Course description

Facing human wrongs: Navigating paradoxes and complexities of social and global change

Course instructors: Dr. Vanessa Andreotti (Educational Studies) and Dr. Will Valley (Land and Food Systems)
Course dates: 5 July to 13 August 2021 (6 weeks) . Summer Term 2.

This online, interdisciplinary course will address the ethical and practical complexities and paradoxes of mainstream approaches to global challenges. It does so by addressing four interrelated denials that enable the reproduction of an enduring colonial system: denial of colonial violence that underwrites the system; denial of ecological unsustainability; denial of interdependence; and denial of the magnitude of the many “wicked problems” that we face. Generally, if addressed at all, these denials are addressed one at a time, whereas our course brings them together, enabled by the interdisciplinary format. 

The course also offers students an alternative to common approaches to problem-solving premised on seeking immediate solutions. Instead, it emphasizes the development of students’ intellectual, affective, and relational capacities for navigating multiple perspectives and VUCA (volatility, unpredictability, complexity and ambiguity) in an interrelated and unequal world. The course seeks to prepare students to address real-world problems in socially and ecologically accountable ways, without sacrificing nuance or minimizing complicity. This course focuses on expanding our collective capacity to hold space for difficult conversations about wicked challenges without feeling immobilized or demanding immediate quick fixes.

The course content will touch upon systemic, historical and ongoing violence, unsustainability, our complicities in social and ecological harm, and our tendency to address complex problems, such as biodiversity loss, food insecurity, economic and political crises, and the potential for social and environmental collapse, with simplistic solutions. The course requires you to be willing to be uncomfortable and to have your perspective challenged, even if you think of yourself as already “woke”. If you feel that in-depth analysis and discussion of these topics will likely be emotionally overwhelming for you at the moment, or that they may negatively impact your mental health, please do not take this course. We will make a sample unit available in May to help you make the decision of whether or not this course is for you.

This course is cross listed between Land and Food Systems (LFS490) and Educational Studies (EDST400 and EDST565B). In Educational Studies, it is offered to both undergraduate and graduate students. The course will have a common curriculum combined with specific (different) readings and assignments for each course stream (e.g. LFS490, EDST400, EDST 565). Since this is a 6-week summer intensive course, students will be expected to dedicate from 7 to 8 hours a week to their learning. All course materials will be available online (recorded lectures, videos, documentaries, readings and quizzes, analytical and land-based exercises) and group tutorials will take place once a week online (synchronously on zoom) according to this schedule:

  • LFS490 (two groups): Tuesdays 10:30 to 11:50 and 12:00 to 1:20 pm (10 students per tutorial group)
  • EDST400: Thursdays 10:30 to 11:50 am
  • EDST565: Thursdays 12:00 to 1:20 pm