16 maart 2020: Educational Science as a Practice of Responsibly Reshaping Authority

Het Interuniversitaire Centrum voor Onderwijswetenschappen is een samenwerkingsverband tussen vijftien Nederlandse en Vlaamse universiteiten. Zij functioneert onder andere als Graduate School voor PhD-studenten in de onderwijswetenschappen. Iedere twee jaar organiseert de Graduate School een International Spring School. Dit jaar is dat in de Abdij Rolduc en het organiserend comité heeft mij uitgenodigd om een keynote lecture te verzorgen. Dat vind ik heel eervol en ik doe dat dan ook graag.

Educational science is one of those social sciences that permanently struggles with the ill-conceived distinction between pure and applied science. Failing to escape the undermining effects of this distinction within Academia, educational science seems to have withdrawn itself in a remote niche in which it fruitlessly tries to deny its own inertia. The way out, I shall argue, is to radically refute the distinction between pure and applied science and to boldly claim that it is precisely educational science that is most appropriate to show how to refute this distinction. What we need for that is to take the adjective ‘educational’ literally. 

Educational science is not a science that studies education as if it were an object. Rather, I shall argue, it should understand itself as a mode of inquiry, of life long investigation, an intrinsically dynamic and transitional process of continuously and responsibly reshaping authority. Science, especially social science, is not merely a matter of epistemic authority, of silencing others by means of advancing objective evidence. It is also, and primarily so, a matter of phronesis, of the practical wisdom of those who can listen, who can build confidence and mutual understanding. Taking this seriously will enable us to understand why educational science should leave its peripheral hideout to take center stage in the university. There is a sense in which this is not a new view at all, but a renaissance of a rather traditional ideal: the university as a place for learning, the treasure of a culture that aspires to be responsibly self-critical.