Title: Why exercising matters educationally. An investigation into school practices from the perspective of Stein’s automatic writing experiments
Authors: Vlieghe, Joris #
Issue Date: 20-Sep-2012
Conference: European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) location:Cadiz date:18-21 September 2012
Abstract: In this contribution I develop a perspective on the interconnectedness of education and corporeality that allows to analyze concrete school practices in a way that has not been explored so far. Current educational research tends either to forget the body as a dimension of educational significance, or to deal with the body from the idea that it is a not as yet fully acknowledged source of meaning we should put at work in order to optimize teaching and learning. Over and against this I argue that there is another and perhaps more profound reason to take corporeality into consideration: certain embodied practices precisely imply the impossibility of expressing clear and definite meanings that we, as intentional subjects, might appropriate, and therefore (following Agamben on this point) they might grant an experience of potentiality, i.e. a sense of capability that is related to the possibility of a real transformation of individual and collective existence.
In order to support this thesis I turn to the experiments in ‘automatic writing’ the avant-garde writer Gertrude Stein performed and her comments on this practice. This practice consists in isolating the technical art of writing from meaning formation via acts of distraction What is at stake in these experiments is not the recovery of a more original and authentic consciousness repressed by civilization (as the surrealist movement claimed many years later), but a certain experience that has the force to relate to one’s activities that surpasses a logic of expressivity and appropriation, and that at the same time opens the possibility of a radically new resignification of common human practices and of communal existence.
Elaborating this point of view, I show that school practices such as exercising, which are typically repetitive, embodied and collective activities, might possess an important educational value, that is too often forgotten. This oblivion results from the widely accepted view that learning consists essentially in the self-steered construction of meaning, in view of which exercising should be considered as a less efficient method. It is not my intention whatsoever to question or to criticize this last idea, but to draw attention to the fact that reducing educational science to constructivist learning psychology leaves important educational (and perhaps political) issues out of the picture.
The analysis I pursue might grant a new way of looking at school practices: instead of dealing with them as pedagogical tools that should be evaluated in terms of effectiveness, they appear as intrinsically significant activities that not only reveal an interconnectedness between education and corporeality, but that defies to rethink what ‘schooling’ the new generation is all about.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Education and Society
# (joint) last author

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