From Disguised Nonsense to Patent Nonsense: Thinking Philosophically


Richard Pring


One task of the philosopher, and of the philosopher of education in particular, is to examine critically the understandings embodied in the language of the social world which affect the policy and practice of education. It is within such a tradition that the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein declared: «my aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense». There is a lot of disguised nonsense in what educational policy makers say and in what educational researchers write. This I shall illustrate though the importance attached to such policies as: first, the need to produce a more skilled workforce; second, to distinguish between academic and vocational learning and courses; third, to raise standards especially in the light of the PISA international comparisons; fourth, to improve the quality of teaching.

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