ACTION AS AN EDUCATIONAL VIRTUE: TOWARD A DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF D EMOCRATIC CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION Yusef Waghid

In this essay I attempt to show that compassionate and imaginative action have the potential to extend some of the fundamental dimensions of democratic citizenship education: deliberative argumentation and the recognition of what is other and different. I argue that cultivating democratic citizenship in schools and universities cannot focus solely on teaching students deliberative argumentation and the recognition of difference and otherness. Students must also be taught what it means to act with compassion and imagination because the latter (imaginative action) seems to be desirable in promoting civic reconciliation — a practice necessary to building relations of care, justice, and trust in university and school dialogical actions. In this way, a different democratic citizenship education agenda can be engendered — one that not only connects with the lived stories of people but that also opens up possibilities for the realization of civic reconciliation.

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ACTION AS AN EDUCATIONAL VIRTUE: TOWARD A DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF DEMOCRATIC CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION
Yusef Waghid
Department of Education Policy Studies Stellenbosch University

INTRODUCTION In the global context, citizenship education has been understood and practiced in different ways over the past few decades.1 However, a common aim of democratic citizenship education is to achieve intersubjective, mutual interaction through cooperative human practices. As argued in a recent essay by Matthew Altman, citizenship education needs to ‘‘prepare students to participate in public dialogue about questions of justice and morality.’’2 Similarly, Penny Enslin, Shirley Pendlebury, and Mary Tjiattas advocate a democratic citizenship education that focuses on teaching students how ‘‘to make a reasoned argument, written or oral, as well as the abilities to co-operate with others, to appreciate their perspectives and experiences and to tolerate other points of view.’’3 The view that citizenship education is a social process that can engender cooperative human activity grows out of liberal and communitarian understandings of what it means to be a citizen. On the one hand, a liberal conception interprets citizenship as entailing a set of rights and corresponding obligations (duties) that people enjoy equally as citizens of a political community. In other words, to be a citizen is to enjoy rights to personal security, to freedom of speech, to vote, to access to housing, health care, education, and so forth. Correspondingly, people are obligated to uphold the rule of law and generally not to interfere with others’ enjoyment of their rights. T.H. Marshall made this liberal conception of citizenship famous with the following claim: ‘‘Citizenship is a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed.’’4 To my mind a liberal
1. For more on citizenship education in the United States, see Morris Janowitz, The Reconstruction of Patriotism: Education for Civic Consciousness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); in Europe, see William K. Cummings, Saravanan Gopinathan, and Yasumasa Tomoda, eds., The Revival of Values: Education in Asia and the West (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1988); in Taiwan, see Bao-Jane Yuan and Jianping Shen, ‘‘Moral Values Held by Early Adolescents in Taiwan and Mainland China,’’ Journal of Moral Education 27, no. 2 (1998): 191–206; in Malaysia, see Cummings, Gopinathan, and Tomoda, The Revival of Values in Asia and the West, 152–157; and in Africa, see Ewald Katjivina, ‘‘Epilogue: Education and Self-Respect,’’ Prospects 29, no. 2 (1999): 259–264. 2. Matthew C. Altman, ‘‘What’s the Use of Philosophy? Democratic Citizenship and the Direction of Higher Education,’’ Educational Theory 54, no. 2 (2004): 143. 3. Penny Enslin, Shirley Pendlebury, and Mary Tjiattas, ‘‘Deliberative Democracy, Diversity and the Challenges of Citizenship Education,’’ Journal of Philosophy of Education 35, no. 1 (2001): 116. 4. T.H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class (London: Pluto, 1992), 18. EDUCATIONAL THEORY j Volume 55 j Number 3 j 2005 Ó 2005 Board of Trustees j University of Illinois

1990). It is difficult to imagine a citizenship education agenda that releases the state from its responsibility to serve schools and universities. . they have to become citizens of the dominant culture. On the other hand. Gerard Delanty. a conservative communitarian view of citizenship is concerned with creating a sense of responsibility. what is at stake is not just participation in the political community.7 Although such a conception of citizenship stresses participation as a civic responsibility and as necessary to social regeneration. Citizenship in a Global Age: Society.5 First.ac. It is not possible to assume that the educational rights and duties of teachers and students are equal: a teacher has pedagogical authority over a student. they must adapt to the dominant culture — in essence. 2002). and in enforcing laws and regulations. but the conservative communitarian approach would exonerate the state from blame if education were to fail society at large. His primary areas of scholarship are philosophy of education and democratic citizenship education. e-mail \yw@sun. 5. according to this model of citizenship. at least three strands of communitarianism frame a conception of citizenship. it excuses the state from responsibility for society. Delanty. a communitarian conception of citizenship. In any case. excluding the state from a citizenship education agenda does not seem to be an attractive option. since only the state has the political authority to establish or undermine conditions under which citizenship education can begin to unfold in public education institutions. Second. but such participation comes at the cost of adapting their views to fit those of the dominant cultural group. Private Bag X1. and participation at micro levels of society. according to a liberal communitarian theory of citizenship such as that propounded by Charles Taylor. such as within the family. identity. in turn.324 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 conception of citizenship brings into conflict the respective rights and duties of teachers and students. while not denying the importance of citizens’ rights. 6. but also the recognition of minority groups’ cultural identities by the dominant cultural community. particularly given that. in schools. YUSEF WAGHID is Professor and Chair of Philosophy of Education in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Stellenbosch University. Citizenship in a Global Age. which undermines their reasons for participating in the public sphere. they are deemed equal. Charles Taylor. 7. which makes their relation inherently unequal. if we accept Gerard Delanty’s schema.za[. Such a situation could. seriously thwart the authentic voices of minority groups and could even lead to marginalization and exclusion. places more emphasis on the idea that citizens work together in shaping the future of society. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Briefly.6 Such a liberal communitarian view of citizenship would establish conditions for children and students of minority cultures to participate in educational activities. For cultural minorities to participate in their political community. 30. Matieland 7602 South Africa. Culture and Politics (Buckingham: Open University Press. In a different way these minorities’ voices would possibly become subjected to the voices of the dominant culture.

First. further. 2d ed. Such an understanding of education would mute different and dissenting voices and. Delanty. despite significant empirical evidence from previously disadvantaged schools that OBE is simply not achieving its desired intentions. there is a strong minority view in South Africa that the new outcomes-based education (OBE) system in schools undermines creativity and imagination. and public participation — the very values that allow a democracy to flourish — it not only falls short of what is personal and private. accountability. responsibility. developed by Ju ¨ rgen Habermas and Iris Marion Young. in turn. 35. ethnic. their desire to participate in the political process in order to promote the public good (through consensus) and hold authorities accountable. undermine educational disagreement and challenge. and Maxine Greene. I will discuss two conceptions of democratic citizenship. while accepting that 8. For instance. and I will address these issues specifically with reference to the ideas of compassionate and imaginative action as conceived by Martha Nussbaum. 2002). If such a conception of citizenship were to frame education in schools and universities (and I have good reason to believe this is the case in South Africa. 11. Ibid. even unstable. consensus on what counts as good or not so good education. 10. regional. I contend that compassionate and imaginative action are educational virtues that have the potential to bridge some of the gaps in Habermas and Young’s notions of democratic citizenship and. 34. tolerance. their ability to tolerate and work with others who are different from themselves. Citizenship in a Global Age. and their willingness to show self-restraint and exercise personal responsibility in their economic demands and in personal choices that affect their health and the environment.’’8 Will Kymlicka’s vision of ‘‘communitarian democracy’’ has given the idea of civic republicanism a more concrete form.’’10 Consensus should not necessarily be a prerequisite for public participation. but it also assumes ‘‘a pre-existing cultural consensus underlying political community. 285. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. or religious identities. Hannah Arendt. how they view potentially competing forms of national. democracies become difficult to govern. that attempt to compensate for the limitations of a communitarian conception of citizenship. 9. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 30. civic republicanism is a communitarianism of participation that strongly emphasizes the associational character of citizenship. DEMOCRATIC CITIZENSHIP: DISCURSIVE AND RADICAL VIEWS There are at least two conceptions of democratic citizenship that challenge the limitations of communitarian conceptions of citizenship. including their sense of identity and. my own country).9 Although such a conception of citizenship education could promote the values of commitment. He argues that democracy depends on the quality and attitude of its citizens. . But Habermas and Young’s conceptions have limitations of their own.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 325 Third. Without citizens who possess these qualities. and it basically ignores ‘‘social struggles in the private domain. then the determining aim of education would become to achieve consensus — for instance. Its defining features are commitment to and participation in public life.. to create a sound foundation for realizing civic reconciliation.11 In the next section of this essay. Will Kymlicka. But the Ministry of Education has given scant attention to this view. specifically.

trans. Seyla Benhabib (Princeton. as Habermas maintains. rather. ‘‘Three Normative Models of Democracy. If an exchange of arguments or points of view were to be unconstrained in a Habermasian sense.’’15 In other words. Ju ¨ rgen Habermas.13 Moreover. William Rheg (Cambridge: MIT Press.and willformation’’ and that always potentially leads to a transformation in people’s preferences. Of course. ed.[that involves] rational opinion. The kind of majority outcome envisioned by Habermas grows out of a compromise reached between majorities and minorities in cases where agreement could not be negotiated on the basis of deliberation. 1996). 147. Deliberation can be understood as ‘‘unhindered communicative freedom. 14. then it follows that no individual or group of people could legitimately exclude others from deliberating on educational matters that interest them. deliberative majority rule must be ‘‘considered as a reasonable basis for a common practice. Ju ¨ rgen Habermas.12 Here I want to emphasize Habermas’s notion of ‘‘unhindered communicative freedom’’ as a constitutive good of (discursive) democratic citizenship. 13. The point Habermas makes is that de facto majority decision making cannot be the criterion for better and more reasonable argumentation. 15. 29. if. consensus should not be a prerequisite for discussion. Ju ¨ rgen Habermas argues that consensus ought to grow out of argumentative communication or deliberation and reflection. In other words. It is important to note that the future possibility of reversing majority outcomes means that minority views are not permanently excluded from the democratic decisionmaking process. rather. Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy.until the minority convinces the majority that their views are correct.. that is. . Ibid. the reasonableness of majority decision making depends upon two elements: (1) political deliberation must conclude with a decision endorsed by the majority of participants. then democratic citizenship underpins a concern for the inclusion of minority viewpoints and sets limits on what the majority can legitimately do.’’ in Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political. For him. 21–30. Ibid. The rights of people to participate in deliberation are legally institutionalized such that no individual can be excluded from the political (or educational) process.. each individual has ‘‘an equal opportunity to be heard’’ in the deliberative process. it should reflect the democratic discourse of informed deliberation and reflection responsive to the demands of an active citizenry. democratic decisions by majority rule may be revised (and possibly reversed) on the basis that minorities have good reason to question the legitimacy of the majority outcome.326 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 public participation ultimately needs to result in consensus. 1996). the majority could not convince the minority of its views or vice versa. 299. 12. and (2) the principle of majority decision making functions as a rule of argumentation that requires participants in the minority to persuade the majority of the ‘‘correctness’’ of their views. Habermas’s argument that the deliberation process must yield a majority-backed decision does not undermine the views of minorities. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.14 Habermas conceives of majority decision making in relation to reasonableness.

but the idea that these minority voices must accede to a temporary consensus creates a dilemma: such an approach reduces the possibility that untold stories will be heard. majority rule is a revisable compromise decision meant not only to ensure that minority opinion is respected (as when majority views are modified to meet the objectives of minorities). To some extent. as they must make their reasons answerable to minorities. Iris Marion Young. it should serve as a temporary aggregative voting procedure that prevents the occurrence of impasses between majorities and minorities. The point is that majority rule should not be abandoned in favor of ongoing debate and reflexive discussion. Children and students must use the tools of deliberation and reflection to convince others of what they have to say. instead. ‘‘Politics and Group Difference: A Critique of the Ideal of Universal Citizenship. a discourse-theoretic interpretation insists on the fact that democratic willformation draws its legitimating force both from the communicative pre-suppositions that allow the better arguments to come into play in various forms of deliberations and from the procedures that secure fair bargaining processes.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 327 Thus. commonness versus difference. 24.. By implication. assumes that all persons are autonomous and could rationally articulate persuasive arguments in the context of public deliberations. Thus the discussion has to shift from the question of the prevalence of simple majority decision making in deliberative processes to one of what constitutes better and more reasonable argumentation. 17. democratic citizenship actually compels the majority to take the minority into account.17 For this reason Young proposes a conception of democratic citizenship that does not seek primarily to promote equality and consensus but instead asserts the right to remain different and to articulate concerns in as many voices as possible (dissensus): 16. In Habermas’s formulation. Habermas recognizes this point: In contrast. but also to safeguard open and honest deliberation of an issue before coming to a decision by majority vote.16 Habermas’s account of discursive (democratic) citizenship has important implications for schools and universities. Ibid. . nor should it be rejected as a process that permanently excludes minorities. 2 (1989): 257–258. She contends that a citizenship education that does not take into account the private realm is not only constructed on the ideal of a homogenous society (where everybody is considered as being the same) but also has the potential to exclude marginalized groups: The attempt to realise an ideal of universal (civic republican) citizenship that finds the public embodying generality as opposed to particularity. Iris Young proposes a radical conception of democratic citizenship that does not see people as autonomous agents operating in the public sphere. Recognizing this problem with the discursive democratic view of citizenship. no. will tend to exclude or to put at a disadvantage some groups even when they have formally equal citizenship status. a discursive account of democratic citizenship seeks ongoing deliberation as a means to identifying the ‘‘better’’ argument between majorities and minorities after the parties have temporarily reached a compromise for the sake of progress. like communitarianism.’’ Ethics 99. Habermas’s (discursive) conception of democratic citizenship.

132. by which I mean that a person from one perspective or history can never completely understand and adopt the point of view of those with other group-based perspectives and histories. Ibid. language. However. Iris Marion Young. in most South African university classrooms. and narrative (storytelling).20 If Young is right. differences are publicly recognised and acknowledged as irreducible. rhetoric. Some deliberations may be uneasy — provocative or even threatening. it privileges dominant communication styles. 21. it provides opportunities for students who might be less eloquent and articulate to tell their individual stories so that these can become socially situated knowledge that is shared by all participants. and it privileges those who know the rules of this style of discourse — in other words.. But the foundation of respect that rhetoric builds keeps participants from abandoning the conversation due to lack of trust in what each has to say to the other. rhetoric does not simply mean that one has to listen uncritically to what others have to say. thus building respect for the viewpoints of others. Rhetoric (an attempt to grab people’s attention) allows participants to listen carefully to what others have to say. rhetoric.18 Such a (radical) democratic notion of citizenship aims to integrate the private and public worlds by recognizing both that all people have a voice and are different. Benhabib. and narrative (as moments of deliberative argumentation) have the potential to help students 18. However. In doing so. 20. ‘‘Communication and the Other: Beyond Deliberative Democracy.21 By creating the conditions for students and teachers to listen to and learn the value of others’ points of view. Narrative enhances the possibility of understanding the contending viewpoints of different people. Ibid.’’ in Democracy and Difference. where the language of communication is not the mother tongue of the majority of students.. 258. She argues that deliberative argumentation also needs to endorse such modes of communication as greeting. ed.328 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 Instead of a universal (communitarian) citizenship we need a group differentiated citizenship and a heterogeneous public. imposing standards of eloquence and rational articulation would seem to impede students’ aspirations to make their arguments more persuasive. 19. narrative has the potential to advance ‘‘deliberative argumentation’’ in university and school classrooms. for instance. this raises the question of whether greeting. and ethnicity. Young’s ideas are related to notions about the importance of creating spaces for students to argue deliberatively in university and school classrooms. . setting out to teach ‘‘deliberative argumentation’’ is likely to silence some students while giving advantage to those capable of eloquently and rationally articulating their points of view. She cautions that to expect argumentation to be persuasive is elitist and exclusionary. 120. For example. In a heterogeneous public. which in turn establishes conditions for deliberation and relations of trust. albeit in terms of values. culture.19 Young makes the point that deliberative argumentation is often competitive and agonistic. or storytelling. This basis of trust is essential to the third mode of communication Young introduces: narrative. experience. since such a view marginalizes students who are less eloquent and find rational articulation difficult. Greeting (an expression of courtesy) enables participants to recognize what they have to say to one another. and that they have a right to participation in public life.

in deliberations. at the institution where I work. and if one wants to be effective through political dialogue (as opposed to through direct action. therefore.’’ I agree with Levinson’s concern that disadvantaged groups. 36. no. I have encountered several Black master’s students from countries such as Namibia. learning to master the Afrikaans language seems to be necessary if one wants to be an effective member of a deliberative conversation. there is a language of power. radical street theatre. Levinson.). even if afforded opportunities to engage in pedagogical conversations. 25. To address this question. boycotts. in every country and in every community. from the disadvantaged group’s point of view.24 It is in this regard that Levinson’s argument becomes quite apposite. 1 (2003): 27. Furthermore. 23. ‘‘Challenging Deliberation. Lesotho.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 329 become full participants in deliberative engagement and thus more promising democratic citizens. One must learn how to listen to Afrikaans-speaking students and teachers. challenging. one must master and use that language.’’ 28.. considering that.’’22 This makes sense. Of course. Meira Levinson. ‘‘What do you mean?’’ thereby suggesting that the claims of the disadvantaged students were perhaps not comprehensible to more articulate students. Ibid. In deliberations that include students from disadvantaged groups. disadvantaged students (particularly those from Black Xhosa-speaking and Colored Afrikaans-speaking 22. the more advantaged groups — those that put forward arguments about the world that rest on premises generally accepted by others in these groups — seem to dominate. On the one hand.’’ Theory and Research in Education 1. ‘‘Challenging Deliberation. She proposes that students need to learn how to express themselves in terms that others would naturally understand: ‘‘To put it simply. in South Africa many Black students might claim that to question teachers or university professors would not be feasible. and Zimbabwe who are hesitant to challenge the views of professors. In such a case the deliberation is not likely to be substantively inclusive. are least likely to shape the deliberations. who challenges the idea of deliberation by arguing that disadvantaged groups — even if they participate fully — are ‘‘unlikely to be able to influence debate appropriately.’’25 Levinson’s account of the importance of mastering the language of power in one’s community and country particularly interests me. it is not likely to be legitimate. I shall draw on the work of Meira Levinson. . etc. since in traditional tribal communities authority remains unquestioned. given that they consider questioning. and debating to be salient features of deliberation. and. I have noticed that it is not unusual for more eloquent students to pose the question. 24. non-Afrikaans-speaking students and teachers must learn to express themselves in ways that others might find more palatable and easier to hear and understand. For instance. On the other hand. since there is a good chance that not everything they say will be ‘‘heard and understood. one might argue that more eloquent and articulate students have different experiences of the world and would invariably question some of the assumptions of disadvantaged students. regardless of how unappealing or confused their claims might appear on the surface.23 Members of advantaged groups might reject this idea as outrageous.

Deliberative argumentation through a language of power focuses on a particular kind of linguistic interchange among students and teachers: an exchange in which they listen to one another.330 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 communities) should learn and speak what Levinson refers to as a ‘‘language of power’’ (in South Africa. lobbyists. where the likelihood of achieving reconciliation and social justice could be enhanced through mastering the indigenous languages of the previously racially oppressed and marginalized. Colored. learning and mastering a language of power could create the conditions necessary for nurturing relations of trust among deliberative participants. For this reason. First. not knowing a language of power would mean that the speakers could do little to ensure that their stories are told. multiracial. learning a language of power is important because it enables people to share good ideas about culture. not only in a linguistic sense. Community and Deliberation. the reconciliation process would be furthered if we made a higher priority of improving our communication with fellow South Africans (the majority of whom are Black). and organs of state power).’’ 28. I find this aspect of deliberative argumentation particularly interesting for two reasons. Of course. ‘‘Challenging Deliberation. In other words. including the previously disadvantaged majority — to cope with the stark realities of having partial information and misinformation disseminated through what Levinson refers to as ‘‘technologies of power’’ (the Internet. but also in terms of substance. The ideas disseminated through these technologies pose a challenge to our disadvantaged majority that I contend can be addressed by means of their learning a ‘‘language of power. For instance. society. a common language facilitates one’s ability to convey effectively the negative effects of poverty and famine to students who are perhaps not directly familiar with cases of hunger and suffering. A number of African students in my master’s seminars have noted that their lack of English-language skills hampers their articulation of a variety of religious. . genealogical. A language of power may enable students to articulate their points of view more persuasively and eloquently or to provide stronger justifications. In South Africa. no. this language is undoubtedly English) that is not intrinsically their own. learning a ‘‘language of power’’ should not occur at the expense of people having to acquire some understanding of the indigenous African cultures and ethnicities of the country’s majority population. One would not necessarily consider an African language a ‘‘language of power. By this I mean that what might (or might not) be considered a good idea by deliberative participants of a multicultural. and proverbial arguments and claims. 27. Second. acquiring a language of power (in this case. and offer reasons for their own judgments and actions. It builds confidence when all participants feel comfortable expressing themselves in a language (as ‘‘insiders. but it does not necessarily give them the ability to recognize and understand voices that are different from their own. 26. multiethnic.26 A valid question here is whether acquiring a language of power would necessarily transform students into better democratic citizens. certainly. the nightly news. and Indian students. ‘‘Freedom of Choice. 3 (2003): 407–409. mythical. Klas Roth. critically evaluate each others’ points of view.’’ Journal of Philosophy of Education 37. not knowing a language of power would in many ways undermine what stories (sometimes through folklore and ritualistic practices) they (African students) have to tell. learning a language of power is not without its dilemmas. who might otherwise not be familiar with indigenous cultures.’’ but there are compelling reasons to acquire such a language in a postapartheid society. English) could further widen the gap between Black students (the majority population group) and White.’’ although really ‘‘outsiders’’) that others understand and can respond to. Certainly. Like Levinson. The point of acquiring a language of power should be to enable (African) students to communicate their stories to others. In this way. and politics. the process of globalization has placed considerable demands on people — certainly all South Africans. most of whom have not mastered a Black indigenous language. or multireligious group needs to be made clear in a language they can all understand.27 This kind of exchange does not.’’ See Levinson. In addition.

29 Deliberative argumentation can be understood as work facilitated by teachers. . For instance. to articulate their personal stories. eds.’’ Work is that human condition that illustrates the ‘‘unnaturalness’’ of human existence: it brings an artificial world of things. It is concerned with making. she does not take into account the fact that the circumstances and conditions in which students live will affect those narratives. like fabrication. Hannah Arendt. civil war. However. I will analyze the work of Martha Nussbaum and Hannah Arendt on this topic and will particularly emphasize their arguments for the need in education to give voice to those who are different and vulnerable. male aggression.’’ in Teaching and Its Predicaments. ‘‘The Problems of Teacher-Student Relationships in Troubled Times.’’28 Young’s notion of radical democratic citizenship illustrates the problem: while she focuses on the importance of letting people tell their stories. TOWARD A RADICALIZATION OF DEMOCRATIC CITIZENSHIP: MAKING AN ARGUMENT FOR COMPASSIONATE ACTION Thus far. How can we cultivate deliberative argumentation in a classroom that does not recognize the different inner voices and experiences of the other that teach us. particularly its emphasis on the importance of public participation aimed at achieving a common good based on consensus. The Human Condition. ‘‘to share the desire [and experiences] of the other’’? Hence. Nicholas C. I have argued that a liberal conception of citizenship education merely advocates the private goals of people without concern for the public good. Colorado: Westview Press. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1998). Jo Anne Pagano. I contend that compassionate action can engender a notion of citizenship education that goes beyond the discursive and radical notions of democratic citizenship propounded by Habermas and Young. This work will be cited as HC in the text for all subsequent references. Burbules and David T. 1997). 7. 2d ed.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 331 however. asking a student to tell her story about human rights violations in her community does not necessarily mean that one is aware of the vulnerabilities she might be suffering as a consequence of domestic violence. racial discrimination. into being. more important. In facilitating deliberative argumentation in their classrooms. This recognition of difference and inner voice is central to my exploration of compassionate action. Next. distinctly different from all natural surroundings. is a process with a beginning and an end. a democratic conception of citizenship education makes it possible for students not only to engage in deliberative conversation but. It is a human condition that starts with students 28. this lack of recognizing voice and difference is central to the debate about democratic citizenship — a debate that I want to extend through exploring the idea of compassionate action. seem to recognize the inner voices of others. I have also shown some limitations of a communitarian conception of citizenship education. Hansen (Boulder. 29. teachers seem at best to be concerned with what Arendt refers to as doing ‘‘work. which. as Pagano puts it. letting students tell their stories does not necessarily mean that their inner (private) voices will be heard. 171. In contrast. what Jo Anne Pagano refers to as ‘‘understand[ing] who is speaking and under what conditions. 1. or other human indignities.

194). it reduces the chance of producing active democratic citizens who can one day enter and play a meaningful role in the public realm. and. 188). At the institution where I work. Take as an example the student who has not spoken a word in class previously but who one day decides to talk. then there is a 30. 220). When deliberation yields an unpredictable and irreversible result. Following Arendt. 177). Students are said to act when they initiate speech. they announce what they do. then the unexpected can be expected: they become capable of performing what is ‘‘infinitely improbable. For instance. deliberative argumentation. an ‘‘actor always moves among and in relation to other acting beings. 190). Or another student might have been subjected to racism at her institution but did not find the space in the deliberative classroom to tell her story. action has the same effect or outcome of. Third. If my reading of Arendt is correct. have done. then the act of deliberation can be understood as a willing and unhindered dialogue. the passionate drive to measure their own experiences against those of others (HC. but also to drive themselves toward listening and responding to others without being inhibited in doing so. this means that people who act have the capacity and willingness not only to disclose their inner voices through speech. 178–79). First. by the reasons these students offer. In Arendt’s formulation. Second. newcomers or beginners by virtue of their having been prompted into action (HC. they act in the presence of others (HC. to act means to begin by taking the initiative — to set something in motion. As a university student. .’’ In doing so. I was a victim of racial trauma. In other words. during the time of apartheid. even though sharing such a tale might have the potential to build stronger race relations at a time of heightened political uncertainty. if open deliberative argumentation cannot unfold in university and school classrooms. I could not share this experience with my professors because of mistrust and suspicion. students who act never do so in isolation. Fourth. say. that is. If this happens. students who take the initiative are initium. when students act. Once students have made their arguments through justification and persuasion. Arendt’s compelling account of action as the disclosure of the individual agent in word and deed comprises the following meanings. and intend to do (HC. he is never merely a ‘doer’ but always and at the same time a sufferer’’ (HC. specifically. when they question and challenge an argument without having to be told or asked by teachers to do so. teachers consider what has been told as conclusive without necessarily having heard their students’ inner voices — what Arendt refers to as their ‘‘self-disclosure. instead. in that it is unpredictable and irreversible (HC. this student does the unexpected and improbable by communicating to the class how she has felt excluded from discussions at times and by then committing herself to engage in future deliberations with fellow students. Such people recognize that their audience also has a right to be heard and listened to.30 The broader point I am making is that.’’ that is. This problem is what attracts me to Arendt’s notion of action. or not convinced.332 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 offering persuasive arguments and ends with others being convinced. Black students still feel constrained about raising their voices regarding injustices of past apartheid in their classes out of fear that they might be discriminated against or marginalized for speaking out. one student might have encountered a tragic moment in his family history that he could not speak about.

Many South Africans have had to deal with feelings of anger and the desire for revenge against injustices perpetrated against them by the apartheid rulers. And when students and teachers act in this way. For me. As Arendt reminded us. For Arendt. only the unpredictable cooperation of others can break the chain of unintended consequences set off by action: Forgiveness is the exact opposite of vengeance. If students are taught to forgive one another. or threatening) would lay the groundwork for a type of self-disclosure that ‘‘never come[s] to an end’’ (HC. the recent efforts of many apartheid victims to forgive past wrongs and to seek reconciliation have broken the cycle of violence and revenge. since it is ‘‘always an eminently personal (though not necessarily individual or private) affair in which what was done is forgiven for the sake of who did it’’ (HC. She proposed that human beings forgive and make promises in order to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected outcomes of our actions. provocative. As Arendt observed. Forgiving. there is still the question of how does one begin to act. that is. 241). For example. Hence. the cultivation of democratic citizenship in schools and universities can only be achieved through encouraging both speech (deliberative argumentation) and action (unexpected initiative). Respect is. anger. one must respect the other person. which acts in the form of re-acting against an original trespassing. no one person can forgive unilaterally. we can engage in further action by taking initiatives to bring such provocation. In contrast. schools and universities should become seedbeds for cultivating forgiveness if societies are to deal more meaningfully with the unintended and unpredictable outcomes of deliberative actions. because unknown voices can only be heard when deliberations are durable. which implies that one should have some regard for the other person. Predicaments inevitably arise when one acts. is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 333 strong likelihood of building a lasting dialogue. Such a situation would. the possibility that some students will expose their inner voices during deliberations (even when these voices are controversial. enable students and teachers to engage in durable deliberations that make the end of argumentation improbable and its result unpredictable. What prompts one to forgive? Arendt made the point that one has to be willing to forgive. Thus. 240–241). and threats under control. for Arendt. in turn. permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered course). whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed (everybody remains bound to the process. however. they will want to tell their stories because what seems to be the end of a story marks the beginning of something else: the increased possibility of recognizing the inner voices of others. listens. a kind of ‘‘friendship’’ without . unconditioned by the act which provoked and therefore freeing from its consequences both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven (HC. in other words. forgiveness means to undo what was done. and they have had to recognize that retaliation and vengeance would likely provoke further revenge and political instability. 241). and responds to the inner voices of others who are different from one’s self — a point Arendt recognized. a student engaged in a discussion cannot necessarily foresee that some of his or her remarks will provoke or anger another student.

plight. a belief or appraisal that the suffering of others is serious and not trivial. First. injustice. that is. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. but it also ‘‘pushes the boundaries of the self’’ outward by focusing one’s attention on the suffering of others (UT. where diverse students (Black and White. or what Martha Nussbaum refers to as compassion. job discrimination. because compassion not only prompts in people an awareness of the misfortune or suffering of others. one must have compassion for the other.31 On her view. Ultimately. This work will be cited as UT in the text for all subsequent references. deliberation ought to be occasioned by the emotional drive to treat others justly and humanely. I maintain that in order to act in a forgiving way. I shall now discuss these two requirements of compassion in relation to how students and teachers ought to deliberate rationally while at the same time cultivating a concern to be just and humane toward others — that is. suffering. disability. Nussbaum. and the absence of good prospects — requires students to make certain practical judgments about how to deal with these different variables in their public and personal lives. victimization. and I have shown how forgiveness can help students and teachers become better citizens. . The judgments they make will inevitably be based on their perceptions of others’ distress. How can action (and forgiveness) be prompted? Nussbaum raises the question of the positive contribution that emotions such as compassion can make in guiding deliberation among students. domestic violence and abuse of women. alcoholism and drug abuse. insofar as one can become serious about the suffering of others. It is in this regard that compassion becomes a necessary condition for acting upon and deliberating about such matters. unemployment. from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds) are beginning to deliberate about matters of public concern — such as crime. one must believe them to be without blame for the kind of injustice they might have 31. political alienation. Martha C. undeserved misfortune. poverty and lack of food. Now I will turn my attention to how compassion can prompt forgiveness in people. and that persons do not deserve to suffer. and second. This brings me to a discussion of regard for the other. 299). one has to have regard for the other person — in other words. Certainly. the situation in South African schools. Nussbaum’s understanding of compassion as painful emotional judgment encompasses at least two cognitive requirements: first. She argues that compassion is the most important emotion to cultivate in preparing people to engage in deliberation and just action in public as well as private life. 299. 243). homelessness. 2001). the belief that the possibilities of the person who experiences the emotion are similar to those of the sufferer. and disease.334 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 intimacy and closeness: it is a regard for the person from the distance that the world puts between us (HC. with compassion. to act compassionately. As compassionate actors. students and teachers in universities and schools can extend their sense of democratic citizenship through recognizing one another’s vulnerabilities. To this point I have argued that action can help students and teachers to become more active democratic citizens.

she must make herself vulnerable in the person of another (UT. rather than finding ways to penalize or. in some cases. Deliberative argumentation prompts students and teachers to question meanings. ‘‘the recognition of one’s own related vulnerability is. deliberation at school and at the university should take the form of ascertaining what can be done to ensure that students who do not have the financial means to enroll remain part of the educational community. my focus is on those who suffer injustices through no fault of their own. including additional pedagogical support. through no fault of their own. This recognition of one’s own related vulnerability requires students who might have a clear understanding of. have had. an instructor teaching literary studies should become more aware of what it means for students to encounter epistemological difficulty. In effect. In Nussbaum’s words. then. and one must recognize that the person’s plight needs to be alleviated. compassion brings to the fore the intellectual emotions of people in ethical deliberation.[I]n order for compassion to be present. 317). In such circumstances.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 335 suffered. But this stance ignores the fact that many students. or to pay for the services of extramural tutors. say. humiliate them. One could argue that all students should be treated equally and that no student should receive preferential treatment of any sort. concepts in a literature classroom. unequal access to educational opportunities.’’ However. certainly those in South Africa. in this case.. but also ‘‘onlookers’’ who can make judgments about the need to expedite the flourishing of the students in question. as is often the case in South Africa). So compassion requires not only blamelessness on the part of students who are unable to pay school fees. an important and frequently an indispensable epistemological requirement for compassion in human beings’’ (UT. to imagine alternative . This view does not discount the idea that one can even feel compassion for someone whose misfortune is ‘‘deserved. and may still have. and who may be inclined to become impatient with their peers who do not grasp these concepts. Likewise. Many students who are blameless for their inability to pay school fees due to their parents not having enjoyed economic prosperity after decades of apartheid require the compassion of others. Second. She must take that person’s ill as affecting her own flourishing. the person must consider the suffering of another as a significant part of his or her own scheme of goals and ends. 317). Similarly. have received inadequate or substandard schooling (that is. specifically understanding what it might mean for one to encounter possibilities and vulnerabilities similar to those of the sufferer: [One] will learn compassion best if he [or she] begins by focusing on their sufferings. a teacher has compassion for students who. In essence. to imagine what it would be like to themselves encounter difficulty with the concepts. Such a teacher recognizes the need to find creative ways to help disadvantaged students come to grips with difficult concepts in their studies and at the same time acknowledges that the students are not responsible for the unjust educational system that they might have been exposed to. those students whose parents could not afford to send them to more affluent and well-organized schools. compassion is best cultivated if one acknowledges some sort of community between oneself and the other. It is simply not sufficient to educate by focusing solely on deliberation without also cultivating compassion.

. this child may also be encouraged to be more keenly aware of other people’s suffering. to modify practical judgments. deceit. it is ‘‘a conscious and justified settling of accounts with the past. But cultivating compassion in relation to schooling without taking into account the lived experiences of those who suffer in our society would also constrain relevant dialogue and research that aims to understand and improve (perhaps through forgiveness) the conditions of the marginalized other. and Ronald S. highlighting the need for South Africans adversely affected by apartheid injustices to move ‘‘beyond justice’’ (in Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words) to forgiveness and reconciliation. and R. If we ignore the pedagogical vulnerabilities of the weak. Roberts. it seldom brings into play those human emotions that are necessary to making ongoing dialogical interaction worthwhile.’’ Apartheid atrocities severely wounded those in the Black majority. My argument in defense of imaginative action has some bearing on promoting civic reconciliation in South African public spaces. Louise Asmal. civic reconciliation is a shared and painful ethical voyage from wrong to right and also a symbolic settling of moral and political (and. to foster respect.’’ In learning this song the child learns to imagine what life would be like without other human beings and. Reconciliation through Truth: A Reckoning of Apartheid’s Criminal Governance (Cape Town and Johannesburg: David Philip Publishers. by specifically seeking out works that acquaint the student with a sense of wonder. rhymes.S. Roberts note. which might lead her to other stories that display such human vulnerabilities as death. on a psychological level. Yet. I would add.336 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 possibilities. and reconciliation is needed to heal those wounds.32 STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS OF COMPASSIONATE ACTION: PROMOTING CIVIC RECONCILIATION THROUGH IMAGINATIVE ACTION Nussbaum’s compelling account of compassion articulates practical strategies that teachers could employ to support and cultivate democratic citizenship education in schools and universities. First. In the political context.’’ See Kader Asmal. I shall focus on practical strategies. illness. including universities and schools. In 1995 the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was formed in order to promote a ‘‘culture of human rights’’ and to construct a new national identity. war. 426. drawing on ideas developed by Nussbaum. develops a concern for people outside herself. As Kader Asmal. Wilson. Asmal. action with unpredictable and unintended outcomes. In addition. that teachers in schools and universities can use to engender compassionate action. compassionate action for Nussbaum involves cultivating in students the ability to imagine the experiences of others and to participate in their suffering — that is. and songs. See Richard A. 47. I shall highlight some of the strengths and limitations of compassionate action in the quest to engender civic reconciliation — an issue crucial to realizing a deliberative democratic citizenship agenda in South African universities and schools. 1996). Hence. rape. and Roberts. The notion of civic reconciliation as I use it here refers to a ‘‘healing of the wounds. Think of the song that begins ‘‘Imagine there’s no people. This encounter with tragedy is particularly important to Nussbaum: she argues that 32. in the final section of this essay. Later on. and to develop critical engagement. Asmal. Louise Asmal. The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation: Legitimizing the Post-Apartheid State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 33. Reconciliation through Truth. and tragedy. that is to say. we cannot move very far in the direction of meaningful education. it teaches them to extend their empathy to more people and to different types of people. when students learn their first stories. educational) indebtedness.33 This can already be done at an elementary level. a sense of mystery that blends curiosity with surprise. 9–11. 2001). So we also need compassionate students and teachers.

186. 37. the experiences of the mentally disabled.’’35 My potential critic might legitimately ask. teachers could acquaint students with a wide range of possible calamities and consequently cause their students to become attentive to and concerned about the distress that human beings can experience. music. hence. Ibid.’’38 34. When we can see. and the poverty rate in rural areas was roughly 70 percent compared to almost 30 percent in urban areas. For this reason I take comfort in the ideas of Maxine Greene. 38. 4. . 3 (2001): 80. of students’ lives) that we could not know if imagination were not aroused. imaginative action awakens in us an awareness of the ‘‘multiple voices’’ and ‘‘multiple realities’’ of others. a historically advantaged White person in South Africa — actually participate in the ‘‘suffering’’ of the many poor Black people who live in unbearable social conditions in squatter camps?36 I cannot imagine that many privileged South African Whites would give up their comfortable homes in established urban areas to live in abject poverty and squalor in squatter camps. Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education. and I do not expect them to do so. and people who have suffered persecution by those in power as powerful tools for encouraging ‘‘compassionate imagining. Maxine Greene.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 337 tragedies acquaint students with bad things that may happen in human life long before life itself does so. the murder of children. through myths. the South African Statistics Income and Expenditure Survey from 1995 showed that the poverty rate for Africans was slightly above 60 percent compared to 1 percent for Whites. Teachers could use novels about the fate of a tragic and worthy hero. ‘‘Political Developments in South Africa in 1999 and 2000.. who contends that imaginative action (as distinct from compassionate action) creates a space in which teachers and students in university and school classrooms are able to look at things as if they could be otherwise. For more on this.6 million students attend schools without toilets. we become repositioned to ‘‘participate in some dimensions (say. poetry. 35. Moreover. that is. somewhat limited. 428. stories. objectively and independently real. see Helle Christiansen Cawthra. 60 percent of female-headed households fell under the poverty line compared to around 30 percent of male-headed households. close to half of the nation’s schools have a shortage of classrooms (almost 65.407 schools are in ‘‘poor’’ or ‘‘very poor’’ condition. 4.34 For instance. 19. 1995). and Dudley Moloi. and. and the visual arts. hear. and connect with the lives of others. 430. How does one — take. thus laying the foundation for a concern for others who are suffering difficulties these students have not suffered. This reality makes the idea of participating in the ‘‘suffering’’ of others. no.. they look at things anew. the trauma of young women raped in wartime. 36. According to figures supplied by South Africa’s Department of Education.3 million students attend schools with no water within walking distance. and only approximately 10 percent of primary schools and around one-third of secondary schools have recreational facilities.’’ Development Update: Quarterly Journal of the South African National NGO Coalition and INTERFUND 3. of compassionate action.. Ibid. the Arts and Social Change (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. drama. Ibid.’’37 Greene’s idea of imaginative action conceives teachers as struggling to understand how our students are processing and ‘‘living’’ the information we share with them — that is.3 percent of young adults and 17 percent of youth are illiterate (45 percent of adults are functionally illiterate). 2. for example. Andrea Helman-Smith. 16. 6.000 additional classrooms are needed). In this imaginative space they are able ‘‘to break with what is supposedly fixed and finished.

including major religious and cultural groups. one theme in the life orientation curriculum for South African primary school children could involve teaching them African myths and folktales and educating them about the injustices perpetrated against Africans. for example. students at a previously advantaged White school actually considered erecting classrooms on their vacant sports field to accommodate other students who had been subjected to overcrowded classrooms in a neighboring disadvantaged Colored school. the focus on compassionate action needs to begin early. In Cape Town’s Hout Bay district. and resentment toward the other due to wrongs perpetrated against us (HC. they can tell stories about other nations and countries. Although not without its conflicts and tensions. she is demanding that we act upon values too often taken for granted and imagine a world in which social justice and equality can flourish. Imaginative action provides a way for teachers and students to connect with the lives of others who might be ‘‘suffering’’ without requiring that they must actually take part in the ‘‘suffering’’ other people experience. Such an education must be multicultural in nature. they should be well equipped to deal with demanding courses on human diversity outside the dominant Western traditions by the time they reach university. and ways of thinking. With this training. that privileged White students who can imagine what it means for others to be taught in overcrowded classrooms are in a position to recognize this as a problem and to do something about the learning of such students. racial.40 Focusing on imaginative action in education may pave the way to a more expansive theory of democratic citizenship education. which 39. As soon as students engage in storytelling. and threats experienced by the other. Moreover. hurt. as well as marginalized ethnic.39 This type of imagining creates the potential for realizing a genuine civic reconciliation — something Arendt defined as action that brings under control our anger.338 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 In developing a space that allows one to enter the lived world of the other. beliefs. Certainly. Thus an approach to education that emphasizes imaginative action enhances the potential for achieving true civic reconciliation. 186–187. . thus promoting civic reconciliation — they actively participate in the quest to achieve social justice and equality. this decision (if implemented) would go some way toward promoting civic reconciliation among Hout Bay Whites and Coloreds who had previously been segregated by apartheid laws. This involves imparting to students a rudimentary understanding of the histories and cultures of many different people. 220). and social majorities and sexual minorities. Greene is calling for a community of teachers and students who are questioning and searching for possibilities of social justice and equality. both because it sets the more realistic goal of connecting with rather than participating in others’ suffering and because it acknowledges openly the anger. Several other characteristics of an education grounded in compassionate and imaginative action should be noted as well. For instance. hurt. threats. Ibid. Awareness of cultural difference is necessary in order to engender respect for one another.. 40. and mutual respect is an essential underpinning for compassionate action. This approach assumes. South African students could learn that religions other than Christianity exist and that people have different traditions. The goals of such a theme could be threefold: to develop in students a sense of informed. compassionate action as they enter the broader South African society.

as I noted before. and narrative) do not necessarily imply that students would be more equipped to recognize the inner voices of others. this means not just learning some facts about classes. in the torture suffered by antiapartheid activists at the hands of a repressive state). My point here is that education for democratic citizenship requires that students both be convincing in what they say and have the capacity to recognize others’ inner voices — their feelings of despair. It would be difficult for White students to comprehend the oppression Black students might have experienced if stories about racial oppression and political prejudice were not convincingly told. I noted that Habermas’s conception of democratic citizenship assumes that all persons are autonomous and capable of rationally articulating persuasive arguments in public deliberations. and to expand students’ ability to think critically about controversial issues that stem from the gender. races. it would be impossible for Black students to avoid engaging with the inner voices of White students who might not want to be considered as bearing any responsibility for racist discrimination legislated by a past government that favored White minority rule. and religious differences that pervade South African society. ethnicity. Similarly. Such a goal is unrealistic since it requires ‘‘participation’’ in past suffering (for example. 432). and religious sectarianism. social class. suffering. race. imaginative action is a ‘‘coming together’’ in which people (in this case. I also showed how Young’s moments of deliberative engagement (greeting. which is not possible in a pure sense. According to Greene. These limitations of democratic citizenship education theory hamper the promotion of civic reconciliation. compassionate action fails to create the conditions necessary for civic reconciliation because it provides no possibility for people to ‘‘know’’ the reasons they must reconcile. Using Greene’s analysis as a starting point once again. Finally. particularly if civic reconciliation requires that students be able to imagine themselves as participants in the struggles of others. becoming [participants] in those struggles (UT. nationalities. Thus understood. but being drawn into those lives through the imagination. respectively. I want to extend this idea of imagining becoming a participant in the struggles of others. to provide students with an intellectual awareness of the causes and effects of structured inequalities and exclusion based on prejudice in South African society.’’ When teachers and students engage . ethnic. Greene’s idea of imaginative action compensates for this failing of compassionate action and therefore holds promise for promoting civic reconciliation in South African universities and schools after decades of apartheid rule. and oppression. in their work on dialogical action. rhetoric. I previously pointed out some limitations of democratic citizenship education theory as conceived by Habermas and Young. imagining being a participant in the struggles of others does not hold much promise in a democratic citizenship education agenda that promotes compassionate action precisely because it advocates the need for one to participate in the suffering of others. [and] sexual orientations other than [their] own. Nussbaum supports such an approach to education: Our pupils must learn to appreciate the diversity of circumstances in which human beings struggle for flourishing. class.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 339 is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of race. teachers and students) ‘‘engage in dialogues.

. Maxine Greene. This mode of imaginative (dialogical) action has the potential to engender civic reconciliation because acts of caring (such as subjecting interpretive judgments to critical scrutiny) can do much to bring people closer to one another. 43. Patricia A. he would not have voted for White minority rule. Alasdair MacIntyre. in this case. The point I am making is that caring. and subjecting one’s views to critical scrutiny by others. 42. rather. and identifies and evaluates the presuppositions of this or that particular argument in the text. challenging rival standpoints entails both demonstrating what is mistaken in a competing position in the light of one’s understanding as well as conceiving and reconceiving one’s own point of view against the strongest possible objections to it offered by one’s opponents. preservice teachers in their final year of university training to receive certification as teachers. cultivating care in university classrooms involves not only socializing students with an inherited body of facts and knowledge-constructs about society. Illinois: NCTE. fosters imaginative actions that could expedite civic reconciliation. Genealogy.42 First. 1994). to lay new grounds for understanding. and thus to create the conditions for reconciliation. deliberative inquiry demands. a rational (interpretive) judgment that itself must be subjected to critical scrutiny by others who engage in similar intellectual debate free from the imperatives of constrained or unconstrained agreement. 231–232. just. I shall limit this discussion to my role as a university teacher of. eds.43 On the one hand. On the other hand. engaging thoughtfully involves advancing inquiry from within a particular point of view. human values. Reading a text in this way is important because it emphasizes that one’s reading does not represent the final (conclusive) answer but. 25.’’ Pedagogy in the Age of Politics. 44. and Tradition (London: Duckworth. preserving and transforming the initial agreements with those who share this point of view. imaginative action becomes a mode of philosophical activity that requires one to engage thoughtfully with the other in an attempt to arrive at independent interpretive (rational) judgments. challenges. first. when it takes the forms of questioning. segregationist education system had brought about. all we can do is to look into each other’s eyes and squeeze each other’s hands. In this way. By implication. Qualley (Urbana. but also initiating them into a discourse of critical questioning so that they challenge what they have been taught. and trustworthy manner in order to make the case for civic reconciliation more compelling through imaginative action. and interprets the reader as much as it does the text.’’41 I now want to tease out what it means to act in a caring.340 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 imaginatively in dialogues ‘‘they speak with others as passionately and eloquently as we can about justice and caring and love and trust. while at the same time critically evaluating and challenging rival standpoints or articulations. and. ‘‘Teaching for Openings: Pedagogy as Dialectic. challenging institutions as well as points of view. that a text be read in a way that questions. One of my White colleagues once mentioned in conversation that his Afrikaner parents did not encourage questions about or criticisms of the apartheid education legislation. that a text be read in a way that sets out the range of possible interpretations. Three Rival Versions of Modern Enquiry: Encyclopaedia. Sullivan and Donna J. Cultivating care requires that university teachers afford students the opportunity to engage critically and reflexively with university texts.44 41. if he had known the ‘‘damage’’ a racist. He noted that. 1990). second. and different cultural traditions.

This process not only helps us become good listeners but also makes us more deliberative in the sense that we become open to revising or abandoning our own reasons in the light of what others (to whom we listen and with whom we engage) have to offer. African students should be able to tell their stories about what constitutes the good life whether these stories take the form of myth. we can only understand others and respond to them in ways that are mutually intelligible if we first take the time to consider ourselves and to justify to others why we find their reasons ‘‘reasonable’’ or not.WAGHID Action as an Educational Virtue 341 Second. acting in a trustworthy manner in a university classroom that includes many students who are not necessarily familiar with formal rules of dialogue and logical reasoning requires that one not in any way exclude these students from engaging with one another. In this way. The primary aim of avoiding excessive structure in the first place is to minimize the chance that eloquent and articulate voices will marginalize or silence the legitimate voices of all people engaged in dialogical action. If we do not listen to others. we cannot begin to comprehend what reasons they have for acting as they do. I would say. Alasdair MacIntyre. To listen justly would go a long way in promoting civic reconciliation for the reason that reconciliation requires that we do not enter the dialogue with set and preconceived ideas about the past and present. To give a specific example. In telling this story. and how we might respond to their actions in a way that they will find intelligible. listening to others could move us toward dialogical action. 1999).46 Alasdair MacIntyre argues that ‘‘coming to know’’ involves not just evaluating our own reasons as better or worse. I remember one case in which a White undergraduate student became agitated in class about a Black student’s presentation regarding the racial prejudice her elder sister experienced while studying at a White Afrikaans-speaking university. For example.. religious parable. being a university teacher involves developing the capacity to cultivate in people (students) the ability to listen to what others (fellow students) have to say. Dialogical actions usually take the following form: one participant listens to the other and. a university student does not enter into dialogue with others to run them down for injustices her parents might have experienced. no matter how ill-informed or unimportant a particular point of view may seem to them. what grows out of the dialogue should offer possibilities for people to reconcile. 14. Such interactions preclude the possibility of imagining a different future and work against civic reconciliation. but also detaching ourselves from the immediacy of our own desires in order to ‘‘imagine alternative realistic futures’’ through engaging collegially (dialogically) — or. without recognizing that the White students in her current class were not responsible for the discrimination her sister had experienced. or genealogical anecdote. rather. instead. Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues (Chicago: Open Court. 47. This point about listening to others is closely related to the need to understand others’ reasons and to draw on this understanding to act justly. after having been persuaded 45. she enters the dialogue in order to look for ways to avoid repeating the injustices of the past and for ways to imagine the future anew. 46. listening justly to what others have to say.45 In other words. For instance. the Black student seemed to be deliberately attempting to provoke her classmates. what might make their actions intelligible to us. Ibid. 91.47 Finally. .

because this very structure may constrain the meanings they intend their stories to reveal. subjecting their philosophical positions to excessive logical reasoning undermines and distorts the stories they have to tell. which is essential to building relations of care. For this reason. specifically by reshaping our understanding of deliberative argumentation and our recognition of what is other and different. In this essay I have tried to show that compassionate and imaginative action enable us to extend some of the fundamental dimensions of democratic citizenship education. and proverbial arguments and claims. Often students in my master’s seminars. Namibia. A special thanks also to Nicholas Burbules for making valuable comments on improving the effectiveness of the manuscript. genealogical. Botswana. if trust is undermined. such an approach may yield a different. remind me that excessive logical reasoning does not always fit well with their articulations of a variety of religious. Ultimately. offers a response either in defense of another point of view or simply dismisses (usually argumentatively) what the other had to say. justice. And. discourages the telling of these stories and thus thwarts efforts to build trust in the university classroom. I have argued that efforts to cultivate democratic citizenship in schools and universities cannot focus simply on teaching students conventional modes of deliberative argumentation and sensitivity to difference and otherness. and trust in university and school dialogical actions. most of whom come from Southern African countries such as Lesotho. I suggest that students should also be taught what it means to act with compassion and imagination because such action has the potential to promote civic reconciliation. and Zimbabwe. . In other words. we must not require them to fit their tales into the conventional structure of a formal response. simply subjecting the stories African students tell to excessive logical reasoning. which in many ways evaluates the stories. mythic. agenda for democratic citizenship education. teacher and student). there is no chance of civic reconciliation because such reconciliation requires that trust be established between speaker and listener (in this instance. I THANK THE REVIEWERS for their suggestions to improve the manuscript.342 E D U C AT I O N A L THEORY VOLUME 55 j NUMBER 3 j 2005 or not by the other’s analysis. But if we really want to allow others to tell their own stories. and more promising.

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