This article considers conversations in and about education. To focus the discussion, it uses the scenario of a conversation between a trainee teacher and her mentor reflecting together on a lesson that the trainee has just taught. I begin by outlining the notion of reflective practice as popularised by Donald Schön, and show how, in the scenario, the reflective practice conversation leads to talk characterised by recourse to particular dominant discourses within education, and how this in turn can lead to a certain voicelessness. I then consider what the possibilities for the reflective practice conversation might be, looking first at the Greek notion of parrhēsia and how this has been discussed in the work of Michel Foucault in contrast to other forms of talk such as rhetoric or chattering. I argue that, whilst the parrhēsiastic conversation may allow for the exploration of the relationships (between the mentor and the trainee, each participant and their words and a relationship of care for the self), such possibilities are fraught with difficulty. I then move to consider how such relationships might be developed through recognising the expressive aspects of language emphasised in Stanley Cavell's notion of passionate utterance. I first trace the development of Cavell's thought through John Austin's contrast in language between the constative and the performative. I then illustrate the idea of passionate utterance from the films Cavell describes as the ‘Hollywood comedies of remarriage’, and argue that the passionate utterance opens up opportunities for the kind of conversation in education that is itself educative.
- passionate utterance