In her new book Freud and Education (2010), author Deborah Britzman follows the threads of the concept of education – its dangers and promises and its illusions and revelations – throughout Sigmund Freud’s body of work.
Britzman, a Distinguished Research Professor in York’s Faculty of Education, defines how fundamental Freudian concepts such as the psychical apparatus, the drives, the unconscious, the development of morality and the transference have changed throughout Freud’s oeuvre. Freud and Education concludes with new Freudian-influenced approaches to the old dilemmas of educational research, theory and practice.
Right: Deborah Britzman
“People have very strong views about Freud and psychoanalysis. People are also passionate in their views about what education is and what it should be,” Britzman says, reflecting on her reasons for writing the book. “This book introduces Freud and psychoanalysis as well as education without the superstitions traditionally associated with these subjects.
“What happens to education if we begin with the idea that the subject is unconscious and begins in sexuality?” Britzman asks. “Freud insisted that human sexuality begins at birth and that the human is affected by its unconscious life.”
The book inspires critical thinking on such questions as: Why consider contemporary education through psychoanalytic theories? What does Freud teach is about the problems of dependency, aggression and group psychology in educational institutions? What did Freud think about the problem of education?
One key insight, Britzman says, comes from an essay, "Some Reflections on Schoolboy Psychology", which Freud wrote when he was 60.
“Freud said he did not know what affected him more: how teachers were as people, or what they know as teachers,” Britzman says. “Both are operative in learning environments. We often forget that, even in the university setting, personality matters.”
Freud and Education draws on Britzman’s background. She trained as a psychoanalyst and is widely known for bringing psychoanalysis to discussions of contemporary pedagogy, teacher education, social inequality and problems of intolerance and historical crisis.
Part of the Routledge Press Key Ideas in Education series, the book’s back cover says Freud and Education “seeks to shape ongoing discussions in the field of education by putting the field’s contemporary luminaries in dialogue with its foundational figures and critical topics.”
Through her previous books – Lost Subjects, Contested Objects: Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning (1998), Practice Makes Practice (2003), After-Education: Anna Freud, Melanie Klein and Psychoanalytic Histories of Learning (2003), Novel Education: Psychoanalytic Studies of Learning and Not Learning (2006), The Very Thought of Education: Psychoanalysis and the Impossible Professions (2009) – and other scholarly writings, Britzman has won many awards for her contributions to education and psychoanalysis.