• Opinion

Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 1987

30 April 2018

Jacques Rancière



The French philosopher Jacques Rancière wrote, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, in 1987. In this book, Rancière builds on the method of 'intellectual emancipation' created by Joseph Jacotot who argued for a method of education that empowered students rather than teachers. Rancière agreed, argueing that the schoolmaster can even know less than the student, i.e., be ignorant. The book believed that students, especially the less privileged, should be empowered to be able to each themselves whatever they do not know. In this sense, the book is a critique of the current hierarchical relationship between professor and student, where the former lectures down to the latter. Rancière wrote, “To explain something to someone is first of all to show him he cannot understand it by himself.” He felt that the current system 'stultifies' the student's ability to learn on their own. He encouraged the idea of people learning together, extolling the benefits of ignorance: “To teach what one doesn't know is simply to ask questions about what one doesn't know.” Photo Credit: By Petitfestival (Annette Bozorgan) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons