Knowing the production narrative of our ideas

Is school like a grocery store of ideas?  Learning should result in understanding and action, but we’re not always clear about what kind.  There’s a big difference between understanding the organization of the grocery store layout, and understanding how to grow food yourself.

Photo of farm country landscape

I live in farm country.  Changes to zoning bylaws can draw protests of hundreds of people.  People know where and how and by whom their food is produced.  We also know how we affect the system — even if it’s only through our consumer choices and by-election votes.  We’re engaged with the production narrative of our food.

I recently finished reading Shop Class as Soul Craft (thanks, John).  I hope you’ll overlook the silly title because, though the book has its flaws, it’s also full of useful and refreshingly unusual ideas.  One of the less surprising ones is that we have a responsibility to know the production narrative of our stuff, as well as our food.  Knowing who makes what, and why, can take us past catchphrases (buy local) and teach us about class, agency, and democracy, if we let it. (Update: my review is on Goodreads)

I’ve been thinking about these because of a recent post on Educating Grace about what “sense-making” is, and why it sometimes diverges from understanding.  I don’t know the answer, but the question is becoming urgent in my classroom.  Brian Frank weighs in with a comment, and Grace responds with an even more perplexing post.

Here’s an excerpt from Brian’s comment:

Without knowing how to participate in the creation, telling, and changing of stories, learning science stories is no different than learning myths… The more we make our disciplines exclusionary, the more myth-making we do.

I haven’t fully wrapped my head around this.  It’s starting to sound as though what my classroom needs more of is the production narrative of our ideas.

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