Education "Without Fear," or a Proper 'Fear' Education?

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The author shares decades of experience studying fear and fearlessness. He concludes that educators and teachers tend not to want to discuss "fear" with any depth or consistency. A change in this attitude is required, especially in a post-9/11 era. A critical 'fear' theory, with emphasis not on "fears" but a portrayal of the hidden crisis in fear-knowledge, is the goal of this paper. Yet, there is no conclusion to this exploratory journey into the beginnings of a critical 'fear' theory for education and for the world. There are some important guides we have met along the way in this article: Parker Palmer's admission of a "culture of fear" in contemporary education, Peter McLaren's admission of a "new species of fear" in cultural politics and education, and Deborah Britzman's admission of a "love and hate [fear]" emotional landscape and relationship that modulates all teaching and learning. Britzman is the only educator to lead the way to an in depth and queer theory of fear (feer) [other than the author's work on 'fear' theory]. The author argues that good as these theorists are to lead us in better understanding fear and its role in education, they are not good enough and too often still rely on the psychological basis of meaning for fear (McLaren, less so). Love is not enough either to challenge fear and its rule in education and society. We need a transdisciplinary approach as in fearanalysis, where the emphasis is on the path of fearlessness as the location and process of living a life eternally ambivalent between Love and Fear. We cannot simply get or be Love. There is not simply just Fear either nor are we only fear. There is no formula nor humanistic or theological guarantee for the 'good' without the 'bad,' so to speak. There is a dialectical relation and existential sensibility required that most people are unable or unwilling to bring to awareness in education. I believe a good quality 'fear' education would improve our capabilities to enter this path of fearlessness. It is risky business to each in a culture of fear and a politics that exposes the "glue" of the 'Fear' Matrix of pathological patriarchy, and adultism. This critical location and process, this living a life in such a precarious and ambivalent place, is the most dangerous of all pedagogies, and an impossibility with possibility, a dangerousness with desire for truth at all costs. Simply, the path of fearlessness demands a 'fear' theory which is determined to study fear, feer, 'fear' and any other creative expression that opposes pedagogies of love. This methodological shift in fearanalysis and critical 'fear' theory proposed (and incomplete yet) is toward the "negative" and a counterbalance to the hegemonic fetishism of the current "positive" in today's neo-liberal, neo- conservative climate in North American culture and education. -RMF
paper for doctoral examinations
fear education, critical 'fear' theory, new species of fear, cultural politics, affective, love, fear-knowledge, curriculum, pedagogy
Fisher, R. M. (2014). Education "Without Fear," or a Proper 'Fear' Education? 1-54