The Oui!Learn concept of care in relation to pedagogy derives from two lines of thinking about care. The first is long-running and cites the work of John Dewey (2005, c1934), who brings to attention the relationship between caring and being mindful. For Dewey, ‘mind’ is every mode and variety of interest in and care for things such as situations, events, objects, persons and groups. In short, mind is care in the sense of solicitude, anxiety and of active looking after things that need tending (Dewey, 2005: 274).
The second is of more recent origin and centres on the significance of care for thinking and living in ‘more-than-human-worlds’ (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2017). In this tradition of thought, care is a generic doing which includes everything that we do to maintain, prolong and repair our world so that we can live in it as well as possible. The world includes our bodies, our selves and our environment, all of which are interwoven in a complex, life-sustaining network, web or sphere (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2017: 3).
Very broadly, this second line of thinking may be called post-Humanist (and, confusingly, in some cases, ‘posthuman’), to bring into the debate the other-than-human and humans who, within the Humanist tradition, have been rendered as other-than-human; and to refuse to accept humanity’s separate and exceptional status and its concomitant subjectification and objectification, or in other words subordination, of everything else to this assumed superiority.
Embedded within this second line of thinking is the long-standing concern of feminist thinking for caring, along with the feminist concern for objectified beings and the material semiotic effects of knowledge politics. Feminist concern for care brings to the attention the notion of care as a devalued mode of doing, which is often, in being taken for granted, rendered invisible.
Also embedded, but often occluded, in both the first and the second lines of thinking is a Heideggerian approach to care. For example, in respect of the first, Leroy Troutner (1974), while acknowledging that both have contradictions and lacks, argues that educational philosophy needs both John Dewey and Martin Heidegger. In respect of the second, Heidegger is a reference point, either as adversary or as ally, in the development of thinking about (Marxist) historical materialism (Edwards, 2010), materiality (Miller, 2005), matter (Bennett, 2010), new materialisms (Coole and Frost, 2010) and ‘more-than-human-worlds’ (Simonsen, 2013; Kuby, 2017).
For an application of such ‘more-than-human’, (new) materialist thinking in a pedagogic situation, see Snaza et al. (2014), Snaza and Weaver (2015) and Kuby (2017).
While taking into account Heidegger’s difficult writing style and his controversial political alignment, which detract from his appeal, there remains some value in his characterisation of the totality of our involvement in and response to the world, including things and persons, our ‘being-in-the-world’, as a unitary phenomenon, in terms of which we make sense of our existence. Heidegger (1962) refers to this involvement and immersion in the world as ‘care’ (Sorge). Care, for Heidegger, is thus the Being of Dasein.
To be-in-the-world in any real, existentially meaningful sense, for Heidegger, is to care, to be besorgt (careful or full of care). This positioning is fundamentally anti-Cartesian: ‘I care, therefore I am’. “The implicit vision”, George Steiner (1991: 101) contends, “is one of vehement humanity, endowed with that somber zest characteristic of Augustine, of Pascal, of Kierkegaard.”
Care, for Heidegger, is the primordial state of being of Dasein as it strives toward authenticity. Heidegger uses the term Dasein to mean ‘being here/being there’ or ‘being situated’. He uses it to refer to ourselves as beings who experience themselves in the everyday situation as being located, or as he says, ‘thrown’ (geworfen) into the world and as concrete, active, already belonging to a ‘lived’ world, a concept that owes something to Husserl’s Lebenswelt (Harrison-Barbet, 2012).
Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant matter: a political ecology of things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Coole, D. and Frost, S. (2010). New materialisms: ontology, agency, and politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Dewey, J. (2005, c1934). Art as experience. New York, NY: Perigree.
Edwards, J. (2010). The Materialism of historical materialism. In New materialisms: ontology, agency, and politics, edited by D. Coole and S. Frost. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Harrison-Barbet, A. (2012). Philosophical connections: Heidegger (1889-1976). Philo Sophos. Available from http://philosophos.org/philosophical_connections/profile_107.html [Accessed 11 March 2018].
Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Kuby, C.R. (2017). Why a paradigm shift of ‘more than human ontologies’ is needed: putting to work poststructural and posthuman theories in writers’ studio. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 30 (9), 877–896. Available from http://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2017.1336803 [Accessed 5 January 2018].
Miller, D. (ed.) (2005). Materiality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2017). Matters of care: speculative ethics in more than human worlds. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Simonsen, K. (2013). In quest of a new humanism: Embodiment, experience and phenomenology as critical geography. Progress in Human Geography, 37 (1), 10–26. Available from http://phg.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/0309132512467573 [Accessed 8 December 2012].
Snaza, N. et al. (2014). Toward a posthumanist education. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 30 (2), 39–55.
Snaza, N. and Weaver, J.A. (2015). Introduction: education and the posthumanist turn. In: Snaza, N., and Weaver, J.A., eds. Posthumanism and Educational Research. New York, NY: Routledge.
Steiner, G. (1991). Martin Heidegger. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Troutner, L.F. (1974). John Dewey and the existential phenomenologist. In: Existentialism and Phenomenology in Education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 9–50.
Human learning is a collective (social, public) embodied, contextualised and contextualising activity. Learning takes place in specific contexts and learning generates contexts for understanding. This is rendered complex by so-called ‘virtual learning environments’ or ‘distance learning’ but even in these cases learning is embodied. In such cases, the notion of context is extended, requiring a degree of imaginative (re-)construction of situation and context.
This means that, as Blaeuer (2010: 11) states, “… the form of my thought changes as the embodied context of thought changes. Not everything is expressible or thinkable everywhere and every time…”
Similar points are made by Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989), when they argue that the situated nature of cognition cannot be ignored and advocate approaches such as ‘cognitive apprenticeship’, which embed learning in activity and make deliberate use of the social and physical context, are more in line with the understanding of learning and cognition that is emerging from research. Situations, according to Brown, Collins and Duguid, “might be said to co-produce knowledge through activity.”
By implication, as well as the design of appropriate learning activities, the design of learning environments, as contexts, and the design of the relationships among different learning environments, is crucial to the ability to think and learn.
Blaeuer, D.M. (2010). An Ecology of performance: Gregory Bateson’s cybernetic performance [PhD thesis]. University of South Florida. Available from http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4705&context=etd [Accessed 19 October 2013].
Brown, J.S., Collins, A. and Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Research, 18 (1), 32–42. Available from http://www.johnseelybrown.com/Situated Cognition and the culture of learning.pdf [Accessed 3 March 2018].
Leander, K.M., Phillips, N.C. and Taylor, K.H. (2010). The Changing social spaces of learning: mapping new mobilities. Review of Research in Education, 34 (1), 329–394. Available from http://rre.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.3102/0091732X09358129 [Accessed 17 July 2012].