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The Trouble with Knowledge | Shikshantar
"First Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education is Dishonesty

I do believe that one aspect which characterizes education, development and the production and dissemination of knowledge, in today’s world, is the lack of intellectual honesty. This belief is an outcome of reflecting on my experience during my school and university years and my almost 40 years of work. The dishonesty is connected to the values, which govern the thinking and practice in the fields of education, knowledge and development (mirroring the values in dominant societies and serving mainly the lifestyle of consumerism): control, winning, profit, individualism and competition. Having a syllabus and textbooks, and evaluating and judging people (students, teachers, administrators, and academics) through linear forms of authority and through linear symbolic values (such as arbitrary letters or grades or preferential labels), almost guarantee cheating, lack of honesty, and lack of relevance. (The recent reports that cheating and testing are on the rise in the Maryland and Chicago areas are just one example that came up to the surface. And of course teachers, principles and superintendents were blamed and had to pay the price.) I taught many years and put exams both at the level of classrooms and at the national level, and I labored and spent a lot of time and effort in order to be fair. But, then, I discovered that the problem is not in the intentions or the way we conduct things but, rather, in the values that run societies in general and which are propagated by education, development and knowledge -- among other venues. Thus, the main trouble with knowledge and education, is not so much their irrelevance or process of selection or the issue of power (though these are definitely part of the trouble) as it is with the lack of intellectual honesty in these areas. Giving a number or a letter to measure a human being is dishonest and inhuman; it is a degrading to the human mind and to human beings. Grading, in this sense, is degrading. It is one of the biggest abuses of mathematics in its history! Moreover, as long as the above-mentioned values remain as the governing values, education will continue to be fundamentally an obstacle to learning. Under these conditions, talking about improving or reforming education is naïve at best and hypocritical at worst. At most, it would touch a very small percentage of the student population in any particular region. Of course, we can go on putting our heads in the sand and refusing to see or care. But one main concern I will continue to have is what happens to the 80 some pecent of students whom the “compulsory suit” does not fit. Why imposing the same-size suit on all bodies sounds ridiculous but imposing the same curriculum on all minds does not?! The human mind is definitely more diverse that the human body.

Labeling a child as a “failure” is a criminal act against that child. For a child, who has learned so much from life before entering school, to be labeled a failure, just because s/he doesn’t see any sense in the mostly senseless knowledge we offer in most schools, is unfair – to say the least; it is really outrageous. But few of us around the world seem to be outraged, simply because we usually lose our senses in the process of getting educated. We are like those in Hans Christian Anderson’s story that lost their ability to see and had to be reminded by the little child that the emperor is without clothes.

Most people in the educational world (students, teachers, administrators, scholars, suprintendents, …) are dishonest (often without realizing it) either because we are too lazy to reflect on and see the absurdities in what we are doing (and just give to students what we were given in schools and universities, or during training courses and enrichment seminars!), or because we are simply afraid and need to protect ourselves from punishment or from being judged and labeled as inept or failures. This dishonesty prevails at all levels. I had a friend who was working in a prestigious university in the U.S. and who often went as an educational consultant and expert to countries to “improve and develop” their educational systems. Once, when he was on his way to Egypt as a consultant to help in reforming the educational system there, I asked him, “Have you ever been to Egypt?” He said no. I said, “Don’t you find it strange that you don’t know Egypt but you know what is good for it?!” Obviously, the richness, the wisdom and the depth of that 7000-year civilization is totally ignored by him, or more accurately, cannot be comprehended by him. Or, he may simply believe in what Kipling believed in in relation to India: to be ruled by Britain was India’s right; to rule India was Britain’s duty! In a very real sense, that friend of mine does not only abstract the theories he carries along with him everywhere but also abstracts the people by assuming that they all have the same deficits and, thus, the same solution – and that he has the solution.

Let’s take the term “sustainable development,” for example, which is widely used today and it is used in the concept paper for this conference. If we mean by development what we see in “developed” nations, then sustainable development is a nightmare. If we all start consuming, for example, at the rate at which “developed” nations currently do, then (as a friend of mine from Mexico says) we need at least five planets to provide the needed resources and to provide dumping sites for our waste! If “developing” nations consume natural resources (such as water) at the same rate “developed” nations do, such resources would be depleted in few years! Such “development” would be destructive to the soil of the earth and to the soil of cultures, both of which nurture and sustain human beings and human societies. The price would be very high at the level of the environment and at the level of beautiful relationships among people. Thus, those who believe in sustainable development (in its current conception and practice) are either naïve or dishonest or right out indifferent to what happens to nature, to beautiful relationship among people, and to the joyful harmony within human beings and between them and their surroundings. Nature and relationships among human beings are probably the two most precious treasures in life; the most valuable things human beings have. The survival of human and natural diversity (and even of human communities) are at stake here.

We do not detect dishonesty in the fields of education, knowledge and development because usually we are protected (in scools) from having much contact with life, through stressing verbal, symbolic and technical “knowledge,” through avoiding people’s experiences and surroundings, through the means we follow in evaluating people, and through ignoring history (history of people, of ideas, …). The main connection most school textbooks have with life is through the sections that carry the title “applications” – another instance of dishonesty. During the 1970s, for example, and as the head supervisor of math instruction in all the schools of the West Bank (in Palestine), one question I kept asking children was “is 1=1?” 1=1 is true in schoolbooks and on tests but in real life it has uses, abuses and misuses, but no real instances. We abstract apples in textbooks and make them equal but in real life there is no apple which is exactly equal to another apple. The same is true when we say that Newton discovered gravity. Almost every child by the age of one discovers it. (When my grandson, for example, was 15 months old, I was watching him once pick up pieces of cereal and put them in his mouth. Everytime he lost a piece, he would look for it down, never up!) By teaching that Newton discovered gravity, we do not only lie but also fail to clarify Newton’s real contribution. Similarly with teaching that Columbus discovered America …. Everyone of us can give tens of examples on dishonesty in the way we were taught and the way we teach."



"Second Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education: Lack of Connection with the Lives of the Social Majorities in the World"



"Building Learning Societies

From what has been said so far, two main approaches to knowledge and learning can be identified: (1) learning by doing; i.e. by the person being embedded in life, in one’s cultural soil. In this approach, learning is almost synonymous to living, and (2) the formal approach, which usually starts with ready pre-prepared content (usually fragmented into several subjucts, and usually put together in the absence of the two most important “actors” in learning: teachers and students). This approach also embodies tests and grades."



"Finally, I would like to affirm -- as a form of summary -- certain points, and point out to the need of dismantling others:

1. We need to dismantle the claim that learning can only take place in schools.

2. We need to dismantle the practice of separating students from life For at least 12 years) and still claim that learning is taking place.

3. We need to dismantle the assumption/ myth that teachers can teach what they don’t do.

4. We need to dismantle the myth that education can be improved through professionals and experts.

5. We need to dismantle the hegemony of words like education, development, progress, excellence, and rights and reclaim, instead, words like wisdom, faith, generosity, hope, learning, living, happiness, and duties.

6. We need to affirm that the vast mojority of people go to school not to learn but to get a diploma. We need to create diverse environments of learning.

7. We need to affirm our capacity for doing and learning, not for getting degrees.

8. We need to affirm and regain the concept and practice of “learning from the world,” not “about the world.”

9. We need to affirm that people are … [more]
munirfasheh  education  unschooling  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  diplomas  credentials  wisdom  degrees  faith  honesty  generosity  hope  learning  howwelearn  love  loving  lving  happiness  duties  duty  development  progress  excellence  rights  schools  community  learningcommunities  lcproject  openstudioproject  grades  grading  assessment  dishonesty  culture  society  hegemony  knowledge  influence  power  colonization  globalization  yemen  israel  palestine  humanism  governance  government  policy  politics  statism  children  egypt  india  westbank  religion  cordoba  cordova  gaza  freedom  failure  labeling 
2 hours ago by robertogreco
An inevitable division: the politics and consequences of the Labour split | openDemocracy
As I’ve pointed out before most of the Blairite MPs became Labour MPs on the basis of a particular implicit understanding of what that role entailed. According to this understanding, the purpose of a Labour MP is to try to persuade the richest and most powerful individuals, groups and institutions to make minor concessions to the interests of the disadvantaged, while persuading the latter to accept that these minor concessions are the best that they can hope for. That job description might well entail some occasional grandstanding when corporate institutions are engaged in particularly egregious forms of behaviour (such as making loans to very poor people at clearly exorbitant rates), or when the political right is engaged in explicit displays of racism or misogyny. But it doesn’t entail any actual attempt to change the underlying distributions of power in British society; and in fact it does necessarily, and structurally, entail extreme hostility towards anybody who proposes to do that.
UK  politics  LabourParty  IndependentGroup  split  UmunnaChuka  Blairism  GapesMike  LabourFirst  Progress  class  capitalism  centrism  managerialism  anti-Semitism  Corbynism  Brexit  Labourism  coalition  Germany  FreeDemocraticParty  dctagged  dc:creator=GilbertJeremy 
yesterday by petej
Why Your Big-Team Software Project Needs a Utility Player
Teams get stuck all the time, for a variety of reasons. The utility player is responsible for jumping in to get the rest of the team over the hurdle.
progress  teams 
3 days ago by nanoxd
A Wake Up Call To AI Companies - Hot Off The Winners Take All Book Tour With Anand Giridharadas
If someone with this mentality was a white person in Birmingham, Alabama in 1957, my fear is that it would translate to ‘I’m not one to fight for Civil Rights, but I will create a magazine to celebrate those white-owned restaurants that do allow Black people in’. Is there anything wrong with that theory? No. But that sounds gross to both of us. Why? Because the problem wasn’t to celebrate good white people, it was an illegal, immoral system, and the only responsible way to address it was by trying to uproot it.
tech  sanfrancisco  capitalism  business  commentary  progress  politics  culture 
13 days ago by inrgbwetrust
Twitter
RT : “Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Organization”

Insightful. Educating.

Thank you to
Progress  from twitter
13 days ago by jeffbyrnes
Rethinking the Peace Culture [The Pearl Magazine]
"Last September, our university made significant progress by moving from the 39th to the 22nd position in the US News Ranking of the Best Liberal Art Colleges in the country. Soka also lands at #1 in Study Abroad and #2 in Faculty Resources. However, statistics alone cannot tell the whole story. When evaluating a college, we should also take into consideration the extent to which it achieves its mission statement. Does a national ranking mean that the university succeeds in achieving its goal to “foster a steady stream of global citizens who committed to living a contributive life”?

The core value of Soka—pursuing a peaceful culture—somehow contributes to a lack of engagement in the community. This issue was reflected in the First-Year Class Senate election this year. In comparison to the rising tension in the US political climate, our election could not have been more “peaceful.” Candidates weren’t required to give speeches about their plans. No campaigns or lobbies were launched. The process only required an application that was put in a booklet and sent to all the first-year students. Students were given one week for online voting—and then the new officers were announced.

The silence of the process surprised me. In my high school in Vietnam, to run for student council, we had to run campaigns and give presentations about our plans to win votes from students and teachers. Here, an election for the most critical student organization was unexpectedly quiet.

I’d argue that one of the unexpected results of the peace culture is that students become silent and passive when it becomes necessary to speak personal opinions. As we do not want to be excluded from the community or be seen as “too aggressive,” we easily come to an agreement even if it is not what we really think. The pressure to please other people and maintain a peaceful atmosphere makes us hesitant to express ourselves and fight for what we believe. We want to be “global citizens,” but we stop at the border of disagreement because we are afraid that we will cause trouble if we cross that boundary. How can multi-cultural understanding be developed without the clash of ideas and interactive debates? How can truth and progress can be achieved if everyone is not willing to speak up?

From the bottom of my heart, I do not regret choosing Soka as my college. I understand the importance of pacifism to the world. However, we cannot have a “happy peace” on campus without encouraging freedom of idea-exchanging and structural discourses. As life goes on, conflicts are unavoidable. The best way to solve them is not by ignoring them, but by seriously discussing them to find a solution that works for the community."

[Goes well with:
"The Biden Fallacy: Struggle against the powerful, not accommodation of their interests, is how America produced the conditions for its greatest social reforms." by
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/opinion/bloomberg-schultz-moderate-democrat.html

"There’s something odd about the self-described moderates and centrists considering a run for president. If “moderation” or “centrism” means holding broadly popular positions otherwise marginalized by extremists in either party, then these prospective candidates don’t quite fit the bill.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax on the nation’s largest fortunes is very popular, according to recent polling by Morning Consult, with huge support from Democrats and considerable backing from Republicans. But Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who has flirted with running for president as a moderate Democrat, rejects the plan as an extreme policy that would put the United States on the path to economic ruin. “If you want to look at a system that’s noncapitalistic, just take a look at what was once, perhaps, the wealthiest country in the world, and today people are starving to death. It’s called Venezuela,” he said during a January trip to New Hampshire. He is similarly dismissive of the idea of “Medicare for all,” warning that it would “bankrupt us for a very long time.”

Likewise, Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, has staked out ground as a moderate politician, even as he opposes similarly popular ideas. A substantial majority of the public favors proposals to greatly expand college access or make it free outright. In a January op-ed for The Washington Post, McAuliffe dismissed “universal free college” as a misuse of tax dollars. “Spending limited taxpayer money on a free college education for the children of rich parents badly misses the mark for most families.”

And let’s not forget Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks chief executive who might run for president as an independent, who characterizes himself as a “centrist” despite holding positions that have little traction among the public as a whole. “We have to go after entitlements,” he has said, referring to the unpopular idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare to shrink the federal deficit.

In each case, these moderate politicians have positioned themselves against broad public preference. What then makes a moderate, if not policies that appeal to the middle?

You’ll find the answer in two comments from Joe Biden, who served two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama and is mulling a third run for the Democratic nomination. The first is from a speech in 2018, the second from more recent remarks to the United States Conference of Mayors. Speaking last May at the Brookings Institution, Biden rejected the confrontational language of some other Democrats. “I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders,” he said. “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. I get into a lot of trouble with my party when I say that wealthy Americans are just as patriotic as poor folks.”

Speaking a month ago, Biden defended his praise for Fred Upton, the electorally embattled Republican congressman from Michigan whom he commended in a paid speech last year. Republicans used these comments to bolster Upton in campaign advertising, helping him win a narrow victory over his Democratic challenger. Biden’s response to critics was defiant. “I read in The New York Times today that I — that one of my problems is if I ever run for president, I like Republicans,” he said. “O.K., well, bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Biden hasn’t endorsed a “Medicare for all” plan, but if he runs, he won’t be running on deficit reduction or modest tweaks to existing programs. He supports free college and a $15-per-hour minimum wage. He wants to triple the earned-income tax credit, give workers more leverage and raise taxes on the rich. This is a liberal agenda. And yet Biden is understood as a “moderate” like Bloomberg, McAuliffe and Schultz.

What connects them (and similar politicians) is a belief that meaningful progress is possible without a fundamental challenge to those who hold most of the wealth and power in our society. For Biden, you don’t need to demonize the richest Americans or their Republican supporters to reduce income inequality; you can find a mutually beneficial solution. Bloomberg, a billionaire, may have a personal reason for rejecting wealth taxes, but he may also see them as unnecessary and antagonistic if the goal is winning powerful interests over to your side. McAuliffe governed Virginia with an eye toward the business community. Sweeping social programs might be popular, but they might alienate that powerful constituency. And Schultz wants a Democratic Party less hostile to those he calls “people of means,” who otherwise back goals like gun control.

But this is a faulty view of how progress happens. Struggle against the powerful, not accommodation of their interests, is how Americans produced the conditions for its greatest social accomplishments like the creation of the welfare state and the toppling of Jim Crow. Without radical labor activism that identifies capitalism — and the bosses — as the vector for oppression and disadvantage, there is no New Deal. Without a confrontational (and at times militant) black freedom movement, there is no Civil Rights Act. If one of the central problems of the present is an elite economic class that hoards resources and opportunity at the expense of the public as a whole, then it’s naïve and ahistoric to believe the beneficiaries of that arrangement will willingly relinquish their power and privilege.

If there’s a major division within Democratic politics, it’s between those who confront and those who seek to accommodate. Because we lack a varied vocabulary in mainstream political discourse, we call the latter “moderates” or “centrists,” which doesn’t capture the dynamic at work.

Anna Julia Cooper was an author, activist and public intellectual, a prominent voice in the struggle for black liberation. In her 1892 book, “A Voice From the South,” she ruminates on what’s necessary for “proper equilibrium” in society:
Progressive peace in a nation is the result of conflict; and conflict, such as is healthy, stimulating, and progressive, is produced through the coexistence of radically opposing or racially different elements.

Antagonism, indignation, anger — these qualities don’t diminish democracy or impede progress. Each is an inescapable part of political life in a diverse, pluralistic society. And each is necessary for challenging our profound inequalities of power, wealth and opportunity.

“The child can never gain strength save by resistance,” Cooper wrote, a little later in that volume, “and there can be no resistance if all movement is in one direction and all opposition made forever an impossibility.”]
2018  peace  hongthuy  democracy  community  governance  government  silence  passivity  jamellebouie  us  politics  progressive  progress  change  michaelbloomberg  terrymcauliffe  howardschultz  juliacooper  antagonism  indignation  anger  pluralism  society  conflict  conflictavoidance  diversity  resistance  joebiden  elizabethwarren  democrats  2019  barackobama  fredupton  moderates  centrists  accommodation  statusquo  inequality  civilrights  power  privilege  discourse  civility  race  wealth  opportunity  sokauniversityofamerica  thepearl  soka 
14 days ago by robertogreco
Opinion | The Biden Fallacy - The New York Times
But this is a faulty view of how progress happens. Struggle against the powerful, not accommodation of their interests, is how Americans produced the conditions for its greatest social accomplishments like the creation of the welfare state and the toppling of Jim Crow. Without radical labor activism that identifies capitalism — and the bosses — as the vector for oppression and disadvantage, there is no New Deal. Without a confrontational (and at times militant) black freedom movement, there is no Civil Rights Act. If one of the central problems of the present is an elite economic class that hoards resources and opportunity at the expense of the public as a whole, then it’s naïve and ahistoric to believe the beneficiaries of that arrangement will willingly relinquish their power and privilege.
jamelle-bouie  democracy  incrementalism  nytimes.com  inequality  progress  politics  privilege  presidential-elections 
15 days ago by yolandaenoch

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