A Conversation with the Research of John Smyth
Chapter Four: Community Engagement
What has Community Engagement got to do with Research?
Academics really pride themselves in claiming to be open-minded to new and enriching possibilities in their exploration of knowledge—yet they continue to be manacled, bounded, contained and cloistered within the silos and sub-disciplines within which they work. The diverse field of education is notorious in this regard, and we are rapidly becoming more and more expert at less and less—with the result that we are fast losing the capacity to understand the totality.
Keeping with C. W. Mills (1971) who I have invoked in earlier chapters and his notion of ‘intellectual craftsmanship’ in his Sociological Imagination, we can obtain some valuable insights into how and why my work has taken the particular direction it has in this chapter. One of the important points Mills makes early in his discussion of his craft, is for the need ‘to use your life experience in your intellectual work: continually to examine and interpret it’ (p. 216). He adds that as sociologists, ‘craftsmanship is the center of yourself and you are personally involved in every intellectual product upon which you may work’ (p. 216). In all of this there is an important interplay at work here: ‘To say that you “have experience”, means, ← 75 | 76 → for one thing, that your past plays into and affects your present and that it defines your capacity for future experience’ (p. 216). The tricky bit comes when ‘you have...
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