Pedagogy without Women

Mara Susak, Ludwig-Maximilians-University

Almost the entire Western canon of pedagogical works was written by men. This is common with canonical works. However, pedagogy stands out in several ways. First, pedagogy has historically been seen as a female domain. Second, pedagogy has had one of the highest percentages of women among all disciplines, both in the past and in the present. This is true not only for the practice but also for the theory of pedagogy, so that there are a considerable number of historical works on pedagogy written by women. Third, the ideal of equal education for all (especially for all genders) that prevails today was developed by female authors, which predestines them to be considered classics. Despite these features, the proportion of women in educational classics is extremely sparse, even relative to other disciplines. Oftentimes, the only exception is Maria Montessori. This paper explores a new way of analyzing the causes for this social and epistemological imbalance by understanding patriarchy as empire. The appeal of this approach immediately suggests itself from Michael Doyles definition of an empire as “effective control, whether formal or informal, of a subordinated society by an imperial society." (Doyle, Michael, 2018: Empires. Cornell University Press. p. 30) This paper investigates the systematic reasons for this social and epistemological imbalance. It does so by first showing the roots of the problem in Ancient Greece and Plato’s essentialization of women that is built upon throughout Western history. Beginning with Christine de Pizan in the 15th century, female thinkers of pedagogy often defended, against Plato’s influence, a more universal idea of generality comprising all genders. This preces today’s educational ideals but for a long time could not assert itself against the structural dominance of the male claim of male superiority.

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 Presented in Session 122. Multidimensional perspectives on Women's Movements