In this essay I will be constructing an argument by identifying Hannah Arendt concerns about assumptions that underlie certain educational practices. These assumptions will be critically analysed from Arendt’s view of education which supports her views and concerns about values and morality. Furthermore, I will explain what Arendt means by the “common world” within which learners develop in relation with the responsibilities of teachers to include learners into the changing world.
The “common world”
According to Arendt (2007) the “common world” is something that must be valued. The responsibility of the teacher is to bring a “love for the world” into the classroom and care for this world. Education is defined as a practice which promotes and conveys what is valuable and the development of virtues through which the good is being pursued. Arendt’s view of a “common world” does not refer to a world where everyone lives, but to a particular set of values, competences, dispositions and responsibilities. According to Berkowitz (2012), Arendt suggests that the modern crisis of authority lies in the “assumption of responsibility” which means to be responsible for the world in the classroom environment, responsible for educating about politics and to love the world enough to welcome the innocent. I believe being part of a “common world” means that our society is constantly changing, the world that combines us is changing at such a speedy rate that teachers and learners start living in very diverse worlds. Also as teachers we are expected to be up to date with technology and things that interest our learners in order to communicate and understand their perspectives about the world they live in. According to Halves (2012), becoming part of the grown-up world goes way further than learning information; it entails becoming competent to feel part of it and wanting to act responsibly within it.
Arendt (2007) argues that the real problem was the neglect of the child by adults to the tyranny of the authority of the group. This occurs when teachers do not pay attention to the individual child, favouring only the group, therefore they are locked in a “child’s world”. The attempt to construct such a world increases the dangers of allowing learners to be part of frightening and severe acts in which competition and bullying rather than communication and reason determine what happens. For example, school bullying and everyday violence that occurs in schools is affecting learners’ social skills, school achievement and psychological well-being. According to Arendt (2007) apart from being faced with the pressure to prioritise the group over the individual causes the learner to less likely rebel or to be able to work on its own and under its own authority. However, if learners are allowed to govern themselves then the individual has even less chance of freedom because he is then one child voice in the middle of many learners. The role of the teacher is to be sensible, caring, understanding and capable of teaching how to reason and take responsibility for the world as it is by preparing children for adult life.
The teacher represents and embodies the world of responsibility. As an authority, the teacher assumes the role of all adults; therefore they have the ability and responsibility to introduce the learner to take responsibility and be accountable for the world. Moreover, without authority, teachers can no longer educate their learners based on inequality and injustice is rejected (Topolski & Leuven, 2008).
Education as a science of teaching
The second basic problem Arendt (2007) identified has to do with the teaching methods and beliefs about the learning process. Arendt argues that teachers are trained to teach in general compare to teaching them to master their subject. A competent teacher has knowledge of the subject that is being taught and has also knowledge and skills in how to teach that subject. As a competent teacher I need to understand and be able to apply strategies to help learners enhance their achievements and deepen their knowledge. Arendt (2007) states that parents and teachers are responsible for educating children not only life skills but to learn how to maintain the world. Arendt claims that “freedom is only meaningful to those who have learned of its true value and responsibility” (Topolski & Leuven, 2008). The home is where children find the support to develop their unique abilities to succeed and be helped to form knowledge of the world on their own. This way a child can learn and develop traits that make unique contributions to our common world.
Learning through practicality
The third problem identified by Arendt (2007) is an eminent reliance on practicality, skill-based learning and training in pedagogy. For Arendt, substituting doing for learning and playing for working illustrates the development of the “new” form of teaching, for example, languages by speaking and not by learning grammar. Teaching by speaking keeps children as infantile as possible which will never let them turn into critical beings. According to Arendt (2007), education is not about setting children free to play, but more about setting them in the context of the world itself. I disagree with Arendt because I believe that children should be able to freely play in order for them to become aware of their own creative, critical potential and thus develop their own identities. According to Piaget (1972) children learn more efficiently though hand-on play rather than instruction. Through play the child has a chance of discovering his own strengths and weaknesses (Altman, 2002).