This essay reflects on the relevance of French laïcité for the American college classroom. It begins with a discussion of philosopher Catherine Kintzler’s radical interpretation of laïcité as a theory of political association that takes the classroom as its model. According to this view, the autonomous learning contingent on doubt and self-correction that ideally occurs there is the basis for an egalitarian and collaborative production of knowledge, a model of a res publica. The essay then turns to legal scholar and philosopher Anthony Kronman’s analysis of classroom conversation and the “ethics of depersonalization.” It considers the extent to which these notions can be viewed as American translations of Kintzler’s laïcité. The essay concludes with a reading of American essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates’s bestselling 2015 memoir as an endorsement of the autonomous abstract individual, the linchpin of republican universalism, laïcité, and liberal education.
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ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies