To shape world citizens

About pedagogy
Forfatter: Immanuel Kant
Forlag: Aschehoug (Norge)
Kant's pedagogy shows us what is at stake in children's education: the civilization of humanity


"Man is the only creature that needs to be raised," says Immanuel Kant in the opening of his book About pedagogy, and points out with this how essential pedagogy is to those who care about the human well-being – yes, to anyone who wants to understand human nature. Yet pedagogy is a strangely overlooked side of philosophy in general, and Kant's philosophy in particular. Perhaps the time is very ripe for a new rethinking of pedagogy, which is not only about child rearing and teaching, but about man's upbringing of himself.

In the book's preface by the translator Bjarne Hansen, the book is linked to today's school, where the relationship between freedom and coercion goes through new changes. Hansen emphasizes that freedom carries with it paradoxes that Kant was more aware of than most thinkers in our own time. With reference to the philosopher Hans Skjervheim, Hansen calls for a deeper understanding of pragmatics, of the very aims of education: Pragmatics does not mean to make children useful or teach them to use themselves as an effective tool, but to seek to see them as goals in themselves. self.

Cosmopolitan perspectives. When Kant's pedagogy still seems refreshing, it is perhaps because the book was written at a time when the enlightenment project and the optimism that accompanied it were still in its beginning. In his introduction, Lars Løvlie presents how Kant was eager for experimental schools and a rapid revolution that could make progress in public education. The essential thing is that man should be done legal – and get out of self-inflicted freedom by using their own reason. The school should make man a citizen – and not only that – but a citizen of the world.

The hope that human nature can be shaped into something ever better is linked to Kant's hope for a continuous optimization of man throughout the generations. As Løvlie points out in his preface, this must be seen in the context of the little Kant script Ideas for a universal history with a world-bourgeois aim (1894). Since human life is short, each generation must contribute to development. In the same writing, Kant also emphasizes that the story is admittedly violent and confused, but that we learn precisely through the conflicts – a principle that also applies in the individual's upbringing.

The school must make man a citizen – and not only that – but a world citizen.

The point of putting the moral upbringing at the center rather than the acquisition of knowledge is that freedom is a prerequisite for a real acquisition of both of them. The child who just obeys can not really learn either, but will end up with an empty imitation. Similarly, those who follow moral rules only for fear of punishment or hope of reward will never be able to act truly morally, but rather out of a shifted self-interest – or a mechanical adaptation to the environment.

What is best for the world can never be wrong for the individual. Every truly moral act happens on behalf of humanity anyway.

A difficult freedom.  "Insight depends on upbringing, and upbringing in turn depends on insight," Kant points out. Since we thus must already be in possession of what is to be achieved, it is in the cards that each generation can just as well continue its mistakes and shortcomings as its best achievements and discoveries. To avoid this, children must be given a judgment that can contribute to their own, new insights. Furthermore, they must not be brought up to fit in with "humanity in its present state", but also "into its future possible better state".

Here we find perhaps the most contemporary of Kant's pedagogy. In a world society that apparently lives on unsustainable premises and has to change its habits, the future, rather than the continuation of the knowledge of the past, must govern both upbringing and teaching. "Parents usually raise their children only so that they fit into today's world, no matter how depraved it may be," Kant says laconic. What further complicates the matter for Kant is that the princes regard the subjects as means for their own purposes. When the state, the family and self-interest become both goals and standards, upbringing also decays, and progress is replaced by stagnation and decay.

Upbringing and state art are man's heaviest, but most important skills, Kant points out. They are in a way two sides of the same coin, and both must be cosmopolitan. This is a sure guideline in the formation of man: What is best for the world can never be wrong for the individual, argues Kant: Every true moral act happens regardless on behalf of humanity.

Contemporary perspectives. There is more than one reverberation of Kant in the Geneva Convention concept crimes against humanity, Svein Østerød points out in his afterword. He shows how Kant's philosophical cosmopolitanism, despite all idealism, carries with it realistic and reasonable nuances that are often forgotten by today's human rights defenders. World citizenship, for example, should be understood as a right of visitation or a right to hospitality, neither more nor less; not a right to colonize, but to be received and treated with respect.

Østerød also links Kant's considerations of freedom and coercion to both Muslim and Christian fundamentalism. When the goal becomes an undisturbed dissemination of religious "truths", we are left with the disciplining side of teaching and lose the independent cultivation that allows for critical thinking. It is also not difficult to see the "prince's" self-interest in institutions that expand their field of activity through various forms of indoctrination.

Kant's pedagogy may seem old-fashioned with its ideals of overcoming cruelty through cultivation – but in a world of violence and abuse, we quickly see what is at stake. About pedagogy reminds us that human civilization of itself cannot be taken for granted, but is an ongoing, painstaking work.

Also read: When the pedagogy disappeared

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