This book develops an educational theory centered around the notion of relation. Alexander M. Sidorkin defines learning as the production of useless things and shows that problems of learning motivation are more institutional than individual or cultural. He then argues that contemporary mass schools are difficult to manage. The solution to the resulting authority crisis is not in the restoration of authority, but in the pedagogy of relation. The key to learning motivation is in what Sidorkin describes as economy of relations, a mechanism where personal relations between students and teachers are converted into relations involving curriculum. In order to remain a viable social institution, schools must become hybrid organizations that combine features of a regular school and a neighborhood club, giving teachers should have ample opportunity to build strong relations with and among students.
Alexander M. Sidorkin has given us an innovative and interesting approach to relational pedagogy. This book is important, useful, and fun to read. (Nel Noddings, Lee Jacks Professor of Education Emerita, Stanford University) With a richness of palette reminiscent of John Dewey, Alexander M. Sidorkin presents a refreshingly accessible, grounded picture of why and how human relations (student-student, as well as teacher-student) must be taken seriously in schools and beyond. Arguing that notions of school reform need themselves to be reformed, Sidorkin helps us understand the importance of restoring adult authority in schools without reinstating cruel, exclusionary practices. Sidorkin's proposal calls for courage: we need no less than to confront the evil in others and in ourselves. 'Learning Relations', a seminal work, is a must-read for teachers, scholars, policymakers, and others who care deeply about schools, society, and human formation. (Donna H. Kerr, Professor and Chair in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, College of Education, University of Washington)