Nurture your Experiences, my Fellow Student

Just a few days ago I met a group of bright young students in sociology starting off their doctoral program, and individual research projects. I felt that there was a lot of enthusiasm, and progressive ideas in the air. It remains to be seen, how can an institution meet these hopes, goals, and β€œthe wisdom of youth.” Many of these fellow students had experiences from the grassroots, who did community work, who participated in co-ops, or both. -- Which brings me back to Giroux again who writes (Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life, p. 244) as follows:

"Attempts to link classroom instruction to community contexts are nowhere more important than during teachers' clinical experiences. On these occasions, prospective teachers should be assisted in making connections with progressive community organizations, especially those affiliated with local governmental council meetings, and in interviewing community leaders and workers in various community agencies linked to the school. This enhances the possibility that progressive teachers will make critically reflective links between classroom practices and the ethos of and needs of the surrounding social and cultural milieu."

I would maintain that parallel to teacher education it is imperative – in one way or another – for sociologists (as well as students and researchers in social policy, medicine, law, and related areas) to link their field experiences to their studies, and research projects. There are a lot of legitimate and exciting methodological possibilities for doing that. The project could be carried out ethnographically in the manner of participant observation, or it can be done more in the action research model with an emancipatory intent. There is plethora of choices. At least one should not try to unlearn her or his experiences during the academic studies but keep them as precious resources in doing sociology (or social policy, law, or medicine).


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