According to Samuel Chambers (2014), Jacques Ranciere’s pedagogy can be called radical because it challenges traditional pedagogy at its heart, which is to say it challenges explanation. Ranciere claims that traditional models of teaching depend on the act of explanation as the pre-eminent teaching activity: to teach is to explain.
[How does this relate to another rubric, 'to teach is to instruct', in the sense of information transfer from master to student? Are they both variants of the 'transmission' model of learning and teaching?]
This practice of teaching presumes a hidden truth, a truth which is demystified by the master explicator. Such explanatory discourse enacts a science of the hidden (Ross, 1991: xxiii)
Ranciere shows that explanation depends on a background structure of explication, which he call the explicative order. The traditional schoolmaster-schoolmistress-pedagogue-teacher, SSPT, assigns a text to his or her students to read. When they arrive in class, the SSPT explains the text to them, both by showing them and by telling them what it means.
In this way, Ranciere makes explicit the deep and pervasive inequality that underlies the order of explication.
In performing his or her traditional work, i.e. in explaining, the SSPT uses explanation as a display, or rather enaction, of inequality. To explain is not just to give them knowledge but also to prove that they do not have that knowledge prior to the SSPT’s delivery of it.
Thus, while explanation is the engine of the explicative order, explanation turns out to be stultification, a practice of rendering stupid.
[While this character, the SSPT, is somewhat of a ‘straw figure’, there may be some value in outlining the situation in such an extreme way, in order to get at 'structures of explication’, or, rather, the various discursive practices in play in pedagogy, amongst which is explanation, that concern equality/inequality.
There is also the question of the text-based-ness of this characterisation, which may need to be opened up to other media and other situations in which explanation is also in play.
By 'text', is 'book' meant or implied? Is this articulation of text/book with learning/knowing part of a specific era of educational technology, in which knowledge is 'contained' in 'the book', and a specific era of 'literacy', as 'book'-(based)-'learning', as well as a specific era of 'the library', as repository of book-encased-knowledge? ]
To avoid the resultant stultification, how is the teacher-student relation to be re-articulated?
In citing Joseph Jacotot as model, Ranciere holds out the promise of teachers who teach despite the fact that they do not know, which includes the promise of teachers who teach as if they do not know.
[There is a place here, that is to say, for performance as play-acting, playing a role or pretending, with a wholly sincere intention of achieving a practical pedagogic goal]
In the Rancierian pedagogy, the teacher creates an environment, constructs a context and builds an overall structure in which students can learn. There is a difference between assuming that the student can read the text on his own and assuming that the student will decide on their own account to select and read that text.
[The environment here is multi-levelled, a materialised environment, an intercorporeal environment and an intersubjective environment, a location, a position and a relation, not necessarily at one and the same time, i.e. with different spatio-temporalities gathering together at different times and places.]
[In general, as is often the case, it is a question of opening up the ‘text’ to the ‘environment’ and the ‘environment’ to the ‘text’, through the inter-corporeal, such that their interpenetrated technological, mediated and inter-subjective characters may be recognised.]
[Jacotot’s students had learned (the French language) without the aid of a master explicator. However, for all that, they had not learned without a master.
For Ranciere (1991: 13), there is stultification when one intelligence, that of the student, is subordinated to another, that of the master; while there is emancipation when one will, that of the student, is subordinated to another, that of the master.
Ranciere specifies two faculties in play during the act of learning: intelligence and will, holding that they can and should be considered separately. In the learning situation set up by Jacotot, Ranciere argues, a relationship of will-to-will is established between master and student.
This relationship of domination, Ranciere deems, resulted in a liberated relationship between the intelligence of the student and that of the book. The intelligence of the book is the thing-in-common, the egalitarian link between master and student.
This leads to a circle of empowerment, wherein the student gradually, and increasingly, recognises the power of their own intelligence as the will to learn.]
Chambers, S. (2014). Walter White is a bad teacher: pedagogy, partage, and politics in Season 4 of Breaking Bad. Theory & Event. 17 (1). Available from: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v017/17.1.chambers.html [Accessed 12 October 2014].
Ross, K. (1991). Translator’s introduction. In: The ignorant shoolmaster: five lessons in intellectual emancipation by Jacques Ranciere. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, vii–xxiii.