Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

Teaching Peacefully in Postmodernity: Ocean Policy as a Case

Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

Teaching Peacefully in Postmodernity: Ocean Policy as a Case

Article excerpt

Author's note: This essay has benefited from the inspiration of Dr. Larry Preston's teaching style. It has also benefitted from the reading and wise suggestions of Dr. Sheryl Lutjens, Dr. Mary Ann Steger, and the editor of this journal. I am grateful for their input. All errors, of course, are my own.

Abstract: Postmodern critics have shown that singular ways of knowing destroy other ways of knowing, and are in this way, violent. If the teacher of a class is that singularity, what can education do to encourage peaceful learning? This article suggests the injection of literature into classroom pedagogy using ocean policy as an example.

This essay is dedicated to the idea that peace must embrace ...

the silenced majority
that some day
will decide
which small piece of the sky
belongs to them
-- Rigoberta Menchu

1992 Nobel Peace Prize Quoted in Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination, edited by Martin Espada, 1994.

I speculate that most teachers retain a mark of altruism in their work. They are for all intents and purposes, underpaid and wholly over-worked, both in the university and in the primary and secondary schools. Nonetheless, there may be an unintended, at least by the teacher, side-effect of being the singular instructor of a class: the danger of creating hegemonic knowledge, or the presumption (prescription?) that truth and sufficient knowledge are available in a singular world-view. I assume that teaching is powerful-- that it can and does make an indelible difference to students. This power, then creates a politics of the classroom that I believe teachers should recognize. I mean for this essay to speak mainly to college social science professors, though others may find my proposal useful as well. If we acknowledge some basic characteristics of the classroom, preservation of peaceful multiplicity may be more possible. Please note, that I do not deny the fact that in society teachers are often marginal characters on the larger stage, with low pay and a powerful administration that they must deal with themselves with increasing loss of measures of control, including intellectual property. Also, temporary positions and financial burdens compromise their ability to act freely. However, this essay specifically refers to the teacher-student power relationship and leaves the teacher-society relationship for another paper.

A problem?

Teaching usually has one main focal point for instruction through which all information in the class is filtered-- a "professor." The teacher or lecturer is the focal point of most classes. Teachers stand at the front while their pupils sit before them. They iterate most of the "important" ideas in class, if not controlling the flow of the whole discussion. They control the curriculum, and thus the ideas possible and allowed in the class. Often times, the teacher is addressed as an authority that is impersonal via "Professor," or "Doctor," while students are addressed by their first names. Admittedly, students have something substantial to learn from teachers, but I am concerned here especially with method. Stanley Aronowitz (2000) writes, If the goal is to help students become autodidacts, education must emphasize pedagogy. This is the main innovation of my model, for pedagogy has largely been ignored by most academics. Of course, the real object is to help students acquire the habit of reflexivity, but this aim cannot be realized unless students are genuinely empowered in the learning process. This means that the object of the curriculum is to engender the critical self-learner. Drawing from literary studies, I advocate `close' reading in the classroom, so that everyone is on the same page and the authority of the teacher may be put into question by the ambiguity of interpretation (pp. 189-190).

Peaceful teaching, I argue, is about drawing out the pedagogy suggested by Aronowitz. Empowering the student to be critical, contextual (framing problems within larger structural concerns), and self-reflection is part of building peaceful, sensitive and contemplative societies; in other words, it is part of a culture of peace. …

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