by Dr. JoElla Eaglin Siuda
I have been in higher education for more than 25 years. I have worked in various capacities including teaching, curriculum design and implementation, and program evaluation, as well as authored, co-authored and co-edited numerous papers and books. By any standard, many of my colleagues and those who have worked with me would consider me successful, but I ask of you, the reader, “What is success, especially when it comes to education and Academia? Does it change as times and situations change? And can it be measured, and by what means if so?”
In the course of this essay, I will share and discuss what I realized through life experiences to be important with significant profound value to curriculum and instruction. For me, it is the definitive need for the two to keep focus on the individual, that human being that needs to become at the core of what they should be— to live up to the potential that is theirs. To allow for this occurring, I look to ideas of inclusion, awareness and integration, concepts grounded in the numerous works of those in education that ponder ideas of what is education, for whom, and for what reason. It is my belief that with the incorporation of these ideas in the practice of teaching and engaging with curriculum, this occurrence of becoming may be fostered. What is more, as I see both curriculum and teaching in a co-joined manner, I work with the very premise of Deweyan ideas that education and life are intertwined. The former is not a preparation for the latter. Thus I offer here an example of a woman, Helen Keller, that with the aid of her teacher, Annie Sullivan, engaged in the curriculum of her life. This engagement was fostered with ideas of inclusion, awareness and integration.
“The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on
which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me.”
“The world is full of suffering— it is also full of ways of overcoming it.”
Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968)
(Keller, 1903, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Helen_Keller)
Such profound words from such an exceptional human being (Helen Keller), a truly brave soul trapped in a body whose senses were limited. At nineteen months of age, after a bout of meningitis, this young girl lost both hearing and sight. In isolation by a near complete lack of language, with no means to communicate, she was lost, animal-like, until a teacher came along in her path of life. This teacher, Ms. Anne Sullivan, would change Helen Keller’s life completely, breaking the walls down, affording Helen the greatest gift of all— the gift of simply becoming Helen. This is possibly the greatest accomplishment any teacher can achieve— to help groom their young charges into the people they are to be. For Helen, it would be to become the first deaf-blind person to graduate magna cum laude from Radcliff, and to later become a world-famous American author, activist and public lecturer.
Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller, Curriculum and Teaching:
These prior quotes from Helen Keller have been crucial in both my personal life and professional career. But why they are so crucial? Why these my first thoughts as I attempt to clarify the valued ideas that I have in regards to curriculum and teaching? Simply, obstacles do exist, and yes, some insurmountable (due to various social, economic, physical, etc. realities); but in many cases, the extent of insurmountable nature is a direct correlation with the lack of a capacity to view the situation in a different way, to see other means of overcoming the situation, or to utilize a new and divergent tool to move towards a successful outcome. This was a strong underlying tenet grounding Anne Sullivan’s work with Helen Keller. Limitations were to be diminished as ably as possible so that the door for Helen could open.
What is more, these limitations need to be recognized as what they are. They are restrictions that stifle possibilities and opportunities for those in the classroom, both teacher and student. Teaching and learning should be a beautifully spun web of interactions with one common desire— to engender growth and development of the human being. Always intertwining, the teacher and learner move together in this beautiful ‘dance of life’, making connections with their personal ideas of what needs to be known, what is worth pondering; that is, they engage in the curriculum as they see fit. Dewey suggested this central theme in numerous works spanning his life, stating that he “believe[d] that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for it” (1897, p.77). This is also the essence of the Global Morfosis Paradigm (gMp) philosophy as outlined by its founder Dr. Stefanos Gialamas. It is defined within the 21st century framework as a holistic, meaningful, and harmonious educational experience, guided by ethos as an authentic, unbounded, and exciting educational paradigm that prepares student for complex and ambiguous future needs.
These thoughts arise from both my doctoral study and my twenty years of teaching the sciences to budding young artists as well as communication and media students at the college level. I have learned that the curriculum is so much more than a set of things to know that is imposed upon one’s students. I have learned that the enterprise of teaching is a profound worthwhile endeavor, for with it comes watching human beings grow to their full potential. And thankfully, I have learned that there is always more than one way to teach, to learn, and to gauge that learning. But as well, I have learned of disheartening things such as hidden curricula, achievement gap propagation, unfair demographic funding issues, favoritism in particular learning styles, biased assessment tools, among other daunting topics sometimes encased in uninformed desires to help. As in the words of Carter Woodson in The Mis-education of the Negro (1933/1990):
“When you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find ‘his proper place’ and will stay in it” (p. xiii).
Indeed, education and its inherent ability to affect thinking are deeply embedded with travesties. These are travesties that we do to each other and to our students; these need to be accounted for so that we can continue to open doors, such as ‘Teacher’ (Anne Sullivan) did for Helen Keller. But to do this, we first have to be cognizant of the hidden controls, the limitations that are there, set in place either accidentally or otherwise. Education is a culture, with all its intricacies and networked ideologies, value systems, and ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (Bruner, 1996). Long ago, Aristotle had already clarified this by saying that “Educating the mind without the heart is not education,” or as Cherif (2010, p.6) recently put it, “it is like a river without water or a tree without fruit.”
Inclusion, Awareness, and Integration:
With this in mind then, I would like to highlight three ideas that I have concerning curriculum and teaching, as grounded in my beliefs and past educational experiences, and as firmly supported by course work, observations, reading, and reflection in my doctoral studies while at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). These ideas are inclusion, awareness, and integration. I look at inclusion with reference to Elliot Eisner and Maxine Greene. Key leaders in education’s Progressive move, they saw the great need to include myriad dimensionality of curriculum in the educational endeavor. Without this perspective one cannot approach a complete rendering of what is learned, how it is learned, and how it ‘fits’ in the life/lives of the individual/community. I see John Dewey as a great beginning, one who knew awareness was crucial for a worthwhile life as espoused in his many works, my favorite being Art as Experience (1934). A life of awareness is paramount to true knowing and understanding of what ‘is,’ what exists, and again as contextualized in the life/lives of the individual/community. Lastly, integration entails full immersion in the curriculum, with a focus being broadly on the Arts in the curriculum, and more specifically, in the science curriculum.
With these ideas ‘named’, I offer my rationale. I see them as the path that can help us move toward the very type of Utopia Dewey (1933) wished for. Dewey’s Utopia affords individuals opportunity to respond creatively to continual changes in the natural order (as he elaborates in Democracy and Education (1916)), leaving behind the current limited ‘skill based’ system of education that supports a forged currency of motivators. Instead the motivation will come from within, for oneself, and will spawn creativity and personal growth. Once again, life will be the curriculum, a clear Deweyan idea. This could allow for the many divergent curricula and their inherent dimensionality, include the marginalized voices of many as suggested by Greene and Eisner (1981), and be an impetus to overcoming suffering. This is a suffering linked to the individual being trapped within his or herself. This is precisely due to being given no voice. They are given no means to express themselves or what they know and who they are, as in the case of Helen Keller. It takes a teacher, an educator, a real human being with a genuine caring heart and love for others to go the extra mile to really know his or her students. This must be accomplished in order to help them better understand themselves and how they can go over any obstacles they might encounter, not only in the classroom, but throughout their life (Cherif, 2010; Cherif, Maris, & Gialamas, 2016). Inclusion, awareness, and integration are the cornerstones of a pathway such as this.
For me, inclusion is grounded in the works of two current premier leaders in education, Maxine Greene and Elliot Eisner. Strong, individuals working with many Deweyan ideas, these individuals led me to believe that education as practiced today is not inclusive of all learners and their inherent learning styles. What is more, they suggest education is seriously blinded by pedagogies that only gave rise to methodologies and subsequent assessment tools that limit individuals’ opportunities to discover their own personal, private meanings in this world. As Greene (1988, p. 16) suggested, “yes, there are realities to be considered…. race, class, etc…. but it may be however that a general inability to conceive a better order of things can give rise to a resignation that paralyzes and prevents people from acting to bring about change.” Here was her call for imagination to work for the ability “to see things as if they could be otherwise,” so as to change what is and realign individual empowerment with the individual, not the current system. Eisner (1998, p. 32) similarly alluded to this with his idea on perception, suggesting that one needs to see through ‘different lenses’ so as to enrich and liberate cognition to develop a ‘literacy of the senses’; he asserted that “it is the spark of artistic vision that one is allowed to see the best that science, language and social interaction has to offer.” I look at their wealth of novel works and see the need for change in how we think, perceive, attribute, believe, and expect in regards to what is education. They are in agreement with the Deweyan idea of the extremely significant connection of education and life. As he suggests in Experience & Education, “education, of, by and for experience” is the ultimate goal (1938/1998, p.19).
To put this idea in a concrete perspective, while teaching at The Illinois Institute of Art @ Chicago I had a reminder of what experiences made me who I am today. As I looked at another sitting in my classroom, a freshman working to becoming solidified in the world of the Arts, I remembered the juggling of thoughts in my head on my purpose in life, and what I could become. Who I was and my future prospects were subtly suggested to me many years ago at an Award ceremony back in 8th grade at a private school. My memories were of this:
May 1980, eighth-grade graduation/award ceremony
“Jo, you really did an excellent job on that paper. Second place is wonderful. The Archdiocese felt that your writing was profound. Enlisting Our Spiritual Father, Pope John Paul II as a comparison to describe the love and kindness of your grandfather was just superb.”
“Thank you, Sister Mary.” Buoyed by her words, I turn to walk away with the assurance that I am somebody.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Auer (My Mom), you must be so proud of your daughter. She did a marvelous job, and I’m sure that if more time and financial backing had been put toward aiding the school, she would have earned first place.”
Head bowed, I pretend not to hear. I guess Debbie was first because she comes from a good family. And I was second because I don’t. My family isn’t good enough. I’m not good enough. And I’ll never be worth first place…
And now, flash forward some 30 years later; I was looking at another student not so different from me. What made this a different time though was that I was not that 8th grader that walked away humiliated. It was this day I would be a ‘fighter,’ fighting for the discounted person, my ‘Artist,’ my student, with someone more prestigious in the world of Academia.
In this particular case, words of a stellar professor in the Education department at a nearby school were resonating in my mind. He said that “in no way did those in the ‘Arts’ showcase any knowledge of scientific concepts.” He further went on to suggest that “those ‘Artists’ don’t belong in the ‘normal’ world of education.” The questions that lay deep in my very being was, “What is ‘normal’ in this world of education?” and “How do the ‘Artists’ not fit?” These were not thoughts brought up just in the ‘here and now;’ these were thoughts that I remembered and felt as a student in that 8th grade ceremony. It was back then that I was told that myself, and my working class family, were not ‘college material;’ people ‘like us’ ‘don’t do college’. But in this case, I did things differently. I took a stand to allow for the voice of my student to be not only heard, but in a clear resounding supportive fashion. Was this scholar’s opinion of Artists and their knowledge accurate? I ask you the reader to reflect upon this conversation; see if it is laden with ideas of separation and exclusion for ‘others’ that do not fit the norm constructed in our society.
Fall 1984, graduate school, my graduate professor
“Jo, what is this? Do you really think you can in any way show that these ideas of electron affinity and the power of an atom’s core to be effectual in sustaining control of an atom’s electrons to be true? Do you really think an Artist’s rendering can show this to be so?”
My response, trembling for he was a Physicist first, and a well-known academic in the Education Department last, was that yes, I think it can be done, and not only that, here is my proof. I was giddy with my idea, for I know he loved ‘proofs.’ This YouTube video is my ‘proof,’ though I really never needed it. I only needed the strength to suggest that multimodal literacy does exist, and that we as educators need to be cognizant of it.
(video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-QCA4yyYMI – THE CRANE)
Can this professor be excused because he didn’t bother to know me better as one of his students? Or, can we assume that he used this type of challenge to force me to show my strength and what I have learned? Or was he a type of professor that kept his mind and interest within the walls of the Physics department, while stationed in the Education department? Was his training in the sciences limiting his ability in the Education department to be open to other ideas? Was he unable to move forward to constructs such as inclusion, awareness, and integration? We may never know, but life went on and so did I.
And it is with this thought that I move to my idea of awareness— a grand idea, the main crux and impetus of all my serious ruminations— where one can see that synonymous nature of education and life. It is here in Dewey’s voluminous great works that I generated a conceptual underpinning that the Arts epitomized a type of enriched experience that contributed to the transformative powers of perception and value in all of life. In Art as Experience, considered by the Dewey Ideas Group and Sidney Hook (Dewey’s prominent student) a great scholarly piece, Dewey’s tenet of the deep correlation between life and education is highlighted. Hook suggests that “although it is an analysis of the roots, structure, and interrelation of the aesthetic experience, Art as Experience clarifies all the leading ideas of Dewey’s philosophy” (1939, p. 194).
Philip Jackson, another member of the group, suggests that all is useful in this world; all the “things that we realize as useful objects— that is the tools for the attainment of desired ends— are also events to be enjoyed and/or suffered though in their own right” (2000, p.18). Immersion in the experience is the great need of the individual, and attempts at description or self-consciousness may cause that moment to be lost. What is more, this experience is greatly rooted in the individual and hinges on emotion, meaning, completeness and uniqueness for that individual. I wonder what could life become if experiences were understood and nurtured; would “more of life be made more meaningful than we find it to be, if only we would heed our individual and collective wills in that direction,” as suggested by Philip Jackson (2000, p. 34)? And how would it impact education? After all, “what holds true for experience in general may also apply to more specialized forms of experience, such as those occurring within schools and classrooms” (Jackson, 2000, p. 34).
Again, to put this concept in perspective, I reach back to a moment where I learned of the great importance of all life. One must be in tune with life fully; otherwise, it slips away.
Final week of summer classes— Native American Support Program:
“Ms. Eaglin, this isn’t working. I just don’t get it. What do you consider important here? What should I know?”
“What should you know? You tell me what you know already. Don’t tell me what ‘is’ according to me, tell me what ‘is’ according to you.”Astronomy is the last section of our four-week course, rounding out chemistry, biology, and physics, and I wanted to make our assignment fun and different: Generate a visual depiction of the Big Bang Theory, without the use of text. But this student doesn’t seem to be getting it. “Tell me Greg, what has meaning to you?”
“Life, Ms. Eaglin, life. That’s all there is. We are all part of the Great Spirit. We became confused; we lost sight of this great gift. We lost ourselves, our part in the balance of life. We are all lost souls just trying to remember where we came from. That is all there is.”
Greg holds up his work. It’s circles, lots of circles orbiting colorful centers. How did he come up with that? He ‘nailed it’. It’s like he took a bit from every field of science we touched on over these past four weeks and came up with a representation of how they all came together. I wonder if he knows they are linked. And I wonder how he knows. From the atom to the universe, is there a Grand Designer behind it all? Jo, sssh. Listen. Try it, Jo. Just listen.
“Ms. Eaglin, do you see the Great Spirit?” Greg speaks softly, but his words feel so profound: “Here all is one, and one is all. The Great Spirit is everywhere, within and beyond. Do you see our Spirit? This is the Spirit of All that Is, Life.”
Although I recognize these circles from my own conceptualization of science, these are something more—they have feeling, are even richer with meaning. All this time I had been trying to teach Greg about the beauty of science, but now I can see how ignorant I was of it myself. I am not the teacher here; Greg is. I know the hierarchy of life’s organization… that cells lead to tissues, which give rise to organs, and then organ systems, and ultimately a complete living organism. I know what science has given me, but along the way to learning I’d somehow lost sight of life’s beauty. I recognized that everything is alive— all breathed, worked, and lived— but I had forgotten about spirit. Through Greg, I have been reminded. I remember.
“Ms. Eaglin, what do you think? Is not our Great Spirit beautiful, so very strong?”
“Yes, but why both, beautiful and strong? I think of strong individuals as having muscles, so that they can lift and move things at their command. Or they use their strength to manipulate others who are weaker than they. The beautiful are soft and kind and need protection. They are beautiful inside and out. I don’t see strong people as beautiful, or beautiful people as strong. In fact, I have seen some strong people offend others, maybe not with their muscles, but most definitely with their minds. Those with power— the ‘strong’ of society— have used and abused others. I struggle with this.”
“No, strength is beautiful, and beauty is strength. We are all designed to be, to exist, and the Great Spirit knows our purpose and knows our part in the circle of life. When a life lives as it has been designed, it shows its beauty. And our strength comes from recognizing this beauty and living according to our design. What you are talking about is neither beauty nor strength but a lost soul, one who cannot see that he or she was tenderly made with purpose and meaning.”
Half my age, scraggly and thin, Greg is not someone many would consider to be strong or beautiful, but he is so self-assured. Greg is at peace. I want to know this peace. You can’t buy it at Walmart or find it easily in a society that idealizes perfection. The lost soul—the former anorexic—in me wants some of what he has.
“Where would you like this, Ms. Eaglin?”
“Do you mind if I take it to share with the other teachers in the program and get it back to you after NASP ends for the summer? All the parents are coming in for a final show, and I would like to have it on display then as well.”
“Fine, Ms. Eaglin. All good.”
It was that particular day in 1994 I learned that I knew so little, so little indeed about the Great Spirit. I learned that I had a duty to find immersion with that moment, to be immersed with this Spirit. I am ever thankful to Greg for his important role in my development as a teacher. I never did return his drawing that changed my view of life. He went back to the reservation before I could return it, but fortunately left me his Great Spirit. But most of all, he left me with a new awareness of the power of inclusion, the inclusion of the Arts and the sciences. We need the Arts to understand science, and we need the sciences to understand the Arts (Cherif and Gialamas, 2000). In the realms of education, teaching, and learning, the Arts and sciences are two sides of the same coin. This is an obvious point. Just recall, for example, any of the analogies encountered in any science class to see the interconnection of both in one form (Cherif, Siuda, Rose, Movahedzadeh, & Gialamas, 2015).
Seriously grounded in this idea of experiences, and what the Arts may afford to this endeavor, I move to my final thought, integration. I fully embrace a more open curriculum, where the individual and his/her part in a global society are intertwined; I envision this as one in which the desired outcome is to have the individual be the ‘hub’ of their educational journey, one that allows for their continuous contribution to the betterment of society. I see that Arts integration in the curriculum is crucial in this endeavor. Fascinated by ideas such as Dewey’s epiphany of the experience being in direct relation to the frequency and intensity of engagement with the Arts, I ask myself if this epiphany could ever possibly be a ‘staple’ of our educational system.
Moving past Dewey, I see many disciplines entertaining this notion of Arts integration— each with their own rationales, each engaging their particular lens(es) of operation. Those grounded in the Arts, the artists themselves, and those engaged in the many divergent fields of education, highlight the many affordances of the Arts in teaching and learning. And a constant thread throughout these disciplines (either overtly stated or subliminally suggested) is the desire to understand just how one thinks, the cognitive aspects of knowing, that may be a paramount idea rooted in the Arts. In order to understand the creative process that is unleashed, one that encourages “the searching for patterns, for orderly connections, [the] using [of] intuition, or aesthetic sense and [the] developing of new analogies” by the individual, one must first allow for its incorporation in the curriculum (Root-Bernstein, 1984, p. 197). How would Arts integration impact the teaching and learning dynamic? Would this change in curriculum allow for more ‘voices to be heard,’ a ‘better order of things,’ a ‘literacy of the senses,’ ideas espoused by Greene, Eisner, and Dewey?
Adding to my last idea of inherent affordances of Arts integration in the curriculum, I need to bring into light some ‘wonderments’ I have encountered with Arts integration in the science field. Obviously my training as a biochemist is in part responsible; as a member of this integrated field, I have worked with incorporating concepts of biology and chemistry, utilizing them to solve problems and understand physical life systems. But as well other reasons exist. I consider science and Art kindred spirits, for both involve intense ‘seeing.’ One only has to look at Galileo’s impeccable, precise thirty eight drawings of sunspots viewed with his self-designed ‘spy glass’ to capture this idea; with visible certainty, oculare certitude, his ‘seeing,’ grounded in the unification of the Arts and the sciences, brought the demise of the Ptolemaic ideas of astronomy. This is beautiful evidence of how humans find meaning in the world of art for life in the everyday world (Efland, 2002); again, solidly based in many Dewyean ideas, this is truly an ‘experience,’ not just an ordinary experience, as interpreted by Wong, et al. (2001).
Again, to put this concept in perspective, I reach back to a moment were one student, lost in my lecture of the infinite nature of DNA, and its great importance in the continuation of life as we know it, surprised me with her artistic rendering of this process. Built on the visual imagery of the spiral staircase and incorporating multiple metaphors to help describe her conception of the infinite potentiality of DNA, she described the double helix as:
…A staircase that keeps going on and on, all the way to the ‘Man in the Moon’…. Perhaps this Man is the ‘One,’ the responsible party for all of life down here below on this blue marble we call ‘Earth.’ But, alas, this is stuff of speculation. Now to the recent scientific discoveries…. Unraveling right to left, and left to right, with the help of RNA polymerase, the enzyme [whose] name tells you its duty… to make RNA, to make the polymer, the messenger RNA (mRNA), that will leave to the ‘machines’ of the cytoplasm via the small ‘door pores.’ Working to separate the coding strand from the non-coding strand, it works to interrupt bonds, those bonds that ‘zip up’ the DNA strands initially into this spiral staircase. Thus, where there once was A’s [adenines] bonded to T’s [thymines] and G’s [guanines] to C’s [cytosines] in this spiral staircase, now all that is seen is the gentle separation of the zipper sides. And as one comes unraveled, mRNA comes to be, with a single-stranded entity void of T’s, and complete with U’s [uracils], those ‘nasty’ nucleotides that are responsible, and allow for mutations.
As you can see, this student presented her knowledge in an artful, poetic way, offering a working example of the bridging mechanisms and model construction (Gilbert, 1991), analogies (Hummel and Holyoak, 2002), and metaphors (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) described by those in the fields of cognition, the Arts, and education (Marshall, 2005). Her poetic approach and inspiring artwork also recall Girod et al’s (2003) belief that students need to embrace the inherent beauty found in the natural world and the sciences that try to depict this beauty. Her work is an engagement with science, and my teaching is an engagement with her world. Could this be what Girod envisioned when he wrote that “if we truly wish to educate our students, we must develop both the scientist and the artist within them” (p. 577)?
Where We Go from Here:
I wish to wrap up my thoughts on inclusion, awareness and integration with a suggestion on how they may very well foster a future that is different from what we now know in regards to education— a future that is values driven, encouraging individuals to lead more meaningful lives. Ideas such as these, if truly carried out and given the support needed, may help to bring about a rich, vibrant, caring, meaningful community, and in turn society. My ideas are what some would consider a bit ‘naïve,’ but nevertheless they are being brought up. Scholars suggest these tenets may underlie the coming Global Village and its eminent entrance into our world. Shirley Brice Heath and Sir Ken Robinson (2004), and many others in diverse fields such as anthropology, business, education, among others, suggest that the young will lead this charge; it is their thoughts, their ideas that suggest that, based in the creative endeavor, the Arts integration in the curriculum will build a framework for a Global Village.
Heath and Robinson (2004) lay out a three-prong argument for their assertion that it is the youth of today that will alter the world community. They state that “throughout the world, young people are transforming the cultural commons of their communities using the Arts and exceeding the accomplishments of adults” (p. 108). They hold tight to the premise that the learning of diplomacy, the actual practicing of it, lies in the intricate workings of the group of youth in the artistic endeavor; it is here, that when the youth work, argue, and tease out the complexities, permutations, and variations in the generation and completion of the artistic piece in question, that true diplomacy is becoming. In addition, they talk of the youth of today’s ability to negotiate, and what is more triumph, over problems/issues as faced in their local world/community. They suggest that the Arts offer the needed tools and environment that leads to this transcendence. The productions of song and dance, orchestrated and choreographed as such, the multimedia openings of various dimensioned art forms, the written and spoken work— these and so many other forms of art— all offer means for highly volatile societal issues to be brought up, to see the light of day, and to be discussed.
Inclusion, awareness and integration as a Holistic Entity of Curriculum for the Future of Education:
Attempting to take these thoughts of inclusion, awareness and integration as a holistic entity, and perhaps suggesting a global ramification with their existence, it is time to ask just what we should look at as a possible curriculum to set into play. Do we want one that sees life as curriculum, in a Deweyan sense, thereby offering individual meaning, though not easily assessable as set by the current standardizations of today? Or should one continue with an ‘institutionalized,’ mandated curriculum that is easily assessed, and perpetuates the ‘function box’ type of mentality— that being, ‘put’ the number in the box, ‘do’ the function to it, and ‘pull out’ the expected final answer/outcome— on individuals, minimizing them to nothing more than machines? Will it be possible to afford, as Dewey suggested in Democracy and Education (1916), “education [that involves] reconstruction or reorganization of experiences and which increases the ability to direct the course of subsequent experience” (p. 76)? Gialamas (2017) suggests this is a must, not even considering a divergent idea other than this; he states this is paramount, so as to prepare students to “be ready for complex and ambiguous future needs!”
Should a Global Society that is acquisitive or inquisitive in nature be fostered? Do we want one that allows for all voices to be heard, none being squelched? Could ideas of inclusion, awareness, and integration be embraced fully to engender a possible true Global Society fostering growth in all its facets holistically? These are crucial questions, ones in need of attention; these ‘good’ solid questions are key first right steps forward in learning. These questions will matter, for as the individual grows in his/her small microcosm of life, so too will others, led by example, instead of hidden agendas and subliminal forces. And together, perhaps all will become distinct forward moving societal members. Perhaps these members will not be involved in an education that limited them, controlled them, to the point of cutting out a back door if one was not there, just due to their inaccurate feelings that this is what should be (as based on The Mis-education of the Negro (1933/1988).
One can generate a somewhat clear ‘view’ of my educational outlook from the crucial ideas that I have discussed thus far on inclusion, awareness, and integration. Looking as broadly as I am at these concepts (as supported by a wealth of works of others), it can be seen that I am philosophically entertaining somewhat grand ideas. I see my desired work as something that is in the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’. What is more, it is precisely due to my background and current situation that I can work with such ideas. As a trained biochemist, I am highly interested in the nuances that involve life at the biochemical level; I search out patterns and recursive happenings that are a part of life’s continuation, and embrace this ‘flow’. In teaching the sciences to Arts, media and communication students at Columbia College Chicago and then at The Illinois Institute of Art, and being both a ‘scientist’ and ‘teacher of artists,’ empowers me and focuses my work on the great possibilities of integration of the sciences, Arts, and humanity seamlessly. I am fully supportive of Arts integration in the curriculum, and especially in the science curriculum. This is what I have thankfully become.
My research has also been obviously affected by this. As a teacher, I am constantly involved in the ideas I suggest such as inclusion, awareness and integration. Every day in the classroom, I am not only a teacher; I am a researcher, looking at ideas such as these unfolding. I teach artists science; they are always privy to my thinking, and I to theirs, as we work together in creative endeavors to espouse scientific concepts. It is this engagement that allows them to make the science their ‘own,’ as they utilize their tools and artistic medium of choice to ‘capture’ their scientific understandings. I am wary of analytic, empirical, prescriptive orientations in regards to curriculum that could possibly offset a Deweyan theory of inquiry in the learning community (1938). This inquiry must be allowed, and I feel must occur, in an atmosphere of inclusion, awareness and integration— concepts that I feel are appropriate and right for my students to become who they should be. Again, working with the major premise of Dewey, that “education… is a process of living and not a preparation for future living” (1897, p. 77). And as a process of living, using Aristotle’s ideas, without educating the hearts, it is not education. For myself, and the students I have the opportunity to come into contact with, this is our ‘proper place,’ our ‘open space,’ hopefully void of some of the issues of control as suggested by Woodson (1933), and more inclusive of those ideas of Eisner (1982) and Greene (1988). This is our only time for learning how to ‘overcome suffering’ as Helen Keller suggested, and become involved in the journey of our lives as we become ourselves.
To answer this question based on my own experience and perspective from both classroom teaching and life experience, and being a parent who raised two beautiful children, I must simply state that I am truly not sure of one exact answer. What I can state though is that it is most definitely a time for a paradigm shift. As Dr. Stefanos Gialamas believes, education must now be holistic, meaningful, and harmonius. “Education must move forward with a teaching and learning approach that makes the students’ experiences meaningful” (27). Perhaps as one looks at this paradigm shift Gialamas is espousing, one such as myself, trained in the sciences, should not forget the words of Thomas Kuhn that changes, paradigm shifts, truly “emerge only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation” (Kuhn, 1962, p. 64).
With this in mind, I concede that I know not one Truth, but many truths, in my view on the educational dance that is the hallmark in this 21st Century. It is better for me to not speculate that there is but one means to derive to a secure end for the 21st Century student. It is better to instead continue to ponder, to discuss, to be open to diverse ideas as the shift in the educational paradigm occurs. What can I humbly offer to these ponderings? Perhaps but my ideas, my ideas that reminisce of Dr. Cherif’s (1996) arguments, that humanity is not something we are born with. It is something we learn throughout our life span. In other words, people are not born humans; they learn to be human and to live as human beings. With that, it is time to support our 21st Century student, by supporting their humanity first as Merton suggests (1946). But how do we do this? Perhaps be fostering my tenets of inclusiveness, awareness, and integration in All of life. What is clear however is that Aristotle, Dewey, and Gialamas were noting a common need in education— a need for freshness in the teaching and learning dynamic. These times, these particular times in our history, call for a fresh breeze to awaken the ‘sleeping giant,’ so that the Global Society we continually discuss and conceptualize will be one worthy of living in. …..
[Acknowledgments: I would like to acknowledge all those who were kind enough to read this paper, and share with me their valuable and priceless feedback. These insights helped to make this paper stronger and more useful for the leaders in education. Among the many however, I would specifically like to thank the contributions of Dr. Abour Cherif, Master Greg Washington, Dr. Peggy Pelonis, and my children, Roxanne and Maxwell. Your significant feedback made a real difference in the outcome of this paper.
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- Morfosis Educational Philosophy for the 21st Century Student
- Leadership in Academic Institutions; Preparing Students Holistically for Life: Matters of the Heart and Mind