7 Oct 2011

Talking past each other

John F Disinger was an American environmental educator, and scholar. His was often a rational and clear voice amid the competing clamour and battle as one disposition or other tried to out-shout another persuasion, particularly in the shameful (and shameless) culture wars that afflicted environmental education in the early 1990s.

He wrote this in 1983:

“… though EE is ideally interdisciplinary – an eclectic assemblage of interacting disciplines – its practitioners typically approach it as if it were multidisciplinary – an eclectic assemblage of discrete disciplines. Because EE’s practitioners typically are grounded in no more than one of the multiplicity of disciplines involved, logic leads them to approach EE through the intellectual filters of their own disciplines. Thus, practitioners in EE typically continue to talk past one another, rather than with one another”.

Quite so. This was true then, and remains the case today to too great an extent, and even the faltering advent of ESD, with its seductive appeal to an integrating holism, seems not to change matters much. Indeed, how could it without great effort, given Disinger’s diagnosis of the problem?

The lion’s lying down with the lamb may be some people’s vision of harmony, but mine is where teachers from different disciplines begin to interact with each other with student learning (rather than their own certainties) in mind.

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