"Frankenstein" meets "Emile": philosophical hermeneutics, "Women's Ways of Knowing", and the educational experience

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Malless, Stan
Major Professor
David B. Owen
Committee Member
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Curriculum and Instruction

The dissertation is an elaboration of the general thesis that the educational experience is hermeneutical and, specifically, that the educational experience is, in fact, a continuous reconstruction of the complementary reciprocation between the ontology of philosophical hermeneutics and the epistemology of Women's Ways of Knowing. The philosophical hermeneutics referred to is that developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer, and the epistemology is that described by Mary Belenky et al in their study of the cognitive development of women, Women's Ways of Knowing. This hermeneutical approach to education offers a plausible alternative to modern educational theory and practice which is, essentially, based upon a social engineering model informed by the idea that method, especially scientific method and techne, is the road to truth. The first part of the text focuses on three traditional elements of educational theory, which are also the key elements of Gadamer's hermeneutics: "understanding," "experience," and Bildung. "Understanding" as a hermeneutical principle is examined in the context of its affinities with what are referred to as "tacit hermeneutical pedagogies." For "experience" the argument is made that Gadamer's hermeneutics can supplement John Dewey's theory of experience and thus underwrite the compatibility of a continental philosophical hermeneutics with a philosophy of education in a liberal democracy. Bildung is discussed in terms of Women's Ways' "constructed knowledge" as the "meeting" of hermeneutical understanding and experience. Part 2 turns to literary texts, Frankenstein and Emile, as a way to further the inquiry into the contingencies of education, hermeneutics, language, trait-genderization, and metaphor. The final chapter describes how the thesis was applied to a "Human Relations in Teaching" course at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, a course that is required for state teaching licensure. The emphasis here is on the promise that the thesis holds for multicultural, nonsexist education;Where the thesis will contribute the most is in the teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities. By offering an ontological alternative to a mentality that is circumscribed by the behavioral objectives model of education, the thesis may undermine the self-perpetuation of the "tyrannical machine" that "runs" modern education. For at least the past twenty years, supporting evidence, both theoretical and practical, has been growing to substantiate the claim in favor of the compatibility of Gadamer's hermeneutics and education, and for at least the past ten years the evidence has been growing in support of a complementary reciprocation between feminism and hermeneutics.

Sat Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 1994