This essay starts in medias res, in the puzzling reappearance of the classical metaphor of Bildung as the transformation of man’s “first” animal nature into the “second” cultivated one. I call it the two-natures metaphor. I think it misrepresents children by prescribing form rather than asking what actually takes form in the child’s mind—in his/her relationship with adults. It made me wonder whether this mistake also lingers on in the current discourse on education. I then turn to aspects of John Dewey’s subtle and revolutionary critique of the classical theory of formation, but also to make the controversial point that he, too, seems to miss the importance of the child’s internal point of view. The importance of the subjective life of the child is suggested first by reinscribing Rousseau and Kant into the intersubjective theories of Hegel and Dewey; second, by reference to recent studies in developmental psychology that offer detailed and in-depth descriptions of our relationship with children. My basic point of departure is the existential encounters between children and adults, for example, as part of classroom practices. The title has a double connotation. It means that theory must be taken as the measure of practice. It means, too, that practice must work as the measure of theory. I will, in the main, try and pursue the last course.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International