Curriculum as Change Agent
If I were using a scale as a metaphor for my philosophy of curriculum, it would be large: brass arms and weighing dishes and a wooden base, quite like the one my mother had on our living room table. The balance arm would have three points of balance on one side, and one point of balance on the other. Social justice, Learning by Doing, and Building Community would be the elements finding equilibrium among themselves on one side, with Citizenship and Democracy as the post, holding up this arm from which the scale is balanced. On the other side of the scale would be Interactive Communication, for without this foundation, the other components might be abstract. My life has provided many rich lessons leading to this concept of balance, and it has shown how important it is to contribute, or intervene, when one or another of these appears out of balance.
Each of these elements can be identified as being more or less accessible through one or another of Miller and Seller’s (1990) curriculum orientations: Transmission, Transaction and Transformation. As well, the requirements of integral parts of these elements might be seen as conflicting among these orientations. For example, Learning by Doing: there are certain steps, stages and procedures for using tools and equipment that have been proven to be efficacious, as well as safe. One might want to learn such steps and procedures through an easily accessible transmission mode. Concurrently, the development of certain attitudes and interactions are seen to foster abilities to participate, as part of a design and build team, using those tools. Attitudes and interactions may be more effectively fostered through a transaction model. In addition, if educators are trying to encourage more thoughtful approaches to the application of tools, techniques and processes to environmental problems, a place to start that discussion might be facilitated through transformational practices of pedagogy. The pedagogical practice of each of the educational contexts identified here (Social justice, Learning by Doing, Building Community, and Interactive Communication) needs to be able to draw from all of the orientations suggested, individually and interwoven, and be filtered through the concepts of the Berlak Dilemmas as well (p.9-11). In a holistic pedagogue, willing to consider this interweaving consciously, instructional planning for such lessons can become an intuitive second nature.
It is when the world is carved up into single
use parts that limitations are obvious. No one mode of curriculum and delivery
is useful for all of the elements needed in a comprehensive learning experience.
Variety of strategies and practices enable diverse learners to work and
learn together, each obtaining growth and efficacy through the differing
modes of approaching their diverse learning styles (). Curriculum orientations
need to mix and match to respond to differences in subject matter and learners.
Curriculum can be viewed as a spectrum from a micro-position (how do I use this tool?), to a macro-position (what are the implications of using this tool that I need to think about before undertaking the design and implementation of this project?). It is both content and process, just as pedagogy can be seen as both content and process. "The medium is the message" and the "medium is the massage" have both been attributed to Marshall McLuhan (Postman & Weingartner, 1969). All are components of creating knowledge.
Knowledge comes in many forms: facts, feelings, projections, experiments, conversations, dreams, constructing projects, observation, sorting and categorizing, acting upon intuition, creating artefacts, questioning, travelling, etc. Knowledge: experience and reflection, postulating and experimenting, listening and thinking, feeling and imagining, formulating and discussing. It comes from within an individual, a seed and then an idea. Build upon that idea, or pose a query. Run it up a flagpole…watch for confirmation or contradiction. Knowledge is constructed, foundation brick upon foundation brick. It is also like a lightning bolt, out of (almost) nowhere…it just comes. It can be the result of years of reading others’ ideas, and formulating for oneself. Knowledge can be framed through shared information. It is the result of both internal and external activities.
In writing the preceding paragraph, I wondered if I really knew what knowledge was, and so went to several different sources to examine the meaning of this. Knowledge is collected and constructed, over a lifetime, and if you are an educator, each of your life experiences nudges and guides you towards a philosophy of curriculum and pedagogy that becomes a modus operandi or, perhaps, a life’s work, growing and changing, evolving as you continue to engage with the lessons of new experience. Definitions and reflections on knowledge abound, each with their own unique take on the subject.
What is knowledge?
A poem reflective of abstracts in ERIC (1966 through 1999), Contemporary Women's Issues (1992 through August 1999), The Philosopher's Index (1940 through September 1999), Sociological Abstracts 1986-1999/09, and Sociological Abstracts 1963-1985
Knowledge is skills and the ways to use them
Knowledge is one of a set of: skills, knowledge and attitudes that employers want
Research creates knowledge
Body of knowledge
Knowledge is both objective and socially constructed
Knowledge can be managed, like people can be managed
Knowledge is procedural and conceptual
Statistics can be turned into knowledge
Knowledge is comprehension/understanding
Knowledge is awareness
Knowledge can meet labour market needs
The "what" of knowledge (content) and the "how" of learning (processes)
Knowledge is a substance
Knowledge can be acquired or possessed
Knowledge has politics
There can be a "feeling of knowing"
There is a question about what knowledge belongs in the curriculum
Knowledge can be formal and informal (Does it wear sweatpants?)
Some knowledge is valid and valued
Bodies of knowledge can be acquired
Emotions have a role in the construction of knowledge
Young students have coherent notions about what knowledge is of most worth
Teachers need knowledge
Knowledge can be controversial
What counts as knowledge is often based on male’s experience
Workshops can increase knowledge
Knowledge can lead to preventive interventions
Autobiography can lead to increasingly complex and rich knowledge
How I came to my conceptions, or
Autobiography can lead to
After a fairly uneventful and not quite noteworthy journey through elementary and secondary education, in a small but culturally rich, slightly rural, middle-class Westchester suburb, 30 miles north of New York City, I attended the college of my dreams, Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, where I majored in Theatre Arts. My IQ had been tested rather high, if you listen to my sister Joyce, and while my aspirations were considered suspect (acting on the "Broadway Stage"), there were, at least, great expectations as to my ability to achieve. I was introduced to Marshall McLuhan, Norbert Weiner, and Buckminster Fuller. Alas, my level of maturity, the big city and my desire to excel at something (Bridge) took over, and my focus on my studies was swept away. Now I do not allow myself to even read murder mysteries, much less play Bridge during the terms of my studies, but then, ah, I was young and still quite impressionable. At seeing the C average, which did not seem so bad until I recently viewed the full transcript and the wild diversions from an A in Western Civilization to a D in Spanish, I was unceremoniously removed from school and told to find something with which to earn my living! "Why didn’t I become a secretary? like other good women of the time!" It is only now that I can begin to fathom the rationale for this harsh action, and be thankful for the opportunities it provided.
There were few occupations open to women in 1964: social worker, but my sister was already doing that; elementary school teacher, I had been working as a mother’s helper for far too long already; secretary… too mundane; hairdresser, …well, …I could do wigs in the Theatre! My mother thought it was a good idea, "A trade," she said, "you will always have something to fall back on!" My father was appalled at the blue collar (pink collar was not yet a class analysis at the time) nature of the work in a family that had been aspiring to middle class life since their immigrant grandparents had tried to make a better life for their children (my parents). Dad was a mechanical engineer, and had a strong work ethic and aspirations for his children.
Charles of the Ritz School for Hair Styling on Madison Avenue in New York City gave me a strong skill base in cutting, fitting, fastening and finishing and an entrée into the world of work. It was also my first introduction to people, mostly men, who were "out" in their sexual orientation, people who became my friends and colleagues. I thought little of it at the time. My mother had a gay man friend whose picture she kept in her photo album. It was not until later in my life that I gained a political understanding of their challenges living within a less than welcoming society. Perhaps it was my own opinions only just beginning to form, or that I grew up with very clear messages to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you!" but diverse sexual preferences have always seemed quite normal to me.
After gaining my first trade qualification, I worked at it long enough to recognize its inadequacies in challenging my burgeoning intellect, and to appreciate its viability as "something to fall back on" when money might be short. Hand/tools skills that can earn a living produce a sense of efficacy, and the hand/tool/heart combination provided intrinsic satisfaction. But the further I got out into the world [New York City and Boston] in the 1960’s, the more engaging the social milieu became. I moved to Washington, D.C. where life was getting progressively more interesting, and my beatnik consciousness began turning to philosophers Kant and Hegel and Sartre, along with poet Lawrence Ferlingetti, for some answers. The year was 1966.
Fortunately, my waning interest in hairdressing coincided with several serendipitous events, and I found myself hired on to the National Student Association (NSA) Drug Studies and Educational Reform Programs. After 3 months on salary, teaching myself to type and reading every paper published by the NSA, I began to organize conferences on college campuses all over the north-eastern United States, to discuss the issues being raised by the student radicals of the day. This job had come as a serendipitous acknowledgement from a man I had been planning to seek out for a job. I ran into him at a party a few days before that appointed time, and after talking with me for three hours, he offered me a job. The impacts those conferences had on both individuals and groups during the period of 1966-1969 led me to a much clearer understanding of education as interaction, education as intervention, education as a tool for social change, rather than what I had previously known: education as transmission and reception. The potential for and evidence of social transformation appeared daily in my interactions with students on campuses throughout the Northeast.
The National Student Association was (and is not still, according to its current website) a somewhat left-of-middle organization, when compared to its active alternative, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), who advocated revolutionary overthrow of systems rather than simply radical social change. But then the NSA was trying to prove that their infiltration by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had been discovered the previous year, was completely eradicated, and students were again acting on their own, without pressure from CIA "moles." Conferences based on a mandate to legalize marijuana, investigate the psychedelics and educate about the effects of heroin and cocaine, were used to examine the social, legal and medical implications of drug use. They took place at several major universities in the north-eastern United States and were part of a movement to make education on campuses more relevant. Issues of who was paying for and guiding the research activities at universities, and what impact the military/industrial complex was having on the free flow of speech and ideas were also front and centre, as was the cost of higher education and the relevance of the resultant white middle and upper-class student bodies. Minority voices were finally beginning to be heard, and notions of social justice and the university’s responsibility in fostering and ensuring a place for those voices were themes taken up by students and faculty who saw the institution as more than a producer or reproducer of social norms. They saw it as a place to raise social and political questions, foster discussion, and take action on small and large scales for social reconstruction.
The challenge of the NSA conferences was
to educate without preaching, and learn from one another, as well as from
the "experts" who were not necessarily speaking from any real experience.
The students of the day were making it clear that learning and teaching
based on power relations that did not recognize and incorporate the experiential
truths of their lived lives was not worthy of an educational setting. The
tools we used were being developed in the National Training Laboratories
(Miller & Seller, 1990, p.194) under the rubric of "Sensitivity Training,"
and were used by us in a more political context as a component of what
came to be know as "popular education." Unknown to me at the time, similar
practices, e.g. small groups examining and acting upon issues, both personal
and political, from their lived experience, and then reflecting on the
social and political implications in their actions; were developed by Paolo
Freire under the aegis of literacy education in the poorest areas of Brazil.
I share Freire’s notion that through the raising of consciousness, or conscientização,
"even with my slips in the direction of idealism, my tendency [is] to review
and revise promptly, and thus, adopting a consistency with the practice
I had, to perceive that practice is steeped in the dialectical movement
back and forth between consciousness and world" (Freire, 1997, p.104).
This is part of what I have come to understand as reflexive praxis.
In February, the activist educators at the NSA took "Exposure ‘69" (a workshop-based conference with many "facilitators" and speakers, that explored a wide variety of current issues facing young people) around to a number of small colleges in eastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Many at the small Catholic colleges who attended had neither seen nor heard tale of most of the elements of culture being presented for their edification. Some students were challenged, some were enthralled, and all were affected significantly. The organizers of the conferences were often held up as "outside agitators" by those in positions of the power and responsibility being challenged. We made many friends among those students seeking transformational change in their institutions.
Sometimes without even a conference to frame it, the power of learning together in teach-ins and sit-ins was heady. In a sense, we were deconstructing the institutions, remaking them with new rules that widened the gateways and let in many of those without previous access. I facilitated student leaders defining the kinds of education that would mean something to them. They demanded faculties with greater social and political range and perspectives.
Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated; Senator Eugene McCarthy runs for President on anti-war platform; Student take-over of Columbia University; Robert Kennedy assassinated; Riots at Democratic National Convention (Chicago); Richard Nixon elected President; the counter-culture inaugurated a pig by the reflecting pool in the Capitol of the United States.
1/2 million people march on Washington, D.C., to demand an end to the war;
Students killed while protesting the war (Kent State University and Jackson State University)
I can understand that. I was almost in Chicago in 1968. At the airport in Manhattan, Kansas, at the end of the NSA National Convention at the University of Kansas, an inspired sense of participation was at hand. Many student leaders excited and enthused by the rich discussion so recently undertaken, chose to go to Chicago, to participate in, or disrupt, the political process that was about to get underway: The Democratic National Convention. As one of those who had worked so hard to create the learning environment that had enabled the recent quality dialogues, I was quite exhausted, and though my inclination was to go on with them to Chicago, I knew my reserves were low, and I needed a rest. And so it was in a heady psychedelic state that I turned on the TV that night to watch the political process, and proceeded to see the Chicago police smashing in the bloody heads of my idealistic young friends and colleagues on the streets in front of the hotel that housed the "Democratic" Convention. The balance of the scale had been shattered.
(And while I write this, young and older people are being beaten and gassed on the streets of Seattle in a far-to-familiar fashion.)
Within a year, I was living in the San Francisco Bay area, at the ripe age of 21, running encounter groups for homosexual street people at a storefront agency in the "Tenderloin District" of San Francisco. By putting to use the concepts and ideas that came out of the National Training Laboratory’s Sensitivity Training and Esalen’s Gestalt movements, I was hoping to assist people once again to identify and develop some skills for dealing with what life had brought to them. I was beginning to understand my inclinations as an educator, as a facilitator for growth and a constructor of learning environments; as an agent for social change through enlightened recognition of oppression; and skill building for empowerment, to change our social and political situations: a "progressive educator" (Freire, 1997, p. 108). At Hospitality House in San Francisco, the pain and anguish I experienced for the people with whom I worked led to severe burnout, and I sought other venues to utilize my skills and enthusiasm. My lesson, at the age of 21, was that I was good at helping people with some problems to come to grips with their lives and grow from there, but that, unlike my sister, I was not good at helping very troubled people move to health. Their pain cut me too deeply to work with it daily, though their plight has remained a part of my social conscience throughout my life. The other elements of the scale needed to find their balance.
The Free School Movement – Creating Alternatives
I became involved with a group of people who were home schooling their children and experimenting with communal living. It was here that I was able to experiment with many of the ideals developed with college and university students during my work with the National Student Association’s Educational Reform program. I moved into the commune on Pedro Point in Pacifica, California, and began to work/play with young people, ages 4-13. Our activities gained the interest of the larger community, and more children joined in our learning adventures. We started with the children, not the curriculum (Carmichael, in p. viii), with their inclinations and desires, fostering and building activities that moved them in the directions they were choosing, suggesting trips and books and games that might spark the learning being sought by the children (p.9).
We had our own values as well. Our curriculum ideas came from the perspective that school was a place where life is lived, where "human relationships [flourish] in a rich, loving atmosphere… where a child is treated as an individual human, with dignity and care" provide a setting to play and grow (, p.11). This perspective included an understanding of the privilege in our situation, in relation to others in the world. It required a shared sense of ecological and social responsibility for each of our decisions. These were burgeoning times for social justice activism and "Free School" development.
There is a difference between freedom and license that alternative schools have struggled with from their inception (Fromm, in ). Respect is mutual. The teacher does not use force against the child, and the child may not intrude upon an adult just because they are a child. The tension can be framed as a dichotomy: giving children the freedom to choose from among a variety of provided alternatives, into the range of which they have full rights and responsibilities to contribute; and letting them falter through a somewhat neutral environment until they come to a realization, through some instinctual desire, about with what subject areas they might want to engage. But A.S. Neill’s Summerhill was not a place for license, and classes were scheduled on many subjects for every day. The unique quality of this model that many "free schools" emulated was the freedom of choice provided to the learners as to whether or not they would attend any or all of the lessons.
Enrich the environment with potential activities, and let the children choose where they are inclined. Ask for and create spaces for their ideas and contributions, and they will learn what they like, what they might need, and learn as well to contribute, and have their contributions valued. This is an essential part of learning to participate in a democratic process. Leave them free to work together in a constructive fashion, and we found the gravitational pull was towards helping each other succeed.
It was a pleasure to come across Freire, and his analysis of the concept of learning by doing: "As object of cognition, content must be delivered up to the cognitive curiosity of teachers and pupils. The former teach, and in so doing, learn. The latter learn, and in so doing, teach" (1997, p.111). And so, we were all learners together, experiencing the world with a sense of community responsibility for our actions.
The philosophical base for these schools included active parent involvement, shared decision-making, open information flow (Solo, 1980, p.184). The lessons of the National Training Labs came together on the West Coast with Gestalt weekends at Esalen, and bringing these lessons back into our school community, sharing skills that facilitated open communication of needs, desires, challenges, sadness and joy.
During this time I was both auditing and taking for credit courses at San Francisco State, College of San Mateo, the De Young Museum and UC Berkeley, keeping up with the language and thought of current student issues and developing my skills as an educator and environmentalist. In 1970, as I was preparing for a journey to the Yukon, what I was looking forward to as my Chattauqua (, my path was again laid out before me, and I took the advice of a young man visiting our community. On my way to the Yukon, I stopped by the Slocan Valley, and discovered a place where I felt like "home." I knew that I would come back. But first, it was important to develop my skills as an educator, and to develop within myself some content knowledge relating to the environment.
My journey to England to study free schools ended before it really began, in a car accident in New York. Somewhat broken, I went back to California to plan my next steps. I knew that my nature would not do well in the traditional hallowed halls of academia, but I had heard that the University of North Dakota was developing a name for itself in relation to free school education. Then, during my research, I discovered that Antioch College, the first school in the United States to develop a work/study program in the 1800s, was going to open a University Without Walls experiment in San Francisco, as part of their ongoing work with the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, a group that included Goddard, U. Mass. at Amherst, and a host of others, all with reputations for innovation. I applied, and was accepted as a part of the 10-person student development team, working with faculty and graduate students from Ohio in setting up the first West Coast centre. During the first part of this 15 month internship, at the urging of the students, we set the parameters for student participation (1/3 of the students would attend on an ability to pay basis to ensure we did not create an elitist institution), identified the areas of focus for study (community development, environmental education, fine arts, media & videography, and women’s studies), hired core faculty (students would each have an advisor in their core study area to assist them in creating their program of study), developed internships throughout the Bay Area with a wide range of individuals and organizations, and negotiated relationships with all post-secondary institutions in the area to enable reciprocal educational opportunities for Antioch students. The Centre was a large loft that ultimately spread to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Self-motivated learning is not for everyone. Some people are far more suited to follow the paths that are laid out for them. A number of the young people whose parents had encouraged their attending this prestigious social experiment were poorly prepared for the challenge of designing and manifesting a focused university program in their discipline, guided only by the core faculty members. But for those of us who do not feel constrained by those challenges, and can strike out in new directions, the availability of opportunities such as Antioch is without precedent. I received my BA degree in Environmental Education, working with some of the finest people I have ever met. It was at Antioch that I was also introduced to Women’s literature, and found a name for some of the political views which had grown out of my experience in working with many of the men in the student radical movement: Feminism.
After completing my final papers and projects, I traveled with a dear man friend back to the Slocan Valley. On arrival, the young man who originally invited me to the Valley suggested that I contact Joel Harris, as "he has a free school in his head, and maybe you can make it happen." Six weeks later, we opened the Slocan Valley Free School, which soon became, and remains twenty-eight years later, The Vallican Whole School, named after the Community Centre built to house both the school and other community events.
This school was reflective of two of Eisner’s "Five Basic Orientations to Curriculum" : Personal Relevance, a philosophy ascribed to A.S. Neill, and which, I believe, can also be attributed to Dewey’s notion of child-centred learning, and Social Reconstruction, a movement that emerged out of the social consciousness of the 1960s and 1970s. Rothstein ( pp. 457-470) describes the Whole School as " ...a courageous enterprise in experimental living. Students felt they were respected and given the freedom to fashion their own lives. One former student believes she ‘learned how to learn’ and others appreciated their involvement in setting school policy… Feminist, environmental, and personal/social transformation aspirations of the 1970s formed the bedrock of the Whole School Community." Curriculum components (Miller & Seller, 1990, 175-203) from among all of transmission, transaction and transformation orientations were used regularly to engage with the learners in cognitive, affective and motor domains.
After 2 years of school in people’s homes, a building to house the school became a necessity. Fostered by the Rural Alternatives Research and Training Society, I was the person there every day, coordinating the volunteer crews, and constructing along side them. During the years of building the community centre, and participating in the growth of the school, I was "learning by doing" along with students and colleagues, building theories and putting them into practice. As the years passed, and the school became too small for the teenagers with more intense social needs, the older students frequently went on to the public secondary schools. There, we heard later, though many were somewhat behind in English and Maths when they arrived, the "Whole School kids" picked the subject matter up very quickly, and were seen to thrive as natural leaders in their new environment. Constructive and responsible problem-posing and decision-making skills developed in the Whole School learning community provided a strong base for this. The focus on social interaction and cultural relations, self-directed learning, and the artistic expression of larger community problems and solutions assisted the young people to develop strong, clear centres in themselves, with the ability to work well together with others.
Early in my tenure in the Slocan Valley, I became quite active in the local women’s movement. Living rurally, the traditional roles of men and women were more obvious and constrained than they were in the cities. Perhaps it was the preponderance of physical and mechanical work needed to survive, or my need to prove I was able to take care of myself. Maybe it was just the political economy of living at a low economic level, but my practice was to tackle physical and technical tasks in the "learn by doing" mode. It was nice if someone could show me the "right" way to do something the first time, but often it was a question of jumping in with both hands and feet, blindfolded, and tinkering until I got it right. I had been maintaining and rebuilding old Volkswagens for several years before I came to Canada, and continued to do so for survival during my tenure at the Whole School. Learning carpentry from others constructing the Community Centre, I realized that people made a living at the skills I was so happily developing. These technical skills were not common for women at that time, and those who came to volunteer often had to deal with challenging social attitudes and behaviours. We began having women-only workdays so women could work without fear of having someone take the tools out of their hands to show them "how it was done." It was during this time that the scale felt most completely in balance: learning by doing; social justice; building community, balanced through democratic practices of interactive communication.
My understanding of the obstacles for women entering and training in these fields grew daily. It culminated during the six-month pre-apprenticeship program I took at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek, the only place the Ministry could find for my training after a year of seeking. Suffice to say it was the worst experience of my life, and that I left with the highest mark in the class on my final exam. I went off to work with fine men building some of the most beautiful rooms I have ever seen. The incredible sense of efficacy gained through the use of tools to create objects by which to live had only been hinted at, for me, in mechanics. It was in construction and finish carpentry that I found my greatest sense of accomplishment.
Throughout my formal apprenticeship, I was mentored by some of the finest tradespeople, mostly men. I encountered, as well, those who were threatened by my presence, simply because I am a woman. I joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters as the first female construction carpenter in British Columbia in 1980, knowing there had been other women who had come before me that had fallen prey to those threatened men. Constantly told about "the ones that didn’t make it," it was becoming clearer what needed to change. Yes, it was true the women needed to develop their technical skills and physical fitness to become proficient enough to be successful on the job. Also true was the need for behavioural and attitudinal change among the male co-workers, apprenticeship counsellors, employment counsellors, employers and unions. The scale of social justice and interactive communications was very much out of balance, and the challenges of gender norming were calling out to deconstruct destructive gender constructions. Building community was almost impossible under the circumstances, but it had to be tried.
Through my career, I have shared my skills with many women, and fostered their sense of efficacy with tools. I have built senior citizens housing, coal silos 278’ tall, Victorian renovations and shopping centres. I have worked with 90 men in a construction camp, and I have worked alone. I’ve trained and seen to Journeylevel two women apprentices in my small construction and renovation company. Understanding the issues from the inside enabled me to research further into what men were seeing as the barriers, and develop day-long seminars to respond to some of the challenges. Again, without knowing it, the philosophies and practices of those three curriculum positions (Miller & Seller, pp. 178-179) guided the activities. The statistics of women and work and legislation regarding human rights formed a knowledge-base delivered in a strongly Transmission-oriented manner. The slide-tape, What Happen’s to Women in Tradesland? , was transmissive, and also used the tools of Transaction, small groups discussions and brainstorming to respond both personally and practically to the issues it raised. The problem-solving model has both Transaction and Transformation elements, which incorporated small groups coaching work with a clear set of questions that challenge the status quo.
As a result of this work, I was recruited to design and conduct Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) courses at two colleges in British Columbia, after which governments invited me to write the provincial and 10 years later, the national curriculum for these programs. The technical training sector of the time was overrun with Tayloristic (Miller & Seller, pp. 182- 185) ideas about competency-based training and learning outcomes with limited vision of what might be acceptable training. In creating an orientation to trades and technology ( to meet the affective learning needs of women looking to enter these fields that was also accepted by the technical departments of community colleges, there was a need to use a transmission-like language and format to communicate transaction and transformation-like learning strategies. It was a fine line to walk, and both the provincial and national advisory committees ensured that the intentions were not lost in the process.
It is clear to me that Miller and Sellers’ suggestion that "teachers and curriculum workers carefully examine all models before selecting one (emphasis added) for use…," and academia’s passion to have people situate themselves in one model or another, denies the need for multiple approaches for a variety of learning styles, contents, and intrapersonal domains of cognition, affect and motor skills. There are times and places for each of the many curriculum components and orientations, and it is up to us as progressive educators to build our repertoire to meet those needs.
Recognizing that society needs to assist both the men and the women if we are to transform these gendered relations, I have continued to do so over the past many years, piloted by the scale of social justice, learning by doing, and building community. This builds on the notion that if we can continue find ways to engage in interactive communication with respect and compassion, we may be able to work together, as citizens, to build, repair and maintain the world we share.
Booth, S. (1981). Mechanical Reasoning and Women. Unpublished but widely circulated rationale for WITT programs in Ontario.
Braundy, M. (1983). What Happens to Women In Tradesland? [Slide/Tape & Video formats]. Winlaw, BC: Kootenay WITT.
Braundy, M. (1997). Orientation to Trades and Technology - A curriculum Guide and Resource Book with a Special Emphasis on the Needs of Women (Rev. ed.). Burnaby: Province of British Columbia/Open Learning Agency.
Brooks, C. (1986). Instructors' Handbook for Working with Female Relational Learners in Technology and Trades Training. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Skills Development.
Dewey, J. (1956). The child and the curriculum, and The school and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Eisner, E. (1979). The Educational Imagination. New York: Macmillan.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Myra Bergman Ramos, Trans.). New York: The Seabury Press.
Freire, P. (1997). Pedagogy of Hope - Reliving Pedoagogy of the Opressed. New York: Continuum.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York: Routledge.
Neill, A. S. (1960). Summerhill : a radical approach to child rearing.
Parsons, S. (1995). Making Sense of Students' Science: The Construction of a Model of Tinkering. Research-in-Science-Education, v25(n2), p203-19.
Pirsig, R. M. (1975). Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. Toronto: Bantam books.
Rothstein, H. (1999). Alternative Schools in British Columbia 1960-1975. Unpublished Dissertation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
Solo, L. (1980). Alternative, Innovative and Traditional Schools. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Dewey highlights this very effectively in his William James Lectures at Harvard when he talks about the viewing of classical art being removed from "the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and achievement.." (Dewey, 1934, p.3) and again when he suggests that "[t]he intelligent mechanic engaged in his [or her] job, interested in doing well and finding satisfaction in [their] handiwork, caring for [their] materials and tools with genuine affection, is artistically engaged" (p.5).
…[w]e cannot overlook the importance for educational purposes of the close and intimate acquaintance go with nature at first hand, with real things and materials, with the actual processes of their manipulation, and the knowledge of their social necessities and uses. In all this there was continual training of observation, or ingenuity, constructive imagination, of logical thought, and of the sense of reality acquired through first-hand contact with actualities. The educative forces of the domestic spinning and weaving, of the sawmill, the gristmill, the cooper shop, and the blacksmith forge, were continuously operative.
No number of object-lessons, got up as object-lessons for the sake of giving information, can afford even the shadow of a substitute for acquaintance with the plants and animals of the farm and garden acquired through actual living among them and caring for them. No training of sense-organs in school, introduced for the sake of training, can begin to compete with the alertness and fulness of sense-life that comes through daily intimacy and interest in familiar occupations. Verbal memory can be trained in committing tasks, a certain discipline of the reasoning powers can be acquired through lessons in science and mathematics; but, after all, this is somewhat remote and shadowy compared with the training of attention and of judgment that is acquired in having to do things with a real motive behind and a real outcome ahead…In critical moments we all realize that the only discipline that stands by us, the only training that becomes intuition, is that got through life itself (Dewey, 1900, revised 1915, republished 1956, pp.11/12, 17).
A community is a mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves (Berry, 1968, as quoted in Solo, 1980).
Barbara Thayer-Bacon [Thayer-Bacon, 1998 #55] (p. 6) examines concepts of experience and knowledge from Deweyan and Feminist perspectives
Humankind emerge from their submersion and acquire the ability to intervene in reality as it is unveiled, Intervention in reality––historical awareness itself–thus represents a step forward from emergencem and results from the conscientização of the situation. Conscientização is the deepening of the attitude of awareness characteristic of all emergence. Every thematic investigation which deepens historical awareness is thus really educational, while all authentic education investigates thinking" (Freire, 1970, p. 90).
According to bell hooks
[t}eaching is a performative act. And it is that aspect of our work that offers the space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts, that can serve as a catalyst drawing out the unique elements in each classroom. To embrace the performative aspect of teaching we are compelled to engage "audiences," to consider issues of reciprocity. Teachers are not performers in the traditional sense of the work in that our work is not meant to be a spectacle. Yet it is meant to serve as a catalyst that calls everyone to become more and more engaged, to become active participants in learning (1994, p. 11).
bell hooks’ suggests that bringing life experience to bear is necessary but not sufficient; that it must be encouraged, but not as the sole method of examining a concept (1994, p.84).
"The term conscientização refers to learning to perceive social, political and economic contradictions, as to take action against the oppressive elements of reality" (Freire, 1970, Footnote P. 17).
Paulo Freire provided some additional insight here:
The idea that hope alone will transform the world, and action undertaken in that kind of naïveté, is an excellent route to hopelessness, pessimism, and fatalism. But the attempt to do without hope, in the struggle to improve the world, as if struggle could be reduced to calculated acts alone, or a purely scientific approach, is a frivolous illusion. To attempt to do without hope, which is based on the need for truth as an ethical quality of the struggle, is tantamount to denying that struggle one of its mainstays. The essential thing...is this: hope, as an ontological need, demands an anchoring in practice…hope needs practice in order to become historical concreteness…Without a minimum of hope, we cannot so much as start the struggle. But without the struggle, hope, as an ontological need, dissipates, loses its bearings, and turns into hopelessness. And hopelessness can become tragic despair (1997).
For a broader look at the scope of these kinds of educational interactions, see Miller and Seller (1990, pp. 194-195).
Neil Postman comments, "What students do in the classroom is what they learn (as Dewey would say), and what they learn to do is the classroom’s message (as McLuhan would say)." (1969,p.17)
A society is a number of people held together because they are working along common lines, in a common spirit, and with reference to common aims. The common needs and aims demand a growing interchange of thought and growing unity of sympathetic feeling…Upon the ethical side, the tragic weakness of the present school is that it endeavours to prepare future members of the social order in a medium in which the conditions of the social spirit are eminently wanting…Indeed, almost the only measure for success is a competitive one, in the bad sense of that term–a comparison of results in the recitation or in the examination to see which child has succeeded in getting ahead of other in storing up, in accumulating, the maximum of information. So thoroughly is this the prevailing atmosphere that for one child to help another in [their] task has become a school crime (Dewey, 1900, 1956, pp. 14-16).
In 1980, Len Solo notes "The best work being done on alternative evaluation, programs and designs, is from the North Dakota Study Group on Evaluation (Centre for Teaching and Learning, Grand Forks, N.D.). They have published a terrific series of monographs on evaluation" (p.153)
Antioch’s values mixed with mine, as mine influenced the policies and guidelines of the the West Coast Centres as can be seen at their website http://www.antiochla.edu/tradinn.html
In their own words:
For over 140 years, Antioch has challenged educational conventions in order to inspire learning. Antioch was founded in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio by renowned educator, social reformer and abolitionist, Horace Mann. In 1857, Antioch became the first private college in the United States to admit women to an equal curriculum making Antioch's inaugural class the first in the country to have co-ed classrooms. Antioch was also the first college in the nation to appoint a woman to the rank of full professor. In 1863, Antioch took a revolutionary step for the times and instituted a policy that no applicant was to be rejected on the basis of race.
Antioch's tradition of innovation was further influenced by another visionary educator, Arthur Morgan. When he became president of Antioch in 1920, Morgan built upon Mann's belief in the development of the individual as a whole and instituted the unique work/study concept which is now part of mainstream education. He also initiated student involvement in the governance of the institution. Arthur Morgan questioned reliance on entrance examination scores in favor of more personal, inclusive information on prospective students.
Independent thinking, academic excellence and freedom of study were encouraged from the outset and today the tradition of innovation continues throughout Antioch's campuses in Yellow Springs, Ohio; Seattle, Washington; Keene, New Hampshire; and Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in California.
We are proud of our progressive
history. We have always been, and continue to be, an exception
to the rule. We are Different. Different like you.
"Be ashamed to die until
you have won some victory for humanity."
Founder of Antioch
An Antioch education is all at once idealistic and purposeful, value-driven and practical, concerned with social justice and focused on career opportunities. Practical applications of theories and concepts are applied to students' everyday lives.
At Antioch, we encourage students to become informed risk takers, creative thinkers and socially responsible practitioners.
From its founding in 1852, Antioch University has shown its commitment to diversity…Antioch was also one of the first institutions in the country to admit African American students. In addition, Antioch was the first college or university in the nation to offer full and equal professorships to African Americans (Adapted from material retrieved from the World Wide Web, December 8, 1999: http://www.antiochla.edu/tradinn.html http://www.antioch.edu/index.html
Because of the incredibly high tuition, a major policy instituted by the Student Development Team was that one-third of the student body would attend on an ability to pay basis to ensure a broader range of cultures at the original San Francisco Centre. It seems that a gap was created as they moved from one to three West Coast Centres, and perhaps the description of "broader range of cultures" was not explicit enough to ensure strong representation from significantly under-represented groups. My understandings changed during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and I am now more committed to Employment Equity/Affirmative Action requirements:
Antioch has seen a significant increase in the diversity of its student body in the past five years. In 1993, 90.6 percent of Antioch students were Caucasian. In 1998, 76.4% of Antioch's students are Caucasian, while African American and Native American enrolments have more than doubled. Antioch's faculty has also made strides in the last five years. The core and adjunct faculty groups were 97 percent Caucasian in 1993, and are less than 90 percent Caucasian in 1998.
These are good initial steps in Antioch's effort to offer a more inclusive and representative education. There are many steps left to be taken. What remains consistent is Antioch's commitment to inclusion, diversity, and social justice. That legacy ensures that Antioch will continue to make significant contributions to providing full opportunity to all who have the desire to pursue higher education…. Retrieved from the World Wide Web, December 8, 1999: http://www.seattleantioch.edu/about/diversity.html
It was most interesting to go back to the Antioch websites in 1999, and see the values that I continue to hold still imbedded in the current mission statements of the West Coast Centres:
The Antioch mission focuses on the belief that the role of education is to help students pursue a meaningful life. All University programs reflect an educational model that integrates intellectual and experiential learning with community participation and service.
At Antioch, we believe quality education is measured by what students can do, not by how they score on a test. Students do not receive grades, but at the end of each course they receive extensive written evaluations from their professors that identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas of progress. The student works with his/her degree committee to set goals and establish graduation requirements.
Progressive education at Antioch assumes that students' life experiences are relevant to learning. Experiential education and reflection on the relevance of work to the academic curriculum are essential parts of an Antioch education.
Progressive education emphasizes inter-disciplinary work, so that students can integrate the findings in one discipline with the course work in another. In other words, it is more like the real world. A look at our varied Degree Programs will give you an idea of how faculty and courses might interrelate. Retrieved from the World Wide Web, December 8, 1999: http://www.seattleantioch.edu/about/progressive.html
Bill and Helga Olkowski taught half time at UC Berkeley and held a core faculty position in Environmental Education at Antioch/West. At the time, he was an entomologist working on biological control of insects, and she was a biologist who had become a professional puppeteer. Their work together included ecologically sound urban farming.
Rothstein describes the value of the school in terms of its social and political consciousness:
"If the academic aims were informal, the school’s egalitarian social principles were well articulated. The ‘School Philosophy’ written in the 1970’s states: ‘The Whole School exists to provide and environment where children can learn to understand and counteract the effects of living in a society which oppresses people because of their sex, race, age, class, physical and mental disabilities." The school also encouraged co-operation as opposed to competition, personal responsibility, and respect for the environment. The empowerment of women was particularly noteworthy. Female students were encouraged to consider such non-traditional (sic!) careers such as carpentry and welding, and the school discussed the effects of pornography. Several students say today that they appreciated the strong female role models at the school. Students and adults also participated in numerous gestalt therapy groups and other psychotherapeutic activities. Feminist, environmental, and personal/social transformation aspirations of the 1970s formed the bedrock of the Whole School Community.
The school was governed by the entire school community of parents, teachers, and students, with decisions made at general meetings where ‘everyone who is able to understand has a vote.’ Although there were attempts to institute a Board of Directors, the community resisted, believing such a change would: ‘destroy the democratic nature of our school.’ Most decisions were made by majority vote although ‘in questions with considerable opposition, we strive for consensus.’ Even teacher hiring was conducted each year by the entire group…
By the 1980s the school had nonetheless achieved some stability. Enrolment fluctuated between thirty-five and forty-five students with three to four full-time staff…[t]he school retained two fundamental tensions basic to most alternative schools: first, how directive or free would the adults be in regulating the academic learning activities of the students, and second, how democratic would decision-making be. The Whole School has remained on the side of participatory democracy, with all decision, including hiring, made by the entire school community. However, academically the school has changed and students are expected to engage in typical classroom academic pursuits."
Over 40 tradesmen, vocational instructors, union apprenticeship coordinators and employers were interviewed prior to the development of The Workplace in Transition: Integrating Women Effectively. The seminar was delivered many times, across Canada, to groups of the same kinds of people.