Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Education After... ?
by R. Michael Fisher - Thursday, September 15, 2011, 06:59 PM

I have long been fascinated with a radical critical view of education, but particularly with a discourse that showed up in the late 1940s with the Frankfurt School of Social Theory in Germany. Theodor Adorno had written a piece called "Education After Auschwitz?" It was his challenge, one that I heartily identify with in spirit, to adjust the status quo mentality towards education, when there had been a traumatic and tragic event like Nazi Germany, and the "cool" and "rational" way that a progressive society (so-called "civilized) could come to create an Auschwitz--and the concentration camps of the 20th century. It was the sociopolitical and cultural Holocaust, that Adorno was bringing forth, not as a past historical event, but as a present-past context. And he was asking us to think critical about the future.

Like Adorno's challenge to all, and especially educators, I too want to challenge all the assumptions we hold about the world, about progress, and about the so-called essential role education plays in that progress. Yes, Adorno is challenging that a modern society, Germany (and it could be any country), well-educated more or less, could put 'in place' a fascism that could do so massively inhuman things. The Holocaust. A memory, but not merely a memory. Adorno was not that romantical. He challenged all societies to ask: What do we need to re-think about an education in modern times, a curriculum, and pedagogies, that could produce such a monstrosity of human historical unfoldings as Auschwitz (as a symbolic icon of the failure of education).

I often speak of CSIIE as coming out of this grand "failure of education." Recently in 2005, critical pedagogue Henry Giroux wrote a book on Education after Abu Ghraib? He was spinning off the Adorno challenge, and in my work I have often written about "Education After 9/11?" Recently, I have taken on a project to look at the 10 years of reflection on 9/11 and you may be interested to engage a serious of blogposts on this in the past week (go to conclusion is, we haven't learned that much, differently, and I mean really differently. I say that because I don't see educational leaders anywhere, especially in America, or Israel, or anywhere, saying we need to re-form, and trans-form, the entire context of how we see "education" as part of a post-9/11 era. Where is a truly progressive post-9/11 education going on? I don't see it. CSIIE is attempting, at least, to think about that, and DIFS is very much interested in the logistics and philosophy of new curriculum and pedagogy, policy, and attitudes--toward building a fearlessness pedagogy that really works, and that really undermines the culture of fear--the Auschwitz, Abu Ghraib, 9/11 catastrophes--of which the modern and postmodern world must take responsibility for its part in the creation. There is far too much blaming others for these problems. That will never help much.

I invite our faculty, students, and friends, to keep this notion of "education" "after ?" as always in the formation of contextualizing your energies and learning and teaching.