Thursday, March 19, 2009

Poverty, Education, Eco-Justice and More

The Winter 09 issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy focuses on The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty: Rethinking Poverty and Education. Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the Grameen Bank, has written the prologue.
Poverty is not created by poor people; rather, it is created by institutions and policies that we have built up. In order to tackle poverty, we have to go back to the drawing board, and redesign our concepts, our policies, our institutions. My experience has taught me that poor people are as hard working, as talented as any other human beings. They are not lazy or unskilled or inefficient, as people tend to think. They just never get the opportunity to tap their own potential. An effective poverty reduction program is one that allows the poor person to unleash his or her potential. Microcredit is one way of doing that.
So is education. Yunus speaks about our acceptance of the idea that some people will always be poor. He argues:
What we want and how we get it depends on our mindsets. It is extremely difficult to change mindsets once they are formed. We create a world in accordance with our frame of mind. We need to invent ways to change our perspective continually and reconfigure our mindset quickly as new knowledge emerges. We can reconfigure our world if we can reconfigure our way of thinking. This is where education, one that encourages us to challenge conventional wisdom, can try to play a significant role. I believe even the biggest problem can be cracked by a small, well-designed intervention. That is where our creativity comes in.
Creativity does not only help us to invent solutions or well-designed interventions. The most important part of creativity is the important part it plays in our ability to imagine a different world--to imagine, to hope, and to believe that another way of being with people and with the world can exist. (This is why fostering imagination and creativity--via the arts, especially--is so important...rather than only encouraging and rewarding rigid adherence to existing routines and structures.)

Other interesting stuff:

In "Poverty and Class: Discussing the Undiscussible," John Korsmos encourages dialogue and listening to understand the experience of struggling community members. He asks: "What would happen if we knew each other?"

C.A. Bowers talks about "Rethinking Social Justice Issues Within an Eco-Justice Conceptual and Moral Framework," commenting on unspoken cultural commons that need to be addressed within curricula:
The starting point in a commons-oriented curriculum is to have students conduct a survey of their local cultural commons, as well as the aspects of the larger cultural commons that they have a right (in spite of past exclusions) to participate in. The survey should involve learning who the elders and mentors are, who the keepers of the community memory are, what forms of cultural commons activities exist—such as playing chess, painting, writing poetry, musical performances, gardening, working with wood and metal, volunteerism, and political action groups. In a word, the survey should cover the activities and relationships within the community that are less reliant upon a money economy—and that lead to the development of skills and interests that contribute to a less damaging ecological footprint.
And much more..

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