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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


YONGE, George D. An unlikely venture: Interrogating the criticism of fundamental pedagogics. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.4-2, pp.1327-1345. ISSN 2224-7912.

This paper begins with a brief historical sketch of how, in 1974, my thinking moved from a natural science approach, to the study of educational psychology, to the phenomenological approach pursued at the University of Pretoria. I found what I was looking for - a competent and comprehensive phenomenology of educating in all of its part-perspectives, including fundamental pedagogics. While studying and teaching these contents, in 1980, I was shocked to read scathing criticisms and characterisations of fundamental pedagogics claiming that Pretoria pedagogics was designed to provide an academic justification of apartheid education in that it was said to be little more than an expression of the racist, authoritarian policies of Christian Nationalism. If these claims were accurate, this would mean I was involved in an unlikely venture in as much as I have anti-apartheid and non-racist sentiments such that this asserted purpose of fundamental pedagogics, in particular, and pedagogics, in general, would be in conflict with my own values and philosophy of life. Fortunately, myfirst-hand experiences with the phenomenological endeavours at Pretoria do not support these claims. This gives rise to the question: How is it possible that the critics of fundamental pedagogics and I both are equally convinced of the accuracy of our understandings of fundamental pedagogics and what has given rise to this discrepancy? The main thrust of this paper addresses this question. Since an investigator's method will influence strongly what legitimately can or cannot be expressed about a particular phenomenon, the most appropriate method of investigation is deemed to be the phenomenological method, as the aim is to interrogate the phenomenon of education, as (was) the intent offundamental pedagogics in the 1980s at the University of Pretoria. Phenomenology is a method designed to disclose the essences or universal structures of a phenomenon. Its first step is called the phenomenological reduction, epoche, bracketing. This step gets us closer to the phenomenon itself by temporarily holding in abeyance the essence-blinding influences of whatever kind (e.g., assumptions, theories, ideologies [explicitly the Christian Nationalism of apartheid South Africa], philosophies of life, etc.). A consequence of this bracketing is that an investigator's access to and dialogue with a phenomenon will not be disrupted or distorted by what is being bracketed. Within this bracketing, the eidetic reduction or method of free variation is performed as a way of disclosing and highlighting what seem to be essences. These essences are universal and thus do not imply or require a particular ideology, etc. Otherwise they wouldn't be universal. Next, a hermeneutic method is used to illuminate and clarify the meaning of each essence (what function does it serve). Finally, the dialectial (triadic) method is used to determine the coherences among the essences (how do they serve as mutual conditions for each other to occur). Practising fundamental pedagogics (and pedagogics in general) occur only while bracketing is engaged. This means that fundamental pedagogics only can scientifically describe the essences and structures of the reality of educating but not its contents (e.g., a particular religious commitment or political view that has been held in abeyance by bracketing). Pretoria calls the activity within brackets a science of or a theory of the reality of educating. And this gives rise to distinguishing the pre-scientific, the scientific and the post-scientific, where bracketing is absent from the pre- and post-scientific attitudes, and ideologies, etc. rightly play a critical role in the reality of educating. Even though fundamental pedagogics is not in a position and doesn't aim to select particular ideologies that are necessary for the act of educating, in revealing and describing these universals of this activity, these essences, as preconditions for establishing an adult-child educative relationship, provide guidelines for a practitioner (parent, teacher) to establish and sustain such a relationship and these essences also can be used as criteria for evaluating the pedagogical quality of an educational activity as well as whether applying an ideology in a particular way distorts the essences of that relationship. That is, these essences make possible a purely pedagogical perspective on the reality of educating in contrast to a psychological perspective, for example. In the literature critical of fundamental pedagogics almost always there is a conflation of the scientific and the post-scientific with the consequence that pedagogics is criticised for justifying apartheid education when in fact it is in no position to do so and doesn t aim to. Pedagogics also is criticised for not including political discourse in its description of essences. Examples of these criticisms are presented and evaluated pedagogically. Thus, it seems that almost all criticism of the pedagogical studies at Pretoria can be attributed to a conflation of a scientific activity with a post-scientific one - one of content. Hence, not keeping track of the scientific and the post-scientific activities, facilitates these conflations. A possible answer to my beginning question of why there is this "discrepancy" is that I limit my evaluation of pedagogical findings to what was obtained while bracketing was engaged (the scientific/phenomenological), while most critics focus on the post-scientific issue of prescribing to practice where much of what was bracketed now must be used to nuance the meanings of the essences within a particular practice. That is, I limit myself to the essences disclosed and described when bracketing is engaged, while most critics are focused on how these essences are applied post-scientifically. Possibly the "discrepancy" between our appraisals of fundamental pedagogics arises because we are approaching the reality of educating from different points of view, i.e., with different questions and interests. The consequence of critics and defenders talking past each other has been costly. The phenomenological efforts at Pretoria have been vilified and ostracised for political, more than academic reasons to an extent that generations of possible contributors to its line of thinking have been thwarted completely. I suggest that the Pretoria findings be studied with an open and scientific mind and then decide if these findings are or are not a treasure trove of insights into the reality of educating a child.

Palabras clave : educating; upbringing; psychopedagogics; fundamental pedagogics; pedagogics as a science; phenomenological method; phenomenological; reduction (bracketing); pre-scientific; scientific and post-scientific perspectives; Langeveld's pedagogy; essences/categories; apartheid education; authoritarian teaching; Christian National education; science of vs science for; theory of vs theory for.

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