Guest lecture by Cary Campbell (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada) titled "Enacting education from the inside: on the continuity of semiotic learning" March 25, 14.15 at Jakobi 2- 306.
Cary Campbell is a doctoral candidate (ABD) in the faculty of education at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He is an educational researcher, currently working for the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC) and MODAL research group. His main research interests are broadly philosophy of education, semiotics, and arts/music education. His published research has mostly been concerned with developing semiotics informed educational approaches and conceptualizations. Cary is also the co-founder and editor of the arts group philosophasters.org, focusing on scholarly journalism and interviews. As of recently he is the new editor of the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies’ ‘CS. Peirce Section’. Aside from writing and research, Cary teaches music and is active as a performing and recording guitarist in several musical groups.
Enacting education from the inside: on the continuity of semiotic learning
In a landmark 1943 article “Our Educational Emphases”, anthropologist Margaret Mead posed a very simple question: “from what basis can we see the educational processes of traditional indigenous societies as continuous with the forms of education practiced in modern industrialized society?”
Mead argues that educational processes in general are defined by the fact that an emphasis on learning is more primary and foundational (existentially, but also culturally) than an emphasis on teaching. By contrast, in modern globalized society “our concepts of education have been shaped by the will to teach, convert, colonize, or assimilate” (1943, p. 63) pupils, rather than to channel or foster learning.
Based on ethnographic insights, Mead concludes that the consistent meaning of education in human cultures is to create forms of continuity (in particular, intergenerational forms) and responsiveness to future uncertainty.
In this talk, I wish to bring such observations from the anthropology of education into the context of recent discussions within educational semiotic discourses – particularly as influenced by biosemiotic conceptualizations of learning (in particular, as expressed recently by Kull (2018), as well as by the recent special issue of Sign Systems Studies “Learning and Adaptation” (Olteanu and Stables[eds.], 2018).
Building on the central premise that both the life process and the learning process are expressed through forms of semiotic engagement (Stables, 2006) and involve continual adaptation and meaning-making, I wish to argue, building on my earlier insights (Campbell, 2018), that these discourses may allow an avenue from which to understand educational dynamics as non-instrumental and continuous with other forms of learning and life.
This perspective allows us to take, what I would call, an internal view of educational processes. I further elaborate that from this perspective learning has a sporadic identity: it is emergent in the specificity of events and must be discerned within the practices that enact it. Realizing learning as something emergently enacted in the educative encounter, and not something that can be determined and implemented, allows us to resist turning learning into an accountability tool that can easily be used towards ideological ends.
Several educational semiotic authors have made the claim that educational institutions should be understood as instances of exaptation, that evolved naturally to channel (but not to determine) learning more efficiently for specific social groups. I conclude by speculating on how this emphasis on continuity in our educational approaches is central to preparing adaptive human societies that would be equipped to deal with challenges of climate change and ecological crises.