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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Teaching heroics : identity and ethical imagery in science education Robeck, Edward C.


In what follows, I address ways in which science education can influence personal identity and social relationships. I do this through a consideration of the ideological implications of science as it is constituted i n science education. In this situation, I consider science to be a symbolic system—emanating from socially derived meanings. I begin with the premise that any symbol system is permeated with ideological elements. To highlight the ideological elements of science in science education, I use another more explicitly symbolic system as a comparative framework. That system is epic heroism, primarily as Joseph Campbell (1949) describes it in The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The discussion of science education is given a practical grounding using transcripts from interviews with twenty Grade 10 students and many of their teachers undertaken in the 1993-1994 school year. I used epic heroism as a framework for initiating interpretations of broad themes from the transcripts, but also read the transcripts in relation to aspects of epic heroism, including existing critiques of Campbell's work and heroism more broadly. Specific quotes are included to illustrations of various points. My particular focus here is on ideological elements that can be associated with racism, sexism, and other social relationships that are collectively referred to as relations involving divisive bias. In particular, two themes are discussed extensively. The first is the theme of identity formed through separation, which results in the promotion of reductive and individualistic identities. The second theme has to do with the role of boundary imagery in the formation of relationships, which establishes difference hierarchically. Both of these are pervasive in divisive bias and i n the imagery of epic heroism. Ways in which they can pervade practices i n science education are also discussed. The central argument of the thesis is that science education, when undertaken through practices that incorporate themes of separation and boundary imagery, perpetuates relations of divisive bias. To forestall this, I suggest that science education can be approached in ways that incorporate what is referred to as an ethic otplenishment, which strives to promote expansive identities through a proliferation of interpersonal associations.

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