When the Plants talk back! Teaching in response to a call from elsewhere

Carl Anders Säfström, Maynooth University

In this paper, the relation to plants (nature) is viewed from our plant-ness. It gives examples of deep ecological experiences of such plant-ness. It, therefore, also makes problematic the fundamental distinction emerging from Aristotle in which men of lower standing, women, children and enslaved people were considered to be like plants, inhuman. The paper resists such distinctions and instead defends the plant-ness inscribed in humanity through the plant talking back. The idea that education’s role is to perfect man and state is mainly discussed and denounced as false in the paper. Instead, education, as the paper shows, opens us to the present in which life is shared with all living and, for some, with trees and stones. Through the stories told, a view from elsewhere is established, and the paper ends with teaching as a response to the call from the plant.

Can the Educational Actors Speak – and are We Able to Listen? The Issue of Inequality between Researchers and the Researched

Kai Wortmann & Anne Lill, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität

In her seminal essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, Spivak challenges both intellectual tendencies of speaking for the actors as well as too easily assuming that they can speak for themselves. This paper takes up the question of the relation between researchers and researched and translates it into recent discussions in educational theory around a “post-critical pedagogy”. Therefore, it first describes and problematises the break between critics and actors in critical educational research, and second, it aims at making plausible that this break leads to the risk of losing the actors: that they understandably feel left behind by a critique that assumes that they themselves cannot know enough about their own situation and are therefore dependent on the enlightenment of the critic. To take a closer look at the problems with this break, the paper will first shortly introduce the theoretical contexts from which the concept of the break was borrowed and give reasons for why it matters in education (1). In the following parts (2–5), the paper presents problems of the break from various perspectives: epistemological-methodological, normative-democratic, political-progressive, and pedagogical-emancipatory. Finally (6), the paper offers a short outlook on possibilities for alternatives to or solutions for the problems of the inequality between researchers and the researched. 

Empire’s Balance Sheet as Discursive Formation:  Learning about the British Empire in English Secondary Schools

Abigail Branford, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies

On a mundane Tuesday morning, Year 9 students at Ferryhall Academy were given a worksheet to complete about the British Empire. They were asked to color in the boxes describing the ‘good’ elements of the empire in green and the boxes describing the ‘bad’ elements in red. The first two boxes were ‘spread cricket and rugby’ (to be colored green) and ‘developed theories of racial supremacy’ (to be colored red). Sitting at the back of the classroom I struggled with a few of the boxes to figure out whether they were meant to be ‘green’ or ‘red’. I often needed the second sentence in the box to clarify: “Over 900 million people speak English in the world today, partly because it was spread through the Empire. Before the Empire it was common for there to be many regional dialects within one country.” “The systems of law and government today in many former colonies were modelled on Britain. The British system of democracy is generally said to be fair and just.” “Money poured into Britain from trade with countries like India and from the slave trade: banks, and cities like Liverpool and Bristol, became very wealthy.” With this balance sheet of pros and cons, the memory of the British Empire could be washed ‘green’.  I had not stumbled on an unusual way of teaching the British Empire. The basic premise of the worksheet – distinguishing ‘good and bad aspects of the British Empire’ – is a common formulation in England’s classrooms, one typically referred to as ‘the balance sheet’ (Benger, 2022a). As the United Kingdoms’ education systems are devolved to each of its four constitutive countries, the scope of this paper will be limited to findings about England’s education system. (However, where literature discussing the sociopolitical context refers to Britain as a whole, this will be reflected in the paper where appropriate.)