Remember Bill and Mrs. Jones — They had a thing, going on.
Last day we considered the way that context gives meaning to our experiences. I tried to provide an example of the power of context with the example of Bill and Mrs. Jones. Remember those two, sitting in the restaurant. What initially seemed very innocent changed enormously when we learned that Bill was Mrs. Jones high school student. That one statement changed how we perceived the situation. But I forgot to mention one more thing: I forgot to mention that Mrs. Jones was teaching a high school class for seniors. I don’t me 12th grade seniors. I mean senior citizens. You see, Bill lives in a senior’s center, he is 72 years old, and he never completed high school. Mrs. Jones, a member of the group High School For Senior Citizens (HSFSC for some reason acronyms add legitimacy to what we do) went to the Bill’s senior center every Monday to teach 12th grade subjects. Bill, was one of the students. Mrs. Jones, whose husband passed away 15 years ago is in her mid 60s. Out of respect for her husband she still goes by the name of Mrs. Jones. Bill has also been single for many years. What we have here is a romantic love story. Two people who really needed some love, care, and romance in their lives found each other.
So, what we have here is an obvious example of the power of context. We also have a clear example of the problem of the ‘incomplete narrative.’
Last week we were also giving some thought to tradition. Obviously tradition provides the context (many of the the rules, the actions, and behaviors) that contribute to the meaning of our artifacts and actions. We live within our traditions. And we live within the language of our traditions. Of course we have different sorts of traditions–that seems obvious. Sometimes these different traditions clash, and sometimes living within one tradition obscures how we might potentially exist if we were to enter and live in another tradition. And, as you have probably found, much of our academic writing amounts to reflections and judgments on conflicting traditions.
When we read Gatto’s Seven Lesson School Teacher we heard him pointing out aspects of schooling that seem to come out of a particular tradition — one that he sees as particularly problematic. The context, according to Gatto, is the logic of the school mind. And, we listened to Berry Schwartz talk about the way that a particular context (or tradition) obscures actions that should be enhanced rather than dismissed–the qualities of virtue and wisdom
We also made the connection between tradition and narrative (or the stories that give meaning to our lives and our actions). Of course we have also been considering how the narratives of schooling might contribute positively or negatively to the development of our identity. Probably on the surface, it is fairly easy to see some of the aspects of schooling that have contributed to the development of our identity. I, for example, believed for years that I was incapable of doing math. In fifth grade I was humiliated by a teacher who helped me believe that I would never do math well, nor would I ever enjoy math. My identity was formed, and I found that I was able to confirm her conferral all through school. It wasn’t until I read Smith’s book many years ago (you have probably already noticed the publication date) that I began to wonder if perhaps the way I was schooled played a role in my disdain for math. And so I tried to recreate my ‘math self.’ I started to read the history of math, the philosophy of math, math textbooks. I simply adopted the classic approach. My early belief in the ‘official theory’ helped diminish who I could or would become as someone who could love math. I was given a story that made me believe that I was one who didn’t enjoy math and as one who couldn’t understand or love math. Those are the easy narratives to recognize. We all have them in one way or another.
In week one I asked that you look around at schooling / educational environments, specifically your own classroom if possible, and take note of some of the artifacts and processes that make up our school environments. We did this to being to prepare, or heighten, our awareness of our school environments. Hopefully you began to wonder how these artifacts and processes contributed to ‘the way we do things in school.’ Now if we were to reconsider these ideas once again, this time we might ask the question, what makes these objects intelligible to us? For example, in the supply room we have a photo copier. Why? Why do we have a photocopier? Why is this machine so important in our schooling environment? Why is it that reproducing written artifacts has become so important? Slip into school early one morning and unplug the copy machine. Chances are you will see how important this has become. Its importance suggests that there is something in our current context that is going on that makes this an important machine. It is this hidden context (sometimes tradition or discourse) that we might attempt to uncover.
Back To Gatto
I did provide some initial commentary on Gatto’s work. My analysis of Gatto’s work was probably the type of analysis that makes sense to most of us in education. We regularly think about, and talk about, curriculum, choice, etc. These aspects of schooling, as I said, already make sense (I am emphasizing ‘making sense’ because this will be our next consideration). You see, we can talk about a variety of ‘school aspects, artifacts, and events’ because they seem to make sense. We recognize them, we see them, we experience them, and we talk about them. We usually don’t ask why we recognize them, see them, experience them, and talk about them. We just do. Nor do we ask what it is that allows these things to be intelligible to us. But when we encounter a discussion, such as Gatto’s Seven Lessons, or Schwartz’s talk on virtue, we are forced out of our comfortable, regular, school discourse. We are encouraged to consider new ways of seeing and thinking about aspects of schooling that are typically not considered, or even noticed. When we first read the Seven Lessons we may have responded, “Where did those comments come from?” Sometimes the response is, “Wow, he woke up on the wrong side of the bed!” But Gatto’s considerations are real, and legitimate. His talk is a bit jarring because it isn’t the sort of talk we have come to expect from discussions about schools. The statements don’t ‘sound right’ in our current school discourse. But, as educational philosophers, we (you and I) are obliged to question further. Here is where it gets interesting. I think you would agree that Gatto sees schooling differently than what we find in the mainstream discourse. (I am not questioning where you stand in terms of what he says—some of my students disagree wholeheartedly, some agree completely, and others find themselves somewhere in the middle). At this point, rather than focusing on whether we agree or disagree, let us admit that there are different ways of thinking about schooling (the mainstream view, and other views). Hopefully we can agree that there are different narratives at play that make some aspects of schooling seem completely natural and other narratives of schooling that, when immersed in the narrative, make some of the things we do in school a bit bizarre. This, of course, is something Smith is pointing at. It is the difference that we will consider.
It is the difference that we will consider
We will begin by recognizing the difference. In time we will give consideration to the specific differences to better understand the foundation of the different views themselves.
Let me try to phrase this in a different way: Gatto notices different things (than what are typically noticed in the mainstream) when it comes to schooling. Different aspects of schooling are noticeable and intelligible.
Does it have to do with context?
How does Gatto come up with such a different interpretation? Perhaps he draws on different contexts of his interpretation of schooling. Recall, context is instrumental in giving meaning.
Intelligibility versus Unintelligibility
Let me repeat this: Gatto notices different things (than the mainstream) when it comes to schooling. He seems to notice different aspects of schooling. For Gatto, those different aspects are noticeable and intelligible. Dwelling in one context makes some things come to the fore and dwelling in another context brings other aspects to the fore.
Let’s consider intelliLet’s consider the idea of intelligibility for a moment: We see things and understand things because they are intelligible to us. Now, if something moves I may recognize it as an object (a foreground against a background), but if it is not intelligible to me it may remain little more than a meaningless object. But to be intelligible, there has to be some sort of background (something that we already understand that gives that object its particular meaning.
So I am suggesting that there are things that are intelligible (meaningful and significant) and things that are unintelligible. There are aspects of schooling that are intelligible to us, and aspects that remain hidden. If this is right, things have to be intelligible to us for those things to show themselves with any significance, and for us to understand them. A photocopier is only intelligible in a world that requires copies. A mathematics failure is only intelligible in a world that values failures.
Beam Me Up Scotty
Imagine you found yourself on the Star Ship Enterprise and Scotty beamed you up to another planet that was inhabited by beings quite unlike ourselves. On this planet something moves in front of you. In fact you didn’t even see it until it moved. But you are familiar with things moving so you recognized it as an object. Objects are intelligible to you. Other than that you were unable make any sense of the object. It didn’t seem to have any meaning. Entities have to be intelligible to be meaningful. And we are probably getting the sense that context confers intelligibility.
Is there a name for that intelligibility?
I am glad you asked that. For phenomenologists, that intelligibility is what we refer to as ‘being.’ Beings or entities show themselves or “come into being” because they are intelligible. Being (intelligibility) allows beings (entities) to come into being (to show themselves). That is a bit simplistic or superficial, but it will suffice for us now. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Fascinating or Interesting
This becomes rather interesting when we consider that different things become important for us depending on “our perspective.” You have heard the statement: “s/he has a different perspective than I do.” Having a ‘different perspective’ is a bit like being in a different world. Different things seem to be important. That different world is what is intelligible. So we might ask why the idea of ‘sequences’ show up for Gatto the way they do (“the great natural sequences”) and show up for those of us engulfed in a school environment as a curricular-derived-sequence that can be dealt with rather simply? Why does ‘intellectual dependency’ show up for Gatto in such a seemingly negative way when in schools we seldom concern ourselves with ‘intellectual dependency.’ And if we do concern ourselves with intellectual dependency we seem very comfortable fostering it in our classrooms and in our teacher training programs? There are different intelligibilities at work here making some things prominent and present, and obscuring others. It might seem that I am belaboring the point. But to begin to see ‘behind’ the objects — into the background — is a difficult thing to do.
When you read page 5 of Smith’s book you noticed some of the differences between the Classic View of learning and the Official view. Each view makes sense from within its own context. Walk in to most schools and try to convince people that learning is actually inhibited by testing. Even if you pull out 15 research papers that say as much, will this view be considered seriously? Why not?
Is it time to look at some more context? Yes indeed 🙂
And now presenting Ada Lovelace
I would like to introduce you to Ada Lovelace. Now, if you know who Ada Lovelace is you might wonder why I would ask that we consider her.
Who is Ada Lovelace you ask?
Here she is. She certainly looks like she comes from the upper class. Probably some good deal of wealth. Probably very stylish for her time. When you first look at her the first phrase that pops into your mind probably isn’t “the enchantress of numbers.” Numbers. Hmmmm. A clue.
There she is. You can probably tell by the picture that she lived some time ago. That is true. She was the daughter of poet Lord Byron. She lived from 1815-1852. But what does she have to do we our thinking about schooling and education.
Here is another clue.
There she is again. But this time she is standing by a wall of main-frame computers. Need another clue?
People have come to think that she always wore that headpiece. That is probably not true.
The thing that is particularly interesting for us is that she is considered, by many, to be the world’s first computer programmer.
Here is a computer that interested her:
Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2
Manipulate anything within a fixed set of rules. That’s interesting. So is the fact that she was familiar with the Jacquard Loom.
One thing you might find interesting is that Ada Lovelace is quoted as saying “the Analytic Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard Loom weaves flowers and leaves. What is the Jacquard Loom you ask?
How an 1803 Jacquard Loom Lead to Computer Technology
Given that tradition and context provide meaning, we find an excellent example of how the early 19th century context (social and intellectual) brought the thinking of Babbage and Lovelace into being. A person doesn’t just come up with the idea of a computer, or computer programming out of the blue. There is a context (the ontological) that brings such things (artifacts and activities) into being. The context gives things their intelligibility.
The relevance for us is that this is one contextual strand that is woven into what we do in schools. (Was woven the right work here, or was I already thinking about weaving?) We might think of this as the context that brings programmatic instruction into being. Or, perhaps, The Programming context.
So Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage were influence by the Jacquard Loom. The loom, of course existed not only as an artifact but also consisted of its own context from which it came into being and made sense–the mechanical organ, the desire for Chinese fashion, complicated textile patterns in silk weaving, the abilities of workers (and inability of children to work to a particular standard, etc.
The loom is an interesting contextualizing force for the idea of programming. So are automata. It has been said that Babbage was fascinated with automata as a young boy.
From Programming Looms to Programming People (or at least automatons for now)
‘The Writer’ Automaton
Automatons: The Original Robots
A programmed set of instructions. It makes a person wonder what is going on in the environment to be thinking about programming instructions.
Why the interest in programming and automata.
This was a period of time when teaching was influenced by these ideas. Of course we had teachers. But the idea of programming students was something that differed from previous educational settings. You may have sensed this when you were reading Smith’s comparison between the Classic view of learning and the Official. Have a quick look again at p. 5. Programming students (or programmatic instruction) brings out the ideas of learning being intentional, obvious, and limited.
You have already thought about the role of the teacher. But think now how that role is influenced not only by a particular historical context but also by the emphasis on programmatic instruction (or programming students), the obviousness of what is to be learned (we try to state in very clear statements using goals and objectives that which we expect the student to learn), and the intentionality involved (we will employ particular procedures to ensure learning (or should we say particular programmatic procedures).
Note: Something to keep in mind: Of course we should keep in mind that Smith contrasts two different views of learning (the Classic and Official) and interprets these by drawing on particular contexts or examples. To achieve what phenomenologists refer to as a greater degree of adequacy (more truthfulness) we would need to delve into more that two different perspectives, but given our time constrains, we will concentrate on two for the time being.
But the programming piece is only one part of the context. We also have the influence of factories.
Let me approach this from the perspective of the factory.
If you have taken ED 611 Theories of Teaching and Learning with me, the factory argument is going to sound very familiar.
Factories and the industrial revolution
Think of this. In the seventeen hundreds, leading up to the industrial revolution, we have a time of a great intellectual climate. In England there were great advances in scientific thinking, invention, and the exchange of ideas. Think of the work of Sir Issac Newton and his explanations of the force of gravity, Robert Boyle and his new thinking regarding the properties of air and gas, the wonders of the Age of Reason. Traveling lecturers would travel about, teaching others of the great inventions. Not only did discoveries abound, but an enthusiasm for developing practical applications out of the inventions of the time were blossoming.
We often think of children working in factories and how the school must have been a great escape. But less often do we give consideration as to how the factory changed our behaviors and the way we school (or educate). Action and ideas, practical knowledge, and the industrial enlightenment. Ideas and observations would be shared. Free thinking and creativity were the norm. Intellectual explorations, wonder and fascination, intellectual freedom. Self taught, self motivated.
And then, with the factory, we have the making of the modern world. And arguably, the making of the modern school.
“Mr. Dickens. Would you like to weigh in on this?”
The shift in schooling was noticeable. Dickens wrote about the teaching style in his book Hard Times.
Facts, facts, and more facts. He writes:
Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir—peremptorily Thomas—Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind—no, sir!
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words ‘boys and girls,’ for ‘sir,’ Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.
‘Sissy Jupe, sir,’ explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.
‘Sissy is not a name,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.’
‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey.
‘Then he has no business to do it,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘Tell him he mustn’t. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?’
‘He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.’
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.
‘We don’t want to know anything about that, here. You mustn’t tell us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, don’t he?’
‘If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.’
‘You mustn’t tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horse breaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?’
‘Oh yes, sir.’
‘Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horse breaker. Give me your definition of a horse.’
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)
‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. ‘Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.’
The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely white-washed room, irradiated Sissy. For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.
‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’
‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’
She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time. Bitzer, after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once, and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennæ of busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down again.
When Smith talks about the classic view, we might well think of the sort of intellectual endeavors going on just prior to the industrial revolution. When we hear about the official view, we begin to hear the results of an industrial influence on school practices.
Factories and Machines – Timelines.tv History of Britain A11
Ah, to learn the value of work in the temple of industry.
Let us consider what it is that allows factories, and factory assembly lines to ‘come into being.’ This will have some significance to our understanding of schooling later on, but let us leave an examination of those connections until a little later. First the factory: Question: “What is necessary for a factory to exist?” We could, of course, come up with a very long list — resources such as coal, raw material, equipment, a place to house the factory, skilled workers, etc. But that is only part of the story.
Let me place this in a hierarchy (in our schooling discourse we seem to like hierarchy metaphors).
A leap to the assembly line
At the top level we have the artifacts (the entities or beings) as well as the people (also beings but of a different sort than the physical artifacts). I am making a leap now to the assembly line factory.
1) Top level: The assembly-line factory (Or perhaps this should be the Bottom Level depending on our perspective).
——— hardware, workers ———-
2) Lower level: The ideas or the ways of seeing or thinking about factories.
——— managing, objects, efficiency, assembly bit-by-bit, consumers, the creator, worker, and observer, bonuses, awards, profits ————
So, we see the factory and the things that make the factory what it is. Now, if somebody didn’t come up with the idea that objects could be assembled in pieces we probably wouldn’t have assembly-line factories. Also, if people were not able to objectify things, and think of things as objects, we probably wouldn’t have assembly-line factories (I can’t imagine the Aivilik carver living in an oral tradition considering producing carved ivory seals in a factory line) . And, if somebody didn’t have the idea that efficiency was important, we probably wouldn’t have assembly-line factories (at least not in their current form). We might go deeper and ask, what it is that is necessary for the idea of efficiency to exist? And then, with efficiency, it might be desirable to ensure that the product is produced as efficiently as possible. In this case we might need a division of labor–a worker and a foreman/woman.
So, assembly-line factories didn’t just magically appear. A number of people had to see the world in such a way that objects, bit-by-bit assembly, and efficiency was intelligible. In a sense, these people had a way of viewing the world (a set of lenses so to speak), contexts, narratives, that made these factory ideas come into being. I suppose we could say that the ideas of efficiency, disassembly and assembly, and discrete objects had to be in place (part of our intelligibility) before we would have designed factories.
When we adopt a particular perspective, or, metaphorically, wear lenses of a particular kind, we are able to see the world in certain ways. In our assembly-line factory perspective, the world shows itself in ways that allows the factory to come into being. Again, if someone didn’t see the possibility of piecing things together bit by bit, or see ‘things’ in such a way that they might put together as discrete objects, we wouldn’t have much of a factory.
Looking Around at Artifacts
Now, if we were to walk into an assembly-line factory and started taking note of the artifacts, etc. (as we have begun to do with our own classrooms), we could tell quite a bit about the way people ‘saw’ the world (a world that would be suitable for a factory to come into existence and to maintain itself). We would be able to get a sense of the lenses they were wearing (or their own perspective so to speak).
Another way of deriving a deeper understanding of the assembly-line factory would be to listen to the language people were using to describe and talk about things in the factory (i.e. the discourse). We would hear talk of ‘workers,’ ‘efficiency,’ ‘management,’ ‘controlled environments’, ‘donuts.’ I must be hungry. I am thinking about donuts now.
Thus far, I haven’t made the claim that any one thing ‘caused’ or ‘causes’ the factory to ‘come into being.’ Rather, there are a number of things, events and ways of thinking, that come together to allow the assembly-line factory to come into being. It is a bit like saying that the environment was right for this to occur.
Let’s apply the factory model to everything (or let’s not)
Of course the language and ideas of the assembly-line factory model can be extended to living things. We hear of animals being dis-assembled, we hear of automation, processing, uniformity, inspection, automatic scaling, individually monitored, production, precision, care, quality, etc. You will get the idea by listening to the first 5 minutes of the following:
Hey! Let’s begin to tie this metaphor into schooling practices!
Ken Robinson talks about the production-line mentality: schooling modeled on the interests and image of industrialization, organized on factory lines, ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects, educating children by batches, standardization. (You have heard Gatto and Smith make reference to these ideas as well).
The Historical and Ontological Foundations
So we explore the ‘historical’ and ‘ontological’ foundations of schooling and education.
The Historical: I probably don’t have to say too much about the term historical foundations. That is probably familiar terminology. The events that lead up to our current schooling and educational practices can be referred to as historical. These are the stories. And, of course, as we all know, the stories told are not the only stories that played some role in the establishment of our current state of affairs. The dominant group typically has the power to promote the stories that best suit that group’s needs and desires. At times the stories of any historical period or event favor a particular group, bringing some events into focus while allowing other events to recede into the background. We try to listen to unfamiliar histories. This broadens our background and perspective.
The Ontological: If we look back at my brief explanation of the assembly-line factory, I commented on a couple of seemingly different levels of awareness and understanding. One level consisted of the factory artifacts. We can refer to the artifacts in the factory as beings (things). These things, or beings, make up the factory. This is the ontic level. Don’t let this somewhat strange terminology disturb you in any way. We can keep this quite simple. We see things (or entities, objects, [perhaps activities] or beings) all around us. We are very familiarity with them. We have ‘beings’ in our kitchen, such as cups, plates, tables, chairs. And ‘beings’ in our classrooms, such as paper, desks, books, computers, etc. Notice that I didn’t include human beings (yet). These human beings will be referred to differently than the objects just described. This shouldn’t surprise us. We certainly don’t want to think of human beings in the same way we think of objects (such as a door stop, or a window). If you picked up someone and used them as a door stop, we would be quite concerned–for both you and the doorstop.
The ontological is that which makes all of these things and processes intelligible to us.
Here is another example of ‘bringing something into being.’
Capable of reaching deep into boiling pots of water or oil, early chopsticks were used mainly for cooking. It wasn’t until A.D. 400 that people began eating with the utensils. This happened when a population boom across China sapped resources and forced cooks to develop cost-saving habits. They began chopping food into smaller pieces that required less cooking fuel—and happened to be perfect for the tweezers-like grip of chopsticks.
As food became bite-sized, knives became more or less obsolete. Their decline—and chopsticks’ ascent—also came courtesy of Confucius. As a vegetarian, he believed that sharp utensils at the dinner table would remind eaters of the slaughterhouse. He also thought that knives’ sharp points evoked violence and warfare, killing the happy, contended mood that should reign during meals. Thanks in part to his teachings, chopstick use quickly became widespread throughout Asia.
Back to the Factory / One more kick at the can
We know the beings (those entities, artifacts, and activities that constitute the assembly-line factory). We can look around and see those things right in front of us. That is the ontic.
Now, as questioners, we do wonder about the ontic (those things we see). We ask, “what do this things tell us about the way people understood the world?” We might have asked, what do chop sticks tell us about how people in Asia understood the world. How did people see the world around them to even think of developing chop sticks, or assembly-line factories–whatever the case may be?
“What is it that makes things intelligible?” In terms of the factory, how did people have to see the world so that the factory model could come into being in the first place? The assembly-line factory didn’t just spring out of nothing. Of course we can turn to history and find out the events that lead up to the assembly-line factory coming into being. For example, Joe got the money together and built a shoe factory in our town–that’s history, that’s the story. But our ontological exploration goes beyond the events and into the ways of seeing (or thinking, or understanding, or feeling, etc). For example, Joe believed in efficiency. This idea of efficiency allowed the factory to make sense. Joe put together the factory.
We want to get a sense of how people see, or experience, the world, because if we have a better understanding of how promoters of the factory understand things, we have an insight into the assembly-line factory at a very deep and significant level. We no longer simply take the assembly-line factory for granted. We realize, significantly, that the factory didn’t just come out of nowhere and suddenly appear. There were ways of thinking or seeing that allowed the factory to come into being. That’s the ontological. That thinking and seeing makes everything else make sense.
But that’s not all!
With a greater understanding of the ways in which things are intelligible, we are in a better position to make judgements. We will develop an understanding, and insights, that might otherwise remain obscure.
And what if all this just seems too far out there Dana?
I wouldn’t worry about it. You may not be able to define it exactly, but I think you will know it when you see it (schooling that is).
How about Frank Smith?
One of the things that works really well with the Smith text is that he contrasts two different intelligibilities: One intelligibility brings forth the classic model; the other intelligibility brings forth the official model. That other thing that is helpful for us is that he gives these two positions names–something Gatto doesn’t do. We do seem to feel better when we give things names.
One way of viewing the world is such that learning is seen to be: continual, effortless, inconspicuous, boundless . . . . (see the list on page 5)
Another way of view the world is such that learning is seen to be: occasional, hard work, obvious, limited, dependent on rewards and punishment . . . etc. (see the list on p. 5)
And, as you are probably finding, as you read his text, Smith provides some good reasons as to why these two different ontologies exist.
One more thing to consider today–The Prussian Army
We have touched on the programmatic (at least the programming) aspects of our historical context. We have touched on the industrial revolution and the factory aspects that contribute to the way we school. Let us briefly touch on Smith’s explanation of the militaristic aspects of our schooling.
Smith and the Prussian Army. You know the section (page 48).
It was a time when many armies were rabbles, recruited–or conscripted–only when needed to fight particular battles and wars. There were usually poorly led, poorly fed, poorly paid, poorly trained, dressed in motley, undisciplined, rebellious, and ineffective. Except in one place, Prussia, which had a professional army, professionally trained and conspicuously successful.
There was no mistaking soldiers of the Prussian army on the parade ground or on the battlefield. They dressed as one, moved as one, thought as one, and confounded everyone who confronted them. There were the best drilled and most efficient army of the day.
How did the Prussian army do it? With mechanical standardization and meticulous attention to detail.
And of course we hear further from Smith as to how the American school was influenced by the success of the Prussian Army.
The Origins of the American Public Education System: Horace Mann & the Prussian Model of Obedience (Beware of the bell at the beginning. I just about jumped out of my chair!)
I like that statement, “He stressed that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that education was provided for the child. A very noble idea of course, but what exactly did he mean by that, and how did he define education?”
I will leave it up to you if you would like to explore more deeply into the history of American schooling. You might find some very interesting things.
So there we have it. Three different historical strands that provide some of the context that help us realize why we do some of the things we do in school.
Questions for the day
For today’s questions:
When we consider the effects of the industrial revolution and the factory model, programming and programmatic instruction, and the militaristic influences on our schooling traditions, let us respond to the following:
The more we understand the historical underpinnings of our schooling system we begin to see how our practices have grown out of this historical thinking and the traditions we have created. We are all affected in one way or other regardless of the position we have in the school or the connections we have with those currently in school. The question I pose to you is what we do with this understanding? How does a knowledge of these influences, whether consideration of the differences between the classic and the official theories of learning, or consideration of programming/militaristic/industrial influences change how we perceive our work in schools and with students?
Obviously there is no right answer. And probably not any clear answer. And the thoughts we have today will likely change by the end of the week. But it must mean something. It is one thing to develop an insight, but quite another to do something with it. What does it mean to you? Is there anything concrete that we can do, or should try to do, once we begin to be aware of different contexts, histories, and narratives?
Please email me your response (along with your second set of responses from weeks Four through Seven) during the week of May 20th. Thanks.
Before I say goodby, I have listed three videos below. All three relate to what we have been thinking about here. They really are worth watching if you have time, but I leave that up to you.
Until next time, have a great week!
Just for fun______Just for fun_______Just for fun_________Just for fun______Just for fun________Just for fun________
If you have the interest, and the time, I have listed three documentaries that are related to today’s lecture. Just for interest, not required.
For Those of you with an interest in learning more, here is a 55 minute documentary on Lovelace.
BBC DOCUMENTARY : Calculating Ada – The Countess of Computing 2015
The Machines Made To Mimic Humans | Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams | Spark
You might have to reset the slider to the beginning if it starts at some point further into the video.
Full Episode | The Industrial Revolution | BBC Documentary