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K-State Today

September 13, 2011

Women's studies scholar presents on social change

Submitted by Torry Dickinson

Torry Dickinson, professor of women's studies, has presented on her melding together of knowledge from women-centered, historical and action research to help researchers and students understand gender and educational change at the university and in communities.

Dickinson presented "Seeing Anew: Recreating Society through Intergenerational Learning Centers" with novelist Rainelle Burton at a conference on collaboration and social transformation at Berkeley's Western Institute for Social Research.

Dickinson also facilitated the first session on households that was ever organized by the Political Economy of the World System section of the American Sociological Association, Aug. 22, in Las Vegas. She helped co-found the Households Research Group at Binghamton University's Fernand Braudel Center in 1977.

In their paper, Dickinson and Burton reflected on and discussed how deep, sustained and meaningful educational change can only be reached by engaging in long-term global transformation. To do this, ideas and assumptions about education and society that are associated with the Industrial Revolution need to be left behind and replaced by new conceptions of society. This means re-seeing learning and education as a vital part of change.

The presenters introduced their work by describing how they began to work together and the succession of their ideas as they went through the process of trying to improve K-12 education in Detroit and other communities where young people and social groups have been disenfranchised. Although both presenters grew up one mile apart in the same lower eastside neighborhood in Detroit, they did not meet until a year ago, when Burton called Dickinson at K-State and asked her if she would be interested in collaborating on an education project. As they worked together, the two began to understand that ideas of educational remediation grew out of the old model of industrial organization, and not out of new social models of global sustainability.

The journey that these two writers have taken together, through their collaboration with the K-State women's studies faculty, Detroit learning centers, the Western Institute for Social Research and the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project, has launched them into the unknown, propelling them into the future. They now see education and learning in a totally new context, one that is unfolding right now. They argue that the possible scripts for our common global future have grown out of a common past, which remains only half-understood, partly because we have failed to appreciate the damage that has been done and the opportunities that have been missed. These two writers' unexpected appreciation of the '60s in 21st-century movements began to help them imagine how we can co-educate in intergenerational community centers that would enable learners to make the world they would like to see.

As a professor of women's studies at K-State, Dickinson also teaches classes in nonviolence studies and international studies. She is a member of sociology's graduate faculty. And she works with master's and doctoral students who are enrolled in a number of colleges. She has written and/or co-written a number of books on women's work and educational social change around the world, including "Fast Forward," "Democracy Works" and "Transformations."