Tag Archives: education

Coming to the table

It all starts with an onion.

Tears begin to well in my mother’s eyes as she prepares what is most commonly the first ingredient in every dish made in our family’s kitchen.

After the oil, it is the first ingredient to be added to the hot skillet. It is the foundation for soups, sauces and almost everything else I can think of.

This first step has been engrained in my mind since I was a little girl. The onion comes first, my mum would tell me. I grew up cooking with my mum guiding my culinary education.

I owe my great love for food and the creation of it to her- it is because of her insistence on having me participate in the process of preparing a meal that I am now a proud food education advocate.

This passing down of culinary knowledge is what keeps tradition alive. The ways in which we prepare meals plays a major role in how we define cultures.

The art of creating a meal requires some educating.

CWK-ChildrenMeasuring-2008-12

So what happens when parents stop educating their children on the art of preparing meals?

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5 Books That Have Changed the Way I Think

In one of my Culture and Conflict Resolution classes, we were asked to talk about how art and literature has affected our lives. I mentioned that I have a list of books that have changed the way I think. It turns out that my friends do as well—with Malorie Blackman’s “Noughts & Crosses” series being a prominent fixture on many of their lists. I’d never read or heard of the series, and I’m pretty jealous that they got to read something of that depth and actually gain something from it at such a young age. Hearing about their reading experiences has made me want to share some of mine. So, here is a part of my list: five books that have changed the way I think and some of the lessons that were drawn from them. They aren’t necessarily my favourite books—although some of them are—but after I finished reading them, I looked at the world in a different way than when I started.

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Class, Taste, and British Student TV

The television in the student accommodation, which I shared with five other students in Bradford last year, was not often the source of particularly thought-provoking fare. However, when the two art students in the flat wanted to watch In the Best Possible Taste, we were provided with a rare exception. In each episode of this three-part series, Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry explored taste—“why people buy the things they do and wear the things they wear, and what they are trying to say about themselves when they make those choices”—among representatives of a different British class. He visited his subject’s homes and participated in their social activities in an inquisitive yet empathetic and perceptive manner. He would then create two massive tapestries, which symbolised what he felt he had learned about his model’s taste, aspirations, and difficulties. The subjects of the episode are then invited into his gallery to view the tapestries. Each episode spawned long-lasting discussions in my flat; we even missed a good chunk of the second episode because we started yakking during a commercial break and didn’t stop. I don’t know if my art student flatmates would agree with me—I should probably ask them—but in my opinion, good art creates those kinds of discussions.

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PeaceJam, Education, and Values

Last weekend the University of Bradford hosted the annual PeaceJam UK Conference, a conference in which a Nobel Peace Laureate joins students aged thirteen through nineteen for a weekend of talks, workshops, and community service. In addition, at every conference, youth make a commitment to advance the Global Call to Action, and at subsequent conferences, present the projects that they have worked on to fulfill this commitment. This year, the guest laureate was Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the human rights defender and sculptor, and the conference theme was “Breaking the cycle of violence.”

For the second year in a row, I was a conference mentor meaning that throughout the weekend, my mentor partner and I led sessions of discussion, reflection, and teambuilding with our “family group,” a group of ten youth. Our family group had challenging discussions about the justifiability of violence, which flowed into a dialogue about the death penalty; we also spent a session seeing who could make the tallest free-standing tower out of paper and tape. It was great watching the group bond, and hopefully, they learned something from each other’s perspectives.

One statement from Adolfo’s opening speech, which stuck with me is that we need to think deeply about what we want to achieve through education. We can train our children to become professionals, he said, to become great engineers and architects, but if that’s all we focus on, they run the risk of becoming robots—unthinking cogs in oppressive systems. He said that education should also be about thinking critically about values.

In my opinion, many problematic forms of thinking are reinforced in our education system. One major example is some people’s tendency of trying to place everything in fixed absolute categories. While we may need categories in order to understand the infinite complexity of our world, there is no reason why we should not apply them with an eye for nuance and an understanding of the fluidity of categorical borders. The more I look into any particular subject, the more seemingly fundamental boundaries blur. While I can laugh at my friends’ over-categorisation when it comes to, for example, which foods qualify as “breakfast food” and which ones qualify as “dinner food,” it becomes far more serious when categories are applied to be people, whether it be through race, gender, religion or preferred sports teams. This is why it’s troubling that—particularly at an early age—much of my schooling revolved around memorising categories and their apparently “absolute” characteristics. It’s funny the amount of times we learned “absolute” rules, when we were younger, which we had to unlearn as we get older because there was more nuance to them than we were originally taught.

Another example is the tendency to claim universality from one’s personal experience. Obviously we can only think and theorise from what we perceive, learn, and “know.” This isn’t a problem in itself; the problem comes when people assume that their inevitably subjective conclusions can automatically be applied to everyone else without taking the time to listen to them. With this in mind, I wonder why I remember teachers in the Humanities emphasising the “ability” to draw links between subject matter and our own lives. Why do we need to find relevance to our own lives in order to understand and empathise with others?

At PeaceJam, youth experienced a different form of education. One workshop that I attended focused on the relationships that connect us. Other activities, from the campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty with Amnesty International to planting potatoes with the Permaculture project, from the art with Umbrellas for Peace to the session with Peace FC [who in a completely unrelated note won the Tolstoy Cup 2-1 on Sunday], had a similar focus. I think that our education system could certainly benefit from more focus on thinking, discussing and listening about how we interact with each other and our world.

In reference to my previous post about art’s ability to communicate other people’s lives, this new photography book released by LSE (of Saif Gaddafi fame) provides a hugely insightful peak into another time and place.

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