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The Trouble with Knowledge | Shikshantar
"First Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education is Dishonesty

I do believe that one aspect which characterizes education, development and the production and dissemination of knowledge, in today’s world, is the lack of intellectual honesty. This belief is an outcome of reflecting on my experience during my school and university years and my almost 40 years of work. The dishonesty is connected to the values, which govern the thinking and practice in the fields of education, knowledge and development (mirroring the values in dominant societies and serving mainly the lifestyle of consumerism): control, winning, profit, individualism and competition. Having a syllabus and textbooks, and evaluating and judging people (students, teachers, administrators, and academics) through linear forms of authority and through linear symbolic values (such as arbitrary letters or grades or preferential labels), almost guarantee cheating, lack of honesty, and lack of relevance. (The recent reports that cheating and testing are on the rise in the Maryland and Chicago areas are just one example that came up to the surface. And of course teachers, principles and superintendents were blamed and had to pay the price.) I taught many years and put exams both at the level of classrooms and at the national level, and I labored and spent a lot of time and effort in order to be fair. But, then, I discovered that the problem is not in the intentions or the way we conduct things but, rather, in the values that run societies in general and which are propagated by education, development and knowledge -- among other venues. Thus, the main trouble with knowledge and education, is not so much their irrelevance or process of selection or the issue of power (though these are definitely part of the trouble) as it is with the lack of intellectual honesty in these areas. Giving a number or a letter to measure a human being is dishonest and inhuman; it is a degrading to the human mind and to human beings. Grading, in this sense, is degrading. It is one of the biggest abuses of mathematics in its history! Moreover, as long as the above-mentioned values remain as the governing values, education will continue to be fundamentally an obstacle to learning. Under these conditions, talking about improving or reforming education is naïve at best and hypocritical at worst. At most, it would touch a very small percentage of the student population in any particular region. Of course, we can go on putting our heads in the sand and refusing to see or care. But one main concern I will continue to have is what happens to the 80 some pecent of students whom the “compulsory suit” does not fit. Why imposing the same-size suit on all bodies sounds ridiculous but imposing the same curriculum on all minds does not?! The human mind is definitely more diverse that the human body.

Labeling a child as a “failure” is a criminal act against that child. For a child, who has learned so much from life before entering school, to be labeled a failure, just because s/he doesn’t see any sense in the mostly senseless knowledge we offer in most schools, is unfair – to say the least; it is really outrageous. But few of us around the world seem to be outraged, simply because we usually lose our senses in the process of getting educated. We are like those in Hans Christian Anderson’s story that lost their ability to see and had to be reminded by the little child that the emperor is without clothes.

Most people in the educational world (students, teachers, administrators, scholars, suprintendents, …) are dishonest (often without realizing it) either because we are too lazy to reflect on and see the absurdities in what we are doing (and just give to students what we were given in schools and universities, or during training courses and enrichment seminars!), or because we are simply afraid and need to protect ourselves from punishment or from being judged and labeled as inept or failures. This dishonesty prevails at all levels. I had a friend who was working in a prestigious university in the U.S. and who often went as an educational consultant and expert to countries to “improve and develop” their educational systems. Once, when he was on his way to Egypt as a consultant to help in reforming the educational system there, I asked him, “Have you ever been to Egypt?” He said no. I said, “Don’t you find it strange that you don’t know Egypt but you know what is good for it?!” Obviously, the richness, the wisdom and the depth of that 7000-year civilization is totally ignored by him, or more accurately, cannot be comprehended by him. Or, he may simply believe in what Kipling believed in in relation to India: to be ruled by Britain was India’s right; to rule India was Britain’s duty! In a very real sense, that friend of mine does not only abstract the theories he carries along with him everywhere but also abstracts the people by assuming that they all have the same deficits and, thus, the same solution – and that he has the solution.

Let’s take the term “sustainable development,” for example, which is widely used today and it is used in the concept paper for this conference. If we mean by development what we see in “developed” nations, then sustainable development is a nightmare. If we all start consuming, for example, at the rate at which “developed” nations currently do, then (as a friend of mine from Mexico says) we need at least five planets to provide the needed resources and to provide dumping sites for our waste! If “developing” nations consume natural resources (such as water) at the same rate “developed” nations do, such resources would be depleted in few years! Such “development” would be destructive to the soil of the earth and to the soil of cultures, both of which nurture and sustain human beings and human societies. The price would be very high at the level of the environment and at the level of beautiful relationships among people. Thus, those who believe in sustainable development (in its current conception and practice) are either naïve or dishonest or right out indifferent to what happens to nature, to beautiful relationship among people, and to the joyful harmony within human beings and between them and their surroundings. Nature and relationships among human beings are probably the two most precious treasures in life; the most valuable things human beings have. The survival of human and natural diversity (and even of human communities) are at stake here.

We do not detect dishonesty in the fields of education, knowledge and development because usually we are protected (in scools) from having much contact with life, through stressing verbal, symbolic and technical “knowledge,” through avoiding people’s experiences and surroundings, through the means we follow in evaluating people, and through ignoring history (history of people, of ideas, …). The main connection most school textbooks have with life is through the sections that carry the title “applications” – another instance of dishonesty. During the 1970s, for example, and as the head supervisor of math instruction in all the schools of the West Bank (in Palestine), one question I kept asking children was “is 1=1?” 1=1 is true in schoolbooks and on tests but in real life it has uses, abuses and misuses, but no real instances. We abstract apples in textbooks and make them equal but in real life there is no apple which is exactly equal to another apple. The same is true when we say that Newton discovered gravity. Almost every child by the age of one discovers it. (When my grandson, for example, was 15 months old, I was watching him once pick up pieces of cereal and put them in his mouth. Everytime he lost a piece, he would look for it down, never up!) By teaching that Newton discovered gravity, we do not only lie but also fail to clarify Newton’s real contribution. Similarly with teaching that Columbus discovered America …. Everyone of us can give tens of examples on dishonesty in the way we were taught and the way we teach."



"Second Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education: Lack of Connection with the Lives of the Social Majorities in the World"



"Building Learning Societies

From what has been said so far, two main approaches to knowledge and learning can be identified: (1) learning by doing; i.e. by the person being embedded in life, in one’s cultural soil. In this approach, learning is almost synonymous to living, and (2) the formal approach, which usually starts with ready pre-prepared content (usually fragmented into several subjucts, and usually put together in the absence of the two most important “actors” in learning: teachers and students). This approach also embodies tests and grades."



"Finally, I would like to affirm -- as a form of summary -- certain points, and point out to the need of dismantling others:

1. We need to dismantle the claim that learning can only take place in schools.

2. We need to dismantle the practice of separating students from life For at least 12 years) and still claim that learning is taking place.

3. We need to dismantle the assumption/ myth that teachers can teach what they don’t do.

4. We need to dismantle the myth that education can be improved through professionals and experts.

5. We need to dismantle the hegemony of words like education, development, progress, excellence, and rights and reclaim, instead, words like wisdom, faith, generosity, hope, learning, living, happiness, and duties.

6. We need to affirm that the vast mojority of people go to school not to learn but to get a diploma. We need to create diverse environments of learning.

7. We need to affirm our capacity for doing and learning, not for getting degrees.

8. We need to affirm and regain the concept and practice of “learning from the world,” not “about the world.”

9. We need to affirm that people are the real solution, not the obstacle and … [more]
munirfasheh  education  unschooling  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  diplomas  credentials  wisdom  degrees  faith  honesty  generosity  hope  learning  howwelearn  love  loving  lving  happiness  duties  duty  development  progress  excellence  rights  schools  community  learningcommunities  lcproject  openstudioproject  grades  grading  assessment  dishonesty  culture  society  hegemony  knowledge  influence  power  colonization  globalization  yemen  israel  palestine  humanism  governance  government  policy  politics  statism  children  egypt  india  westbank  religion  cordoba  cordova  gaza  freedom  failure  labeling  canon 
february 2019 by robertogreco
9/15-9/28 Unit 1: Why We Need a Why | Connected Courses
"Title: The End of Higher Education

Description: As shrinking budgets, skeptical publics, and rising alternatives continue to threaten the end of higher education, we host this conversation as a contemplation of what the end – or purpose – of higher education should be. We will also reflect on how individual teachers might find their own core reason for teaching a specific class, and ways to build buy-in to that reason among students."

[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFcjrwaJV0E ]

"Why We Need a Why:

As we design our courses, we have to address three questions:

What is to be taught/learned?

How should it be learned?

Why should it be learned?

We usually start by addressing the “What” question first. We have a course title or subject area and we begin populating our syllabus with the “whats” to be learned. Or, we peruse textbooks looking for the text that we think best covers the field. If we have time, we address the “How” question by considering how we can best teach the material. We sharpen our teaching technique, seek out better examples for the more difficult concepts, compile photos and videos to improve our presentations, and seek other ways to get the students engaged with the material. We may jump to incorporate the latest tools and techniques, whether it is social or interactive media or a new technique like a flipped classroom. Our syllabus, teaching materials, and educational technology in order, we rush into the semester, rarely asking, “Why?”

Starting with “Why” changes everything. When I, Mike Wesch, first started contemplating the “why” of my digital ethnography course, I realized that what I was really hoping to do was to teach my students “critical thinking.” I place “critical thinking” in quotes here because I had not yet given a great deal of thought about what I meant by the term, but I did immediately recognize that my previous “how” was completely inadequate to the task. I had spent most of my time thinking up elaborate and memorable performances (like the “shake your tailfeather” dance featured in this video) so that they would remember the concepts. Their task in my class was to simply memorize the material as performed by the authority (me) at the front of the room. Indeed, all of my teaching to that point had been in service of a very thin, unquestioned, and ultimately wrong notion of learning as the simple acquisition of knowledge.

As I contemplated the “real why” of my course further, I soon recognized that anthropology was not a bunch of content and bold faced terms that can be highlighted in a text book, but was instead a way of looking at the world. Actually, that is not quite right. It is not just a way of looking at the world. It is a way of being in the world. To underscore the difference, consider that it is one thing to be able to give a definition of cultural relativism (perhaps the most bold-faced of bold-faced terms in anthropology which means “cultural norms and values derive their meaning within a specific social context”) or even to apply it to some specific phenomenon, but it is quite another to fully incorporate that understanding and recognize yourself as a culturally and temporally bounded entity mired in cultural biases and taken-for-granted assumptions that you can only attempt to transcend.

To adopt such an understanding is often transformative and psychologically disruptive. It is not to be taken lightly, and no student will dare take on such disruption if it is not clear that there is a good reason to do so. As Neil Postman has noted, you can try to engineer the learning of what-bits (The End of Higher Education, Postman), but “to become a different person because of something you have learned — to appropriate an insight, a concept, a vision, so that your world is altered — is a different matter. For that to happen, you need a reason.” This also means asking hard questions about how new technology and techniques can support real student transformation and not simply reinforce old patterns with new tools."
michaelwesch  cathydavidson  randybass  2014  highered  highereducation  purpose  education  colleges  universities  pedagogy  theywhy  learning  howwelearn  why  howweteach  teaching  crits  studioclassroom  criticism  designthinking  design  critique  constructivecriticism  writing  howwewrite  revision  peerreview  learningcontracts  classconstitutions  student-ledlearning  mooc  moocs  authenticity  tcsnmy  ownership  lcproject  openstudioproject  contracts  cv  classideas  deschooling  unschooling  community  communities  communitiesoflearning  learningcommunities  profiteering  difficulty  economics  engagement 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Kio Stark » Massive Open Online Classes are getting it wrong.
"What MOOCs should be working toward is more radical—detaching learning from the linear processes of school. That’s not the goal of the designers of MOOCs, but it absolutely should be.

What would this detached model of learning with access to the resources of school look like? It looks like the forms of independent learning I’ve been researching and writing about for Don’t Go Back to School. People getting the resources to learn what they want to learn, in contexts in which that knowledge or skill is necessary to the learner, or something they are passionate to learn."

"MOOCs have other challenges besides ditching linear formats. The most important condition for independent learning reported in my research is learning in the context of a community. MOOC designers make only a token effort to incorporate the social aspect of learning, with giant discussion forums that produce crowds, not learning communities."
udacity  mitx  coursera  learningcommunities  communitites  autodidactism  autodidacts  independentlearning  education  cv  tcsnmy  community  self-directedlearning  deschooling  unschooling  linearity  linearthinking  learning  mooc  moocs  2012  kiostark  autodidacticism  linear 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Ursula Franklin Academy
"Ursula Franklin is a small community of learners that offers integrated liberal arts and science packages, preparing students for academic programs at post-secondary level. The learning experiences offered at Ursula Franklin Academy will reflect not only the learning expectations identified by the Province and the Toronto District School Board, but also the students' own interests, developing a sense of responsibility and individual accomplishment. Integrated and cross-curricular future-oriented skills related to electronic research and conferencing, conflict resolution and problem solving, global and social justice issues, and student leadership will be emphasized."

[via: http://www.designculturelab.org/2012/07/17/from-the-plsj-archives-an-extraordinary-mind/ ]
[See also: http://theagenda.tvo.org/blog/agenda-blogs/qa-my-alternative-schooling-ursula-franklin-academy and http://www.ufacademy.org/v5/school/wednesday.php ]
cv  tcsnmy  responsibility  conflictresolution  learningculture  learningcommunities  education  learning  google20%  schooldesign  ontario  toronto  schools  ursulafranklinacademy  ursulafranklin 
july 2012 by robertogreco
William Henry Schubert - Teaching John Dewey as a Utopian Pragmatist While Learning from My Students - Education and Culture 22:1
"Dewey finds the great culprit behind nondemocratic education is the acquisitive society. An attitude of acquisition—the capitalistic ethos—penetrates our being in ways we scarcely realize. It staunchly prevents the kind of education that Dewey proposes as most desirable.

I use the term education instead of school, because Dewey's utopian vision holds that the teaching-learning environments that would bring greatest growth are not schools as we know them…"The most Utopian thing in Utopia is that there are no schools at all." He goes on to describe beautiful places where children & adults can grow together, where the very idea of purposes or objectives is not in the vocabulary, where instructional method is not necessary because learning is natural & needs to be nurtured rather than restricted, & where standardization & the surveillance of testing are anathema. The contemporary form of education in the sorting machinery of schools is a function of acquisitiveness."
johndewey  2006  williamschubert  schooling  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  society  tcsnmy  lcproject  acquisitiveness  capitalism  consumerism  democracy  utopia  learning  learningcommunities  education  standardization  testing 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Alfie Kohn Interview 2/1/2010 - Dr. Ross Greene2 | Internet Radio | Blog Talk Radio
"In this program, Dr. Greene had the pleasure of talking with Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards, Beyond Discipline, and many other critical books. This was a fun and enlightening discussion about a variety of school-related topics, including school discipline, socially healthy classrooms, high-stakes testing...the whole gamut."

[via: http://twitter.com/joe_bower/status/17543978978 quoting "When you put autonomy and community together you get democracy."]
autonomy  topost  democracy  community  alfiekohn  education  progresive  tcsnmy  discipline  schools  teaching  learning  structure  responsiveclassroom  responsibility  trust  democratic  progressive  interviews  hierarchy  management  leadership  administration  coercion  learningcommunities  compliance  compulsory  authority  timeouts  punishment  classroommanagement  classroom  safety  comfort  care  culture  ethics  citizenship  caringcommunities  caring  classrooms 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Artichoke: Understanding knowledge, George Oates, Flickr and building learning communities in school.
"liberating for 2 teachers to go undercover at a conference for uber_librarians, (e)_historians, anarcho_archivists, web designers, museum_istas...George identified 2 key ideas learned from Flickr; People don’t like being told what to do. People do like to feel that they belong...insight for thinking about new ways of designing learning communities in schools & between cluster schools...challenge is to build flexible places/spaces online & f2f where we change our current focus on compliance reporting. If we are genuine in building a learning community then we need to reduce all the telling people what to do stuff & rark up all the opportunities for belonging– the contributing & participating stuff...Can we create learning experiences where we scaffold for both an economy of energy & the opportunity for pleasure? Where in planning for a student learning outcome we ask ourselves; Where is the opportunity for play? Where is the possibility for waste? Where is the prospect for communion?"
learningcommunities  learning  lcproject  tcsnmy  schools  flickr  georgeoates  play  conferences  crosspollination  design  communities  knowledge  policy  artichokeblog  pamhook 
december 2008 by robertogreco
CLI and Learning Communities
"The concept of learning communities, cities and towns has been around since the 1970s, but came to prominence in the mid 1990s. The term “learning community” has been used in many ways, covering activities ranging from virtual cities, academic learning communities, communities of practice, or learning towns and cities. The definition used by CCL identifies learning communities as: “Neighbourhoods, villages, towns, cities or regions that explicitly use lifelong learning as an organizing principle and social/cultural goal in order to promote collaboration of their civic, economic, public, voluntary and education sectors to enhance social, economic and environmental conditions on a sustainable, inclusive basis.”"
learning  lcproject  learningcommunities  communities  schools  museums  libraries  sustainability  economics  neighborhoods  lifelonglearning  cities  towns  homeschool  unschooling  deschooling 
october 2008 by robertogreco

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