What is the purpose of higher education?
MAYNOOTH UNIVERSITY | 24 March 2020
ON THE EDGE OF REASON
As a life scientist I have been trained to think logically based on proven fact. Imagine finding yourself in a room full of social scientists and educators discussing social justice ideology!
As a life scientist and science educator finding myself immersed in the world of social justice, I am out of my comfort zone. Although I was aware of social inequalities within the discipline of Biology, joining the DISCs project has highlighted that I have a lot to learn in the context of teaching about and for social justice.
STEPPING AWAY FROM REASON AND INTO SOCIAL JUSTICE! SO WHY DID I DO IT?
It is my firm belief that if we can arm our students with an awareness of the social inequalities in Biology/Life Science in addition to a strong Biology curriculum they will certainly bring an important balanced and critical viewpoint to the workplace. The DISCs project provided an opportunity to grow, to learn about the world of social justice and how to enhance students awareness of the many social inequalities in the field of Biology.
BRINGING ORDER TO SOCIAL JUSTICE
As I stand at the edge of this (social justice) cliff looking at the vast oceans of resources on social justice (Books, readings, articles, blogs, videos etc) I feel out of my depth. I am amazed that there are so many social justice words and terminology that are new to me. I wonder how undergraduate students taking social justice modules cope with having to look up so many words. But, then I think of my own students in the discipline of Biology/Science who also encounter new terminology on a daily basis. For me this is an important reminder of inclusion in the classroom.
I admit to being a bit of a control freak! So, in order to feel like I am actually in control, I have taken a two pronged approach to this new learning experience. 1. I am reading a little of the social justice literature while 2. Throwing myself into researching the social injustices of the content that I am currently teaching.
LEARNING HOW TO CREATE PANORAMIC VIEWPOINTS AT THE CLIFF EDGE
Although I was aware of the social inequities, my research through a social justice lens has revealed that these are much greater than I had previously appreciated. Moreover, I had not fully grasped the impact that personal experiences/opinions have on the limited viewpoint in which inequalities in Biology can be conveyed. Wherever possible, I try to find alternative viewpoints, and encourage the students to think about and discuss these.
As educators of Biology (and Science) we need to be communicating the social inequalities in our field right across the discipline. We have a multicultural student population and need to be mindful of how we communicate social inequlaities. Thus, it is important that we fully appreciate the complexities of these social inequalities and present this information in an unbiased way. I encourage you to think about how your experiences shape your take on social inequalities.