Nel Noddings

Nel
Noddings
1929

American Feminist, Educationalist and Philosopher

Author Quotes

I do not need to establish a deep, lasting, time-consuming personal relationship with every student. What I must do is to be totally and non-selectively present to the student?to each student?as he addresses me. The time interval may be brief but the encounter is total.

Many of our schools are in what might be called a crisis of caring.

One-caring receives the other, for the interval of caring, completely and non-selectively.

The student is infinitely more important than the subject matter.

The teacher does not need to resort to punishment, because the rules are not sacred to her.

The teacher receives and accepts the student's feelings toward the subject matter; she looks at it and listens to it through his eyes and ears. How else can she interpret the subject matter for him?

Through dialogue, modeling, the provision of practice, and the attribution of best motive, the one-caring as teacher nurtures the ethical ideal.

When a teacher asks a question in class and a student responds, she receives not just the "response" but the student. What he says matters, whether it is right or wrong, and she probes gently for clarification, interpretation, contribution. She is not seeking the answer but the involvement of the cared-for.

As the infant rewards his caring mother with smiles and wriggles, the student rewards his teacher with responsiveness: with questions, effort, comment, and cooperation.

Everything we do, then, as teachers, has moral overtones.

One might suggest as a basic principle: always act so as to establish, maintain or enhance caring relations. A carer, however, does not refer to this principle when she responds to a person who addresses her. The “principle” is descriptive, not prescriptive. The behaviour of carers is well described by this principle, but their motivation arises either spontaneously (in natural caring) or through deliberate reflection on an ideal of caring that has become part of their character.

In contrast “ethical” caring does have to be summoned. The “I ought” arises but encounters conflict: An inner voice grumbles, “I ought but I don’t want to,” or “Why should I respond?” or “This guy deserves to suffer, so why should I help?” On these occasions we need not turn to a principle; more effectively we turn to our memories of caring and being cared for and a picture or ideal of ourselves as carers… Ethical caring’s great contribution is to guide action long enough for natural caring to be restored and for people once again to interact with mutual and spontaneous regard.

The key, central to care theory, is this: caring-about (or, perhaps a sense of justice) must be seen as instrumental in establishing the conditions under which caring-for can flourish. Although the preferred form of caring is cared-for, caring-about can help in establishing, maintaining, and enhancing it. Those who care about others in the justice sense must keep in mind that the objective is to ensure that caring actually occurs. Caring-about is empty if it does not culminate in caring relations.

The main goal of education should be to produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people.

In an age when violence among school-children is at an unprecedented level, when children are bearing children with little knowledge of how to care for them, when the society and even the schools often concentrate on materialistic messages, it may be unnecessary to argue that we should care more genuinely for our children and teach them to care. However, many otherwise reasonable people seem to believe that our educational problems consist largely of low scores on achievement tests.

We need to give up the notion of a single ideal of the educated person and replace it with a multiplicity of models designed to accommodate the multiple capacities and interests of students. We need to recognize multiple identities.

We do not have to construct elaborate rationales to explain why human beings ought to treat one another as positively as our situation permits. Ethical life is not separate from and alien to the physical world. Because we human beings are in the world, not mere spectators watching from outside it, our social instincts and the reflective elaboration of them are also in the world. Pragmatists and care theorists agree on this. The ought – better, the “I ought” – arises directly in lived experience. “Oughtness,” one might say, is part of our “isness.”… In contrast “ethical” caring does have to be summoned. The “I ought” arises but encounters conflict: An inner voice grumbles, “I ought but I don’t want to,” or “Why should I respond?” or “This guy deserves to suffer, so why should I help?” On these occasions we need not turn to a principle; more effectively we turn to our memories of caring and being cared for and a picture or ideal of ourselves as carers… Ethical caring’s great contribution is to guide action long enough for natural caring to be restored and for people once again to interact with mutual and spontaneous regard.

Ethical caring, the relation in which we do meet the other morally... [arises]... out of natural caring - that relation in which we respond as one-caring out of love or natural inclination. The relation of natural caring... [is] ... the human condition that we, consciously or unconsciously, perceive as 'good'. It is that condition toward which we long and strive, and it is our longing for caring - to be in that special relationship - that provides the motivation for us to be moral. We want to be moral in order to remain in the caring relation and to enhance the ideal of ourselves as one-caring.

When we confirm someone, we identify a better self and encourage its development. To do this we must know the other reasonably well. Otherwise we cannot see what the other is really striving for, what ideal he or she may long to make real. Formulas and slogans have no place in confirmation. We do not posit a single ideal for everyone and then announce ‘high expectations for all’. Rather we recognize something admirable, or at least acceptable, struggling to emerge in each person we encounter. The goal or attribute must be seen as worthy both by the person trying to achieve it and by us. We do not confirm people in ways we judge to be wrong.

The key, central to care theory, is this: caring-about (or, perhaps a sense of justice) must be seen as instrumental in establishing the conditions under which caring-for can flourish. Although the preferred form of caring is cared-for, caring-about can help in establishing, maintaining, and enhancing it. Those who care about others in the justice sense must keep in mind that the objective is to ensure that caring actually occurs. Caring-about is empty if it does not culminate in caring relations.

The slogan, “All children can learn,” not only signals a high priority on equality (which I initially rejected in favor of excellence) but, perhaps inadvertently suggests one on learning. Busy explaining why we might give priority to excellence over equality, we may overlook this second difficulty. Is the aim of schooling learning and only learning? Is the proof of our success as educators found, then, in proof of learning? Again the temptation is to respond, “What do you mean by learning?” And then we are off on a discussion of levels and kinds of learning, methods of evaluation, alternative pedagogies, and — wondrous new idea — authentic assessment.

Why is the relational view difficult for many educators?

The relational view is hard for some American thinkers to accept because the Western tradition puts such great emphasis on individualism. In that tradition, it is almost instinctive to regard virtues as personal possessions, hard-won through a grueling process of character building. John Dewey rejected this view and urged us to consider virtues as “working adaptations of personal capacities with environing forces”. Care theorists expand this Deweyan insight and emphasize the role of our partners in interaction as a central factor in “environing forces.” We recognize moral interdependence. How good (or bad) I can be depends in substantial part on how you treat me. Acknowledging our moral interdependence means rejecting Kant’s claim that it is contradictory to make our ourselves responsible for another’s moral perfection. Care theorists insist that we must, indeed, accept such responsibility. Without imposing my values on an other, I must realize that my treatment of him may deeply affect the way he behaves in the world. Although no individual can escape responsibility for his own actions, neither can the community that produced him escape its part in making him what he has become.

It is sometimes said that “all teachers care.” It is because they care that people go into teaching. However, this is not universally true; we all have known teachers who are cruel and uncaring, and these people should not be in teaching at all. But even for the majority who do “care” in the virtue sense—that is, they profess to care and work hard at their teaching—there are many who do not adopt the relational sense of caring. They “care” in the sense that they conscientiously pursue certain goals for their students, and they often work hard at coercing students to achieve those goals. These teachers must be credited with caring in the virtue sense of the word. However, these same teachers may be unable to establish relations of care and trust.

The source of my obligation is the value I place on the relatedness of caring.

Author Picture
First Name
Nel
Last Name
Noddings
Birth Date
1929
Bio

American Feminist, Educationalist and Philosopher