Across Australia, and indeed around the world the typical cottage garden or fastidiously manicured lawn is being ditched for something truly remarkable. In the place of pruned and tamed rose bushes runner beans climb latticed frames and instead of ornamental seasonal bloomers pots are filled with tomato plants, strawberries and herbs. Even the neatly trimmed lawn has been replaced by hardy leafy green vegetables.
So why have so many weekend gardeners chosen to take the edible (f you will pardon the terrible pun) garden path?
Why go edible?
With the slow and lamentable demise of many independent grocers, particularly in Australia which is held in the grip of a supermarket chain duopoly, it can be hard to source fresh local produce. Sourcing your vegetables and fruit locally means that your dietary habits have a smaller carbon footprint due to the reduced time in transit and also potentially reducing storage time and any refrigeration, freezing or processing that may require. A vegetable patch is an ideal way to cut out the environmental damage caused by your food being transported around the country or even the world to get to you. Plus there is an immense sense of satisfaction that comes from growing your own food, not to mention the reduced financial costs and ability to control the variety of vegetables available to you.
What are heirloom vegetables?
Heirloom vegetables are varieties of a vegetable that have been painstakingly bred, sometimes through multiple generations of gardeners, to have certain properties. Take carrots for example; your standard supermarket carrot is long and chunky, with the occasional spindly Dutch carrot bunch thrown in for variety. But heirloom carrots offer such options and the tiny round, and fast growing “Paris Market” or the charming sweet yet spicy “Purple Dragon” which are not only novel in appearance delighting young and old gardeners alike, but they also provide a different taste or texture. These vegetables have been organically altered over time to create disease resistant and diverse species that can flourish in a variety of climates and garden types.
What are the benefits of sourcing organic plants for your garden?
Organic seeds, seedlings and plants are those that have not been chemically altered by any sort of unnatural process. That means that the entire production process can be seen to be natural by consumer standards. This can include the propagation process and any pesticides used.
How do I know if the seeds or seedlings I am about to purchase are organic?
There are many independent bodies that provide organic certification to products including plants and seeds. Some of these certification bodies are more independent and thorough with their screening and certification process than others. While an organic certification logo is a good sign it is not always the whole story. Some certifications are obtained by the company simply buying the right to display the logo. So if buying organic is important to you always check which regulatory and certification bodies are the most reliable by checking with your consumer ombudsman, agricultural or environmental regulatory service.
While the emotional and cultural toll that Hitler’s Third Reich took on Europe and indeed the entire globe is still being felt today, this is not the only legacy left by Nazi Germany. The architecture and building projects undertaken during Hitler’s time as Fuhrer was nothing short of staggering [Click here for pictures or to read more]
The pluralist perspective is one that asserts that the power of a complex society is divided up, and regulated by a diverse range of interest groups but also subscribes to the idea that power works as a “zero-sum”, meaning that in order for a person or group of people to achieve power it must be taken from someone else. Notable pluralists include social scientist Robert Dahl.
“The Pluralists believe that:
Power is dispersed and fragmented.
Groups provide a more effective means of representation.
The larger the group the more influence it will have.
Policies are established through bargaining and compromise and tend to be fair to all in the end.”
Paulo Freire as a Brazilian philosopher drew inspiration heavily from the social structures and influences that surrounded him, but this does limit the relevance and usefulness of his ideas to education and community work in Brazil. To assert that “Paulo Freire’s ideas are not relevant to community work in ‘western settings’” is to assume a great many things about ‘western settings’ and the relevance that the cultural origins of a theory have on its global relevance. The four key conditions that could make this critique accurate are that:
That the concept of western settings or western society does not overlap and intertwine with eastern influences, society and settings
That the Brazilian culture Freire’s ideas were borne out of has nothing in common with the culture and social structures of ‘Western settings’
That students from different backgrounds in western settings are not linguistically disadvantaged
That there is no oppression in western society
In this essay I will attempt to explain why all four assertions are incorrect and demonstrate the extent to which Freire’s ideas have influenced education and community development in ‘western settings’.
Firstly it is important to define what is meant by the term ‘western settings’. As this assertion is made from a community development perspective and Freire was primarily concerned with pedagogy of education and how knowledge relates to liberation and freedom, so it is fair to assume that the ‘settings’ referred to in this statement are of an educational, social and community development nature;
“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Freire 2000)
These settings can encompass a wide range of programs; from formal school systems and curriculums to support work and community interactions at a grass roots, or every day, informal, level. The emphasis on praxis in Freire’s work supports this assertion by reinforcing the notion that learning is not merely achieve through scholarly or academic theorizing;
“Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.”(Freire 2000)
The word ‘western’ as part of this statement can be taken in its cultural context as defined by the Oxford Press 2014; “Relating to or characteristic of the West or its inhabitants”, inhabitant of the West being defined as “Living in or originating from the West, in particular Europe or the United States”. (Oxford University Press, 2014). But are such terms as ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ helpful when discussing Freire? I would argue that the practice of dividing an increasingly globalised society into western and eastern social spheres is to create a false dichotomy, with the two spheres of society intertwining inextricably due to migration and globalized means of communication such as the internet. With this integration of eastern cultures into traditionally western societies (and vice versa) the notion of educational and community development settings having a singularly western orientation is becoming increasingly irrelevant. This increased irrelevance is best summarized by Martin Buber;
“The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.” (Hodes 1972)
Whether the eastern influences in this setting are contributed by the ‘teacher’ or by the ‘pupil’, or even in the greater community, the importance and influence of these differing perspectives and cultural backgrounds when opening an educational and developmental dialogue should not be underestimated.
“One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.” (Freire 2000)
Paulo Freire’s Brazilian heritage could be considered to be vastly different from the typical heritage of a western educator or student, the reliance on dialogue rather than the educator broadcasting their knowledge to students in a one way stream of ideas and information theoretically renders these cultural and historical differences irrelevant when considering the value of Freire’s ideas. The key assumption that Freire makes about any given community is that each community will have their own priorities, valued knowledge and cultural backgrounds. It is from these community priorities that an educator can make knowledge relevant to the communities they work within. The first step in Freire’s educational strategy is listen to the community, taking the lead from the community negates the notion of Freire’s theory being solely useful in an eastern setting as the educator is required to adapt their approach to fit the ‘setting’ and community. Active listening is critical to Freire’s arguments and his theory of education takes its cues from the students, the notion of co-learning;
“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” (Freire 1990)
To assert that Freire’s ideas are not applicable to a Western setting is to greatly underestimate the language barriers that exist in Western society. Most modern globalised societies are comprised of a vast variety of cultures and languages, in fact in London, U.K. alone 1.7 million inhabitants do not class English as their first language and 300,000 people do not claim to speak English at all (The Office Of National Statistics, 2013). In this time of multiculturalism and multiethnic societies to claim that students in western settings do not face the similar language barriers to their eastern counterparts is to take a very narrow view of what western society is, and to deny the struggles of a significant portion of the western population who do not have the “official language”, or commonly spoken dialect as their first language. This struggle it particularly poignant when the first language of a student indigenous to the land they inhabit has been supplanted by the process of colonisation, some examples from both western and eastern societies include;
Indigenous Australian dialect speakers and the Australian English Language
Gaelic Irish speakers and the U.K. English language
Amerindian dialect speakers and the Brazilian Portuguese language
It is also important to take into account the differing language elements of class, for example someone from a lower socioeconomic background may not be familiar with the same terms as someone from a high socioeconomic groups, and vice versa. These differing dialects and linguistic nuances can occur within a single language causing a division in access to knowledge. Whether the language barriers exist through officially recognised language differences or through cultural or subcultural division it is the assertion of Freire that without the educator being able to overcome these barriers in communication with their students they will be unable to help students to learn, and without education, learning and knowledge the students will be unable to achieve awareness and liberation. Simply put Freire links language to the relevance of learning, and relevance to the desire to act. In this way it is easy to see how the theories of Freire and those who draw inspiration from his teachings can have a profound impact on the operation and effectiveness of learning environments.
The final factor that negates the assertion that Freire has no relevance to western community development is the parallel between the roles of oppressor and oppressed in both western and eastern cultures. Freire poses this power structure of the oppressor; the people who have, possess and are privileged in society, and the oppressed; who have very little and are essentially there to work to maintain the comfortable position of the oppressors. This theory of social inequality has its roots in Marxist conflict theory, which advocates the struggle of the working class to achieve fulfilment and freedom. While the Marxist perspective of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat omit such notions as love and the complexity of modern capitalist structures, Freire is able to offer a more tempered and current approach to conflict theory, but the idea of class struggle is still very familiar. These themes of oppression are often represented in western settings in the form of;
Socioeconomic Divisions – The poor or uneducated being oppressed by the rich. Those from lower socioeconomic groups being put under so much pressure to survive that they are unable to focus on the possibility of bettering their situation, or the situation of their community, “…the oppressed, as objects, as “things”, have no purposes except those their oppressors prescribe for them.” (Freire 2000)
Racism and Cultural Divisions – The marginalisation of people based on ethnicity, culture, religion or nationality that is done through both overt discrimination and inequality but sometimes take the more subtle form of biased folklore, education and social constructs that only takes into account one, or a few limited perspectives, denying other cultures legitimacy, “Dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed” (Freire 2000)
Young people as socially deviant – The orientation of social structures to benefit the established older generations and elite, dismissing youth and youth culture as illegitimate, “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Freire 2000)
One of the key western theorists who draw inspiration from the works of Freire is Henry Giroux and his ideas surrounding education and the ‘war on youth’. “He [Giroux] and Freire coedited a very influential series on education and cultural politics for Bergin and Garvey. Giroux has made ground-breaking contributions to numerous fields, including education, critical theory, youth studies, cultural studies, media studies, higher education and public pedagogy.”(Peters 2012). This close academic relationship with Freire has afforded Giroux a deeper understanding of how to address the inequalities and inadequacies within the education and political systems in his Canadian homeland.
“Pedagogy for me was central to proclaiming the power and necessity of ideas, knowledge and culture as central to any viable definition of politics, and the goal of living in a just world with others.” (Giroux, Peters 2012)
At the heart of the teachings of Freire is are such global and intrinsically human experiences such as oppression, communication breakdowns and the need to continuously learn from others. These collective human experiences are apparent in most modern societies, especially those that exist in a postcolonial or globalised state, both in western and eastern communities throughout the world. In this way Freire and those who have built upon his ideas such as Giroux have the potential to empower, educate and liberate both the marginalised and privileged aspects of society regardless of their traditional orientation as eastern or western.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.
Freire, Paulo, and Ana Maria Araújo Freire. EPZ pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004.
Giroux, Henry A., Youth and the Politics of Disposability in Dark Times, lecture given at McMaster University, Canada, YouTube, McMaster Humanities, 2013. http://youtu.be/a7cUiERYeEE
Giroux, Henry A. “Paulo Freire and the politics of post colonialism.” Journal of Advanced Composition (1992): 15-26.
Horton, Miles and Freire, Paulo, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change, Temple University Press, 1990.
Hodes, Aubrey, Encounter with Martin Buber, Allen Lane, p. 135, 1972.
Leonard, Peter, and Peter McLaren, eds. Paulo Freire: A critical encounter. Routledge, 2002.
McLaren, Peter. Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the pedagogy of revolution. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000.
Morrow, Raymond Allen, and Carlos Alberto Torres. Reading Freire and Habermas: Critical pedagogy and transformative social change. Teachers College Press, 2002.
Chosen Essay topic “Gender identity entraps and limits us.” Examine this assertion with reference to your chosen texts.
Secondary Source Summary:
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity, Bette London, Modern Language Association, 1993.
Bette London is a Professor at the University of Rochester and is widely published on the subject of modern and classical literature. Her article draws upon a range of sources to provide both supporting material and target arguments including the work of Rieger and Mellor, both of whom have been critiqued within the article. London looks at the role of gender in both Mary Shelley’s work, critiques of “Frankenstein” and depictions of Mary Shelley particularly in relation to the death of Percy Bysshe Shelley. In critiquing these sources she reaches the conclusion that though male characters are at the centre of the text it is the absent female characters that define its parameters and enable us to examine the flaws and intricacies of the protagonists.
This article raises a few points relevant to my chosen essay topic; that the gender identity of the Creature is a limiting factor, that Victor Frankenstein’s obsession or need to discover the secret of exclusively male creation is at the centre of his pursuits, but primarily I have chosen this article because it lays the groundwork for a tantalising argument that struck a chord with me immediately. If Victor Frankenstein had divulged his secret to his intended wife Elizabeth, rather than not trusting her judgement, strength, or courage, arguably on the basis of her gender as he extensively later reveals it to Walton, he may have been able to avoid her demise. But he lives in such a male centred time and in such a male centred mindset that he does not see the value in her opinion or advice, and does not even contemplate that he may not be the Creature’s intended victim.
Sussman, Charlotte “Daughter of the Revolution: Mary Shelley in Our Times” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, Women Writers of the Eighteenth Century, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. pp. 158-186 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27793781
London, Bette “Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity”, PMLA Vol. 108, No. 2, Modern Language Association, 1993. pp. 253-267 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462596