Mt. A alum challenges the way we learn

“I didn’t want to be an Ivory Tower. I wanted to be useful,” said Sarah Cardey at a recent presentation. Cardey, an interdisciplinary social scientist and former Mount Allison drama student, currently works as a professor at the University of Reading, specializing in gender and development, communications and rural livelihoods.

Cardey’s presentation in the Motyer-Fancy Theatre, titled “How I Got There from Here,” connected her current work to her Mt. A experience.

“You can do anything at Mt. A. I worked for the newspaper. I had a radio show. I was in the theatre,” Cardey said. “All of that stuff merged together and helped create a foundation I was able to use, because you can practise these things [here], where in other places you wouldn’t be able to touch on it.”

Cardey discussed her usage of edutainment (entertainment education) to educate others on issues of gender inequality, sexuality, homophobia and cross-cultural interactions. More recently, she has used edutainment to educate rural farmers in marketing, business and agricultural techniques.

Many of the countries Cardey has visited have developed their own successful edutainment programs.

“There is an assumption that we cannot learn from a less developed country, which is ridiculous,” she said. She added that some of the greatest forms of edutainment have been developed in Africa and Latin America, particularly in South Africa, Uganda and Nicaragua.

To remove language barriers in the countries she visits, Cardey uses techniques learned from the theatre.

“You have to try and figure out what you’re trying to communicate and how you break that down so that you’ve got a common language to communicate,” she said.

Cardey said that working with a diverse range of communities poses its challenges.

“People are very happy to change economic conditions, but when it comes to social conditions, when you challenge gender inequalities, people can really get their backs up,” she said. “They are perfectly happy to talk about something that doesn’t threaten power relations, but as soon as you start threatening power relations and it looks like someone is going to lose power, then suddenly it’s imperialism.”

Last Wednesday, Cardey hosted a workshop called “Theatre in Action,” in which she demonstrated the techniques discussed in “How I Got From Here to There.”

“During the workshop, we used theatrical tools to create a drama and/or radio script to explore how theatre can be used to create empowering social change in education and community development,” Cardey said.

“I always thought edutainment was for kids, but it really isn’t,” said Mt. A student Kaylie McGraw, a workshop attendee. McGraw explained that during the workshop, participants watched a variety of different edutainment videos and then had the opportunity to participate.

One activity called for actors to perform a scene exhibiting oppressive behaviour. Audience members then “paused” the scene and re-directed actors to resolve the problematic situation. This technique removed the traditional divide between audience members and the performers, effectively incorporating the audience’s experience into the performance.

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