Here is a tribute to Maxine Greene from Kurt Stemhagen, Executive Director of the Philosophy of Education Society.
Former Philosophy of Education Society President Maxine Greene passed away Thursday at the age of 96. Her vast body of accomplishments on the part of the arts, continental philosophy, and education are well documented and too great to be enumerated in this brief announcement. Detailed accounts of her life and work can be found in the following links:
For the members of PES, she was a colleague, a mentor, a friend and a great inspiration. Her work in Phenomenology, aesthetics, and in thinking about social change, has left an indelible mark upon our collective work, and continues to challenge us to think beyond the “cotton wool” of every day experience, particularly those habits of mind that stultify academic discourse.
Maxine’s work is a testament to her Existentialist ethic of being forever “not yet.” She consistently found unexpected and unexplored corners in the overlap between philosophy and education, whether that meant a chapter on Melville in her early book on American education or a reinvention of the philosophical salon, held in her apartment overlooking Central Park on Sunday afternoons, in which sometimes forty or fifty people sat on the floor and stood in the hall to discuss favorite works of literature: Middlemarch, White Noise, Heart of Darkness.
Her perspective was not always received in the serious, earnest spirit with which it was offered. She often told a story of travelling to Bear Mountain to attend the nineteen sixty something spring meeting of the Middle Atlantic States Philosophy of Education Society, a boys’ club of analytical philosophers who tolerated her presence, to a point. That year, her paper on the power of poetics in relating the personal and the political was met with a two word response: “Fuck Rilke.” She always laughed at this part of the story, begging pardon for her “French,” and relating how frustrated she was by the easy dismissal of her ideas.
It may be obvious, but still worth pointing out that she was the one laughing at the end of that story, as time and changes in the culture of the academy made room for her brand of insight, and gradually eclipsed the work of those from whom she sought recognition. It may be even more obvious, and yet still worth stating that given the limited space for philosophical practice in a world of educational research ever more dominated by quantifiable gains, Maxine Greene’s legacy is even more important to us in remaining true to our work and finding new ways of articulating our ideas to the world beyond the academy.
Kurt Stemhagen, Associate Professor
Executive Director, Philosophy of Education Society
School of Education, Department of Foundations
Virginia Commonwealth University