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robertogreco : subjugation   5

How to Build Castles in the Air – Teachers Going Gradeless
"One of the more profound ironies of “going gradeless” is realizing just how fundamental grades are to the architecture of schools.

Grades undergird nearly everything we do in education. By threatening late penalties and administering one-shot assessments, we focus our famously distracted students on the task at hand. By regularly updating our online gradebooks, we provide an ongoing snapshot of student performance so precise it can be calculated to the hundredths place.

Grades inform our curriculum and instruction too. Because so much rides on them, it’s essential we build upon the rock of “objective” data, not the shifting sands of human judgment. Thus, we limit ourselves to those kinds of learning that can be easily measured and quantified. A multiple choice quiz testing students’ knowledge of literary devices can be reliably scored by your 10-year-old daughter (not saying I’ve ever done that). A stack of bubble sheets can be scanned on your way out of the building for the summer. Check your results online in the driveway, then go inside and make yourself a margarita.

If you want to evaluate something more complex, like writing, you had better develop an iron-clad rubric and engage in some serious range-finding sessions with your colleagues. Don’t put anything subjective like creativity or risk taking on that rubric — you’re already on shaky ground as it is. Make sure to provide an especially strict template so that the essay is fully prepared to “meet its maker.” Word choice, punctuation, sentence variety, quote incorporation — these are the nuts and bolts of writing. If the Hemingway Editor can’t see it, isn’t it just your opinion?

Hopefully, you see the irony here. Grades don’t communicate achievement; most contain a vast idiosyncratic array of weights, curves, point values, and penalties. Nor do they motivate students much beyond what it takes to maintain a respectable GPA. And by forcing us to focus on so-called objective measures, grades have us trade that which is most meaningful for that which is merely demonstrable: recall, algorithm use, anything that can be reified into a rubric. Grading reforms have sometimes succeeded in making these numbers, levels, and letters more meaningful, but more often than not it is the learning that suffers, as we continually herd our rich, interconnected disciplines into the gradebook’s endless succession of separate cells.

So, as I’ve said before, grades are not great. Nor are the ancillary tools, tests, structures, and strategies that support them. But as anyone who has gone gradeless can tell you, grades don’t just magically go away, leaving us free to fan the flames of intrinsic motivation and student passion. Grades remain the very foundation on which we build. Most gradeless teachers must enter a grade at the end of each marking period and, even if we didn’t, our whole educational enterprise is overshadowed by the specter of college admissions and scholarships. And since grades and tests rank so high in those determinations, we kid ourselves in thinking we’ve escaped their influence.

Even in a hypothetical environment without these extrinsic stresses, students are still subject to a myriad of influences, not the least of which being the tech industry with its constant bombardment of notifications and nudges. This industry, which spends billions engineering apps for maximum engagement, has already rendered the comparatively modest inducements of traditional schooling laughable. Still, the rhetoric of autonomy, passion, and engagement always seems to take this in stride, as if the Buddha — not billionaires — is behind this ever-expanding universe.

Let’s go one more step further, though, and imagine a world without the tech industry. Surely that would be a world in which the “inner mounting flame” of student passion could flourish.

But complete freedom, autonomy, and agency is not a neutral or even acceptable foundation for education. The notion of a blank slate on which to continuously project one’s passion, innovation, or genius is seriously flawed. Sherri Spelic, examining the related rhetoric of design thinking, points out how “neoliberal enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and start-up culture” does little to address “social dilemmas fueled by historic inequality and stratification.” In other words, blank spaces — including the supposed blank space of going gradeless — are usually little more than blind spots. And often these blind spots are where our more marginalized students fall through the cracks.

Even if we were able provide widespread, equitable access to springboards of self-expression, autonomy, and innovation, what then? To what extent are we all unwittingly falling into a larger neoliberal trap that, in the words of Byung-Chul Han, turns each of us into an “auto-exploiting labourer in his or her own enterprise”?
Today, we do not deem ourselves subjugated subjects, but rather projects: always refashioning and reinventing ourselves. A sense of freedom attends passing from the state of subject to that of project. All the same, this projection amounts to a form of compulsion and constraint — indeed, to a more efficient kind of subjectification and subjugation. As a project deeming itself free of external and alien limitations, the I is now subjugating itself to internal limitations and self-constraints, which are taking the form of compulsive achievement and optimization.

One doesn’t have to look too far to find the rhetoric of “harnessing student passion” and “self-regulated learners” to understand the paradoxical truth of this statement. This vision of education, in addition to constituting a new strategy of control, also undermines any sense of classrooms as communities of care and locations of resistance.

A5. Watch out for our tendency to lionize those who peddle extreme personalization, individual passion, entrepreneurial mindsets. So many of these undermine any sense of collective identity, responsibility, solidarity #tg2chat

Clearly, not all intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is created equal. Perhaps instead of framing the issue in these terms, we should see it as a question of commitment or capitulation.

Commitment entails a robust willingness to construct change around what Gert Biesta describes as fundamental questions of “content, purpose, and relationship.” It requires that we find ways to better communicate and support student learning, produce more equitable results, and, yes, sometimes shield students from outside influences. Contrary to the soaring rhetoric of intrinsic motivation, none of this will happen by itself.

Capitulation means shirking this responsibility, submerging it in the reductive comfort of numbers or in neoliberal notions of autonomy.

Framing going gradeless through the lens of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, then, is not only misleading and limited, it’s harmful. No teacher — gradeless or otherwise — can avoid the task of finding humane ways to leverage each of these in the service of greater goals. Even if we could, there are other interests, much more powerful, much more entrenched, and much better funded than us always ready to rush into that vacuum.

To resist these forces, we will need to use everything in our power to find and imagine new structures and strategies, building our castles in air on firm foundations."
grades  grading  equity  morivation  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  measurement  schools  schooling  learning  howwelearn  socialjustice  neoliberalism  arthurchiaravalli  subjectivity  objectivity  systemsthinking  education  unschooling  deschooling  assessment  accountability  subjectification  subjugation  achievement  optimization  efficiency  tests  testing  standardization  control  teaching  howweteach  2018  resistance  gertbiesta  capitulation  responsibility  structure  strategy  pedagogy  gpa  ranking  sherrispelic  byung-chulhan  compulsion  constraint  self-regulation  passion  identity  solidarity  personalization  collectivism  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
"It is a collection of life experiences, commentary on struggle, and oddly enough my own version of a power-fantasy. I have come to think that we have a backward idea of power, and perception of strength. We always have, and I think this is a byproduct of a historically patriarchal system. From religion, to politics, to economics, power is viewed as how many people you can subjugate. Respect is how many people fear you because of your power. How you can get what you want at the expense of others, how you are the biggest dog in the dog-eat-dog world that we have created for ourselves...

Our popular entertainment has always drawn from this point of view. It's simply fact. You use your power to hurt your enemies and eliminate them.

We don't really have a concept, in our culture, or discussion about alternative views of power from a survivor's standpoint. How is it like for survivors? Are people that live with trauma strong? Are people with mental disorders, or PTSD strong? Why is suicide seen as selfish and weak, when the person that lived with it got as far as they did? We don't popularly view survivors, victims, traumas, etc, as strength. It is a weakness, and I don't like that. I think this is because we have created a culture where we cannot really ever move past pain. We don't teach people how to heal, to overcome, or be powerful. We teach people to be perpetual survivors. We live with pain, but no way of transcending it. I think a lot of this can be credited to how we view "strength". I don't think the icon, epitome, of strength should be how many people you can hurt, conquer, overcome, but how much of this abuse you can overcome. How long you can live with what happened to you. How strong you are for being here. How powerful you are for being strong because you have no other option but to be strong.
Surviving is one thing, but living with it is an entirely different fight, and I think this is where examples of real strength are.

If approached from this point of view then it is an obvious conclusion that you should be celebrated simply for being here.

You are normal for your imperfections, and the way you cope. You are the hero in the story of your life, and you have every right to be proud.

These are a collection of very abstract life experiences, things I felt while going through hard times, and how I felt, or moved on, afterward.

A lot of it is presented via humor, or creates ridiculous circumstances, because I feel like life is ridiculous. It's one damn thing after the other and after a while there's nothing left to do but laugh at it. Humor is what helps take the edge off, perhaps even create a platform for transcendence. Either way, it has been cathartic."
games  gaming  videogames  seriousgames  power  subjugation  bing  life  everyday  small  smallness  living  imperfections  presence 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Animales/Animals : Dolores Dorantes And Jen Hofer : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation
El Paso, Texas. Enero 9, 2014.1

No entiendo mi vida. No sé quién soy. Se, más o menos quién no quise ser. Como estudiante no quise alimentar el sometimiento de la academia en México. Como escritora no quise contribuir al sistema cultural machista y corrupto que predomina en mi país. Como periodista decidí hablarle a un presente. Y aquí estoy. Perdida. Esa es una buena señal, supongo. Estar perdida y hablar sola.2 Aunque en este país creo que no es bien visto. En California tampoco es mal visto. En Texas es el infierno: eso de estar perdida y hablar sola. Es increíble cómo es que han cambiado los tabúes en nuestros tiempos ¿no te parece? No es que no existan los tabúes, sólo cambian de forma. Por ejemplo, cruzar el semáforo del peatón cuando está en rojo, aquí, ya es un tabú. Me encuentro a las personas paraditas en la esquina esperando a que el semáforo cambie, con la calle desierta. Es increíble cómo lo urbano cambia nuestro transcurso ¿verdad? Pareciera que las señales son los ojos del amo. El amo. El maestro.3 ¿Quién es? ¿Dónde está? Creo que el amo está donde está la víctima. El amo reina dentro del dolor. Se ha infiltrado hasta las estructuras que quisieran cambiar el mundo uniéndose a las luchas. El amo está en la producción. Esa palabra: producir un proyecto, producir una idea, producir sociedades libres, producir comunidades que luchan por su identidad.

El amo depende de nuestra identidad. No puede hacer nada ante un mismo y repetido rostro. Por eso yo soy de color y tú eres judía, y otros más son indígenas.4 Yo no voy a dar eso. Estoy perdida. El amo depende de nuestra identidad. No puede hacer nada ante un mismo y repetido rostro. Por eso yo soy de color y tú eres judía, y otros más son indígenas. Yo no voy a dar eso. Estoy perdida. Sin dirección, no voy a ninguna parte. No quiero tener un rostro. Ya no tengo país. Pero sí, me identifico como un animal, sí. Como una mujer animal. Porque ¿acaso no soy también una contradicción? Amo, maestro, lo que no se nos dice es también una contradicción. ¿Acaso tengo que ser una sola, de color determinado, de escolaridad definida porque si no estoy muerta? Somos muchas y no, no estamos muertas. Avanzamos, sin identidad, hacia ninguna parte.

* * *

El Paso, Texas. January 9, 2014.5

I don’t understand my life. I don’t know who I am. I know, more or less, who I didn’t want to be. As a student I didn’t want to feed into the subjugation of the academy in Mexico. As a writer I didn’t want to contribute to the corrupt machista cultural system so predominant in my country. As a journalist I decided to speak directly toward a present. And here I am. Lost. That’s a good sign, I guess. To be lost and talk to myself.6 Though in this country I don’t think that goes over so well. Yet in California it’s not especially looked down on. In Texas it’s hell: to be lost and talk to oneself. It’s incredible how the taboos in our times have changed, don’t you think? It’s not that taboos don’t exist, it’s just that they’ve changed form. For example, crossing the street against the light is now taboo here. I come upon people stopped at the corner waiting for the light to change, with the street totally deserted. It’s incredible how urban space shifts our trajectory, right? It would seem as if the streetlights were the eyes of our owner. Our owner. Our master.7 Who is the master? Where is the master?8 I think the owner is where the victim is. The owner rules within pain, has infiltrated even the structures that would seek to change the world by uniting together in struggle. The owner is in production. That word: to produce a project, to produce an idea, to produce free societies, to produce communities that struggle for their identity.

The owner depends on our identity. The owner can’t do anything in the face of a face that’s always the same and repeating. That’s why I’m a person of color and you’re Jewish, and others are indigenous.9 I’m not going to to give that. I’m lost. Without direction, I go nowhere. I don’t want to have a face. I no longer have a country. But yes, I do identify as an animal, yes. As an animal woman. Because aren’t I also a contradiction? Owner, master, what is said to us is also a contradiction. Do I really have to be one single entity, of a particular color and a specific level of education because if not I’m dead? We are many and no, we’re not dead. We’re moving forward, without identity, toward nowhere."

[See also the footnotes. For example:]

"2. La escritura, me parece, es el hablar sola y el hablar en/hacia una colectividad. O varias colectividades. Es hablar al yo fuera del yo que somos (que también es el yo que somos) y es participar en una conversación a través del tiempo, la geografía, la corporalidad, extendernos hacia más allá de lo que podemos saber o entender. Creo que el estar perdida es el estar abierta. ¿Encontrarte es una manera de cerrarte? Definición."

"6. Writing, it seems to me, is talking to ourselves and talking in/toward a collectivity. Or various collectivities. It’s talking to the I outside the I we are (which is also the I we are) and it’s participating in a conversation across time, geography, corporeality, extending ourselves beyond what we can know or understand. I think that being lost is being open. To find yourself is a way of closing yourself? Definition."

[via: ]
via:felipemartinez  2014  poetry  doloresdorantes  jenhofer  identity  animals  taboos  ownership  california  texas  culture  patriarchy  journalism  subjugation  lost  self-knowledge  collectivism  openness 
february 2015 by robertogreco
managers are awesome / managers are cool when they’re part of your team (tecznotes)
"Apropos the Julie Ann Horvath Github shitshow, I’ve been thinking this weekend about management, generally.

I don’t know details about the particular Github situation so I won’t say much about it, but I was present for Tom Preston-Werner’s 2013 OSCON talk about Github. After a strong core message about open source licenses, liability, and freedom (tl;dr: avoid the WTFPL), Tom talked a bit about Github’s management model.
Management is about subjugation; it’s about control.

At Github, Tom described a setup where the power structure of the company is defined by the social structures of the employees. He showed a network hairball to illustrate his point, said that Github employees can work on what they feel like, subject to the strategic direction set for the company. There are no managers.

This bothered me a bit when I heard it last summer, and it’s gotten increasingly more uncomfortable since. I’ve been paraphrasing this part of the talk as “management is a form of workplace violence,” and the still-evolving story of Julie Ann Horvath suggests that the removal of one form of workplace violence has resulted in the reintroduction of another, much worse form. In my first post-college job, I was blessed with an awesome manager who described his work as “firefighter up and cheerleader down,” an idea I’ve tried to live by as I’ve moved into positions of authority myself. The idea of having no managers, echoed in other companies like Valve Software, suggests the presence of major cultural problems at a company like Github. As Shanley Kane wrote in What Your Culture Really Says, “we don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.” Managers might be difficult, hostile, or useless, but because they are parts of an explicit power structure they can be evaluted explicitly. For people on the wrong side of a power dynamic, engaging with explicit structure is often the only means possible to fix a problem.

Implicit power can be a liability as well as a strength. In the popular imagination, implicit power elites close sweetheart deals in smoke-filled rooms. In reality, the need for implicit power to stay in the shadows can cripple it in the face of an outside context problem. Aaron Bady wrote of Julian Assange and Wikileaks that “while an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to “think” as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy.”

Going back to the social diagram, this lack of ability to communicate internally seems to be an eventual property of purely bottoms-up social structures. Github has been enormously successful on the strength of a single core strategy: the creation of a delightful, easy-to-use web UI on top of a work-sharing system designed for distributed use. I’ve been a user since 2009, and my belief is that the product has consistently improved, but not meaningfully changed. Github’s central, most powerful innovation is the Pull Request. Github has annexed adjoining territory, but has not yet had to respond to a threat that may force it to abandon territory or change approach entirely.

Without a structured means of communication, the company is left with the vague notion that employees can do what they feel like, as long as it’s compliant with the company’s strategic direction. Who sets that direction, and how might it be possible to change it? There’s your implicit power and first point of weakness.

This is incidentally what’s so fascinating about the government technology position I’m in at Code for America. I believe that we’re in the midst of a shift in power from abusive tech vendor relationships to something driven by a city’s own digital capabilities. The amazing thing about GOV.UK is that a government has decided it has the know-how to hire its own team of designers and developers, and exercised its authority. That it’s a cost-saving measure is beside the point. It’s the change I want to see in the world: for governments large and small to stop copy-pasting RFP line items and cargo-culting tech trends (including the OMFG Ur On Github trend) and start thinking for themselves about their relationship with digital communication."
michalmigurski  2014  julieannhovarth  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  power  julianassange  wikileaks  valve  culture  business  organizations  management  legibility  illegibility  communication  codeforamerica  subjugation  abuse  shanley  teams  administration  leadership 
march 2014 by robertogreco

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