“Who knows? A year and a half at IEDP might total[ly] shake up my goals and directions and take me to somewhere that I had not imagined. That does sound daunting but I’d really like to keep my options – all options possible! – open at the moment. Whichever path it might be, I would be a happy adult if I feel like I’m making the world a better place to live for more people.”
This is what I wrote in the conclusion of my very first assignment at IEDP, which was to write an autobiography explaining what brought us here and what we hope to get out of the program. The comments on my autobiography show that many of our cohort mates second my sentiment, especially the “all options possible” part. Many others have noted in their own autobiographies that they are excited to see diverse perspectives and different ideas that IEDP has to offer. And alas, IEDP never disappoints us. Only a month into the program, and already, many of the students in Dr. GK’s EDUC 514 section is experiencing the “total shake up” that we all have been terrified of but at the same time, really looking forward to.
Though varying in degrees, most of the cohort was more or less aware of the negative aspects of development prior to arriving in Philly. So hearing that development does not always make the world a better place (and in fact, it has done the opposite many times!) was somewhat expected. But our weltanschauung (the way you view the world around you) broke into pieces far before we got to that part with this simple question on the first day of class: What do you mean by “development”?
There are so many different understandings of and perspectives on development that it is impossible to have a unified working definition of development, let alone evaluate whether it does more harm than good with so much certainty! I was all wrong for thinking there was not much left to fall apart in my rather cynical weltanschauung. As the course proceeded, I have come to realize that there was still so much that I had overlooked and taken for granted when thinking about development. I would walk out of the classroom with endless questions: what is development really? What do I really want to do when I say I want to work as an education development worker? Are you sure it really is the way to make this world better place for more people?
Constantly challenging and questioning ourselves is good but at the same time, we learned that this is not to dissuade us from working in the field of development. It is to better prepare us for what we aspire to do: exploring various ideologies of development and understanding its dark history, we hope to become development workers who understand where others are coming from and where we are coming from when engaging in development work. There is no right or wrong answer to how one approaches development work – it’s about being aware of how you decide to approach development.
I remember telling a second-year student during a happy hour event that I used to tell people “I’m fully aware of the dark history of development so with that in mind, I still want to do XYZ” but I can’t even do THAT after two weeks of EDUC 514. (Disclaimer: that now changed, though, after three more weeks of EDUC 514. #gettingthere) The second-year students replied that I will come to appreciate this weltanschauung-shattering experience more once I start my internship in summer. All the more reason to be excited about what lies ahead in our journey at IEDP!