Book Review: ‘Education as Dialogue: its prerequisites and its enemies’

Book Review: ‘Education as Dialogue: its prerequisites and its enemies’ by Tazos Kazepides

Montreal & Kingston, London, Ithaca, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010. Pp. 207. Hb. $95.00, Pb. $29.95.

Reviewed by Marianna Papastephanou

As the word ‘as’ of the title indicates, Education as Dialogue places together two of the most fundamental concepts of our field in a relation of analogy or even identification. Tazos Kazepides argues that the prerequisites of education are also prerequisites of dialogue, and certainly that this is not the only thing dialogue and education have in common. The book unravels its main argument through eight chapters, each dedicated to a specific philosophical-educational task that prepares the ground for the major and final claims: ‘education can best be seen as an engagement in a civilized dialogue’ and like the concept of human nature that grounds it, ‘the concept of education’ is ‘vague and open-ended’, ‘an ideal that can only be approximated’ (p. 180). But the similarity of education and dialogue and their common cause in ever (re)shaping humanity has first to be demarcated through acts of distancing. Indeed, Kazepides develops neat and clear argumentation concerning the distances that education should take from rival and facile conceptions of it as indoctrination and socialization. Within a largely liberal framework, religion is detected as one of the major sources of pernicious ideas that bring education close to ideological conditioning. On this point, Kazepides’ outlook and style become provocative and polemical yet in a well-judged and humorous sense that is in no way disrespectful of a possibly religious dialogical partner.

The philosophical framework of the book is not exclusively the liberal dialogical or the pragmatist. Kazepides draws on various persuasions, employs ideas and borrows insights from the long history of Western thought to develop his own, original perspective. It is true that the style and philosophical methods of the book rely most heavily on the analytic tradition of Anglo-American philosophy of language and philosophy of education as it emerged from Russell and Wittgenstein and was transferred to pedagogy through R.S. Peters and I. Scheffler. But Kazepides enriches his perspectives with gleanings from sources as diverse as Democritus, Sartre, Kant, Maslow, Oakeshott, Kuhn, Mead, Aristotle – just to name a few here. With its lucid, highly accessible, and engaging prose, Education as Dialogue is not only a book for the academic and researcher of educational philosophy but also for the student who needs to explore this line of thought through material whose rigorous argumentation is obtained without too much density. For this reason, the book is also friendly to a less adept reader who approaches this topic from the viewpoint of other fields. As for the actual claims of the book and the separate arguments that support them, these could certainly attract comments, criticisms, and a lively discussion – especially the rationalist or Western universalist undertones at various points. But to engage with these goes beyond the limits of this book review. This is drawn attention to here as a merit, since it is definitely among the advantages of this interesting work that, by inviting so many arguments for and against, it serves precisely the dialogue, its open-endedness and liveliness, to which it is so committed.

Correspondence: Marianna Papastephanou, University of Cyprus, Department of Education, PO Box 20537, Nicosia 1678 Cyprus. Email: [email protected]