Arguing for Integrated /Interdisciplinary Pedagogy
The following essay, expresses the pedagogical world view of educator, Semaj Brown:
Social Justice Eats the Entire Pi (π):
Arguing for Integrated /Interdisciplinary Pedagogy
Amphibians understand social justice principles. Their understanding is exhibited by restraint. Consider this Native American wisdom: A frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives.
In addition, the frog will not pour toxic waste into the pond. The frog will not manufacture addictive sugar drinks, aggressively advertise them as alternatives to water, feed those drinks to guppies, and then watch their guppy babies swell into preventable diseases. A frog will not deny the scourge of climate change as it is being cooked alive by carbon dioxide emissions. That frog will not attend university, study glacial water science, and never once examine the impact of polar thaw on the disenfranchised Inuit people. But then, what does a frog know? Perhaps the frog knows not to make indiscriminate distinctions between science and art, and perhaps it knows not to create constructs of academic hierarchy that result in the truncated pedagogy of competition and disconnection, rather than cooperation and interconnection. To date, it is still a matter of debate exactly what frogs know, but all agree: a frog knows not to drink up the pond in which it lives.
The Earth as community is a dynamic organism, a free, living thing. Her constituents, elements, and social groupings suspend like an evolving cell in a naturally occurring universe. Earth’s spontaneity evokes scholarship. It is a mystery to be investigated by science, explored and expanded by art. The science to which I refer is not hard or soft, nor is it natural or social, but science without the peril of partition. The segmenting off of physical science, life science, justice science, and the arts or art science engenders schisms that foster a calcified conceptualization of natural phenomena.
Fragmented theories and non-reflective policies give rise to the decline of diverse populations. Hence, the extinct Titicaca water frog, the shattered communities of urban blight, and the anonymity of rural deprivation. Tentacles of discontinuity are systemic, extending from university, to legislature, to corporate structures, to the justice system, and on. Social science provides the moral compass, the critical balance to technological and scientific advances. Separating social science, and by extension social justice, from the so-called natural sciences of chemistry, earth science, astronomy, life science, and physics, promotes innovation without concern for consequence. Even the arena of business would be enhanced by the inclusion of the sciences and arts. Such an amalgam would foster a panoramic corporate consciousness that is sustainable and profitable, without the stain of exploitation.
To be human is to be of nature — a point of view which is not reflected in the classification model of our current educational systems. I assert the study of social justice is a natural science, and should not be relegated to confines of social science. Likewise, so-called natural sciences are indeed social. After all, humans are as naturally occurring as a frog, or any ionized atom studied in chemistry. This is undeniable.
The human body is a magnum conductor of electricity, and humans are as naturally occurring as a molecule of H2O. We mortals, like the Earth’s surface, are comprised of 75% water, and are thus walking, talking rivers. Humans even organize themselves into super “charged” clusters called families. Similarly, electromagnetic fields gather “socially,” directly impacting our natural existence.
Moreover, social justice is as rigorous and complex a discipline as quantifiable physics. In fact, we are the definition of physics: the study of matter moving through space across time exposed to heat and energy. This is the description of the migration of peoples across drought lands, where the matter in question is humans, and temperatures extreme.
Time, technology, and the challenges of this millennium necessitate the removal of blinders. Silo thinkers and the linear policies they breed are obsolete. It is the charge of sentient beings to usher in fusion paradigms. The call for fundamental structural changes in the current knowledge industry is paramount.
Imagine learning through the diameter of a circle of awareness where piercing across the circle, the diameter is the intersection of multiple genres, a sort of Pi = 3.14 representation of academic studies, where Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle, (the circle as selected subject matter) to its diameter (seemingly disparate genres).
Ultimately, we students of the universe vie for something beyond interconnectedness — the recognition that in every subject matter there is extant all subject matter. This is the reality — as in the quark of the macrocosm, there exists the identical quark of the microcosm. The sameness in particulate supports a fundamental paradox: homogeneity traverses the natural sphere of diversity.
In the kernel of this understanding, there is a dissolution formula, a process that unhinges the vile precepts of xenophobia, and its violent parade of isms. To grow a planet of techies surrounded by a subset-island of artsy-types, with social scientists orbiting the stratosphere, and commercialization rivaling gravitational force, is much like trying to grow a garden where the soil is to the left, the seeds are to the right, the sun in a box, water somewhere over the rainbow, only to then, collectively and inharmoniously grieve the absence of a verdant harvest.
In the innovative imagined space of Social Justice, clarification is crystalized. Apprentices of the universe understand gerrymandering of academic canons. We realize margins are but constructs, similar to other margin-making inventions — the making of race and designer poverty, the abhorrent dissection of a people to form a Tutsi, a Hutus, the invention and mass distribution of plastics, the turning of water into a commodity, a poison, a war.
If ever there is a resolution toward the whole, a coalescence of that which has been ripped apart, a reverse combustion, it will happen in the realm of social justice.
Social Justice is magnetic ground where estranged disciplines can reunify, and speak the common language of natural phenomena. As an open harbor, the gravitational need to resolve to the whole, to return to origins, and break down contrived borders is unstoppable. All stretched rubber bands eventually collapse into themselves, or they break. When art recognizes itself as science, and has conversation, miraculous things happen. When math speaks literature, transformations conspire. Walls fall when dance knows it is a moving constellation of cosmos connective tissue doing the Boogie Woogie of economic, global commerce. Art is magnifying glass, and microscope; it is biofeedback; it renders the hard data. Artists are scientific messengers — the griots, the raconteurs, the jesters, the observers of the day.
Quantum wave theory and social justice both rise in the ocean of imagination. They are a carved poetry, a centrifuge, a persistent extractor and editor of false assumptions and unsupported hypotheses. Together, they conjoin the spectrum of human potential, and rush into the fertile gulf of possibility. There is an ebb and flow between inspiration and calculation.
When social justice is art, the community learns the quantum mechanics of glass blowing destiny, transforming the dilapidated sands from urban and Appalachian decay into re-imagined vessels of measureable light. Like a tenacious muse, social justice movements instigate toward freedom, drawing a path similar to phototropic plants that follow the arc of the sun from east to west. Social justice is a global march of imagination, straight from the artist’s laboratory.
The power to re-imagine one’s condition is innate, as primal as species reproduction or the quest for liberty. Communal capacity dreams, and then paints those dreams into a new cultural formation, onto a self-determined canvas. This is masterful experimentation. The yield?
Music of homeostasis, choir of croaking frogs, and the harmony of access in healthy, sustainable societies.