PhD defence J. (Joris) Verheijen

Revolution in the School Corridor: Radical-romantic Bildung in and outside education between 1789 and now
Prof.dr. M. Huijer
Prof.dr. J. de Mul
Thursday 4 Jul 2024, 13:00 - 14:30
PhD defence
Senate Hall
Erasmus Building
Campus Woudestein
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On Thursday 4 July 2024, J. Verheijen will defend the doctoral dissertation entitled: 'Revolution in the School Corridor: Radical-romantic Bildung in and outside education between 1789 and now'

Brief summary of the dissertation:

This book started with the insight of a high-school student, during a philosophy lesson about Foucault and about discipline in prisons, mental institutions and schools. He realized how much there was that did not even occur to him anymore to do in the school corridor. The boy had adapted so well to the existing rules that he censored the thought of dancing or singing, even before that thought could arise. That paradoxical insight, the realization of something that cannot be realized, generated emancipatory discussions in the classroom, about self discipline at school and about the question whether children were forming themselves or being formed – the question of what in the German philosophical en pedagogical tradition is usually called Bildung or self-formation.

His insight turned out to be a fitting illustration of an unfreedom of thought and of a lack of alternative options, which today also affects the discussion about economics, about politics or about education: the legacy of decades in which the message was invariably that there was no alternative to the prevailing neoliberal policies. How much is there that does not occur to us anymore to do and what can we do to change that?

The book puts this need for alternative ways of thinking into practice by rewriting the history of Bildung. It proves that next to the classical Bildung of Goethe, Schiller and Humboldt, there existed a radical-romantic tradition, represented by Georg Forster, Caroline Böhmer, Friedrich Schlegel and Walter Benjamin. Whereas classical Bildung was meant to protect the estate society from revolution, Georg Forster and his friends believed that free self-formation required radical social change. Forster played a leading role in a short-lived revolution in Mainz and went to Paris. For that reason, his alternative philosophy of Bildung was condemned and subsequently repressed and forgotten in Germany.

The relevance of this alternative tradition today becomes clear when it is brought into dialogue with current pedagogical theories, such as Biesta’s postmodern philosophy of education, and with the practice of teaching. With the help of the radical romantics and their theory of Bildung, I reflect on educational questions of the present day, which manifested themselves in the above-mentioned lessons on Foucault: how is critical thinking possible in the classroom, how can writing education be liberated from the straight-jacket of linear arguments and how can more students become aware of the freedom they have to think and choose alternatively?

More information

The public defence will begin exactly at 13.00 hrs. The doors will be closed once the public defence starts, latecomers may be able to watch on the screen outside. There is no possibility of entrance during the first part of the ceremony. Due to the solemn nature of the ceremony, children under the age of 6 are not allowed during the first part of the ceremony.

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