Growers and Mere Harvesters

A garden is one of the most common metaphors in learning and education. It’s a good one, but there are many distinctions that often don’t get sorted out at the level of metaphor, or given enough consideration to. Are gardens meant to emphasize the growth of a plant under the right conditions? Or, are they meant to show intentional maintenance of organized learning, as compared to growth in the wild?

Educational metaphors using plants-things always seem to miss the mark with me, as they tend to romanticize the growth, while ignoring the importance of restrictions.

Earlier today while reading about the economic plight of East Timor, this line jumped out at me:

“People in East Timor are not growers; they are mere harvesters of coffee.”

The idea is that, in terms of their economy which relies on the coffee beans trade, the country’s farmers are nowhere near intentional enough in how they cultivate their crop. To a large degree, they simply pick from what grows in the wild.

Education runs this danger because learning permeates our lives much like breathing does. Educational settings that rely on everyday learning as the backdrop and be all of design – highly and merely social, connective, and low guidance courses – set themselves up as harvesters, simply picking from interaction that happens to take place.

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One thought on “Growers and Mere Harvesters

  1. Glen – this is an interesting post, particularly since Frances Bell and I have just submitted a paper (waiting to see if it will be accepted) about the rhizome as a metaphor for teaching and learning – so I can easily relate to what you have written here. Also you have reminded me that in our emergent learning paper (the one co-authored with Roy Williams and Regina Karousou – we wrote about the necessity for constraints if emergent learning is to occur. I like the distinction you make between growers and harvesters.

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