What do we mean when we use the phrase, “in the real world”? As many of us are in a state of transition between school and work, styles of work, or a balance of both, are we living a less real life if we don’t work for a corporation? Indeed, the different ways humans interface with the world is hybrid. The column below is an inquiry into the meanings of culturally problematic phrases like “the real world,” and “proper use of time,” and the ways these interplay. It will ask questions concerning digital humanities, critical pedagogy, and agency. It is an exploration, a discussion, and a journey. Join us.
I realized today why I love podcasts. Listening to an episode of RadioLab called ‘Living Room’ as I made breakfast, I learned about a woman who became obsessed with watching her curtainless neighbors across the way. I was captivated. I was captivated because I am so very curious about the lives of others – the way people spend their time, the things they value, their unique experiences, the people they chose to love, the jobs they have, and the ways they feel – all of it different from my own life. It’s how I know I belong in academia. While exploring my own shifting mind, a career in Humanities allows me to study the perspectives of others, all the while expressing my own ideas so that others too might get a shift in perspective. It is because of this that I began this column by asking three very different people, “How does your training (vocational, traditional, etc.) inform the way you spend and/or value your time?”
In the introduction to the series attempting to answer the question above, I express my disdain about the phrase ‘the real world’ and the divide between the ‘in here’ of academia and the ‘out there,’ outside the ivory tower. I see a shift in the way the Western World views communication and valorizes experience, and I admit that though “I apologize often, I’m not sorry at all. I chose to live the life of an academic. I have been in a cubicle, wearing a power suit, finding ways to make my job more stimulating lest I should run out the security doors of the building screaming. As a result, I have developed a deep curiosity for the lives, jobs, and value systems of others.” And so I set out to investigate the perspectives of an underwater construction worker, a new public school teacher, and a university lecturer who has also lived as a ballerina, and a lawyer. What I got were three worldviews that were so different from one another, the process of writing this column has changed me.
I went in with no assumptions about how my question might be answered, and I didn’t necessarily expect to find patterns. Despite how often we overtly write (or talk) about compassion here at Hybrid Pedagogy, I am often pleasantly surprised to find underlying currents of heartbreaking honesty and compassion both when I re-read articles, and during the editing process.The same goes for community. Perhaps it’s my tendency to ask questions without expectation, or perhaps it’s U.S. culture telling me that compassion and community are not the first desires of its people, but I saw it over and over as I worked with this series of installments — sometimes in candid, personal admissions. Caroline, our public school teacher, yearns for more connection with her colleagues. Arlo admits he dropped out of college due largely to lack of emotional support from his family. Robin speaks to the importance of choreography both in dance and in pedagogy — requiring both timing and a community to exact.
Each writer has participated in what I’m calling a ‘life reboot’ — a complete remapping of the current direction of their career or professional identity. Sometimes people call it a ‘reinvention.’ Whatever you choose to call it, changing your life path in the middle of adulthood both disrupts the American value system, and coincides with it. On the one hand, we value traditionalism, continually extolling the virtues of the oldest Constitution on the planet. On the other, we fetishize the new, particularly in both knowledge and technology. A life reboot tends to feel both like a brave step, and like failure. If you listen to podcasts as much as I do, you’ve probably heard the Freakonomics episode “Failure is Your Friend” which coincides nicely with a piece I wrote “Taking the ‘No’ Out of Innovation’ where I discuss innovation as a type of failure. Both of these pieces extol the virtues of failing as we go along. They let us know that failure is a part of life — and not necessarily a negative part.
What I’m learning so far through this pattern of compassion, community, and reboot is a complex set of values which are sometimes called the ‘both/and’ perspective. Popular in both Christian ministry and Business culture, the ‘both/and’ perspective battles the binary ‘either/or’ dichotomy often present in problem solving situations and value systems. It allows for a society of people who need a life reboot, but want to proceed without the stigma of negativity — of the bad kind of failure. Instead of a culture that screams, “you can’t contradict yourself!”, I imagine a culture that values the process of learning that includes dichotomous life experiences and allows for the both/and style of paradox.
As a person who both deplores the current industrially minded U.S. education system, and at the same time excels in it, I have to wonder what kinds of paradox exist in pedagogy and learning for others. In the coming installments, and in keeping with the spirit of perspective and values, I plan to briefly peer into the lives of others, and see what lies beneath the surface when I ask about both/and perspectives in relation to pedagogy and learning, to explore the way that value systems shape us as we learn, teach, and experience the world. Until then.