In this episode Rita Koganzon and I discuss two essays by the philosopher Hannah Arendt: “Crisis in Education” and “Reflections on Little Rock.” The former was first published in Partisan Review in 1958 and the latter in Dissent in 1959. Rita gives an account of the context for the two essays and how they are related. We discuss Arendt’s critique of a number of progressive educational reforms including learning as doing and emancipating children from the authority of adults. Rita explains Arendt’s concept of natality and her understanding of the relationship between knowledge and authority. We discuss Arendt’s reasons for pessimism as far as school integration as an educational enterprise and why the Little Rock essay generated such controversy. We also discuss the relevance of Arendt’s reflections on education to our own time.
Rita Koganzon is the associate director of the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy and Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the themes of education, childhood, authority, and the family in historical and contemporary political thought. Her first book, Liberal States, Authoritarian Families: Childhood and Education in Early Modern Thought (Oxford, 2021) examines the justifications for authority over children from Jean Bodin to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Her research and essays have been published in the American Political Science Review and the Review of Politics, as well as in the Hedgehog Review, National Affairs, The Point, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. She received her PhD in Government from Harvard University, and her BA in History from the University of Chicago. Check out Rita’s essay “A Tale of Two Educational Traditions.”