Marginalized knowledges are the intergenerational knowledges and skills from communities worldwide that hegemonic forces have pushed to the margins of society. These include facts, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and competencies. Marginalized knowledges are part of the human capital that materially poor rural and urban peoples have developed over time—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. These knowledges are situated and contextualized in a given time and locality, and have evolved to fulfill economic, social, environmental, spiritual, or cultural needs. School systems worldwide in the 19th and 20th centuries adopted an official, hegemonic curriculum that ignored and displaced these vital knowledges at a great loss to poor communities. Fortunately, different pedagogies exist today (e.g., pedagogy of place; funds of knowledge; civic service) that seek to bring these knowledges to the center of school life and provide a complementary, parallel role to that of the school’s official curriculum.
Alberto Arenas and Rebecca Perez
Maropeng Modiba and Sandra Stewart
Postcolonial ethnographic studies in Africa and, specifically, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region tend to demonstrate varying sensitivity to local knowledge systems and culture. Ethnographers, both local and international, differ in the ways in which they engage with these aspects. Studies expose shifts, or lack thereof, in the mindsets of researchers. In general, researchers take for granted their cultural ideals and how to embrace broader responsibilities beyond the education or development initiatives they are studying. Although rhetorically supportive of the education/development of the subaltern, some studies selected and reviewed in this article indicate the researchers’ missionary dispositions and reliance on preconceived notions in making sense of the behavior and environments studied. To varying degrees fragmentations in perceptions, anthropological empathy, reluctance to acknowledge African contexts and ways of living as adequate in themselves stand out rather than deliberate efforts to preserve the internal cultures and knowledge systems of the communities and expand their knowledge and skills in sustainable ways.
Gregory A. Smith
Place-based education is an approach to curriculum development and instruction that directs students’ attention to local culture, phenomena, and issues as the basis for at least some of the learning they encounter in school. It is also referred to as place- and community-based education or place-conscious learning. In addition to preparing students academically, teachers who adopt this approach present learning as intimately tied to environmental stewardship and community development, two central concerns of Education for Sustainability. They aim to cultivate in the young the desire and ability to become involved citizens committed to enhancing the welfare of both the human and more-than-human communities of which they are a part. At the heart of place-based education is the belief that children of any age are capable of making significant contributions to the lives of others, and that as they do so, their desire to learn and belief in their own capacity to be change agents increase. When place-based education is effectively implemented, both students and communities benefit, and their teachers often encounter a renewed sense of professional and civic satisfaction. In most respects, there is nothing new about place-based education. It is an attempt to reclaim elements of the learning processes most children encountered before the invention of schools. Throughout most of humanity’s tenancy on this planet, children learned directly from their own experience in the places and communities where they lived. They explored their world with peers, imitated the activities of adults, participated in cultural and religious ceremonies, and listened to the conversations and stories of their families and neighbors. Most of this learning was informal, although at important transition points such as puberty, initiation rites provided them with more direct forms of instruction about community understandings regarding the world and adult responsibilities. In this way, children grew into competent and contributing members of their society, able to care for themselves and for others in ways that sustained the community of which they were a part. This outcome with its focus on both individual and social sustainability is also the goal of place-based education. It is important to acknowledge that a range of educational innovations over the past decades have anticipated or included elements of place-based education: outdoor education, civic education, community education, environmental education, and education for sustainability. What differentiates place-based education from many of these is its explicit focus on both human and natural environments and its concern about equity and social justice issues as well as environmental. Not all programs that call themselves place-based incorporate these elements, nor do all include opportunities for students to participate in projects that benefit others and the natural world. This, however, is the aspirational goal of place-based education and what sets it apart from similar approaches.
Globally, there is a shift toward embracing educational research with a social justice intent, based on the principles of inclusion, authentic participation, and democratic decision-making. This shift toward doing research with, rather than on, participants could be seen as a reaction to the criticism of contemporary universities being exclusive and in need of finding ways to connect with traditionally marginalized groups. Universities need to be more responsive to the real learning and development needs of communities and use their theoretical knowledge to complement and facilitate, rather than direct, research conducted in partnership with those whose lives are directly affected by the phenomenon being studied. Community-based educational research accepts local knowledge as the starting point of sustainable change and the learning and development of all involved as an important outcome of the research process. Community-based research thus has an educative intent; it is also inherently political since it aims to change systems that breed inequity. Yet these very characteristics stand in opposition to the neoliberal, silo-like models of operation in academia, where the bottom line trumps social impact in most strategic decisions. Negotiating the bureaucratic boundaries regarding the ethics of community-based research becomes a major hurdle for most researchers and often leads to compromises that contradict and undermine the ideal of partnership and equitable power relations. There is a pressing need to rethink how we “do” community-based educational research to ensure it is truly educational for all. This begs the question, in what ways does the academy need to change to accommodate educational research that contributes to the sustainable learning and development of people and to the democratization of knowledge? Community-based educational research can help close the gap between theory and practice, between academic and community researcher.