My Teaching, My Philosophy

Kenneth Wain and the Lifelong Engagement with Education

by John Baldacchino (Volume editor) Simone Galea (Volume editor) Duncan P. Mercieca (Volume editor)
©2014 Monographs VIII, 320 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 462


My Teaching, My Philosophy brings together twenty of the most prominent thinkers on education, philosophy, art, and literature to converse with Kenneth Wain and the many facets of his work. It shows how Wain’s passionate engagement with various issues, most prominently philosophy and education, continues to re-generate new ideas and thoughts through his philosophical method. This book gives Wain’s philosophy the attention it deserves and succeeds in continuing an open-ended philosophical conversation with its readers. My Teaching, My Philosophy is a must-read for anyone wanting to get a snapshot on the most recent thinking on philosophy of education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • Introduction. My Teaching, My Philosophy
  • Lifelong Education and Learning
  • Political Discourses
  • Educational Becomings
  • Philosophy
  • References
  • Part I: Lifelong Education and Learning
  • 1. Kenneth Wain and the Protean Challenge of Lifelong Education and the Learning Society
  • Kenneth Wain and the “Maximalist” Conception
  • The Idea of “the Learning Society”
  • Some Grounds for Arguments against Postmodernism
  • A More Pragmatic Alternative: Philosophy as a Species of Problem Solving
  • The Contribution of Kenneth Wain to Problem Solving
  • Concluding Remarks
  • References
  • 2. Revisiting “Lifelong Learning” 13 Years after the Memorandum
  • My Indebtedness to Kenneth Wain
  • Lifelong Learning as Part of the Dominant Doxa
  • UNESCO: Utopianism and Pragmatism
  • The Pragmatist Turn
  • The Discursive Shift
  • Key Message 1: New Basic Skills for All
  • Key Message 2: Investment in Human Resources
  • Key Message 3: Innovation in Teaching and Learning
  • Key Message 4: Valuing Learning
  • Key Message 5: Rethinking Guidance and Counselling
  • Key Message 6: Bringing Learning Closer to Home
  • Conclusion: The Way Forward
  • References
  • 3. What’s in an Examined Life? Longing for Philosophy in the Age of Learning Societies
  • Introduction
  • The Lesson of Kairos
  • Learning in Our Times
  • Lifelong Education, Philosophy of Education, and the Educated Person
  • The Stretch of Intellect and the Public Intellectual
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 4. Lifelong Guidance, Citizen Rights, and the State: Reclaiming the Social Contract
  • Introduction: Citizen, User, Customer, or Client?
  • The State and the Individual
  • Lifelong Guidance: Handmaiden or Critic of a Failing State?
  • References
  • Part II: Political Discourses
  • 5. Toward an Auto-Poetic and Postmodern Europe
  • A European Constitution?
  • Frontiers
  • Subsidiarity
  • Parliament
  • Regions
  • Other Networking Mechanisms
  • I. Polls
  • II. Sages
  • III. Mediation—Law
  • Civil Society
  • Variable Geometries
  • Solidarity
  • Economics
  • Taxation
  • Auditing
  • Tailpiece
  • References
  • 6. The Dangers of Liberal/Rationalist Policy Discourse and the Role of the Philosopher in Disrupting It
  • Introduction
  • The Limits of Liberalism: Critical Democracy as an Absent Ideal
  • Myths in Predominant Liberal/Rationalist Policy Discourses
  • The Myth of Neutrality
  • The Myth of “Evidence-Based” Policy
  • The Myth of Standardization
  • Philosophical Contributions to Disrupting Liberal/Rationalist Myths
  • Policy Actors and Philosophers-as-Policy-Activists
  • Structural Contributions: Disrupting Exclusion and Re-imaging the Polis
  • Representational Contributions: Disrupting Hegemony
  • Interactional Contributions: Disrupting Inequity and Polarization
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 7. White Philosophy in/of America
  • Introduction
  • The Idea of American Philosophy
  • Narratives of “White Philosophy”
  • The Hope of American Pragmatism
  • References
  • 8. Objectivity, Evidence, and Truth in History
  • References
  • Part III: Educational Becomings
  • 9. Self-Writing, the Feminine, and the Educational Constitution of the Self
  • Self-Writing as a Technology of the Self
  • Woman and Philosophy
  • Self-Writing, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Regulation
  • The Challenge of Feminine Writing
  • A Feminine Educational Constitution of the Self
  • References
  • 10. Pedagogy as Transformative Event: Becoming Singularly Present in Context
  • The Road to Transformation
  • Education and the Dream of Transformation
  • Becoming Present in Context: A Second (Pedagogical) Birth
  • Retelling the Dream or Going Down the Road of the Unexpected and the Particular
  • References
  • 11. Integrity and Subordination in Educational Practice
  • Introduction
  • Historical Reflections
  • The Integrity of Education as a Practice
  • The Particular Benefits of Educational Practice
  • References
  • 12. My Practice, Our Practice
  • The Traditional Conception of Practice
  • On the Possibilities of a Systemic Concept of Practice
  • Systems: Parts and Wholes
  • Punctuation
  • The Hierarchy of Change
  • Stability
  • Dormitive Mistakes
  • Is There Anything to be Gained?
  • References
  • 13. An Apprenticeship in Resistance: Art, Education, and Book Burning
  • The Pastor and the Body of the Book
  • Art and Its Ruins
  • Infantile Perversions of the Book
  • Politics, Religion, and the Unfulfilled Book
  • An Apprenticeship in the Unwritten
  • References
  • 14. Tall Buildings, Taller Orders, or, the Immodesty of Literature
  • References
  • Part IV: Philosophy
  • 15. Initiating a Different Kind of Conversation between Philosophy of Education and Educators
  • Introduction
  • A (Failed) Marriage?
  • In-Disciplinary Thought
  • Teacher Man
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 16. Art, Paralogy, and Education: In Conversation with Kenneth Wain’s Philosophical Interlocutors
  • Paradox and the Learning Society
  • Reordering, Removing, and Relocating
  • Paralogy, Art and Learning
  • Withdrawal, Recollection, and Hope
  • Being Radical
  • References
  • 17. Autobiography: Self-(re)-Education beyond Literature and Philosophy
  • References
  • 18. The Role of Philosophy: Questions Rorty Raises
  • Introduction
  • Rorty’s Anti-Epistemology
  • Autobiography as Philosophy
  • Literature as Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Education
  • Peace for Philosophy
  • Quo Vadis Philosophy?
  • References
  • 19. Momentous Occasions: Philosophy and Autobiography in Richard Rorty, Stanley Cavell, and Kenneth Wain
  • References
  • 20. Citizenship, Therapy, and the Politics of Irony
  • References
  • List of contributors

← 0 | 1 → • INTRODUCTION •

My Teaching, My Philosophy

John Baldacchino, Simone Galea, and Duncan P. Mercieca

In his book Philosophy as a Way of Life, Pierre Hadot (1995) distinguishes between philosophy as a theoretical endeavour and philosophy as a way of life. To be a professor of philosophy and education at a university today generally obliges one to engage in the practice of philosophy predominantly in a theoretical manner. In thinking of a scholar who is deeply committed to the pursuit of theoretical knowledge as well as to living a philosophical life, Kenneth Wain immediately comes to mind. His teaching life, spanning over 45 years, ranging from secondary school to university, breaks down the binaries of philosophical practice, theoretical or otherwise. His ways of teaching philosophy and particularly philosophy of education reflect a lifelong engagement with philosophical issues that seek to experiment with and open up existing concepts of education.

One aspect that characterizes Kenneth Wain’s philosophical life and thought is his practice of philosophy as a conversation whose educational and political aims are definitely not aimed at having the last word on any issue. Wain’s is an exploratory practice of the possibilities for difference, especially through ways that recast conversations and their rules. As colleagues and ex-students of Kenneth Wain, we have had many opportunities to experience this approach to philosophy, education, and teaching. Our frequent conversations with him as a scholar, philosopher, poet, art critic, and teacher have enriched our own philosophical lives, especially when our thoughts have crossed paths with his thinking without necessarily following and at times even completely departing from his philosophical pathways.

In this book, we have drawn on our own engagements with Kenneth Wain and his various writings to instigate other authors, who have had their own conversational experiences with him to present their own writings in philosophy and/or education. This book consists of an edited collection of 20 essays by well-known academics, which we consider as yet another occasion that enhances philosophical conversations. For Kenneth Wain, the act of ← 1 | 2 → opening up and keeping conversations going is essential to democracy, at least to his conception of democracy as a learning society that resists being assimilated into dominant forms of thought.

This book is not solely aimed at presenting analyses of Kenneth Wain’s texts. Neither is it aimed to arrive at some essential meaning of his thought. The authors of this book take up particular aspects of his thought that are relevant to them, to develop their own writings. These we conceive as writings-in-relation that emerge from encounters with his work. Our hope is that this book does not only give his philosophy the attention it deserves but that it regenerates his philosophical method and succeeds in continuing open-ended philosophical conversations.

We have structured this ongoing, open-ended conversation into four sections. As always, some essays blur the boundaries between sections and could fit comfortably under other sections. An overview of the main arguments in each section is presented.

Lifelong Education and Learning

This section is dedicated to debates about the idea of lifelong education and lifelong learning and to which Kenneth Wain has majorly contributed toward the philosophy and theory of this domain of scholarship.

David Aspin gives a critical account of Wain’s work, starting with his “maximalist” study of lifelong learning in the 1980s and 1990s and an extended critique of his more recent publications that gives prominence to some postmodern writers for his lifelong educational agenda. Aspin argues that Wain’s critical approach toward problem solving in the lifelong learning arena, particularly his more recent work on the current leading problem of economic performativity, demonstrates his important contribution to the development of knowledge in the field.

Peter Mayo also draws on Wain’s major contributions to the various debates concerning lifelong education and learning, including his early work related to UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) expansive use of the term alongside that of Dave, Cropley, Lengrand, Faure, et al., Suchodolski, and Gelpi. He refers to Wain’s later critiques of the term as expounded by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the EU’s (European Union) reference to the Memorandum of Lifelong Learning. Mayo’s essay provides an alternative broader conceptualisation of lifelong education/learning within the context of a radical democracy. He argues that schooling, adult education, social ← 2 | 3 → movement learning, and higher education benefit from the concept of lifelong learning based on the notion of a critical citizenship that primarily conceives people as social actors, not simple producers/consumers.

A lifelong education, an examined life, and a vision of a learning society as an educated public cannot be separated from a desire for philosophy. Marianna Papastephanou engages with Wain’s critique of the current global emphasis on performativity and its uncritical conception of what counts as (lifelong) education through a reading of Poseidippos’s poem on kairos, the Greek god of lived time. In doing so, she discusses the role of the educator/intellectual/artist in relation to the educated public, suggesting an aporetic stance to life and life-world that disrupts the apparently questionless normalcy that often accompanies the smooth flow of a lifetime.

Ronald Sultana discusses the problems of the current articulation of the lifelong career guidance paradigm that uncritically reflects core agendas underpinning neoliberalism as well as new public management principles. He explains that distinctions ought to be drawn between seeing the user of career guidance services as a “customer,” “client,” or “user” on the one hand, and as a “citizen” on the other, claiming that the political philosophy informing these terms reveals fundamental tensions that need to be addressed in the formulation of public policy in relation to guidance. He argues that in a historical conjuncture marked by insecurity, the notion of a “social contract” between the state and the citizen is particularly appropriate to infuse lifelong guidance with the critical edge that it urgently requires.

Political Discourses

Peter Serracino Inglott argues that Wain, in his work both in philosophy of education and in moral philosophy, as indeed also in his aesthetic criticism, has shown a particular sensitivity and given special attention to political implications. Even more, he has distinguished himself through selfless defence of liberal democracy and particularly, in that perspective of Malta’s membership of the EU. This essay is probably one of the last pieces of writings of Fr Peter, one of Malta’s prominent philosophers, who passed away on March 16th, 2012, a few months after this essay was submitted. This essay, written as a kind of testament, shows the process that Fr Peter himself was involved in when a constitution for the EU was being drafted. For the constitution to be both realistic and acceptable, it should not be couched on the model of the constitution of any established Federal states. The nature of the EU was that it was a unique type of political entity, and Fr Peter argues ← 3 | 4 → that the form that was appropriate for its constitution was that of the description of a network in information theory.

Popular educational policy discourse promotes a limited relationship between policy and philosophy, as the discourse is dominated by a liberal/rationalist conception of both policy and philosophy. Laura Elizabeth Pinto and John Portelli argue that such conceptions do not allow for alternative possibilities in envisioning and actualizing creative and more meaningful relationships between policy and philosophy. Moreover, the liberal/rationalist policy discourse has not been successful in challenging the neoliberal agenda in education. The aim of their essay is twofold: to argue against the neoliberal myths and the assumptions underlying them vis-á-vis notions of policy and philosophy, and to argue for a more robust relationship between policy and philosophy, which implies a critical-democratic conception of both policy and philosophy. It proposes that in order to combat the impact of neoliberal views and practices, we need to understand the limits of liberalism in policy discourse and the ethics of subversion.

The argument in Michael Peters’s writing is that Richard Rorty and Stanley Cavell, between them—though in different ways—define American philosophy “after Wittgenstein,” and together they assert something distinctive of the American philosophy tradition. Yet even given their distinctive contributions and their bold reworkings of the idea of America and American philosophy, neither took their historicism far enough to recognize the central fact of the birth of America—the form of racism that originated with colonization of America and black slavery. This absence is in part a reflection that their notion of power is not central in their philosophy. It is not until Cornel West appeared on the scene in the 1990s that questions of race made it into mainstream American philosophy and black philosophy and at last became part of the canon and a legitimate object of philosophical study. This observation should be hugely surprising but it bespeaks something of the serious lack of historical reflexivity in American philosophy, even among its most original and enterprising philosophers, a lack that symbolizes both the privilege and power of America as well as its unexamined and assumed global centrality as a place and time to philosophize. There is little in either Rorty or Cavell that systematically draws attention to America in any negative sense—the ruthlessness of its colonizing beginnings, its early slave economy, or indeed its consistent foreign policy, defined in a series of wars since the end of WWII: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Rorty and Cavell are good American patriots and their philosophies are patriotic.

Objectivity, evidence, and truth are related. We are reminded by Joe Friggieri, that for an empirical statement to be considered true, it must be ← 4 | 5 → supported by some objective matter of fact that can be cited as evidence for its truth. These concepts form a kind of tightly-knit fabric or web. We buy into them holistically or not at all. The acquisition of knowledge—one of the primary aims of education—is also based on evidence and inextricably linked to objectivity and truth. So are the various degrees of assent. This essay aims to clarify the way these notions feature in an account of the nature of historical understanding and to meet objections to the possibility of arriving at historical truth. Many of these objections, it will be claimed, though containing a number of important insights, depend for their plausibility on a dramatic heightening of the constraints within which historians go about their business and a playing down of what they actually manage to achieve. The value of historical understanding is also brought out by showing, among other things, the differences between historical narrative and literary fiction, despite attempts that have been made to conflate them.

Educational Becomings

It is indeed difficult for educators to relinquish their conventional teaching positions in setting definite pathways for some pre-established idea of how the self can and should be formed. Most of the authors in this section, however, take the challenge of exploring the pedagogical landscapes that entertain uncertain processes of transformation that have “no end.” Their philosophies of education explore the complexities in thinking about such educational events.

Sharon Todd conceives educational becomings as Arendtian second births, uniquely revealed through moments of speech and actions with others. These unique becomings emerge through the in-betweenness of one’s encounters with others. Todd argues that educational transformations need not conform to some managerialistic idea of what students should be. Rather, they should attend to becoming present in relation to others. If, for Todd, it is this unpredictable relatedness to others that instigates educational becomings, for Tone Kvernbekk, it then becomes more meaningful to speak of a teaching or philosophical practice that is “ours” rather than “mine.” Drawing on Bateson, she critiques the underlying individualist commonsense connotations of the term educational practice by drawing on his notions of punctuation, hierarchy of change, stability, and “dormitive mistake,” to draw attention to educational practice as a systemic concept that actively responds to ecological systems of which they complexly form part.

← 5 | 6 → According to Pádraig Hogan, the histories of educational practice reveal that they are much more vulnerable to political control than in the other major practices, such as medicine, law, nursing, and engineering. Hogan explores the implications of such practices for teachers, inquiring into the possibilities and prospects for advancing education as a practice in its own right. In engaging with Wain’s later works, he proposes a kind of politics that belongs to education as a practice with its own inherent goals. He suggests the reclamation and reformulation of a Socratic educational tradition as a resource for moving beyond critique to more promising and defensible forms of educational practice.

In thinking about educational practices that challenge such powerful institutional control, the essays by Simone Galea and Raphael Vella suggest other “pedagogies” that entertain the possibility of giving birth to unexpected becomings. For Galea, acts of writing that attend to the sexually different “other” can open up spaces for the reinvention of oneself. This kind of self-writing is not motivated by a search for the reality of the self or in some possibility in getting to know the self, but practices by which individuals form different, new relations with themselves. This practice of self-writing, however, is not a sexually neutral practice. It is a kind of feminine writing that Cixous calls for and that does not solely pertain to the cultivation of women’s selves. It is a philosophical and educational practice that is continually engaged in the process of going beyond oneself.

For Vella, on the other hand, the radical artistic acts of book burning point to a sense of renewal or transformation in art and education. Book burning may be perceived as inimical to a healthy democratic distribution and exchange of ideas. However, it is essentially democratic and educational through its very act of resisting phallogocentric modes of thought that suppress different ideas. It is a deconstructive and symbolic act of unlearning that flares up a consciousness of one’s own limited thoughts and a critical attitude to the godlike dimensions that a book, its author, and its teachers often take for granted. Vella’s discussion of the educational implications of book burning recalls Wain’s public involvement on issues of censorship and his defence of artists’ and authors’ rights to present their thoughts and work irrespective of the controversial issues of which they dealt. The paper by Ivan Callus discusses Wain’s contribution to the literary field by refering to his collection of short stories published in 1968 entitled Tall Buildings. Wain’s relation with the philosophical in this paper is complexely intertwined with the literary and the place of literature in the project of lifelong education in particular. Callus argues that the minor literature of which Wain’s literary texts are an example, should not be treated modestly. He suggests a ← 6 | 7 → republishing of Maltese literary works written in English by mainstream publishers, which may even involve the rewriting of the text. In the light of the themes of ‘becomings’ in this section, is the relaunching and revisiting of the work suggested by Callus an invitation for Wain to engage in the reinvention of himself as a literary author?


Wain has engaged extensively with the works of Richard Rorty. With the exception of one essay in this section, Rorty’s work can be considered as a unifying thread among the other essays in this section. While some authors just refer to Rorty, for others, Rorty is the focus of their essay. This section brings together the conversation among Wain, Richard Rorty, other philosophers, and the diverse authors of these essays.

Daniela Mercieca and Duncan Mercieca take up Wain’s concern of the relation of the philosopher of education to philosophy and education. Rather than trying to see how the philosopher of education fits into these categories, following Jacques Rancière, the authors see the possibility of acknowledging philosophers as being also educators and educators being also philosophers.

The nonfoundational position of Wain’s philosophy of education is John Baldacchino’s concern. Taking into consideration his particular attention to the work of John Dewey, Richard Rorty, and Jean Francois Lyotard, this essay assesses the liberal character of Wain’s philosophy and how it moves from liberal discourse to that of poststructuralism, as articulated by deconstruction and postmodernity.

Two essays, one by Sandra Dingli and another by Paul Standish, engage with Wain’s essay. Rorty had published an autobiographical paper, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids” (1992), “to say something about ... how I got into philosophy, and then found myself unable to use philosophy for the purpose I had originally had in mind.” (p. 16). In this essay, Wain claims that Rorty’s paper instigated him to compose his own autobiographical paper, where he empathises with Rorty’s inability “to use philosophy for the purpose I had originally had in mind.” Wain’s position exhibits similarities with that of Rorty. They both acknowledge Dewey’s contribution to philosophy, and they both appreciate the valuable contribution of literature to society.

Dingli critically analyses Rorty’s views on the role of philosophy and his suggestions as to how philosophy should be conducted. In her essay, she questions whether Rorty’s own views should be deconstructed, whether pragmatism as advocated by Rorty is a viable way of doing philosophy, and ← 7 | 8 → what the implications of his views on philosophical method are. Standish takes the comparison between Rorty and Cavell as developed by Wain and pursues this comparison in the light of remarks by Cornel West regarding the importance of what West calls the tonality of the philosopher and the nature of their struggle. This provides an entrée to a reconsideration of a number of the themes that Wain takes up, especially concerning the nature of philosophy, its relation to literature, and the significance within the autobiographical.


VIII, 320
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (August)
art literature issues
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 320 pp.

Biographical notes

John Baldacchino (Volume editor) Simone Galea (Volume editor) Duncan P. Mercieca (Volume editor)

John Baldacchino is Chair of Arts Education at the University of Dundee in Scotland. He specializes in art, philosophy, and education and is the author of nine books, including Education Beyond Education (2009), Makings of the Sea (2010), Art’s Way Out (2012), Democracy without Confession (with Kenneth Wain, 2013), and John Dewey (2013). Simone Galea is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy of Education at the Department of Education Studies, University of Malta. Her lecturing and research focus on philosophy of education, feminist philosophy and theory, narrative research, antiracist education, and educational aspects of migration. Duncan P. Mercieca is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Education Studies at the University of Malta. His teaching and research are in the areas of philosophy of education, research methodology, and inclusive education.


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