Dare American Higher Education Build a New Social Order? In the Service of Whom and the Promotion of What in the Education

 

Dare American Higher Education Build a New Social Order? In the Service of Whom and the Promotion of What in the Education

Theme: Global Citizenship

Author:
Name:
Mark Falbo
Title:
Director for Community Service
Institution:
John Carroll University, OH
Constituent Group:
CSDs / SLDs

Introduction

Anniversaries are special events. They are foremost opportunities to celebrate our collective achievements. They are opportunities to reflect critically on who, what, and how we arrived at this point. Anniversaries are also opportunities to scan the signs of the times, the horizon before us, in an effort to discern what lies ahead. My task as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of Campus Compact is to write a “provocative” essay on the pedagogy of engagement and global citizenship to “stimulate a visionary discussion.” It is particularly difficult to summarize the collective struggle (lucha) to transform what and how our students learn; changes within higher education institutions promoting pedagogies of engagement for global citizenship; and growing involvement in the local and global communities in which our students and institutions are embedded. At the risk of being misunderstood because I will be painting this visionary picture in broad and bold strokes I would like to begin by returning to another critical moment in American educational history.

Nearly 75 years ago another educator-provocateur, George S. Counts, had a similar assignment. His speech entitled “Dare Progressive Education Be Progressive?” was so powerful that they suspended the rest to the 1932 convention of the Progressive Education Association of the convention so the delegates could reflect on his presentation (Counts 1932). This speech, along with two others, was published as “Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order” (Counts 1978). I have adapted my title from this earlier and more renowned educator. Counts’ insight into the strengths and limits of Progressive Education has much to offer us as we reflect on the future of the engagement movement in American higher education and the promotion of global citizenship. In his talk Counts affirmed progressive education’s impulse as being “the most promising movement above the educational horizon” (Counts 1932:257). I am interested most in Counts’ challenge to the movement because they provide fruitful insights into the current context of pedagogies of engagement during a time of increased economic, technological, cultural and political globalization.

Counts’ offers a broad critique of some of the most cherished assumptions of Progressive Educators including: (1) that Progressive Education is too naïvely optimistic, (2) too narrowly understands education, (3) emphasizes the individual too much over the social context, (4) lacks an articulated social theory, (5) reflects the “romantic sentimentalist” class bias of the growing economic elite (Counts 1932:257-8). In short he writes:

If Progressive Education is to be genuinely progressive, it must emancipate itself from the influence of this class, face squarely and courageously every social issue, come to grips with life in all of its stark reality, establish an organic relation with the community, develop a realistic and comprehensive theory of welfare, fashion a compelling vision of human destiny, and become somewhat less frightened than it is today at the bogeys of imposition and indoctrination.
Counts 1932:259

In the current context I would adapt Counts’ challenges to include: (1) whether the engagement movement too narrowly focuses on education as what happens in the classroom, (2) emphasizes student activity over the context within which that activity is embedded, (3) is too discipline based, (4) lacks a compelling vision of human destiny, and (4) is too frightened at the issues of imposition and indoctrination. I will examine these challenges from the perspective of my educational praxis using and developing community-based learning pedagogies in both domestic and international contexts.

In the Service of Whom?

Pedagogies of engagement cover a wide range of experiential instructional strategies from service- or community-based learning, problem-based learning, and collaborative learning (Colby 2003):134-36). All of these instructional strategies use the world outside of the classroom both as content and as process. Instructional strategies which incorporate applied research and learning focused on the most significant social issues is one of the most important ways American higher education can contribute to our local and global communities. But is this conventional description of the role of the university in society sufficient?

Ignacio Ellacuría, the murdered Rector of the Universidad Centroamerica José Simeon Cañas (UCA) in El Salvador, articulated a vision of the engaged university based on the traditional dual roles. The university, he wrote, “deals with culture, with knowledge, and the use of the intellect,” and the transformation of the social reality within which it exists (Ellacuría 1982:2). As a leading educator, both as the leader of the education community of the UCA and a leading educational voice in El Salvador, Ellacuría argued that the pressing reality (realidad) of a social context which is “characterized more by oppression than by liberty, more by a terrible grinding poverty than by abundance” shapes the university’s social obligations and therefore its manner of engagement. By this he does not mean that the university is to become a political party or a labor union (Ellacuría 1982:2), but that the university cannot be disengaged or neutral in the midst of a social and cultural reality marked by injustice and violence. In fact, the way universities fulfill this social obligation, Ellacuría argues, is precisely by appreciating the scope of its social competency:

we as an intellectual community must analyze causes; use imagination and creativity together to discover the remedies to our problems; communicate to our constituencies a consciousness that inspires freedom of self-determination; educate professionals with a conscience, who will be immediate instruments of such a transformation; and constantly hone an educational institution that is both academically excellent and ethically oriented.
Ellacuría 1982:2

Thus, Ellacuría’s vision of an engaged university challenges the engagement movement in the United States. The question “are American higher education institutions engaged in their local, national, and global communities” is not sufficient. Clearly American higher education institutions are engaged as contributors to the regional economic base, economic incubators, and providing research and development services to private corporations and to a variety of government sponsored projects let alone to the types of engagement activities resulting in transforming neighborhoods. Some of the ways higher education is engaged occasionally impacts student learning and it certainly shapes the way our students come to understand and actualize a notion of global citizenship through the lifestyle they choose to live, their consumer choices as well as political preferences.

What does engagement for global citizenship look like in the context of educational institutions who serve the world’s privileged, a people whose economic and social lives reflect the experience of a small minority of the world’s population? That American higher education is engaged in the world is a fact. The challenge is to reflect as a guild of scholars or as industry (you pick your preferred metaphor) on how are we engaged in the world and on whose behalf. To fulfill its promise, to turn a phrase from Counts, the engagement movement in the United States must answer these questions more forthrightly than it has done up to the present time.
In the Promotion of What?

As national and professional accrediting bodies incorporate standards of engagement in their assessment processes, what kind of learning is promoted out of the engagement strategies we employ? Returning to the design of our instructional strategies of engagement if the content and process remains classroom focused, that is the location where “learning” takes place, and the “world” becomes merely the backdrop to put the learning in perspective, then what and who have we engaged? In this instance engaging the community or “the other” is notional at best; and, it does little to close the gap between the object(s) of study and the subjective experience of the learner. The community in this case provides the data for more abstract analysis, which constitutes the real learning. Is it possible that in the well-intended effort to incorporate pedagogies of engagement as an element promoting a sense of global citizenship that one of the results is the creation of a checklist of engagement activities without pedagogical purpose?

There are many motivations for using pedagogies of engagement to promote global citizenship. The choice of which motivating factors influences one’s adoption of an engagement perspective may depend upon the role one plays in the university. For some the language of engagement and citizenship may be embedded in the university’s mission or the tradition that animated the institution. For others more practical or instrumental reasons may motivate such as public or private funding sources, external promotion or rewards structures. The data on learning outcomes and the use of engagement strategies to promote global citizenship is promising, but not conclusive (Galston 2001: 217-34). Regardless of the factors motivating one of the difficulties may result from the fragmentation within the university curricula and operations. The engagement movement began primarily by changing the way we teach and presumably the way students learn. The movement’s earliest adopters were innovative faculty who incorporated excursions into the reality of local neighborhoods into the classroom. Often the responsibilities to execute engagement pedagogies fell to colleagues staffing volunteer centers or campus chaplaincy offices in student affairs divisions. These discrete efforts sometimes supported the continuing compartmentalization or ghettoizing engagement efforts. Sometimes this fragmentation was based on differing educational ideologies informing the pedagogical practice (Robinson 2000:142). The transitional issues with particular institutions perhaps reflect more developments resulting from the initial conditions. The next phase is the recognition that this is more than an instructional innovation. Once engagement pedagogies begin to show signs of achievement and success the next phases involve incorporating this vision into the university’s curricula and strategic vision. Ultimately, the challenge is to change the institutional conditions for learning. This is accomplished by redefining the university’s engagement in the local and global community by creating integrated systems of engagement in the academic, student life, and to create ways of including the various religious chaplaincies.

What we promote through engagement is also a question for the community as well. This is an incredible resource and neglected dimension in research. How do we incorporate the issues and needs of our communities and which issues and needs do we give preference? In a society that likes to characterize itself as “egalitarian” the notion of preference is a difficult concept. How can all people be equal while at the same time some are given some kind of preference? This issue becomes more complex when taken in a global perspective. Are there limits to our engagement and who we consider global citizens? I do not have an answer to these questions, though I will admit to a preferential bias in favor of those who are voiceless or marginalized in the dominant cultural and economic system, the poor and vulnerable. This bias certainly has its roots in a faith tradition which animates my values, but it can also be found, in a more public tradition which animates the Republic we call the United States. Regardless of the private or public context of the university, advocates for engagement pedagogies and global citizenship should be key players in the university’s discourse about its mission and identity.

The Educational Pilgrimage to Global Citizenship

If the engagement movement is to contribute to the promotion of global citizenship among the well-schooled youth of the United States then perhaps we need to broaden our understanding of education and find more inclusive metaphors. To push matters more perhaps it is time to open a more constructive dialogue with colleagues who study human religious experience. Because of the current political and cultural environment the latter suggestion may be the most difficult. Religion is vulnerable on two counts; the first being too closely aligned with privileged claims available only to private individuals or members of a private association. The second problem is the tendency in some religious movements towards the sectarian at best and intolerant at worst. On the other hand, religious experience is pervasive and enduring. Regardless of one’s assessment of its truth claims religious experience lived either individually or collectively also has the tendency to inspire, motivate, organize and sustain public communities with countervailing visions promoting justice. There may be helpful root metaphors which come out of human religious experience and tradition that are useful to the engagement movement at this point in time. The least we can do is talk and learn from each other. I will offer two brief, but fruitful illustrations.

Learning as Pilgrimage. Educators are fond of the metaphor of journey. It is popular in lifespan literature as well. Daloz, Keen, Keen, and Parks make a powerful and limited case for the notion of journey to describe personal changes and transformation over time (Daloz, et. al. 1996:31). They offer another root metaphor which might be more descriptive of the process of change intended by engagement pedagogies:

In contrast to a journey, which could be unending, a pilgrimage requires both venturing and returning. A good pilgrimage leads to discovery and transformation, but it isn’t complete until you have returned home and told your story. “Home” is where someone hears and cares about that story, helps you sort out what you have seen, heard, and done?whether it be a triumph, a defeat, a high adventure, or a wash.
Daloz, et. al. 1996:38

Perhaps the phrase “engagement” pedagogy only “brings into the picture but one half of the landscape” (Counts 1932:257). Engaging out in the world is only one part or phase of the movement. We often speak of the second phase as reflection, but the other phase of this learning process might best be described as accompaniment. Just as how we engage is a critical factor promoting any sense of citizenship, including global, how we accompany students upon their return from being involved in the world is just as critical a factor (Santilli & Falbo 2000). What the pilgrim brings with her or him on their journey is often as important as what they encounter along the way and what they do upon their return (Pace 1989:242-3).

Learning as Gift and Solidarity. Every form of engagement in the world, albeit commercial, friendship, or familial involves an exchange (Komter 2005:34-55). This is certainly true in engagement pedagogies. The encounter between learner, instructor and community member involves the exchange in a form of service to each other. In a volunteer context a student fulfills a task needed by the school, organization, agency or community member. Philanthropy involves the exchange of capital or goods. In service learning the exchange involves embodied knowledge resulting from the experience of encounter. The exchange resulingt from service is the educational pretext for encountering others whose life circumstances may be radically difference than one’s own. For the most part faculty members see their students as the gift offered to the community who consumes it with gratitude. But this pattern of gift giving is risky. “Gifts,” Komter observes, “can sere as instruments of power, status, and honor and be used to fortify one’s own position” (Komter 2005:193) The gifts we offer to the community through our expertise, deep social networks, or our students can be patronizing or emphasize the university elite’s noblesse oblige (Gerics 1981:261-61).

Educating for global citizenships involves knowledge, skills, and values. It also involves a pedagogical process that promotes solidarity. The work of Komter and Sabbagh (2003) provides an excellent summary and update on the notion of solidarity. In the future Sabbagh’s sttributes of solidarity offer a more promising line for research on the impacts of engagement pedagogies especially relating to global citizenship. Briefly, do engagement pedagogies change the students perceptions of the person(s) served as playing a certain social role or do they begin to see them as persons? How does engagement as encountering real people and situations reduce the psychological distance between themselves and those they are serving? Are engagement pedagogies that directly incorporate the affective climate of the student-community member relationship increase the student’s sense of positive emotional relations? Finally, as a result of engagement pedagogy employed result in further exchange of resources such as further advocacy, philanthropic efforts, etc.

The engagement movement has much to offer educating for global citizenship and the timing could not be more critical (Galston 2001, and Lee 2006). Most young adults we serve when put in the context of their global cohort are privileged. The challenge for the next anniversary celebration of Campus Compact is how will we use our privilege? During this difficult time for the peoples of this world, many American students enjoy the privilege of international travel. Whether they travel to Mexico or simply visit a neighborhood of immigrants in any urban city we meet people whose lives and cultures are different from our own. How will we proceed to educate the world’s elite to live lives of meaning and commitment? One step is by creating universities where the brokenness of the world is honored as a rightful topic of study and place for learning. More importantly, that the way we engage and encounter others, especially the poor and vulnerable in our country and around the world, is also honored as a rightful place of learning, discovery and solidarity.

Literature Cited

Colby, A., Ehrlish, T., Beaumont, E. & Stephens, J. 2003. Educating Citizens: Preparing America’s Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civic Responsibility. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Counts, G.S. 1978. Dare the School Build a New Social Order? Carbondale, IL: S. Illinois Univ. Press

_____. 1932. Dare progressive education be progressive? Progressive Education 9:257-263

Daloz, L., Keen, C. Keen, J., Parks, S. 1996. Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World. Boston: Beacon Press

Ellacuría, I. 1982. Commencement address to Santa Clara University. 1-4

Galston, W. A. 2001. Political knowledge, political engagement, and civic education, Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 4:217-34.

Gerics, J. From orthodoxy to orthopraxis: Community service as noblesse oblige and as solidarity with the poor. Religious Education 86:250-64

Komter. A.E. 2005. Social Solidarity and the Gift. Cambridge, Eng: Cambridge Univ. Press

Lee, J. J. 2006. Global citizenship: Extending students’ knowledge and action to the global context, Journal of College and Character 7:1-5

Pace, E. 1989. Pilgrimage as spiritual journey: an analysis of pilgrimage using the theory of V. Turner and the resource mobilization approach 32:229-244.

Robinson, T. 2000. Dare the school build a new social order? Michigan Journal of Service Learning 7:147-57

Sabbagh, C. 2003. The dimension of social solidarity in distributive justice. Social Science Information 42:255-276

Santilli, N.R. & Falbo, M.C. 2000. Impact of volunteering and community service on facilitating tudents’ civic engagement. In J.A. McLellan (Chair), Community Service and Citizenship in Youth. Symposium conducted at the Biannual Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Chicago, IL

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