as the core of the global community and to see education as a path for facilitating the achievement of complex rationality and comprehension of the global-systemic learning. If we not leave the vision of education as a path to produce workers able to compete within the labour market or compliant citizens good for the maintenance of the status quo, we will face very soon another pandemic, the cultural and democracy one.

ID: 333 / WED-PRL-E2-A.4.2: 2
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Panels: A.4. What is the aim of education?
Keywords: Ethics, Democracy, School, Educational strategies


Maria-Chiara Michelini

Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo, Italia

Social changes, in turn overwhelmed and exasperated by the actual pandemic, make necessary rethinking the ethical and social aims of education. In fact, the pandemic is an important watershed in the history of humanity (Harari, 21/03/2020) that has shown the global and interconnected feature of the dimensions of living in our society in an incontrovertible way. The interdependence of each dimension with the others seems obvious, subverting the criteria strongly and powerfully affirmed by the neoliberal society.

Consequently, it becomes necessary to rethink the social ethics education as fundamental factor for human development. In this sense, the sense of social-ethics education becomes transversal and integrated in the double sense of the relationships among pedagogy and the other spheres of human experience, and in the internal one of the educational directions.

In the first direction, education, a science ensures its effective contribution to human development starting from the younger generations, becomes a theme of cultural elaboration that makes its authoritative voice heard on crucial choices how:

- Coping with disasters by opting among citizen empowerment and totalitarian surveillance, problematizing not theoretical perspective of digital dictatorship and, consequently, the possibility that surveillance can be "under the skin" and no longer "over the skin".

- Addressing crises in a logic of global solidarity or sovereign and isolationist, considering the effects of global disasters involve an interest in the protection of the disadvantaged people.

- The speed, wherewith scientific community responded to the current pandemic, brings attention back to the responsibility of politics in knowing how to make the wisest choices, to respond to natural disasters. This means increasing the possibilities for political wisdom, crucial in avoiding human discomforts.

In the second direction that is internal to the educational directions, we identify some guidelines can not be renounced and consistent with a specific perspective characterized by these points:

- Reviewing the function of education and school. It means strengthening the connection between democracy and education. Therefore, a strengthened commitment at all levels is needed for a democratic school, in view of an authentically democratic community also (Codignola, 1960).

- Emphasizing the relevance of the maturation of individual thought and reasoning. In this sense, the cognitive training of school contributes in an essential way to ethical social education and should also be rethought in this perspective.

- Considering the forms of academic programs (APs) for the social ethics training. Specifically, we refer to: global approach of the APs and social ethical training, formative value of the school subjects, methodologies consistent with the ethical-social purposes, enhancement of the student's activity, pay attention to the implicit APs.

Baldacci M. (2020), Verso un curricolo di educazione etico-sociale. Abiti democratici e capacitazione discorsiva, Roma, Carocci.

Dewey J. (1986), L’educazione di oggi, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, (1940).

Codignola T. (1960), Una scuola democratica per una società democratica in Scuola e Città, 11, 4.5, pp. 121-127.

Harari Y.N. (2018), 21 lezioni per il XXI secolo, Milano, Bompiani.

Michelini M.C. (2016), Fare Comunità di Pensiero, Milano, FrancoAngeli.

ID: 732 / WED-PRL-E2-A.4.2: 3
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Panels: A.4. What is the aim of education?
Keywords: decolonial education, capitalism, alternative models, pedagogy.


Camilla Bellatalla

UAB Università Autonoma di Barcellona, Italy

The pedagogical process of the Movement of working children and adolescents of Latin America implies two important acknowledgments: first, the fact that the educational agents which can provide tools for act and transform reality are multiples (“It is not like we go to school and then we close our eyes when we leave it! We also learn in the neighborhood, at home, in the street.” D., working child); and second, the importance of the territory and its memories in order to reconstruct those historical subjectivities which have been, and still are, uprooted and fragmented by the land and resources deprivation of capitalist economy, as well as by the subtle, bare pedagogies (Giroux, 2010), which claim their ‘neutrality’, and instead represent a particular eurocentric interest and way of understanding society and a specific commitment to the future. This aseptic, top-down, theoretical learning, contributes to growing “Bonsai people'' (Quintar, 2008): children and then adults that are carefully trained to live in ‘harmony’ and homogeneity and accommodate anywhere without creating changes and troubles. Within the Movement instead, every educational practice starts from the lives of the children. Knowledge, consciousness of the world and how to act in it, begin from the critical evaluation of their lived reality, the necessities observed and goals which take shape in it. There is particular attention to make sure that “it is the person who reconfigures the disciplinary areas and not the opposite” (Cussianovich, 2008) both in the contents and the forms of education. However, the construction of knowledge starting from the specificities of the subject and her subjectivity doesn’t mean adopting a deterministic view. The aim of it is instead to open up scenery of possibilities offered by the realities of resistance which are already in place. “We don’t choose the people, the quartier, the family. But it is this reality we need to begin to transform” (Y., Collaborator and former working child, Colombia). Even the territorial roots are not thought of as a fixed set of traditions and local models but rather as the “routes” (Gilroy, 1993) through which the children have encountered local and imported (often imposed) ‘modernity’ schemes which contributed to the redefinition of their way to see and stand in the world. The aim of the learning process is therefore to comprehend these routes and to reconsider power relations among types of knowledge and to rethink the intimate or collective experiences in a wider horizon of meanings and opportunities.

Cussianovich A. (2008) Ensayo. Para una historia del pensiamento socialde los ninos,ninas y adolescentes trabajadores organizados del Perù, Lima, 2008, Ifejant)

Gilroy, P. (1993). The black Atlantic: modernity and double consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard UP

Giroux, H. (2010). Bare Pedagogy and the Scourge of Neoliberalism: Rethinking Higher Education as a Democratic Public Sphere. Sociology. The Educational Forum

Quintar, E. (2008) Didáctica no parametral: senderos hacia la descolonización. México: IPECAL.

ID: 186 / WED-PRL-E2-A.4.2: 4
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Panels: A.4. What is the aim of education?
Keywords: Good education, Instrumentalization, Learnification, John Dewey, Bruno Latour


Stefano Oliverio

University of Naples Federico II, Italy

This paper will take its cue from a statement of Dewey: “Education is autonomous and should be free to determine its own ends, its own objectives. [...] educational aims are to be formed as well as executed within the educative process” (LW 5: 38). This vindication of autonomy of education was aired implicitly against the theoreticians of social efficiency, who may be considered – at the level of the logic presiding over the definition of the aims of education – as, in some way, ancestors of the discourse of human capital (Baldacci, 2014).

I will recontextualize this vindication in the contemporary scenarios in three steps: first, I will show how a redescription of Dewey’s position allows us not to remain ensnared in the dichotomy between ontology vs instrumentality in the theorizing of education (Szkudlarek, 2020) or to merely capitulate to the critique of the “educationalization of social problems” (Depaepe & Smeyers, 2008). While meritoriously indicating the perils of the instrumentalization of education (and providing us with tools to avoid them), either alternative risks opening the door to forms of theorizing that leave education as a free-floating phenomenon, remote from its actual historical rootedness.

Secondly, I will counter Dewey’s conceptual device in reference to the setting of educational aims against one of the most influential efforts in the contemporary debate to outline the “task of education” without ceding to the sirens of the discourse of learning: I am referring to Biesta’s (2006, 2010, 2015, 2017) endeavour to reclaim a vocabulary of “good education” against the predominant learnification and the “what works” discourse, which are accomplice with the neoliberal understanding of the aim of education and jeopardize the democratic tension in the educational undertaking. While Biesta’s tripartite articulation of education (in terms of qualification, socialization and subjectification) helpfully pinpoints the different dimensions involved in the educative process, the gulf which he has increasingly established between the first two dimensions and the third – the latter being the only one genuinely “educational” and, therefore, a topic for a genuinely educational theorizing – may put educational theory in danger of having no role in re-inflecting the discourse-practice at the qualification-socialization levels.

For this reason, in the third and most constructive part, I will suggest re-appropriating and updating the Deweyan position. In particular, I will build upon his specification that “[i]t would be presumptuous if it had been said that educators should determine objectives. But the statement was that the educative process in its integrity and continuity should determine them. Educators have a place in this process, but they are not it, far from it” (LW 5: 38. Emphasis added). I will re-interpret this claim by establishing a dialogue between Dewey and Bruno Latour and re-reading the idea of the educative process in connection with the latter’s notions of the “learning compact”, “social world as association” and “collective in the process of expanding.” I will call this a new-pragmatist view of the aims of education as distinct from both classic pragmatism and neo-pragmatism.

ID: 162 / WED-PRL-E2-A.4.2: 5
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Panels: A.4. What is the aim of education?
Keywords: Education, Democracy, School, Society, Aim


Teodora Pezzano

Università della Calabria, Italy

John Dewey’s The School and Society, in the two editions (1899,1915), represents one of the most important root of the contemporary democratic and inclusive school. This book is a report of the laboratory school activity (1896-1903), which represents during the Chicago period (1894-1904) the decisive educational choice of Dewey, fundamental for his future research. The model of The School and Society can be revised just to understand three fundamental aspects of the contemporary educational research: 1. a new relation between school and society to the light of the digital approach determined by the Pandemic; a new concept of the student’s centered education connected to the inclusive project of the school; the idea of the school’s organization linked to the meaning of the democratic school.

ID: 353 / WED-PRL-E2-A.4.2: 6
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Panels: A.4. What is the aim of education?
Keywords: ontology, being human, universality, particularity, resonance


Giulia Tarini

Free University of Bozen, Italy

This contribution rooted in a broader project that through an action-research (Tarini, 2020) on one hand and a theoretical research on the other, wanted to investigate an important challenge that the Italian school is facing. The ever-increasing push towards the promotion of the uniqueness of each student present in the classroom, in the Italian context (MIUR, 2012, 2018), poses a fundamental question to the school institution: can the school, born as an institution with the aim of building an educational universal, in society, valid for all (Maccarini, 2003), find a way for a new semantics of teaching and learning processes in the late or post-modern society,where there could be space for a legitimation of particularity as well as universality? Are there the conditions to bring to a synthesis the nomothetic of the school of all(universality) with the idiographic of the school of each one(particularity)? Before being a question about the teaching and learning perspective, this is undoubtedly a discussion on the purposes of education in late or post-modern society.

The thesis we discuss in this work proposes to move the reflection on the ontology of "being human" (Archer, 2007; Morin, 2002) and from it to trace the trajectories to rethink and re-imagine the educational and didactic action in the classroom. Actually, it is not only limited to the ontology of "being human" but to the deeper reflection, described as a rupture in the nexus between the human being (individual) and the social world, connoted as a crisis of co-evolution, education-society, which characterizes the global society and which has a fundamental impact on the formation of human subjectivities (Maccarini, 2019). This is a structural crisis, that affects the way education is conceived and socially organized in the society (Maccarini, 2003, p.133). This crisis is at the same time a crisis of the principle of equality of educational opportunities and of normativity. What has come into crisis is the entire educational constellation and with it the delineation of the purposes of education, the education-society nexus, and the semantics associated with what it means to form the human being in post-modern society. Whether one imagines education as enhancement or represents it as flourishing (Maccarini, 2014) where being human is recognized ontologically, any process of demolition finds a 'brake'. (Prandini, 2007, p.17). The processes of alienation and social acceleration seem to be one of the constitutive traits of our society (Rosa, 2013) and this, necessarily, substantially modifies our relationship with the outside world, which becomes mute (Rosa, 2019) and on the other hand a person's relationship to the world are substantially formed in and through school, (Rosa, 2019, p.238). In this social situation, when can an educational process be considered successful? From Rosa's perspective it is easy to say: when the school is transformed into a space of resonance(Fiore, 2020), that is, a space of transformative appropriation, that goes beyond belonging but touches human beings at existential level, an in principle has the power to transform them (Rosa, 2020, p. 60).

ID: 293 / WED-PRL-E2-A.4.2: 7
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Panels: A.4. What is the aim of education?
Keywords: Education aim, history of philosophy, ideal education, Platonism, Neo-Platonism


Emmanuel Sigalas

Education and Culture Executive Agency of the European Commission, Belgium

We all want the best education for our children but why? Is it because it is a means to certain ends or is it a an end in itself? Is it even possible that education is completely self-referential yet still an aim worth pursuing? Or are some economists right that education is overrated?[1]

Education does not take place in a vacuum, but it is necessarily conceived, designed and offered in a socio-political context. In the Republic Plato devised a detailed plan how the ideal polity should look like and education had a central role to play in it. Of course, a text written 25 centuries ago is unlikely to give us direct answers what the aim of education should be today. However, the reception of the Republic has a very long history and influenced philosophers in different eras and contexts. Thus, by looking at the history of how scholars perceived the role of education when interpreting Plato’s Republic allows us to establish how the views on the aim of education in an ideal context developed over time.

The presentation will showcase the first findings of ongoing research. It focuses on exploring how ancient authors, Platonists in particular, received the Republic and what their views were regarding the aim of education. At this stage of the research, the primary interest is in breadth rather than depth, in other words, in mapping the field, so that eventually older views on the aim(s) of education can be contrasted with modern.

In addition to Plato’s Republic, I will be looking at works making direct references to the Republic, namely:

  • Aristotle’s Politics (ca. 4th c. BC)
  • (pseudo-) Plutarch’s On the education of children (ca. 1st c.)
  • Iamblichus’ Protrepticus (ca. 3rd c.)
  • Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Republic. (ca. 5th c.)

[1] B. Caplan (2019) The Case Against Education, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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