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The Culture of Community and a Failure of Creativity


by Graeme Sullivan — 2011

Background/Context: This essay is a part of a special issue that emerges from a year-long faculty seminar at Teachers College, Columbia University. The seminar’s purpose has been to examine in fresh terms the nexus of globalization, education, and citizenship. Participants come from diverse fields of research and practice, among them art education, comparative education, curriculum and teaching, language studies, philosophy of education, social studies, and technology. They bring to the table different scholarly frameworks drawn from the social sciences and humanities. They accepted invitations to participate because of their respective research interests, all of which touch on education in a globalized world. They were also intrigued by an all-too-rare opportunity to study in seminar conditions with colleagues from different fields, with whom they might otherwise never interact given the harried conditions of university life today. Participants found the seminar generative in terms of ideas about globalization, education, and citizenship. Participants also appreciated what, for them, became a novel and rich occasion for professional and personal growth.

Purpose/ Objective: In responding to the task of re-thinking the implications globalism, citizenship and education may be having on pedagogical practices, this essay takes a decidedly personal approach. This is a calculated decision. Given that ‘the individual’ is not a usual unit of analysis found much in current discourse or theorizing about the relative impact of these macro worlds, it is critical that those facing leadership challenges are responsive to possibilities found within the everydayness of human experience. Furthermore, it is argued here that the failure of the capacity to learn from what it is that others “make” results in a failure to fully understand the culture of community as a constituency of critically aware and creative and individuals.

Conclusions/ Recommendations: This paper is structured around two parallel streams of commentary. The questions this essay pursues offer two contrasting perspectives that pit the institutional against the ideographic. An analysis of how learning is defined and delivered as an educational statement is presented, alongside an account of how art is created, presented and performed as an educational idea. Although the view of learning reflects a public position and the art project represents a personal pursuit, both emanate from the same setting and both take as their brief nothing less than the ambition of an educational vision. It is argues that whether dealing with human agency at the personal, public or global level, there is a similarity in the simple and complex cognitive and creative processes that come into play as individuals make meanings from the multiple realities in which they live. Although the profile of what it is to be an educated citizen needs to be cast across international divides the learning impulse originates with an individual and is further seen and felt throughout the community. If there is a failure to appreciate how all types of learners in all kinds of settings make sense of their education we are all impoverished. Consequently, if communities are unable to understand what it is that those individuals within it “make” as they contribute the collective good then the community itself has ceased to be a learning culture.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 6, 2011, p. 1175-1195
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16137, Date Accessed: 10/1/2014 4:19:22 PM

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About the Author
  • Graeme Sullivan
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    GRAEME SULLIVAN is a former professor of art education, Department of Arts and Humanities, Teachers College, and the current director of the School of Visual Arts, Penn State University. His research on the creative and critical thinking processes of arts practitioners is described in a new edition of Art Practice as Research (2010) (www.artpracticeasresearch.com). Graeme maintains an active art practice, and his Streetworks have been installed in several international cities and sites over the past 15 years (www.streetworksart.com).
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