place-based philosophical education: reconstructing ‘place’, reconstructing ethics

simone thornton, mary graham, gilbert burgh


Education as identity formation in Western-style liberal-democracies relies, in part, on neutrality as a justification for the reproduction of collective individual identity, including societal, cultural, institutional and political identities, many aspects of which are problematic in terms of the reproduction of environmentally harmful attitudes, beliefs and actions. Taking a position on an issue necessitates letting go of certain forms of neutrality, as does effectively teaching environmental education. We contend that to claim a stance of neutrality is to claim a position beyond criticism. In the classroom this can also be an epistemically damaging position to hold. To further explore the problem of neutrality in the classroom, and to offer a potential solution, we will look to the philosophical community of inquiry pedagogy, and advocate for the addition of place-based education; a form of experiential education that promotes learning in local communities in which the school is situated, each with its own history, culture, economy and environment. However, how we understand ‘place’ is fundamental to understanding the potential of place-based education in giving students a ‘sense of place’—how they perceive a place, which includes place attachment and place meaning. To this end, we look to Indigenous understandings of Place and social reconstruction learning to inform place-based pedagogies. Doing so, we hold, opens a pathway to ethical education.


Indigenous philosophy; philosophy; environmental philosophy; ecofeminism; decolonisation; education; placed-based education; ethics; philosophy with children; critical Indigenous pedagogy; neutrality; place

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