Contextual Utility and Practicality: Cultural Research for the School Community in Hong Kong

Po-Keung Hui, Stephen C.K. Chan
2011 Cultural Studies Review  
Preamble We were once puzzled by a complaint that a course on 'Self and Identity' we had proposed for a newly developed teacher training programme in Liberal Studies (LS) was too 'cultural studies' and therefore not practical enough for helping school teachers handle their adolescent students' pressing problems in personal growth (including an increasingly common inclination to suicide among many). Practicality, in this view, would have little to do with the pedagogical and intellectual
more » ... es that serve to facilitate and enhance critical understanding of the sociocultural conditions for the dynamics of the self-contextual factors which must have been crucial in shaping pressing problems for our young students and their teachers who care rather helplessly sometimes about 'self and identities' in the suffocating school setting. Reflecting on this puzzling search for the useful pedagogy-for a set of practices in teaching 'culture' to a 'self' that could work for our students-we would like to ask us all to be frank enough to admit this: that the suffocating socio-institutional condition, be it school or university setting, is more often than not part of the problem, rather than of the solution. In this light, the pressing question posed to cultural researchers at large by that demand for practicality has a clearer implication. As an intellectual project, is cultural studies actually 'useless' in dealing with issues closely tied to students' everyday practices? For example, how can we deal with issues shaped and defined as 'adversities in life' by the institutionalised disciplinary codes passing 'specialist' (e.g. behavioural psychologist) judgment on such matters as juvenile suicide? In short, although this moralistic little comment ('how impractical, how useless!') should surprise no-one familiar with the intellectual and institutional histories of -contextual utility and practicality
doi:10.5130/csr.v12i2.2342 fatcat:pwxy3eklj5aanfplkuns6avema