robertogreco + dichotomy   5

I'm Nowhere In-between: Why we need 'seriously uncool' criticism in education - Long View on Education
"You know those t-charts that divide approaches to education into the old and the new? Of course you do. And I bet that were we both to take five minutes to reproduce one from memory, we would come up with roughly the same list. All we’d need to do then is choose a side. Or perhaps stake out a position somewhere in the middle, a blend of the two. Nothing too extreme.

Let me show you one from nearly 100 years ago. In 1925, May R. Pringle experimented with ‘the project method’, which we would now call ‘Project Based Learning’.1

[image]

I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about how we need to be critical of the list of ‘the new and modern’ because it’s always backed by a corporate push. But that’s not why progressive educators find the list seductive. The very terms themselves act as a siren call to anyone who wants a more humane education for children: creative, student-centered, open, flexible, collaboration, choice. We are told that these are the qualities that schools kill and that CEOs would kill for.

But here is the problem. What if CEOs started to call for qualities that ran against our progressive values? In a report by The Economist (and sponsored by Google), Emiliana Vega, “chief of the Education Division, Inter- American Development Bank”, describes the kind of skills that he wishes schools would instill:
“In Latin America, socio- emotional skills are a big part of the gap between what employers need and what young people have. For example, tourism companies need people who will smile and be polite to guests, and often graduates just don’t possess those public- facing techniques.”

Think about that for a minute.

But opposing this new ‘skills agenda’ doesn’t mean that I’m a traditionalist or trying to cut a middle ground. My teaching is most certainly not some kind of ‘back to basics’ or mindless self-medicating prescribed by the ‘what works’ gurus.

The ‘what works’ agenda holds it’s own kind of seduction for self-fashioned rationalists in the vein of Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, who somehow manage to hold onto the Modern faith in science as if most of the 20th century never happened. Geert Lovink sums up that limited critical terrain by looking at the work of Nick Carr, who often criticizes technology because of the effect it has on our cognition:
“Carr and others cleverly exploit the Anglo-American obsession with anything related to the mind, brain and consciousness – mainstream science reporting cannot get enough of it. A thorough economic (let alone Marxist) analysis of Google and the free and open complex is seriously uncool. It seems that the cultural critics will have to sing along with the Daniel Dennetts of this world (loosely gathered on edge.org) in order to communicate their concerns.”

Most of the ‘seriously uncool’ criticism of the project of Modernity has exploded the dichotomies that the destructive myth of ‘rational’ and ‘objective’ scientific ‘progress’ rested on. While we might lament that teachers do not read enough research, we can’t mistake that research for a neutral, apolitical body of knowledge.

Allow me to use a famous study to illustrate my point. Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer’s ‘The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard’ (2014) seems to show that writing notes with pen and paper boosts retention and understanding of information compared to typing notes on a computer. In their study, the participants watched TED talks and took notes, completed distractor tasks, and about 30 minutes later answered questions. In one condition, the test was delayed by a week and some participants were allowed to study their notes for 10 minutes before taking the test. The TED talks were intentionally disconnected from any larger project they were learning about.

So rationally and scientifically speaking, we should have students take notes with pen and paper, right?

Yet, the study itself is not neutral with respect to pedagogy since it contains many in-built assumptions about how we should teach: we can say that the pen is mightier than the keyboard under the controlled conditions when students watch a short lecture once, about a topic they are not in the course of studying, when they are not permitted to take the notes home and perform more work with them, and when the assessment of knowledge uses short answer questions divorced from a meaningful purpose or complex project.

Is that how we want to teach? Would a democratic conversation about schools endorse that pedagogy?

In the lab, scientists try to reduce the complexity and heterogeneity in networks – to purify them – so as to create controlled conditions. Subjects and treatments are standardized so they become comparable. Drawing on systems theory, Gert Biesta argues that schools – like all institutions and our social life more broadly – engage in a kind of complexity reduction. We group children into grades and classes, start and end the day at the same time, in order to reduce “the number of available options for action for the elements of a system” which can “make a quick and smooth operation possible”.

Reducing options for action is neither good nor bad in itself, but it is always an issue of politics and power. So, cognitive science is no more a neutral guide than CEOs. As Biesta writes, “The issue, after all is, who has the power to reduce options for action for whom.”

Reliance on only ‘what works’ is a kind of complexity reduction that would eliminate the need for professional judgement. Biesta worries about the “democratic deficit” that results from “the uptake of the idea of evidence-based practice in education”. It’s a conversation stopper, much like relying on CEOs to provide us with the ‘skills of the future’ also raises the issue of a ‘democratic deficit’ and questions about who has power.

I’m not writing this because I feel like what I have to say is completely new, but because I feel like I need to affirm a commitment to the project of critical pedagogy, which does not rest somewhere in the middle of a t-chart. Critical pedagogy embraces hybridity over purification. Our classrooms should emphasize the very heterogeneity in networks in all their variation and glory that experiments – and corporations – seek to eliminate.2

If I’m nowhere in-between, I’m certainly not the first nor alone.

In Teaching to Transgress (1994), bell hooks tells us that “talking about pedagogy, thinking about it critically, is not the intellectual work that most folks think is hip and cool.” Yes, we still need more of that ‘seriously uncool’ critical work if education is to work in the service of freedom. hooks writes, “Ideally, education should be a place where the need for diverse teaching methods and styles would be valued, encouraged, seen as essential to learning.”

There’s lots of reason to think that the social media discussion of education is not a kind of paradise. But as hooks reminds us,
“…learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”3
"
benjamindoxtdator  2017  dichotomies  dichotomy  spectrums  projectbasedlearning  bellhooks  criticalpedagogy  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  hybridity  purity  teaching  leaning  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  schools  freedom  homogeneity  heterogeneity  mayrpringle  history  modernity  emilianavega  richarddawkins  danieldennett  faith  geertlovink  criticism  criticalthinking  technology  pammueller  danieloppenheimer  tedtalks  democracy  democratic  gertbiesta  systemstheory  diversity  complexity  simplicity  agesegregation  efficiency  politics  power  authority  networks  possibility  nicholascarr 
july 2017 by robertogreco
When Brian Eno met Ha-Joon Chang | Music | The Guardian
"Brian Eno: There's an issue we're both interested in – this middle ground between control and chaos. Some economists say you can only have a control model or a chaos model, that you're either a socialist or it's all about the free market. Whereas you say: "Let's find a place in between."

This happens to be an issue with the music I make. It's made for a place somewhere between architecture and gardening. It's not a situation where I'm finessing every tiny detail. I basically set a process in motion and then watch it happen. A lot of the design work is prior to the thing starting, rather than trying to keep control of it once it has started. You try to design the process carefully enough so you get the results you want and don't have to intervene. …

Ha-Joon Chang:… Central planners thought they could control everything, but there are always elements of uncertainty and surprise… The illusion that this rule-less system can organise itself has been proven completely mistaken – but we still have people wanting to believe in these extremes. …

…our black and white, dichotomous way of thinking…has really been harmful…

BE: … It turns out that anything that is called free anything isn't really. It's just constraints that you don't recognise. …

This turns out to be something that happens a lot. Once you've grown to accept something and it becomes part of the system you've inherited, you don't even notice it any longer. We don't even think that not employing children is anti-free market.



HJC: … if you try to create a world in which everything is driven by money and the market, the world will be a much poorer place.

… Human beings' capacity to "waste time" is a miracle – but that's exactly what art is for. …"

BE: It's not only money, it's also other forms of accountability. Look at education in this country. I've just had two daughters go through the system here, and nothing mattered at all, as long as they could get through their A-levels. It doesn't matter if you don't actually understand a word. I could see some of their friends who were good at remembering things, but had no clue at all about what they were talking about, who got A stars.

HJC: In that system, curiosity is actually a great disadvantage. Which means that any creativity gets lost

BE: It's to do with the act of quantification. It's part of the money thing: something that you can put a figure to immediately assumes a sort of authority, even if it doesn't deserve it.

… Quantification is a big temptation for society because it looks like control. …

BE: … Tom Wolfe says something in his book The Painted Word about how four curators, 12 collectors and six critics determine an artist's career. Something like that.

This is why the art world has such incredible inertia, because once those people have invested their highly important opinion in something, they're very unwilling to change it. Whereas if you've bought an album by a band but then you don't like their second one, you just say, fuck it, the second one isn't any good. …

HJC: … we used to call them tempura shop records – it sounded as if someone was deep-frying them.

BE: Nearly everything good starts from imitation.

HJC: It's actually a good illustration of how art can be done in a very non-hierarchical way. The success of this guy, Psy, is because he didn't try to protect his work too much: he let everyone copy and create their own versions. So you have versions with Voldemort from Harry Potter ... my children are hooked on finding Matrix versions. Some are actually brilliant!

BE: It's a brilliant idea to make something that, like a module, can be plugged into any part of the culture.

Culture does change the way we think, just not in the propagandistic way. Art can be a model of how otherwise something could be done. How else it could be? When you see a piece of art, and you think, "Wow, that's wonderful", part of you wants to know, "And how did it get to be that way? Ah, it got to be that way by that mechanism. This is how it's done."

[…]

And very often a work of art is a way of looking at the outcomes of an idea. It's very clear in novels – in fact, the most clear example is in science fiction: you describe a world, and you try to describe how if things were like that, they would turn out. That "what if?" question is a central question that makes human beings successful creatures. We are capable of saying what if this, and what if that, and comparing those outcomes. We love that question, and art is one of the ways we keep rehearsing our ability to answer it.

HJC: It's a great point. The problem is more with the way people think and not the content of it. Human beings are very prone to this black-and-white dichotomous thinking, so if you're a socialist country you allow no market and squash any dissent, if you're a capitalist country you're supposed to – although in fact, many countries don't – you're supposed to put profit and economic growth before any human values. But paradoxically, these two ways of thinking are the same, in the sense that they have this one grand principle to which they are willing to sacrifice everything. This is why when many communists give up communism, they become ardent free-market supporters.

BE: It's a cliche: the ex-Trot.

HJC: I know quite a few ex-Trots who work in the IMF. So if you understand art in the same way Brian does, it gives you the ability to think about alternatives, think about possibilities.

BE: It allows you to think about uncertainty. One of the characteristics of people, whether on the left or the right, is that they can't tolerate uncertainty. They don't want a system with any leaks in it. They want to think they're capable of battening everything down – and if only people would fucking stick to the rules, it would work. When those systems don't work, it's always because, in their opinion, somebody didn't play the game correctly.

HJC: Yes, it's never their principles that are wrong, it's the people who are the problem."

[So much more…]
creativity  tomwolfe  capitalism  socialism  dichotomy  values  pussyriot  games  rules  jacksonpollock  ex-trots  imf  modular  modularity  imitation  gangnamstyle  k-pop  artworld  inertia  culture  us  uk  a-levels  testing  quantification  time-wasting  wastedtime  inbetweeness  ambiguity  gray  grayarea  psy  interviews  conversations  2012  surprise  paradox  architecture  economics  ha-joonchang  politics  philosophy  music  uncertainty  brianeno  art  terryriley  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
naffidy: Andrea Zittel -----"These things I know for sure"
"1. It is a human trait to organize things into categories. Inventing categories creates an illusion that there is an overriding rationale in the way that the word works.

2. Surfaces that are "easy to clean" also show dirt more. In reality a surface that camouflages dirt is much more practical than one that is easy to clean.

3. Maintenance takes time and energy that can sometimes impede other forms or progress such as learning about new things.

4. All materials ultimately deteriorate and show signs of wear. It is therefore important to create designs that will look better after years of distress.

5. A perfect filling system can sometimes decrease efficiency. For instance, when letters and bills are filed away too quickly, it is easy to forget to respond to them.

6. Many "progressive" designs actually hark back towards a lost idea of nature or a more "original form."

7. Ambiguity in visual design ultimately leads to a greater variety of functions than designs that are functionally fixed.

8. No matter how many options there are, it is human nature to always narrow things down to two polar, yet inextricably linked choices.

9. The creation of rules is more creative than the destruction of them. Creation demands a higher level of reasoning and draws connections between cause and effect. The best rules are never stable or permanent, but evolve, naturally according to content or need.

10. What makes us feel liberated is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.

11. Things that we think are liberating can ultimately become restrictive, and things that we initially think are controlling can sometimes give us a sense of comfort and security.

12. Ideas seem to gestate best in a void--- when that void is filled, it is more difficult to access them. In our consumption-driven society, almost all voids are filled, blocking moments of greater clarity and creativity. Things that block voids are called "avoids."

13. Sometimes if you can't change a situation, you just have to change the way you think about the situation.

14. People are most happy when they are moving towards something not quite yet attained (I also wonder if this extends as well to the sensation of physical motion in space. I believe that I am happier when I am in a plane or car because I am moving towards an identifiable and attainable goal.)

15. What you own, owns you.

16. Personal truths are often perceived as universal truths. For instance it is easy to imagine that a system or design works well for oneself will work for everyone else."

[Also (only 1-14) printed here: http://books.google.com/books/about/Andrea_Zittel.html?id=-uZiQgAACAAJ ]
andreazittel  criticalspace  progressive  human  humans  sorting  dichotomy  dichotomies  categorization  patternfinding  patterns  generalizations  generalization  surfaces  maintenance  time  art  learning  filingsystems  design  rules  constraints  personaltruths  universaltruths  truths  happiness  movement  progress  attainability  goals  perspective  comfort  security  clarity  creativity  freedom  creation  choice  polarization  ambiguity  function 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Which School is Better? Traditional or Progressive « Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
"Why is it so hard to get past the idea that there is only one kind of “good” school? The deeply buried but persistent impulse in the United States to create a “one best system” has kept progressives and traditionalists contesting which innovations are best for children, while ignoring that there are more ways than one to get “goodness” in schools.

Until Americans shed the view of a one best school for all, the squabbles over whether a traditional schooling is better than a progressive one will continue. Such a futile war of words ignores a fundamental purpose of public schooling to revitalize democratic virtues in each generation and, most sadly, avoids the many “good” schools that already exist."

[via: http://www.tuttlesvc.org/2009/11/traditional-or-progressive-your-basic.html ]
us  schools  education  publicschools  policy  progressive  traditional  learning  dichotomy  larrycuban  wisdom  tcsnmy  history  democracy  plurality  goodschools 
november 2009 by robertogreco
David Archer: Rules for living by Stone and Taleb
"At the end of a great profile of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Black Swan, is a list of Taleb's rules for living. Coincidentally, a recent profile of Republican operative Roger Stone is interspersed with his own set of "rules," which I've added below
nassimtaleb  advice  culture  living  life  rules  dichotomy  wisdom  blackswans 
july 2008 by robertogreco

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