- defining place -- application of "sense of place" and geographic themes
- organizational theory -- how schools build timetables to support inquiry models in education
- hisotry of particular places (as opposed to history that involves history). e.g. Barkerville
- the debate at historic sites about living history and how stories are told about places
- virtual archives and digital tools such as KMZ file/tours for accessing and interacting with history
- the notion of layered cultural landscapes (a term borrowed from anthropology)
- inclusion of arts-based inquiry in the study of history -- photography, paintings, dramatic re-enactment
- the relationship between historic sites and local First Nations
- making climate science accessible to teens
- taking political action on climate change -- student-led school strikes
- how political action can learn from social learning -- the organizational model used by climate strike organizers from schools across Vancouver
- the maker-space movement (building objects or assemblages for learning) and the sustainability tool box
- wild pedagogies -- ways of teaching that take cues from nature (biomimicry)
- use of portraiture as a research methodology
I missed class on Oct 5th in order to attend two conferences in Vancouver. While I regret missing any class, this was an important time to "fill my bucket" and connect with colleagues around issues that are important to my work. As an executive member of the BC Social Studies Teachers' Association, I also had a stake in how the conference turned out. I've included notes here to highlight the degree of interdisciplinarity that exists in the world of a secondary Social Studies teacher. Here are some of the interconnected parts that I can read from just these notes based on three workshops I attended:
First of all, I must report some shock when coming across a word I did not know in a reading by Sarewitz where he suggest that academics science has become onanistic (Sarewitz, D. 2016. Saving Science. The New Atlantis, Spring/Summer, 2016 pages 5-40). Onanistic means fruitless, self-absorbed; literally it is related to masturbation. So I'm learning that the trick to swearing, ribald humour, or other forays into matters profane in academic writing necessitates the use of polysyllabic latinates in replace of more gritty hearth-words. In this case, my assumption of Latin origins was not correct; onanistic is derived from a Biblical reference. Onan was a son of Judah, the guy who didn't want to father a child with his brother's wife so he pulled out of the arrangement, so to speak.
On to more practical concerns, I was pleased to read Holdren's arguments for the role of science in society (Holdren, J.P. 2008. Science and technology for sustainable well- being. Science 319: 424-434). His explanation of the three pillars (see graphic below) forms an excellent description of human geography (the first two) and physical geography (the last one) as they might be taught in secondary schools. This will be useful for my own research to frame the portion of my literature review that deals with the nature of Geography as a discipline. Taking a look at my copy of the article, and others, I see they are dotted with N.B. which is my cue to come back some time and consider the implications of our course readings and discussions for my own research. N.B. stands for noto beni, which is Latin for "note well." Just when you think we can dispense with Latin, it finds a way to be useful again.
This presentation engendered a wide range of responses from the audience, some of which I could gather from open questions and comments, some of which I gleaned from conversations afterwards. These responses included a basic satisfaction that a politician was paying attention to these issues, an appreciation for the experience that Mike Morris brought to the topic, and revulsion that someone in a position of power and influence only seemed to come to the realization of the serious impact of resource development after his power and influence has waned. I think I can own the latter two of those sentiments, an appreciation for his decades of ecological observation in the region, and the bitter taste one gets when a politician talks about how they tried to get an issue on the radar of government but it just wasn't on the priority list. I was also concerned that Indigenous concerns (e.g. land title, resource decisions) seemed to be in afterthought in the presentation, that reconciliation was simply about "getting along." A key point Mike made was to talk about the strained assumptions of the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC). For too long it failed to anticipate protected areas, biodiversity, riparian areas, and so on.
My reference points for industrial forestry go back to my own time working in the woods in the 1980s and 1990s. During the four-month summers between years at university, a couple of longer 8-month stints, and as a transition to teaching, I tried my hand at many forestry jobs: cone-picker, herbicide applicator, research assistant, treeplanter, compassman, surveyor, and finally as an ecosystem geographer, a fancy way of saying that I dug soil pits and classified plants. The range of resource ethics I had to choose from back then were limited, essentially variations on exploitation vs conservation. Resource management has taken many turns since then, and with the recent passage in BC to support the implementation of UNDRIP, I don't think we can go back to the old resource ethics, exploitation vs conservation. There are layers of complexity to consider now.
There were many compelling themes in this class, from "does fear drive research choices?" to "what role should stakeholders play in research design?" I was interested to learn about some of the ethical constraints that are place on research. These have strong reasons for being in place, but also serve to make certain kinds of research less desirable than others, especially for students and early-career academics who may want to get going quickly on research projects. I am intrigued that research that does not involve humans or animals does not require ethical review. Might this change in the future? Surely there are areas of research that have serious implication for humans, where the research results may shed light on a problem or perhaps expose groups of people to some form of harm, job loss, a devaluing of a culture, collapse of markets, and so on. For example, convincing research on the case for a particular geoengineering technology to be used to impact the atmosphere could lead to a dramatic shift in the agricultural potential in a specific region. The people who live there, do they have a voice in this research? Perhaps all research should undergo an initial ethical review, and the ones that meet the threshold for an assessment move into the queue for further scrutiny.
The presentations/Q&A by Dr. Sarah Gray and Dr, Zoe Meletis were excellent. Their goal, to remove fear of (and in) the ethics review process, was met. Here are the question I had after Zoe's session:
This was one of those talks where I was able to consolidate diverse past learning in a fresh context -- Dr. Scott Green's presentation synthesized a great deal of what I have come to know in recent years about the contrast between Western Science and Indigenous Ways of Knowing. In particular, his use of the term Two-Eyed Seeing was new to me, but as has happened many time this year, within weeks this concept has come up twice more in conversation with others. My overlapping roles as a teacher in the school district, a professional development coordinator interacting with many different networks, someone with a few hats to wear in the teacher training program at UNBC, and a PhD student has led to an amazing "proliferation of resemblances" this year -- everything is starting to blend together, and I am finding the ride exhilarating. One of these resemblances was the reference in Scott Green's talk to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robyn Wall Kimmerer. This book was shared with me a couple of years ago by a colleague and is now part of the readings in the course I teach for the School of Education. Kimmerer develops the idea that Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge can be woven together. She herself is an environmental biologist and member of the Potawatomi Nation, and brings both of these backgrounds into her work, thought, and storytelling. Like on of the access points to our course, she begins her book with a version of the story about the woman who fell from the sky.
A question that came to my mind during Scott Green's talk: If we accept that there are other ways to know the world that Western Science has typically dismissed, then how do we listen to these stories in Education where there is so much pressure to embrace a critical stance, indeed a stance that is suspicious of narrative and is focused on logical order?
Two of the articles from this week's readings offered up some ideas for my further consideration. Well, I suppose they all did, but one can only go down so many rabbit holes. The first was the idea that "scientific inquiry is inherently and unavoidably subject to becoming politicized in environmental controversies" (Sarewitz, D. 2004. How science makes environmental controversies worse. Environmental Science and Policy 7(5): 385-403). Sarewitz's recommendation, as I see it, is that we solve (environmental) problems politically based on whatever values are carrying the day, and let science come in on clean-up to address the problem once the political will to act (and presumably the social license to proceed) have been established. I'm not sure I agree with this as a universal principle, but it is one inspiration for our group project's proposal to build a web tool to aid in the establishment of a political will to proceed with a political decision on whether or not to use geoengineering to mitigate climate change. One of the reasons I'm not completely sold on Sarewitz's argument can be summed up in one word: Greta. Over the last year, we've seen the sensational coverage of Swedish teen Greta Thunberg and her "school strikes for climate" as she brings the same message to new audiences: "trust the science, quit talking about climate change, and do something about it." She has highlighted an important Catch 22, perhaps we could call it Sarewitz's Snare: we need to act politically on climate change, because the science tells us this is the right thing to do, but politicians (mainly in the USA) do not trust the science, or believe that scientists should be setting policy.
The second idea was about the modern trend towards relativism and partisanship in science as described by Hammersley: "there have been increasing claims, especially among qualitative researchers, that enquiry cannot but be partisan" (Hammersley, M. 2000. “Introduction.” Taking sides in social research: essays on partisanship and bias, London & New York: Routledge). I'm of the view that all research has a bias, or at least a set of assumptions that have some impact on the results. Sometime these assumptions are suspected and researchers go to some lengths to root them out and expose them in their own work, sometime these assumptions are undetected, and sometimes they are deliberate. I think about some qualitative researchers that I know, whose work in the field has provided them with so many reasons to take up advocacy that could not, in good conscience, allow their research not to have a partisan agenda. This is not the same as manipulating research to support a partisan agenda, but it does create challenging questions for these folks about the boundaries between research and advocacy. As it should! I am more comfortable with people with research in a relevant field showing up on a cause than I am leaving this to politicians alone. In m mind, this is especially true for researchers who deal with controversial environmental, cultural, and economic issues.
These ideas have some implications for my PhD research. With the addition of ideas from Oreskes and Gerwitz and Cribb (authors of other articles we read), I can see the total set of readings here informing some framing statements for my work around the limits of what can actually be said about teaching and learning, and who should be saying it. these readings also have implications for the role of narrative in educational theory and policy.
The locus on control for educational policy in BC is an ongoing debate. In most ways, this control is seated with the provincial government, but in other ways it is also owned by the teachers themselves (via the BCTF) who have rights to bargain key working ad learning conditions in their collective agreement. My research will not likely go there, but it will move about among the various attempts to teach about place, to teach about climate change, to teach about reconciliation. In these areas, a kind of partisanship in the research is a fact of life. Teachers are rarely neutral on climate change and are in fact supported by the government's curriculum (and more recently in the revised Teacher Standards -- see Standard 9) to bring a particular set of values to the table in terms of Indigenous reconciliation. We have been asked to trust the science (the plethora of research about the conditions for Indigenous people in Canada, especially children), trust the work done to inform policy (e.g. TRC Commission, UNDRIP) and jump into the work of of decolonization and reconciliation. Aside from the reality that some teachers don't accept this "science," there are legitimate concerns about how to actually go about this work.
Being An Online Record of How Things are Going in UNBC's Interdisciplinary NRES (Geography) PhD Program.
PDF version of this blog.
I started the UNBC NRES PhD Program in September 2019 with a research interest in K-12 Geography Education -- problems of practice and educator response to curriculum change.
Social Studies & Geography teacher, dead reckoning the nature & culture of learning, student of maps, Tolkien fan, dad, husband, part Sasquatch, all Canadian.
Research Directions v.1 2019.10.08
Research Directions v.2 2019.10.22
Research Directions v. 3 2019.12.13