Philosophical Studies in Education and Culture

Reading Caring, by Nel Noddings, has opened up an area of attention, involving human interaction, that previously, I had not given extensive thought. Although I am not majoring in education, nor will I officially become a teacher after graduation, the ideas discussed within Caring will be applicable to the forms of teaching that I will encounter in my life, such as natural interactions with friends, co-workers and my future children. Throughout the book, many sections seem to be rebuttals of former ideas concerning caring, relationships and life. Although these other philosophies are often brought up, Noddings manages to illustrate how her feminine approach can improve caring relationships in various cases; sometimes her ideas are a complete abandonment of her predecessors views, and in other instances they are merely a logical augmentation. Noddings thoroughly discusses the concepts of “caring for,” the relationship between “one-caring” and “cared for;” “ethical caring,” a system of caring based on “natural caring;” and the “ethical idea,” an ideal way of converting “natural caring” to “ethical caring,” in regards to concrete relationships. As a man, it can become easy to overlook caring. Society seems to expect one to not care at times, or to not show too much emotion. I will show how these ideas from Caring have helped me to look at and analyze caring relationships in my life and with regard to the film, The Class. As a result of the newly acquired knowledge from Caring, I can assert that although François, one of the teachers from the film, wanted to care, he did not truly move from merely “caring about” to “one-caring” with his students.

Noddings explains in the Fundamental Nature of Caring that, “the process of moral decision making that is founded on caring requires a process of concretization rather than one of abstraction.” (Noddings, 8) This is the foundation that she continues to build her philosophy on – the idea that abstraction can only lead to confusion. In What Does it Mean to Care, she discusses the standard elements that one considers when thinking about caring. She emphasizes engrossment above all overs and continues on considering it to be a major component of caring in the chapters that follow. To be engrossed in a person is to have all of one’s attention and interest absorbed by someone. I cannot help but realize that at times when I thought that I was caring, I may not have been truly engrossed in the “cared-for.” Noddings states, “I cannot claim to care… If my care-taking is perfunctory or grudging.” (Noddings, 9) She means that caring is not simply an action – there are qualities beneath the surface that are unique to a truly caring relationship. One cannot simply go through the movements and be expected to be recognized as “one-caring” by the “cared-for.” This was a recurrent problem within the film, The Class. The “cared-for” looks for signs that tell whether the supposed “one-caring” has regard for them or if they are simply being treated perfunctory. (Noddings, 19) Noddings later explains that this can be verified by reciprocity. If the “one-caring’s” care is acknowledged and accepted by the “cared-for,” it will be reciprocated. (Noddings, 70) To achieve this result – to make an impact on the “cared-for” that they cannot help but notice – the one caring must abandon their preconceived notions and devote themselves to the understanding of others’ perceptions, needs and desires. (Noddings, 24) In the film, François failed to do this. He, like myself at times, attempted to demonstrate his care but did not fully account for the feelings of his students. Most notably, this occurs with Khomba. François had established a relationship with her but did not realize how he was making her feel at times while they were interacting. She ended up thinking that her teacher was picking on her. This was not François’ intention; however, it was the end result. If François would have fully immersed himself in the caring relationship, a motivational shift would have occurred. When this occurs the “one-caring’s” energy flows towards the “cared-for.” (Noddings, 34) If caring is not quickly recognized and given back the “one-caring” must have the courage to go on caring until it is acknowledged. (Noddings, 38) François had a lot of difficulty persevering while it appeared that none of his students recognized his attempts at caring. He seemed to retract his focus back onto himself in these events. The one caring must not do this; in order for the “cared-for” to ever recognize caring they must believe that the “one-caring” is completely engrossed in them, in the moment and not thinking about themselves.

Noddings begins to explore what “ethical caring” means in the section E

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