pragmatism and the unlearning of learnification


  • maughn rollins gregory Montclair State University
  • megan jane laverty Teachers College, Columbia University



biesta, pragmatism, instrumentalism, teaching, philosophy for/with children,


Biesta worries that Philosophy for/with Children (P4/wC) falls in with the constructivist “logic of learning,” thereby stultifying not only students’ educational experience, but their very potential as human subjects.  He uses pragmatism in general, and John Dewey’s work on education in particular, to characterize and explain constructivist educational theory, which makes his critique of P4/wC all the more pointed, given the influence of Dewey on that movement.  The critique of desire as an aim of education traces back to Socrates, and Biesta is one among many educational philosophers and psychologists urging the renewal of this aim in our era of late capitalist neoliberalism. We understand neoliberalism to be an ideological commitment of the very privileged that defines, champions, and protects with violence the notion of freedom (liber) as the pursuit of unexamined desires in a free-market economy, and which shifts responsibilities away from the collective towards individuals. We share in Biesta’s diagnosis that education has largely been co-opted to serve this ideology; that it largely prepares students to adapt themselves to the wealth-obsessed, violently unjust and ecologically doomed environment of late capitalism, and in fact largely disables them from being able to critique that environment. However, we take issue with his use of pragmatism as representative of neoliberal education. We argue, on the contrary, that the pragmatism of Charles Peirce, Dewey, Matthew Lipman and Ann Margaret Sharp conceives of constructivist education as a site for radical inter-subjective, inter-generational address and response, and for the radical questioning and subversion of personal, societal and cultural ways of life.




How to Cite

gregory, maughn rollins, & laverty, megan jane. (2017). pragmatism and the unlearning of learnification. Childhood & Philosophy, 13(28), 521–536.

Most read articles by the same author(s)