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Teaching Environments

Ecocritical Encounters

Roman Bartosch and Sieglinde Grimm

The essays in this collection seek to bring together current developments in ecocriticism and the pedagogical practice of teaching English at all levels, from primary schools to Higher Education. They cover theoretical and practical discussions of the nexus between the sciences and the humanities and maintain that the notion of the two cultures be refused for good, they argue for the inclusion of particular texts or theoretical perspectives, and they suggest ways to teaching environments on different levels of language competence and in the context of historical and transdisciplinary encounters with ecology, nature, and animals. Despite this variety, they share some common threads and engage with questions that are highly relevant for teaching in general and have acquired even more relevance in our rapidly changing and posthumanist teaching environments: How do we raise consciousness without preaching? What kind of critical attitude is required for the empowerment of our pupils and students? How do we actually imagine encounters between the sciences and the (post)humanities, and which texts, what kind of texts, and which approaches will prove most fruitful?
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Greg Garrard

Imagine for a moment that teaching were valued as highly as research in universities. Taking England as our example, we have to admit that, even after much of the direct funding was replaced by loans, there is a colossal amount of cash devoted to it: in 2012-13 HEFCE, the funding agency for England, will disburse £3.8 billion in teaching funds, but none will depend on teaching quality and only £19 million of it will be linked to pedagogical priorities. Efforts to find out if the money has been well spent are less than halfhearted. HEFCE does not advertise the cost of the National Student Survey, which is designed to ascertain students’ ‘satisfaction’ with their education, but the Daily Telegraph claimed in 2010 that IPSOS Mori was paid “more than £2 million” to run it. Given that it would take me fifteen minutes to design an identical questionnaire on SurveyMonkey, this seems an absurdly large sum. Given the importance of the information collected, on the other hand, it seems suspiciously cheap.

The maxim of the neoliberal public sector is: “By their audit processes shall ye know them,” though what ye shall know is less the activity itself than the political value attached to it. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED), the Big Brother of education in the UK, sends beady-eyed inspectors into every classroom and nursery and childminder’s lounge in the land at a cost of £200 million...

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