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Teaching as if life matters: The promise of a new education culture

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Title: Teaching as if life matters: The promise of a new education culture

Authors: Christopher Uhl with Dana L Stuchul

Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press 2011

Reviewer: Ed Shields, nurse lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast


What was it like? 

The authors, a professor of biology and a teacher of curriculum and instruction (with a special interest in “the arts of living, suffering and dying”), propose what they call a new narrative – teach as if life matters.  They assert that most educators adhere to a limiting philosophy of teaching and learning; instead of “myopically prioritising the traditional ‘3 Rs’” they propose  three other ‘R’s, Relationship with Self, Relationship with Other and Relationship with Earth.  Over six chapters, they encourage readers to contemplate their relationship with their feeling bodies, their minds, self, the human other and the cosmos.  They insist that educators will be stimulated to re-examine their approach to the job of teaching and educating.  In so doing, they suggest that educators may grow to place less emphasis on analysis, problem-solving, logic and abstraction and more emphasis on social and emotional learning.


What were the highlights?  

Anyone, regardless of where one practices, who is interested in educating others, will find challenges in this book.  That does not mean one will agree with everything contained within it.  If you can read it with an open mind, it may give some people pause for thought.

Strengths & weaknesses: 

The book has an accessible writing style and is easily read.  There is ample reference to other reading material for anyone who wishes to pursue the thesis of this book.  However, this title is also replete with references to the American education system (for example grade schoolers), which may not translate easily to systems and may be less easily understood.  The book rests upon the acceptance of certain premises that some readers may not find easy to accept; perhaps that is the challenge being offered by the authors.

Who should read it? 

Anyone who is interested in educating others may find something in this book though it is perhaps not for everyone.  The development of social and emotional learning in nursing students may be compelling for some readers but whether this book will help in this quest may ultimately prove a matter of personal style.

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