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Bharath Vallabha's picture

Emergent Pedagogy Incorporating Individualism


I agree with you that one of merits of emergent education is that it "applies the values of society early in life". Instead of assuming that society needs "experts" in an individualistic way, emergent education tries to develop in the students the modes of reflection and social interaction in a classroom which mimic real life interactions much more, and so can prepare students better for after college. In fact, pressing your point, it seems to me that a real advantage of emergent education is that it avoids the feeling, common in contemporary colleges, that college experiences are not really a part of "the real world". By having the students and the teachers engage with each other in an open-ended forum, emergent education actually makes the educational context itself more like job situations or grad schools, etc.

So as I understand it, here is a response motivated by your point to my imagined student who attends classes to have financial security later on. The point of education shouldn’t be to just inculcate students to ways of life which are already prevalent in society; so it isn’t just a mechanical process of gaining some skills. Rather, in addition to learning skills and facts, education should also be a space for them to think about what kind of an adult they would like to be and what kind of a society they would like to be a part of. In this sense, education can be a space for reflection rather than just inculcation when the students can experience new paths and new ways they can live, and they can be open to and choose which paths express them. The trouble with my imagined student is that she is not really leaving any room for reflection or openness; because she is so concerned that she has to get to point B (financial security), deep reflection on her life or openness to new ways of life is not possible for her. And in this sense, she is not really challenging herself, and if an educational system doesn’t push or challenge her, to that extent the system is failing her.

As I think about this now, I very much agree with this response to the student. Thanks for the exchanges, which helped me understand it better.

One point about the above response seems to me important to emphasize. The response is in a sense deeply individualistic in that it takes the student’s own self-reflection and potentials for transformation as the main basic feature of education. But it is focused on the individual in a way which does not conflict with the deep social nature of education, for the way the individual can best be open to new paths and so think about herself from new perspectives is by engaging in open and transformative relations with others—which is what emergent education makes possible.

So even though there is a certain bad individualism in society and traditional education, it seems to me that the response to this shouldn’t be to discard individualism altogether. For the power of emergent education comes from its focus on the growth and flourishing of each individual in the class. To that extent emergent pedagogy has to be constantly open to posssible challenges and questions from each individual in the class concerning its justification.


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