2017 News Stories
Educator Nel Noddings discusses communication gap in society, education during visit to USF
by Abby Rinaldi
(Tampa, Fla. April 28, 2017) — Society seems to be at a divide, Dr. Nel Noddings said during a distinguished lecture held in the USF Patel Center auditorium Monday afternoon.
"Some of us welcome the idea of one world in which each country celebrates both its own cultural identity and its role as a good neighbor to all others," she said. "Others of us wish to revive and invigorate the view of our country as a great nation — generous but superior to all others."
While Noddings prefers the first view, she pointed to the contrast between these two ideas as proof that there is intense polarization in today's society. Truth and debate, she said, are often countered through the use of false sources and "alternative facts."
Noddings, an award-winning feminist, educator and philosopher best known for her work regarding the "ethics of care," spoke at USF about bridging the communication gap across different ideologies and backgrounds, particularly social classes. Dr. Noddings is the author of numerous books related to the field of education, which USF students in various disciplines study as part of their coursework.
The American Dream seems to be at a halt for many people, Noddings said. Instead of hard work putting them ahead in life, many feel they are staying in the same spot or even falling behind. Because of this feeling, an angry populace lashes out at helping the poor, viewing the situation as the government stealing from the hardworking people to give to those who aren't working for their living.
No matter the group to which they belong, people seem to occupy two separate worlds, Noddings said., These worlds are divided by contrasting experiences, vocabulary and ways of understanding the world. The division between them is intensified by mass consumption of untrue and slanted information.
The divide has several causes, one of which Noddings identified as the proliferation of biased information. This phenomenon, she said, is why many people are naturally inclined to read and listen to what reinforces their beliefs.
"The temptation is to reject both compromise and understanding," she said.
The need, Dr. Noddings said, is to increase our understanding of sensitive issues and topics, even those that are often regarded as too controversial to be discussed in the classroom.
"This does not mean we should avoid issues that may trouble us," she said. "It means rather that we should find ways to handle the issues with sensitivity and gravity. We address these issues because they are important, not because they induce emotional reaction."
Noddings argued that at higher education institutions, there should be a fostering of discussion of controversial issues, rather than a stop put to them.
She encouraged high schools to do the same when it comes to controversial issues, explained that this can be achieved through ongoing in-school seminars that allow students to express their ideas about social problems, an exercise that allows many voices to be heard. There needs to be increased dialogue, Noddings said.
"The kids don't get to talk enough," she said. "... If we really want to teach people, we have to listen to them."
Nicholas Bardo, a graduate student in social science education, attended the lecture and also presented his research at a graduate student research presentation that also served as a welcome for Noddings to the USF campus Monday morning. Bardo said meeting her was a great honor and an incredible learning opportunity.
"It was an opportunity to put a face and a personality to a rather seminal figure in education research," Bardo said. "... It just lends an air of collegiality that I think sometimes can be hard to access in some of the larger conferences. I didn't imagine that ever, in a million years, Nel Noddings would come to one of my sessions at a conference perhaps, but for her to be able to stand next to me, listen to what I was saying and give me feedback is something that's pretty unique. That's something that I can certainly take away from the experience."
About the USF College of Education:
The USF College of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (formerly NCATE),and is fully approved by the Florida Department of Education. The USF College of Education is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 100 programs in the nation, as well as in the top 30 for online graduate education programs. The USF College of Education has more than 51,000 alumni who are making a difference in the lives of children each day.