Bildung & Weltaneignung an Attempted Translation of Education

There are some terms and concepts in the Germany language which directly impact my day to day work, but I have no English words for them. And a translation seems impossible because not a single word I would choose would even come close to reflecting the complexity of these nouns.
I meant to write this post for a long time, and recent discussions have pushed me to at least take the first step.

These definitions are blatantly culled from my dissertation’s literature review https://activehighered.blog/publications/my-dissertation/. However, my understanding (and use of academic English) have developed since then, and new influences and insights mean I would–and will write about this differently 10 years down the line. However, that is for another blog post. This blog post is a starting point, the baseline if you wish:

Bildung

There is such a variety of concepts about learning and teaching methods that it can neither be the task nor is it possible to discuss those comprehensively in my dissertation. In my role as bilingual researcher I introduce two German terms Bildung (education) and Erziehung (education) because it is important for my research to differentiate between these both terms. English or other western European countries do not differentiate between Bildung and Erziehung (Laewen & Andres, 2002). In line with Bruner’s (2003) explanation of the internalist-externalist dimension of education, Bildung is the internalist and Erziehung the externalist dimension. The internalist and externalist dimensions mean Erziehung is the section of pedagogy the educators have responsibility for and connects it with Bildung (Laewen & Andres, 2002). The two main tasks of Erziehung are defined as forming the environment for the learner and arranging interaction between adults and children. To fulfil these tasks it is crucial to establish dialogue within the learning environment. Laewen and Andres (2002) further point out that, choosing the dialogue as form of interaction, offers a learning environment to which the children can contribute with their own knowledge and experiences (cf. Tasler, 2005).

Another reason to introduce the term of Bildung is its child centred and agentive view of the learner, understanding the need of education to be culturally relevant to create positive learning experiences. Bildung is a term that portrays a learner centred approach to education and implies the importance of culture, of a ‘real life context’ to the learning processes. The ‘real life context’ is defined further by Fuchs (2005b) who adds that reciprocal interlacing of the human and the world—intersubjectivity (Bruner, 2003) is a crucial part of Bildung. A summary of Bildung can be found by Girardet, Brücher, & Sauder (2004) declaring Bildung as the knowledge and comprehension of culture and society or as Fuchs (2005a) defines it life competence.

Learners are seen as the creators of their own world in Bildung. It is the selfinitiated part of the learners’ development, which leaves them with decisionmaking and responsibility (Handlungskompetenz) as well as ownership and control of the world surrounding (Weltaneignung) (H.-J. Laewen, 2002). Bildung then is a comprehensive description of self-initiated learning, and knowledge of the societal and cultural context.

Bildung (education) stands for the result of learning, however, is neither a fixed, nor an end-result focused approach. Bildung (education) is in fact a complex state of abilities that is continuously re-negotiated, added onto, changed, and questioned—utilizing a flexible, critical mind that enables Weltaneignung (Laewen & Andres, 2002). Weltaneignung simply translated stands for ownership of the world, but it encompasses life-competences, control, relevance, ownership, and responsible engagement with the world. In other words Bildung (education) is the process of developing cultural competences to gain cultural capital. It is a comprehensive concept that understands the learner as actively engaged in, or as an agent for their learning and development (Laewen & Andres, 2002).

The ability to learn, use and reproduce culture is cultural competence (Bourdieu, 1986), whereas Bourdieu (1986) defines Bildung as a form of cultural capital. In my opinion, Bildung is a cultural competence. The distinction between cultural capitals and cultural competence is that between a fixed object and ability. Cultural competence can be developed and applied, cultural capital is something people possess or make use of. Bildung is a continuous process that can provide access to cultural capital. Nasir, Hand and Taylor (2008) define culture:

… as the “fabric” of knowing, where culture and activity are inseparable at the level of individual, group, and societal development. This means that the cultural practices that we engage in as we move across everyday, school, and professional contexts both shape and constitute our learning. (Nasir, Hand, & Taylor, 2008, p. 194)

Weltaneignung

Bildung (education) is in fact a complex state of abilities that is continuously re-negotiated, added onto, changed, and questioned—utilizing a flexible, critical mind that enables Weltaneignung (Laewen & Andres, 2002). Weltaneignung simply translated stands for ownership of the world, but it encompasses life-competences, control, relevance, ownership, and responsible engagement with the world.

This definition of culturally relevant education becomes especially significant in a research project which involves refugee children. Learning is partially a process of developing cultural competence (Bourdieu, 2005); it is figuring things out, creating meaning and understanding, and world-acquisition and ownership (Weltaneignung) (Laewen and Andres, 2002). For the most comprehensive discussion cognitive as well as social aspects of learning ought to be considered. The former seem to be situated within psychology and neurosciences (Cooper, 2003, Ekstrom, 2004, Edelman, 2005) whilst the latter are, for instance, explored by educational sociology or research–active practitioners (Craft, 2001, 2006, Jeffrey, 2004, 2006, Keupp, 2005, Cummins, 1998, 2001).

Learners are seen as the creators of their own world in Bildung. It is the selfinitiated part of the learners’ development, which leaves them with decisionmaking and responsibility (Handlungskompetenz) as well as ownership and control of the world surrounding (Weltaneignung) (H.-J. Laewen, 2002). Bildung then is a comprehensive description of self-initiated learning, and knowledge of the societal and cultural context.

Literature

Bruner, J. (2003). The Culture of Education. London: Harvard University Press.

Craft, A., Jeffrey, B. & Leibling, M. (2001) Creativity in Education. Continuum: London.

Cummins, J. (2001). Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education.

Cummins, J., & Swain, M. (1998b). Bilingualism in Education: Aspects of Theory, Research and Practice. London: Longman.

Edelman, G. M. (2005) Wider than the Sky: A Revolutionary View of Consciousness, London: Penguin.

Ekstrom, S. R. (2004). The mind Beyond our Immediate Awareness: Freudian, Jungian, and Cognitive Models of the Unconscious. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 49(5), 657–682.

Fuchs, M. (2005a). Aufbaukurs Kulturpädagogik Band 2: Kunsttheorie und Ästhetik für die Praxis Arbeitsmaterialien für die Aus- und Fortbildung in Kulturpädagogik und Kulturpolitik. Remscheid: Akademie Remscheid.

Fuchs, M. (2005b). Kulturpädagogik und Schule im gesellschaftlichen Wandel. Alte und neue Herausforderungen für die Theorie und Praxis von Bildung und Erziehung – Ein Versuch. Remscheid: RATdigital

Girardet, K. M., Brücher, W., Sauder, G. (2004). Bildung. Ziele – Wege – Probleme: Ringvorlesung der Philosophischen Fakultäten I – III der Universität des Saarlandes 2001/2002. St. Ingbert: Röhrig Universitätsverlag.

Keupp, H. (2005). Pachtworkidentität – Riskante Chancen by Prekären Resourcen. [Electronic Version], Retrieved May 20, 2007 from http://www.ipp-muenchen.de/texte/keupp_dortmund.pdf

Keupp, H., Ahbe, T., Gmür, W., Höfer, R., Mitzscherlich, B., Kraus, W., et al. (2006). Identitätskonstruktionen. Das Patchwork der Identitäten in der Spätmoderne (Vol. 3). Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.

Nasir, N. i. S., Hand, V., & Taylor, E. V. (2008). Culture and Mathematics in School: Boundaries Between “Cultural” and “Domain” Knowledge in the Mathematics Classroom and Beyond. Review of Research in Education 32(1), 187–240.

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