The Poverty of Life-Affirming Work: Motherwork, Education, and Social Change

By Mechthild U. Hart | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Teaching and Learning
as a Political Ally

As described in the previous chapter, the literacy center is located at the borderline between a major state university and one of the public housing complexes of Chicago’s Near South Side. It is located directly across the street from a mostly white middle-class area, offering pleasant restaurants, bookstores, and other university facilities. One simply has to cross one street to leave the university surroundings and enter a quite different world. There is therefore a geographically visible disjuncture between an institution of higher education and people living in a racially and economically segregated area. Most of my educational work takes place at a private university, with my college located in Chicago’s downtown area. It offers an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree for working adults. Part of its mission is to provide a structural acknowledgment of the fact mat all human knowledge is inherently transdisciplinary, and that knowledge can be gained and constructed in many different ways.

Aside from teaching some of the staple courses about documenting prior learning or about research methods, the college encourages faculty to develop transdisciplinary topics courses. Whereas the university provides the larger institutional framework for teaching and learning, the content of my courses, the materials provided (such as readings and guest speakers), the life experiences of the adult students, and an emphasis on experiential learning modes provide the space for telling and listening to stories about a world that is both “out there” and that some of the students nevertheless bring with them to class. In that sense the semipublic enclave of academia is rather permeable. One of the courses I teach is called “Motherwork.” It builds upon my interests in me different meanings and realities of the notion of work, and it addresses social, economic, and philosophical-ethical issues associated with welfare, and with the work of rais-

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