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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
Tunnelling borders | openDemocracy
"The growing ubiquity of militarized borders has with it produced a subterranean network of cross-border tunnels. In tunnelling, global “urban burrowers” have begun to compose a new layer of multitude grounded in the struggles against global hegemony itself."



"This constant specter of walls cropping up along the world’s boundaries at first seems ignorant of its own porosity. Yet, the policy of walling hardly overlooks these routine practices of less visible trespass. In a so-called ‘borderless’ era of free trade walls strategically redirect unsanctioned cross-border flows further out of view and deeper underground by beckoning their own subversion this way, and for multiple reasons:

[1] Walls help to force a commingling of uncontrollable movements of various types with the illicit underground networks of criminal drug and human trafficking syndicates, and militant groups;

[2] by driving the world’s labor/refugee overflow underground it becomes easier to perceive such a superfluous population as less human and through a wider lens of “ferality” (a description Pentagon researchers have drawn upon to characterize the insurgents fighting the new urban wars of the 21st century—wars that would take place in the filthy spatial fallout of failed states/cities). This paves the creation of a more broad base subclass of borderzone criminality identified through a purposeful blurring of migrant/refugee/criminal/terrorist suspect categories. This pixelation only invites a greater juridical stripping of their legal status and harsh penalization under anti-terror national security frameworks; and,

[3] underground spaces can be deemed more viable military targets despite those that lack any violent intention by virtue of sharing a spatial typology that in nature coincides with other like-spaces that have been designed for more nefarious uses.

Today, not only do walls beget tunnels they co-construct them as an intended by-product that forces a multitude of forbidden cross-border sub-agencies into self dug graves and abyssal legality. Rather than taking responsibility through progressive immigration and labor policy, or re-examining the failures of the War On Drugs, or preventing Israel's annihilation of Palestinian statehood, national governments deploy a dehumanizing strategy of criminalization through forced tunnelization."
bryanfinoki  tunnels  border  borders  2013  security  westbank  gazastrip  palestine  israel  syria  egypt  korea  militarization  subversion  walls  fences  michaeldear  partitions  diplomacy  eyalweizman  opendemocracy  surveillance  stephengraham  economics  underground 
november 2013 by robertogreco
BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Walls around the world
"Two decades since the Berlin Wall came down, BBC Mundo looks at walls and barriers around the world which are still standing - or have been put up - since 1989."
walls  borders  us  mexico  israel  korea  geography  urbanism  photography  politics  architecture  migration  landscape  botswana  zimbabwe  india  pakistan  iran  saudiarabia  ireland  westbank  ceuta  melilla  spain  riodejaneiro  cyprus  sahara  españa 
november 2009 by robertogreco

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