Pure and Impure Pedagogy: Report from an educational controversy in Denmark

Autore: Rømer Thomas Aastrup



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This short essay is a report from and educational, scientific and policy related conflict that currently takes place in Denmark. Presumably, many aspects of the conflict are of European or even global origin, but part of the controversy originates in the specific educational tradition from which the Danish society has evolved.
As in any conflict, there are two sides, each influencing the other and both taking colour from the object at hand, education and pedagogy. Moreover, both sides have several levels, so one must be careful not to engage in sweeping generalizations. The questions relate to both school policy and to the research paradigms that supports and interacts with policy, and to how these movements are reflected in the teaching practice in schools, kindergartens and teacher training programs.
The first side of the disagreement is a conglomerate of systems theory, post-structuralist sociology and constructivist ideas of learning. It contains theoretical ideas that are deeply connected with the European policy-level, taking “learning outcomes”, evidence-based practice and international rankings to be the basic educational categories. In Denmark, this side is called “pure education” or “pure pedagogy” by its critics. The other side of the controversy has its roots in Danish 1800-century philosophy but has become allied with several more broadly defined philosophical outlooks. This approach is sometimes called Bildung, but not in the strict German sense of the word. Rather, Bildung should be considered as a broad term for educational ideas based in the Arts and Humanities. I call this an “impure education” or an “impure pedagogy” (Rømer 2014).

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