Understanding the Arts of the Contact Zone

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Date Submitted: 05/06/2011 10:56 PM

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Understanding the Arts of the Contact Zone

The essay “Arts of the Contact Zone” by Professor Mary Louise Pratt was a tough read for me the first time through but after a second pass it became very apparent to me what Professor Pratt’s main idea was. Pratt theorizes that the contact zone is a zone in which multiple cultures, societies and personal experiences overlap each other and leave an imprint on all those who have been exposed to the overlap region. This exposure to the contact zone (or lack thereof) have lead to three distinct issues that Pratt identified: First, that currently our school curriculum has become stale and does not expose young minds to alternate ways of thinking. Second, that the sector of society that holds the power has the greatest influence on society’s ways of thinking, and finally that there is indeed value added in exposure to a contact zone that is diverse.

Professor Pratt opens her speech with a story about how her son, Sam, had a hobby trading baseball cards when he was a child. Although this started as a simple hobby of swapping cardboard among friends it blossomed into a massive learning opportunity for Sam. He was exposed to a new avenue of learning that taught him much more than mere batting averages. According to Pratt he learned about life: “… he learned about exchange, fairness, trust, the importance of processes as opposed to results, what it means to get cheated, taken advantage of, even robbed” (355). Sam had learned to open his mind to the many tangents that trading baseball cards afforded him. Pratt gives the impression that she believes her son learned more valuable lessons from trading baseball cards than he did at school. She hints that she believes that the current curriculum in our schools merely teaches the facts and does not expose students to the many different things that helped shape those facts. Further on in her essay I think that she tries to expand upon that theory by providing us with a...