Regarding nature in new times: Reconceptualising studies of science and environment

Year: 1994

Author: Gough, Noel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper focuses on what it means to do "nature study" (including much of what schools do in the name of science, geography, environmental studies and outdoor education) in the light of the postmodernist questioning of science's narrative authority. This includes feminist, poststructuralist, and postcolonialist critiques of the rationalist "command" of nature (epitomised by Western science) and the "romantic return" to nature (valorised in some approaches to outdoor environmental education and in much popular media).

The paper will also outline a "postconstructivist" critique of the relatively recent orthodoxy of constructivism in science education which, while appearing to treat children's "scientific misconceptions" benignly, serves to indoctrinate children into a realist philosophy of science (which claims ontological status for the world Western science imagines). This paper canvasses alternative formations of "nature study" in the curriculum that (i) problematise the non-discursive "reality" of nature without collapsing into antirealist language games (to question authority in representing reality is not to deny reality); and (ii) accommodate the multiple subjectivities young people bring to nature and its representations.