Commodification of Health, Disease, and Body in Science Texts: Promoting Meanings of Consumerism in the Classroom


Every day teachers and their students are confronted with a world of manipulative strategies directed at consumers and political participants, particularly in the realm of health and disease. One such example is the Zika virus outbreak, which, early in 2016, became part of the media–propelled landscape of interest to the scientific community and lay public. In light of increased recognition of the importance of socio–scientific issues and reasoning in the education of prospective science teachers , we viewed case–based pedagogy as an ideal tool for engaging teachers in discussions of the complex issues surrounding the transmission of the Zika virus . We developed the case “I love Mother Nature. But I want my nephew to live: A debate over the Zika virus and the use of pesticides” as a centerpiece for prospective teachers ’ deliberations around the use of strong pesticides to control mosquito populations contributing to the spread of the virus. This chapter tells two interwoven stories. The first is a story of our reflections on using the Zika virus case as an educational text, with prospective teachers enrolled in an elementary methods course. In the second story we explore the unintended meanings of this case narrative and our realization that we had created an artifact–the commodification of health, disease and body through an educational text. As we reflect on our practice of using disease to introduce socioscientific reasoning, we recognize that we may have inadvertently created an environment of consumer culture within our elementary science teaching methods course. In this chapter we explore the meanings of consumerism in the context of this course and reflect on how our use of the Zika virus case may be problematic in terms of promoting messages of consumerism in various ways.

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