Learning Experience 4

This week’s lesson was based on the article titled “Wide Awakeness and the Moral Life” by Maxine Greene. This article explores the concept of wide- awakeness, moral life and what these entail for each individual. Before expanding on the main ideas noted in the article, it is imperative to have a working definition of what wide-awakeness is. Alfred Schutz states that “Wide-Awakeness is: An achievement, a type of awareness, a plane of consciousness of highest tension originating in an attitude of full attention to life and its requirements.”

The author presents a variety of components that reside along wide-awakeness. First of all, Greene notes that wide-awakeness is a process, not a product. It is starting this process that is often challenging for individuals. One of her main points to further this was the idea of living a mechanical life and how truly problematic this is. The article notes that living a mechanical life is essentially going with the motions of everyday life. Mechanical living is easy for each person to engage in, especially without questioning the concept of “why”. Such as, why am I living this way? Why are these injustices happening? Why am I so complacent without question? Falling into a mechanical life as noted in the article does not allow an individual to actually gain perceptions and clarity about their lives and the community around them. Greene really drives home this main point that it is an absolute necessity to move away from a mechanical life in order to start the process of being wide-awake.

Another main point as noted in the article is the concept of moral education. Moral education guides students in acquiring a set of beliefs and values that establish what is right and wrong. These beliefs help develop and guide a student’s intention, attitudes, and behaviors towards others and the world around them. Greene notes specifically “The problem is not to tell them what to do, but to help them attain some kind of clarity about how to choose, how to decide what to do.” Moral education coincides with the idea of wide-awakeness due to the aspect of teachers needing to be “wide awake” in order to inspire their students to reciprocate that notion. Greene drives her point home by noting that it is essential for teachers to be clear about where they ground their values and their concepts of the good and the possible.

Greene uses a variety of evidence in order to support her ideological perspectives. The ideology presented in the article is rather existential, which can make it a hefty concept in order to fully grasp. Greene uses the work of various philosophers in order to support the idea of wide-awakeness. As I had previously noted, a social philosopher by the name of Alfred Schutz was used as a point of support for Greene. Additionally, Greene furthers her narrative by using “moral presentations” as she calls them. For example, Greene noted the works of Hamlet, Antigone and the Plague in order to demonstrate different moral situations and outcomes. It is this evidence that supports Greene point for the necessity of moral education as stated in the previous paragraph.

Based on the main ideas and supporting elements from Maxine Greene, I found her article to be extremely enlightening. In my lived experiences, I had not questioned very many things up until the point of my higher education. Growing up, I absolutely lived a mechanical life and had no idea what being “wide awake” entailed. To be honest, I am still living a fairly mechanical life in the sense that my days typically follow the same schedule with the same end goals in mind. It was not until this article that I took some time for self reflection to ask the important questions of why. Why am I living my life the same way? Why am I not questioning more aspects of the world around me? Why am I learning the material I am in classes? While my lived experience up until this point consisted mainly of doing what was asked of me with little question, schooling included, I am hoping to shift directions. I had just touched on the aspect that I am living a rather mechanical life. However, I think that acknowledging this and being willing to move into an awakening is the first step in this wide-awake process. I found that my experience was fairly similar to those in my LC group, which we decided to touch base on in our lesson.

The themes discussed in the lesson were one in the same to the main points Greene touched on her in article. My group and I focused on defining wide-awakeness and how it related to living a mechanical life. We furthered this point by noting the implications for not ending the mechanical life and beginning the wide-awake process. Additionally, we outlined what it means to live a moral life and how this is applicable to the education setting. We felt that all of these points were essential to cover in order for our colleagues to be able to recognize how important it is to be conscious of the world around you and in turn how educators can implement these morals and principles within their classrooms. This topic is one that is rather challenging, but very important to discuss. It was our objective to have our students to be able to not only define wide-awakeness, but be able to cultivate a life of being wide-awake.

A large majority of our lesson included discussion, both full class as well as paired sharing. We felt in order to grasp this concept, we needed to have everyone talk about not only what being wide-awake is, but where this concept belongs in the education system. Personally, my favorite discussion question was “How do we teach students how to question their lives and form a “moral life” without giving away our discrete views or jeopardizing our careers?” The discussion that ensued went from being able to have an open conversation with students to the dilemma on if it is our role as an educator to tell students what we believe in. It was apparent that there is no “correct” way to handle this aspect of moral education, such as each individual has a different comfort level with displaying their morals and guiding principles. Interestingly though, the students who shared did note that they felt as though displaying acts or modeling their morals and guiding principles was the best way to go about moral education. Green had noted a similar concept in the article stating that teachers must identify themselves as moral beings, concerned with defining their own life purposes which will encourage students to do the same. This was a great ending point to the conversation we had earlier about how the problem is not to tell students what to do, but to help them attain some clarity about how to choose and how to decide what to do. I think we accomplished the objective set out at the beginning of the lesson.

My contributions to the lesson included annotating the article, helping prepare the lesson materials, as well as engaging in conversation throughout the lesson. As I noted earlier, my LC group and I really wanted to ensure our students were able to grasp the concept of wide-awakeness, mechanical life and moral education. I made sure to include the working definitions of wide-awakeness and how this related to the living of mechanical live. It was an imperative contribution to first directly state what concepts we were going to be expanding on before we dove into the more theoretical aspects of the lesson. My responsibilities during teaching the lesson were reflective of my contributions I had just noted. I was responsible for ensuring the information I presented was correct as well as engaging and asking questions that may have been difficult to consider. I wanted to ensure that the conversations had in the lesson were meaningful and reflective of lived experiences. Due to the fact that the class includes individuals in different career paths, ages, life points, etc., it was important to allow each person to answer questions that they may have never considered previously. I would say this was my largest responsibility during this weeks lesson. In all, I feel as though this weeks lesson my LC presented was not only meaningful, but executed well. It is my hope the students will continue their process in being wide-awake and use those points of clarity to their everyday lives.

Greene, M. 1978. Wide-awakeness and the moral life. In A. R. Sadovnik, P. W. Cookson Jr., S. F. Semel, & R. W. Coughlan (Eds.), Exploring education: An introduction to the foundations of education (5th ed., pp. 218-224). New York, NY: Routledge.


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