Education in the Age of Woke


  • Susan Gardner Capilano University
  • Wayne Henry University of the Fraser Valley



Woke, the Enlightenment, Philosophy for Children, education for dialogue, safetyism, truth


We argue that locating “woke” as a left-wing project does a disservice to the traditional left-wing views that are grounded in the Enlightenment demand of respect for persons, and the firm belief that reasoned dialogue is the most effective pathway to human progress. We note, using an example from Canadian politics, that “woke” tactics are problematic precisely because they are divisive in the sense of making reasoned dialogue unlikely. We argue that, though wokesters pride themselves on being “progressive,” such a title is not deserved since their focus makes them comfortable companions with those often considered reactionary. We then reflect on Kant’s argument that the most important Enlightenment message is that we ought to trust reasoned dialogue rather than authority in deciding what to believe or do, and then argue that that this translates into three “attitude directives” with regard to discourse:  (i) let them speak, (ii) avoid insult, and (iii) keep the discourse focused on the most urgent problem, namely, economic inequality.  Finally, we examine the educational implications that emerge from our journey and suggest that the core command is that challenge, rather than safety, ought to be the motto of all educators.