ED 200 Week One Part 1 (Fall 2022)

Welcome To our ED 200 Foundations of Education Class!

 

Let me introduce myself.

 

Transcript

Hey all, welcome to our Foundations of education class. Before we get started, I should briefly tell you about myself so that you know who is at this end.

My name is Dana Ulveland. My first name is Randall but I go by Dana. If you are wondering how to address me in your emails, you could refer to me as Dr. Ulveland, or professor Ulveland, or Dr. Dana, or Dana. That’s all fine.

I grew up in small rural town in central Alberta. Most of my recollections of childhood revolve around playing outside in the fields and forests, or down by the blindman river. I have lots of great school memories, and, many not so great memories. The good memories usually have to do with playing music in a variety of bands. Most of the not so good memories were in middle and high school. Though in high school, I did meet my wife, whom I am married to. That was a good memory.

Let’s see, as for jobs, before I started university I was a heavy equipment operator on a road crew, worked on the rigs in the oil patch in Northern Alberta, worked in a gas plant, did some carpentry work along the way. I guess it was working in 30 below weather on the rigs that I thought university might be a better sort of life. So, you are working on your degree here at WOU. This is a great university. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Alberta, majoring in philosophy and English. Then after studying French in Paris for a semester, I returned to the same university to get my degree in education. I taught elementary and junior high for five years. I did my graduate work at the University of Oregon, you know where that is of course, and I completed my Doctoral work at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Some of my students in the past competed in sporting events at SFU, so you might know where that is.

As for my research, 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 as a musician, and then 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, effects, etc.. At the time, all of this seemed very exciting. Of course, as is often the case, like any other musician, I wanted to be able to replicate what the big recording studios were doing. And 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.

While teaching in the public school system 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 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 at WOU for twenty two years.

As for my hobbies: I am a pilot, a downhill skier, a scuba diver and a musician or sorts. I am always trying to learn new things, and right now 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 also in university. So, now that you know I have two children, probably about your age, you will know that when I start giving you fatherly advice, like getting enough sleep or eating well, or trying to do your best in university, or not getting too stressed about anything, or being kind to others, you will know that the father-side of me that comes from caring for my own children is coming out and being directed at you. Well, I also care about your well being and success. I am glad you are here. Welcome to the course.  

 

 

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Let’s talk a bit about the Syllabus

As you can see after reading the syllabus you will be creating your own textbook, an art book. Why would one do that, you might ask? Certainly that can’t be efficient. We are not children. Why an art book/textbook?

There are four points I need to make regarding this book. First, the book is one that you create and directly involves you. That is important. Second, creating your own book and then sharing your work with others is a way to visualize, articulate and discuss important relationships that you reveal through phenomenological analysis. We will find that the articulation of relationships is imperative in the development of understanding. Third, the creation of this book will help you come to understand an important difference between knowledge and understanding and how our schooling algorithms have privileged knowledge and obscured understanding. This has been a long held contention by many educational theorists and philosophers but yet seems to remain vague. Again, we will discuss these ideas in depth. Finally, you will likely develop neuronal assemblies related to your artistic depiction that you wouldn’t develop otherwise. This will lead to longer lasting memory.

So while I would expect that your book will be representative of your hard work and good taste, the book will also demonstrate your ability to consider the phenomenological variations that we can derive about schooling from our semiological/phenomenological analysis. I will speak much more to what I mean by phenomenological variation soon.

 

What might your depiction of images tell us about your understanding?

Imagine that you are asked to describe this picture:

 

Or how about this picture?

In either case, you are not simply stating knowledge. You are describing an event. Your depiction says something about your understanding.

 

Here are two more pictures. Can you say more about one than the other?

 

 

Second language teachers often use images to determine students depth of language understanding

If you have taken a second language learning class you might have been asked to talk about pictures to demonstrate your understanding. There is a clear recognition that language and background understanding is necessary to talk sensibly about a situation presented.

The more experiences you have had with these events, the more you will be able to say. You will be able to say why the people are dressed up the way they are, how they feel, what their intentions are, why they are either sitting at a table in a group, walking in a parade, holding a curling brush, swinging a bat. You will be able to speak to the different relationships between the people, the history, You will be able to speak to ‘the why.’

 

We will deepen our contextual understanding in this class

Throughout the course, I will provide you will aspects and examples that help reveal important school structures as well as myths (or modes of signification) as we consider our own school experiences. The work we do is original and creative. You will reveal structures that may be unique to your experience and that could well contribute to our broader understanding of schooling and education. In other words, you are not simply repeating what some theorist or researcher has said in the past. And, you will not be creating art images that are simply ‘photographic snapshots’ of what one might see. You will be making and describing connections. You will be revealing the same sorts of aspects that theorists and researchers struggle to reveal in their own work. You will take on the role of educational philosopher. Our particular brand of philosophy, as I mentioned earlier, will be variational phenomenology.

So, just to re-emphasize, your art book isn’t simply a means to restate what I, or others, have said in class. It is a way for you to reveal relationships and discuss those relationships with me and others.

 

Waldorf Example

The creation of one’s own textbook is something that is regularly practiced in Waldorf schooling and yet is seldom incorporated in regular public schools. Having had a chance to develop something similar will be of value in your future teaching and may even be of value to you now as you begin university. It is something that you might incorporate in your own study and reflection, and it might be something that you have your students do when you are a teacher. After this course, you will have a better idea if you believe in the value student created personal textbooks.

 

Let me show you an example of Waldorf schooling textbooks.

 

The Art Book Project (Planning Fifth Grade Freehand Geometry

 

 

Discover Waldorf Education: The High School

 

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Let Us Begin Our Journey

Today I would like to begin our journey into understanding schooling and education. There isn’t one particular place that we would have to start. Explorations such as this are a bit like digging around an archeological dig site, scraping the topsoil to see if we can find any clues as to what might lay beneath the top soil.

 

(Professor Ulveland’s ED 200 Class searching for the foundations of education.)

 

Hopefully we have good success in our search.

 

Where to start? Where to start? Perhaps a good place to start is with a story. Stories always reveal something to us. After sharing a story with you, we will poke around at what EDUCATION might mean. Given that this is a Foundations of Education class, we should try to be clear on what education means.

The second part of our journey will be into the question of narratives. Understanding narratives will prove to be very important to us. We will gain some insight into the stories that make up many of our beliefs about schooling, teaching, students, learning, and everything else that is involved in education.

So, by the end of our first class, we should be getting a pretty good sense of what education means, and the importance of narratives. If we can accomplish that today, we will have made a great first step into understanding the foundations of education.

Let me start with a story:

 

Transcript

A number of years ago, when my oldest daughter was in second grade, I asked her what she learned one particular day in Social Studies. She did not have her regular homeroom teacher, so I was curious. She informed me that she learned about the three branches of government.

Hmmm, the three branches of government I thought. Now this did not surprise me–though I did feel somewhat disappointed. I was disappointed because I had a sense that having her learn about the three branches of government wasn’t for her benefit. But, like any curious parent, I could figure that out in a hurry. Why was I not surprised? Well,  to my dismay, I had observed my own student teachers told to teach first grade children about the three branches of government. Why you might wonder why a teacher might be told to teach the three branches of government to first grade students? They were expected to teach this content because these  students would be tested in third grade about the three branches of government. To ace the test in third grade, why not begin the preparation in first grade. “Here is our worksheet,” my daughter said as she pulled the work sheet out of her backpack. Sure enough: lovely dictionary-type definitions of the three branches of government in her own third-grade printing.

“What are the branches?” I asked. Without hesitation she started spouting off the three branches, matching word-for-word the definitions she had printed on the worksheet.

“The legislative branch has the authority to make laws for the nation . .. . the judicial branch is empowered with judicial powers . . . . etc.” I knew my daughter well enough to know that she didn’t understand the what she was saying. She didn’t understand the vocabulary she was using. But I asked her what these terms meant anyway. As suspected, she didn’t understand what the words legislative, judicial, etc. meant.

“What does legislative mean?” I asked. A shrug. “What does government mean?” I asked. “What is a government?” Not much more than a blank stare. “What do branches mean?” I continued.

“You know Dad, like branches on a tree.”

“Do you mean groups of people when you talk about an assembly? Is that what you mean by branches?” I probed.

“No,” she responded. “You know what a branch is Dad!”

Then I had to ask, “And what will you be doing with this? Why is this important for you to know?”

“Well,” she responded, “the test is on Wednesday. So we have to know it by then.”

My daughter was one of the lucky ones. She memorized things easily. She did well on Wednesday’s test as she seemed to do on most tests. I should mention, though, two months later, she didn’t recall the branches of government. Did she recall any of those lessons you might wonder? Interestingly, in a sad sort of way, what she did recall was that tests were on Wednesday. We are aware that this happens. Teachers, professors, students, will tell you that material is memorized for a test, only to be quickly forgotten. We talk about the theory of learning, but seldom talk about the theory of forgetting. . And, of course, there are many examples. Some not so obvious. The piano student who is technically proficient, but would be incapable of telling you much about the music. The math student who will do very well on timed math drills but would be incapable of explaining how one would go about representing groups of objects using a different number base, or explaining what is going on when one fraction is multiplied by another, or the value of ratios. Why do we do this? Worse, why do we do this when we know it may not be the best model to follow? Anyway, what might we ask ourselves when considering the three branches of government story? Was the child being educated? Was the child being schooled? What’s going on here?

 

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Foundations

One would think that understanding is important. I am sure we got that sense when we considered the child who could state the three branches of government but didn’t understand what they meant. Perhaps the Foundations of Education have something to do with understanding.

 

This is Doug, trying to uncover the foundations.

 

This is Professor Dana, trying to uncover the foundations.

Transcript

Our course is called the Foundations of Education.

The first question we should be asking ourselves before taking this or any other class is why would we take this class? Why would we bother taking a Foundations of Education class? I think that is an important question. Presumably, as with any class, the classes you take will help you not only know something, but to do something now and in the future. But what? But what, what does one do with a Foundations of Education class?

Well, if you are planning to enter a teacher preparation program, this course will provide you with an introductory understanding of education and schooling that will, in turn, help you better understand what you are learning when preparing to be a teacher. The more background knowledge you have, prior to encountering any new content, as you will when you take other Education classes, the faster you will learn new material, the easier it will be to understand new material, and you will remember more of that new material you are learning. Of course, that is important. So, by taking this class, you are preparing yourself for future study and future teaching.

But there is something else that is important for you, that I hope you will start to make use of immediately. What is that? You will learn about education, and you will begin to think about what it takes to educate yourself. How does that work? Well, if we can gain some insight into the problems and methods of schooling, we will start to change our own learning practices. We might start to change the way we think about our own education. For many of us, that’s huge. Focussing on educating yourself can be life changing. Seriously.

I typically see three different groups of students. I see students finishing up an undergraduate degree proud of the fact that they were able to get through without reading a single book. Proud of the fact that they got their degree putting in minimal effort. They walk in to class on their first day of university, go through the motions, and leave after four years having cheated themselves out of an education. And, on the other hand, I know students who take it upon themselves to learn as much as they can, read as much as they can, interact with students and professors, ask questions, wonder, and in the end of their four years, they are proud to leave with the understanding worthy of the time and effort they devoted to their education. There is a third group though, and this is perhaps the most common group of students I see. They have good intentions of getting a good university education, and yet, because they were so used to pedagogical methods that don’t help students take control of their own education, they end up, rather mindlessly, going through the motions, reading the chapter, cramming for the test, gaining at best superficial understandings and rote knowledge, and ultimately being cheated out of a great education.

While I do want you to learn about the foundations of education so that you will be better prepared to enter the teacher education program, More importantly I want you, from this point forward, to begin the transition from passively being schooled to taking control of your own education. If you can do that, you will be well on your way to being a thoughtful competent teacher and a well educated individual.  I am inviting you to join me in an exploration of schooling and education, so that you will know some of the things good teachers know, and so that you will, from this point forward, develop yourself as an educated individual.

 

I think it would be fair to say that if we are not getting the education we need in school, we should take it upon ourselves to educate ourselves. If we don’t, we may be left out of future opportunities.

 

Sometimes it is wise to ensure that we are educating ourselves.

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Transcript

Where should we start in our endeavor of becoming well educated and fine future teachers?

Perhaps we should begin by getting a sense of what education means. If you intend on taking control of your own education, it might be a good idea to know what education means. This might sound obvious, but interestingly, something as fundamental as education remains loosely, or ill defined.

Try this when you get a chance: ask several different teachers, parents, university professors, and friends, what ‘education’ means. You are bound to get a number of different responses.

Shall we see if a dictionary definition might help define education. Let’s consult the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

According to the dictionary, education means

1: the action or process of educating or of being educated (Well, I don’t think that helps much. Seems a bit circular doesn’t it. If we are looking up the term education, why are they using the terms educating and educated in the definition. )

2: education means the (Okay, knowledge and development from a process. That helps a bit more. At least we are talking about knowledge and development, though I am not too sure what exactly those terms mean either.

3: education means the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools (Okay, that’s our field of study. The suggestion here is that we deal mainly with methods of teaching and learning that take place in schools.

That helps a bit. Let’s see if we can narrow things down further with the definition of educate.)

1:  educate means to school or educate children at home (Okay, so one might educate in school or at home. I think we would agree with that).

2:  educate means to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession.

3: educate means to to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction.

And 4: educate means to to provide with information : to INFORM

Those are all reasonable, and they tell us a bit more than we might have started with. We get the sense that education can happen in school with instruction, by having a person develop mentally in some way by methods and procedures that provide information. But what about the second grade child who was provided schooling instruction, developed mentally in some way by that instruction, and was clearly provided information. She, for example, memorized statements that defined the three branches of government, and yet didn’t understand in any meaningful way the three branches of government. Would we say that she was educated when ultimately she didn’t understand what she was saying? And, furthermore, after a short time she forgot what she had memorized? She was trained by formal instruction and supervised practice. Was she educated? No. Had she been schooled? Yes.

We haven’t looked at the definition of educated yet. Let’s look at that. Perhaps we will learn something we didn’t know. According to the dictionary, educated means: 1: having an education. (Now we are back into these circular definitions. Being educated is having an education, and having an education is being educated.) 2: educated is giving evidence of training or practice. And 3, educated is based on some knowledge of fact. Again, we are hearing definitions that point to all the things that can take place when a child is forced to memorize something. Training takes place, practice is incorporated, and facts are learned. But is that sufficient? Something is missing. But what?

Question Set Number One 

There seems to be a problem in the way the dictionary seems to be defining education. What is the problem or shortcoming?

 

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Let’s talk Schooling

 

Definition of schooling

1instruction in school EDUCATION
2training, guidance, or discipline derived from experience
3the cost of instruction and maintenance at school
4the training of a horse for service especially the teaching and exercising of horse and rider in the formal techniques of equitation

 

We know that someone can go to school and never really become educated. And we know that someone can be very educated never having gone to school. So it would seem that there is a distinction between education and schooling.

 

Perhaps we could begin by questioning the purpose of education. As soon as we start to think about the purpose of education it becomes evident that there might be more than one. Imagine any group of friends together talking about the purpose of education.

 

Sally: I think the purpose of education is to get a job!

John: No it’s not. The purpose of education is to make the world a better place!

Margaret: You are both way off–the purpose of education is so that students can learn about our culture.

Juanita: Who’s culture?

Sally: Good point.

 

Four purposes of Education ( of course there are more) But notice the word PURPOSE here. 

Let me share with you what Ryan, Cooper, and Tauer list as four purposes of education: Intellectual Purposes, Political and Civic Purposes, Economic Purposes, and Social Purposes.

Even knowing that education can be seen as having different purposes should begin to empower us when we converse with friends and colleagues. It helps us articulate our positions and form our arguments and understandings when we are clear on where our ideas are coming from, and where the ideas of friends and colleagues are coming from. Here is how Ryan, Cooper and Tauer define the purposes of schooling:

The intellectual purpose of school is to help develop students’ intellect through academic achievement. We hear the language of intellectual purpose in mission statements that call for academically rich learning environments, challenging curriculum, and the development of thinking skills. We also hear this language in the No Child Left Behind Act with the call for accountable academic performance.

We hear the discourse of political and civic purpose of schooling in the call for students to develop the skills and virtues needed to participate in a democracy. We see this played out when students are expected to address the needs of the less fortunate, take an active interest in governmental process, and learning about our democratic process.

The economic purpose of schooling is concerned with preparing students to enter the American work force and to be a contributing member of our economic well-being. It has been thought that to become a good worker requires certain skills, and that these skills should be addressed in school–such as respecting authority, being compliant, meeting deadlines, and being rewarded for quality work–basic workplace habits. Students are often differentiated or tracked so that they can fulfill different positions in the workforce.

We hear the social purposes of schools emphasized when we hear talk of having students learn to adapt to social conventions. With social purposes in mind, students learn acceptable ways to interact with others, how to act appropriately, and are expected to “fit into society.” We see evidence of this in extracurricular and classroom activities and emphases. Sports teams, clubs, appropriate language, etc. emphasize the social purpose of schooling.

 

I don’t know if you noticed this, but it seems to me that each of these purposes referred to schooling and not education.

 

Question Set Number One

According to Ryan, Cooper, and Tauer, what are four purposes of education / schooling?

What do you believe to be the purpose of education / schooling?

Why do you believe in that particular purpose of education / schooling?

 

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Let’s Consider Understanding

Transcript

Dr. Barrow When I was in my Doctoral program, I took a class from an analytic philosopher. His name is Dr. Barrow. Simply, an analytic philosopher analyses what words and language mean.

Education, according to a Dr. Barrow, is the achievement of a depth and breadth of understanding. What does this mean, a depth and breadth of understanding? This is what he says in his book The Philosophy of Schooling:

It may be argued that schooling, . . . should concern itself with the whole [person]  . . .  What I am suggesting here is that education, far from being concerned with all dimensions of the personality, is essentially to do with the mind and is purely cognitive (to do with knowledge, understanding and perception).  “Surely it does not strike one as intelligible to reckon whether a [person] is more or less well educated by reference to such things as … physique, … athletic prowess, … capacity for love, … moral stature, … emotional maturity, … imaginative powers or … creative capacity. The fact that somebody is morally repugnant to me does not in itself show [that person] to be uneducated. The fact that somebody is emotionally immature is likewise not an indication that he [or she] is uneducated, and the fact that somebody has a great capacity for love, though no doubt admirable, is not to the point either.

So, already according to Dr. Barrow, we have narrowed down what we might consider being educated to mean.

What, then, do we look for in estimating whether a person is more or less educated? We judge him by his understanding and his capacity for discrimination. (By discrimination he mean having the ability to discriminate between one thing and another. In other words, someone who can tell the differences between one thing, or one idea, or one situation and another would be showing signs of being educated. If you don’t know the difference between a bicycle and a wagon, we would wonder how well you understand either) He continues:

To educate a person is to develop such an understanding and such a capacity, and schools, if they are seeking to educate, must contribute to such development. (Did the second grade teacher teaching the three branches of government to second graders do a good job of helping them understanding aspects of government well enough to discriminate between one thing or another? No. No even being able to state the three branches from memory indicates any sort of discrimination. He continues:

I deliberately say “understanding” rather than “knowledge” because the word “knowledge” can imply mere possession of a stock of information, and that does not seem appropriate. A walking Guinness Book of Records or a Mr. Memory is not, as such, an educated [person]. . . . [W]e expect the educated [person] to have understanding of the reason why of things or a grasp of the underlying principles, and not simply know-how or a collection of pieces of information. (Did the second grade child know the reasons why we have three branches of government? No. Did the child know the underlying principles that contributed to the formation of the three branches of government? No. Was she a walking Ms. Memory? For a short time, yes.

“[W]e expect the educated [person] to have understanding of the reason why of things or a grasp of the underlying principles, and not simply know-how or a collection of pieces of information” Barrow said.

The fact that you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected President of the United States for the third term of office on November 5th 1940 . . . does not reveal to us whether you are relatively well or poorly educated. Nor would the fact that you also know the election dates of all the other American Presidents suggest any the more that you are an educated [person]. But if it becomes apparent that, besides knowing the date of Roosevelt’s third term, you also have some sensible things to say about how and why he won it, you are beginning to show the sort of signs that we look for in judging whether people are more or less educated.

Barrow makes an important point here now. He says: Just to be on the safe side, let me stress the phrase “the sort of signs.” I am not suggesting that knowing about Roosevelt is a necessary condition of being educated. I am using Roosevelt as an example to illustrate the sort of thing educated people, by definition, should have the understanding of: explanations of political success rather than dates.

So, even if our second grade child remembered the definitions of the three branches of government, would she be, by definition, educated? No.

. . .  Education implies some breadth of understanding, rather than narrow specialism, however profound or erudite that specialist knowledge might be. (Erudite means having or showing great knowledge). (So he is saying that even if you have a great amount of knowledge in a very narrow area, that alone wouldn’t make you educated. He says: A brilliant historian or a front-rank scientist is not necessarily an educated [person], and if a [person’s] historical . . .  [common sense or practical intelligence] or understanding, or [that person’s] scientific know-how was all that [that person] had, we should not take [that person] as the epitome of an educated [individual]. Furthermore not only is deep knowledge, if confined to a very limited sphere, not sufficient to constitute education, but such exceptional specialist knowledge is not a necessary condition of being educated either. Being educated is not synonymous with being clever. One might be a well-educated person and not very brilliant in academic terms, and one might be extremely clever in some particular field such as science or history and yet not very well educated, since that term suggests a wide range of understanding. Breadth rather than brilliance, good sense rather than genius are characteristics of the educated mind.”

So, we are already further along than our dictionary definitions. We have the sense that the educated person must have a breadth of understanding. But does everyone need that same understanding?

Barrow says. . . [A]ny educated person must, by definition, have a breadth of understanding, but different people may arrive at a breadth in different ways: a scientist who knows no history, but knew something about literature and bee-keeping might reasonably count as being to some extent educated, whilst a theologian who was also something of a botanist and a philosopher, though having little specifically in common with the scientist, might also. (Implicit in everything I have so far said is the obvious truth that education is a matter of degree. People are not simply educated or not, they are to a greater or lesser extent educated.)

Is that it, or is there more?

… I think, for I now want to argue that there are certain elements (more specific than the formal necessity for breadth) that are necessary to being educated. Firstly, [to be educated we] must have some awareness of our place in the totality—awareness of the cultural and historical tradition to which we belong and of rival traditions, and in addition awareness of [our] place in relation to the wider story of the universe. . . .Secondly, [we must be able to appreciate, and be alert] to people as individuals and to the power of individuality. . . . A third and vital aspect of being educated will be the ability to distinguish logically distinct kinds of question. . . . There are empirical questions (an empirical question is based on observation or experience), there are aesthetic questions (these are questions based on beauty) and there are moral questions (these would be questions concerned with right and wrong) and, he says, there are others and also hybrid questions). Educated people should be able to recognize such distinctions, as well as basic logical distinctions such as those between explanations and justification or cause and correlation. [In other words, you should be able to know whether your concerns are empirical, aesthetic, mortal, etc.] Finally, he says,  there is what I call the capacity for discrimination, by which I mean the ability to think in terms of precise and specific concepts rather than blurred and general ones. [You know enough to discriminate between the carriage and the electric car]  The possession of precise and particular concepts gives one discriminatory power by which phrase I refer to the control, maneuverability and penetrating power in thought that the ability to make fine discriminations provides. What I say here is simple and important. In discussion about matters as diverse as whom to vote for, the merits of Evelyn Waugh as a novelist or the acceptability of capital punishment, one’s contribution will be the more significant and illuminating, one’s thinking will be the better, in so far as one is in possession of more, clear and specific concepts. If you cannot get beyond broad and general concepts (communist/capitalist, comic/realistic) you cannot contribute much. We must remember that it is a question of both clarity and specificity.” pp. 38-44.

Ask ten different people what education means. Do they give you educated answers? Is there clarity and precision to their response? Are them making clear distinctions? Are they able to discriminate between schooling and education or do the boundaries seem blurry?

Rightfully, I believe, Barrow makes the important distinction between knowledge and understanding. One might know something, but not understand it. Also, someone possessing a good deal of information does not suggest that they have a depth or breadth of understanding or are in any way educated.

I think what Barrow says is interesting. If our concern is to educate, then, according to Barrow, our responsibility is to help students achieve a depth and breadth of understanding. So we might ask, with every pedagogical activity we undertake, are we helping our students achieve a depth and breadth of understanding?

Presumably, had the second grade teacher asked herself whether her students were achieving a depth and breadth of understanding she would have realized that the activity was inappropriate. Presumably, had the administrators asked themselves whether or not children were developing an understanding by forcing them to memorize the three branches of government for a state test, they would have realized the pursuit was a waste of time. Had the test makers and the politicians who forced standardized tests onto schools, teachers, and children has a genuine concern with understanding, they would have realized the form of testing was inappropriate.

This idea of understanding seems simple enough—am I fulfilling my responsibility as an educator if I am educating my students? Am I helping my students achieve a depth and breadth of understanding?

But what is understanding? We know that understanding in not simply knowing something. For example, I may know the three branches of government, and be able to state what those branches are, but that is no indication that I understand anything about legislative, executive, or judicial workings. I think we could say that Barrow believes that understanding has to do with a re-cognition of causes. Understanding is based on language and reason. Understanding exists within a context. Simply put, if I have an understanding of something, I can give reasons why things are the way they are. If a child understands the three branches of government, presumable that child can say something about the reasons and (the purpose, the form, the materials, the people involved, the background ) as to why we have three branches, the reasons and (the purpose, the form, the materials, the people involved, the background ) why we have a legislative or judicial branch, reasons and (the purpose, the form, the materials, the people involved, the background ) why we have governments.

 

So what does this mean for us as future teachers? Regardless of the purpose behind the schooling, we are educators. Our job is to educate students. Education is the achievement of a depth and breadth of understanding.

We should now recognize that schooling and education are not identical. Schooling is, hopefully, something that is meant to help people become educated–though we know that is not always the case. It is clear to us that one does not need to attend school to become educated. And yet it is also clear that school can be a very powerful place for some individuals to become educated.

The foundations of education is really the foundations of understanding. And schooling, if it is concerned with educating, has to contribute to the development understanding.

___________________________

Question Set Number One

How does Dr. Barrow define education?

Dr. Barrow emphasizes understanding over knowledge. Why?

In your own words, how would you articulate the difference between education and schooling?

 

_________________________________________

 

Let’s Talk Narratives

Stories matter. Narratives matter. Narratives are our entry into understanding.  Our understanding is shaped by our narratives. You are continually listening to others’ narratives. As soon as you get together with a friend you are sharing your narratives. Narratives matter. They bring meaning to our lives. And our narratives are created out of our bodily experiences.

You and your teachers have stories (narratives) that are school stories and out of school stories. In and Out-of-school narratives are different, but one narrative affects the other. The person you are in school affects the person you are out of school in some way. Our narratives merge in places. Each of you has a narrative — a story. It is a story that is continually being shaped. It is a narrative not only of what you do or have done, but also of ‘who’ you are. Others will know some of your narrative. Some people know some parts of your narrative, other people know other parts. But what they know is never a complete story. Even you don’t know your complete narrative, because your story, and what it means to you is always changing.

You can probably think of other narratives. For example each classroom has a story. Mr. Green’s classroom was laid back. He had a table set up at the back of his class where we could get coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. We called the class, ‘Coffee, tea, or Math 33.’

And of course schools have narratives. One school might be a high achieving school. Another might be a ‘drop-out factory.’ Whatever the narratives are, the narratives include bodies. Because teachers, classrooms, and schools do not exist without bodies.

For those of you who plan on becoming teachers, or for those of you who might have a child in school one day, it is worth knowing the narrative of schools. Because just like people, schools have narratives. And the school narrative can have a significant impact on those who spend time in schools.

In this class we are trying to hear school stories (narratives), and we are trying to analyze the narratives. These narratives help inform us as to what schools mean to students, to teachers, to administrators, to parents, and to you.

We will uncover the narratives of schools, but before we get too far into school narratives, let’s think a bit more about narratives and what they mean. To accomplish this I would like to introduce you to Ms. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She will speak to the idea of narratives.

As you listen to her story, you will come to recognize not only what a narrative meant to Ms. Adichie, but also what narratives can mean to you and your own life. You will begin to understand how narratives can be empowering or how narratives can be discriminatory. After listening to Ms. Adichie’s talk you will sense the danger in adopting a single narrative. This danger lurks in all schools. It is a danger that lurks in the way we talk about schools. Once you understand the danger, you will never see schools in quite the same way again. This will be part of your own empowerment.

 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

 

Narratives are powerful. They can be dangerous. They can also be liberating. Those who don’t understand narratives are at a disadvantage. If we want to understand schools, and those who dwell in schools, we have to understand narratives. We also have to be exposed to more than one narrative if we are to avoid the single narrative so that we can develop a more authentic, relevant narrative.

What does any of this have to do with schooling and education?

Schools are replete with stories of how to educate, what education means, who students are, how students should be taught, what we should teach, etc. Understanding that narratives have power, and those who control the narratives have power, is important to understand as we continue our journey in our attempt to understand the foundations of education.

Question Set Number One 

Ms. Adiche refers to “the single story”. What does she mean by that?

What does Ms. Adiche mean by the danger of a single story?

Why is it so important for teachers to be aware of the narratives that define others?

What is meant by the incomplete story?

 

Let us continue.

Narratives have been made up about schools. Just think, we have a story of what schools are. We have a story of what teachers are. We have a story of the value of school subjects. We have a story of what the purpose of schools are, how much homework students should do, and what students will attain if they do well in school. All of these are stories that we were told, that we tell each other and what we tell our children.

Interestingly, teachers had a story about you. Teachers may have walked into the staff room and talked about you, using only the story that they had. They may have sat at their desk when grading your paper and thought about you — referring only to the story they knew.

Teacher: Let’s see. Do I give Margaret and ‘B’ or do I bump her grade up to an ‘A’. Well, she is a very hard worker. I will bump her grade up from a ‘B’ to an ‘A’.

Ah, there it is. Did you see it? The narrative of the hard worker. It is a story the teacher has in her mind about Margaret. It is part of the teacher’s narrative about Margaret that the teacher included and wove into her own understanding of Margaret. It could have been a different story.

Teacher: Let’s see. Do I give Margaret a ‘B’ or do I bump her grade up to an ‘A’. Well, she really didn’t perform the way I expected on that last test.  ‘B’ is as good as she deserves.

 

Teachers had stories about you, and you had a story about different teachers. Even though you only knew a small part of their story, there were times you talked about your teachers to your friends sharing your incomplete story.

 

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 our schooling experiences. And, furthermore, as a teacher, we might ask,  “can I help my students develop their identities in positive ways by helping create more positive narratives?”

 

Furthermore, if schools have narratives, can we change those school narratives to make them better for students? That will be an important question for us in the future.

 

The danger of the incomplete narrative — The danger of an incomplete Identity.

Educators help others develop a depth and breadth of understanding. Hopefully we have established that. We should remember besides having a depth and breadth of understanding as far as content goes, we also need to have a depth and breadth of understanding of who we are and who we can become. Sometimes, we don’t know who we can become. Sometimes we need teachers to help us recognize our own potential.

How can teachers impact somebody’s identity? How can teachers impact a student’s narrative?

The Power of a Teacher | Adam Saenz | TEDxYale

Question Set Number One

How did two teachers help Adam Sanez change his identity?

 

So there we have it for today. We have talked about education, schooling, understanding, narratives, and identity. We are on our way to developing our own depth and breadth of understanding schooling and education.

Now on to Week One Part Two.