You are here

CLAS Lecture Series: When Schools Clash With Experiential Learning: Implications for the Waorani Nation in Ecuador

When Schools Clash With Experiential Learning: Implications for the Waorani Nation in Ecuador
Speaker: Ciara Wirth, PhD Candidate, Stanford Department of Anthropology
Worldwide, formal education through schools is reaching ever-more remote corners of our planet and landing in diverse cultural contexts. Few would deny that access to school learning is a serious advantage that can lead to, among other things: intercultural dialogue, improved economic opportunity, and new, expanded, understanding. However, schools often run headlong into local forms of education, with goals, strategies, and assessments that often differ widely from those of the schools. Extensive research has exposed the ways in which schools can reduce intergenerational dialogue in local communities, perpetrate social and economic inequalities, and replace local knowledge and learning processes. Operating under the assumption that diversity in human knowledge, thought and problem solving strategies is advantageous and desirable for humanity, these trends are worrisome well beyond local social justice concerns. Many alternative education efforts, including bilingual and intercultural schools, have arisen in response to this concern. These seek to prepare youth to successfully navigate the combination of local, “cultural,” and globalized, “modern,” contexts.
In this presentation I will discuss the case of school introduction in the Waorani Nation, an indigenous population in the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon. I will reflect upon my personal observations over eight years of engaging in collaborative research in this region and I will briefly discuss how my proposed dissertation research is designed to inform local approaches towards implementing intercultural education. Finally, I will introduce an exciting “image-to-audio application" that we have been developing, in collaboration with Dr. Tarek Milleron from Caura Futures, to facilitate indigenous peoples’ interests in documenting their local ecological knowledge and transmitting it to future generations.

Ciara Wirth is a pursuing a PhD in the Anthropology Department at Stanford U., with a focus on Ecology and the Environment. Over the last five and a half years, Ciara has participated in a collaborative education reform project in the Waodani Nation of the Ecuadorian Amazon. She will be returning to Waorani Territory in July of 2016 to conduct her dissertation field research.



Friday, April 15, 2016. 12:30 PM


Bolivar House, 582 Alvarado Row


Center for Latin American Studies


(650) 725-0383


Lunch Provided | No RSVP Necessary