Living archaeology

Alexandria Troas restoration

Alexandria Troas restoration

In many localities there are ancient sites one can visit. But often, these are removed from contemporary life, not only by time, but also by place. They seem to stand apart.

For example, in Illinois, Cahokia Mounds is a fascinating site to visit. It tells the story of people who settled Illinois over 1000 years ago, and created one of the great cities of the world. However, the threads connecting Cahokia to 21st C Illinois seem very thin. The site is interesting in large part because it seems like it’s from another world. Most of the links from the Mississippian and other cultures to present-day life in Illinois have been erased or forgotten.

In Turkey, however, archaeological sites seem to merge with current life. There are more here than anyone could ever visit, or even count. Ruins spill out of the official ticketed sites into the village and countryside. Modern houses are built of the same stone, and embedded in the same rocks that influenced the ancient structures. Farmers plant and harvest in the same fields, often on top of buried ruins from two or three millennia ago. Modern excavations proceed alongside contemporary uses of the same rocks or even structures.

Apollon Smintheion

Apollon Smintheion

More importantly, there are ties in language and culture to the earlier Cretan, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and other cultures. Places have names revealing their history, and sometimes multiple names, e.g., Assos / Behramkale / Behram, for their different ties. Customs in food and dress have strong connections that are understood by locals, in a way that one would have trouble finding between Mississippian and modern-day Illinoisans.

An implication of this for the traveler is that archaeological sites exist in an array of states, but all with tangible links to the present. Some are fully excavated and interpreted, while others are submerged into the landscape. Some are outside of present-day settlements, but many are embedded within or under the present day town. Many manifest not just a single culture, but a series, for example an early settlement that became a Hellenistic temple, then later Roman baths and administrative center, then a Byzantine development, with continuing use to the present. This makes the sites seem alive and connected to our life today in a way that sites elsewhere are often fascinating, but removed as in a science fiction story about a strange foreign world.

European stinging nettle

European stinging nettle

The site for Alexandria Troas is one of the largest in Turkey, nearly 1000 acres. But it’s still being excavated and most of it appears first just as some strange rocks sticking up among the vallonea oaks. The site spreads nearby, but partly within and underneath today’s town of Dalyan, Çanakkale. It’s not hard to imagine that some of the farming practices of today in that region were common two millennia ago.

Walking and clambering about the site in my sandals, I found the ısırgan otu (stinging nettle) that undoubtedly plagued early walkers in sandals. They probably enjoyed eating them as much as other modern diners and I do.

About 23 miles south by road is Appollon Sminteionin, whcih was built in the 2nd C BC city of Khrysa (present-day Gülpınar, Çanakkale). When Cretan colonists came to the area, they consulted an oracle regarding where to settle. The oracle told them to settle where ‘the sons of the earth’ attacked them. One morning they awoke and found mice chewing their equipment. They decided to stay there and built a temple dedicated to Smintheion, Lord of the Mice and to Apollo.

Sminthean Apollo is mentioned in the Iliad, Book 1:

Agamemnon had dishonoured the god’s priest,
Chryses, who’d come to the ships to find his daughter,
Chryseis, bringing with him a huge ransom.

Displeased, Agamemnon dismissed Chryses roughly

Chryses then prayed to Appollon Smintheionin:

“God with the silver bow,
protector of Chryse, sacred Cilla,
mighty lord of Tenedos, Sminthean Apollo,
hear my prayer: If I’ve ever pleased you
with a holy shrine, or burned bones for you—
bulls and goats well wrapped in fat—
grant me my prayer. Force the Danaans
to pay full price for my tears with your arrows.”

Assos Temple of Athena

Assos Temple of Athena

There is a walkway at the Appollon Smintheion site, which may have connected it with Alexandria Troas, just as the modern towns link today. There are no wheel ruts in the stone, which suggests that ancient people walked to and from the site.

Not much further on, Assos is one of the most impressive, and surely most photographed, of the many sites in the area. I cringe to think of how many people will fall off the edge seeking the perfect selfie.

Assos is a site that exemplifies the idea of continuous settlement and sedimentation of cultures. Modern boutique hotels and shops are built into the rocks and with rocks just as the ancient structures were. There is an old, though not as old as Assos, cami (mosque) built of stone and standing at the entrance. Although the fenced area of the site is huge, structures and rock piles spill over the edges such that it’s not clear which are archaeological treasures, which are functional structures for today, and which are construction debris.

The Assos habitation traces back to the Bronze Age, with city life from 7C BC onwards without interruption. Aristotle wrote his Politics during his three-year stay here. The missionary, St. Paul, would walk to here from Troas, 20 miles aways. Its easy to envision shepherd throughout this time guiding their sheep and goats among the rock strewn hillsides, much as they do today.

Beyond the physical though, what’s most telling about the connection to the past is the way people talk. For example, many say that local foods, dress, personal names, and even ways of socializing on Turkey’s Aegean coast can be traced directly to its Hellenistic heritage. The many other civilizations in its story have similarly shaped the rich culture.

Personal geography: Walking

Lake Silvaplana

Lake Silvaplana

In Die Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), Friedrich Nietzsche writes that his best ideas come from walking:

On ne peut penser et ecrire qu’assis [One cannot think and write except when seated] (G. Flaubert). There I have caught you, nihilist! The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit. Only thoughts reached by walking have value.

An important example of this for Nietzsche was his concept of the eternal recurrence of the same events. It occurred to him while he was walking in Switzerland in the woods around Lake Silvaplana, when he was inspired by the sight of a large, pyramidal rock. His inner life as writer and philosopher could not be separated from his embodied life as a person who spent hours walking in beautiful spots in Europe.

Why does it require the direct connection reached through walking to embrace an idea like eternal recurrence? Why not just use a map? Reading a book, map, diagram, photo, movie, etc. can be a powerful experience. Why can’t we have the same insights without being there? And what is the relation between reading a text  about a phenomenon and experiencing it more directly?

A philosophy of walkingJohn Dewey addresses this dichotomy in The Child and the Curriculum:

The map is not a substitute for a personal experience. The map does not take the place of an actual journey…But the map, a summary, an arranged and orderly view of previous experiences, serves as a guide to future experience; it gives direction; it facilitates control; it economizes effort, preventing useless wandering, and pointing out the paths which lead most quickly and most certainly to a desired result. Through the map every new traveler may get for his own journey the benefits of the results of others’ explorations without the waste of energy and loss of time involved in their wanderings–wanderings which he himself would be obliged to repeat were it not for just the assistance of the objective and generalized record of their performances.

Sunset on the Dardanelles

Sunset on the Dardanelles

I’ve been thinking along these lines while reading, A Philosophy of Walking, by Frédéric Gros. The book is a pleasure to read (though not while walking). It intersperses Gros’s observations with accounts of other great walkers such as Rimbaud and Nietzsche. Gros writes,

By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history … The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.

Curiously, the anomia and ahistory of walking, its “freedom,” is what allows the walker to connect to a greater degree with history, geography, and ideas in general. This has become even more evident to me during our stay in Turkey.

To be continued…

 

Héloïse and Abélard

Tutoring

Tutoring

In 1971, I was fortunate to see an excellent play at Wyndham’s Theatre in London. It was Abelard and Heloise, by Ronald Millar. Keith Mitchell and Diana Rigg(!) had the title roles. The play was moving and the acting was superb. I can still visualize scenes, not so much from the stage setting, which was fine, but because the story caught my imagination.

Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of love, and learning held out to us the secret opportunities that our passion craved. Our speech was more of love than of the books which lay open before us; our kisses far outnumbered our reasoned words. –Abélard

Père Lachaise Cemetery from apartment

Père Lachaise Cemetery from apartment

Over the years I would read whatever I could find by or about Héloïse d’Argenteuil and Peter Abélard, including biographies, fictionalized accounts, children’s stories, poetry, song, and of course the letters themselves. I saw several movie versions, some better than others. I began to learn how the story had inspired copies, re-mediations, satires, and endless allusions in a wide variety of artforms.

Héloïse had seen this coming, with her own perceptive reflections on pictures, letters, talk, and physical presence. For example,

If a picture, which is but a mute representation of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls; they can speak; they have in them all that force which expresses the transports of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions, they can raise them as much as if the persons themselves were present; they have all the tenderness and the delicacy of speech, and sometimes even a boldness of expression beyond it. –Héloïse

My obsession with the topic became worse in 2004, when we lived not far from Notre-Dame de Paris, where Abélard had studied and taught. I found an English translation of Régine Pernoud’s book in a used book store. Pernoud lists Héloïse first, which makes sense. Abélard was a great orator and writer, one we might revere even more if most of his works hadn’t been destroyed for his heresies. Yet, Héloïse (a great scholar herself) is the one who makes their story come alive, whether you interpret it as a love story, a theological debate, an example of 12th C patriarchy, or an invention of later writers.  His letters are fascinating to read, but hers leap to the heights of the written art, even in translation from the original Latin.

Monument to Ablard & Héloïse

Monument to Ablard & Héloïse

One thing that comes through in every retelling is the tragedy of it all. There is of course the castration and the subsequent separation of Héloïse and Abélard. But there is also the tangible agony of struggles between possibility and reality, spirituality and desire, trust and betrayal. Their love always entailed suffering with happy moments that became recollections before they were fully realized. Even their son Astrolabe appears as a shadow of a world they imagined, but never had.

Later, when their connection was only through letters, Héloïse seeks a way to share the loss, to find meaning in the emptiness:

Let me have a faithful account of all that concerns you; I would know everything, be it ever so unfortunate. Perhaps by mingling my sighs with yours I may make your sufferings less, for it is said that all sorrows divided are made lighter. –Héloïse

You can read one version of this in Alexander Pope’s poem, Eloisa to Abelard. Eloisa is in anguish over her powerful feelings for Abélard, especially as manifested in her dreams:

Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws
A death-like silence, and a dread repose:
Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene,
Shades ev’ry flow’r, and darkens ev’ry green,
Deepens the murmur of the falling floods,
And breathes a browner horror on the woods.

She realizes that Abélard, now as a eunuch who is free from the “contagion of carnal impurity” cannot return her feelings even if he wants to. And so she begs, not for forgiveness, but for forgetfulness.

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

Today, one can walk near Père Lachaise cemetery on rue Pierre-Bayle. Bayle was a 17C philosopher. Where Abélard committed the heresy of seeing reason as a path to faith, Bayle advocated a separation between the spheres of faith and reason. He wrote about Héloïse and Abélard in his Historical and Critical Dictionary, a forerunner of the encyclopedias. One can also walk on the rue du Repos, which, were it not for the cemetery wall, would lead directly to where they lie in “repose” at their monument.

Cynics will point out that the monument was placed there in 1817 simply as a marketing ploy to convince Parisians to be buried among the famous; that the bones of the famous lovers are probably at the Oratory of the Paraclete, or the church of Nogent-sur-Seine, or most likely, just lost; that their love, if it existed at all, was no more than an expression of medieval structures of religious oppression, patriarchy, abuse of position, class, and power; and that the famous letters themselves were a literary concoction made long after the actual events.

Héloïse d'Argenteuil

Héloïse d’Argenteuil

Abélard would disdain these worldly concerns, and urge the cynics, along with Héloïse to

Strive now to unite in yourself all the virtues of these different examples. Have the purity of virgins, the austerity of anchorites, the zeal of pastors and bishops, and the constancy of martyrs.

But Héloïse would know that “the truth is more important than the facts.” She’d recognize that the Père Lachaise monument shows their eternal love, which endured politics, religion, castration, and even Abélard’s pomposity and coldness. She’d also see that just like Keats’s youth, they can never touch, so encased in granite, their suffering also endures forever.

References

Journal series on progressive education

The International Journal of Progressive Education (IJPE) has now published a series of three special issues on “Progressive Education: Past, Present and Future”:

  1. Progressive Education: Antecedents of Educating for Democracy (IJPE 9.1, February 2013)
  2. Progressive Education: Educating for Democracy and the Process of Authority (IJPE 9.2, June 2013)
  3. What’s Next?: The Future of Progressivism as an “Infinite Succession of Presents” (IJPE 9.3, October 2013)

I worked on these journal issues with John Pecore, Brian Drayton, and Maureen Hogan, as well as article contributors from around the world. We’re now exploring options for developing some of the articles along with some additional material into a handbook. The series is timely given current debates about the purpose and form of education in an era of rapid technological change, globalization, demographic and political shifts, and growing economic inequities. It asks, “What have we learned about pedagogy that can support democratic, humanistic, and morally responsible development for individuals and societies?”

Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that emphasizes aspects such as learning by doing, student-centered learning, valuing diversity, integrated curriculum, problem solvingcritical thinking, collaborative learning, education for social responsibility, and lifelong learning. It situates learning within social, community, and political contexts. It was promoted by the Progressive Education Association in the US from 1919 to 1955, and reflected in the educational philosophy of John Dewey.

But as an approach to pedagogy, progressive education is in no way limited to the US or the past century. In France, the Ecole Moderne, developed from the work of Célestin Freinet, emphasizes the social activism side of progressive education. Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education demonstrates the importance of art in learning, a key element of the holistic approach in progressive education. Paulo Freire’s work in Brazil on critical literacy, highlights the link between politics and pedagogy. Similarly, influenced by his experiences in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi’s conception of basic education resonates with progressive ideals of learning generated within everyday life, cooperation, and educating the whole person, including moral development.

It is worth noting that progressive education invariably seeks to go beyond the classroom walls. Thus, the work of Jane Addams and others at Hull House with immigrants fits, even if it is not situated within a traditional school. Myles Horton and the Highlander Folk School focused on social activism with adults, exemplifying the progressive education ideals. So too is the Escuela Nueva in Spain, Colombia, and elsewhere. The informal learning in museums, libraries, community and economic development, and online may express progressive education more fully than what we see in many schools today.

We hope that these issues will prove to be a useful resource for anyone interested improving education for a healthier world.

The phoenix in the attic

The May Harper’s has another good essay by Lewis H. Lapham. “Ignorance of things past: Who wins and who loses when we forget American history” is a compendium of great quotes about history, spiced with his own novel insights.

It seems surprisingly easy to slip into dichotomies about the past. As Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Our idealized construction of the past then leads us to simplistic views of the present and even more cartoonish views of the future and what to do next. The US Presidential campaign is filled with examples of this, few of which bear repeating.

Cambridge Public Library

Cambridge Public Library, Past, Present, Future

Lapham shows some ways around dichotomous thinking about the past. One of those dichotomies is between the view of history as a detailed, and verifiable account of past events with little room for interpretation and of history as a consensual hallucination. He shows that history requires both careful attention to detail and continual reconstruction.

Most importantly, Lapham makes an effective case for the idea that history is necessary for a critical, socially engaged intelligence in the time in which we live. This means history that grows out of meticulous study of the details, openness to counter-intuitive or disturbing ideas, and investigation of the gremlins that don’t fit our preconceptions. He cites Faulkner’s “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” (Requiem for a Nun), on the way to showing how making sense of the past is part and parcel of making sense of the present.

We use the present to construct our past, just as we use our past to construct our present. For Lapham, then, the past is the phoenix in the attic. No matter how we engage with it, our uses of history shape what is to come. As he puts it,

History is work in progress, a constant writing, and rewriting as opposed to museum-quality sculpture in milk-white marble.

This doesn’t mean anything-goes relativism. Instead, it is a call to realize that who we are and who we may become are inseparable from who we have been. Unfortunately, that realization seems lacking, and the desire to learn is all too meagre for the needs of today.

Vivir y ayudar a vivir

Vida/SIDA

Vida/SIDA

The mural on the front of Vida/SIDA in Chicago includes the phrase, “vivir y ayudar a vivir” (to live and help to live). That’s very appropriate for a health clinic, but it’s really the motto for everything done in the Paseo Boricua community. The idea is that in order to build a healthy community, people need to move beyond “live and let live,” which can mean “live for myself and to hell with you.” The more expansive motto, “vivir y ayudar a vivir,” can be seen there on murals, brochures, websites, and coffee cups.

I know that other groups have used the same phrase, but I’ve never been sure of its origin. Some people attribute it to Orison Swett Marden, a 19th century writer associated with the New Thought Movement. He founded Success Magazine and wrote extensively on how our thoughts influence our actions and experiences.

The Voice of Industry

The Voice of Industry

The general idea is of course much older. For example, the Jain Center of Cincinnati Dayton has an historical marker asserting that the motto of Jainism is “live and let live and help others to live.” And Jainism dates at least from the 6th century BC, if not earlier.

More recently, both in the course of events, and in my own discovery process, I came across The Voice of Industry, a labor newspaper published from 1845-48. It was founded by the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. An article from November 14, 1845, “Live -Let Live -Help Live,” gives one of the clearest and earliest explanations of the phrase that I’ve seen. Basically, it says that there are three sorts of people: those who take for their motto live regardless of others, those who adopt live and let live, and those who say live and help others to live.

I’d like to hear about other sources, or uses, of the phrase.

Progressive Education: Past, Present and Future

I’ve agreed to serve as guest editor for a Special Issue of the International Journal of Progressive Education (February, 2013, Vol 9 – No 1). Here’s the Call for Manuscripts:


The International Journal of Progressive Education (IJPE) plans a special issue on “Progressive Education: Past, Present and Future.” We invite submissions of proposals for articles.

This issue is timely given current debates about the purpose and form of education in an era of rapid technological change, globalization, demographic and political shifts, and growing economic inequities. It asks, “What have we learned about pedagogy that can support democratic, humanistic, and morally responsible development for individuals and societies?”

Background and Scope

Progressive education is a pedagogical movement that emphasizes aspects such as learning by doing, student-centered learning, valuing diversity, integrated curriculum, problem solvingcritical thinking, collaborative learning, education for social responsibility, and lifelong learning. It situates learning within social, community, and political contexts.

In the US, progressive education is often seen as beginning with the work of Francis Parker. It was promoted by the Progressive Education Association from 1919 to 1955, and reflected in the educational philosophy of John Dewey. The movement has continued through efforts to promote project-based learning, whole language, hands-on learning in mathematics and science, and by organizations such as the Progressive Education Network (PEN). More broadly, it is linked with efforts to promote critical pedagogy and democratic education. Recently, the core ideas appear in the social justice youth development model.

But as an approach to pedagogy, progressive education is in no way limited to the US. The ideas grew out of work in other countries, and can be traced back to the earliest theories of teaching and learning. Some other examples may be useful to consider: In France, the Ecole Moderne, developed from the work of Célestin Freinet, showing how to realize the social activism side of progressive education. Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education are another manifestation, demonstrating among other things the importance of art in learning. Paulo Freire’s work in Brazil on critical literacy, later extended to many other countries, is another contemporary example, one that emphasizes the political as well as the pedagogical. Similarly, influenced by his experiences in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi developed a conception of basic education that resonates with progressive education. It was concerned with learning generated within everyday life, relied on cooperation among individuals, and aimed at educating the whole person, including moral development.

It is worth noting that progressive education invariably seeks to go beyond the classroom walls. Thus, the work of Jane Addams and others at Hull House to work with new immigrants might be considered as progressive education, even if it is not situated within a traditional school. Myles Horton and the Highlander Folk School focused on social activism with adults, but a case can be made for their work as exemplifying the progressive education ideals. Similarly, there is much work in museums, libraries, community and economic development, online collaboration, and other areas of informal education that may express progressive education more fully than what we see in schools today. The issue is not restricted to any one educational level, e.g., K-12 or university. Articles may focus on formal or informal learning in any setting, including online.

Themes for the Special Issue

The special issue will develop these and related ideas, considering both the past successes and failures of progressive education, as well as current work and future possibilities. Authors are invited to develop and justify their own definitions for progressive education and not to be limited by official statements.

Articles that show how ideas have evolved will fit well the purpose of the special issue: What has progressive education been? What is it today? What could it become? However, some articles may focus on particular approaches as exemplars of challenges or opportunities for progressive education. Others may focus on the historical or philosophical basis for progressive education. Critiques of progressive education in general, or of particular efforts to realize it are welcome.

There are no limitations regarding age or grade level, or area of the curriculum. To the contrary, articles that can develop connections across the curriculum, across ages or settings, may fit best with the progressive education spirit.

Articles should include the author(s) conception of progressive education as well as a justification for why the particular examples or issues chosen fit within that conception. Some articles may focus on progressive education as it was enacted in early 20th century US, but those that broaden that view in productive ways are strongly encouraged as well.

Schedule and Submission Guidelines

The issue will contain:

  • An editorial highlighting key themes and briefly summarizing the articles;
  • Six-eight articles (~6000 words each) incorporating a range of perspectives on progressive education;
  • Reviews of recent books on progressive education (~600 words each).

Submission of proposals for articles: March 15, 2012. These should consist of a proposed title and a synopsis of no more than 200 words.  The proposals will be considered by the editorial board, and a selection made to ensure a balanced range of content.

Invitation to submit full article: April 15, 2012. A limited number of articles will be commissioned by this date.

First submission by selected authors: June 22, 2012. All submissions will be subject to a review by the editorial board. Submissions should follow the guidelines at http://www.inased.org/ijpesi.htm.

Feedback and requests for revisions:  September 15, 2012. The editorial board will request any needed revisions by this date.

Final submissions:  November 20, 2012.

Final copy to press: January 6, 2013.

Publication: The special issue will appear in IJPE on February 2, 2013, Volume 9 – Number 1. We are also planning a book publication.

The International Journal of Progressive Education (IJPE) (ISSN 1554-5210) is a peer reviewed journal sponsored by the International Association of Educators and in part by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. It is published three times a year: February, June, and October, in both print and online versions.

All submissions and questions should be directed to:

Bertram (Chip) Bruce
Professor Emeritus, Library & Information Science
Email: chip@illinois.edu
Post: 130 Daniels Drive, Wellfleet, MA 02667, USA

Jane Addams Conference on Social Entrepreneurship

I just learned, too late I’m afraid, about the Jane Addams Conference on Social Entrepreneurship to be held in Uppsala, November 18-19. It’s organized by the department of Sociology at Uppsala University in cooperation with the Nobel Museum, Stockholm.

You may like to look at the conference program, even if you can’t pop over to Sweden for a couple of days. It’s interesting to see the level of interest in Jane Addams (also John Dewey and WIlliam James) here in Sweden. In many other places in Europe, I’ve seen more interest in the more analytical approach represented by Charles Sanders Peirce (e.g., Kaiserlslautern, Germany) or the language focus represented by Richard Rorty (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), among those working in pragmatism.

A view on learning in Go:

My meetings here at Göteborg University have been held in the School of Pedagogy, which sits in three buildings, labeled, fittingly for an education school, as A-B-C.

But someone showed some imagination, and managed to start my brain spinning, by giving each hus a more lyrical name. I know the dictionary definitions, but I still can’t quite pull these names into a unified whole. Perhaps a Swedish colleague can help?

Hus A, the largest, is named Utsikten, which means “view.” That’s very appropriate, as its windows look out on the beautiful canal with its trees and walkways. The building is trilobite shaped. Its curves mean that each window has a different view. I think of the label as suggesting that we need to look out at the world.

Hus B is named Åsikten. This can also be translated as “view,” but here, I think it means point of view, or opinion. It reminds us that when we examine the world, we all see different things.

Finally, Hus C is named insikten, meaning “insight.” So, we have a view, a point of view, and an insight. Is it saying that as we consider our own view, then that of others, as in Peirce’s community of inquiry, that we develop insight? Or, does it mean that learning involves looking both outward and inward, then recognizing the fallibility of all knowledge? Does insight here really mean reflection, as we find in the water of the canal?

Or, is all of this just playing with the root sikt, and the untranslateablity in order to drive English speakers crazy? I suspect the latter, as I see Göteborg becoming Go:teborg on street signs, and then just Go:. But regardless of the deeper meanings I’m missing, this is just one of the many charming things I’m finding everywhere we look in Go:.

Turkey’s Village Institutes

One of the goals I had for my recent trip to Turkey was to learn more about the Village Institutes (Köy Enstitüleri) there. I knew that they represented an innovative approach to expanding opportunities for learning, but that they had come to an abrupt end in the late 1940’s.

I’d read several articles about the Institutes (see below), and also knew that they had been influenced by John Dewey’s report on the Turkish educational system, but I wanted to hear firsthand from Turkish people who had been involved with the Institutes, or had studied them from a Turkish perspective.

The Village Institutes were created to meet a serious educational need. In 1928 (the year of the introduction of the Latin script in Turkey), 82.5 per cent of men and 95.2 per cent of women were illiterate. For 13.6 million people, there were only 4,894 elementary schools and most of those were in the towns, not the villages where most of the people lived (Vexliard & Aytac, 1964).

Between 1939 and 1946 twenty-one co-educational boarding schools were built to prepare primary school teachers. Much of the construction work was done by pupils and teachers. Youth of both sexes, aged twelve to sixteen, who had completed a five-year village primary school, qualified for admission. Their education was free following a pledge to teach in an assigned village for twenty years after graduation.

The duties of the new teachers included:

  • primary education
  • adult education in the villages
  • raising the cultural level of the villages through the distribution of books, educational programs, radio, and vocal, dance, & instrumental music education; the photo above (by George Pickow/Three Lions/Getty Images), shows Turkish teenagers in an Institute presenting a mass concert on the saz, the Turkish national instrument
  • promoting progressive agricultural techniques in the fields, the orchards, and kitchen gardens; the raising of  livestock; rural handicrafts such as ironwork, carpentry, leather work, mechanics, and electricity
  • instruction for adults in child-rearing, housekeeping, needlework
  • the creation and development of rural cooperatives

The graduates of the Institutes were to return to their villages as leaders and reformers. Teachers, students, and villagers in general were to learn practical skills, mostly related to their agricultural economy, new tools for life, and general education.

The Institute approach embodied ideas of Ataturk, Dewey, and others such as integrating theory and practice, focusing on the underserved, working across institutions, and a systemic approach to building a stronger society. Classical education was to be combined with practical abilities and applied to local needs.

The Institutes had a major impact, and many people regret that they were shut down. But there was resistance against this secular and mixed education. Some feared that it would educate ‘the communists of tomorrow,’ a damning statement during the Cold War. Traditionalists questioned the coeducational and secular aspects. Powerful landlords did not appreciate the goal of educating children who could ask “Why?” questions. There were also questions about the organization and preparation of the teachers. By 1953 the Village Institutes had been completely shut down.

I heard strong statements from people who knew about the Institutes and decried their closing. An artist we met, who had been born during the Institute period, said “They killed the Turkish children! They murdered Turkey’s future!”

Others were more reserved, but still felt that a crucial opportunity had been lost. There are estimates of major losses for Turkey in terms of general literacy and economic development still being felt today because of the closings.

From the little I know, it appears that the Village Institutes demonstrated a successful model for education that could be applied anywhere after suitable adjustment for local needs. I’d like to learn more, and have many questions.

For example, all the photos I’ve seen show only (or mostly) young men, even though the Institutes were coeducational. How did the young men and women get along? How did they each experience the Institutes? The graduates would now be in their 80’s. How do they think about that experience today? What did their training mean for the villages where they went to teach?

How do the Village Institutes compare to other grassroots, community-based education initiatives, such as the school at Weedpatch Camp in California, Foxfire, the Misiones Pedagogicas (village literacy program in Spain, which was shut down by Franco), Paulo Freirean projects in many countries, Paseo Boricua, the Reggio Emilia Approach, or the school set up by the schoolboys of Barbiana?

Perhaps most importantly, could or should the Institutes be revived? Or, are there principles we can derive from them that would be valuable for the more urban populations of today?

References

Ata, Bahri (2000). The influence of an American educator (John Dewey) on the Turkish educational system. Turkish Yearbook of International Relations (Milletlerarası Münasebetler Türk Yıllığı), 31. Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi.

Bilgi, Sabiha, & Özsoy, Seckin (2005). John Dewey’s travelings into the project of Turkish modernity. In Thomas S. Popkewitz (ed.), Inventing the modern self and John Dewey: Modernities and the traveling of pragmatism in education (pp. 153-177). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dewey, John (1983). Report and recommendations upon Turkish education. In Jo Ann Boydston (ed.), The Middle Works: Essays on Politics and Society, 1923-1924. Vol. 15 of Collected Works. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press.

Eğrikavuk, Işil (2010, April 9). Anniversary marks unfinished story of Turkish village schools. Hürriyet Daily News.

Stirling, Paul (1965, 1994). Turkish village. Canterbury, UK: Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent at Canterbury.

Stone, Frank A. (1974). Rural revitalization and the Village Institutes in Turkey: Sponsors and critics. Comparative Education Review, 18(3), 419–429.

Uygun, Selçuk (2008, November). The impact of John Dewey on the teacher education system in Turkey. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 36(4), 291–307.

Vexliard, Alexandre, & Aytac, Kemal (1964). The Village Institutes in Turkey. Comparative Education Review. 8(1), 41-47.

Wolf-Gazo, Ernest (1996). John Dewey in Turkey: An educational mission. Journal of American Studies of Turkey, 3, 15-42.

Yılmaz, Omer (1977). Schools for developing countries: The Turkish Village Institutes. Educational Planning, 3(4), 72–80.