ED 632 Week Eight (Spring 2020)

 

Hi Everyone,

If you will, please look at each of the following photographs. Look at each one, individually. After a couple of seconds, move on to the next image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have an understanding of each image. You have a familiarity with each object. But, as we considered last week, you don’t simply have a picture of the image in your brain. Your understanding of the object is woven throughout your brain. In very simple terms, when you look at each object, shape neurons fire, color neurons fire, texture neurons fire, and (the topic for the beginning part of this lecture) grasping neurons fire.

 

When you looked at each image there were grasping neurons in your brain that fired. As soon as we see the mug we have neurons fire that trigger our previous experiences of grasping mugs of this shape. Our wrist neurons fire to indicate a particular twist of the wrist, our finger neurons fire in such a way as to indicate wrapping around the handle, and our arm neurons fire so that we recognize the weight of the object. All of this, just by looking. It is as if our brain fires the same neurons that previously experienced objects like this.

As soon as we see the tea cup our finger neurons trigger in a very different way from when we look at the mug. Our finger neurons recognize the different grasp. The use of the forefinger and thumb. A slightly different wrist action. We experience the object in a very different way than when we look at the mug.

When we see other objects, our neurons fire as if reaching for a hammer, a tennis ball, or a pencil even though we just look at the object on the screen. To see the object meaningfully, all sorts of different neurons all fire together to bring meaning to the object.

 

But what about this next object. ( I picked an object that you likely have not experienced before. If you have, your observation will be just as rich as the former images. If you haven’t experienced this next object, your experience will be shallow in comparison).

 

 

 

Your experience is different. When you look at this object you don’t feel the rich sensations that you feel with the other objects. Not knowing the size or weight, how do we pick this up? Is it heavy? Our arm muscle neurons don’t fire. We have not established neuronal cell assemblies to give this meaning.

We have neurons that fire that help us understand the shape and possibly the texture. But is it made of plastic, metal, ceramic? Does it feel smooth, rough? Is it flexible, stiff?

 

We might say, “Objects move us.” In other words, when we see an object, we are moved (even though our bodies don’t actually move) to re-experience the way we are with the objects. Visual objects–that are familiar–move us.

 

Grasping Neurons

 

Do you know the story about grasping neurons?

In 2005 Giacomo Rizzolatti (2006) and some of his graduate students were working in a laboratory in Italy. In their midst was a Macaque monkey, strapped to a chair with fMRI electrodes glued to its head. The researchers were looking for specific neurons that would fire when the monkey performed a specific task. After some time the researchers were able to pinpoint neurons that would fire when the monkey grasped an object. While this was an interesting discovery, a more notable phenomenon occurred when one of the graduate students reached for, and grabbed, an item from a table within the monkey’s sight. The monkey’s grasping neurons fired again even though this time the monkey had not moved. This set off a series of experiments that have suggested that understanding is, in part, related to having action neurons re-fire when witnessing other’s actions. In addition, further research has found that hearing words will trigger the firing of action neurons. If this is the case, we might well be convinced that not only do the sight of objects move us, but words speak us as well.

 

We learn more about grasping neurons here. You will notice that the talk is about mirror neurons. I should mention that there is dispute whether or not “mirror” neurons exist. “Mirror” may be the wrong term. Perhaps we should stick to thinking about re-firing established neurons that were assembled during past experiences.

 

NOVA scienceNOW : 1 – Mirror Neurons

 

 

Giacomo Rizzolatti on the discovery of canonical motor neurons

 

Giacomo Rizzolatti – Mirror neurons: from monkey to human

 

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Understanding words need neuronal cell assemblies too.

Language / words speak us

Words fire neuronal cell assemblies. When we hear someone say a word, neuronal cell assemblies in our brains are fired so that we feel the words. If I say, “warm sandy beach” to you, you will feel something very different that if I say, “frozen ice cube.”

 

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The language of school

“What would happen if we removed the terms information and efficiency from our schooling vocabulary?” This raises the question of how our language shapes our reality–how our metaphors shape our reality. When I think about the good times I have had with my friends and family, or the enjoyable times I have had reading a good book or watching a great movie, I don’t think in terms of efficiency and information. I can say I have learned a lot in all of these informal settings, and yet not once did I have to reduce any of it to information and efficiency. The funny thing for me is now that the words ‘information’ and ‘efficiency’ comes to the forefront of my thinking, I start seeing schooling activities strangely defined by these ideas in very unfortunate ways. For example I have an article on my desk entitled, “The Negative Impact of Rewards and Ineffective Praise on Student Motivation.” Ineffective praise? Why? Think about this for a moment. Even the research has made assumptions regarding motivation and rewards and put the “effective” and “efficient” lens on it. When we think back to some of the alternative school settings, would it be fair to say the lived environment doesn’t emphasize efficiency and effectiveness? This is not to say that we can’t stand back with our efficiency lens in place and look for efficiency. But then that is our lived experience. There is a difference. There is a difference between what we step back and analyze and what we live while in the environment.

This can be a difficult idea to come to terms with. I remember as a student reading the statement in somebody’s book, “gravity is not part of the child’s ontology.” I thought, “what?” Children experience gravity. It took a while to start distinguishing between what we experience and how an objective observer talks about things. The child is not playing in the yard thinking, “okay, this is gravity holding me down.” The child doesn’t ‘think’ about gravity. Gravity does exist, of course. But it is the objective observer who sees the child on the swing saying gravitational forces are at play.

I don’t want to belabor this point. But there is philosophical reasoning that suggests that it is during breakdown (when something in our experience doesn’t go smoothly) that things like gravity come to our awareness. For example, a hammer is “too big” when the space you are trying to hammer in is too narrow. Too narrow leads to breakdown. The size of the hammer all of a sudden shows itself.

This is the case with such things as efficiency. Somebody is standing back, looking at a situation from an objective position, and begins making determinations as to what is, or is not efficient.

 

A man wearing his efficiency monocle.

monocle guy

 

 

Does it seem to you that the language we use strongly influences how we see the world around us?

You may have seen this. Listen to how Ben Zander deliberately shifts language away from goals and toward possibility.

He works to help us change our own metaphors of what we do in the classroom and how we treat ourselves and others. Listen to how he juxtaposes two different frames.

 

 

In Ben Zander’s talk we hear him contrast two frames (more on frames below) and metaphors. The one perspective, based on our current schooling, consists of downward spirals, goals, expectations, must, need, ought, blame, fault, threat. The second view (frame, metaphors) is based on possibility, vision, requests, apologies, bringing people up.

Both views are made up. According to Zander, we have the ability to chose one over the other. And that is what most motivational speakers tell us. We have the ability to alter our frame and metaphors.

Didn’t Frank Smith do the same? I think he did.

Perhaps this is how we begin to make changes in our own schools and practices. We manipulate the language we use. We manipulate our actions. To me this seems very powerful. Remove one word from your vocabulary and incorporate an alternative and things start to change.

 

Consider how changing the language in job descriptions could change the way we think of our work–and more importantly, how we are treated within institutional settings.

 

The Real Mission of the Mission Statement

Now, before I get into some specifics on the workings of metaphors and frames, I thought I would do just a quick search of school mission statements to see if there were any metaphors and frames that seemed to shape the thinking of the school. Quite honestly, of course, I don’t know any of the schools I read about, but I think I can give you a sense of how metaphors and frames might shape the reality of a school or district. Here is how I proceeded. I found a web site that listed the mission statements of 101 schools. I then did a word search using the word work. Of course there were lots of schools that talked about work in their mission statements:

 

Yokayo Elementary School: Productive Workers who perform collaboratively and independently to create quality products and services that reflect personal pride and responsibility.

Kimball Elementary School Mission Statement and Goals: Every student differs and must be challenged to work to his/her greatest capacity.

Tiskelwah Elementary: To be encouraged to work to optimum potential in reaching the academic skills outlined in the school curriculum.

Silver Oak Elementary School: to develop the intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities of each child to the fullest extent possible so that each can lead a productive worker, citizen, and individual in our society.

Knowlton Elementary: We provide experiences for students which build the real work world skills required for the future.

Crescentwood School: Practice a positive work ethic.

Shaffer Elementary: We are committed to educating students so that they have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be effective communicators, complex thinkers. responsible citizens, self directed learners, ethical persons, and quality workers. Establish standards that demand excellence and build a solid foundation for lifelong learning, workplace skills and citizenship

Cherokee Elementary School Mission Statement: Our mission is preparing our Cherokee students to become successful citizens and workers in the twenty-first century.

Silver Oak Elementary School is to develop the intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities of each child to the fullest extent possible so that each can lead a productive worker, citizen, and individual in our society.

I think one can see that there is a sense that the purpose of school has something to do with work. Good enough.

Now, I did a quick search using the word ‘love’.

Westridge School Community, where children are treasured, is to foster a love of learning in an innovative, cooperative climate which empowers all students to be competent, productive, caring and responsible citizens.

Jamieson Elementary we are committed to each and every child. We are committed to encouraging our children to possess the following qualities: A mastery of academic skills and a love for learning.

At Pine Tree Elementary, we believe that each child is a valued and unique individual. We believe that our educational process should be student-centered and that Pine Tree Elementary’s mission is best achieved by an active partnership involving students, parents, and staff. Furthermore, we want each child to embrace the love, joy
and value of education. The following emphasize our beliefs: We want each child to embrace the love, joy and value of education.

William Penn Elementary School: to provide an environment where each child is treated withrespect and love.

Rosemont Elementary: The culmination of our efforts is to instill in our students a lifelong love of learning.

 

And the list goes on. I don’t know about you, but I find it interesting that when we are thinking about frames it seems that the schools whose mission statements talked about having students being prepared for becoming productive workers didn’t seem to use the words leadership, love or joy. Now, this is not meant to be an exact science, and it would be unfair to generalize about anything here, but it might suggest that different frames (world views) might create different sorts of reality.

 

Reality

Anyway, now, in living color, and in two parts: Part I Do We Create Our Own Reality?; Part II Categorization and Classification.

 

Part I

Do we create our own reality?

Let me introduce you to Dr. Boroditsky. She is a cognitive scientist who studies language and cognition. I will pull bit of an interview that I think you will find relates well to our own considerations regarding language.

Dr. Boroditsky’s work with an Aboriginal community in Northern Australia sheds some light on the ways that our language shapes how we perceive and think about the world.

I use these arguments to help us better understand how the language of schooling shapes what we do in schools and how we think about education.

 

(Cape York)

 

Have a listen to this first part. Dr. Boroditsky takes us to Cape York.

 

It is interesting when we think about directions. We have internalized the concepts of left and right. Of course it doesn’t have to be this way as we find out in the description of the Aboriginal experience. It is interesting to think that our language contributes to our reality.

 

Those of you who have studied other languages are probably well aware that in many languages nouns are gendered–either masculine or feminine. But have you wondered how that gendering might affect how people think about the nouns?

 

 

Here is another interesting study regarding noun gendering that Dr. Boroditsky talks. Listen to how the gendering affects reality. It is an artist study. I find this so interesting.

 

 

Finally,

 

This relates to what I am thinking about in terms of our own schooling beliefs. Have we internalized things and actions from our language and believe that they are right for no other reason than that they have been pre-defined for us? How often do we even feel the need to question these structures? Does the language reflect the true structure of the world? Or is the structuring dependent on the language? Is the structuring simply a formal property of the language?

 

 

 

 

Metaphors: By considering metaphors (and frames) we begin to get a deeper understanding of why particular things show up for us, and why we perform particular tasks and perceive certain aspects of schooling.

Even though we touched on metaphor, I would like to go into this in a bit more depth with the intention of moving us toward understanding embodiment.

 

First Frames, AKA, Frames First

First we should try to develop a bit of an understanding of frames.

From Lakoff: in his own words or summarized

 

Framing

You think in terms of structures, called frames. . . . Every institution is structured by a frame, and a frame has two parts: frame elements and scenarios. . . . Every word in every language is defined within a frame. Metaphors are learned very early, by different parts of the brain being activated as we experience something over and over again.

 

 

 

 

As I think about metaphors and frames, the first thing that comes to my mind, when thinking of people who are masters of changing our metaphors, is motivational speakers.

Yes, how are motivational speakers (and theorists) using language to shift the way we think and act?

You have probably noticed that motivational speakers help us change our lives by having us change the metaphors that shape our own life narrative. They work to ’empower us’ so that we are not ‘victims’. They work to ‘direct us’ if we find ourselves ‘floundering.’ Now, for a moment, think of how a researcher might need to change the metaphors currently enframing us and provide us with new metaphors to help us adopt his/her new practice.

 

How about letting us in on the magic of frames?

I will allow George Lakoff to tell us more about frames in a talk that I include a little further on. But quickly, frames not only consist of metaphors (ways of thinking and perceiving), but also processes (or rituals). Faster: frames not only consist of metaphors (ways of thinking and perceiving), but also processes (or rituals).

 

Now, what I find particularly interesting, is when we look back to our initial questions (the ones you posed in week one), we can begin to look at the language and metaphors that support those artifacts and processes. Furthermore, we can also begin to notice that there are a lot of rituals that we follow to ensure those processes and artifacts come-into-being in particular ways. I think we would agree that much of what Frank Smith, John Taylor Gatto, and Ken Robinson point out are the rituals in place in the official theory of schooling. And Ben Zander picks a big ritual to make his point–the ritual of giving grades.

Ben Zander encourages us to change our frame of reference (as does Smith, Gatto). Each suggests we have to change the frames and metaphors to morph our our practices into something better. If we change the frames and metaphors, we begin to see the world differently.

 

How we perceive the world

or if we want to change the frame

How the world perceives us

 

or try these two:

How I control the world

vs.

How I am controlled by the world around me.

Recall Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Greg Bryk.

 

Much of our schooling practice has been based on the idea that there is an external true reality that share and that we aspire to know. This has been the case with philosophy as well.

This sets up a particular frame. It is a frame that suggests that reality is there already, we don’t create it. But is it that simple? Is our reality a mirror of what exists ‘out there’?

Recall the blind man regaining sight in the David Eagleman Reality documentary.

 

 

George Lakoff on Embodied Cognition and Language

 

We have been considering embodied cognition and language. We have been considering how our experiences within particular contexts, experiences that are experienced through our bodies, shape our reality. To help us understand this in a little more depth I have included another talk by George Lakoff.

Now, the following video lecture is quite lengthy. But if you are able to view the first 30 minutes you will get the gist (I have tried to write out the main points below). It is insightful and can give you some further depth in how you understand education through language. If you think this will be of value to you in your graduate work, you may want to view the entire clip.

 

This video does not have cc but let me share with you the main points made by Lakoff:

We don’t see a common reality, we create it. We have a topographic maps in our brain. We have a number of maps of our body in our brain. These maps can pick out motion, distance, and other spatial relations. We can compute our image schemas with our embodied maps.

Neural binding allows schemas to connect.

You think with your brain. Most of it is unconscious. Why? Could all of your thought be conscious? No. Why couldn’t it? Because consciousness is linear. And the brain, in terms of the circuitry it has, is parallel. It has thousands of parallel connections going to all sorts of parts of the brain, like ‘to’ and ‘in’ and the bindings between them.

Also, when you make a conscious decision, your brain is doing it half a second before, unconsciously.

You are your cognitive self conscious, and most of it you don’t know about.

First there are frames, frames are combinations of these image schemas that we have. Frames have structure.

Chuck Fillmore pointed out that every word in every language is defined relative to a frame. If you take a word like waiter, or menu, you are going to evoke a restaurant frame—all the things you expect in a restaurant. You also expect a certain scenario and the elements in the scenario are called semantic roles—roles of the waiter, the cook, customer, etc.

Every institution has a frame. You know the elements, what happens in it, and what doesn’t happen in it.

The point of this is, the restaurant frame is made up of three other frames: the food service frame, the business frame, and the host-guest frame. When you go to the restaurant, you are the guest, and your are the eater, and you are the customer—three frames bound together — neural bindings between those three frames in different parts of the brain. When they are all bound together you get a restaurant. When they are not bound together you have different businesses, different food services, and host-guest environments, but no restaurant.

From this you get hierarchical structures. All words are defined with respect to them. When we say waiter, the whole restaurant frame comes up. These structures are build up of various image schemas, things and activities we do with our bodies. And these movements and activities have schemas. These physical image schemas can be then metaphorically placed on abstract ideas.

All thought is physical.

neural recruitment. When you have a certain structure in your brain, as you are learning, you activate certain structures in your brain. The more you activate them, the stronger the structures get. When they get strong enough they become permanent circuits. When you learn something new, the easiest way is to learn it relative to the circuits that are already there.

You can’t learn anything if there are not the neural circuits there in advance. The neural circuit that allows us to understand ‘in’ and the neural circuit that allows us to understand ‘to’ can be bound together to allow us to understand ‘into.’

 

So is there something here?

1) does context shape what we perceive?

2) do we devise a narrative to make sense of what we perceive?

3) did the context give meaning to Mrs. Jone’s actions?

 

Even though we want to be careful not to generalize too quickly, let us at least consider some provisional claims.

No ‘thing’ meaningfully exists independent of context. (Please keep in mind that meaningful means the way something means to us. This is not to say that something does not exist independent of us.)

No context is established independently of our body. The experiences we have had with our bodies gives meaning to context and ultimately the ‘thing’ itself.

We create narratives to make sense (or justify what we perceive and what we do).

Our language/narratives (including the metaphors we use) point to the ways we perceive the world and reveal our beliefs.

Now, you may be thinking of another political ramification when it comes to narratives (something I will point out now but will get into in more depth later). That is:

Those who control the narrative shapes reality and our perceptions. I guess we all knew that when we were told what and how to teach.

Furthermore, you may be recalling an argument Smith seems to be making. That is:

Learning, from the official point of view, is about memorizing and accumulating information. Teacher teaches, student learns. We fill the empty vessels with knowledge. The expert tells the story clearly, and the student builds up the knowledge (memorizing if necessary).

Learning, from the classic point of view, is about adopting new narratives.We are always learning new narratives, whether from friends, parents, and authorities. We become the narratives that we adopt.

 

If the classic theory is right, teachers have to be in the business of helping students weave together neuronal cell assemblies and create narratives (and even change the narratives they currently hold–though that can be very difficult). Maybe impossible–though I hate to think so.

 

Now, these are some pretty big claims. It is not the narrative I was told when I was studying to be a teacher. And even now I feel as though I have to force myself to bring the ‘narrative argument’ to the forefront of my thinking. And as much as I may be convinced of the classic view, as soon as I enter the classroom, the official narrative encourages me to think in terms of providing information to students. And I if I do it well, following the appropriate objectives and skillfully assessing, I should be very successful at providing the information that will have students learn what I have taught.

 

Part II (did I have a part I?)

More Pigs?

Categorization and Classification

 

We have been thinking quite a bit about language, metaphors, and frames. We have been considering how these aspects of language shape how we perceive the world around us and how we live within that world. Hopefully you are becoming a bit more sensitive to the educational metaphors that seem to shape your own thinking. Hopefully you are starting to ask, as you think of activities (such as having your students line up to move from one class to the next), what sort of language or presuppositions encourage us to do this.

There is one more framework (or way of manipulating our perceptions) that I would like to consider today–that is the use of categories. We are all familiar with categories: those classes or divisions of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines category as: any of several fundamental and distinct classes to which entities or concepts belong.

When we read this we probably have the impression that categories are simply divisions of some sort of pre-existing reality. Categories really exist independent of ourselves and we simply plug in the things or people as appropriate. But is this the case? Are categories simply made up to suit somebody’s purpose? And if so, are our educational/schooling categories simply made up to suit some peoples’ purposes?

 

Are you familiar with Michel Foucault’s work. Some of you may be. He was a French philosopher, historian, and social theorist. I was reading one of his books the other day–“The Order of Things.”

Foucault begins the preface of his book considering how the ‘familiar landmarks of [our] thought,’ the order and meaning we give the things we encounter, is something that is unstable.

 

foucault

 

What an interesting idea. We think of things, and those things we think about seem to have meaning and order to them. But Foucault is suggesting that these things are unstable. Let’s focus on classifying.

 

animalClassification

 

We classify–and those classifications provide meaning to a context. But seldom do we ask who is doing the classifying or where the classification came from. It seems at times as though our classifications came out of some external truthful reality. Take our classifications of animals, for example. What Aristotle began (with his classifications of plants and animals) and Cesalpino deepened (with the advent of the optic lens), Carl Linnaeus revolutionized and finalized (at least for us, as things stand) with his 1735 Systema Naturae. Finally, a standardized naming system for plants and animals.

 

Linnaeus(1735)

But things could have been different, and perhaps in the future they will be. For us, the way we think and talk about animals is largely a result of Carl Linnaeus. But Foucault is struck with another idea. He is struck by the idea of how things are not as stable or secure as we might believe. He writes:

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges . . . . [A]s I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought – our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography – breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other.

This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.

I love this idea. Even the metaphors Foucault uses–landmarks of our thoughts, bearing the stamp of our age and our geography. The feeling that classification systems breaks up the ordered surfaces and planes of our thinking. Imagine how different, as suggested by this encyclopedia, animals could have been perceived.

Think how different things might have been for us if Bloom hadn’t wielded his mighty taxonomy.

 

Foucault continues:

But what is it impossible to think, and what kind of impossibility are we faced with here? Each of these strange categories can be assigned a precise meaning and a demonstrable content; some of them do certainly involve fantastic entities – fabulous animals or sirens – but, precisely because it puts them into categories of their own, the Chinese encyclopaedia localizes their powers of contagion; it distinguishes carefully between the very real animals (those that are frenzied or have just broken the water pitcher) and those that reside solely in the realm of imagination.

 

What do sucking pigs, sirens and stray dogs have to do with schooling and education?

 

pigsSuckingstrayDogsiren

 

I find this interesting, especially when thinking about schooling and education. I find it interesting in terms of how we might question how we understand education. If categories are made up, why were they made the way they were? Were they designed to suit particular people and situations–some powerful schooling emperor? Perhaps the “Efficiency Emperor.”

In education/schooling we have our own categories, landmarks of thought, ordered surfaces and planes. Let me further my thinking with a concrete example. I will use a personal example that happened while some of you may have been working on your undergraduate degree..

 

When our college of education was preparing for our NCATE accreditation a few years back we were expected to demonstrate that we were proficient in a number of standards. Standards that fall into particular categories are stated and evidence must be provided to show that the categories under scrutiny are thoroughly accounted for. We have to show the accreditors evidence for such things as “Conceptual Framework,” Candidate Knowledge,” Diversity,” “Qualifications of Faculty,” etc.

 

Our College of Education conceptual framework had been formalized as such:

 

ConceptualFramework

 

I know that it is probably difficult to see (or read), but that is not what is important here. Let me continue: A number of years ago, when we developed our conceptual framework, it was expected that a conceptual framework such as this was vital to successfully achieving accreditation–VITAL.

VITAL VITAL VITAL VITAL

One’s conceptual framework is the foundation upon which one bases his/her actions. This is important. Right? During the accreditation review, faculty were expected to be able to talk about the framework. Students were expected to be familiar with the framework. We put posters of the framework on our college walls. We included them on our syllabi.

 

So what is the point Dana?

 

What I find interesting, and the piece that connects to Foucault’s writing, is a conversation I had a short time ago. I was informed that after 2015, NCATE examiners would no longer concern themselves with conceptual frameworks. What? How can something so educationally vital one year be completely disregarded the next? (Of course this is just one example. You will have many of your own that you will be able to pick out of your teaching or personal lives.) Next year the categories will ensure we dance a different dance. It is always worth asking who is playing the music at the time. (“Hey, Did you hear that Pearson Publishing is playing tonight!”).

 

Here are some of the connections to our work that I make from this (and you will see that this is also one of the main points that Smith is making in his Book of Learning and Forgetting). The categories that we adopt tell us what is important, how to look at things, how to interpret our work, how to think, how to plan, etc. etc. I should highlight that:

 

The categories that we adopt tell us what is important, how to look at things, how to interpret our work, how to think, how to plan, etc. etc.

 

At one time in some far away land, it could have very well made sense to categorize animals into a category of ‘belonging to the emperor.’ Especially if the emperor is in power. And at one point, for NCATE, it might have made good sense to think that the adherence to conceptual frameworks was imperative.

(Now I am not coming right out and saying it, but you might be thinking about all the categories that we have in place in our own public schooling institutions).

(And I am not saying this yet, but I bet Gatto and Smith believe that there are other categories that would be more significant for educating than the ones currently adopted by schools).

 

Back to NCATE: So, why the change? What is missing? Values? A clear understanding of what eduction means and how to achieve it? On another point, why is it that, seemingly out of nowhere, all of a sudden it was imperative that technology be incorporated into every classroom and every teacher requiring competency to use it? Why do accrediting agencies, at the moment, expect alignment, critical thinking, and a sensitivity to learning styles, and not a sensitivity to feminist issues, oppression, corporeality, empowerment, and how happy students feel? When will the standards start talking about homelessness or the environment? Oh, I forgot, homeless people don’t have powerful lobby groups speaking on their behalf.

 

I am not trying to be critical of the choices, but as educational philosophers, and askers of questions, we should at least give some thought as to how categories might frame our current practice–especially if the categories are made up. In addition we might begin to consider how one might develop some clarity on the purpose of education so that the categories are developed from an educational standpoint rather than a political (or as Smith might add, a psychological and historical) standpoint.

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Response Question

What does all of this mean to you? Is there anything in all of this that strikes you as particularly interesting? Does it change the way you view schooling? Does it affirm or re-affirm things you have been thinking about in the past? Does it change the way you think about the way our body figures into our educational actions?

I would love to hear what you think, or what you experience, or what you agree with, or what you challenge.

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I hope you enjoyed thinking about today’s ideas.

I will leave you with, what I think is a funny thing that a student told me one time: a number of years ago a graduate student of mine just finished reading Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By. She started paying attention to the language being used all around her. She told me the book was revelational for her–she finally understood why her husband was always wrong. He was using all the wrong metaphors!

 

Have a great day!