This article attempts to think of thinking as the essence of critical education. While contemporary education tends to stress the conveying of knowledge and skills needed to succeed in present-day information society, the present article turns to the work of Theodor W. Adorno to develop alternative thinking about education, thinking, and the political significance of education for thinking.
Adorno touched upon educational questions throughout his writings, with growing interest in the last ten years of his life. Education, he argues following Kant, must enable students to think for themselves and to break free of the authority of teachers, parents and other adults. Nevertheless, in his discussions of education Adorno says little about the nature of thinking, and the secondary literature on his educational theory addresses this question only cursorily.
Important claims on the nature of thinking do appear elsewhere in Adorno's work. From his early writings up to Negative Dialectics, Adorno is preoccupied with thinking, sketching the outlines of critical-dialectical thought. Still, these reflections rarely touch upon educational questions, and the Adorno scholarship has yet to establish this link. Unlike studies which read Adorno's educational thought against the backdrop of the history of education and the German Bildung tradition, or in relation to art and aesthetics, the present article brings together Adorno's ideas on education and thinking in an attempt to contribute both to the Adorno scholarship and to the growing field of education for thinking.