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Edutopia | Jacobin
[Too much to quote (still tried and exceeded Pinboard's visible space) so go read the whole thing.]

"Education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It’s a social and political project neoliberals want to innovate away."



"Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO and a regular at Davos and TED talks, has described design thinking as a way to inject “local, collaborative, participatory” planning into the development of products, organizational processes, and now schools.

Design Thinking for Educators is full of strikingly drawn graphic organizers and questions like, “How might we create a twenty-first century learning experience at school?” with single paragraph answers. “Responsibility” is used three times in the text, always in reference to teachers’ need to brainstorm fixes for problems together and develop “an evolved perspective.” (The word “funding” is not used at all — nor is the word “demand.”)

We’re told faculty at one school embarked on a “design journey” and came to an approach they call “Investigative Learning,” which addresses students “not as receivers of information, but as shapers of knowledge,” without further detail on how exactly this was accomplished.

Of course, the idea of engaging students as experienced co-teachers in their own education isn’t novel, nor is it an innovation that sprang forth from a single group of teachers using graphic organizers to brainstorm and chart solutions.

Marxist educator Paulo Freire developed his critique of the “banking model” of education — in which students’ minds are regarded as passive receptacles for teachers to toss facts into like coins — while teaching poor Brazilian adults how to read in the 1960s and ’70s. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed helped reignite the progressive education movement during that era, and his collaborative approach to learning remains influential in American schools of education today.

Peter McLaren, who taught elementary and middle school in a public housing complex for five years before becoming a professor of education, has since further developed Freire’s ideas into an extensive body of revolutionary critical pedagogy, which I was assigned in my first class as a master’s student in education. The Radical Math project, launched a decade ago by a Brooklyn high school teacher whose school was located within a thousand feet of a toxic waste facility, draws heavily on Freire’s perspective in its curriculum for integrating social and economic justice into mathematics.

Yet, here we are, a “nation at risk,” with lower test scores than our international peers and children still arriving at school every day without breakfast.

Like all modern managerial philosophies that stake their name on innovation, “design thinking” has been framed by creative-class acolytes as a new way to solve old, persistent challenges — but its ideas are not actually new.

According to Tim Brown, design thinkers start with human need and move on to learning by making, “instead of thinking about what to build, building in order to think.” Their prototypes, he says, “speed up the process of innovation, because it is only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really start to understand their strengths and weakness. And the faster we do that, the faster our ideas evolve.”

What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.

Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored."



"IDEO puts forth the fact that Innova students perform higher than the [Peruvian] national average on math and communication tests as proof that they’ve delivered on their mantra for the project: “affordability, scalability, excellence.”

But if test scores are higher than those of public schools, it is not because of the soul-searching of teacher/designers. It’s because tuition is about a quarter of the national median income. After all, a consistent pattern in the educational research of the past half-century is that the socioeconomic status of a child’s parents is one of the strongest predictors of his or her academic success."



"Design thinking, embraced by key figures in business and especially in the tech industry, insists that educators adopt a perpetually optimistic attitude because that is what it takes to believe everything will turn out okay if we just work together to streamline our efforts. That is what it takes to believe that the best idea is the one that survives group discussion and is adopted. The rabid optimism of the techno-utopian vernacular, with its metaphors that no longer register as metaphors, obscures the market imperatives behind the industry’s vision for the future.

This is intentional. Conflating the future with unambiguous, universal progress puts us all on equal footing. Participating as a citizen in this framework consists of donating your dollar, tweeting your support, wearing your wristband, vowing not to be complacent.

Critiquing the solution only impedes the eventual discovery of the solution. And why make demands for power if you yourself are empowered? Empowerment, as Duncan uses it, is a euphemism. Anger is empowering, frustration is empowering, critique is empowering. Competence is not empowering.

The fact is, education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It is nothing like building a spaceship. It is a social and political project that the neoliberal imagination insists on innovating out of existence. The most significant challenges faced today in education are not natural obstacles to be overcome by increasing productivity — they are man-made struggles over how resources are allocated."



"The United States is one of just three OECD countries, along with Israel and Turkey, where schools that serve rich families have better resources and more funding than schools that serve poor families. The other thirty-four countries included in the index either provide equal funding for all students or spend a disproportionate amount of money on students from low-income families.

In a country where the top 20 percent of the population earns eight times as much as the bottom 20 percent, this inevitably leads to two distinct and parallel systems of education, one for the rich and one for the poor. It’s not that “money doesn’t matter” for reforming the education system, or that technology can be a substitute, but that children from working-class and poor families score lower on standardized test scores than their wealthy peers — and America has many more poor families than rich."



"One example of the importance of this kind of flexible and evolving practice — especially for children from low-income families — comes from Lisa Delpit, educator and author of Other People’s Children. In talks, Delpit uses a situation she witnessed in a preschool in which a teacher handed out a tray of candy and instructed children to each take a piece and pass on the tray. Some of the children took multiple pieces, and there was not enough to go around.

A teacher evaluating the children without interpreting the context, like a machine, would conclude that the children did not successfully complete the task and need more practice in sharing. In fact, after asking why the children took extra pieces, the human teacher found that they were simply engaging in a different kind of creative economy, saving up a couple of pieces to take home to siblings later.

I suspect the innovation Gates is investing in is not a technological one, but a managerial one. The only truly novel thing Sal Khan has done is produce a cheap and popular way to distribute basic lectures and exercises to a large number of people who like them."



"The firing and disciplining of teachers is also an ideological choice: teachers threaten the ruling class. Though they are atomized as workers into separate classrooms and competing districts, teachers are, as Beverly Silver puts it, strategically located in the social division of labor. If they don’t go to work, no one can — or at least, no one with children to look after. As caretakers, teachers are by definition important and trusted community figures, public care workers who can shut down private production.

In the United States, where the vast majority of families continue to rate their own child’s teacher highly, even while believing the political mantra that the nation’s education system is rapidly deteriorating — unique job protections like tenure serve to further strengthen teachers’ capacity to resist … [more]
meganerickson  2015  whigpunk  education  designthinking  timbrown  ideo  policy  canon  paulofreire  oppression  capitalism  inequality  management  petermclaren  salkhan  khanacademy  billgates  gatesfoundation  arneduncan  politics  economics  edwardthorndike  history  bfskinner  psychology  control  power  technosolutionism  progress  technology  edtech  funding  money  priorities  optimism  empowerment  distraction  markets  lisadelpit  otherpeople'schildren  hourofcode  waldorfschools  siliconvalley  schooling  us  democracy  criticalthinking  resistance  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  efficiency  rote  totelearning  habitsofmind  pedagogyoftheopressed  anationatrisk  rotelearning  salmankhan 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Stengers’shibbolet, Bruno Latour [.pdf]
"1997 (foreword) Isabelle Stengers, Power and Invention, University of Minnesota
Press, Minneapolis"

"-Would you say that Isabelle Stengers is the greatest French philosopher of science?

-Yes, except she is from Belgium a country that exists only in part and where, contrary to France, the link between science and the state is nil.

-Would you say that she is the philosophical right-hand of the Nobel Prize winner of chemistry Ilya Prigogine?

-Yes, since she wrote several books with him, and yet she has spent the rest of her life trying to escape from the mass of lunatics attracted to this “New Alliance” between science and culture they both wrote together.

-Is she an historian of science?

-Hard to say. Although she wrote extensively on Galileo, on XIXth century thermodynamics, on chemistry1, she remains a philosopher interested in what her physicists and chemists colleagues should understand of their science. Her main object of attention is modern science, and this is what historians and philosophers should study together, no?

-You are not going to say that she is an internalist philosopher of science, are you?

-Worse than that, Isabelle Stengers is an “hyperinternalist” forcing you always to go further towards a small number of theoretical decisions made by her scientific colleagues. In her eyes, most scientists are often not internalist enough.

-But at least don’t tell us that she is a whiggish historian of science looking, like Gaston Bachelard or Georges Canguilhem, for the ways by which hard science finally escapes from history?

-She is, I am afraid, much worse. She is “anti-anti-whiggish” trying to figure out why the anti-whiggish stance is not the good way to account for what it is to “win” in science, at least not if one aims at convincing the chemists and biologists and physicists she is working with.

-But she is a woman philosopher and at least she must develops some kind of feminist philosophy of science?

-There is hardly anyone more critical of the feminist literature although she uses it extensively and knows it quite well.

-Then, she must be one of these abstract minds trying to reconstruct rationally the foundations of science and being busy erasing all signs of her sex, gender, nationality and standpoint?

-Not at all, there is no one more externalist than her and reading more extensively in the litterature on the social history of science.

-What? Does she have any patience for those ridiculous attempts at connecting science and society?

-Worse than that, she is addicted to it and knows more “science studies” than anyone else in the field.

-Do you mean to say that she likes it because it flatters her radical leanings in politics?

-Worse, she wrote on drug legalization, she is a militant in a small left Belgium party and even went as far as working with charlatans practicing hypnosis and other kinds of unorthodox cures... I told you, Isabelle Stengers is always worse! She wrote as much on hypnosis as on physics and she happily compares chemistry laboratory and ethnopsychiatry, going so far as to rehabilitate the word “charlatan”2.

-Then she must be one of these ignorant radicals doing politics because they are unable to grasp the niceties of science?

-Not quite since she does radical politics through the careful definition of what Laplace, Lagrange, Carnot have done with their equations.

-I am thoroughly lost... Then she must be quite a woman?!

-Yes, and quite a mind!

-But, tell me, how come you have been asked to write a foreword for someone who seems obviously much better endowed in philosophical subtleties, political will and scientific knowledge than yourself?

-This is quite strange, I concur. I guess it is because of the tradition in science studies and in anthropology of the modern world to study “up” instead of “down”. Trying to swallow hard sciences had very good effect on the softer ones. I guess it is the same with Stengers. You grind your teeth on her argument, and you feel much better afterward!..."

[continues into the intro]

"One simple way to define this collection of articles presented in English, is to say that they have been written by a philosopher interested in the very classical question of distinguishing good science from bad. Her new solution to this old problem will be, however, difficult to grasp both for science studies and for philosophers and that requires some clarification. Isabelle Stengers does not share the anti-normative stance of most recent historians and sociologists of science and has no qualms in looking for a shibbolet that will help sort out science from non-science. In this sense, but in this sense only, her work is marginally more acceptable to Anglo-American epistemologists than those of “science studies” who shun away from any normative position. Philosophers will be able to recognize at least that here is someone who is not complacent vis-a-vis the production of bad science and who shares their will for a good cleansing job. The difference, because fortunately there is one, lies in the fact that her own touchstone means getting rid of most epistemologists and quite a lot of hard sciences! So the normative goal is similar but the principles of choice are radically different. "



"Stengers’ request to be cosmopolitically correct cut both ways, and cuts hard. In the obscure fights of the Science Wars, one can safely predicts, she will be seen as a traitor to all the camps, not because she is “in the middle” -no one is less of a middle-woman than her, no one is less an adept of the Golden Medium!- but because she imposes on all protagonists a criterion that they will do their utmost to escape. Although this book appears in a series called “Theories out of bound”, no theory is more binding than Stengers’ new demarcation criterion. Having often tried to escape its binding strength only to find myself forced to use it again, it is a great pleasure (and I say it with some glee) to imagine that English-speaking readers are now to be enmeshed into this most daring enterprise we, in the French-reading world, had to take into account for so long. It is my hope that they will learn more than I did (this is unlikely) in those twenty years when I tried to profit from her marvelous “habits of thoughts”, and also my hope that they will be forced even more than I was (this is more unlikely) to modify their definition of hard science and of radical politics by using Stengers’ shibboleth and pushing it everywhere -against herself if needs be!"
isabellestrengers  brunolatour  1997  whigpunk  whigishness  whigs  science  philosophy  philosophyofscience  history  culture  thirdculture  ilyaprigogine  physics  chemistry  feminism  socialhistory  politics  ethnopsychiatry  charlatans  radicalism 
march 2015 by robertogreco
6, 5: Hills
"The systemic problems – climate change, mass violence, police state, you name ’em – will not be solved from any single angle. One necessary one, I think, is sushi knife cuts across the idea that we are restoring the world. Sometimes, narrowly, this makes some sense: we can say, for example, that there was a past in which there were better women’s health options in Texas than there are today, and use it as an example. But most of the past sucked real bad, or was not a stable object. The good king to whom Robin Hood was loyal was, in the historical record, what we would now call a bad king. And the implication that we can turn the Anthropocene back into the Holocene is simply false, and a dishonest goal; we have to talk about how we’re never going home, but if we work hard we might make a new home that’s better than what we’ve begun to trek into.

A DM conversation with ace reporter Robinson Meyer (gently edited for clarity):

Rob: Have you played 2048, Dan W edition yet?

Me: No.

Rob: It is a hoot.

Rob: http://games.usvsth3m.com/2048/dan-w-edition/

Me: Astonishing.

Me: Died at 2656.

Me: What can we say about the people who think this is fun and clever?

Me: Can we make a more interesting description than “people who have heard of the New Aesthetic”?

Rob: Confusion: Do you think it was not fun and clever, or are you trying to name the very real category?

Me: I think it’s extremely fun and clever.

Me: And I’m trying to get at what this kind of enjoyment is beyond “people out there share my obsessions with certain ‘boring’/‘weird’ things”.

Rob: Haha, okay. Right. Yeah.

Rob: My shorthand is, indeed, usually “weird.” But that in itself is a shorthand for estrangement.

Rob: Estrangeurs.

Me: I sometimes think if it as: bulk people.

Me: People interested in mass transportation, mass communication, massive slabs of data.

Rob: The Blurry Commons.

Rob: (I think it is common-in-bulk—it being not enough to revive the old, say, Judt-esque progressive adoration for trains.)

Rob: The Fans of Connected Signifiers of Disconnection and Vice Versa.

Rob: Shirepunk.

Rob: Domesdayists.

Me: Census-botherers.

Rob: Because it’s partly about working on problems at 45 degree angles to climate.

Rob: Whigpunk.

Rob: But actually this time.

Me: Ack, perfect.

Rob: That’s what it feels like to be thought-led.

It might also be this thing or not. It might be about scale – the feeling of something on the edge between subitizable and not. (It also has the grace of something made by a friend for a friend – which animates some of my favorite light art, even where it lacks other merits.)"
scale  charlieloyd  2014  whigpunk  newaesthetic  climatechange  mailart  tuitui  micronations  robinsonmeyer  wendellberry  systemsthinking  systems  decline  disaster  lauraseay  jasonstearns  gérardprunier  catharinenewbury  davidnewbury  séverineautesserre  africa  genocide  southsudan  sudan  rwanda  centralafricanrepublic  injustice  libertarianism  normanborlaug  anthropocene 
may 2014 by robertogreco
wp.md
"1. Whigpunk is to whig-ness (i.e., the belief in the improvability of humans’ material conditions) as cyberpunk is to cyber. It’s not for, it’s not against, it’s not inside, it’s not outside. It’s the observation of the friction and turbulence where the idea touches the world.

2. Two people who disagree about what whigpunk is and means can both be doing whigpunk. Whigpunk itself is not an explicit macropolitical stance. That said,

3. The tension in whigpunk that gives it power is about the idea of progress, and therefore time and ethics. Whigpunk is a home-on-the-road for people who have had the technoutopianism/Luddism/solutionism/legibility arguments many times without finding a comfortable conclusion.

4. One path to whigpunk is to think about the fine textures of big uncool things. Epcot is embarrassing because it’s infused with a naïve and colonialist vision; to contemplate the epiphenomena and physicality of Epcot is whigpunk.

5. Whigpunk codes male. One angle of this is that it’s interested in the connection between white-color ideas and blue-collar implementations, and the culturally visible people in white- and blue-collar jobs are men. In this way, there’s a certain amount of boys-playing-with-dumptrucks in the whigpunk scene. But the fact that washing machines changed politics by giving women more free time is whigpunk, Björk’s Post is whigpunk, My Little Pony is whigpunk, and Creation Under Capitalism is maybe The Whigpunkest Thing, broken images and all.

6. Whigpunk can be connected with trainspotting, with the New Aesthetic, with dataviz, with the present renaissance of person-scale urbanism, and with many other things. Whigpunk is apart in that (1) it’s not really bound in time; going down to the harbor to watch the ships unload is equally whigpunk whether it happens in 1650 or 2050, and (2) it’s inherently silly."
whigpunk  charlieloyd  2014 
may 2014 by robertogreco

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