Against Cultivation: On the Dark Side of the Gardening Metaphor for Teaching
Perhaps no metaphor for teaching is more dominant than that of gardening. It is commonly associated with student-centeredness, individual flourishing, and a non-oppressive teaching approach. In this article, however, I argue that despite its seeming harmlessness, cultivation metaphors have a darker side that rarely gets attention. As such, educational cultivation is not simply open to various interpretations, but includes a deep, irreducible, and disturbing aspect within both agriculture and within the tradition of western education tradition, namely, that of centralized control in the service of the civilization process. Following mainly the recent book of anthropologist and political scientist James Scott Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Early States (2017), and applying it (metaphorically and not) to the question of educational cultivation, I suggest that cultivation excludes, or even eliminates with almost no trace, alternative modes of learning: those uncontrolled, not “domesticated” or which are “wild.” Instead or at least in addition to the long-standing educational metaphor of the garden, I propose the metaphor of the forest as a way to encourage freer, less controlled modes of learning.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License of their choice (usually CCBY 3.0 unported, but determined at the proofing stage by consultation with the Editor - readers looking for copyright permissions are required to do this on a case by case basis) that allows others to share the work in some way with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. We appreciate authors placing a link to the Other Education site wherever they choose to offer a PDF download to the original OE article.