from Pinar on autobiography, study and freedom

Below is the passage from Pinar (2005) that I was grappling for in my last post where I started from Olson and Keats.  Indeed, Pinar references Rorty here, and as such seems to be attaching a similar value to the creative construction of our lives through and as texts.  I am drawn in particular to Rorty’s emphasis on the freedom implicit in such creative acts of self-building.  I suspect Olson had some hidden pragmatic affinities as well, on the basis of his association with Black Mountain College (a radically pragmatic institution through and through).  Indeed perhaps Olson’s pragmatism was TOO radical for his predecessors at BMC– more akin to Rorty or Nietzsche than Dewey or Sartre.  We shall see…

In this ancient, nearly forgotten, tradition, study is the site of educa- tion. Not instruction, not learning, but study constitutes the process of education, a view, McClintock (1971, 167) tells us, grounded in “indi- viduality,” “autonomy,” and “creativity.” (The three are, of course, in- ter-related.) Again sounding like the early Sartre, McClintock (1971, 167) emphasizes the significance of our “particularity,” that we become more than we have been influenced to be, that we (here he anticipates Rorty) refashion ourselves by engaging “freely” and “creatively” our circumstances.

Such a statement recalls certain strands of the progressive tradition, although not its confidence that we can teach freedom for creativity, let alone for individuality and autonomy. Rather, from the point of view of study, self-formation follows from our individual appropriation of what is around us; this capacity for selection, for focus, for judgement, McClintock suggests, is the great mystery to be solved (1971, 167). This is, I submit, the mystery that autobiography purports not to solve, but to portray and complicate (Pinar, 1994).