Editorial: On Bricolage and the Intellectual Work of the Scholar-Practitioner

By Jenlink, Patrick M. | Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Editorial: On Bricolage and the Intellectual Work of the Scholar-Practitioner


Jenlink, Patrick M., Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly


Charged with the public responsibility to educate, the scholar-practitioner engages in intellectual work with the purpose, in large part, to create the educative spaces wherein future generations may to learn the knowledge and skills necessary to build a principled and democratic society. Relatedly, educator preparation programs represent a significant agency for the reproduction and legitimation of a society characterized by a high degree of social and economic inequality (Giroux, 1981). As such, educator preparation programs are charged with the public responsibility to educate practitioners to enable future generations to learn the knowledge and skills necessary to address social inequities and injustices, while working to build a principled and democratic society. As Maxine Greene (1986) observes, the type of community, society, and world that

   we cherish is not an endowment, ... it must be achieved through
   dialectical engagements with the social and economic obstacles we
   find standing in our way ... . We cannot neglect the fact of power.
   But we can undertake a resistance, a reaching out toward becoming
   persons among persons. (p. 440)

The work of the scholar-practitioner is intellectual work that, at its best, represents a response to questions and issues posed by the tensions and contradictions of public life and attempts to understand and intervene in specific problems that emanate from the material contexts of everyday existence (Giroux, 2001, p. 215).

The problems of society are inescapable, mirrored in the educational systems and schools. Increasingly, the scholar-practitioner finds that s/he is asked to function as a self-conscious, autonomous, and authentic person in a public space where the pressures multiply. As well, the work of scholar-practitioners is often subject to the debilitating effect of indifference; indifference that results from individuals who blame events on the "failure of ideas" or the "collapse of programmes" but at the same time fail to make their own voices heard and fail to lend their own moral and professional resources to promote social change and offset social injustices (Gramsci, 1977).

As intellectual, the scholar-practitioner's work is, in part, an exercise of power and authority that begins with questions of justice, democracy, and the dialectic between individual accountability and social responsibility (Weiner, 2003). As intellectual in the public sphere of education, the scholar-practitioner must be aware of, and direct their authority and power productively, self-reflexively, and critically by opening up a space of "continuous reenactment" (Mouffe, 1992, pp. 30-31) that offers a "provisional" place to deploy pedagogical strategies of social engagement and transformation, while remaining critical of the function of leadership as intellectual work and its effects.

C. Wright Mills (1959), in The Sociological Imagination, is instructive as he provides us with a defining statement concerning the nature of intellectual life. He begins by making a point concerning our choice to be an intellectual and scholar-practitioner:

   Scholarship is a choice of how to live as well as a choice of
   career; whether he knows it or not, the intellectual workman
   forms his own self as he works toward the perfection of his craft;
   to realize his own potentialities, and any opportunities that come
   his way, he constructs a character which has as its core the
   qualities of a good workman ... .What this means is that you must
   learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work:
   continually to examine and interpret it. In this sense craftsmanship
   is the center of yourself and you are personally involved in every
   intellectual product upon which you work. (p. 196)

The intellectual life of the scholar-practitioner is a life by choice; a choice of work that is concerned with both the pragmatic and political that defines education. …

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