Since I’ve started taking classes at the Graduate Center in 2014, I’ve consistently gone outside my department to swim — awkwardly — in new fields. I’ve taken classes in the areas of philosophy, sociology, and Hispanic-Luso Brazilian studies and am pulling from these fields as well as linguistics, social and critical theory, and others to construct the interdisciplinary theoretical lens I’m working with. It’s a daunting growth process in some ways, not least of which because I have a complex about my limitations (which are compounded by the cognitive overload of being a grad student), yet I’m finding increasingly that I can see no way back. How could it make sense that in education, we focus only on classroom-based practice? We must understand the importance of education policy in determining schooling priorities, which implies the study of history and political economy. Further, we have to look into the design of pedagogy (the practice of teaching and learning), which calls for an understanding of ontology and epistemology, dimensions of philosophy that deal with being and knowing and which are intrinsic to understanding how learning occurs and how learners and teachers participate in the learning process. And we can’t forget about learner identity, which is inherently sociological, philosophical, and even political in nature.
Am I making things too complicated? Probably. But I tell my students that the stratification of theory, empirical research, and practice — which Bourdieu, Freire and others have argued is inherently valueless — is an artificial division in the field of education, one that disempowers classroom teachers and renders academics disconnected. Why not pull together ideas that help us speak in many different idioms, many different repertoires? Why not learn the speech of the policy-makers, the theorists, the giant-killers, and the worker bees…because they and we are us all?