Monday, March 13, 2017

The culture of/by education. Public pedagogy.

When you think about culture, what comes to mind? Clothing? Language?  Food? Religion?  Of course, these are all important factors that can help define and describe culture.  

When I google the definition of culture, it the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively."  Likewise, it continues to define culture as  "the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group."  When we break this definition down, one elements stands out: Social Institution.  As we delve into the constructs of education, we can find descriptions such as:  "School is first and foremost a social institution; established organization that has an identifiable structure; a set of functions for preserving and extending social order
primary function-to move young people into the mainstream of society.   So, where am I going with this?  Public pedagogy.

When doing some (admittedly more in depth than expected) research into the Gogies forum, the domain of public pedagogy proved to have an evasive and somewhat abstract definition. Giroux, the Canadian forefather of public pedagogical theory, likened public pedagogy to the influences that are exerted on a population that become intrinsic to culture.  Exemplifying this notion is issues such as healthcare.  As Canadians, we expect equal and mostly free access to bio-medical care. Both these expectations are institutionalized and delivered by the government, thereby demonstrating a public pedagogical strategy.  As Canadians, we are taught to associate our "way of life" (i.e. culture) to inherently free healthcare that is geared towards procedures, and to a much larger extent, medications.

I think it goes without saying that educators inherently play a major role in the culturing of those they teach, wether it be how they interact with the learners (culture of education) or the content they deliver (culture of subject, such as the aforementioned medicine.)

As I read about public pedagogy, I began to reflect on what I was overtly and covertly teaching the students in my class.  Some examples: How was I representing Canada in Qatar?  What subject matter bias was I (potentially) ignorantly promoting?  Does my own cultural background agree with what I am teaching?  What kind of relationship was I using to relate to the students?  Was it dichotomous or synergistic?  

Teaching continues to push me to reflect and evaluate my behavior in relation to my intentions.  I remember a quote from a seminar I attended on root cause analysis.  The lecturer had helped NASA investigate and determine the cause of Challenger's loss on re-entry to earth's atmosphere.  He speculated that a sign inside the NASA hanger was misleading.  It read "Safety is Job #1."  This overt messaging was in direct conflict with the mission of NASA: Space exploration.  Needless to say, it's inherently incredibly risky to engage in space travel, and this seemed to encapsulate the conflicting intentions at the space agency.  In relation to teaching: I talk the talk, but do I walk the walk?

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