chapter  14
10 Pages

(reactive) Constraints to Implementing Learning Partnership Models and Self-Authorship in the Arts and Humanities


In this statement, the Director of the National Humanities Center (USA) Geoffrey Harpham captures a common disconnection between the study of the humanities from the education of those who study the humanities. He appears to forget the mediating context in which we socially engage with our students and the direct and indirect impact that this has both in and outside of our disciplines. For me, our classrooms are the bridging environment between what we, as academics, individually study and with whom we share that study and its practices socially. As a result we need to beware of failing to address the nature of the educational environment fostered within the Arts and Humanities by its faculty members: How we teach what we have been studying privately is as important as what we teach. How we teach is simultaneously both one of the public aspects of our private scholarly activity as well as an intrinsic part of that activity and this symbiosis is directly linked to the public good. Surely both disciplinary content and its context of generation create a whole greater than the sum of its parts? Harpham’s statement is, of course, a reduction of the variety of viewpoints expressed within the Arts and Humanities, but it sums up one reason as to why the Humanities subjects have been tainted with a perception of conservatism in their approaches to different methods of education: We focus on product and forget process. We, the argument goes, have been excellent at challenging traditional modes of thought within our subjects but have uncritically accepted habitual procedures of discipline generation.