STRANGE FRUIT manifesto #exwr14

Mina Tartus 2013 sügis

STRANGE FRUIT

where are you?

encounter haunted by the dead

living bodies, stories and the beautiful
harmonies across the night air cut off.

Every point I would want to resist work

predictable

BE A BOOK

each chapter    outside myself, each chapter   experience trigger

finding one´s self face-to-face put on display.

I thought if I was, I becoming overly predictable?

A MANIFESTO FOR MYSELF

I write     deeper strings   in the labyrinth
becoming memories,    really

I write     living world   flourishing
be call ed into the depths

ENERGETIC      familiar             DIFFERENT

PEOPLE

10-12-2014 mellan Linköping and Järna

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Who are the experts? #artofeducation

3112762I would like to start with a quote from Diana Ravich from an article she wrote in 2010.

“It is a well-known fact that American education is in crisis. Black and Hispanic children have lower test scores than white and Asian children. The performance of American students on international tests is mediocre.”

This comes as no news to us, because similar statements are being heard all around the globe nearly every day. The same is with the headlines about top-down initiated educational reforms which, after a certain time has passed, are in public rhetoric announced to be failures again. The repetitive pattern of the stated phenomena is an indicator that educational crisis is becoming a global epidemic. In this paper I am making a bold proposal how to find our way out of this worrisome chaos by asking for who are the experts in learning and what are the underlying values of being an expert in the field of education.

The school is dead    

Everet Reimer noted already back in 1970, after years of working with disadvantaged children in poor areas that the school is dead. That statement can be openly spelled in the title of his book “The School is Dead: Alternatives in Education”. Based on his experience claimed Reimer that

“[t]he underprivileged, whose home environments are lacking in the specialized resources schools provide, are relatively unsuccessful in school and soon leave it with an experience of failure, a conviction of inadequacy, and a dislike for the specialized-learning resources of which they are subsequently deprived.(ibid.)

He went even further and announced schools having a “pernicious effect” on cognitive learning for everyone because

“[t]he privileged, on the other hand, are taught to prefer the school’s resources to their own and to give up self-motivated learning for the pleasures of being taught. The minority of Einsteins and Eldridge Cleavers lose only a little time. The majority lose their main chance for an education. (ibid.)”

Well, one might think, this is just one example, one man, one research project but… Already next year, in 1971, Ivan Illich, a well known educational thinker and an associate to Reimer, came out with his book on the same topic. The book had a famous and even today widely discussed title “Deschooling the Society”. Illich called for attention to the failures of American school system and expressed the need for unschooling not only the schools but the whole society. He was openly criticising the educational system and especially the institutionalisation of education; which used to be public good had been made an obligation. People were forced to give up their power and leave education to the specialized institutions where specialists work. During this process, as Illich claimed, they had lost their freedom to decide.

Illich told his readers that the pupil is

“schooled to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value.” (2012:1).

In his opinion, the schools are not there for man´s advancement in education but about bureaucratic machinery, the means to control and keep the social order.

“Curriculum has always been used to assign social rank,”

announced Illich (2012:12) and for him there was no question about it, this was an obvious fact.

Of course there is plenty of research published by now (see for example Pierre Bourdieu or the works of Nils Christie) that indeed shows Illich`s notion

Instead of equalizing chances, the school system has monopolized their distribution. (ibid.)

being a correct one.

These harsh claims are hard for educators, systems administrators and parents to swallow, even today, so many years later. System is rigid and beneficial to some, therefore we just continue the way it has always been. The question still remains: if schools are not providing education what are our chances then to learn and become educated?

 Is MOOC (massive open online learning) the answer to our questions?

Both of the two men mentioned above come forward with their suggestions. Everet Reimer says (1970):

Every thinking person knows that real education occurs primarily at home and at work, but a number of facts have conspired to rob this truth of its former general acceptance. The modern organization of society, by offering free schooling, rewards both parents and employers, in the short run, for reducing their educational roles.”

He is suggesting us to give up the idea that governments are organising education for us and for our children as we would see it best fit. Instead we should take our own initiative and find our own ways, be creative and active. 

As a possible future innovation Ivan Illich is inviting people to think about “learning webs”. According to him the good educational systems will:

“provide access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.” (2012:75)

While being part of MOOC, some people have perhaps experienced that Illich has a point here. Even though there are minor drawbacks and some try their best to control and institutionalize, the realm of educational practices is shifting. People are taking more responsibility of their personal learning as well as teaching others. It is indeed happening online with the help of the learning webs.

Ivan Illich called this kind of process “deschooling”. I would speak of networking and learning in networks as a parallel educational system that exist inside and outside of institutions. Illich´s book “Deschooling the Society” is worth attention even today, because he foresaw this new wave of education at the times when computers were just starting to emerge and global online learning communities were unimaginable for the most.

Taught by the ignorant schoolmaster

During the MOOC courses there has been some criticism about the peer-to-peer feedback. Many people simply do not trust learning without a master. Ivan Illich says in 1971,

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching.”(2012:12).

A year before him declared Paulo Freire, a well known adult literacy pioneer from Latin America, education to be a “cultural action for freedom and therefore an act of knowing and not for memorization.”(1972:13). His thoughts have been inspiring many to look at education in a different way, and if mention just one, I would pick Jacques Ranciere, a philosophy professor from France.

In 1991 Ranciere published his essay “The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation”. This book is a collection of his ideas about equality and democracy in the field of education. It is easy to follow because of the simple language the man is using, though the thoughts he is sharing with the reader are complex and very provocative, especially if you happen to be an educator.

Through the work of Jacotot (an ignorant schoolmaster) Jacques Ranciere introduces us to the concept he calls “universal teaching”. According to Ranciere, teaching is all about how to become emancipated, he speaks not only about the emancipation of students but also about the emancipation of masters. Only emancipated master can emancipate his students.

The whole practice of universal teaching is summed up in the question: what do you think about it?” (1991:36). Ranciere notes that “Everything is in everything” (1991:27) therefore we are all equal in our intelligence, because “there is nothing to understand” (1991:23), “one must begin to speak” (1991:24). No one understands more, we might just think that they do, we hand over our power of thinking as well as learning the moment we start to worship the master.

Teaching can only

be performed by someone who effectively knows no more than the student, who has never made the voyage before him: the ignorant master.” (1991:29-30).

The ideas stemming from this though are further elaborated in a scientific peer-reviewed journal called “Educational Philosophy and Theory” Volume 42, Numbers 5-6 published in 2010 which is dedicated to Ranciere´s work in education.

His thoughts open up a wide array of new ideas and possibilities for experimenting in education. I see the whole online learning community as a possibility to go much deeper if we wish. We might even look at education and learning online as complex educational process that is in the hands of the people themselves who take action and therefore are the agents of change reclaiming the realms of their own education and emancipation.

Who is the expert in education then?

To sum up the discussion I would finally like to introduce you to Edith Cobb. A lady who only published one book, “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood” was her lifetime work and came out in 1977, the very same year she died.

Edith Cobb was not a typical educational thinker, she did not follow one school or tradition, instead she mixed ideas and research results from various fields of studies. This was probably the reason why writing a book was such a long venture. To combine and integrate the impossible, to read and learn in multitude of areas parallel, is not an easy task, but can be a rewarding one. During the years of searching she developed an original independent vocabulary. Already for that reason only, one might want to read her book now, 40 years later.

Her work is based on numerous autobiographies and play observations. At her time her research methods were way out of the common approach. It was at the height of the positivistic era of experimenting, testing and interrogating. While discussing her methods in the first chapter of the book, she does not mention much about the background of her study. Instead she writes:

“… individual men and women ultimately create cultural and social history in terms of their particular world imagery and their capacity to lead others to participate in the world as they see it, politically, aesthetically, philosophically, or otherwise.” (1977:18)

Even though one might say, that she says little or nearly nothing of the actual method of her study, it states clearly the underlying values. That kind of open declaration of individual freedom, need of taking responsibility for your personal actions in combination with creative attitude has been missing in the work of most authors and researchers in the field of education. Even though we have been presented with thousands of books about research in education, there is very little valuable content on most of the pages printed. I propose that being the reason why people are reclaiming the expertise in the field of education and taking public action, each individual on its own and together as a global learning community.

About the illustration. I took the pictures during the last intuitive pedagogy course in Berlin 17-21 May in Thomas Pedroli´s workshop about play. Playing is one of the most powerful ways of learning. It is a gif file and if you click on it it starts to move. Try!

List of references

Freire, P. (1972). Cultural Action for Freedom. England: Penguine Books.

Illich, I. (2012). Deschooling the Society. London: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd.

Ranciere, J. (1991). The Ignorant Schoolmaster. Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. California: Stanford University Press.

Ravich, D. (2010). School ‘Reform’: A Failing Grade. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/sep/29/school-reform-failing-grade/?pagination=false [retrieved 13-05-13]

Reimer, E. (1970). School is Dead: Alternatives in Education. Garden City, NY: Anchor. http://learninfreedom.org/system.html [retrieved 13-05-13]

Some parts of the article have been previously published in my blog “An Apple Tree” https://evelintamm.wordpress.com.

This is a second draft of assignment paper for MOOC online learning course about critical writing. Comments are most welcome.

Edith Cobb “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood”

Cobb Ecology of Imagination in Childhood Edith Cobb is one of the few grand old ladies in educational thought and worth reading even today. Actually, one might say, that only today the general public starts to understand the true depth and value of her ideas in the first place. “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood” is Edith Cobb´s lifework. She collected materials before publishing anything for very many years. The book came out only in 1977, the same year when she died.

I have found traces of her ideas in Margaret Mead´s work. Mead was a close co-worker and even wrote an introduction to the book. Cobb´s thoughts about children and their connection to nature are amongst others praised by a popular contemporary journalist and thinker George Monbiot , if just to mention few she has influenced.

Edith Cobb was not a typical educational thinker, she did not follow one school or tradition, instead she mixed ideas and research results from various fields of studies. This was probably the reason why writing a book was such a long venture. To combine and integrate the impossible, to read and learn in multitude of areas parallel, is not an easy task, but can be a rewarding one.

During the years she has developed an original independent vocabulary. Already for that reason only, one might want to read the book now, 40 years later.

Cobb starts by describing the anatomy of wonder.

“…rhythm, like motion, is a cosmic experience, in fact, and the child´s “world making” is a continued cosmic speculation in the form of a recreation and rearrangement of parts of the environment into the synoptic wholes in which the self exists.” (p.43)

Her work is based on numerous autobiographies and play observations. At her time her research methods were way out of the common approach. It was at the height of the positivistic era of experimenting, testing and interrogating. While discussing her methods in the first chapter of the book, she does not mention much about the background of her study. Instead she writes:

“… individual men and women ultimately create cultural and social history in terms of their particular world imagery and their capacity to lead others to participate in the world as they see it, politically, aesthetically, philosophically, or otherwise.” (p.18)

Here you can find her way of approaching the research and introducing it to others. Even though it says little of the actual method of her study, it states clearly the underlying values. I have been missing that kind of declaration in the work of most authors in the field of education.

Cobb Ecology of Imagination in ChildhoodWhat is world image? She mentions it in several occasions.

“The concept that the individual´s creation of a world image is the central drive towards human learning (as adaptation to the environment) brings out the ecological pattern of give and take, not only between inner and outer world, but also between past and present as the “autobiographical” search for futurity.” (p.69)

According to Cobb, is nature part of our primary needs, like breathing and eating. Children need nature in order to be creative, to be able to imagine and learn.

“Even in the simplest day-to-day activities, the experience of being oneself, a “circular causal system” in one´s ecology, with the capacity to add forms or to change the very shape and nature of the environment, is in itself a far more creative process, with a much more profound meaning for human beings, than is generally conceded.” (p.69)

She emphasizes terms like “map” and “mapping” because these two words “express an immediacy of experience of organism and environment that has been extended, extrapolated, and transformed into speech as well as into systems of behavior…” (p.46-47). Nature and places in nature have deep meaning to our growing up and becoming an adult. The childhood experiences of explorations and mapping “permits condensation into symbolic pattern or form” as a child and in later life (p.47).

“[B]ecause of our complex eyes, vision has undoubtedly been the ruling experience in the development of human culture and language.” (p.47) Based on that idea she proposes “Intuition, therefore, can be considered to be a type of “seeing,” stimulating in turn the organizing process we call imagination.” (p.47)

As she had followed children in their play for years, she also proposed her original view on play.

“Play can be observed to be a sort of “fingering over” of environment in sensory terms, a questioning of the power of materials as a preliminary to the creation of highest organisation of meaning.” (p.48)

She invites us to think about evolution theory as well as psychoanalysis in her terms throughout the book. Sometimes it is hard to follow the connections she is trying to establish between different theories and ideas. One might consider this being the main difficulty with her style of writing. At the same time it is obvious that the kind of wondering in the world image of hers brings to us novel ideas never really thought let alone discussed before.

I finish this overview with a thought from Edith Cobb directed towards the future of our society, the vision about tomorrow.

“Child fills in the distance between the self and the objects of desire with imagined forms. This psychological distance between self and universe and between self and progenitors is the locus in which the ecology of imagination in childhood has its origin.” (p.56)

It is important to maintain our unique individuality created in contacts with natural environments and not too lose ourselves in the specialized technocratic world of today. Mankind needs the creative imagination of our children more than ever.

Jacques Ranciere´s “The Ignorant Schoolmaster”

eductionI found Ranciere via a special edition of “Educational Philosophy and Theory” (Vol 42, Nos 5-6, 2010) which was dedicated to his work.

The Ignorant Schoolmaster” (first published in 1991) is a collection of Ranciere´s ideas about equality and democracy in the field of education. His language is easy to follow and his ideas are provocative, specially to an educator.

Through the work of Jacotot (an ignorant schoolmaster) he introduces us to the concept Ranciere calls “universal teaching”. According to Ranciere, teaching is all about how to become emancipated, he speaks not only about the emancipation of students but also about the emancipation of masters. Only emancipated master can emancipate his students.

The whole practice of universal teaching is summed up in the question: what do you think about it?” (p.36). Ranciere notes that “Everything is in everything” (p.27) therefore we are all equal in our intelligence, because “there is nothing to understand” (p.23), “one must begin to speak” (p.24). No one understands more, we might just think that they do and we hand over our power of thinking as well as learning the moment we start to worship the master.

Teaching in a democratic way can only “be performed by someone who effectively knows no more than the student, who has never made the voyage before him: the ignorant master.” (p.29-30).

This book is definitely worth reading because of its interesting language and novel ideas it brings to the field of education. Inspired by Ranciere´s work one could write a whole series of articles about the topic of equality and freedom in education (adding some bits and pieces of Illich, Bourdieu, Arendt and Freire for example), this is a lot of work which I personally have no time for at this point. Perhaps sometimes in the future?

“MOM, watch me, I am doing the impossible”

 “Let´s hit the sweet spot away, candy tonight… I am ready to go…”
Flo Rida “The Sweet Spot” featuring Jennifer Lopez

For many the daunting need to understand and work with talent is present every day. The kindergarten teachers who look at the eyes of children in their care groups, and see the amazing future ahead but are unable to support their individual learning needs, because for twenty four children in the group there is just one adult working with them. The parents who have to take their children to daycare starting as early as possible for their bosses do not except long maternity leaves and the house loan needs to be paid every month. If give just few examples that are everyday realities for people all over the globe.

Daniel Coyle introduces us in his book “The Talent Code” his perspective on talent, a perspective of a white successful Western male. He makes a trip to Brazil, Russia and to different locations in US in order to visit some special schools for young talented people and see what happens there, how they learn. He interviews experts like Robert Björk at UCLA[1], gives us glimpse of Henry Roedinger´s work [2]. Unfortunately we do not get any further references to the research done by these men.

In the first chapter we will meet two hands on guys Edwin Link[3]  and Simon Clifford[4]. Both of the practice based people are also presenting us a beautiful example of a typical American success story.[5] Can it get any more boring? Yes.

One of the first things Coyle does is to share a picture of his perfect small family probably living in some suburb in a big university city.

“My daddy is a treasure hunter!”

Isn´t that sweet! He is a good man, we think. Or perhaps things are not as innocent as they look like?

Seems as if in Coyle´s life every day is like a birthday, he himself calls his ethnographic field trips to these various places in the world as “GREAT EXPEDITIONS”. It used to be the Europeans who were discovering the world in medieval times with the weapons in their hands, now it is men like Coyle with the words instead of swords. He loves the images of great old times, using also the picture of a gracious deer running on hills in various occasions. Almost poetic in a way but isn´t that the symbol of old aristocracy in England, the ones who used to rule all the people and made them feel miserable?

This is a story of a white man hunting and conquering the world. Will history repeat itself and many get hurt? I am afraid so. Actually, how many times did Coyle repeat the idea of “Brazil PRODUCING his TALENT” (starting p.14)? Critical examining of his notes from the field trips presented in the book makes it clear that actually he has no respect for the country. At some point he is even making cold hearted and impropriate jokes about the 40% of population being “desperately poor” (p.15). On top of it he names one of his subsections “Brazil`s secret weapon” as if being in war with the country.

Coyle loves black and white, big and small, rich and poor division. Due to the overly simplified and dualistic worldview interesting word combinations like “Everest-size amount of talent” (p.11), “places so small, humble and titanically accomplished” (p.11) are caching the special attention of a careful reader.

Coyle is doing several classical tricks with words but giving us quite little to think about when it comes to the actual topic of his book what is talent and how it can grow. He admits that in his travels he expected to “witness world class SPEED, POWER and GRACE” (p.12) and ads that he has even found it! What was he looking for after all? Was it a red Porche or people working with their talents?

THE SWEET SPOT

What a way to present your findings!  I am not convinced, Coyle, you need some deep practice with your academic writing as well as your ability to really depict what is happening out there with people and their talents.

 

Reference

Coyle, D. (?). The Talent Code. Greatness isn´t born. It´s grown. Here is how.

Flo Rida and Lopez, J. “The Sweet Spot”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuD0JZVdW0A music video [29.03.2013]

Vonnegut, K. “Shapes of the Stories” Lecture in youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ [29.03.2013]  

 


[1] It remains unclear throughout the chapter what kind of institution is the author referring to.

[2] Doyle is unclear about his secondary as well as primary sources of knowledge all the way through the chapter. It is also not clear what kind of research methods he has been using.

[3] Through the historical viewpoint Coyle aims to show (using unknown historical evidence) that his claims about talent have been verified long time ago. Link developed a successful training system for US air forces during the II WW.

[4] Clifford has been probably interviewed by Doyle but it is not clearly stated. Clifford introduced a special kind of Brazilian football in US that has made some teams succeed.

[5] Look at a short online video lecture by Kurt Vonnegut about how it is done and why people love it “The shapes of stories”.

discussions in the dark

Another trait of the flat tone. No life. Same flat tone at all times. For its affirmations. For its negations. For its interrogations. For its exclamations. For its imperations. Same flat tone. You were once. You were never. Where you ever? Oh never to have been! Be again. Same flat tone.
p.26

If he were to utter after all? However feebly. What addition to company that would be! You are on your back in the dark and one day you will utter again. One day! In the end. In the end you will utter again. Yes I remember. That was I. That was I then.
p.27

The last time you went out the snow lay on the ground. You now on your back in the dark stand that morning on the sill having pulled the door gently behind you. You lean back against the door with bowed head making ready to set out. By the time you open your eyes your feet have disappeared and the skirts of your greatcoat come to rest on the surface of the snow. The dark scene seems lit from below. You see yourself at that last outset leaning against the door with closed eyes waiting for the word from you to go. To be gone. Then the snowlit scene.
p.47-48

You keep count of the days and every tenth day multiply. And add. Your father´s shade is not with you any more. It fell out long ago. You do not hear your footfalls any more. Unhearing unseeing you go your way. Day after day. The same way. As if there were no other any more. For you there is no other any more.
p.50

You now on your back in the dark shall not rise again to clasp your legs in your arms and bow down your head till it can bow down no further. But with face upturned for good labour in vain at your fable. Till finally you hear how words are coming to an end. With every inane word a little nearer to the last. And how the fable too. The fable of one with you in the dark. The fable of one fabling of one with you in the dark. And how better in the end labour lost and silence. And you as you always were.

Alone.

p.88-89

Samuel Beckett “Company” 1980