Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Other

My preinterns - third year students majoring in Business Education - are split up into three different Education Professional Studies (EPS) sections. EPS courses at this level have students from all different secondary subject areas. One of the activities is to have each subject area describe and justify its place in the high school curriculum. Besides Business Education there are majors in music, health, physical education, science, language arts, mathematics and social studies.

In one of the sections the business ed students were asked, after they had described and discussed the wide array of courses and content in business education, what they were able to do for The Other. That may have not been the exact question - it may have been stated "But why are you ignoring The Other?"

I wasn't there so I don't know how the question was answered. But I find it interesting that questions like this come from the 'traditional,' 'esteemed' subject area.

This is what Wikipedia says about The Other:

"The Other in the Social Sciences

As such, a person's definition of the 'Other' is part of what defines or even constitutes the self (see self (psychology), self (philosophy), and self-concept) and other phenomena and cultural units. Lacan also presented the complexity involved in coming to sentience in his description of the Mirror stage.

Lawrence Cahoone (1996) explains it thus:

"What appear to be cultural units—human beings, words, meanings, ideas, philosophical systems, social organizations—are maintained in their apparent unity only through an active process of exclusion, opposition, and hierarchization. Other phenomena or units must be represented as foreign or 'other' through representing a hierarchical dualism in which the unit is 'privileged' or favored, and the other is devalued in some way."

It has been used in social science to understand the processes by which societies and groups exclude 'Others' who they want to subordinate or who do not fit into their society. For example, Edward Said's book Orientalism demonstrates how this was done by western societies—particularly England and France—to 'other' those people in the 'Orient' who they wanted to control."

So this is how I interpret this. There is a class of people who are privileged. They are give the opportunity to be well educated. They are treated with respect and deference. They hold the power.

Then there is The Other - systematically oppressed by the dominant group, devalued by definition of their otherness, restricted in their opportunities.

How then do subject areas and or society deal with The Other in schools. In Saskacthewan 30% or so of students drop out before graduating high school. In Saskatchewan less than 30% or so of high school graduates go on to some kind of post-secondary education.

The high school curriculum in Saskatchewan is made up of the Core Curriculum. This is what the official website says:

"The seven Required Areas of Study within the Core Curriculum are: Each required area has unique knowledge, skills and values that are essential for all students at the Elementary, Middle and Secondary Levels. Therefore, the Required Areas of Study are included throughout the school program from the Elementary to Secondary Levels."

If you look at this carefully you won't find business education, home economics (family and consumer studies as they call it in the States), Industrial Arts, etc. In Saskatchewan these are lumped together and called Practical and Applied Arts.

If you investigate the curricula in the 7 Required Area of Study you will find a textbook case of University driven high school curriculum. It is amazing to read the subtext. Everyone must have science - to prepare them for university - yet even of those that graduate (remember 30% don't graduate and only 30% of graduates go on to post-secondary) - onoy a tiny percentage take anything more than one science course.

Everyone must have......... fill in the blank - but it has to come from the list above.

What about The Other? It is clear that this curriculum, these subject areas are for the privileged, for those who will be given the opportunity to experience high education.

And The Other? Those who won't go to University? Those who want to work? Those who want to learn a trade? Those who will drop out?

Nothing much from the 7 Required Areas of Study.

If you think of The Other in terms of subject areas then Business Education fits the bill.

Partially because we have concern for The Other - the student that wants to learn employment skills, practical skills, daily living skills - the student that wants to be immersed in business rather than academia.

It is ironic then that a 'mainstream' subject area would worry about how The Other subject area seems to be ignoring The Other.

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Blogger Kristy said...

This is interesting, becuase I saw the link to your blog in the email you sent me and because I was in the class, and asked the question. I do believe what I asked was :"So What's missing?" I honestly struggled with this question all last semester in ESST 300. I still don't understand it and am just as confused as everyone else on the topic. I truely did not mean to upset anyone, etc. I really enjoyed the presentation and found it extremely informative. I'm really interested in this feedback and I think it is good. It also seems that perhaps my group appeared to be "snarky" and I think that maybe apologies need to be in order. I have really enjoyed these presentations and taking in different teaching areas and their pedagogies.

- Kristy Wempe

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Brenda said...

Let me begin by saying that I understand that Business Education has not received the attention or respect that it deserves. Business is something that impacts our lives each and everyday (like it or not) and it is necessary for our students to have an understanding of business if they are to become productive members of society and critical consumers in control of the choices presented to them. It has the power to teach many skills and abilities that would benefit most anyone but does not receive the same attention as the “core” areas you listed. In this way, I agree that it could be considered one of the “Other” subject areas.

However, that does not preclude this subject from taking the time to consider how it contributes to or combats Othering in its classrooms. It is a worthwhile question that every educator should ask, regardless of his or her field of focus.

I happen to disagree that the “core subject” areas in Saskatchewan are a “textbook case of University driven high school curriculum.” This, I feel is a harmful generalization that distracts from the actual discussion. Work has been and continues to be done in each of those areas to ensure that they are skills based rather than content driven. And I have a hard time with Physical Education and Health Education being classified as “academia” but Business Education, including Accounting, Info Pro, and Entrepreneurship not (Please note this is not to say that they are not, but rather no more or less so than the others listed). Regardless of all this, a solid base of knowledge in each “core” subject area is necessary, yes to attend university, but also to be successful in business education. To suggest that Math, ELA, Social Science, Science, and the Arts (read: numeracy, logic, literacy, inquiry, problem solving and creativity) are somehow mutually exclusive of business is silly. And we all know that without our physical health we have nothing. No one subject can stand alone and we must work together rather than against each other to accomplish our educational goals.

The idea that the Other is either uninterested in or unable to attend university is a dangerous generalization. It can Other these students further by lowering academic expectations for those already marginalized or subconsciously cause us to “counsel” students in directions predetermined by racial, gender or socioeconomic stereotypes. And to imply by omission that privileged or university bound/academic students would not also benefit from “employment skills, practical skills, [or] daily living skills” further propagates the privileging and elitism of “core” subjects and the degradation of your own subject area.

I believe the key to freedom is choice. Students should have doors of opportunity opened to them, and be encouraged to explore a breadth of subjects in high school so that they may travel wherever their adult interests (or needs) take them. To what level each of the “required” subject areas should be required and what subjects should be “required” is certainly a debate to be had (our Evergreen curriculum is far from perfect) but it should not be a matter of pitting one subject against another, rather a collaborative discussion of how to accomplish what is best for all students.

I appreciate that this blog creates a forum for these types of discussions and have enjoyed reading it since I happened upon it a few weeks ago.

-Brenda Baisley (U of R Ed. Alum.)

8:42 AM  
Blogger He Said... She Said said...

Regarding brenda's comment:

"However, that does not preclude this subject from taking the time to consider how it contributes to or combats Othering in its classrooms. It is a worthwhile question that every educator should ask, regardless of his or her field of focus."

I agree 100% with this, but wanted to point out the the context the original comments were made in. The point of the exercise was to educate our fellow students in EPS on "What Business Education is" over a 15 minute presentation. Not to get picked apart by our fellow classmates and dragged over the coals. At this juncture in our education we chould be supportive of each other and not try and (intentionally or not) embarass each other or put unnecessary stress on one another.

"The idea that the Other is either uninterested in or unable to attend university is a dangerous generalization." - Of course it is a generalization as there are many instances of people succeding where they might have been expected to fail because they are The Other. But there is no denying that the underprivileged (the Other) have a harder time getting into University because of race, social class or economic factors.

When I look around my business education class and then around my larger classes I see very few people that would be categorized as "Other."

6:09 PM  
Blogger Lace said...

Ah, a little fuel...
This is an interesting thread. My question: who benefits from the concepts of "freedom" and "choice" -- and how do the two concepts operate together?
Thanks, Cyril, for naming some of these tensions in teacher education.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Brenda said...

I just wanted to clarify that my response was regarding the post rather than the situation it emanated from as I had no idea of the original context. And I agree that in the context described it was not the appropriate forum or approach for this topic. Hostility does little to help when looking at such issues.

I am intrigued by this:
"My question: who benefits from the concepts of "freedom" and "choice" -- and how do the two concepts operate together?"
But obviously it will take some pondering. Want to offer any more direction?

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am doing a feature on education reform and would love to speak with you about your ideas.

Tom McMillan

Regina Leader-Post
W: (306) 781-5326
C: (306) 501-8935

11:59 AM  

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