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robertogreco : middleground   4

There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground | Time
"I recall this experience now, over 40 years later, as we are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we “meet in the middle,” as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse.

The middle is a point equidistant from two poles. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon. When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? Instead of subjecting Japanese-American citizens to indefinite detention during WW II, what if we had agreed to give them actual sentences and perhaps provided a receipt for them to reclaim their things when they were released? What is halfway between moral and immoral?

When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle?

The search for the middle is rooted in conflict avoidance and denial. For many Americans it is painful to understand that there are citizens of our community who are deeply racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic. Certainly, they reason, this current moment is somehow a complicated misunderstanding. Perhaps there is some way to look at this–a view from the middle–that would allow us to communicate and realize that our national identity is the tie that will bind us comfortably, and with a bow. The headlines that lament a “divided” America suggest that the fact that we can’t all get along is more significant than the issues over which we are sparring."



"Now I understand that my experience at a public school was literally an ocean away from the brave children of Soweto. However, my empathy with them was complete. Many people understand politics as merely a matter of rhetoric and ideas. Some people will experience wars only in news snippets, while the poor and working class that make up most of our volunteer army will wage war, and still others far and not so far away will have war waged upon them. For the people directly affected, the culture war is a real war too. They know there is no safety in the in-between. The romance of the middle can exist when one’s empathy is aligned with the people expressing opinions on policy or culture rather than with those who will be affected by these policies or cultural norms. Buried in this argument, whether we realize it or not, is the fact that these policies change people’s lives.

As Americans, we are at a crossroads. We have to decide what is central to our identity: Is the importance of our performance of national unity more significant than our core values? Is it more meaningful that we understand why some of us support the separation of children from their parents, or is it more crucial that we support the reunification of these families? Is it more essential that we comprehend the motives of white nationalists, or is it more urgent that we prevent them from terrorizing communities of color and those who oppose racism? Should we agree to disagree about the murder and dismemberment of a journalist? Should we celebrate our tolerance and civility as we stanch the wounds of the world and the climate with a poultice of national unity?

For the people directly affected, the culture war is a real war too"



"Compromise is not valuable in its own right, and justice seldom dwells in the middle."

[Response about the term "common ground":

"I agree with this piece yet am troubled by the author equating "common ground" with "meet in the middle" and “good people on both sides." Not the same thing! I've taught nonviolence for years and 1 principle is finding common ground with people you consider to be Other."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803183424380928

"This is a practice used by mediators, hostage negotiators, and often by family members of opposing politics who still talk to each other."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803227049340928

"Real & lasting political/social change often happens person-to-person. It has to do with recognizing that all of us have a core of humanity. Open dialogue to establish both people have same goals, like keeping our families safe, yet see different ways to get there is a beginning"
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803663336701954

"To feel heard and understood is vital. A first step is to listen well and re-state someone else’s position so accurately and comprehensively that the person agrees you’ve captured their view. It’s a growth step for both people, largely because it’s so unusual."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803700603113472

"Open dialogue with the very people she condemned is what inspired Megan Phelps-Roper to renounce her membership in the extremist Westboro Baptist Church. It’s what led neo-Nazi skinhead @cpicciolini to stop spreading hate and work to lead others away from such ideologies."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803905364803584

"It’s how Daryl Davis, a black man, befriends Ku Klux Klan members in hopes they will have a change of heart. It is an ongoing act of great strength that leads to direct, open, productive discussion rather than conflict avoidance."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059804197535838208

"I too condemn what author describes. I just don’t want us to condemn the “common ground” I know as a path to peace that bravely leads right through the hard topics."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059804242435809280 ]
tayarijones  canon  middleground  democrats  morality  centrists  politics  emptiness  2018  values  cv  identity  conviction  unity  empathy  commonground 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Great Africanstein Novel | by Namwali Serpell | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"The title of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s magisterial first novel, Kintu—first published in Kenya in 2014, then in the US this year by the Oakland-based press Transit Books—is a Luganda word. Luganda is a Bantu language spoken in Uganda; Bantu is a proto-language that just means people; there are languages derived from it all across the African continent. In Zambia, where I’m from, we spell this word chinthu. In both countries, it is pronounced chin-two and it means “thing.” In ancient Buganda mythology, however, Kintu is also the name of the first man, the equivalent to the Judeo-Christian Adam. The implications of this titular oxymoron—a word that means both “thing” and “man”—begin to unfold in the opening pages of Makumbi’s book.

There’s a knock at the door. A woman opens it to four local officials, who rouse her man, Kamu, from sleep and lead him outside for questioning. He assumes they’re there on behalf of a creditor but when they reach a marketplace, they bind his hands. Kamu protests: “Why are you tying me like a thief?” A mob swirls into being like a weather formation, the word thief flying “from here to there, first as a question then as a fact.” Kicks and blows begin to rain down on him, from both the elderly and the young. Arrivals to the scene ask, “‘Is it a thief?’ because Kamu had ceased to be human.” He tries to hold on to his humanity: “Kamu decided he was dreaming. He was Kamu Kintu, human. It was them, bantu. Humans. He would wake up any minute.” He does not.

The account of Kamu’s abrupt, arbitrary death on Monday, January 5, 2004, and the subsequent fate of his corpse in the bureaucratic torpor of Kampala’s morgue, recurs in short fragments at the start of each of the novel’s five sections, which tell the stories of other members of the scattered Kintu clan. First, we jump back three centuries to its first generation, headed by Kintu Kidda, a ppookino, or governor, of the Buddu province in the eighteenth-century Buganda Kingdom. In a moment of irritation, Kintu slaps his adopted son, a Rwandan, and the boy falls down dead. His men bury the body improperly: “the grave was narrow and shallow. They used a stick to measure Kalema’s length, but while the stick fit into the grave, Kalema did not. They crammed him in.” In their haste, the men do not even realize that they have buried the boy beside a burial shrub for dogs. The tragic repercussions of this desecration—“the curse was specific: mental illness, sudden death, and suicide”—ripple across the centuries through the lives of Kintu’s descendants.

Like Charles Dickens or Gabriel García Márquez, Makumbi ranges widely across time and social strata; her knowledge of Ugandan culture seems as precise as a historian’s. We meet Suubi Kintu, a young woman who grows up in a compound, perpetually on the brink of starvation, but is eventually integrated into a middle-class family. Kanani Kintu and his wife, Faisi, members of an evangelical group, the Awakened, bear a twin son and daughter with an uncomfortably close relationship. Isaac Newton Kintu, the product of rape and named for the last lesson his mother learned in school before she dropped out, gets trapped into marriage; when his wife dies, seemingly of AIDS, he anguishes over whether to learn his own HIV status. Miisi Kintu, a writer raised by colonial priests (the “white fathers”) and educated abroad, returns to a postcolonial Kampala still feeling the aftershocks of dictatorship and the bush war of the early Eighties, which killed some of his children. With its progression through generations and its cyclical returns to genetic inheritance—hay fever, twins, madness—Kintu’s structure feels epic.

Kintu continually diverts us from this straightforward path of a curse and its aftermath, however, as well as from our preconceptions about Africa. The polygamous eighteenth-century governor wants nothing more than to be with the woman he loves; the Awakened couple experience their enviably passionate sex life as a torment; the spiritual leader of a ritual cleansing is so “anglicized” that the assembled family members doubt his efficacy. Social class is defined neither by strict stratification nor by upward mobility, but by extreme volatility—economic fates rise and fall almost at random. Servant girls become educated women, sons of professors come to live in slums.

Makumbi’s depiction of local culture also bears little resemblance to standard notions of African “authenticity.” Her Uganda is an unabashed amalgam of Europe and Africa, in everything from cooking to spiritual possession to mental health to sexual mores. As Makumbi said in an interview:
We are both Europeanized and Ugandan. We speak both traditional languages and English. Someone goes to church, but then will go to the traditional healer. Someone is a scientist but will have an intense spiritual life. We have this saying in Uganda: “God help me, but I’m going to run as well.” We think two ways at once.

In the novel, Miisi conjures an image of African postcolonialism that captures this sensibility. He pictures the black torso of the continent but stripped of its limbs, which have been replaced with European ones. “We cannot go back to the operating table and ask for the African limbs,” he writes. “Africa must learn to walk on European legs and work with European arms. As time goes by, children will be born with evolved bodies.” Makumbi’s portmanteau for this Gothic image enacts the very grafting it describes: Africanstein.

Kintu cannot but be in some sense the story of a people, the Ganda, and a nation, Uganda. But its politics are personal. Idi Amin and the bush wars emerge in conversation, in acts of mourning. The ins and outs of the ancient Buganda Kingdom’s secessions and coups seem incidental to the personal tragedy of Kintu Kidda, his wives, and their children. Makumbi has said that she intentionally skipped the nation’s colonial history: “The almost complete lack of colonization was deliberate…. To me colonization was my grandfather’s quarrel.” So, without the usual lenses of class, culture, and colonialism—without “Queen and Country,” so to speak—how are we to read this “African” novel?"



"Oddly enough, despite all this generalizing and pigeonholing, African writers are rarely thought to speak to the universal—in the philosophical sense rather than the platitudinous one. But if, as Makumbi noted at an event in Brooklyn last June, the origin of the human species is probably East Africa, then why can’t Kampala be the center of a profoundly universal inquiry? As its two-faced title—man/thing—suggests, Kintu does in fact have a grand philosophical question in mind. The novel forces us to reckon over and again with what it means to be kintu, to be man, or human. This question plays out across certain boundaries: between men and women, between twins, between life and death, between “mankind” and “animalkind,” between good and evil, between human and supernatural worlds, between foreigners and family, and, of course, between humans and objects."



"Miisi completely loses his grip on reality and starts wearing a Western-style waistcoat and coat over his kanzu. In his dishevelment, he comes to resemble his ancestor with that strange thing/person name, Kintu. Miisi becomes a man “floating in two worlds.” Which two worlds? Boyhood and manhood, past and present, muntu and muzungu, Europe and Africa? “I know who I am,” Miisi tells his daughter, “We are not even Hamites. We are Bantu.” But she thinks, “He is now a different person.” In the end, he is riven by his divisions, “in the middle world between sanity and insanity.”

To survive being human, Kintu suggests, is to hold all these divisions together, gently, to “just be.” This argument about personhood is radical because it rejects a long philosophical tradition of considering “humanity” as a matter of self-containment and integrity, of what the human excludes. It is also radical because Makumbi centers this argument in Uganda. But what better place, with its arbitrarily sketched borders, its pliable myths and cultures, its originary status—cradle of the first human/thing—to stage an interrogation of personhood? As Makumbi has remarked in passing about living as an immigrant in the UK: “Out here you are Ugandan. At home you are just human.”"
jennifernansubugamakumbi  namwaliserpell  books  literature  kintu  kampala  ugnda  africaisnotacountry  2017  toread  universal  universalism  humans  humanism  objects  betweenness  seams  gender  supernatural  middleground  gray  grey  humanity  personhood  integrity  self-containment  borders  identity  myth  culture  sexuality  history  colonialism  postcolonialism  human  colonization  europe  decolonization  frankenstein  africanstein  africa  africans  twins  multispecies  morethanhuman  life  living  philosophy  divisions  interstitial  liminality  liminalspaces  liminalstates  between 
october 2017 by robertogreco
What should teachers understand about the snapchat back-channel? - Long View on Education
"When I find my students on their phones or off-task on their computers, I try to first ask them the honest question, ‘What are you up to?’ Even though I usually re-direct them back on task, I want to understand them better as people with the hopes that I can make school as meaningful for them as possible.

It’s from that position that I ask: What should teachers understand about the Snapchat back-channel that has become so pervasive in our schools and classrooms?

It’s really nothing like passing notes, day-dreaming, or staring out the window.
Snapchat uses gamification techniques to incentivize participation, which I can’t help but read in the context of how Uber uses similar techniques to coerce its drivers, all without the appearance of coercion:
“To keep drivers on the road, the company has exploited some people’s tendency to set earnings goals — alerting them that they are ever so close to hitting a precious target when they try to log off. It has even concocted an algorithm similar to a Netflix feature that automatically loads the next program, which many experts believe encourages binge-watching. In Uber’s case, this means sending drivers their next fare opportunity before their current ride is even over.”

We live in a culture where active listening, deep reading, and quiet reflection must compete with the incentivization to constantly participate and score points. I don’t read this as a lesson in psychology like a 5 Unusual Ways to be More Productive listicle, but rather as a lesson in politics and democracy: 5 Sneaky Ways Corporations Keep You Focused on Yourself in a Precarious World.

The last thing I want to do is normalize surveillance in schools by prying into what kids are doing on their devices or to outright ban things. That kind of approach both reflects ableism, ignoring how some people might rely on devices to learn, and classism, ignoring how people with low-incomes might rely on smartphones for internet access.

Should we turn Snapchat into an educational tool? I doubt that kids want school to bleed into their social space any more than my generation wanted their teachers to post homework assignments in mall food courts, on basketball hoops, or Facebook.

Should teachers aim to be more entertaining than Snapchat? I view education as kind of conversation which requires both parties to make an effort to listen. The classroom should explicitly examine and address the conditions under which people have a voice. As someone with power in the classroom, I am less worried about kids paying attention to me than I am worried about them paying attention to each other. What student would want to become vulnerable by sharing their important thoughts if they are really entering into a combat for attention, trying to out-entertain an app designed to be addictive?

Should we just butt out, as Gary Stager suggests? Amy Williams poses an important question in reply:

[tweet by Benjamin Doxtdator @doxtdatorb
https://twitter.com/doxtdatorb/status/863648814724505600 ]
"@garystager Which doesn't mean monitoring or surveilling the kids or banning it"

[tweet by Amy Williams @MsWilliamsEng
https://twitter.com/MsWilliamsEng/status/863688181811687425 ]
"@doxtdatorb @garystager Can a school follow anti-discrimination laws (i.e. really claim that it's preventing harassment) & ignore what happens in backchannels?"

Relegating Snapchat to a completely unsupervised space in schools makes no more sense than not supervising playgrounds, especially given the unprecedented power of social media to quickly spread images far and wide. Supervising the playground does not mean that I don’t allow kids the freedom to talk without me hearing every word, but somehow balancing the freedoms that kids need with obligations to care for them.

I think I worry most about students taking photos and sharing them without consent. Who could learn under those conditions? I couldn’t. Imagine taking a risk by trying a new move in PE class or giving a speech and then seeing a phone peek back at you. As a teacher that uses a lot of technology, I play a role in modelling best practices. If I want to tweet something from my classroom, I tell my students why I want to take a picture of them, show them the photo, and then ask if they are willing to let me post it.
Mostly, I’d love to hear what students think. Imagine the possibilities in large-scale research that solicited anonymous feedback and also made use of in-depth interviews. We might be missing an opportunity to really learn something."

[See also:

https://twitter.com/doxtdatorb/status/863799711098130433

"Nope, it's this kind of nonsense that equates education with entertainment and immediate gratification that's the problem."

in response to

"If kids in your class are more engaged by a fidget spinner than they are by your lesson, the spinner isn't the problem. Your lesson is."
https://twitter.com/plugusin/status/863389674223669248 ]
technology  education  schools  snapchat  socialmedia  distraction  entertainment  coercion  gamification  classism  garystager  learning  supervision  surveillance  modeling  reflection  silence  quiet  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  sfsh  middleground  amywilliams  edutainment  engagement  gratification  fidgetspinners  discrimination  backchannels 
may 2017 by robertogreco
minimum force, corporeal anticipation |
“For it is Sennett’s contention that “nearly anyone can become a good craftsman” and that “learning to work well enables people to govern themselves and so become good citizens.” This line of thought depends, among other things, upon the Enlightenment assumption that craft abilities are innate and widely distributed, and that, when rightly stimulated and trained, they allow craftsmen to become knowledgeable public persons.

And what is it that such persons know? They know how to negotiate between autonomy and authority (as one must in any workshop); how to work not against resistant forces but with them (as did the engineers who first drilled tunnels beneath the Thames); how to complete their tasks using “minimum force” (as do all chefs who must chop vegetables); how to meet people and things with sympathetic imagination (as does the glassblower whose “corporeal anticipation” lets her stay one step ahead of the molten glass); and above all they know how to play, for it is in play that we find “the origin of the dialogue the craftsman conducts with materials like clay and glass.”

The assumption that craft abilities are widely diffused leads Sennett into a meditation on our love of those intelligence tests by which we supposedly single out the very smart and the very stupid so that some will go to college and others go to bagging groceries. Sennett points out that such sorting ignores the “densely populated middle ground” where most of the population is actually found. Rather than celebrating a “common ground of talents,” we tend to inflate “small differences in degree into large differences in kind” and so legitimate existing systems of privilege. Thinking of the median as the mediocre creates an excuse for neglect. This is one reason, Sennett argues, that “it proves so hard to find charitable contributions to vocational schools” while currently the wealth of the Ivy League schools is compounding at an astounding rate.”

[from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/books/review/Hyde-t.html?pagewanted=all ]
crafy  autonomy  craftsmanship  richardsennett  authority  resistance  force  forces  minimumforce  imagination  sympathy  play  materials  making  middleground  talent  talents  privilege  mediocrity  median  vocationalschools  wealth  knowing  knowledge  understanding  enlightenment  sarahendren  citizenship  openstudioproject  glvo  lcproject  cv  corporealanticipation  learning  work  tcsnmy  progressiveeducation  elitism  2008  lewishyde 
march 2013 by robertogreco

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