Poetizing our unknown childhood: meeting the challenge of social constructivism. The Romantic philosophy of childhood and Steiner’s spiritual anthropology

Bo Dahlin

Abstract


Abstract. This paper argues for a spiritual approach to the pedagogical anthropology of childhood. Education needs a new “grand narrative” of child development to support what we have inherited from Rousseau, the Romantics, and the educational thinkers that followed them. But this requires that the challenge of the critique from social constructivism that has been voiced against all general theories of development be taken up and discussed. The peculiar epistemological and ontological dimensions involved must be carefully identified. I first examine some of the critique of developmental psychology and argue that this critique is justified in so far as psychology tends to reduce the child to a natural object and misses the transcendent, “unknown” dimensions of childhood. Three of the alternative paradigms in childhood research are then shortly presented: the sociology, the phenomenological anthropology, and the philosophy of childhood. All of these have made positive contributions to our understanding of childhood, but they do not present a comprehensive vision of child development. This leads to the question whether it is possible to poetize the transcendent dimensions of childhood and bring such a poetization into harmony with empirical research findings. This possibility is explored with inspiration from Romanticism and Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical anthropology. The latter will be the main subject of the end of the paper, as an illustration of the kind of vision we need to inform our educational practices, if future generations of the human species are to flourish in freedom and creativity.

Keywords: educational anthropology, Romanticism, childhood, spirituality

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