Learning to Unlearn: Using Taoism and Critical Pedagogy in Language Education to Foster Global Unity

Learning to Unlearn: Using Taoism and Critical Pedagogy in Language Education to Foster Global Unity

Matthew E. Lewerenz (Walden University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3082-4.ch012
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The U.S. and many countries across Europe and around the world are currently experiencing increased cultural tensions and xenophobia, particularly against those whose ethnic, religious, or linguistic orientations make them a minority or an otherwise vulnerable group. This comes despite the fact that we are a more interconnected global society than perhaps ever before in our history. Communication is central to overcoming this obstacle, and language instruction can be an integral locus for directly confronting perceptions and prejudices. Creating practical learning applications and assessments that foster critical thinking and utilize ontological, ethical, and educational practices rooted in the Tao Te Ching, integrated with a critical pedagogical framework, can effect positive social change and help foster global unity through mutual linguistic and ontological identification.
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Depending on the source, Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, was either a real or fictitious person who may have lived in China during the Warring States period, before China’s unification under the Emperor Qin. The fundamental elements of Taoist philosophy include a rejection of division and labels and equality between masculine and feminine energies. “Tao,” which is both a noun and a verb, translates roughly as “way,” is conceived of as a unifying force that comprises and runs through all things. Taoism’s central text, the Tao Te Ching, which translates roughly as “Way integrity book,” as its name implies, deals with way of all things, the way to live, and how to cultivate integrity. There are also adages addressed to rulers dispensing advice on governance. This text and its accompanying corpus of work, along with those of Confucianism and Buddhism, laid the foundations for Chinese thought for the next two thousand years. As this essay will go on to discuss, many aspects of Taoism can be integrated with a critical pedagogical context to inform effective pedagogies that offer unique perspectives on the learning process which, interestingly, have their own corollaries within the words of some of modern critical pedagogies prominent thinkers, like Paolo Freire and Henri Giroux.

“If you follow the realized mind you’ve happened into, making it your teacher, how could you be without a teacher?... When mind turns to itself, you’ve found your teacher” (p. 21). Here Chuang Tzu (1997), one of Lao Tzu’s disciples, articulated ideas about pedagogy in ancient China that might resonate today with Freire and Giroux. Chuang Tzu discussed breaking down the dichotomy between teacher and pupil nearly two thousand years before they were discussed in the West.

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