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How We Teach, How We Learn and Why That Matters for Sustainability?



            During this week, articles that we read centered on the broader questions of “how we teach, how we learn and why that matters for sustainability?” The chapter written by David Orr’s entitled “The discipline of problems and the problem of disciplines” approached these questions by exploring the disconnects, obliqueness, and the inabilities of our current educational systems of knowledge acquisition that is so restrictive, specialized in context and lacks transformative learning processes in the applicability of theorized knowledge and concepts as an integrative and holistic system. Orr argued that before intellectual and specialized knowledge can be taught, there is a need to firstly provide our students with the systemic approach of studying a particular subject. He suggested that they could learn about a particular subject or natural system using the system approach by exploring the subject in its entirety in relations to other systems. Orr also argued that it is not just the perception and orientation of allowing students to engage in service-learning projects or service based on internship experience or the experiential-learning approach, but such teaching should be based on a combination of projects-oriented  learning programs and knowledge acquisition to learn the holistic parts of a particular system. For example, instead of students working on intellectual topics of interests, they could develop topics of interest based on a particular river system. Let say, one student could talk about the social mobility along a particular river system, disease categorization, another could develop a project on the chemical composition of the river water, another could discuss its biological characteristics, while another student could create a project on its landscape and yet another could study the agricultural processes along the river. Using this approach would not only detail intellectual and scientific knowledge about what has already been discussed about that particular river system, but also tells its story in its entirety bringing into the discussion issues that are usually not narrated in the conventional academic literature. However, one may argued that such learning methods proposed by Orr is already embedded within the instructional curriculum of most developing countries that are highly still depended on an agrarian economic system as well as in communities were “indigenous learning” or “environmental learning” forms part of the national instructional frameworks.  
            Romney’s article takes us through the discussion of how dialogues have become instrumental in the formation of peace-building process, conflict resolution initiatives as well as in the dissemination and acquisition of knowledge. The purpose of her paper is to “use art as a catalyst to engage the general public in the process of discussing potential challenges confronting the group or community at large” (Romney, p. 1). As much as artistic works can be considered as catalyst to enhance progressive change in which communities and its members can engage in challenging issue, we should be very cautious on how we frame the “other” that needs to be educated to the “We.” The question that needs to be asked in the article of the “West Side Story” that was planned to be staged at the Amherst Regional High School is that, who are those that were to be educated about the “others” that were been framed in the play? The exploration of this question from the perspectives of race, ethnicity and gender in sustainable development take us through the discussion of which we continue to use the story of the “others” to inform current paradigms, which in itself may reinforce sentimentality that we are trying the eliminate.

Works Cited

Orr, D. 1994. Earth in Mind. Ch. 14 The discipline of problems and the problem of disciplines.

Romney, P. The Art of Dialogue.


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