Derrida and Education

In the first book length monograph on Derrida and pedagogy, Derrida and Education, a multitude of authors elaborate on the ways in which deconstruction relates to education. For a starter, education is predicated on the disruption of the learner. But education is at risk controlling and containing the subject of study as well as the learner. Therefore, according to Derrida, education precludes closure or linear control and is beset with a good deal of responsibility on the teachers part. Put succinctly by Julian Edgoose:

Justice demands that the voice of every student be heard. But while the educator fells that there is no right choice for his/her attention, he/she understands that a decision must be made. This aporia of urgency reveals that there is no smooth path to justice. In ethical teaching, Edgoose concludes, there are only necessarily frustrating hesitant steps (7)

Derrida argued consistently for “the right of all to philosophy” and for this reason belonged to GREPH: Groupe de recherches sur l’enseignement philosophique (translated as “Research Group on Philosophical Education”). In joining this group Derrida was less considered about the loss of philosophy courses in education as he was in forms of philosophy that were reductive and threatening. In other words, Derrida was concerned about the deconstruction of philosophy and other modes of investigation that took apart and reconstructed structures.

Derrida therefore provides a number of commandments, functioning as antinomies, for teaching. (1) One must protest against finality in philosophy, but one must also teach it; (2) One must protest against its confinement, but it should assume some unity and boundaries; (3) Investigation and invention should not be left out of teaching, but the basics must also be taught; (4) philosophy must appear in institutions, but cannot be reduced to its appearance there; (5) there must exist a master/teacher to disseminate the lessons of philosophy, but should not occlude democratic dialogue; (6) philosophy is an ongoing lesson that must never be rushed, but must be taught in a unified and urgent manner; (7) the master/teacher must initiate students into the discipline, but the master as mediator must efface him-/herself

In sum, what is required of those who teach philosophy is both vigilance and risk; plasticity and fidelity

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