Willed Forgetfulness: The Arts, Education and the Case for Unlearning

John Baldacchino

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Established scholarship in arts education is invariably related to theories of development founded on notions of multiple intelligence and experiential learning. Yet when contemporary arts practice is retraced on a philosophical horizon, one begins to engage with other cases for learning. This state of affairs reveals art's inherent paradox where the expectation of learning is substituted by forms of unlearning. This paper begins to approach unlearning through the tension between art and education, and more specifically through the dialectical relationship between education's dialogic agonism and art's negative antagonism. What is here being proposed as unlearning reflects a critique of the moral-pedagogical outlooks that are imposed on art where artworks are expected to tell stories of truth through their propensity towards the beautiful and the good. In re-reading experiential anticipation as a form of anamnesis (recollection) through a process of negation and contradiction, unlearning is also located in forms of mimetic scoping by which art's assumed pedagogical trajectory turns into the opposite of recollection: as an act of willed forgetfulness. This peculiar 'movement' from a state of learning to that of unlearning constitutes the basis for a special kind of pedagogical aesthetics where the challenges of criticality and laterality articulate a special 'world' where learning may well work backwards.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)415-430
    Number of pages16
    JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


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