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robertogreco : houmanharouni   3

Lived-in Room: Classroom Space as Teacher [eScholarship]
"This paper is a portrait of a public elementary school classroom in light of the relationships, history, and ideas that have formed its physical space. In describing Judy Richard’s classroom, the author shows how a creative teacher’s commitment to seeing her classroom as a living space inevitably brings her to overstep the narrow limits of the traditional mandates of classroom management. The author presents this portrait as an example of the ideological and creative stance teachers can assume in relation to their classrooms. Addressing challenges that are specific to urban public schools, the author also suggests that public schools must abandon their oversimplified conception of learning spaces and develop support systems that help teachers incorporate the socio-emotional, developmental, and cultural needs of their students into their classroom settings."
houmanharouni  education  teaching  space  place  classrooms  socialemotionallearning  classroommanagement  2013  howweteach  school  learning  howwelearn  schooldesign  socialemotional  classroom 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The Sound of TED: A Case for Distaste | The American Reader
"There seems to be an important lesson for educators in Mitra’s experiment. It stirs real emotions in people. Like a lot of what makes it onto the TED stage, it seems to inspire something in the viewer. Mitra’s talk is played and replayed in education courses across the world as an inspiration for… well, it’s not clear for exactly what. Mitra implies that the time for traditional education is over (something that was declared by many people as early as a hundred-and-fifty years ago, when the first “traditional” public school systems were being set up) and that technology can now allow for different, more autonomous and distributed structures of learning. Nevermind that his experiment was conducted in slums where children had no cellphones, no movies, no parties, no alcohol, no swim-lessons in the afternoon, no books, barely a real school, and, yes, no computers; we are to assume that the results there somehow have something to do with European or American public schools as well. Mitra ends the talk with a shameless plug for his project of putting a computer before every child. The lesson of his experiment, the role of play and autonomy in effective education, is in one stroke turned into icing for a project that has very little to do with what got his audience excited about the first few minutes of his talk.

This is obfuscation. A nice little experiment is used to give the impression that a large, systemic problem like schooling can be solved easily. That, however, cannot be the real issue with TED—because what I have just described applies to most of what is funded and performed as social research across the world. It is positivist thought with a twist of sleek camera-work. The debate over what this type of thinking means for practice and research stretches back into the 19th century. Whatever TED’s critics have suggested, there is nothing that TED does to ideas or science that has not been done before. The particular problem with TED is elsewhere."



"I will be crass: the most interesting thing about Bratton’s talk is that in the early minutes of the lecture, just as he has delivered his main thesis, he suddenly forgets what he is supposed to say. There is a pause. It would be perfectly natural in another format to wait and gather one’s thoughts, but the pause is strangely disturbing in this context. He loses his place, then his nerve, and for the rest of the talk he struggles under an invisible weight. He has to heave a breath into each sentence, trying to propel himself into a rhythm that he doesn’t regain until the very end. What he is struggling under is the pressure of the TED style."



"But even Adichie’s presentation caters to the format by not acknowledging the shameful absurdity of the situation. The only exception is Sarah Silverman’s talk—which TED refuses to publish on its website. In the unofficial video that somehow made it to YouTube, Silverman is called on to deliver a comedy routine. She is a practiced stand-up and knows her craft—but here she abandons it completely. She pauses inordinately. She drags out her jokes until they are excruciating, then repeats them for good measure. She points her clicker, needlessly and awkwardly, toward the PowerPoint screen behind her which displays nothing but single-sentence TEDisms: ‘Communication is important’ (she talks about discussing a hand-shaped bruise on her ass with her mother); ‘What the world needs now’ (“I am 39 years old,” she says “and I still wake up every morning so thankful that I don’t have to go to school,”); and ‘TED is fancy’ (she discusses how the number 3000 can be seen as a pair of breasts defecating). Finally she picks up her guitar and informs the audience that her next song is dedicated to the porn-stars in the audience, “and you are all stars” she informs them. The moment her song—about how all the cocks in the universe cannot fill the hole in the aforementioned star’s heart—comes to an end, she bails, taking the microphone with her and depriving the audience of the chance to applaud her. On walks one of the largest shit-eating grins in the history of recorded entertainment—a presenter— who repeatedly begs Silverman to come back, until Silverman, who unlike the others in the room does have a sense of shame, obliges. The audience now push to their feet for a standing ovation that is nothing but an attempt to deny their own humiliation. “This can’t be right,” mutters Silverman, bewildered.

For various reasons, I find myself forced to sit through a TED-talk now and then. I squirm in my seat—feeling humiliated for myself and the speaker. This is a distinctly un-adult feeling. Adults have lost their capacity for disgust—which is partly why Silverman often jokes about her own unending adolescence. Unwavering critical open-mindedness has, for a very long time, become the correct intellectual posture, and it’s never clear if at any point one can allow oneself to have a visceral reaction against a genre, an industry, or a situation without feeling either childish or curmudgeonly. Teenagers are half-better than adults in this respect: in high doses, tackiness puts them off. They collectively begin to step back from a thing, and they are generally aware that what’s bothering them is not content, but style. So they turn away from Facebook in droves, without having read a single line of cultural criticism on social media. They look back at their own participation in whatever style they dropped with mild horror. That they are then lured in by the next shiny thing is a different story. The point is that the average adult avoids the horror of disgust, which means consciously sticking to what’s most bland and middle-of-the-road: HBO, pants, college, Obama, and, for a few years now, TED.

A decent strategy with TED might be to reclaim our teenage capacities and treat these videos as hopelessly passé—ignore them to death. Critiquing them, even as I have done, will do what criticism has done for television: creating an added enjoyment as you go on consuming the crap you despise. I know what I am watching is disgraceful, but aren’t I great at seeing why it’s disgraceful? I only watch it to keep up-to-date with the unwashed masses."
ted  houmanharouni  2014  tedtalks  benjaminbratton  nathanheller  sugatamitra  sarahsilverman  holeinthewall  chimamandaadichie  presentations 
april 2015 by robertogreco
“A Question of Silence”: Why We Don’t Read Or Write About Education
"The lack of imagination evident in these narratives reflects the lack of real-world alternatives. In the real-world fantasylands of schooling (e.g., Finland, Cuba, Massachusetts) education looks more or less the same as it does everywhere else. In short, the system is missing—or ignores—its real antithesis, its own real death. Without that counter-argument, educational writing loses focus. Educationalists present schooling as being in a constant state of crisis. Ignoring for a second the obvious fact that without a crisis most educationalists would be out of a job—i.e., closing our eyes to their vested interest in the problem’s persistence—what does this crisis consist of? Apparently, the failure of schools to do what they are supposed to do. But what are they supposed to do? What is their purpose? And why should we stand behind their purpose? This is the line of inquiry that—can you believe it—is ignored.

Of all the civic institutions that reproduce social relations, said Louis Althusser, “one… certainly has the dominant role, although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School.” That statement was made in 1970, by which time school buses zigzagged the cities every working morning and afternoon, school bells rang across city and countryside, the words “dropout” and “failure” had become synonymous, education schools were in full swing, and school reform had gained its permanent nook on the prayer-wheel of electoral campaigns. In other words: what silence?

Althusser, of course, was referring to the absence of schooling as a topic in critical discourse. In this regard he was, and continues to be, accurate. The few paragraphs that he appended to the above-quoted statement may well be the only coherent critique of schooling in the upper echelons of critical theory. Critical theory, which has written volumes on Hollywood, television, the arts, madhouses, social science, the state, the novel, speech, space, and every other bulwark of control or resistance, has consistently avoided a direct gaze at schooling (see footnote). ((Here follows a cursory tally of what critical theorists (using the term very loosely to include some old favorite cultural critics) have written on education. I won’t be sad if readers find fault with it:

Horkheimer is silent. Barthes and Brecht, the same. Adorno has one essay and one lecture. Marcuse delivered a few perfunctory lectures on the role of university students in politics—but he makes it clear that you can’t build on them (university politics as well as the lectures, sadly). Derrida has some tantalizing pronouncements, particularly in Glas (“What is education? The death of the parents…”), but they are scattered and more relevant to the family setting than the school. Something similar, unfortunately, could be said of Bachelard—why was he not nostalgic about his education? Baudrillard, Lefebvre, and Foucault all seem interested in the question, if we judge by their interviews and lectures—and wouldn’t it be lovely to hear from them—but they never go into any depth. Even Althusser’s essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, which contains the above quote, quickly shies away from the topic: instead, he concentrates on the Church. In short, professional critical philosophy might have produced a more interesting study of Kung Fu Panda (see Žižek, who is also silent) than of the whole business of education. The one exception would be Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, which I will discuss.)) Even Foucault, champion of enclosures, keeps out of the schoolhouse. ((Part III of Discipline and Punish includes a discussion, but his analysis there is mixed with all the other institutions that exercise punishment. The only direct references are in two lecture-discussions with students, both from 1971.)) The silence is particularly striking if we see radical philosophy itself as an educational endeavor, an enterprise concerned with ways of seeing and doing.

It’s not that there are no critical conversations within education—there are, and I will discuss them soon. But I think the silence of radical philosophers is emblematic of some special problems in the relationship between education and society."



"Progressive educators, who as a rule crave resources and ideas from outside their field, nonetheless did not seem bothered by the new seclusion. They even welcomed it. Today, every schoolteacher, admin, or researcher learns as part of her training to show open disdain for any opinion on education that doesn’t come from inside the field (“but has she taught?”). In American education schools, it’s possible to get a doctorate without having been assigned a single book from outside your field. Education is such an intensely social process (think of any classroom vignette, all the forces at play) that this intellectual swamp could only survive by a sheer will to isolation. Educationalists need this privacy partly because it allows them to ignore the core contradictions of their practice. The most important of these contradictions is that they have to uphold public schooling as a social good, and at the same time face up to the fact that schooling is one of the most oppressive institutions humanity has constructed. It has to be built up as much as it needs to be torn down brick by brick.

This dilemma bedevils the majority of writing by the most active educationalists. The redoubtable Deborah Meier is a good example—good, because she really is. Meier is the godmother of the small school movement in the United States. She has dedicated her life to making schools more humane and works with more energy than entire schools of education put together. Her philosophical base is one of Dewey’s pragmatism and American-style anarchism. She is also in a unique position to understand the contradictions of schooling, because she has built alternative schools and then watched them lose their momentum and revert to traditional models. What’s more, Meier can write. But when she writes, her books take titles like Keeping School and In Schools We Trust. In which schools, exactly? Not the same ones through which most of us suffered, I assume; rather, the progressive, semi-democratic ones on the fringes of the public system. The problem, apparently, is not schooling itself. It’s just that, inexplicably, the vast majority of schools fail to get it right. The “reformed school” is a sort of sublime object: something that does not quite exist, but whose potential existence justifies the continuation of what is actually there.

We are all familiar with this type of “we oppose the war but support the troops” liberal double-talk, a pernicious language game that divests all ground agents of responsibility—as if there could be a war without soldiers (though we seem to be moving that way) or bad classrooms without teachers. Now, it wouldn’t be fair to place the blame squarely on the teachers’ shoulders—considering the poor education they themselves receive in the first place—but we must also expose this kind of double-talk for what it really is: an easy out. And it is an easy out that abandons the oppressed: in this case, those students who actively resist teachers, those last few who have not been browbeaten or co-opted into submission. ((When Michelle Rhee, the (former) chancellor of public schools in Washington D.C., began shutting down schools, liberals tore their shirts and pulled their hair and finally ousted her. Very few people mentioned that those schools—a veritable prison system—should have been shut down. The problem was not the closures—the problem was that Rhee, like other Republican spawns of her generation, is a loudmouth opportunist who offered no plan beyond her PR campaign. What’s striking is that Rhee was using the exact same language of “crisis” and “reform” as progressives, and nothing in the language itself made her sound ridiculous. Since then, progressives have eased up a little on the crisis talk.))

Because the phenomenon of student resistance to education so blatantly flies in the face of the prevailing liberal mythology of schooling, it is a topic that continues to attract some genuine theorization. ((For a review of literature and some original thoughts, see Henry Giroux’s Resistance and Theory in Education (1983). For a more readable discussion of the same, see Herbert Kohl’s I Won’t Learn From You (1991).)) It’s also a topic that is closely tied to another intractable bugaboo of the discussion: the staggering dropout rate, in the US at least, among working class and immigrant students, and particularly among blacks and Latinos. Education is the civil rights issue of our time—Obama and Arne Duncan’s favorite slogan—was originally a rallying cry among black educationalists. ((The latter, in case you don’t know, is Obama’s Secretary of Education. A (very thin) volume could be written on the absolute lack of political and intellectual gumption that he epitomizes. To the Bush-era, bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (a severe and ineffective set of testing requirements), Duncan added the Race to the Top initiative, thus bringing much unintentional clarity to the discourse: education reform is a race in which no one’s left behind.)) But if we understand a “civil rights struggle” to be, fundamentally, the story of the disenfranchised and the marginalized classes’ resistance to structural oppression, then this seemingly simple phrase is haunted by a kind of dramatic irony—since a great deal of research shows that what many black and working class students actively resist is schooling itself. Further studies showed that even those underserved students who succeed in schools persevere by dividing their identities; by cordoning off their critical impulses; by maintaining their disaffection even while they keep it well out of the teacher’s sight."



"A fundamental problem is that education demands a scientific foothold … [more]
education  unschooling  canon  houmanharouni  2013  criticaleducation  theory  eleanorduckworth  deborahmeier  jeanpiaget  paulofreire  ivanillich  karlmarx  society  schooling  oppression  class  liberals  progressive  progressives  theleft  paulgoodman  sartre  theodoreadorno  michellerhee  reform  edreform  nclb  rttt  radicalism  revolution  1968  herbertmarcuse  power  policy  politics  teaching  learning  jaquesrancière  arneduncan  foucault  louisalthusser  deschooling  frantzfanon  samuelbowles  herbertgintis  jenshoyrup  josephjacotot  praxis  johndewey  philosophy  criticaltheory  henrygiroux  herbertkohl  jeananyon  work  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressiveeducation  school  schooliness  crisis  democracy  untouchables  mythology  specialization  isolation  seclusion  piaget  michelfoucault  althusser  jean-paulsartre 
december 2013 by robertogreco

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