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Monday, 10 February 2014 22:44

Critical Education in an Era of Crisis: Anticapitalist Health and Design

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Thessaloniki-Front

“The most odious form of colonisation, and that which has brought with it the greatest pain for the colonised – (is) the colonisation of the mind”
    Franz Fanon

“Only now, in the Twenty-first Century, are European peoples just starting to appreciate the value of indigenous knowledge(s) about health, medicine, agriculture, philosophy, spirituality, ecology and education”
    Joe Kincheloe

ABSTRACT
The untimely death of Joe Kincheloe robbed the world of an important critical theorist and educator. Amongst his last published words were those quoted above, raising our awareness of the growing importance of indigenous knowledge systems in the crises we face. Marxism has long ignored and/or rejected indigenous cultural systems as “Savage” (Engels (1979:7-22), and Kincheloe’s invitation opens the way for a more inclusive theorising of social issues. This paper attempts to take up this invitation in the context of the poor state of our Community Health.

The health system in every Western capitalist country exemplifies the processes of commodification, of corporate power, the consequential alienation and dehumanisation of the people to the status of “patient” consumers – and the effects of so-called “free-market” economics. Education, too, is both a witness and the object of these same forces that have brought every aspect of our lives, and even the survival of the planet to a point of crisis. The driving power behind this corporatisation of health is, of course, Capitalism – particularly in the United States where the so-called “Health System” best epitomises the ethic of greed and self-interest of the free market.

This paper illustrates a story of how, drawing on indigenous models of health, a culturally diverse group of 24 Architecture students (of 11 different nationalities), working with 7 local high school students successfully navigated the complex web of requirements and diverse social, cultural and economic needs to design a new community facility for the small town of Whakatane in New Zealand. Working under the auspices of two local social service providers and in consultation with the bicultural (50% Maori, 50% European) community – they designed a family-friendly, universally accessible facility catering for the needs of all cultural groups, ages and beliefs and intended to rebuild relationships to reverse the dreadful social, cultural and economic statistics – the worst in the nation:

  • High unemployment rates
  • Lowest income rates
  • Second-highest child violence rates
  • Highest family violence rates
  • Highest youth suicide rates
  • Highest truancy rates
  • Lowest academic achievement rates
  • Highest rate of wealth disparity (roughly divided along lines of race)

The results were unanimously endorsed by community groups, local politicians and regional and district Councillors and the entire community and the project is now proceeding to towards realisation. The design pedagogy and the evaluation and grading processes were carried out collectively and by consensus using a tried and documented methodology (Ward, 2008A, 2008B; Shielke et. al. 2009). While the outcome was successful from a design perspective, the paper will offer reflective critical analysis of the learning outcomes for the students themselves drawing on instances of studio/classroom experience.

To Download the PDF of the Theory paper click here

To download the PDF of the Practice paper click here

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