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  • Encounter: The Educational Metamorphoses of Jane Roland Martin
  • Leonard J. Waks

Although it is something of a cliché, it must be said: Jane Roland Martin needs no introduction to readers of Education & Culture. She has been a dominant figure in philosophy of education for almost half a century. Her work, marked by a rare combination of analytical precision, philosophical imagination, social responsibility and natural charm, has deservedly reached a wide audience and has influenced the selection and treatment of many topics taken up by others for further study.

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Jane has always been a philosophical scout, peering beyond contemporary discourses, discovering new territories and new ways of exploring them. Younger readers may possibly think of Jane in terms of such recent contributions as the "cultural wealth" perspective on curriculum introduced in her 1995 DeGarmo Lecture, and further developed in her 1996 John Dewey Lecture, "Cultural Miseducation: In Search of a Democratic Solution."1 Most will associate Jane with the introduction of hotly contested issues related to the education of women, and of feminist themes and methods, into philosophy of education during the 1980s.2 Older readers, however, may still think of Jane as one of the pioneer analytical philosophers of education.3 While analytical philosophy of education may seem pretty "old hat" today, in the 1950s and early 1960s philosophical analysis was a radical innovation in philosophy of education, and one no more welcomed by the old guard than feminism was in the early 1980s.

Although I have been listening to Jane speak for more than forty years at various conferences and in one-to-one conversations, I still look forward to her talks, knowing that she will be provocative and will be breaking new ground. I [End Page 73] also love the way she presents her ideas. In approaching any topic she seems to fill a large box with illustrative cases and anecdotes, and she has an uncanny knack of pulling one of these out of the box and slipping it into her argument at just the right moment.

So I was very pleased to have the opportunity to talk with her about her new book, Educational Metamorphoses, where she once again opens up a large—and largely neglected—topic, the role of education in major "whole-person" transformations, and once again has a large collection of illustrative cases at hand. I visited Jane at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 17, 2007. As we spoke I took notes, and after sending her a first draft of the interview, we communicated by email to clarify a few additional points. On behalf of the editors of Education & Culture I wish to thank Jane for accepting our invitation to be interviewed, and for being a gracious hostess and sparkling conversationalist.


LJW: Jane, your new book is called Educational Metamorphoses,4 and if I could summarize the important themes, they are (1) that life is a series of metamorphoses, or as you also call them, "whole-person transformations," (2) that education is essentially involved in these transformations, and (3) that these personal transformations (except for the first, the transformation from "creature of nature" to "creature of culture") are also "culture-crossings," that is, passages from one culture to another. So can we start with the key concepts? What do you mean by metamorphoses or whole-person transformations?

JRM: I mean "a total change of being." I started out using the phrase "whole-person transformations," But I saw that people could take this to mean that every single thing about a person changes, and I didn't mean that. In these transformations some underlying traits may endure. Think of Dewey's idea about "teaching the whole child," where he meant teaching not just the mind, but also the body and the emotions. By "whole person" I have in mind a whole way of being—walking, talking, eating, dressing, and the like. So by "whole-person metamorphoses" I mean changes in just this sense.

LJW: And what do you take the role of education to be in these changes?

JRM: Well, it's different in every case. And it can be for the good...