Marquette Meets Peru

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Dr. Melissa Gibson

 “So in the first two days of seminar, my job is to make the familiar strange—and to make the strange familiar. It’s the students’ job to start making their own sense out of this, which is what you’ll read about in this next installation of blogs.”

Now that the initial excitement of the first few days in Peru has morphed into a weekly routine, it is time for us to get down to academic business. Our university partner here in Peru calls our program, “Diverse Contexts of Education in Peru,” and that is exactly right. The course syllabus describes our task this way:

This course will examine the philosophical underpinnings of various educational approaches in the US and Peru, as well as the key issues, policies, and practices that are part of global debate about what constitutes a high quality and equitable education. The course will combine educational field studies in Peru with traditional seminar meetings in order to link theory, research, and practice. Students will work comparatively between the contexts they are encountering in Peru and the contexts they may know intimately in the US. Topics addressed will include [1] the social context of schools; [2] theorizing and distributing educational aims; [3] educational (in)equity, neoliberalism, and school reform; [4] race, class, and language; and [5] approaches to educational change. Students will articulate their own emerging philosophies of education, and they will comparatively analyze an educational issue facing Peru and the US.

To do this (which is a mighty big task for our month!), and after throwing ourselves into the broader context, we hunker down with some key topics: What kinds of schools are there? What are the challenges that schools are facing? And what makes a school or educational program good or just?

To investigate these questions, we visited two schools—one, a prestigious private American school; the other, a Jesuit public school (you read that right!) serving working and middle class students. We also considered the global privatization of public schooling, which is rapidly occurring here in Lima, and the push to redefine a high-quality education around twenty-first-century skills and around liberation and social change.

Our first seminar.

The visit to Roosevelt is a hard one for me, as the instructor. Especially after spending time in El Agustino and meeting students at UARM, who are generally not from Lima’s elite, the extravagance of the Roosevelt campus can be disheartening. How can this one school community have so much, and millions of Peruvians have so little? That’s a hard inequality to stomach—and as the students note this week in their blogs, it’s an inequality that made them deeply uncomfortable. As it should.

But. That inequality is not that different than what we see back in the US between, say, privileged suburban schools and low-income schools in segregated neighborhoods. It’s just that the inequality is so much more visible at Roosevelt. It’s a challenge to help my students recognize this about our home context.

But also. Roosevelt is a pedagogical exemplar in some ways. Thanks to their “sky’s the limit” resources, they get to do what so many other schools feel is out of reach: deep dive inquiries. personalized learning. experience and travel. interdisciplinary curriculum. entrepreneurship. And they are trying to do all of this in the service of socially responsible students who can lead lives of integrity. The global elite exist. So how should we be educating them in the service of justice and equality? Can we even do that?

A tiny taste of learning at Roosevelt. A student’s outline for his documentary on the Peruvian music industry, made during an in-depth unit on economics.

It can be hard for my students to see past the makerspace and the lush playing fields to the underlying pedagogy and philosophy.Yet this is what we’re here to do: to connect context with philosophies and pedagogies. And by doing so here, in a place so seemingly unfamiliar but also kind of like a distant cousin to the US, we ultimately should be able to turn that critical and hopeful gaze back on our own context.

So in the first two days of seminar, my job is to make the familiar strange—and to make the strange familiar. It’s the students’ job to start making their own sense out of this, which is what you’ll read about in this next installation of blogs.

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