Educational Theory and Jewish Studies in Conversation: Engaging the Discourses

From Section:
Trends in Jewish Education
Jun. 01, 2013

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 79, Issue 2 , pages 104-130


Shapiro argues that the interdiscursive relationships between Jewish studies and education are in need of further philosophical articulation and conceptual differentiation in order to realize more beneficial engagement in higher education, professional education, and scholarship. He first considers the literature on interdisciplinarity and explain why he suggests the potentially more fruitful concept of interdiscursivity. Then, drawing on the philosophies of Dewey, Buchler, and Oakeshott, he suggests how their conceptions might inform the purposes and practices of relating education and Jewish studies with one another. Through this philosophical inquiry, he hopes to suggest some beneficial, new ways to conceptualize, articulate, refine, and expand these fields and discourses’ relationships.



"I suggest that, when taking Dewey, Buchler, or Oakeshott seriously, Jewish studies scholars and educational theorists might reconsider the nature of their own discourses and their boundaries. But in doing so, I am neither implying nor promoting a kind of universalization of discourses and disciplines. And such reconsideration of boundaries would not be for the purpose of expanding or extending themselves, not to claim more territory. Rather, the purpose is to reconceive these disciplinary and discursive demarcations as doing something other than containment, separation, or exclusion. Such interdiscursivity would challenge the illusion or presumption of disciplinary stasis and stability, revealing the dynamics of the faultlines (Morris, 2009). When gesturing to engage and challenge one another, discourses also point to areas that they do not specifically contain.


Perhaps asking for sustained conversation between the academy's Jewish studies and education discourses is informed by this Talmudic maxim: “When two scholars go for a walk together without exchanging Torah insights, they might as well be consumed by fire” (BT Sotah 49a). I take this exchange of insights to include different forms of scholarship and discourse, including, to be sure, matters of Torah. What could potentially become “consumed by fire,” then, are opportunities for interdiscursive exchange and communication. But when we seize those opportunities, we recognize possibilities in the other and the value of walking and talking together."

Updated: Feb. 07, 2017
Educational philosophy | Interdiciplinary | Interdiscursivity | Jewish educators | Jewish studies | Research