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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