Rhetoric and Argument in the Language of Education and of Educational Research
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What does it mean to say that something has been ‘proven’ in research contexts? What is the nature of the arguments one relies on and what kind of reasoning is offered to convince readers? These questions are often posed when educational research is being scrutinized. Of course such questions do not only apply to the arena of education but also apply mutatis mutandis to research in general, scholarship and many other areas of human life. There was a time when, in dealing with these issues, one referred to one or other metaphysical or even religious stance, but nowadays this has become very unpopular. Since the so-called postmodern (Nietzschean?) critique, serious doubts have been raised about rationality itself, which for many, bound by the legacy of the Enlightenment, offered the favourable yardstick by which one could evaluate the veracity of arguments. Incredulity towards meta-narratives, however, cannot possibly be the end of the story. The scholar or researcher, having come to terms with the problems of generalizability, cannot simply indulge herself in either relativism or particularity. She should in one way or another deal with the tension (that is always there) between the particular and the universal, and between this case and what generally demands to be dealt with – the problems posed by human life in general or education in particular can neither be ignored nor left alone. The scholar/researcher has to both act and base what she does on sound thinking wherever that can be found.