Joined in battle 2

May 8, 2008

It's bad enough that so many diverse fields of learning are increasingly subject to the crass positivism that masquerades as "knowledge" in modern culture. My own fields of psychotherapy, with its obsession with "evidence-based practice" and early education, with the imposition of the crassly utilitarian and assessment-obsessed Early Years Foundation Stage, are especially poignant and painful examples. But when deadly, anxiety-driven "audit culture" practices begin to colonise the arts and literary criticism, we know that the academy is in big trouble, as modernity's positivistic drive to colonise every last field of knowledge and learning continues apace.

Derek Attridge's excellent article comes at a key moment in the unfolding "paradigm war" raging between the arid managerialism and economy-centred educational values that aspire to totalising control of all modern learning, and those brave souls like Attridge prepared to proclaim the enduring, perennial importance of the liminal, the subtle and even the spiritual in human learning.

We could do far worse than listen carefully to two of the last century's greatest philosophers, Wittgenstein and Heidegger, who recognised all too well how much the sensibilities of the poet and the ineffable qualities of the subtle and the mysterious need to be asserted against an arrogantly aggressive scientism and technologism that threatens our most deeply human creative qualities - and as some would say, our very being.

Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University.

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