People keep telling us what is wrong with society, but no one seems to have any answers. This was a challenge posed to me when a good intellectual friend read my most recent blog. My last blog explored the history of categories and classification and sketched out how where and why someone or something is situated in a classification is far from objective. I argued that the categories, classifications and taxonomies that make up modern schooling are grounded in the world view of an idealised and rational white man.
So what’s the solution? It’s fun to deconstruct how our society works, make a case for where it went wrong, but what do we do with that once we know?
Many would argue that awareness is what will make a difference. Once we know that certain constructed and flawed points of view are the basis for our society, it’s hard to unknow them. Right? I wish I believed this. I certainly feels right to me, but anyone who has ever been to a motivational conference knows that the shine and enthusiasm lasts not much longer than the time it takes to stash a conference bag under our desks and open up our email.
Even the activism that is often sparked by awareness usually becomes impotent. This always frustrates me. Latour suggests that this is not the fault of the activists, but the idea that capitalism (or neoliberalism if you are in to that sort of discourse) thrives on competition. If we resist it, capitalism moves the bar and works out a way to market that resistance. Activism is market research for the capitalist machine.
The pragmatic reality is that awareness of a broken world does not stop us having to negotiate and make decisions within that flawed framework.
So what are some ways we can function within this reality and work towards a more socially just society? I’m tired of being ground to a halt by the insurmountability of the brokenness.
I’m not saying the following is the solution, but I really do believe it is a way forward.
Look for our differences rather than our similarities.
One of the methodological procedures which has places our society into categories is looking for what is the same about people, places, things and ideas. The trouble with this, is that by constantly looking for a way to belong, we stop looking for a way to really change the picture. We might change ourselves to fit into a category and find a sense of comfort, but through this procedure we are not changing the society that suggests we need to fit a mould. When we talk to each other (and talking/communicating is important here) we become comfortable when we find out people still like and respect us despite our differences. By concentrating on the differences there are a few things which are likely to happen: something will resonate, something will challenge or worry, and/or something will need to be challenged. By talking through these differences we begin to tangle our categories back together.
In education, this might mean the sciences looking at how the social sciences and humanities inspire, challenge and can be challenged. And visa versa. It’s setting up those conversations to be had and continually revisited in practice. My hope is that a groundswell of education entanglements might eventually overturn the reductionist, marketable, low hanging fruit policies of the current education agenda.
Make decisions ethically
One of the arms of philosophy which seems to fly under the radar when categorising the world is ethics. By splitting us apart from each other and our world it is easier to make decisions which affect our others. Often these decisions are manifested in our society as seeing the making of money through fossil fuels as more important than the food bowl, or the food bowl as more important than the forests. In education it might manifest as pedagogy being more important than curriculum or visa versa.
When we are entangled, the decisions we make need to take into account how our actions affect those people, places, things and ideas which are connected to us. Even when we cut ourselves apart from the entanglement in order to make a case study of what is going on, those outside still echo through because the case is connected to the bigger picture.
So these are my ideas that I have developed through a lot of reading and looking for a pragmatic ways forward from my frozen road block.
Can you add anything? What resonated? What challenged you? What would you like to challenge me on? Lets begin a conversation.