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Learning to be in the World with Others

Difficult Knowledge and Social Studies Education

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H. James Garrett

In this book, H. James Garrett inquires into the processes of learning about the social world, populated as it often is with bewildering instances of loss, violence, and upheaval. In such learning, interactions invite and enliven our passionate responses, or prompt us to avoid them. Interpreting and working with these often emotional reactions is critical to social studies education and developing strategies for individuals to participate in democracy. Garrett illustrates ways that learning about the world does not occur in absence of our intimate relations to knowledge, the way learning sometimes feels like our undoing, and how new knowledge can feel more like a burden than an advantage.

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Chapter 2. Difficult Knowledge: Encounters with Social Trauma in Pedagogy

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Difficult Knowledge

Encounters with Social Trauma in Pedagogy

This books recognizes and inquires into the ways in which we make a relation with the social world. Such relations are fashioned through experiences in the world and interactions with various texts that represent it. Those experiences and interactions that invite or enliven our passionate responses, or prompt us to avoid them, are critical to understanding the ways in which individuals participate in (what we hope is and will continue to be) a democratic society. Those interactions and the cascading responses they provoke can be called difficult knowledge. To begin I offer two accounts of slavery from popular texts: one from a textbook and the other from an award-­winning piece of narrative non-­fiction.

On the plantation, most slaves worked in the fields from sunup to sundown, six days a week. Although they were typically given Sundays off, many used that day to cultivate their own garden plots.

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