Skip to main content

Activism: A Category for Theorizing Learning

Abstract

In the continued efforts of rethinking science education, activism has been proposed as a context for learning science. In this article, I go one step further. I propose activism as a theoretical category as an extension of the category of activity that forms the heart of cultural-historical activity theory. Much more so than the ambiguous English term activity, which conflates two very different concepts that its originators had created in German and Russian, activism returns our curriculum theorizing to Karl Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach, which states that it is not the understanding of the world that matters but its transformation. True, practical understanding is the result of the (ideal) reflection of the process and product of materially transforming the world. That is, activism implies not just knowing something abstractly but being able to concretely and knowledgeably bring knowing to the problems at hand. In concluding, I show how activism is connate with an ethics of care more typical of the ways in which the First Peoples of Canada related to their world.

Résumé

Les efforts continus pour repenser l’enseignement des sciences ont conduit à proposer l’activisme comme contexte pour l’apprentissage scientifique. Dans cet article, je vais encore plus loin: je propose l’ activisme comme catégorie théorique qui élargisse la catégorie d’activité qui forme la base de la théorie de l’activité culturelle-historique. Beaucoup plus que le terme ambigu d’activité, qui réunit deux concepts fort différents en allemand et en russe, l’activisme renvoie notre théorisation sur les curriculums à la onzième thèse de Karl Marx sur Feuerbach, selon laquelle ce n’est pas la compréhension du monde qui importe mais bien sa transformation. La compréhension réelle et pratique est le reflet (idéal) du processus et du produit dérivant de la transformation matérielle du monde. En d’autres termes, l’activisme implique non seulement la connaissance abstraite d’une chose, mais aussi la capacité concrète d’appliquer cette connaissance à la solution des problèmes à affronter. En conclusion, je montre que l’activisme est intimement lié à une éthique de la préservation qui est beaucoup plus semblable aux modes d’interaction des Premières Nations du Canada avec leur milieu.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Bakhtine, M. (1977). Le marxisme et la philosophie du langage: essai d’application de la méthode sociologique en linguistique [Marxism and the philosophy of language: Essay on the application of the sociological method to linguistics]. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.

    Google Scholar 

  2. “Kids Get Parents to Go Green.” Peninsula News Review. Retrieved August 5, 2010, from http://www.penisulastreams.org/publications/documents/kids-plant-trees.pdf

  3. Lavin, L. (2009, June 17). Environmental threat: Residents want to know who is in charge of cleaning up local waterways—And will it get done. Peninsula News Review, pp. A1, A5.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Leontjew, A. (1982). Tätigkeit, bewußtsein, persönlichkeit [Activity, consciousness, personality]. Cologne, Germany: Pahl-Rugenstein.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1968). Werke: Band 23 Das Kapital [Works vol. 23: Capital]. Berlin: Dietz.

  6. Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1978). Werke: Band 3 [Works: Vol. 3]. Berlin: Dietz.

  7. Nancy, J.-L. (1996). Être singulier pluriel [Being singular plural]. Paris: Galilée.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Rancière, J. (1999). Dis-agreement: Politics and philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Roth, W.-M., & Barton, A. C. (2004). Rethinking scientific literacy. New York: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  10. Saanich Indian School Board, Elliott, J., Guilar, J., & Swallow, T. (in press). SNITC/EÝL: Learning from a traditional place. Canadian Journal of Native Education.

  11. van Eijck, M., & Roth, W.-M. (in press). Toward a chronotopic theory of “place” in place-based education. Cultural Studies of Science Education.

  12. Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wolff-Michael Roth.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Roth, WM. Activism: A Category for Theorizing Learning. Can J Sci Math Techn 10, 278–291 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1080/14926156.2010.504493

Download citation