Growing Dendrites: Brain-Based Learning, Governmentality and Ways of being a Person

By James Wong.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My paper examines the recent development in education practices at the elementary and secondary school levels involving brain-based learning from a Foucauldian perspective. In this paper, I draw out the connection between brain-based learning and what Foucault calls “governmentality,” a way of governing populations by focusing on their welfare and improving their condition. Foucault argues such governing requires the development of bodies of knowledge on various features of individuals’ behavior, which though aimed at benefiting individuals are inextricably intertwined with ways to discipline those same individuals. I examine how brain-based learning initiatives, with their recommendations for new learning and teaching competencies, could potentially mould the behavior of not only children but their teachers and care-providers as well. Yet, I argue that the connection of brain-based learning to discipline is but one aspect of knowledge gained through research on the brain and learning. Following philosopher Ian Hacking, I contend that such knowledge opens up possibilities of new ways of being a person. Our perceptions of learners and educators, as well as their perceptions of themselves, are shaped by the ways in which they are categorized based on knowledge gain through such research, what Hacking calls “human kinds.”

Keywords: Foucault, Education, Governmentality, Human Kinds

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.73-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 461.596KB).

James Wong

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Wilfrid Lauier University, Canada

My research lies in the intersection between Foucault and analytic philosophy. I am currently working on autonomy in Foucault.


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