The Articles of Pyratical Pedagogy: The Classroom as Hydrarchy

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

Sign on to hear tale of classroom crews finding authentic treasures under "The Articles of Pyratical Pedagogy".


Dr. Stacy Greathouse is an instructor and Senior Instructional Designer at Texas Woman’s University. Her definition of success is to hear or say at least once a day, “I never thought about it that way!”

Extended Abstract

When Robinson Crusoe reflects on his teacher-pupil relationship with his companion Friday, he offers:
I had, God knows, more sincerity than knowledge, in all the methods I took for this poor creature's instruction, and must acknowledge what I believe all that act upon the same principle will find, that in laying things open to him, I really inform'd and instructed myself in many things, that either I did not know, or had not fully consider'd before; but which occurr'd naturally to my mind, upon searching into them, for the information of this poor savage; and I had more affection in my enquiry after things upon this occasion, than ever I felt before; so that whether this poor wild wretch was better for me, or no, I had great reason to be thankful that ever he came to me (173-174, emphasis removed).

What is an instructor to do when, in the middle of a course on pirates in children's and historical literature, she is hit with the epiphany that she has been markedly behaving in a manner similar to Crusoe? How can she recover when she had imperialistically targeted students as poor wild wretches as if they needed saving from their lack of educational civilization, and she had been acting as the very hypocrite upholding a system she wished to challenge? What would it take her to turn to "enquiry" and to open a truly contextual climate? What emerged was a distinct constructivist set of practices that modeled the metaphor of its very piratical content? Like Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts, the crews of the classroom helped to define the ship's code.

Marcus Rediker explains the circumstances of a hydrarchy, which is his term for the peculiar and necessary community that evolves from the specific conditions of life at sea. In layman's terms, it's the crew's collaborative necessity to do whatever it takes to keep their 4-inches of tar, timber, and iron from failing beneath them and leading to certain death at sea. This led me to ask: What can the body and brain do in tandem to learn and survive in its own world? Pyratical Pedagogy then emerged from piratical history, pedagogical readings from such thinkers as Shor, Freire, and hooks, and on the foundations of Rediker's concept to assert that classroom spaces can emerge as a hydrarchy sailing under:


As a member of the Courtesy, under whose sails a crew encounters challenge, discovers meaning among a community of perspectives, and seeks to serve the needs of others as much as of themselves, I do hereby pledge to uphold the following articles:

Article 1. Each mate shall keep both weapons and wit fit for service.
Article 2. Fly the banners of Intellectual Integrity, and mark a day of rest.
Article 3. Hypocrisy is the enemy of professionalism.
Article 4. No member to talk of breaking up their way of living till each has shared.
Article 5. Any sailor who should lose a limb in service will have compensation out of the public stock proportionately.
Article 6. Mark the mistakes, and make them mean.

Pyratical Pedagogy, in short, is the practice of creating a dynamic learning environment through paradigm-challenging yet practical, relevant, and engaging instructional strategies with authentic outcomes. When every choice is a gamble and all that separates us from drowning is 4 inches of tar, timber, and iron, it's time to teach how to view the stakes, assess the odds, and evaluate the worth of the prize. No one ever said that each choice had to have a good option; however, each will lead to consequence and another choice. If education, by the presenter's belief, is supposed to be a safe place to make the mistakes with minimal stakes to prepare for the bigger bets, then there is a design mantra to bear in mind: Make it real. Make it relevant. Make it right now.

This session will present how contextual course crews have succeeded in the following ways:
ï Produced Annotated Bibliographies with an authentic understanding of function and form in the form of a pirate sea battle.
ï Wrote grants using the Annotated Bibliographies to secure the treasure of real money.
ï Conducted professional Etiquette dinners and teas that solidified alliances for internships, career advice, graduate school recommendations, and media coverage.
ï Witnessed and helped dictate live-action, in-the-moment choreography of pirate fight scenes.
ï Received products, money, formal apologies, and other tangible, quantifiable, and practical resolutions to contextual situations with piratical panache.

Our journey's destination defines the hydrarchy; analyzes why and how the pirate metaphor works both overtly and covertly; discusses what it means to be and perform as a Pyratical Pedagogue; and explores specific examples of what Pyratical Pedagogy looks like in practice.

Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe. 1719. Ed. John Richetti. London: Penguin, 2001. Print.

Rediker, Marcus. "Hydrarchy and Libertalia: The Utopian Dimensions of Atlantic Piracy in the Early Eighteenth Century." Pirates in the Age of Sail. Comp. Robert J. Antony. New York: Norton, 2007. 166-179. Print.