David Halpin

The personal website of David Halpin
The Contrarian Online

My articles and essays

My career as a university teacher and researcher lasted slightly over twenty years, ending in early retirement, aged 60, in 2007, since when I have been an Emeritus Professor of Education at University College, London.

During those two decades, I co-directed five major externally funded research projects, simultaneously writing for publication four books and over sixty scholarly articles. Seventeen chapters of mine also appeared in other people’s collections, while I pulled together three of my own, concurrently editing two academic journals, British Journal of Educational Studies and London Review of Education, the last of which I founded. Contemporaneously, I regularly presented papers at academic conferences, both in this county and abroad, frequently in the United States, sometimes in Europe.

Despite this high level of academic productivity, my contribution to knowledge as a university scholar was only fair to middling, although I did break new ground in encouraging a more appreciative understanding of the links between progressive forms of education and Utopian and Romantic ways of thinking. My discussion of a positive role for nostalgia in thinking about education also has its original moments.

I am also proud of the fact that I am one of the few academics working in the field of education studies to have discerned value in the writings of each of William Hazlitt and Michel de Montaigne for the development of pedagogic theory.

This page of my website advertises a small selection of the articles about different aspects of education which I published as a working academic.

They are the ones I am most satisfied with, thinking they possess intellectual merit because they offer novel and enduring insight.

A full list of my publications is available here

This page also draws attention to a number of unpublished essays written during retirement.

None of these later contributions, excepting one, deals with an education-specific topic, focusing instead on novels and short stories I have read which have especially pleased me; a recent political event – Brexit; the Covid pandemic; and impressions of  China. There are also excursions into musical appreciation, implicating classical composers whose works I most enjoy. Another of these unpublished essays reflects on my own mortality and the process and meaning of life’s conclusion.

I consider just seven of the many academic articles I published during my university career as positively memorable.

In chronological order, they deal each with tradition and education, Thomas More’s Utopia and education, Romanticism and education, William Hazlitt’s ideal kind of education, teaching and love, Michel de Montaigne and reflective practice and nostalgia and education.

Maintaining, reconstructing and creating tradition in education was published in the Oxford Review of Education in 2000 (26, 2, 133-144). It discusses the central role tradition plays in the construction of teachers’ professional and schools’ institutional identities. It also speculates on the degree to which currently there is taking place in education a reinvention of established and very familiar pedagogic and school traditions alongside the creation and emergence of new ones. Its full text is available here

Utopianism and education: the legacy of Thomas More was published in the British Journal of Educational Studies in 2001 (49, 3, 299-315). It argues that More’s ‘utopian method’ offers a model way to think imaginatively and prospectively about the form and content of social reform in general and educational change in particular. Its full text is available from this website

Why a Romantic conception of education matters was published in the Oxford Review of Education in 2006 (32, 3, 325-45). It argues that Romanticism’s valuing of love and the life of the imagination, combined with its belief in human potential taken heroically to and beyond its limits, provides a way of addressing fruitfully fundamental issues to do with teaching and learning in schools. Its full text is available from this website

Hazlitt’s learning: a real and negative education was published in 2009 in the Hazlitt Review (2, 49-66). It outlines critically William Hazlitt’s conception of a ‘real education’, admiringly endorsing its stress on enabling learners freely and imaginatively to link book knowledge with experience and vice-versa. Its full text is available from this website

Pedagogy and romantic love was published in 2009 in Pedagogy, Curriculum and Society (17, 1, 89-102). Inspired by and based upon aspects of the writings of particular British nineteenth‐century Romantic poets, this paper outlines a positive, necessary even, role for friendship, love and passion in pedagogy. Its full text is available here

Essaying and reflective practice in education: the legacy of Michel de Montaigne was published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Education in 2015 (49, 1, 129-41). It argues that Montaigne’s method of  ‘essaying’ anticipates contemporary education theory’s emphasis on the importance of reflective practice and learning from experience. Its full text is available from this website

Dancing with eyes wide open: on the role of nostalgia in education  was published in the London Review of Education in 2016 (14, 3, 31-40). It argues that while nostalgia rightly elicits suspicion, even derision, this does not make it either sentimentally mausolean or falsely reactionary in the education context and elsewhere. Its full text can be read here

Six of the unpublished pieces about to be spotlighted are draft chapters of a book of essays I have still to finish writing:

On dying (2019) considers my own mortality, drawing attention to how I would like to die and what meaning can be ascribed to death. Its text is available here

On Brexit (2019) reflects on the process of the UK’s departure from the EU, expressing frustration with the quality of arguments about the process identified by Leavers and Remainers alike. Its text is available here

On Big Sport (2020) is a hostile evaluation of the current state of elite sports in the UK, in particular soccer. Available here 

On Pain (2020) is a meditation on the nature of pain and how best to accommodate and learn from it. Available on request.

On Covid (2021) discusses the Covid pandemic, assessing its likely long-term implications. Its text is available here

On China (2021) is a sympathetic evaluation of the culture and achievements of the PRC. Its text is available here

Other essays are reactions to various works of fiction I have read in recent times:

The love of literature (2019) is a short positive appreciation of John Williams’ elegiac novel, Stoner. Available here

The ‘poetics and punch’ of John McGahern’s Wheels (2018) discusses a short story written by one of my favourite Irish authors. Available here

Dreaming back to transcendence (2018) is a similar study, this time of The Wine Breath, another of McGahern’s short stories. Available here

Further essays discuss particular works or genres of classical music, beginning with Earthly requirement meets heavenly detail (2014), which is an extended review of John Eliot Gardiner’s book-length study of Bach’s vocal compositions, Music in the Castle of Heaven. Available here

Next up is On Private Passions (2019) which is written recreation of a favourite BBC Radio 3 programme of the same name in which I imagine being interviewed by Michael Berkeley about my favourite pieces of classical music. Available here

Four other music essays focus on particular works and one composer: Deathly music (2015) is about Shostakovich’s final string quartet; An odyssey into his soul (2018) examines Chopin’s First Ballade; Hats off, gentlemen! A genius! (2015) sympathetically reviews Chopin’s musical career; and Early promise (2012) is an appreciation of Britten’s piano concerto. Each is available here: DEATHLY MUSIC; ODYSSEY INTO HIS SOUL; HATS OFF, GENTLEMAN!; EARLY PROMISE

On being creative in the classroom (2017) uses allusions from each of music, science and nature to commend a form of pedagogical innovativeness which forgoes strict kinds of lesson planning in favour of teacher extemporisation. Available here