Know Your Place

I’m working on a collection of narratives written by education faculty from poor and working class backgrounds.    As I read these,  it’s impossible to miss the profound sense of place in many of the essays.

For the most part, we are not people who moved around a lot (from home to home, perhaps, but not from place to place), so in ways that may be unusual in these highly mobile times, most of us have grounded our experiences of class and education in particular geographies.

I was fascinated, then, to read of this Australian project in which literacy and architecture people in a university are working with poor and working class kids to “know their place” and to act within the spaces in which they live as they develop critical literacy skills.

As the authors of the book I’m editing and the authors of this project so vividly observe, critical pedagogies tied to  locality could be potent for poor and working class kids who may be uniquely immersed within particular social and physical spaces.

Thanks to the literacies log blog for the link to the project.

7 thoughts on “Know Your Place

  1. The Urban Scientist July 19, 2008 / 3:40 pm

    I had a prof who lived and taught in Australia for a while. He talked about this class keeping to me once..He said they called it “tall poppy syndrome” – the idea is the clip any poppies that tried to stand above the others.

    I look forward to the complete product — as a working class/poor kid who ended up in science academia, no less, I’ve often felt some class issues with some of my profs and fellow grad students. I attributed alot of it race (I’m Black and black people in the sciences are rare) and I know I still make some people unsettled with my “urban-style” to teaching, presentation, and science sharing, as well as my interests in outreach to pre-college and early college kids from urban and poor working neighborhoods.

    I’m curious how much of my story might be their story. One thing I’m curious to know — if there is a relationship class (how you grew up) and an academic’s likelihood to go into more teaching/outreach areas of academics. Most of my colleagues from poor, working class, rural areas and those who are minorities, and even female colleagues, tend to go more deeply into the service side of academics and a little less into the research. It’s not that they/we aren’t capable, it just seems to be a better fit or better opportunity for us to reach back and get students who remind us of us….

    What have you heard?

  2. janevangalen July 21, 2008 / 6:23 pm

    Hello, Urban Scientist,

    I don’t know anywhere that collects data on the class background of academics in various fields, but have you see the Working Class/Poverty Class Academics group? There’s a link up on my links page to their website. Their listserv often discusses these very issues (yet my sense is that they are mostly white experiences being discussed).

  3. stephanie jones July 22, 2008 / 6:52 pm

    Hey Jane and everyone else,

    I’ve known about this project for a short while but only recently got my hands on the edited volume “Critical Literacies in Place” by Barbara Comber (and maybe Nixon too…my memory is failing me here) about this very project. I highly recommend it.

    It’s just fabulous – just like everything else Barbara is involved with. Many months ago I applied for a grant to support a “place-based” project with a local school here in GA only to find out that Barbara and her colleagues have been working on this for years…I often find that my seeming epiphanies are already in progress in Barbara Comber’s land of Oz.

    My attention has been more focused on issues of education with and about place because of the ecological and social issues wrapped up in multi-national corporations taking over local spaces and practices. Not to mention moving lots of middle-class folks around a lot who then don’t feel connected to place and perhaps don’t engage in the kinds of conservation, restoration, and advocacy needed for local ecological and social justice.

    If anyone’s interested in, I loved “Blessed Unrest” a book that’s on the NYTimes Bestseller list.


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