De Marzio, D. M. (Ed.) (2021). David Hansen and the Call to Teach. Renewing the Work that Teachers do (María G. Amilburu).
De Marzio, D. M. (Ed.) (2021).
David Hansen and The Call to Teach. Renewing the Work that Teachers do.
Teachers College Press. 148 pp.
It is 25 years since David T. Hansen published The Call to Teach, a book that has had an enormous impact on the training and professional development of many teachers—particularly at secondary level—both in the United States and the rest of the world.
Darryl M. De Marzio, Professor of Foundations of Education at the University of Scranton, is the editor of the volume discussed, which brings together eleven essays by renowned university professors from eight different countries. They discuss the theory and educational practices inspired by the thinking of D. T. Hansen: in particular, the aforementioned The Call to Teach (1995) and a more recent book Exploring the Moral Heart of Teaching: Toward a Teacher’s Creed (2001). The volume closes with a brief but substantial afterword by David T. Hansen himself.
De Marzio first read The Call to Teach while working on his doctoral thesis under the guidance of D. T. Hansen at Columbia University, and the two have maintained a fluid academic partnership ever since. The rest of the authors who sign the chapters in this volume have had personal dealings with Hansen—as students, colleagues or at international conferences—and they all express their appreciation for Hansen’s work in the field of education, both in the field of Philosophy of Education and in the development of innovative educational practices. In some cases, they even go as far as to publicly express their gratitude for having enjoyed his friendship and benefited from the discreet and kind influence that Hansen has had on their lives, both professionally and personally. Ultimately, the book can be seen as a continuation of the dialogue Hansen initiated with teachers in The Call to Teach. It is a polyphonic reflection on the meaning of teaching when viewed from the perspective of the “vocation” of the teacher.
Some chapters of the book are of a more philosophical nature, such as those by Shelley Sherman, Emerita of Lake Forest College, and Hansjörg Hohr of the University of Oslo-Tronheim, who devel ops and comments on Hansen’s thought. Other authors contrast and relate his works to those of renowned philosophers and educators. Thus, Ruth Heilbronn, from the Institute of Education at UCL, points out Hansen’s convergence with J. Dewey’s Philosophy of Education through the notions of habit, growth, situation, moral knowledge and democracy understood as a shared way of life; Anna Pagès, from the Ramon Llul University of Barcelona, explicitly mentions a Philosophy of Voice, latent in Hansen’s work, in relation to the hermeneutics of Gadamer and Agamben. Pádraig Hogan, Emeritus of the University of Maynooth (Ireland) and Indrani Bhattacharjee, of Azim Premji University (India), analyse the connections of Hansen’s approaches with Gadamer and MacIntyre’s formulation of the concept of “tradition”, and the thinking of Rabindranath Tagore, respectively.
Other works, of a more existential tone, describe personal episodes, snippets of shared academic life, friendship and human and professional transformation experienced alongside Hansen, which are narrated with the originality and closeness of those who experienced them first-hand. Thus, Caroline Heller of Lesly University describes how she encouraged the “encounter” between Hansen and W. G. Sebald and the importance that this discovery had for his subsequent work; and Cati Bell shares a beautiful account of Hansen’s beneficial influence on her professional and personal life, as a result of her involvement in “The Moral Life of Schools” project.
In the first chapter of the volume, “The Language of Vocation and the Prospect for Teacher Renewal: An Introductory Essay”, De Marzio clearly and concisely outlines the core of the theories Hansen presents in The Call to Teach, along with the opportunity to look at them again in this volume. Our time can be described as a period in which mercantilist and performative language has flooded educational institutions, intending to liken them to companies whose only objectives are to optimise “results” in terms of employability and economic benefits. On the contrary, Hansen invites teachers to experience his work from the perspective of vocation, which is why Hansen’s thinking and the present volume are timelier than ever.
With Hansen’s invitation—and De Marzio in agreement with him—to consider the teaching profession in terms of a vocation, they encourage teachers, and those who are training to become teachers in the future, to share a particular way of understanding their work: working as a teacher means devoting oneself to a profession that has a high social value and provides those working as such with a satisfying experience of personal fulfilment. “Vocational” teachers do what they like doing —what they were born and trained to do— and, in doing so, they are happy and provide an indispensable and irreplaceable service to society. Hansen does not merely invite teachers to join him in this way of looking at teaching, he presents and offers the intellectual and moral tools in order for those who would like to carry out their teaching work in this way to be able to do so.
Therefore, reading this volume of works edited by De Marzio is also an invitation to reread —or read for the first time, if it is the case— Hansen’s works1. A highly recommended and rewarding read both for those who are already working as teachers and for those who are training to do so; and, without a doubt, for the university lecturers and professors who are entrusted with their academic and professional training.
1 A Spanish translation is available: Hansen, D. T. (2001). Llamados a enseñar. Idea Books; Hansen, D. T. (2002). Explorando el corazón moral de la enseñanza. Idea Books.
María G. Amilburu ■