Article written by

Joseph Henderson

Joseph Henderson is a student in the Ph.D. program in Teaching, Curriculum and Change at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester.

8 Responses

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  1. Glenn Dolphin
    Glenn Dolphin at |

    But let’s suffice it to say that our (mainly western) notions of progress fails to consider the first and second laws of thermodynamics. There is this thought that we can engineer ourselves out of any problem. But think. We have created all of these “labor saving” devices so we can do the same stuff in less time, however, in reality we are spending even more time and doing even more stuff. Where is the progress in that? My gut tells me that we may “progress” to a more energy efficient future, but again we will not take the position that we can now use half the energy, but can now do TWICE the stuff using the same fuel.  That solves no problem at all.  At the end of every presidential speech I hear, “and God bless America.”  I just think, “we are 5% of the world’s population using about 25% of the world’s natural resources.  Don’t we think it is time for God to go bless someone else?”

  2. Rachel
    Rachel at |

    The part that disturbs me the most is that there is already a shortage of people in the world that feel a deep connection with the environment, and by bringing western schooling into areas full of people that respect nature and teaching their next generation to see it as “we” do, as an “abstraction,” we are effectively eliminating any chance we have of reducing global consumption to a level our planet can sustain. “We” should be learning from “them.”

  3. Dina
    Dina at |

    I’m no fan of Western imperialism, but I’ll be the fly in the ointment here: the clips I saw of the film were highly, dare I say irresponsibly, polemic. Reminded me of Waiting for Superman in terms of visual manipulation. Any thoughts on that, Joe?
    Also, I would question the “Western model” of the schools I saw (again, in clips, so I could be wrong here). They reminded me strongly of how Korean schools were run where I taught– huge pools of uniformed children marching in formation, etc etc. While such forms of schooling are clearly not indigenous, I think you’d be hard pressed to make the argument that they are superlatively representative of Western schools, either– the varied depth and breadth of which are enormous.
    What I observed in Korea seemed to be more like someone’s mad interpretation of Western schools, passed through the further fun-house mirror of making them “appropriate” for aboriginal children. What results? An arguably damaging mess. But *Western*? I’m not so sure.
     
     

  4. Joe Henderson
    Joe Henderson at |

    Dina, check out the movie. You raise points that the panel also focused on regarding the oversimplification of paradigms/models. I definitely agree that the term “Western” is opaque and should be critiqued, but that’s our job, isn’t it? As an artist, the director has a different job, right?

  5. Dina
    Dina at |

    I don’t think truth-telling oversimplifies. I don’t think good art, does, either. 🙂

  6. Glenn Dolphin
    Glenn Dolphin at |

    US schools were developed for a particular purpose, to produce workers for the factories.  That model has not changed since its inception.  It is governed by a structure that caters to the middleclass and white.  If you do not come with the approproiate background “rules” your success at the game will be limited.  The question is, what is our role, if any, for those who live a primitive (speaking as a doctoral student with his feet pretty firmly in the middle class) life?  My education as well has been a difficult and at times tumultuous experience.  I have begun to question concepts like “natural.”  What does that mean?  Why distinguish between natural and man-made?  Are humans not natural?  Isn’t everything we do natural for us?  So, is it natural to go and “help” those we think need it?  Do we take agency away form the “primitive ones” by thinking that we could save them by not polluting their culture with our ideals?  Can’t they make their own decisions?  Are we being just as arrogant saying they need our help as we are by saying we don’t want to ruin their culture?  These are not easy question to answer.  Is a life of ignorance to “modern” culture better than life in modern culture.  Is it better to be exposed and then decide which is better for yourself?  How does that decision take place?  What are the influences there?  Western culture has such a huge impact on the trends in other societies.  The chinese endure bone lengthening surgeries to make themselves talleer and also have plastic surgery to make their eyelids visible because that is the sign of (western) beauty.  Black women risk severe chemical burns “relaxing” their hair by pouring sodium hydroxide on their hair, or paying thousands of dollars for straight hair extensions in the name of (western) beauty. Our own daughters are binging and puking or just plain starving themselves to achieve the “perfect” (western) beauty.  Who decides what is beautiful?  How is it that we have become the focal point of what it means to be human on this earth?  If we could decide to take a different course (say something a bit more sustainable) would the rest of the world follow?  Is that, then our responsibility?  I’ve got no answers.  I’m only asking the questions.  Sorry.

  7. Alec Jacobs
    Alec Jacobs at |

    This post reminds me of just how reliant we all are on the environmental and economic systems’ capacity to sustain us through natural catastrophes.
     

  8. Nahoko
    Nahoko at |

    Joe, thank you for both organizing the screening and providing a post in the blog regarding the documentary.  I wish I could have been at the screening to hear what others had to say about it, and I appreciate the people’s comments left here on the blog.  I had a chance to view the film and I thought that it provided a perspective that will give people an opportunity to be more reflexive in our practices as educators.  During the movie, I couldn’t help but to think about this phenomenon as something that doesn’t just happen across international boarders and in far away places, but that this kind of “value imposition of what people need to know to be successful” happens right here in our own communities.  It is often the people in power who decide what is important, what is valuable, and set the standards to which everyone should fit (YES! Did you think I wasn’t going to have a comment that didn’t cite PB? Always citing Bourdieu, 1984), but we become so socialized and desensitized to these in our daily lives that we stop noticing.  If we are thinking about education as empowerment, I wonder what we really mean by empowerment.  Grateful for folks to disrupt the notions.

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