Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Inventions of Teaching: A Genealogy By: Brent Davis

Reflection by: Pashew Majeed

Inventions of Teaching: A Genealogy By: Brent Davis
An un-putdown-able book, but I was obliged to put it down time to time. Making me think of the ideas and views to look them up, sometimes stumbled but I was obliged again not to stop. The idea that teaching is not a profession to provide the teacher a provision to live was always in my mind that it’s a false assumption, because what is the purpose of learning if this is the case for teaching? The meaning of teaching and learning is a must for every teacher and learner to understand, which doesn’t mean they have to understand it as I understand it but rather their own understanding of it almost underscores the entire course of what Brent Davis says the book.
Reading this book gave me a flashback to the rest of the books I read in this semester, when I finished I said to myself “well, there was not a bi
g difference among them”, as the previous ones were also possessing the same idea of the philosophy of education. The two chapters of Foundation of American Education by L. Dean Webb, Arlene Metha and K. Forbis Jordonn were telling the same things that teaching is not and cannot be out of nothingness. Teachers possess their own personal philosophy of education and compare that to the philosophy of education. All those philosophies and theories showing the way we teach and the way the students learn give the meaning to what education is and what the educators do, The Mindful Teacher by Elizabeth Macdonald and Dennis Shirley was asking educators to stop for a while and think of what they are doing and why they are doing it, through meditations and constant contemplations, and Neil Postman in his masterpiece The End of Education told me how to redefine the value and meaning behind schooling and education, he basically focused on the why quest during his book which also refers to the philosophy of education. So, basically in all the books the same idea was a focal point in the education issue.
Western world views as they affected and are affecting the way education should and is going to be, is a point to be taken into consideration and study. Each system structured to the current need and the surrounding circumstances of a setting, is in possession of an idea or a worldview aligning it to get straight on the path. The path is too long for one kind worldview to stay untouched or unchanged, a worldview might get to its peak and be prosperous for some time but the changing tides of time have no mercy for an idea left untouchable. It will be passed and expired. That is why I think the genealogical tree image Davis made throughout the book ass those ideas are bifurcated, is not meaningful to me, that is because if the western worldview starts with the physical and the metaphysical and they are having the main branches of the tree which mean the tree is incompletely grown. For the time back there those ideas were sufficient for people get going with the issues of life, which means the tree is fully grown for them. So, neither the incomplete grown tree of the past nor the complete grown tree of today is relevant. No one knows what will happen tomorrow, whose idea will we taste, what idea will we mind, that is why I ask is the tree completely grown?
Basically what he is talking about during the entire book is the he captures the connections between all the western philosophies or philosophical views as they are sharing a common root but different branches. How all those ideas are giving a shape to teaching and learning in an educational setting, but ultimately I felt something else, which is he thoroughly didn’t talk about the content of what ought to be taught or learnt, he just says the act of teaching and the act of learning to the context of that philosophy is such and such. I mean he states that if we take gnosis or the spiritual knowledge where religion is playing a role, teaching is described as drawing in, or as disciplining, indoctrinating, inducting, training, and guiding. This is just how and what teaching is, not what the content of what is taught is. So, basically it is as if a book of describing the work of teaching.
Another point is his dealing with words and vocabularies. This book besides of its being a philosophical, one can define it as a work of vocabularies and conceptions. It examines all the current metaphors and synonyms of teaching. I sometimes was murmuring to m self during reading that it is just words and conceptions, what the difference between this and a dictionary? Well, actually the difference is quite clear that a dictionary can never give such a detailed, filled with knowledge and well maintained content. As by the end of the book Davis clearly says that “[his] main purpose for writing this book was not to propose a new vocabulary for teaching. Rather, the intention was to underscore that there is a surprising variety of opinions represented in current vocabularies” (p.182). It is words and conceptions that make speeches and convey what philosophies mean.
The linear history (if I may call it, because it is not a linear history but as the title suggests rather a genealogy) of philosophies and theories Davis gives throughout the book is so fascinating that makes the book indispensable for every educators to read it. Giving enough detail of what is behind each metaphor he uses for teaching and learning derived from all the different ideologies of western worldviews. The nature of knowing, learning and teaching laid in the content of the book and what do these mean in the context of the worldviews and philosophies.
I was amazed and surprised sometimes among all those different ideas and views on how the world is or should be, and educationally talking, nesting or maintaining them into the education system, is almost impossible as most of them contradict each other. Wondering how can one set up on a permanent basis of an idea during which it doesn’t contradict the other? How can one make a decision? Again the answer depends on the educator’s worldview and personal philosophy and how to align them together.
The diversity of ideas and worldview is an evidence that we are alive and we are living creatures. As the sameness of our thinking and ideas indicates the missing of something with us. We teach and learn those differences and celebrate the diversity of ideas because “the diversity of belief around matters of learning and teaching should not be unexpected” (Davis, 2004, p.180). Those differences indicating the changes and reforms of the system as well.
If were to give a course in teaching or in curriculum, Davis’s book would have been my first choice to be read by the students and I hope that I can try giving some thoughts of the book in translation to my language so that those other educators like will benefit from it.


Davis, Brent. (2004). Inventions of teaching: A genealogy. New York: Routledge.


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. A translation of this to Kurdish will be very beneficial.

    1. Thanks Abdu Wahab for reading, i may translate or rewrite in Kurdish, thats one the things i got to do.


كۆمێنتت چیه‌ بۆ ئه‌م بابه‌ته‌