Being taught by Biesta

My review essay on Gert Biesta’s The Beautiful Risk of Education has been published online by Pedagogy, Culture and Society, here:

What are we to do with the writing of Biesta? Raising the same question in relation to Jacques Rancière, in a 2010 study co-authored with Charles Bingham, Gert J. J. Biesta takes the writer of ‘a short, disparaging review of …The Ignorant Schoolmaster’ to task for ‘schooling’ Rancière on the inadequacies of the book reviewed (Biesta and Bingham 2010, 145–148). Readers of Biesta cheering on from the sidelines at this
point are placed in an uncomfortable double bind if they are to take this suggestion seriously when reviewing his own work. We are not, Biesta and Bingham (2010, 148) suggest, to police interpretations like a vigilant schoolmaster in possession of superior knowledge but rather ‘proceed as a child who looks forward to the sound of the bell’ and to ‘speak as if truant’.
We are taught to ask questions by raising our hands; Biesta advocates a pedagogy of interruption. If this review cannot escape the contradictions of a certain kind of double bind (cf. Spivak 2012, 3, 4) in responding to Biesta’s work, this is ultimately because, caught between the conflicting positions of the student and the master, it cannot adopt the position of the truant child but only that of the truant teacher, peering through the window upon the scene of teaching taking place within. Ultimately, though, perhaps what we observe in The Beautiful Risk of Education
is less a seminar classroom than a dojo, where teachers must learn to practice their art empty-handed and education’s greatest strength lies in its weakness and flexibility. Biesta’s theory of the advantage of weakness in education seems to
depend, as in certain martial arts, upon the presumed strength of the Other. On these inverted terms, the success of Biesta’s writing can be judged according to a compelling expositional ‘weakness’, while there are further questions to be asked about what kind of risks this might involve.

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