Tag Archives: education

Inner Mounting Flames

NCL-Dennis-Sparling-quarry (source)

Back during my Middlebury Vermont chapter, Dennis Sparling and I spent some quality time naked at his family’s quarry in New Haven. This was over twenty-five years ago. Still, lying around naked and learning in the quiet way that being next to millions of cubic yards of clean, fresh water provides was glorious; and, retrospectively remains a bittersweet memory due to the loss of connections with such friends.

Dennis-Sparling

Nowadays, Dennis is on a mission.

“I see my responsibility after 45 years of intense struggles as an Artist; is to see and know the world as best I can; and pass on to those with fire in the belly, a way to survive life’s paradoxes and thrive with a great sense of humor and clarity of how to prosper as an artist and innovator; al-la Leonardo DaVinci’s mind and works.” D.S.

(If I tell you, ‘by all means’ I’m insisting,) please visit the Sparling Studio and watch the youtube video and read about his project.

Right before Dennis first hit the road, NPR in Vermont told his story.

Then last November, Louis Varricchio starts his article (in the Green Mountain Outlook) out with this fine summation:

It’s easy for those mythologically inclined to imagine how Vermont sculptor Dennis Sparling might have emerged in our universe via a fiery furnace from some other place in space and time—for all the molten, primordial elements comprising 10,000 years of human art, poetry, theater, science and engineering, which simmer just below the surface of the New Haven artist’s amazing corpus, have been sintered into one dazzling, clastic vision of the cosmos.

Here is a fascinating trend: experienced, learned, counter-culturally-inclined, and fired-up baby-boomers, realize that he or she has something to teach, something to transmit. This is their body of transferable understanding. And, this desire to transmit is congruent with their deep sense that the conjunction of western schooling and post-capitalism is failing the human spirit.

This capacity to go beyond the factors of conditioning is one of the obvious advantages of the human person. ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom

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What Is Your Personal Culture?

culture-contextOne view of the reduction to practice, or to application.

In the fall of 1968 I entered ninth grade. I was, up to ninth grade, a lackadaisical student. What was at the time termed social studies, and english, were my favorite subjects. However, I was dreamy and had not internalized the point of it all. At the same time I had spent a good chunk of 1964-1966 reading/skimming through my family’s 1962 World Book Encyclopedia. All sorts of stuff fascinated me and I was a voracious reader.

Here I am describing experience that began to gather together the elements of my personal culture.  (This was happening in the First Order of my self-constitution, because at the time I knew nothing about culture or intentionality!)

Late in September 1968, the head of the experimental program that had been implemented for ninth graders at Roxboro Junior High, a chain-smoking professorial type named Jim McGuinness–teachers smoked in the classroom in this era–asked me into his office, where also sat an english teacher, Ron Palladino.

The shorter version of this meeting was that Mr. McGuinness requested Mr. Palladino

“Take Stephen under his wing and support in any way Stephen’s quest for knowledge while also helping Stephen organize particular presentations which will verify his learning.”

(His directive to his colleague was something like this.)

Oh, I went to classes too. Yet, the eventual upshot was: ninth grade was my single all-star year in the sweep of my formal education. I aced everything and, moreover, I learned a lot and learned I love learning.

One year later my parents had managed to leverage this stellar performance into my admission to Hawken School, a college preparatory day school. I did well in everything but the two subjects that came to thrash my transcript, spanish and math.

But, with the exception of an art teacher and a cross country coach, I was subject to educative mechanics which neither served: my narcissism, or my intrinsic motivation, or my developing culture. I learned mountains more from reading my way independently through a variety of subjects, until, I came onto my social personality in the counter-culture milieu devised by the affluent sons of the professional class, constituting a hippie tribe at prep school. Mainly, I was bored and turned off by the first institutional fault, no teacher cared to massage my narcissism by taking my wide-ranging fascinations seriously.

I loved learning on my own,  loved learning with customized support, but, I didn’t get school. And I surely didn’t understand that the purpose of schooling is potentially fulfilled when the student gets school. Nor did the fear factor over school performance and adult outcomes introduced into the mix by my professional parents take hold. Nor did either ever ask about or cared to understand my motivations. I arrested my development in one direction yet liberated it in another dimension.

All of these elements are crucial aspects of what is today, at sixty, my own personal culture. In turn, my personal culture reflects how it came to be, and, what are its main and side and untravelled roads.

My own culture soon evoked the independent, wandering, perennial student, and this in turn is the ocean underneath the present-day experimenter, theorist, artist, and, colleague.

As a practitioner, and taking my lead from Jim McGuinness, it is required groundwork, when possible, to learn what are some of the cultural features of the learner. Practitioners carry their own unique culture into the situation of practice, and, every such situation also instantiates the culture of its subjects, those who are the unique individuals come to find themselves in the specific situation.

Where the tips of educator and learner intersect is the point at where the twined reduction of the total genetic systems of experience, learning, knowledge, and personal culture of both persons comes together and, out of these now entangled wellsprings, there is newly constituted a co-creative unique cultural production–so-to-speak.

Slides from my recent presentation at the quarterly EL-COP session.

No matter how complicated the background of practice may be, at the point of application there is a reduction to application-in-situ in the ad-mixture of the now entangled unque cultures of practitioner/client.

In the example of one-on-one practice there would be the point of contact constituting the reduction, and, underneath this contact, are two vast generative oceans of prior experience and learning.

The key question able to excavate personal culture, echoing the pragmatic turn of William James and John Dewey, is: What interests you?

Three schema purloined via google image search that suggest to me vectors for investigating personal culture, and this includes the kind of auto-ethnography a person can do for themselves, about their self.

de-reconstruct-learning

Bell's quadrants

Bell’s quadrants

8 Ways of Aboriginal Learning

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American Oyster

education

 

2012 Presidential election. Thank you foxbusiness.com.

Of course: lies and damn statistics — ignorance may exist anywhere and obviously a college degree isn’t an arbiter. For example, we have persons educated as medical doctors serving in the US Congress who believe in young earth creationism. Sure, they represent red states, still. . .

Alan Keyes, graduate of Cornell and Harvard: When they came to lead, the children of the generation that fought World War II allowed the focus of American education to shift decisively away from a serious regard for the seminal documents that convey the logic of America’s liberty. This is the key to the elitist apostasy from America’s creed. On account of this apostasy, a more and more organized, self-consciously elitist faction has matured. It rejects the moral egalitarianism that undergirds America’s creed of liberty. Therefore, it works to overthrow the form of constitutional self-government that respects the sovereignty of the people. Informed by socialist totalitarian ideologies, this elitist clique is endowed by the materialist, authoritarian corporatism of the money powers now largely in control of America’s financial institutions, its so-called mainstream media and both the Democrat and Republican parties.

In political terms, these elitist faction forces come against the U.S. Constitution from left and right. Whatever the rhetoric of their verbal professions, in their actions they unanimously reject the premise that there is one benevolent and superintendent Deity whose spirit, will and judgment created human nature and ultimately rule over human affairs. This rejection of God’s authority is the daily proven fact that belies the specious opposition that is supposed to divide one of the elitist faction’s wings from the other. Whatever they say, the resultant of their supposedly adversarial interaction has for more than a lifetime consistently undermined this central pillar of American self-government, without which its other supports are like branches of a tree, forced to bear a weight they cannot stand. [excerpt] Defending the American Way, WorldNetDaily, June 2013

Slavery and sexism in the founder’s era kills your point concerning ‘moral egalitarianism that undergirds America’s creed of liberty,’ Dr. Keyes. Kill as I use it here is unqualified, so obviously and plain as day there was no moral egalitarianism back in the olden, golden, and beloved day.

The ignorance Keyes is apparently proud of did not come from his lack of education. But, from the perspective of my own being badly educated–in the normative-institutional sense–does his scree exemplify ignorance? What is ignorance and is it valid to assert that ignorance is supported by a particular individual nature–in the sense of finding what causes it?

The escape claus goes like this: what one knows is not such a big deal, what is a big deal is whether or not one ever got the message cum transmission.

If Remi Brague is correct in saying that it is the Judeo-Christian faith in a transcendent God, not only separate from the life of a particular tribe or political community but outside human history, that ultimately grounds the classical culture of emulation; and if Benedict XVI is correct in discerning that, at least in comparison with Europe, America remains a profoundly Christian nation with a strong tradition of independent, church-supported liberal education; what are we to make of the mainlines of the history of American higher education? That story as it has been told for two hundred years, whether in celebration or in lamentation, has been the story of unremitting secularization.

Even Henry Adams’s Education, his great memoir-style protest against the secularization of the American university in his life-time and thus the loss of the very character of university–despite being a protest–seemed only to further establish the main storyline ofthe field. “If Harvard or Yale had been less foolish in their origins and had held onto the Church, we should have probably kept a base on which to build some real scholarship; but when our ancestors cutoff the limb that made us a part ofthe tree, we naturally tumbled off. I do not suppose we ever produced a graduate who would have known how to sacrifice a bull to Jupiter.”‘(10) He argues that powerful as the literary and political tradition was in America, in the Boston of his youth, at Harvard, it was devoid of any religious underpinnings:

“Of all the conditions of his youth which afterwards puzzled the grown-up man, this disappearance of religion puzzled him most. The boy went to church twice every Sunday; he was taught to read his Bible, and he learned religious poetry by heart; he believed in a mild deism; he prayed; he went through all the forms; but neither to him nor to his brothers or sisters was religion real. Even the mild discipline of the Unitarian Church was so irksome that they all threw it off at the first possible moment, and never afterwards entered a church. The religious instinct had vanished, and could not be revived, although one made in later life many efforts to recover it. That the most powerful emotion of man, next to the sexual, should disappear, might be a personal defect of his own; but that the most intelligent society, led by the most intelligent clergy, in the most moral conditions he ever knew, should have solved all the problems of the universe so thoroughly as to have quite ceased making itself anxious about past or future, and should have persuaded itself that all the problems which had convulsed human thought from earliest recorded time, were not worth discussing, seemed to him the most curious social phenomenon he had to account for in a long life.”

His memoir of his later years, after his wife’s suicide, and the insanity and death of his close friend Clarence King who he had once thought represented the perfection of the frontier American, becomes an agonized, strained search for faith–he spends his final years touring the French countryside in his new motor car, trying to catch some whiff of faith from the power of the Virgin, which he acknowledges still retains its force at Lourdes. But his own failure and the triumph of secularization was never Henry Adams’ point–rather, as he argues repeatedly, “eccentricity is strength,” and American history, like human history, gives up its prophetic ghost to those who are willing to read it in silence, to those who will listen rather than forever reciting their own variety of pseudo-religious experiences. Adams is a believer. He believes that Americans who flew into the wilderness in 1620, in 1776, in 1845, in 1892–who knew that the only way to save their nation was to leave it behind–carrying their household gods on their backs, have not been defeated. Henry Adams realized that the restraints of a fixed religious, cultural, familial, or political tradition were only superficially a “handicap.” He repeatedly compared himself, “American of Americans, with Heaven knew how many Puritans and Patriots behind him and an education that had cost a civil war,” with a sort of pride and arrogant relish, to a “Polish Jew fresh from Warsaw or Cracow . . . a furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still reeking of the ghetto, snarling in weird Yiddish.” In tl1e “races of the twentieth-century,” the race to abandon all restraints of past or nature, to strip oneself of all prejudicial identity and submit oneself, the naked servant and worshipper of the dynamo, he asserted (strangely enough!) that the American cultural tradition would prove as resistant to the worship of the twentieth-century Alexanders, Pharaohs, and Caesars, as the Jewish cultural tradition had ever proven. It is a breath-taking claim-the claim that American eccentricity can survive 600-pages worth of experiential learning and never lose its old illusions about liberty, virtue, or wisdom!

What then are we to make of this narrative of the liberationist effects of the American frontier on the old-world traditions imported from Europe; what are we to make of the story of the tabula rasa, the erasure, the secularization, the oblivion of the past and its lessons, prejudices and constraints? Henry Adams’s assertion invites us to look again at the meaning of the history of American higher education:

“Harvard was founded to help the Puritans escape Anglican Oxford and Cambridge, and Yale appeared in 1701 when a group of New Haven ministers, influenced in part by distrust of the liberal heresies that were to dominate Harvard, established a competing college to preserve the old social and religious order in Connecticut. Again, the Congregationalists who founded Amherst were in part moved by the objections to the Unitarianism that shook Harvard in the early l9th century, and the Yankee Methodists who set up Boston University at the time of the Civil War felt that Harvard’s classical curriculum and aristocratic values were destroying the ethos of pious dissent. The same era also saw the Jesuits establish Boston College, to help the new Boston-Irish community maintain its religious and social integrity. (Riesman in Sanford, 89)

From this history can we say that it is secularization or the perennial escape to eccentric orthodoxy that is the core “American” dynamic of the history higher education in this country? Is the declension of Harvard from Puritan seminary to Unitarian classical college to secular multiversity the inner dynamic of American higher education, or has the original eccentric dynamic of Harvard’s Christian orthodoxy simply metastasized in hundreds of small Bible colleges and Christian liberal arts colleges across the country? Are not these small Christian liberal arts colleges the truly American-the most distinctively American-contribution to the idea of the university in the modern world?(11) Whatever one thinks of such quaint neo-medieval, neo-classical flora and fauna sprouting in the American frontier–whether one considers them the hope for the future of Westem Civilization or embarrassing windows into the reactionary mind of middle America, it can hardly be denied that they, and not the anonymous, mega-state-universities of the great cities, are the peculiarly American features of the modern educational landscape.

Alasdair Maclntyre, in the now famous final paragraph of his work After Virtue, prescribed another round of that excellent habit of running away:

“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that Imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead–often not realizing what fully what they were doing–was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another–doubtless quite different–St. Benedict.”

‘Tis sure to be an immortal paragraph. But (dare I say that) Alasdair Maclntyre, like Christopher Dawson, indeed like Edward Gibbon, imagines that this “construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral lite can be sustained” is a “turning aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium.” Yet these Britishers never fully grasp that this English, Scottish, Irish, Jewish, Polish, Italian habit of running away with their traditions on their backs is actual pietas to the founders of the imperium. Eccentricity is a very American virtue.

Indeed George Washington himself knew the value of a strategic retreat that might keep one’s ragtag army intact–to fight another day . . _ or at any rate to hold out until one can find an ally with a navy.” (12) [excerpted from Chapter 5, Eccentric Education – The American Way, Susan E. Hanssen, The Idea of the American University (Bradley C.S. Watson, editor)]

[full chapter-pdf] See also Ms. Hanssen’s “‘English in spirit’: G. K. Chesterton and the debate over church and state in the 1906 Education Act,” The Catholic Social Science Review (2007).

Whatever are the virtues of institutionalizing orthodox centralities in the periphery, I tend to view the eccentricity–that (unbeknownst to Keyes) could still smartly inform his own argument–to itself cast off further eccentricities so that, eventually, the operating quality is, as Ms. Hanssen puts it, institutional peculiarity-more than any other quality. 

To weigh the gross generalization, secularizing and neo-liberal and post-modern Blue does correlate with degree of education and everyman traditionalism does correlate with deficits of learning and Red. For both Blue and Red, there is a lot of sub-set or sub-cultural eccentricity, and, let’s call, ‘eccentrification.’

American religiosity is extremely variable with respect to the straightened ordinates of classic Christian commitment, and, it would seem the employees of the governed are nowadays so energetically variable that the straightest Constitutionalism is spun away off to some radical precinct.

There’s no reason to refuse the challenge of orbiting cloisters. The neo-liberal order wants able workers to be ejected from schools. This represents another turn on the secularizing gyre, following from Taylorite pieces and Fordist machinists, and, now (and newly minted,) inchoate collections of human post-capital detritus. Denouement!

This is where both Mr. Keyes’ ideological ‘eccentrics’ and Ms. Hanssen’s historically minded supposition roll back to the natural law tree and beg for me a question about personality and the nature of personality and cognition. Surely it matters how the societal and spiritual conditionals work to instantiate particular human ends. Intentionality is not subsumed in the mystic chord even if it comes to be modified. There haven’t been, nor are there any utopian Natural Law states or political entities that have escaped doing lots of harm.

Certain rearguard’s aspirations–and eccentricity is presumably also defined to be a rearguard–are cast outward in comprehensive, oft times in totalizing terms, with there being no room to quibble over either ‘their being no God, but God alone,’ or the actualities of a Thomist heaven and hell,  or the cosmos set in place necessary to the Pauline ‘only possible true church.’ This latter eccentricity is such that its closing circle (and argument) encompasses the entire universe. This is the same presumption naming eventuations happening “outside human history.”

Keyes is arch and forthright in framing his eliminativist perspective. As much as he could have padded its bluntness with a portion of Henry Adamsian ‘depressive,’ his position isn’t for him able to be cast off, and, it takes no prisoners, and, its educational precepts are staked to analytic compliance. What’s true for him is to be true for you.

St. Benedictine?

Of the Virtuous Zeal Which the Monks Ought to Have

As there is a harsh and evil zeal which separateth from God and leadeth to hell, so there is a virtuous zeal which separateth from vice and leadeth to God and life everlasting.

Let the monks, therefore, practice this zeal with most ardent love; namely, that in honor they forerun one another (cf Rom 12:10). Let them bear their infirmities, whether of body or mind, with the utmost patience; let them vie with one another in obedience. Let no one follow what he thinketh useful to himself, but rather to another. Let them practice fraternal charity with a chaste love.

Let them fear God and love their Abbot with sincere and humble affection; let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and my He lead us all together to life everlasting.

In America, that the above is voluntary with no other respect otherwise given, might be the simple phenomenal element forceful enough to cast the sturdy outward and into eccentricity. What isn’t voluntary is attainment within the eccentric order. I doubt theocratic designs will bring forth any pearls.

 

 

 

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Research Post Toasties

Research-Blogging

Invaluable: Research Blogging Portal. Researcgblogging.org aggregates blogs and their posts produced by academics. Where else could you easily find, Why Justin Timberlake Should Avoid Transitive Verbs.

I track a lot of subjects which interest me. This effort is subject to the shortcoming of my extroverted intuition, for which the acquisition of data can come to be one-sided, and at the expense of actually dealing with, or taking the data ‘in.’ If you possess a similar typology you might then agree that the internet is both boon and bane.

When I scroll back fifteen years, my basic discovery modes were aimed at three resources: the library and its card catalog, book stores and their shelves, and a precursor to the internet, various article databases on CD-ROM and microfiche. I became acquainted with the WAIS, Wide Area Information Server, and Gopher search, and Jughead, a few years before I came online in 1995, but this initial internet combination wasn’t very efficient, compared to searching, (after my move back to Cleveland,) through article databases on the old CD-ROM system or on distributed databases at Lakewood Public Library. Interestingly, those archaic database-oriented routines generated data very slowly because the final phase of data capture involved printing the article out on a dot matrix printer–slooow; click clack click.

Before Google search became king around 2000, I used Inktomi and Excite. Google changed everything. Then, in 2005, while working in the tech center of a library, I sometimes was called to assist patrons who couldn’t find what they were looking for using Google. Although Google’s advanced search is grand, most times it was enough to enclose search terms in quotation marks, and stick a plus sign in front of the primary term to solve their riddle. My modest expertise at ‘search’ was often received as wizardry.

I read academic research in all those fields to which I am a wanderer. My number one search tip is, in Google, using the subject folk psychology as an example:

inurl:edu filetype:pdf “folk psychology”

and

inurl:edu filetype:doc “folk psychology”

Bingo, a goldmine. This search string drills down to the ‘edu’ domain, and finds mostly articles, and usually the articles are attached to the CV or bibliographic page on a scholar’s academic home page. Of course once you have the url, you can back off it to all sorts of repositories. Chapters from books can be found and plucked too:

inurl:edu +chapter “folk psychology”

Conference portals are also great resources. Speaking of Adobe Acrobat pdf,

Beyond the PDF Wiki conference, January 19-21, 2011 University of California San Diego. Jodi Schneider’s report at Ariadne (“Ariadne is a Web magazine for information professionals in archives, libraries and museums in all sectors.”)

To me, the main appeal of an iPad would be being able to use it to read journal articles without a ‘top’ on my lap. Almost needless to say, Apple has made it difficult to import PDFs. Still, I’m imagining such a day for myself.

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The Library Is Open

featuring 24,014,408 books
(including 1,251,822 with full-text)

[as of April 27, 2010]

One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty, but achievable, goal.

To build it, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a wiki interface, and people who are willing to contribute their time, effort to building the catalog.

To date, we have gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions, with more on the way.

We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can’t do it alone! This is an Open project – the software is open, the data is open, the documentation is open, and we welcome your knowledge and effort. If you see a typo, or want to write a widget, that would be super.

Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and has been funded in part by a grant from the California State Library and the Kahle/Austin Foundation. About Us

Terrific blog too.

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Catastrophic Image

The Shadow that the Future Throws
Text based on a conversation between Nathan Gardels and Ivan Illich in 1989

Now, nearly two decades [after 1969] later, a woeful sense of imbalance has dawned on the common sense.

The destruction of the ozone layer, the heating up of the earth’s atmosphere, the non-reversible and progressive depletion of genetic variety, the ability to discuss what shall be a human being through genetic intervention – all these things bring to consciousness, even to a non-philosophically inclined intelligent official of the World Bank, that we now face the banquet of consequences of our Promethean transgression.

There is a generalized sense now that the future we expected does not work and that we are in front of what Michel Foucault called an “epistemic break”: a sudden image-shift in consciousness in which the once unthinkable becomes thinkable. For example, it was simply not thinkable that a king could be beheaded up until the French Revolution. Then, suddenly, there was a new way of seeing, a new form of language that could speak about such things.

For most of the Cold War, atomic bombs were commonly considered as weapons. People like myself were little understood in our arguments that such bombs were literally unspeakable; that, epistemically, they are not within the realm of speech because they are not weapons, but acts of self- annihilation.

It is no longer tolerable to the common sense to think of nuclear bombs as weapons, or of pollution as the price of development. The disintegrating ozone layer and warming atmosphere are making it intolerable to think of more development and industrial growth as progress, but rather as aggression against the human condition. It is now imaginable to the common mind that, as Samuel Beckett once said, “this earth could be uninhabited.”

So, what is different than when I first wrote about Nemesis is that the common sense is also searching for a language to speak about the shadow which the future throws. What is new is not the magnitude, nor even the quality, but the very essence of the coming shift in consciousness. It is not a break in the line of progress to a new stage; it is not even the passage from one dimension to another. Mathematically, we can only describe it as a catastrophic break with industrial man’s image of himself.

Now, nearly four decades later…

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Quest to Learn


[excerpt] she won’t know if the school prepares kids for real-world success until the first class graduates. But Quest has already proved itself in one area: The kids love it. “It’s fun,” says student Nadine Clements. Her least favorite part of school? “Dismissal.”

A New School Teaches Students Through Videogames. A school uses videogame-based lessons to teach a new generation of kids
By Susannah F. Locke; Popsci January 7, 2009

more:

The Quest to Learn school opened last September in Manhattan, welcoming the first class of sixth-graders who will learn almost entirely through videogame-inspired activities, an educational strategy geared to keep kids engaged and prepare them for high-tech careers.

This year’s 72-student class is split into four groups that rotate through five courses during the day: Codeworlds (math/English), Being, Space and Place (social studies/English), The Way Things Work (math/science), Sports for the Mind (game design), and Wellness (health/PE). Instead of slogging through problem sets, students learn collaboratively in group projects that require an understanding of subjects in the New York State curriculum. The school’s model draws on 30 years of research showing that people learn best when they’re in a social context that puts new knowledge to use.

The Quest To Learn School: “Quest to Learn is a school for digital kids. It is a community where students learn to see the world as composed of many different kinds of systems. It is a place to play, invent, grow, and explore.”

I’m going to bet, and do so with confidence, that the uncited research folds in the following, “People learn best when the learning is shaped to be, for the learner, intrinsically rewarding.

For adults, I would put it this way:

adults learn when they’re able to test their experiential knowledge and then to use it

Implicit in this formulation–and perhaps applicable to young learners–is the intrinsic benefit provided by active learning, via which a learner is supported in their putting their own discoveries to concrete tests. This intrinsic benefit is named: fun. The added benefit is that accountability itself becomes an easeful aspect of the ecology of learning. Against which the grim banking theory of education is likely to, at the end of the school day, have students praying for the bell, and, dismissal.

In her book, Magic Trees of the Mind, Dr. Marian Diamond, neuroscientist at the University of California/Berkeley, describes the characteristics of an enriched environment that:

Includes a steady source of positive emotional support

Provides a nutritious diet with enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories

Stimulates all the senses (but not necessarily all at once!)

Has an atmosphere free of undue pressure and stress but suffused with a degree of pleasurable intensity

Presents a series of novel challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for the child at his or her stage of development

Allows for social interaction for a significant percentage of activities

Promotes the development of a broad range of skills and interests that are mental, physical, aesthetic, social, and emotional

Gives the child an opportunity to choose many of his or her own activities

Gives the child a chance to assess the results of his or her efforts and to modify them

Offers an enjoyable atmosphere that promotes exploration and the fun of learning

Above all, allows the child to be an active participant rather than a passive observer.

excerpt: Learning Society of the Future: Questions to Consider by Dee Dickinson

A daring hypothesis holds that younger learners are not dramatically constituted to be different than the adult learners each will grow to be. I’m reminded of Malcolm Knowles.

Knowles (1980) came from a humanistic orientation and believed that self-actualization was the prime objective of adult learning, and the mission of educators was to assist adult learners to develop and achieve their full potential as emotional, psychological, and intellectual beings. Knowles made four assumptions about adults as learners: (1) Adults tend to be more self-directed as a result of their maturity, (2) Adults possess personal histories which defines their identities and serve as a resource of experiential learning upon which new learnings can be applied, (3) Motivation in adults is directed to more socially relevant learning, and (4) Adult learners have interest in immediate application for problem-solving. (src)

x

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Groups & the Development of Consciousness

My colleague and friend Robert has asked in a comment to Sustainability, Systems Awareness & Eros,

“However saying that, I don’t know if the “group” consciousness actually manages to effect a real conscious change in both individuals and in groups. Are these things of the moment?”

Let’s just speak of a simple hypothesis: that a group is possibly a medium for an individual to increase their awareness. There are, in this, several things we’ll need to test the hypothesis.

One, we’ll need a developmental framework that can support both the proof of the hypothesis and its falsification.

Two, given this framework, we’ll need to employ explicit criteria to make a determination about both how to test and next evaluate the results of the test. And, finally we’ll need to grapple and grip with how to interpret the evaluation.

There’s a crucial distinction I’d like to introduce. A hypothesis of this sort is concerned with the development of consciousness of an individual within a group due to the unique opportunities for this development a group may instantiate. Yet this potential for development is not proposed as a positive result of group consciousness, but, rather, is the result of people bringing their personal consciousness to the medium of a group. In noting this, all I suggesting is that consciousness is only a property of individuals; that it would be very hard to characterize what is meant by group consciousness in any normative sense.

As it has come about–in modern psychology–short of defining a framework, there are concrete terms for characterizing the development of consciousness in the medium of a group. For example, these are some of the developments afforded by groups: better teamwork, closer coordination, acceptance of and mitigation of narcissistic and infantile needs, enhanced problem analysis and problem solving, better skills for discernment and differentiation, support for withdrawal of projections, etc.. and on and on.

Also, groups make possible at times the submission of self-oriented egoic impulses to higher orders of awareness, including facilitating recognition and ownership of the shadow. So it is, to use one broad developmental mode, that an individual in a group may leverage the means for increasing their emotional intelligence.

***

I believe all sorts of artistic teams in music and dance and theatre brings lots of unique developmental potential into being. These provide excellent examples, but so do all sorts of other common groups. One such group would be–at their best–the formal or informal classroom.

Of course, my sense here presumes that consciousness itself is not a mountain to be climbed, but instead operationalizes real world capabilities. In short, to become more able at anything poses a developmental increase.

The only move toward spiritualization, would be to suppose that all such developmental increases are qualities of higher consciousness given a timeworn notion of spiritual development–when those better capabilities do no harm.

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ONLINE VIDEOS FOR TEACHERS

Annenburg Media provides online and material resources to, “to advance excellent teaching in American schools.” Anybody can sign up and view the online videos. Each is described and most are components in comprehensive continuation of teacher education. I highly recommend A Private Universe. I’ll be working my way through the lot. I just happened upon their web site while googling something else. Like many web sites, presumably not many people know about Anneburg Media. So, it’s a find.

Link to programs.

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MAPPING MUSICAL EXPERIENCE

Given any rich experience, what happens when we commit our sensibility to graphically mapping the experience in real time? Deborah Blair’s paper is fascinating. Her model has much wider applications. And, this toolmaker came up with many such possibilities.

By all means check out the PDF and especially the examples of her students’ maps of musical experience. The paper itself is part of the superb archive provided by International Journal of Education & the Arts at its web site.

Musical maps allow us to participate in a unique world that would otherwise be closed to us—the world of our students’ listening experiences. The sharing of the maps provides the opportunity for peers to enter into another’s musical experience and for the creators of the maps to allow others to enter into their own experience. Like readers who recreate an experience for themselves while reading narrative, or listeners who recreate music when listening, observers of another’s musical map are recreating the music and the person’s listening experience through the sharing of that map, extending the scope of musical discourse through listening. The experience is mediated by each students’ own personal lens, but the level of shared understanding from also creating a map for the same music offers valuable common ground for the development of musical ideas.

In this study, students eagerly shared their completed maps with their classmates by physically tracing their distinctively created graphic representation while listening to the music. Thus presented, the map provides a frame for reliving the experience, for further exploration, for the sharing of ideas. It may not represent everything someone experienced when listening to the music, but it is a frame, featuring salient points or things to which the listener especially attended.

Students represent what is important to them, those things which are meaningful during their musical encounter. This does not mean that other features were not heard or tacitly known. What is known tacitly is sometimes brought into focus when watching another student’s map and noticing something new––something known but not personally articulated. The map frames the living and telling of the story as the map is created, providing reference points for nonverbal and verbal discussion of musical ideas. The map frames the reliving and retelling of the story as the map is shared, providing reference points for the reliving of one’s own musical listening experience and uniquely allowing
others to enter into their own listening experience.

Musical Maps as Narrative Inquiry | PDF
Deborah V. Blair
Oakland University
Rochester, Michigan
International Journal of Education & the Arts, 8(15).

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MONKEY PREZ

Bill Maher embarrassed Mike Huckabee and himself during a brief inquiry into the Republican candidate’s position on evolution on a segment on Maher’s show Sunday.

Maher’s sloppy question, “Don’t you believe we’re descended from monkeys?” is obviously the wrong formulation because homo sapiens sapiens is not descended from monkeys as far as anybody knows. (The lines of descent for monkeys and man remain divergent as they descend toward different proto-types.) Better question: “Do you believe evolution accounts for the development of man from his non-human ancestors?”

Still, Huckabee’s casual attempt to dodge the question made for some rollicking self-exposure. He basically stated that ‘we really don’t know!’ But, to some extent, if not a large extent, much is known about the 3-4 million year development of homo sapiens sapiens from primitive homo-typical bi-pedal forms. Not only this, but Huckabee admitted implicitly that an eighth grader should know the sketch of development, yet this junior high knowledge was beyond him!

Should a President embrace or reject well-known scientific knowledge? Alas, in the majoritarian ignorance of the American people it is amazing the litmus test would favor ignorance. Still, there were lots of more pointed questions Huckabee which could have been (and should be) pitched to his, alas, tiny mind.

Such as:

Do you think alternatives to scientific understanding of human origins should be taught in public schools? Why? What is the principal challenge posed to current understanding this alternative proposes?

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FUTURE CREATIVITY

From NESTA FutureLab, a long report, Literature review in creativity, new technologies and learning, Avril M. Loveless, School of Education, University of Brighton about the technological support of Creativity. No short paper can do justice to a field as expansive as creativity, but its cognitive/constructive-oriented overview is excellent. (I highly recommend the small link to the Acrobat version.) The NESTA FutureLab site map gives you an idea about the group’s advanced commitments and research.

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SUNNY’S SIGHTS

At Lifecircles there is a small amount of excellent material. From a paper by Sunny Cooper, Transformational Learning. Sunny’s Learning Theory Map remains one of the few summaries a web surfer can get to easily.

Appendix A. Instructor Characteristics and Roles Which Facilitate Transformational Learning
1. Encourage students to reflect on and share their feelings and thoughts in class.
2. Be holistically oriented, aware of body, mind, and spirit in the learning process.
3. Become transcendent of his own beliefs and accepting of others’ beliefs.
4. Cultivate awareness of alternate ways of learning.
5. Establish an environment characterized by trust and care.
6. Facilitate sensitive relationships among the participants.
7. Demonstrate ability to serve as an experienced mentor reflecting on his own journey.
8. Help students question reality in ways that promote shifts in their worldview.

Appendix B. Student Characteristics and Roles which Facilitate Transformational Learning
1. Students must be free to determine their own reality, as opposed to social realities defined by others or by cultural institutions.
2. Students must be ready for and open to change.
3. Those with a wider variety of life experiences, including prior stressful life events, are likely to experience more transformation.
4. Cultivate the ability to transcend past contexts of learning and experience.
5. Students must be willing and able to integrate critical reflection into their school work and personal life.
6. Students must be able to access both rational and affective mental functioning.
7. Have sufficient maturity to deal with paradigm shifts and material which differs from their current beliefs.

Thanks Sunny!

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LIST – PEDAGOGY

I don’t recall how I happened upon this page and its list of pedagogies. Probably I was nosing around for something or the other. Anyway, the page’s home is The Math and Science Partnership Network. (I had thought they were married.) It provides one of my favorite pasttimes: galumphing around someone’s internal search engine.


PedagogyList

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HEY, BUT IT WORKS!

Experiential-researchers.org is a valuable resource. Much of its content reflects its mission: to grapple smartly with the conundrum of legitimizing methodologies aimed at improving ultimately subjective re-orderings of constitutive personality and personality’s (i.e. persons,) functioning.

This is, of course, a longstanding problem; psychology’s equivalent of philosophy’s mind/body problem. One can research the means and ends of improvement at the level of the “self-improving” individual, but, this does not then necessarily ramify any method in any general sense of all persons. (I’m a philosophical pragmatist, so it’s a non-problem to me, but it remains interesting from the viewpoint of other frames. It surely is so from the perspective of existential, humanist, psychotherapy, and, regardless, benefits from scientific framing in all cases.

Overview:
Exploring Psychotherapy Scientifically and Experientially
James R. Iberg, Ph.D.

The world before it is perceived is an infinite collection of qualities. It is up to the perceiver to use some of these qualities to differentiate one event from another. This process of differentiation is driven by desire (relevance, need, meaning…). Note that the perceiver does not “construct” reality itself; rather the perceiver constructs an understanding of reality, a model or theory which guides perception and behavior. Neither does reality alone determine perceptions and behaviors, but rather reality as experienced “through” our understanding.

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RECENT VISIONS

I’ve been thinking about online communities oriented around exploration, learning, and practice. Carol Higgison, editor of the Online Tutoring E-Book Tutorial hasn’t been thinking about those modalities, yet, her OTe at OTIS (Scotland) has lots of conceptual goods which translate to the more open-ended visions…that I keep having.

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FEED ME MORE

We have come to this world to accept it, not merely to know it. We may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy. The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence. But we find that this education of sympathy is not only systematically ignored in schools, but it is severely repressed. From our very childhood habits are formed and knowledge is imparted in such a manner that our life is weaned away from nature and our mind and the world are set in opposition from the beginning of our days. Thus the greatest of educations for which we came prepared is neglected, and we are made to lose our world to find a bagful of information instead. We rob the child of his earth to teach him geography, of language to teach him grammar. His hunger is for the Epic, but he is supplied with chronicles of facts and dates…Child-nature protests against such calamity with all its power of suffering, subdued at last into silence by punishment.

Rabindranath Tagore, Personality,1917: 116-17 excerpt@infed

(more…)

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MAKING REASONS FOR THE THINGS TO HAPPEN TO

Whereas my evil twin the philosopher likes it complex and confusing, his counterpart, well, she comes from the Keep It Simple Stupid school of spiritual development. The following article reminds me of letting loose students in a bookstore, or library, on a treasure hunt for one galvanizing sentence.

Ken Kassman gets this truism about basics. A Few Eternal Truths for a Better Life

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