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Max van Manen
London (Ont.), Althouse Press, 1991. 240pp, paper, $19.95
ISBN 0-920354-29-7. CIP

Adult / Professional

Reviewed by Gail Lennon.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Max van Manen has taught at several levels of education in the Netherlands and Canada. He is the author of two other books; The Tone of Teaching (Scholastic-TAB, 1986) and Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy (Althouse Press, 1989), In addition, he has written several articles. Van Manen is currently professor of education at the University of Alberta.

In The Tact of Teaching Max van Manen offers both rookie and seasoned teachers an original, interesting and thought-provoking interpretation of pedagogy. Van Manen hypothesizes that teaching searches for its reason for being in the experiences known as in loco parentis. He proposes that the chief reason for teaching is to have a good effect upon students.

In his explanation he defines peda­gogical thought fullness as "the way that educators grow, change and deepen their sense of self as a result of reflection and living with children." The author contends that teaching is a mutually satisfying act. The students gain from the work of a caring teacher and the teacher grows professionally and personally as he or she expends energy and caring upon the students in his or her charge.

Van Manen states that out of the parental responsibility to fulfill their primary pedagogical responsibility in educating their children flows the educator's duty to provide care in loco parentis. Thus, what is relevant for the parent is also important in the relation­ship between child and teacher. He charges that teachers need to become more reflective of what in loco parentis entails.

Using several anecdotes of teacher-student relationships as his basis, the author goes on to demonstrate that "coping" is not enough: "it is not enough if we fail to act as true teachers or parents as a positive influence on our children." He also states, "The essence of true teaching does not lie in technical expertise but in a complex of pedagogi­cal qualities."

The author introduces the text as having been written for beginning teachers who want to "feel enabled and inspired" but also for experienced teachers who may be "prompted lo become more reflective about their everyday professional lives." In this light, the author has certainly accom­plished his purpose. Whether one accepts his promise or not, the book causes both beginning and seasoned professionals to reconsider their teach­ing strategies, re-evaluate their priori­ties, and rethink their relationships with students.

The book is clearly written and well organized and the anecdotes help to illustrate the points of the author's argument. Within the two hundred pages of this volume, the author has attempted to focus on these questions: what are the makings of a good educa­tor? How do thoughtful teachers act? What knowledge contributes to reflec­tive pedagogy?

Any of the questions might have filled the entire volume and herein lies the difficulty. The text is very idealistic and attempts to cover three very broad questions in a short text. However, the author's passion for kids shines through, and the reader is left with many questions unanswered but a great deal to think about. After all, isn't this the purpose of a philosophical document?

I found this book stimulating, thought provoking and somewhat unsettling in that it nudges even the most experienced and accomplished teacher to rethink his or her values. I would recommend this text for faculty of education courses at both the pre-service and in-service levels. It is also recommended acquisition for profes­sional libraries. The Tact of Teaching is the type of text that irritates one into reconsidering one's teaching philosophy and prompts one to alter pedagogical strategies and relationships with students!

Gail Lennon, Walkerton District Secondary School, Walkerton, Ont.
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