Ecocritical Pedagogies for Teacher Education

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The past decades of teacher education scholarship have been marked by critiques of how neoliberal policies and reform efforts have contributed to an erosion of public education as a core foundation of democratic life and of the possibilities of
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  E Ecocritical Pedagogies forTeacher Education John Lupinacci 1 , Alison Happel-Parkins 2 andRita Turner  31 Washington State University,Spokane, WA, USA 2 University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA 3 University of Maryland, Baltimore,Baltimore, MD, USAThe past decades of teacher education scholarshiphave been marked by critiques of how neoliberal policies and reform efforts have contributed to anerosionofpubliceducationasacorefoundationof democratic life and of the possibilities of criticallyaddressing the cultural roots of social justice andsustainability in schools. Considering the stark conditions for life on the planet due to climatechange, poverty, famine, and increased violent con fl ict, scholar-activist educators are presentedwith the challenge of rethinking education anddoing so with close attention to what can bedone differently in teacher education. In this era,one in which global climate change is threateningthe very existence of human and more-than-human communities, as ecocritical teacher educa-tors, we turn our attention toward the possibilitiesof radically reconsidering the purpose, and theassociated procedures and practices, of not onlyteacher education but also of PreK-12 schooling.This encyclopedia entry focuses on an ecocritical pedagogy for teacher education that offers theopportunity to critically address and rethink cur-rent dominant conceptual frameworks constitut-ingclassrooms,schools,andcommunities.Withinthis ecocritical pedagogy, anthropocentrism, inconnection with assumptions of human suprem-acy, becomes a distinguishable focal point. Toconclude, actions to implement an ecocriticalframework in teacher education will be discussed.Responding to the systemic violence andexploitation perpetuated by the current dominant social, economic, and environmental contexts in North America (similar to other nation statesembedded in Western industrial culture),ecocritical educators examine and address how it is that schools in Western industrial societies cre-ate, support, and sustain the habits of mind that rationalize, justify, and (re)produce unjust socialsuffering and devastating degrees of environmen-tal degradation. When faced with such a chal-lenge, ecocritical teacher educators ask:  How isit that exploitation is rationalized, justi   fi ed,and/or (re)produced by teachers?  Furthermore,ecocritical educators are also committed to turn-ing the critical lens inward and asking:  What canteacher educators, and teachers, do to teach in support of alternatives to Western industrial cul-ture?  In an attempt to address these questions, weintroduce whatwearereferringtoasanecocritical pedagogy as an approach to exploring the possi- bilities of diverse critical ecological perspectivesin teacher education. © Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019M. A. Peters (ed.),  Encyclopedia of Teacher Education ,https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-1179-6_213-1  An ecocritical pedagogy addresses howeducation is in fl uenced by systems of exploitationand violence, systems which rely on a refusalto acknowledge and embrace mutuality andinterdependence (Lupinacci and Happel-Parkins2015). Ecocritical scholars in education usediverse critical lenses for addressing and rethink-ing dominant cultural frameworks, but certain principles remain at the center of the work.Speci fi cally rooted in and yet pushing the bound-aries of the critical tradition, teacher educators positioned within the ecocritical movement rec-ognize that social and environmental justice areinseparable and inextricably linked and that theseinjustices rely on the perpetuation of culturalhabits  –   like domination, individualism, and con-sumerism. They also acknowledge that suchhabits are deeply rooted in value-hierarchized,often dualistic, social thought   –   dualisms likeculture/nature, male/female, mind/body, and rea-son/emotion  –   that in fl uence collective attitudesand unexamined behaviors. To dismantle suchinjustices, then, these scholar-educators analyzethe culturally constituted value hierarchies our society is reproducing. This approach alsoincludes exploring alternative knowledges andways of recognizing and understanding differencethat move beyond the limitations of Eurocentric(or Western industrial) thought and the complextensions, double binds, and even contradictionsthat exist within our modern cultures and somany of the short-term solutions. For example,we often  fi nd ourselves consuming goods in aneffort to improve our lives and even support  “ green ”  practices, but our relationship to thesegoods, to the people who create them, and to the beings who supply the materials, remains invisi- ble and unquestioned. Our methods of consump-tion and participation in society are deeplyin fl uenced by our culture ’ s hierarchies of value.As such, scholar-educators ask:  How are our  social practices and relationships dependent on privilege and exploitation, and what ways might these practices and relationships be restructured to be more inclusive without exploitation and exclusion? Introducing Ecocritical Pedagogies Ecocritical pedagogies in teacher education striveto engage teachers in identifying and criticallyexamining the role that education both plays,and ought to play, in transitioning towardsupporting diverse, socially just, and sustainablecommunities. Drawing from an EcoJustice Edu-cation framework (Martusewicz et al. 2015) andstemming from the growing  fi eld of ecocriticalwork in social and cultural foundations of educa-tion, we summarize the movement  ’ s aims in threeaspects that frame ecocritical perspectives asworking with teachers to critically and ethically(1) examine Western industrial culture, in rela-tionship to the global spread of hyper-consumerism and its impacts on social andenvironmental systems; (2) examine value-hierarchized dualisms and the associated behav-iors and mechanisms that contribute to inequitiessuch as racism, classism, sexism, ableism, anthro- pocentrism,etc.inconnectionwithdegradation of the environment; and (3) examine and identifyhow to teach or share skills and habits of mind,which support socially just and environmentallysustainable communities (Lupinacci and Happel-Parkins 2016).Simply put, through an ecocritical framework,teacher educators work to support scholar-activist educators in recognizing two con fl icting andfoundationally different worldviews  –   on the onehand, ecological worldviews of interdependenceandinterspeciesequity,andontheother,ahuman-centered worldview informed by hierarchalcapitalist, racist, and patriarchal relationships.Simultaneously, this framework shapes researchin teacher education that examines how thoseworldviews might be reconstituted  –   via educa-tion or ecocritical pedagogies  –   in ways that arelocal and in support of living systems.Ecocritical pedagogies often include studentsand teachers examining how knowledge systemsand the associated behaviors and mechanisms of human domination  –   in relationship to language,culture, and power   –   are culturally mediated 2 Ecocritical Pedagogies for Teacher Education  and how PreK-12 educators can play arole in reconstituting those understandings, behaviors, and mechanisms. Furthermore, with(in) ecocritical pedagogies, it is important to rec-ognize that the role of teacher can be taken on bymore-than-human members of any learning com-munity. By highlighting how many dominant cultural belief systems,root assumptions, and nar-ratives currently destroying the planet and pros- pects of peace are constructed and not simply “ natural, ”  educators can help students developcritical perspectives on these root beliefs. Thisundertaking also allows for the exploration of alternative belief systems and metaphors that facilitate different kinds of relationships withother people, other beings, and the land.An ecocritical pedagogical framework alsoilluminates the systematic economic and politicalrestructuring of lives that, while it might addressimmediate needs of human or environmental sys-tems, it ultimately often perpetuates unjust socialsufferingandextremeenvironmentaldegradation.For example, ecocritical pedagogies require mov-ing beyond a simple critique of technologicaldevelopment that portrays technology,orhumans,as the problem or the solution. Rather, on onehand, being critical of the dominant systematiceconomic and political restructuring of lives incurrent hyper-consumerist Eurocentric culturesincludes also recognizing how technologies like pacemakersandvaccineshavebeen,andprobablyought to be, valued contributions to addressinghuman suffering. However, ecocritical peda-gogies require that teachers and students also ask how these valued technologies may or may not besustainable and equitable via renewable resourcesand fair labor. Ultimately, addressing unjust suf-fering in society is important, but it must alsoinclude an awareness and analysis of the impact ofanyproposedsolutiononseveralgenerationsof  both human and more-than-human communities.What has become commonplace over the past century, and extending into the current, is theintentional restructuring of relationships to con-trol and commodify lives in order to maintain andmanufacture markets. For example, food andwater are life-sustaining elements necessary for supporting healthy communities. However, therelationships to these  “ resources ”  have beenenclosed  –   that is, they have been monetized or understood as commodities to be earned and pur-chased. This iteration of capitalism as a  “ supplyand demand ”  economic system predicated onexploitation works to enclose living systems andcan be understood as the globalizing force tocommodify and privatize that which is commonand public. Critiquing this kind of enclosuremeans reimagining the sorts of relationshipshumans can have with the more-than-humanworld and with each other, rather than simplytrying to make human behavior   “ less bad ”  byslightly reigning in current destructive practices.In short, ecocritical pedagogies center student learning on recognizing the importance of exam-ining intellectual, environmental, and cultural practices and traditions in regard to how theyeither support or undermine living systemstogether with whatever content is being taught.Whether examining discursive practices or eco-nomic structures while learning mathematics, lan-guage arts, science, or social studies, a key featureof ecocritical pedagogies is the recognitionthat human knowledge systems are culturallyconstructed, have consequences for all living beings, and can be reimagined in transformativeways (Turner  2015). Another distinguishingaspect of ecocritical pedagogies is that, whatever the lesson or activity, students and teacherstogether address the powerful role that their cul-ture plays in the development of themselves, their values, and their diverse relationships. Such aframework examines, explores, and proposesdiverse and collaborative pedagogical projectsthat respond to current dominant belief systemsand works to ensure that any responses are neces-sarily collaborative with diverse cultures in waysthat are local, situational, and in support of decentralized living systems. In the classroom,this might include examining clips from newsmedia to determine what root metaphors are at work in the way our culture communicates about the more-than-human-world. It might meanexploring personal relationships with nonhuman beings through art or creative writing. It might mean comparing historical writings about race,gender, and species. Or it might mean using Ecocritical Pedagogies for Teacher Education 3  interdisciplinary knowledge to investigate a localissue of environmental justice.A primary premise in ecocritical work inteacher education that differentiates the approachfrom most other critical frameworks is the explicit recognition of the entanglement of humansupremacy and Eurocentric culture  –   that is, theembedded worldviews and belief systems srci-nating in Western traditions of thought, whichhave colonized much of the world. Ecocriticaleducators assert that situated at the root of socialand ecological injustice is a fundamental  –   and problematic  –   assumption that humans, as a spe-cies, are understood (or self-identify) as superior to and somehow separate from all other living beings and nonliving things. Thus, guidingecocritical pedagogies is the understanding that the manifestation of a human-supremacist world-view is culturally constructed and inextricablefrom current Eurocentric industrial dominant cul-tural assumptions about race, class, gender, abil-ity, age, and so forth. A foundational tenet inecocriticalworkineducationisthatculturalhabitsofmindindominantEurocentricindustrialcultureare based on a system of human supremacy  –  stemming from anthropocentrism  –   and that sucha perspective is ubiquitous throughout dominant colonialculture and informs how weashumans insuchaculturelearntointerpret andassignvaluetodifferences. Anthropocentrism Anthropocentrism, or human-centeredness, is a belief system that privileges humans over other species and functions to maintain the superiorityof human existence by marginalizing and subju-gating anything nonhuman (Plumwood 1993,2002). Radical ecocritical scholars and educatorstake the position that anthropocentrism is so per-vasive in the metaphors by which we teach andlearn in Western industrial schooling that, in order to interrupt the dominant belief system, educatorsmust   fi rst learn to name and recognize anthropo-centrism as problematic in connection with what can be done to rethink the vital relationships uponwhich we all depend. Given how dominant andfoundational anthropocentrism is in schools andsociety, we suggest that teachers and teacher edu-cators can  –   and do  –   play a key role in addressingand interrupting anthropocentrism and that they must furthermore consider what a non-anthropocentric education might look like.Ecocritical work continues and pushes the boundaries of the work of social justice scholar activists within critical education spaces by mak-ing clear the connections between human suprem-acy, patriarchy, racism, and other forms of domination like ableism, ageism, and classism.Ecocritical scholars understand that each of thesevalue-hierarchized structures of dominationmutually reinforce one another, while theyobscure the fundamental interdependence andinterrelationship of all beings. These hierarchiesinform dominant cultural assumptions in Westernindustrial culture, and they are all based on nor-malized logics of domination, which means that they are inseparable and intersect in complex andcontextualizedways.Forexample,thewatercrisisin Flint, Michigan, and the Water Protectors inStandingRockprotestingtheoilpipelineillustratethe complex intersections of anthropocentrism,racism, capitalism, etc. Teaching for a Just and SustainableFuture The more that educators engage ecocritical peda-gogies which encourage the recognition of andresistance to anthropocentrism, the more potentialthere is for educational experiences to foster spaces where teachers and students learn together to recognize the harmful assumptions and actionsthat undergird social and ecological injustice.While on one hand we admire and value and are fi rm supporters of a shared commitment torespond to the undeniable atrocities that we  –   ashumans  –  enactononeanother,theseatrocitiesareinextricably connected to the cruelties we perpet-uate against nonhuman animals and the environ-ment. None of these atrocities occur in isolation,and, as ecofeminist and EcoJustice frameworksshow, they are all interconnected. To confront human supremacy in education, it is paramount  4 Ecocritical Pedagogies for Teacher Education  that educators work as allies to those sufferingwhile challenging and confronting the systemicroots of oppression on our respective fronts to both address immediate ways human communi-ties are suffering and center inquiry on all beings ’ interdependencies and interconnected rightsand needs. In other words, we all have aresponsibility  –  many ofusasprivilegedmembersof society  –   to support those, including our more-than-human kin, who are suffering unjustly, inwhatever capacity we can while recognizing that solutions to end such suffering must not includean unsustainable exploitation of the Earth ’ s  fi niteresources and destroying that which sustainshuman existence on the planet.Responding to the enclosures of schooling byconnecting the systemic roots of anthropocen-trism to racism, sexism, classism, ableism, andso on requires attention to be turned toward thedif  fi cult necessity for cultural change. It is our  fi rmbeliefas ecocriticalactivist-scholar educatorsthatifwe,enactorsofdominantWesternindustrialculture, do not rethink the cultural framework  by which dominant meanings are sociallyconstructed, then we are destined to re-createand perpetuate many of the problematic relation-ships that we as radical educators often set out tochange. Inspired by movements to address unjust suffering for our human and more-than-humankin, we suggest that there are some practicalsteps toward cultural change and scholarship that are possible. These suggestions are aimed towardsupporting a paradigm shift from rational, mech-anized, and human-centered thinking to dis-courses that are local, situational, and supportiveof living systems.As ecocritical scholars, it is impossible for usto suggest or outline any practical steps without including a fundamental shift in our cultural rela-tions and traditions. Drawing from our experi-ences with ecocritical pedagogies within teacher education, we share steps that can be used to helpstudents value pedagogical practices that work toresist anthropocentrism in favor of recognizingand valuing differences. These pedagogical sug-gestions are in support of diverse, decentralizedcommunities where decisions are made with closeconsideration for all those species and groupsdirectly impacted by the decision. Although werecognize the importance of localized responsesand understandings, below are some preliminarysuggestions for how teachers, and teacher educa-tors, might begin to utilize an ecocritical frame-work in their lives and in their classrooms. •  Engage in teaching and learning that exploresdiverse projects to rethink the dominant assumptions in fl uencing how we, as humans,construct meaning and thus how we learn torelate to each other and the more-than-humanworld. Further, make the commitment to criti-cally and ethically examine how, as teachers,we individually and collectively understandeducating, organizing, and taking actiontoward supporting healthy communities that include all beings and the intrinsic value of recognizing, respecting, and representing theright ofall beings tobelong toand live inpeacewithin an ecological system. For example, crit-ically engage in questioning how we languageour world. Ask:  What does it mean to refer tonatural gas and oil reserves as  “  natural resources ” ? What are we ignoring whenwe commodify the environment in this way? Furthermore, as future teachers, think about how we might frame lessons that includeecocritical essential questions like:  What doesit mean to be human beings in our diversecommunities of life? Who/what bene   fi ts and who/what suffers?  Teachers might ask:  Howare learning relationships in our classroomsin   fl  uenced by value-hierarchized dualisms and cultural assumptions about students ’   abilities ?Utilizing an ecocritical framework, ask  : What does it mean to teach toward the abolition of   superior/inferior (either/or) thinking and deci- sion making  ? •  Engage in critical and ethical examinations of community. As notions of community are alltoo often de fi ned in terms of human-centeredexclusion, it is important to work to reconsider community in terms of who and what isincluded in our de fi nitions of this construct and how those de fi nitions contribute to either supporting or undermining the right of all beings to coexist in peace. For example:  What  Ecocritical Pedagogies for Teacher Education 5
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