Just Leave Her Alone

It bothered me a great deal when science education colleagues would not attend the seminars we organized for the science education community. In my doctoral program at the University of Georgia it was expected that all faculty and students would come to the seminars and David Butts expressed annoyance when these expectations were not met. Similarly, at SMEC, the seminar program we ran, which was typically organized as a course, was viewed as a staple for all students and faculty. Perhaps this was the reason that I felt annoyed and impatient when a colleague at FSU decided not to attend a seminar on radical constructivism and the teaching and learning of science – presented by Ernst von Glasersfeld. I just assumed he would be annoyed as well. Possibly for this reason I found myself apologizing for my colleague’s absence from the seminar.

“Just leave the woman alone!” Ernst’s admonition took me by surprise; but is a salient reminder that it is not for me to decide what is and is not appropriate when it comes to professional development and the education of others. It is quite likely that at that time my view of social theory was not as multilogical and polysemic as it is these days. In fact my recollections suggest that I viewed radical constructivism not just as one way to think about knowing, acting, and being in the world – but as the most viable way of making sense of such constructs. When my colleague experienced contradictions between her religious beliefs and radical constructivism I really did expect her to participate in the seminar, work out the differences, and I suppose – eventually come to my way of seeing the world. This is a good example of cultural imperialism – fortunately, Ernst set the wheels turning for me to reflect on my stance and become more compassionate about others’ standpoints. Indeed, I should leave others to decide how to think about and make sense of their lifeworlds.