CrCrTh 640 Spring 2001
Critical & Creative Thinking in Science & Technology
Theme: Environment, Science & Society
Draft syllabus (8/25/00)

Peter Taylor, Critical & Creative Thinking Program, Grad. College of Ed., U. Mass. Boston; 617-287-7636;

Environmental educators should, ideally, challenge and enable their students to:
* learn facts and theories about environmental processes and problems;
* develop skills in critical thinking, interpretation, inquiry, and writing;
* express their feelings about prospects for the environment and society, and their desired impact on these areas;
* be inspired by positive examples, cases that are constructive, successful, and on-going;
* be actively involved as citizens in scientific and environmental debates;
* gain experience in designing proposals, policy, and plans for action in the wider arenas of politics, policy making, informed citizenship, and social activism;
* bridge the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences;
* clarify their choice of more specialized studies to pursue; and
* achieve a growing sense of competency.

The course proposed below is designed to prepare graduate students to addresss these goals as formal and informal environmental educators. The course material, activities, and teaching/learning interactions operate on three levels: as an opportunity for students to learn the science and interpretive approaches; as models for their own teaching and educational work; and as a basis for discussions about practices and philosophies of education.
The particular approach adopted in the proposal is to focus on critical thinking about the diverse influences shaping environmental science and practices. In a sense subscribed to by all teachers, critical thinking means that students are bright and engaged, ask questions, and think about the course materials until they understand well established knowledge and competing approaches. This becomes more significant when students develop their own processes of active inquiry, which they can employ in new situations, beyond the bounds of our particular classes, indeed, beyond their time as students. My sense of critical thinking is, however, more specific; it depends on inquiry being informed by a strong sense of how things could be otherwise. I want students to see that they understand things better when they have placed established facts, theories, and practices in tension with alternatives. Critical thinking at this level should not depend on students rejecting conventional accounts, but they do have to move through uncertainty. Their knowledge is, at least for a time, destabilized; what has been established cannot be taken for granted. Students can no longer expect that if they just wait long enough the teacher will provide complete and tidy conclusions; instead they have to take a great deal of responsibility for their own learning. Anxieties inevitably arise for students when they have to respond to new situations knowing that the teacher will not act as the final arbiter of their success. A high level of critical thinking is possible when students explore such anxieties and gain the confidence to face uncertainty and ambiguity.

Critical thinking about diverse influences that shape environmental science and practices, giving particular attention to the tension between simple and complex accounts of environmental and social change. The course material, activities, and teaching/learning interactions provides students an opportunity to learn new science and interpretive approaches, a set of models for their own teaching and educational work, and a basis for discussions about practices and philosophies of education. The topics addressed in the activities include ideas of nature; conservation and colonialism; systems thinking; population growth and futures modeling; the tragedy of the commons; stability and complexity; environmental economics; local knowledge; commodities and environmental history; agriculture and biotechnology; and socio-environmental analysis.

Written assignments and presentations, 2/3
A. Project: A research paper or set of lesson plans concerning critical thinking about the environmental science and practices. A sequence of 5 assignments (initial description, annotated bibliography, narrative outline, class presentation, and 2000-3000 word final report) is required.
B. Five thought-pieces extracted from your journal (see E below).
Participation and contribution to the class process, 1/3.
C. Prepared participation and attendance at class meetings.
D. Journal & Clippings, collected for perusal mid-semester & end.
Journal = weekly responses/notes on homework tasks, readings, class discussions, clippings, websites, and weekly questions. Clippings = at least 10 items from current magazines, newspapers and websites, with your annotations.
E. Minimum of two in-office or phone conferences on your assignments and project.
F. End-of-semester Process Review on the development of your work.

KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS (whose significance emerges as the course develops)
Heuristics (or interpretive themes) (Propositions that stimulate, orient, or guide our inquiries, yet break down when applied too widely)
Critical heuristics (Heuristics that place established facts, theories, and practices in tension with alternatives)
Intersecting processes (Social and environmental change analyzed as something produced by intersecting economic, social and ecological processes operating at different scales)
Tool box for critical and creative thinking (The more critical heuristics a person has available to work with, the more likely they are to have a creative (self-generated) response to a new, unfamiliar case.)

KEY TEACHING/LEARNING TOOLS (described briefly in notes at end of syllabus)
Simulations and other class activities
Journalling and thought pieces[1]
Clipping collections[2]
Guided freewriting[3]
Base groups[4]
Dialogue around written work[5]
Stages of development for course projects
Peer commentary[6]
Multiple angles on course evaluation[7]
Process review portfolios[8]


Class 1
A. Introduction to "Heuristics" and "Intersecting Processes," to the tension between them, and to "Critical heuristics" as a potential resolution of the tension.
Activities: "How do we know there is a population-environment problem?" --includes class simulation on the "Population problem," mini-lecture on a case study of soil erosion in Oaxaca, Mexico, and analysis of language in short reading, Meffe, "Human population control."
Homework: Draw an intersecting processes diagram for Pearce, "Inventing Africa."

B. Introduction to the course as a teaching/learning community
Establishing small "base" group processes/procedures
Freewriting & sharing on possible individual projects
Additional readings (after class): Elbow, chapters 2, 3, 13

Heuristic I Ideas about nature can be interpreted as (historically and socially located) ideas about society
Class 2
Ideas of Nature
Activities: Interpretation of the explicit and implicit, literal and non-literal--a. Biological similies for society (clippings); b. Images of society and nature in the West since the middle ages (slide show)
Reading (after class): Williams, "Ideas of Nature."
Activity in base groups: Redesign children's book on nature following heuristic I.

*A* Asmt due on or before this date: Thought-piece 1

Class 3
Tensions in ecologists' views of nature, from Darwin to today
Activity in base groups, then across base groups: Review readings (divided among members of each base group) in light of heuristic 1:
Williams, "Ideas of Nature."
Worster, "Scrambling for a place."
Begon, "The influence of predation and disturbance."
Botkin, Chapters 1 & 2 from Discordant Harmonies.
Activity in base groups: Compose multi-person conversation about contemporary ideas about nature.

Heuristic II Ideas in C20 conservation and ecological science can also be interpreted as (historically and socially located) ideas about society
Class 4
"Animals are both like and unlike humans" Zoos, conservation, and the marginalization of both animals and peoples
Berger, "Why Look at Animals?"
Activity: Visit to an Aquarium, Zoo, or Natural History Museum

*A* Asmt due: Thesis question and paragraph overview of proposed project
*A* Asmt due on or before this date: Thought-piece 2

Class 5
Conservation and early C20 colonialism, patriarchy, and eugenics.
Haraway, "Teddy bear patriarchy."
Activities: Discussion of Haraway. Responding to Haraway's interpretation extended to the late C20, in the form of a video (Donna Haraway reads National Geographic)

Heuristic III: Causes proposed are related to the person's favored views of social action
Plus Heuristic II continued
Class 6
Systems: Cybernetics and ecology in the atomic age
Odum, Chaps. 1, part 2, 11 in Environment, Power & Society.
Activities: Interpret ecological diagrams. Students bring diagrams of humans and nature to base groups, discuss interpretations, and develop a lesson plan for students to interpret visual representations of human-nature relations.
Reading (after class): Taylor and London, "Who is implicated"

*A* Asmt due: Annotated bibliography of reading completed or planned for your project.
*A* Asmt due on or before this date: Thought-piece 3

Heuristic IV: Within simple formulations lies a hidden complexity of assumptions about society
Plus Heuristics II & III continued
Class 7
Systems of selfish individuals: The tragedy of the commons
Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons."
Activities: Class simulation on the commons and on ways that people use simple models to address ecological and social complexity. Critique examples of commons talk.
Reading (after class): Taylor, "Critical tensions"

*A* Asmt due on or before this date: Thought-piece 4
Class 8
Work-in-progress Presentations on Student Projects

Class 9
World views
Activity: Responding to a proposal for market environmentalism
Base groups (digest responses, clasify them using Schwarz's 4 world views, discuss the significance)
Schwarz, Divided We Stand.
Pearce, "Prices and incentives"

*A* Asmt due on or before this date: Thought-piece 5

Class 10
How do we know we have local vs. global environmental problems?
Activity in base groups: Analyze a report on global modeling and an account of local knowledge and peasant/ indigenous rationality. Produce a lesson that moves students from a dichotomy between global and local to formulations that attend to locally-based, but trans-local considerations and social differentitiation.
Meadows, et al., The Limits to Growth, excerpts.
Glantz, from Societal Responses to Regional Climatic Change.
Toledo, "Ecological rationality"

*A* Asmt due: Narrative Outline of Project Report

Shift from angles II-IV to
Angle V: Environmental thought and science has a basis in material production.
Class 11
Europeans, commodities, and changes in New England; contrasting historical accounts
Activities: Class prepares a schema of history
Discussion of why, according to Cronon, Europeans changed the New England landscape more than Indians.
Cronon, from Changes in the Land.

Class 12
Commodities (cont.); revising historical accounts
Activity: Revise schema of history in response to readings about extraction, processing, exchange and control of commodities. Activity in base groups: Review the changes made.
Rowling, "Introduction"
Peluso, "Coercing conservation"
Lewontin, "Agricultural Research"
Lappe and Collins, "The Green Revolution Is the Answer"
Wolf, "Europe, prelude to expansion"

*A* Asmt due: Complete Draft of Project Report

Heuristic VI. Disciplining, without suppressing the complexities of environmental, scientific, and social change
and Heuristic V continued.
Class 13
Construction of commodities and the gendered politics of production in agroecology.
Taylor synopsis of three articles by R. Schroeder, including "'Re-claiming' land in The Gambia: Gendered property rights and environmental intervention."
Taylor, "Mapping the complexity"

Class 14
Taking Stock of Course: Where have we come and where do we go from here?
Activities: Historical Scan and other Course evaluations

*A* Asmt due: Final version of Project Report
*A* Asmt due: Process Review/Portfolio

(Additional readings will be placed on reserve for deeper consideration of the issues raised in both environmental sciences and in interpretation and critical thinking).

Begon, M., J. Harper and C. Townsend (1990). "The influence of predation and disturbance on community structure," in Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities. Boston, Blackwell, 739-741, 793, 795.
Berger, J. (1980). "Why Look at Animals?," in About Looking. New York, Pantheon Books, 1-26.
Botkin, D. (1990). Chapters 1 & 2 in Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 3-25.
Cronon, W. (1983). Changes in the Land. New York, Hill and Wang, 3- 15, 159-170.
Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with Power. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Glantz, M. (Ed.) (1989). Societal Responses to Regional Climatic Change: Forecasting by Analogy. Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1-7, 407-428.
Haraway, D. J. (1984/1985). "Teddy bear patriarchy: Taxidermy in the garden of Eden, New York City, 1908-1936." Social Text 11: 20-64.
Hardin, G. (1968). "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science 162: 1243-1248.
Lappe, F. M. and J. Collins (1986). "The Green Revolution Is the Answer," in World Hunger Twelve Myths. New York, NY, Grove Press, Inc., 48-66.
Lewontin, R. (1982). "Agricultural Research & the Penetration of Capital." Science for the People(January/February): 12-17.
Meadows, D., D. Meadows, J. Randers and W. W. Behrens (1972). The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books, excerpts.
Meffe, G. K., A. H. Ehrlich and D. Ehrenfeld (1993). "Human population control: The missing agenda." Conservation Biology 7(1): 1-3.
Odum, H. T. (1971). "Chaps. 1, part 2, 11," in Environment, Power & Society. New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1-41, 304-310.
Pearce, D., A. Markandya and E. Barbier (1989). "Prices and incentives," in Blueprint for a Green Economy. London, Earthscan, 154-172.
Pearce, F. (2000). "Inventing Africa." New Scientist(12 August): 30-33.
Peluso, N. (1993). "Coercing conservation: The politics of state resource control." Global environmental change 3(2): 199-217.
Rowling, N. (1987). "Introduction," in Commodities: How the world was taken to market. London, Free Association Books, 7-21.
Schroeder, R. (1998) "'Re-claiming' land in The Gambia: Gendered property rights and environmental intervention." Annals of the Association of American Geographers
Schwarz, M. and M. Thompson (1990). Divided We Stand: Redefining Politics, Technology, and Social Choice. London, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1-13.
Taylor, P. J. (1999). "Mapping the complexity of social-natural processes: Cases from Mexico and Africa," in F. Fischer and M. Hajer (Eds.), Living with Nature: Environmental Discourse as Cultural Critique. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 121-134.
Taylor, P. J. (2001). "Critical tensions and non-standard lessons from the "tragedy of the commons"," in M. Maniates (Ed.), Teaching Global Environmental Politics As If Education Mattered. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, forthcoming.
Taylor, P. J. and C. E. London (1997). "Who is implicated and where are they engaged? Re/constructing social agency in the diagramming of social-natural processes," incomplete ms.
Toledo, V. (1990). "The ecological rationality of peasant production," in M. Altieri and S. Hecht (Eds.), Agroecology and small farm development. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 53-60.
Williams, R. (1980). "Ideas of Nature," in Problems in materialism and culture. London, Verso, 67-85.
Wolf, E. (1982). "Europe, prelude to expansion," in Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 101-125.
Worster, D. (1979). "Scrambling for a place," in Nature's Economy. New York: Anchor Books, 145-169.

Notes to students on Teaching/Learning Tools
[1] The Journal should include weekly responses and notes on readings, class discussions, clippings, websites, and weekly questions. Through writing in your journal, you will be better able to weave the course material into your own thinking, and to bring your own thinking into class activities. In preparation for class, you might write in your journal a commentary on readings, or, after class, review the readings and the class activities. In either case explore, when appropriate, the relationship between your project/ interests and the readings/activities. Journal excerpts to be submitted 5 times during the semester, and then revised and resubmitted in response to my comments on these extracts. Journals will be collected for perusal twice during the semester. Bind together pages with post-its or otherwise indicate which bits you do not want me to look at. I want to get an overall impression of your developing process of critical thinking about course readings and discussions.

[2] Clippings. To keep up with current developments, compile a packet of clippings and xeroxes of articles from newspapers, magazines, journals, and websites. Write the full citation on each article, unless it is already included. Use post-its to add your own reflections on specific points in the articles you choose. Submit the packets twice at the same time as the journal is reviewed.

[3] Guided freewriting: In a freewriting exercise, you should not take your pen off the paper. Keep writing even if you find yourself stating over and over again, "I don't know what to say." What you write won't be seen by anyone else, so don't go back to tidy up sentences, grammar, spelling. You will probably diverge from the topic, at least for a time while you acknowledge other preoccupations. That's OK--it's one of the purposes of the exercise to get things off one's chest. However, if you keep writing for ten minutes, you should expose some thoughts about the topic that had been below the surface of your attention--that's another of the aims of the exercise. Reference: Elbow, P. 1981. Writing with Power. New York: Oxford U. P.

[4] In Base Groups you review material, share views, help each other, and undertake other activities with my guidance, but not my direct supervision.

[5] Dialogue around written work. I try to create a dialogue with each student around written work, that is, around your writing, my responses, and your responses in turn. I am still learning how to engage students in this, given your various backgrounds and dispositions, and my own. Central to this teaching/learning interaction are requests to "Revise and Resubmit." The idea is not that you make changes to please the teacher or to meet some standard, but that as a writer you use the eye of others to develop your own thinking and make it work better on readers. I continue to request revision when I judge that the interaction can still yield significant learning; the request does not mean your (re)submission was "bad." Even when the first submissions of written assignments are excellent, angles for learning through dialogue are always opened up.

[6] Peer commentary. After the draft is completed I require you to pair up and comment on another student's draft. Take Elbow's chapters 3 & 13 in mind when you decide what approaches to commenting you ask for as a writer and use as a commentator. In the past I made lots of specific suggestions for clarification and change in the margins, but in my experience, such suggestions led only a minority of students beyond touching up into re-thinking and revising their ideas and writing. On the other hand, I believe that all writers value comments that reassure them that they have been listened to and their voice, however uncertain, has been heard.

[7] Taking stock at end of semester -- a) to feed into your future learning (and other work), you take stock of your process(es) over the semester; b) to feed into my future teaching (and future learning about how students learn), I take stock of how you, the students, have learned.

[8] Process Review Portfolios should contain 4-6 examples that capture the process of development of your work and thinking about environmental education and critical thinking, not simply the best products. Journal entries, free writing, drafts, etc. may be included. Explain your choices in a cover page and through annotations (post-its are a good way to do this).