Welcome to our on-line ED 615 class, Critical Inquiry Into The Foundational Narratives of Schooling. I think you will really enjoy this course. I really want you to enjoy this class. Take your time, think, read, ponder, but most importantly, enjoy contemplating something that is obviously important to you–education.
I really enjoy this class. I love thinking about, or should I say I love being confronted by, the ideas we encounter. As you have probably read in the course catalog, we examine the foundations of education by examining the narratives that give meaning to our schooling practices. We frame our own teaching and learning experiences by examining the context that gives meaning to our schooling and pedagogical practices. So we must be clear, this is not a class to introduce you to what teachers do (as many of the foundations textbook authors have resorted to doing). Rather, this is a class that looks deeply into those aspects that allow particular practices to come into being. And perhaps we will find new ways, new stories, to consider what teachers and the institution of schooling should be doing.
For example, in our teaching practice we assess students. When we ask why we assess students, our initial response seems to point toward the obvious. The obvious is simply a restating of what we do because we do it–because it makes sense. We assess so that we know that students learn. We assess so that we know what we might have to re-teach. Perhaps assessments are used to rank students. Seems obvious. But then when we step outside of that which seems blatantly obvious and ask again, “yes, but why do we assess? Where does this whole idea come from? What is it that makes it seem that we should assess students?” Now we are delving into the narratives that give meaning and direction to what we do. Now we are searching into the foundations–that which founds what we do. We are delving into the underlying basis or principle of assessment — not simply the technological and the procedural.
Why do we grade? Surely grading doesn’t have anything to do with shoes?
“Oh yes, don’t forget to email me if you found your way here to the shoe factory.”
To continue this questioning, we might ask, “why do we grade our students?” Once again we find ourselves giving grades to our students because that is what has been done in the past. It seems to make sense. Why would we even question such an activity. But then when we ask about the origin of grading and begin digging a little deeper, finding that a lazy professor from the 18th century created the practice of grading from the way shoe factories were grading the quality of shoes, we begin to get a sense of the strangeness of all of this. We begin to get a sense that a lot of what we do was just a made up practice by someone. Furthermore, we might begin to wonder why we follow a practice that really does have questionable beginnings. What is it that makes these ‘questionable activities’ a part of our school lives? Well, I suppose narratives have a lot to do with that. While we are on the topic, let’s take a brief trip to a conference and listen to Ben Zander, a teacher and conductor who has spend quite some time unraveling the narratives of grading.
Now, I am getting a bit off track here, but let me share with you a few short statements by Alfie Kohn. We can already hear two different narratives being examined.
I have to share one more here with you.
Okay, just one more:
If Kohn is right about the research, which he is — that there is plenty of research that shows the problem with grades, then there must be another story being told (another narrative) that is preventing an honest consideration of the research. That is not to say that some schools don’t challenge grading, but who has control of the narrative here?
So, to get back on track:
Rather than reading textbooks, memorizing what the authors have to say, we will act more like educational archaeologists, uncovering the human dimensions that contribute to schooling practices; in addition, we will attempt to uncover the schooling practices that contribute to our own humanness (or lack thereof). And, as you might tell by the title of the class, much of what we attempt to uncover resides in the stories, the language, the metaphors, the narratives of our existence.
I guess I like this approach because of my background in philosophy. And, because I believe we are all philosophers, I think you will like this too. I hope you will.
You will probably find this class a bit different from many other classes you have taken and other classes you will take in the program. It is not a class where I am expecting you to memorize a lot of material. In fact, I am not asking you to memorize anything. (I recognize that I use the term memorize rather broadly here. Philosophically I am foreshadowing a future discussion on substance ontology, but you do not need to concern yourself with that. ‘Memorize’ works fine for now).
I am not asking you to memorize anything. This is in part because this is a graduate-level class that has a philosophical / critical bent–thus the reason for the title of the course: Critical Inquiry Into The Foundational Narratives of Schooling. Another reason is that I hope to “practice what I preach” meaning that while many ‘schooling practices’ rely on models of memorization and testing, ‘education’ doesn’t. This is not to say that memorization and testing is unimportant. Memorizing (and testing in many contexts) is important. There are classes that require attention to information that is already ‘well defined’ and can easily be attained by the student (medical classes come to mind, or FAA requirements for pilots). But notice that I say “information that is already well defined.” The content with which we will be dealing is not yet well defined (and may never be). Much of it is made up, existing in stories and traditions. This is what makes the philosophical/critical analysis appropriate for the topics and ideas we are considering. In the beginning practice, medical students don’t need to philosophize about appropriate medical techniques, and general aviation pilots don’t have to know why class D airspace typically rises to 2500 feet. Practice can continue without certain foundational understanding. And, while there will be a time to philosophize and question ‘why’, this can come after learning the technical practices. The shift is from knowledge to understanding.
Knowledge and understanding. Hmmm.
As an MAT student, you are in a rather unique situation that other students don’t face:
1) you are working toward the attainment of a teaching license, so you need the “nuts and bolts” of teaching. You will need the knowledge to practice your craft. It will help you to know the ‘institutional’ narratives. You won’t keep your job in an Oregon public school if you don’t know how to assess students, create lesson plans, align your rubrics to your objectives, your goals, and the standards. You have to know those things and we have great teachers in our program to help you.
2) You are graduate students expected to develop material that has some influence on researching and potentially changing pedagogical practice. Thus, there is original and creative aspects to your work that undergraduate students are not expected to engage in. This is a burden placed on you that others don’t experience. It may feel a bit strange to be learning about the importance of assessment and grading, for example, and at the same time questioning the foundational value of such practice. But to be an innovative contributor to new knowledge (as is expected for graduate work) — to be a future leader in the school system — it will help you if you are able to not only understand some of the dominant narratives, but to consider alternatives to those narratives — especially if you want to do something very original.
You are wearing two hats so to speak: the licensure hat and the graduate hat. When focused on achieving your license you need to know what to do, and how to do it, so that you can perform well in the school system. You need to be trained. In the training environment we often find it easier if others to tell us what to do, who we are, and what we should think. Okay, maybe not who we are. Sometimes where we are.
Sally: “Hey Joe, you must be in the MAT program. I notice you are wearing two hats!”
As a graduate student wearing the graduate hat you are expected to develop graduate-level creative work. By the end of your program you will have developed a graduate project that attempts to create somewhat novel pedagogical practice. To do this you have to have an understanding of the context of schooling so that you can incorporate some pedagogical or curricular change to hopefully improve student learning or the classroom environment. This requires a different sort of insight than merely being trained. This requires understanding. And, understanding is different from training. Isn’t it? Perhaps we can consider that later.
So, what does all this have to do with this class? In this class we will be spending more time wearing the graduate hat than the licensure hat. I won’t be telling you directly how to teach, or how to function well in the public schools–you will have specific classes to help you do that. In this class we want to derive a deeper and more significant understanding of schooling and education. Perhaps a connoisseurship–a way of seeing and sensing the environment with a depth and appreciation — with an ability to discriminate between the subtleties we encounter. Perhaps we can develop an intimate understanding of what brings aspects of schooling into being. We will explore how narratives bring schooling into being.
Jack checking out the foundation (wearing his foundations hat).
Let’s not mistake critique for criticize
I do want to make a distinction that is sometimes missed. In this class we do act as critics. But there is a difference between one who critiques and one who criticizes. As a critic we attempt to understand narratives so that we can analyze and evaluate our school environments–not find faults in a disapproving way.
Some of the educational theorists we listen to sound very critical (as in criticizing), but we use their views as a way to consider alternatives to the system. Our purpose is not to simply adopt a captious or harsh position.
If we can understand schooling and educational narratives, we come out with a deeper understanding our the system.
I do know that we become empowered, and can empower others, when we develop an intimate understanding of what makes aspects of schooling meaningful. This is not to say that there are necessarily ‘right answers’ that others can just tell us. Significance is often different for each of us and is often unique to the environment. One of the mistakes many educational theorists make, and I am sure you have thought this yourself at one time or other, is that they presume methods are generalizable to all contexts.
“Here is the greatest teaching technique that all teachers should adopt! Let’s make every eighth grade teacher in the nation adopt this practice!!!”
You and I both know that a practice that works for the teacher down the hall may not work for you and your students. You are your own unique individual as are your students. Why would we presume that a practice that works for one researcher’s small subset of the population would work for everyone? Perhaps there is a schooling narrative that has us presume this.
Your Graduate Exit Requirement
You will, by the end of your MAT program, have developed innovative work. As I said earlier, this class begins to help you prepare the foundation for that work. After becoming intimately familiar with the context of schooling that leads to meaning and significance, you will be in a better position to interpret your particular classroom context thus leading to new pedagogical practice. Your development of this new pedagogical practice is the basis for your final graduate exit requirement.
This course is more about thinking, understanding, and changing the way we think about things (and understand things), than a course about memorizing specific material. Why do I say “changing the way we think about things?” That is because your final exit requirement will be your own innovative change to school practice. And your own personal understandings will result in your unique transformation.
Who Am I Anyway?
Now for those of you interested, let me briefly tell you about myself so that you know who is at this end. My name is Dana. My first name is Randall but I go by Dana. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Alberta, majoring in philosophy and English. Taught elementary and junior high for five years. Did my graduate work at the University of Oregon and Doctoral work at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. My research was in, and continues to be in, the philosophy of education, language, technology and media.
My initial interest in technology and media developed while using music technologies (MIDI synthesizers and sequencers) personally and in the classroom. When I was in high school I turned my parent’s basement into a recording studio. It began as a fairly modest endeavor (this was before the advent of digital recording equipment). I had an 8 track reel-to-reel tape recorder, sound board, mics, etc.. At the time, all of this seemed pretty exciting. Of course, it was difficult to replicate what major studios were doing because they had the money to bring in any type of musician to play any type of instrument. Plus, the major studios had some pretty impressive sounding synthesizers and sound samplers (all in about the $50,000 range, which in today’s money would be closer to $100,000). Anything I could afford was pretty limited in comparison. But, as you know, computer-based equipment started to take off. Synthesizers started to become affordable. The personal computer was marketed as something affordable. And, before long, it was easy to be sitting with a 64 track digital recording outfit. Anyway, enough reminiscing. Suffice it to say that I became interested in computer technologies through music.
I taught for a number of years in the public school system, and maintained my technology interest as a teacher. I was the computer coordinator of the school, and I developed one of the first electronic music labs for student composition and performance in the province of Alberta.
After teaching for five years, and completing a Masters in Computers in Education at the University of Oregon, I began my Doctoral research at Simon Fraser University. My area of study focused on the ontology of technology and the human-educational implications that emerge through phenomenological analysis and existential examination. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? What that means is that I like to come to understand how people really experience the world and how schooling and education plays into that.
Eventually I moved to Alabama where I taught at Auburn University at Montgomery for three years. Finally I moved to Oregon and have been teaching here for twenty years.
As for my hobbies: I am a pilot, a downhill skier, a scuba diver and a musician. I am trying to learn Chinese and continue to try to learn Spanish.
More importantly, I am a husband to my high school sweetheart, and a father of two girls who are students in university.
That’s enough—maybe even more than enough. Not enough of being here–enough talk about me.
Now, let me talk more about this class. I think this is so interesting — the class, I mean. I hope you will too.
Philosophy? AKA: what does philosophy have to do with the work we do?
Philosophy means “the love of wisdom.” To be wise is to follow the right path or the right way.
One comes to know the right way by coming to distinguish one way from another–by knowing alternatives–by knowing and having more than one choice. Philosophy is not learning what other philosophers have said in the past. That is history. And this is not a history class. You might think of our class as a wondering class. Notice that wisdom has to do with following the right path. Keep in mind, this class is the foundation of your future innovative project work. Your future project work will be an attempt to try a new pedagogical path–to suggest to others that you have found a better way of doing things–a better course of action. This gets us to the idea of action. Wisdom is more than knowing information. Wisdom has more to do with understanding and action.
I think that this idea of wisdom is important. Especially when we think of schooling and education. So many people have associated foundations-type classes (such as this) with a restatement of what we currently do in schools. But these school acts are often superficial. Your friend can tell you about something they are doing, but you well know that to understand what they are doing at a deeper level requires probing, questioning, getting below the surface. We weave our way into their experiences through language. The meaning is largely dependent on the background context, not the event itself. Philosophy is important to us because it helps us probe the context. It has much to do with wonder.
“Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”
Plato said these words over 2000 years ago. This is where we start–not so much with Plato, but with wonder. So perhaps I should ask the question then, since it is philosophy into which we are to presumably embark our foundational musings, what does it mean to wonder? And, why is wondering important?
According to Plato, wonder is the beginning of philosophy. And, as for our foundational understanding, knowing that Plato said this is important. But we are questioning about schooling and education. What do we call this questioning? Philosophy. What is required to philosophize? Wonder.
However, we are not trying to come to know the history of philosophy any more that we are trying to know the common historical events that preceded our current schooling practices. But we are trying to ‘wonder into’ the context that gives schooling meaning.
Let me share something with you that Verhoeven wrote in his book “The Philosophy of Wonder.” I think this speaks so well to the idea of wonder, its relationship to philosophy, and its relationship to what we are attempting to do in this class.
If philosophy proceeds from wonder, then it proceeds from it completely and in every one of its manifestations. Every philosophical term that has not become mere ashes conveys the pathos of wonder. Every philosophical step forward must be a step backward in the direction of this pathos; every path toward established knowledge must be approached in its light. If the wonder is the beginning and principal of philosophy, then wonder will keep its grasp.
I say if because I now proceed as if this is in fact so. For there is another viewpoint that would describe philosophy as a continual victory over and escape from the pathos of wonder. Wonder is not a ‘principal’ that, once accepted, can be logically developed. If philosophy begins in wonder it remains as a form of desire, obstinately close to all that this desire arouses. It can be satisfied only by its own hunger. It lives not by possession and conquest but through its own boundless perspectives which it ceaselessly expands.
To introduce someone to philosophy is not to show him a stretch of the road and then to indicate expansively how that road continues. It means halting where this exploratory path begins and where all others begin; it means practicing philosophy at the place where philosophy begins and ends. The whole history of philosophy lies in a broad circle about the loose space of wonder, even when this wonder is regarded only as a starting point. What cannot be approached from there is not philosophy, however important it may be. . . . Whatever does not deal with everything, taking wonder as its starting point, deals with nothing from the philosophical point of view. . . . [P]hilosophy is a radicalization of wonder in all directions. . . .
An introduction to philosophy is an introduction to the wonder that makes philosophy move. Without this movement, philosophy is merely an institution with which we become acquainted from the outside as curious tourists or, taking the inside view, as mere office clerks. An introduction to philosophy is not the transmission of knowledge that will make a man a philosopher, for philosophy is not the fruit of the possession of any particular knowledge. It is not founded on knowledge nor has it knowledge as its goal. Rather it is an obstinate ignorance, as in Socrates the art of avoiding institutionalized and certain knowledge. Knowledge leads to science, not to philosophy. . . . There is a knowledge of philosophy that is not philosophy, and knowledge of the many statements made by the many philosophers in the course of the centuries. This knowledge in itself is not philosophy although it can be the gateway to it. One can be moved to philosophy by making a thorough study of these statements. Yet even this is a form of motion, a pathos, a leap from knowledge into unknowing, the endless deferment of certitude. . . . [T]he knowledge of philosophy does not make a man a philosopher, any more than knowledge of poetry makes a man a poet. ( pp. 9-14 Verhoeven, “The Philosophy of Wonder”)
Here, Verhoeven gives us an excellent sense of the nature of philosophy. Philosophy is about wondering. And if we don’t open ourselves up to wonder, then we are not acting as philosophers.
Herein lies so much of what I would hope for each of you. If you can reach the point where you really wonder about schooling and education I think you will be on the right path to becoming an educator. You can be trained to be a technician. You can be trained to be a teacher. But to be an educator requires wonder, reflection, and understanding. And you know the difference. You have felt the difference. We all have. We have all taken classes where we simply do the work to get it done. We are not really vested in it. It doesn’t transform us. It is simply one more jump through the hoops. None of us should want this, for ourselves or our students.
So, even though this course is a course that examines educational foundations, it is also a philosophy course in the extent that we wonder. You are an educational philosopher to the extent that you are able to open yourself up to wonder about things. Technical/method courses tell you what to do. In our undergraduate courses we want to know ‘what to do.’ This course, though, asks you to wonder about what you are doing. That may sound easy, but as every philosopher knows, opening oneself up to other ideas and allowing one’s self to be challenged can be very uncomfortable.
Let me reiterate this: opening oneself up to other ideas and allowing one’s self to be challenged can be very uncomfortable. When we take a class and we are given a recipe or a series of steps to follow to achieve the results that others suggest are important does not lead to the same disquieting feelings as changing the way we perceive things. Being told what to do is often more comfortable, and requires less thinking, than wondering what we are doing.
“Just tell me what I am suppose to know,” you have heard students say.
Of course, we might hear our students saying, “I wonder what we are doing?” That form of confusion isn’t quite what we are after here.
Let me make another point about what Verhoeven says regarding the history of philosophy but I will use the example of a poet. Many of us are more familiar with poetry. It is easy for us to understand that a poet’s role requires something that goes beyond knowing other people’s poetry. We might just as well say that about the artist, or the one who composes music. We could also say something similar about the difference between knowing what scientists have accomplished and the dispositions required to do science. I suppose we could even consider a sporting example. I might, for example, be able to tell you all sorts of facts about ski jumping (the distances, the equipment, the names and birth dates of the ski jumpers, etc.) but if I had never strapped on a pair of skies, sliding (in my case uncontrollably) down a 150 foot ramp and launching myself into the air, I couldn’t claim to be doing ski jumping.
I think this begs a similar question regarding teaching. Surely knowing lots of facts about teaching doesn’t make a teacher.
This class is an opportunity for us to do philosophy of education against an educational, social, and cultural background. However, as philosophers of education, we have to develop the appropriate dispositions, not just knowledge of schooling and education. We are ‘wondering’ about education. And, Verhoeven makes it quite clear that our job, or responsibility, as philosophers of education, is to enter into a state of wonder. We must become questioners, with an openness to possibilities. It is to put into question all that we believe to be true. It is to put into question our taken-for-granted understandings. It is to bracket out our prejudices. For to do otherwise would place us in the realm of general education–to act, as Verhoeven says, as ‘curious tourists’ or ‘mere office clerks’. You can’t come up with an innovative graduate project if you don’t wonder “what could be better.”
We do not want to merely learn what other educational theorists have said and then frame our own teaching in terms of those sentiments. “[T]he knowledge of philosophy does not make a man a philosopher, any more than knowledge of poetry makes a man a poet.” pp. 9-14 Verhoeven, “The Philosophy of Wonder.” We might add, the knowledge of teaching does not make a person an educator. Or does it?
Does the knowledge of teaching make a person an educator?
Let us give this a little more consideration. One might ask, what is it that a poet does that differs from someone who merely knows a lot about poetry? What does a composer do that differs from someone who merely knows a great deal about music? What does an artist do that differs from someone who merely knows a great deal about art? What does an educator do that differs from someone who merely knows a great deal about teaching? Any one of the people involved in knowing could easily manipulate bits and pieces (the technology so to speak) of the medium in which they are involved, but that doesn’t necessarily make them much of a creator (or artist). Or does it?
Perhaps a strong background understanding allows for a different intentionality. Perhaps this, in part, separates the expert from the technician, the educator from the schooler.
Once again, you are in a unique position in your program because you are not only working toward understanding the techniques, methods, and the nuts and bolts of teaching. But I am asking you to suspend much of what you are being taught so that you can question that which goes on in schools. I know it is not easy, but it should be enjoyable. You will have to let go of the idea that there are a lot of right answers in what we do.
Encouraging Acts of Wonder
My job as the instructor of this course is not as conveyer or purveyor of information, but rather, to encourage acts of wonder that will further lead to transformation. I kind of like that: Encourage Acts of Wonder. “Jim, did you hear the news? He has taken it upon himself to encourage acts of wonder.” It sounds almost spiritual doesn’t it. Anyway, if wonder resides at the forefront of what we do, then a thorough questioning and deconstruction of what currently exists in our day-to-day educational discourse must be priority. Hmmm. After that statement I kind of like “encourage acts of wonder.”
We want lots of this:
Very little of this:
and none of this:
So, let me restate this. To understand that which gives schooling meaning requires an understanding of the context (or background) of schooling. To achieve this understanding we philosophize–we wonder. A ready context to probe can be found in the narratives that give substance to our schooling and educational acts. Philosophy has much to do with the act of wonder in the pursuit of wisdom. Wisdom, or being wise, is an aspect of understanding whereby we come to recognize the course of right action. I could have easily changed the word philosophy to teaching, or philosopher to teacher. We are, when not caught up in mindless technique and technicalities, wondering and pursuing wisdom. This is important for us for it speaks to our values. Our values will ultimately show up in our graduate projects (our own pedagogical/curricular work).
In our wondering, we are, in a sense, trying to clarify our values. Without clarity, we experience uncertainty and, worse, confusion. According to Louis Raths, before something can be a full value it must meet seven criteria.
A value must be:
1. chosen freely. To be a value, it is not something that can be forced on you.
2. chosen from among alternatives. It is only by recognizing alternative positions that you are able to make a choice.
3. chosen after due reflection. A broad range of choices requires thought and reflection.
4. prized and cherished. One must believe that what they value is of great importance.
5. publicly affirmed.
6 acted upon. I can not say, “Yes, I truly value reading, but I don’t read.” Or, “I truly value the time I spend with my family, I just don’t seem to be able to find the time.”
7. part of a pattern that is a repeated action.
According to Raths: People with few values tend to be apathetic, conforming, inconsistent, and what psychologists call ambivalent (the simultaneous existence of conflicting emotions, such as love and hate). The less we understand about what we do, and the values we hold, the more confused our lives are. The more we understand about what we do, and the values we hold, the more we are able to make satisfactory choices and take appropriate actions.
Where can we spot values? Often we will witness them residing within narratives. So place this idea in Raths’ value statements. If a narrative is forced upon you, it cannot really be your value. If you are unaware of alternative narratives, you are not in a position to chose from alternative values. Single narratives don’t offer a broad range of value choices. One must recognize the narratives, believe the narratives offer value, and publicly affirm chosen narratives.
Here we can begin to leverage our expertise as critics to not only become aware of alternative narratives but to begin to develop new ones.
How important is this for us as educators? I would say that it is very important. Talk to any confident teacher and you will soon recognize that they are clear on their values. They exude commitment and confidence in what they do. Their actions have been well thought out. They practice what they preach. If I believe movement is important for children, I ensure they have opportunities to move. What is going on when school children are told how important movement and exercise is and then told they will not be having recess, and that they must sit quietly in their desks? What is going on when their is an outcry for a better understanding of the environment and science is eliminated from the school day so that language and math scores can be improved. There seem to be a lot of strange contradictions when values are not cherished and acted upon.
You will see evidence of ill-defined values when people say one thing and then do another. They seem to vacillate and be inconsistent in their actions. How many of you have taken a class where you are told you should teach one way but the class does not seem to reflect the same values. Is it easier for us to practice what we preach when we are clear on our values and we truly value those values we value? How many of you have been told to do something in your job because it is “a great opportunity” when clearly that which is asked of you doesn’t seem to resonate with your own values.
Philosophers spend a great deal of time on values. Philosophers wonder about life, and what is of value. In philosophic fashion we wonder about life and what is of value to us. Let me say that in another way: As teachers, when given the chance, we wonder if what we are doing is right and in the best interest of our students and ourselves. In some cases, our values may have lacked the type of commitment that would have our value become “a pattern that is a repeated action.” At this point what we might be describing are goals or purposes; (in these cases we speak more to aspirations, interests, feelings, beliefs, activities and attitudes). So we have to ask a lot of questions. Let me rephrase these last two sentences: At times we teach in a way that does not entirely reflect our true beliefs and values. We do one thing because of our job requirement even though we don’t believe that that practice is best for our students.
Wisdom means transformation into the right course of action. We are ultimately looking to transform ourselves and others. So we must be very clear. A philosophical approach is not about accumulating information—it is about understanding and transformation.
So in our course title we have the phrase Critical Inquiry. What does that mean?
A quick search online brings this up:
Critical inquiry is the process of gathering and evaluating information, ideas, and assumptions from multiple perspectives to produce well-reasoned analysis and understanding, and leading to new ideas, applications and questions.
That sounds simple enough.
Gathering and evaluating information, ideas, and assumptions from multiple perspectives into the foundational narratives.
So, that is what we will try to do. We will make an effort, seek, strive, undertake, aim, sample, check out, do our utmost, bust a gut, do our damnedest, pull out all the stops, go for broke, knock ourselves out . . . . Okay, thesaurus away. Let’s leave it at that.
I would like to wrap this lecture up with a couple of talks on narrative. I think this is a good place to start. Not only will our consideration of narrative encourage us to think about the institutional narratives, but also personal narratives.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I would like to introduce you now to two very different individuals who will speak to the idea of narratives. The first is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She speaks to the idea of narrative. I think we can take what she says and begin to understand the effect of narratives in a slightly richer way. The lesson I learn from this is that there is danger in adopting a single narrative. And I don’t know about you, but I have the feeling that we are often given a single narrative regarding schooling.
The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Narratives are powerful. Then can be dangerous. They can also be liberating. But as we discussed along with values, we have to be exposed to more than one if we are to develop an more authentic, relevant narrative.
Finally, if we have a sense of how narratives might affect us — positively or negatively — it might be interesting to consider whether or not we can alter our narratives so that we can change the narratives that impact us. And, furthermore, as a teacher, can I help my students develop their identities in positive ways by helping create more positive narratives?
This second talk focuses a bit more on identity. The consideration of identity reveals important narratives in our schooling practices. Smith, the author of our textbook will speak often to the idea of identity.
Creating Your Identity Through the Method Acting Approach | Greg Bryk | TEDxQueensU
To Summarize Up To This Point
To quickly summarize:
1) We have a sense that this class will encourage us to question and hopefully develop a greater sensitivity to the schooling/educational environment.
2) We will listen to the voices of other researchers, critics and theorists, not for the purpose of memorizing what they have to say, but rather in an attempt to see aspects of our environment that might be obscured from our view.
3) An uncovering of, and a delving into, the narratives of education and schooling might help us see ‘into’ the hidden realms of schooling as well as help us develop our own future graduate projects and make us wise teachers in the future.
4) The work we do is for ourselves. We have the freedom to interpret the meaning of others’ ideas, as well as our own ideas, without the fear of having to state what we think the professor wants to hear and without trying to be compliant just to receive a good grade.
Response Questions For Lecture One
1) Would you please tell me a bit about yourself? I am interested in who you are and who you want to become. Perhaps you might tell me your narrative? Do you have a way of thinking about yourself as a student? As an adult? As a parent? As a child? Thanks.
2) What were the schooling narratives that told you who you were or who you could be? Were there particular narratives that spoke to your abilities, or your shortcomings, or your potential and possibility?
3) I am curious what you think about the way Ben Zander distinguishes between two different narratives?
4) Does Alfie Kohn seem passionate or what?
A word about the text
I think you will really enjoy the text. Frank Smith does a wonderful job of helping us distinguish two very different narratives about schooling.
Given that it may take a few days for you to get your book, I have scanned the first part here:
Click Part 1 for the scan.
At least this will give you a chance to look at the first part of the book and do a little reading. I am not assigning any particular pages. It is a short book. Go ahead are read at your leisure. I will talk about the book throughout the lectures.
That is all for today. I think we have made a good start by getting some sense of how we might begin to delve into some of the narratives that are foundational for our schooling practices.
Oh, one more thing. I would like to leave your with a lovely little song that you should play if you ever get stressed out–or, if you feel tired of class and you feel like getting out into the great outdoors. I don’t think learning should be stressful, should it? If it does feel stressful, surely we can change the narrative.
Until next time.