David Aldridge

Reader in Education, Brunel University London


The Beaten Path: The Place of the Humanities in the Formation of Teachers

No-one would question that teachers need often to make informed policy decisions or that they should to some extent offer explanations for their planning and its results, and that evidence thus has a valuable place in schooling. Yet so much of a teacher’s interaction with individual students exceeds what can be accounted for in evidence-based research – with its tendency toward the abstracted average – and is shot through with a moral significance which requires of the teacher a significant degree of wisdom and a humane disposition.

In making the case for an ongoing engagement with the rich resources of literature, philosophy and history as essential for teachers throughout their career I do not intend to suggest that teachers are generally lacking in humane dispositions or that it is the particular task of the academy to ensure that they are inducted into an elite canon of western educational thought. More modestly, I simply draw attention to the hard lesson of history: that humane dispositions will not look after themselves, and that we need to make an effort to nourish them continually, particularly in those whose task it is to similarly nourish the next generation.

I propose a small pause in proceedings where attendees can consider for a time the search for truth, such as it has been conceived and exemplified by the poets and great writers, and return to their thoughtful consideration of evidence with perhaps a new or nuanced inflection.


David Aldridge taught religious education and philosophy in secondary schools for ten years before moving into higher education, where he has worked at King’s College London, Oxford Brookes University and Brunel University London. He has led PGCE courses, Master’s programmes in Education and an Educational Doctorate (EdD). He sits on the executive boards of the Association for Moral Education and the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, and he is an Assistant Editor of the Journal of Philosophy of Education.