Again, in library instruction (since that is my container of experience), content is somewhat secondary. Tools and their uses (to acquire information) are primary, such as search techniques, procedures, the inner workings of databases, and even search algorithms and logic. Content is neither the end nor the means of research instruction. So what is it and what is its value?
In library instruction for freshman and sophomore English classes, I have sought to “mix up” content (the “stuff” to which research tools are applied for illustration) to make learning the tools easy, interesting, and even meaningful. Configuring content provides an opportunity for insertion of different ideas, diverse ideas, all elements, broadly speaking, of critical pedagogy, to make our students better thinkers, and, to a limited extent, better people. I have been successful in incorporating local and regional content, “stuff,” information about the the history and culture of the school and of the region, building in the students a stronger sense of self-confidence and the significance of their place and potential in the world. Similarly, content that is relevant to the student age group (18-25), like music, art in general, and student-led activism makes learning the tools more meaningful, perhaps easier to some extent.
In my business classes, I have found that local content, i.e., business success stories of local entrepreneurs (and especially University graduates) energizes and motivates the students, making the learning process a much more engaging and hence, successful encounter. Soliciting their concerns, from the work they are doing in groups, to their plans for post graduation, and finding ways to incorporate that into library instruction on a real-time basis has also made the learning more engaging.
So where are we? Back to the original propositions. Content is not the end of instruction, developing expertise with using the tools is the end. Content is not the means of instruction, as developing expertise only happens through exercise with the tools, using them repetitively to develop these “muscles.” But perhaps content is the motive force of learning, and maybe content is the element that engages the students and inspires them to stick with it and do the long, hard work required for mastery. Moreover, content can be the human element that enables students to see themselves in their learning and to imagine their own possibilities/potential in shaping and forging the outlines of their future.
p.s. The choice of content is not neutral. In fact, it is value-laden. To be fair to the students, a strong dose of critical thinking should accompany instruction at all levels and incorporate examination of bias in content selection.
Listen. Week four of #moocmooc is a real doozy! Let me confess that I had to look up Hakim Bey, Max Stirner, Francisco Ferrer, Paul Goodman, and the Free Space/Free Skool. But I knew exactly what heterotopia was as I had created several of them over the past several decades – it was the only way I was able to survive in a hostile world. In fact, I am in a heterotopia as we speak, my refuge in the North Carolina mountains…
I had read Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience as a somewhat precocious teenager and it inspired me to write a piece for the high school newspaper on student rights, entitled “The Student is the New Nigger,” which did not make many of my teachers happy though my father found it quite entertaining. It was, after all, the Watergate years. Needless to say, the re-reading of Thoreau’s masterful essay brought back warm memories of those years of my youth…(who knew that was all it took?)…
But let’s get down to brass tacks. I had never really thought of Thoreau (and, by extension, his intellectual lineage, Gandhi and King) as an anarchist, but in close proximity to the Shantz article, it all becomes somewhat clear. “Anarchists seek freedom from internalized authority and ideological domination,” sounds very similar, to me, to “The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think is right.” The sentence “This American government – what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity” resonates as truthfully today as it did in 1849. And the classic, oft-quoted lines, “Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” have launched many a protest movement since being prophetically penned on the eve of the American Civil War and brings to mind the haunting Herman Melville poem about, perhaps, America’s greatest anarchist:
Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown)
And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war.
But back to critical pedagogy (oh must we?). There are surely shades of Freire and hooks in the sentiments that “learning should contribute to independence of thought and action and contribute to capacities for self-determination” and that traditional teacher/student relationships “can inhibit students and reinforce authority structures of command and obedience.” But we also see where The Free Skool’s adherence to anarchist principles, simply stated, resulted in the loss of administrative power to accomplish political or even cultural goals. At one point in the reading I scribbled in the margin, “are anarchist pedagogies only for spoiled rich kids?” Conclusion: I have a lot of reading to do. Good thing I’m retired. Except I do have this new day job that I love. So I guess I’ll be phoning my local independent bookseller in the morning.
I plowed through the Giroux chapter last night and it made my knees hurt, as they always do when I walk in an ever-tightening circle. Reading Maha Bali’s cliff notes this morning was refreshing, however, and my knees are feeling better already.
Thank you. I found the Freire and hooks readings a lot more revealing, a lot more enlightening, but that is surely attributable to my lusophone and African-American heritage. Maha Bali’s mention at the end of her notes on the “multiplicity of views” challenging the grand narrative brought to mind an essay I once read on multiple working hypotheses, which can be found here: http://www.accessexcellence.org/RC/AB/BC/chamberlin.php. Hope to blog more in the next couple of days.
more later (including an after-action report on my morning library instruction workshop)…
Workshop went well. Sophomores. 10 minutes of instruction and 45 minutes in the stacks carrying out assigned tasks. I didn’t force them to form groups as with the freshmen, but definitely firmly suggested it, empowering them to make the decision. Most saw the utility of working in groups but we did have one “lone wolf.” Further, each team was assigned the complete list of scenarios.
For most, the content of the exercises was as interesting as the process of conducting the search. Students were creative, in fact, innovative in their execution. I encouraged teams to exchange information with other teams when they found themselves “lost,” and to cross check their searches with Google searches to uncover additional search terms (pearl- growing method).
Moving from group to group, I stressed to students the several aspects of the scenarios, for example, that the A&T Four were all freshmen, or that North Carolina’s education system was ranked near the best of the nation following the Sanford reforms. It clicked with them at various levels, which was “self-actualizing” for them as well as for me.
It was also interesting the way the groups did or did not implement a division of labor to cover all six scenarios. The class required that each person post a summary to findings to Blackboard, and in retrospect, it may have worked better had we required each team to post summaries, as a group. At a minimum it would have avoided the mad rush of students copying notes from teammates at the end of class.
Back to Giroux. I underlined (in pencil) passages I wanted to recall, but I put check marks in the margins of passages I definitely wanted to remember. What follows are paraphrased summaries of the margin-checked ideas:
1. Critical pedagogy is only relevant if it addresses “real social needs,” is “imbued with a passion for democracy,” and “provides the conditions for expanding democratic forms of political and social agency.” p.74
2. Critical pedagogy requires “an ongoing indictment ‘of those forms of truth-seeking which imagined themselves to be and placelessly valid'” (Gilroy, 2000). p. 75
3. Critical educators should be aware of and “attentive to the ethical dimensions of their own practice,” especially regarding their encouragement of critical reflection and moral and civic agency. p. 76
4. “Rather than providing students with an opportunity to learn how to shape and govern public life, education is increasingly being vocationalized, reduced to a commodity that provides privileges for a few students and industrial training for the service sector for the rest, especially those who are marginalized by reason of their class or race.’ p. 78
5. Educators should 1) resist “attempts on the part of liberals or conservatives to reduce the role of teacher to that of either technicians or corporate pawns,” and 2) refuse “attempts to reduce classroom teaching exclusively to matters of technique and method.”
6. “Critical pedagogy must: 1) be interdisciplinary and radically contextual, 2) engage the complex relationships between power and knowledge, 3) critically address the institutional constraints under which teaching takes place, and 4) focus on how students can engage the imperatives of critical social citizenship.”
Well, as you can imagine, there are plenty opportunities for this level of critical pedagogy in information literacy and library instruction. Content hand in hand with process and method, variety and diversity in examples, cognitively and culturally, and providing students the option to make their own decisions, hew their own paths, and respond responsibly to the outcomes.
…during the Midwinter Radical Conversation webinar today that I have been on this track for longer than I had imagined. Below is the text of a paper I did for my information literacy and instructional design course…
Constructivism, Accountable Talk, Conversation Theory, and Information Literacy Instruction
This paper sets forth constructivism and a constructive approach as the best solution for information literacy instruction. Many have already made that argument and made it convincingly. What is different in this paper is my attempt to make the case that using deliberative discourse, also called accountable talk (pioneered at University of Pittsburg), as an excellent way to move forward the constructivist paradigm for learning. Briefly, I will put a sharper point on the case I have made with a review of Pask’s conversation theory, and its latest disciple, David Lankes. Finally, I will use two examples not related to information literacy instruction to illustrate the potential comprehensiveness of this approach.
A Constructivist Approach
Cooperstein and Kocevar-Weidinger (2003) convincingly explain the generally agreed upon elements of constructivist learning, i.e., learners “construct” meaning by making a deliberate attempt at sense-making of incoming information; learners “build” new information on top of old information, finding connections between the two; learners share and compare ideas and learn through the resolution of conflicting ideas; and learning happens through classroom activities that imitate and emulate activities in the real world (Cooperstein & Kocevar, p. 142). The first two elements operate inside the learner and occur inside the mind. Of the second two elements, the third is more socially oriented, i.e., accomplished through interactions with others, and thus, within our power to control, and the fourth is pretty much dependent on the strength and creativity of the teacher or instructor. My focus, then, is on the third element.
Vygotsky (1966) describes how a child reaches his hand out to grasp an object that he sees but that is beyond his reach. That reaching appears to surrounding people to be a pointing, though it may not be, it may just be a hand “hanging in the air.” But the nature of the thing changes, from being an extended reach, to becoming a signal to surrounding people. Vygotsky says the “child is the last to realize his own gesture” and concludes that “we become ourselves through others” (Vygotsky, p. 39). This begins a very social way of interacting with and learning from others. Expanded, Cooperstein and Kocevar-Weidinger claim that “an important aspect of constructivism is the need for social interaction” and that “group activity increases discussion, experimentation, enthusiasm, and participation (Cooperstein and Kocevar-Weidinger, p. 144).”
Constructivism works well in information literacy instruction settings for several reasons. Grassian (2009) explains that the cognitive/constructivist model helps the learner “own” the material through active involvement, emphasizes collaborative learning, and allows for differing hypotheses that encourages development of a learning community (Grassian, p. 50-51). Information literacy skills, like conducting searches or evaluating web documents, all lend themselves to learning that depends on cognitive activity, on thinking about discrete steps in a process, on brainstorming trial answers to a series of questions, and on sharing and comparing those trial answers to discover the best outcome or the most satisfactory information solution.
Accountable Talk/Deliberative Discourse
Accountable Talk, a conversation methodology pioneered at the University of Pittsburg, focuses on establishing group norms that simultaneously support rigorous inquiry and promote equity and access (Michaels, O’Connor & Resnick, 2007). Most experiments in Accountable Talk have occurred with children, but information literacy instruction groups at high school or college age would make a good experimentation model. The authors at Pitt developed Accountable Talk from a Vygotskian theoretical framework emphasizing the importance of social interaction in developing thought processes that raise the level of discourse (Michaels, O’Connor & Resnick, p. 285). By asking for clarification, through polite challenges, and by encouraging participation by all participants, the conversation itself spurs students to think more deeply, more carefully and more critically.
The “accountable” of Accountable Talk refers to levels or areas of accountability to which students (participants) are held. While involved in conversations, students are held accountable to the learning community of which each is a part. They must listen to each other, both to show respect, and to carefully assess what is being said so they can use and build on it. Students are held accountable to accurate knowledge, i.e., they are responsible for their claims’ accuracy and truth. Finally, students are held responsible to standards of rigorous and critical thinking. These levels of accountability, along with the other group norms, would combine together to create a rich and creative environment for students in an interdisciplinary information literacy course.
Conversation Theory is in large part an extension and an amplification of Accountable Talk, although it predates Accountable Talk. At the least, both derive from similar roots in the Vygotskian approach mentioned earlier in this paper. Gordon Pask first developed it. I will present below David Lankes’ moderated interpretation.
Lankes (2011) says a conversation has four parts: conversants, either people, or political parties, or even countries; a language, a set of meanings going back and forth; agreements, shared understandings between the conversants, arrived at through the language; and an entailment mesh, a collection and relation of the agreements (Lankes, p. 221). Conversation may begin in a basic way, as a series of directions or instructions, simple exchanges. One conversant may be a lot less knowledgeable than the other, but the exchange of these basic instructional directions builds a shared framework of common understanding. Gordon Pask identified this stage as the initial stage of conversation (Lankes, p. 221). After numerous exchanges at this level, if one of the conversants makes assertions that the other must agree to, over several iterations several agreements (or agreements not to agree) will be established, which may spawn different conversations. This would be the second level (Lankes, p. 221). Both conversants are now involved in learning, about each other, about their respective tastes and preferences and interests. Third level (Lankes, p. 222). Once a collection of these agreements is established and stored in a memory file or a book, it will achieve what Pask and Lankes would call the fourth level, or entailment mesh (Lankes, p. 222). At each level, new knowledge and new information are being formed and developed, in a constructivist way.
Last year I took a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, also called ModPo. There were over 40,000 students in the course. It was hosted by University of Pennsylvania, and live webcasts were broadcasted once a week, to which all participants were invited. The professor used a team-teaching approach, and several videos each week featured close reads of poems with the professor at a table conversing with six teaching assistants. The conversation was led by various team members at various times. Each lecture was a conversation between the seven of them, piped out to over 40,000 students around the world. The course was a grand success. We learned the material, and a large percentage actually got certificates of completion. In Washington, a dozen or so of us formed a weekly study group that met on Sundays at Politics and Prose Bookstore. This year the course is being taught with the addition of some twenty community teaching assistants, embedded throughout the population of online students. Perhaps such a model of conversation- and team-led instruction might be conceivable for information literacy instruction on a smaller level.
The final example is an information interview I conducted with Max McClellan, one of the producers of the highly regarded, award-winning news program, 60 Minutes. One thing that the producer said made a very strong impression on me. He said all interviews on 60 Minutes are conversations, the kind of conversation that anyone could imagine having in his/her own living room. He said it was through conversations, going back and forth, that new information was developed, and it was through conversation that new knowledge was best imparted (M. McClellan, personal communication, August 16, 2013).
Both examples highlight the use of conversation as an instructional vehicle/mechanism. Information literacy instruction might be ripe for the inclusion of more talk in the various methodologies already in use to convey and impart knowledge.
Cooperstein, S. E., & Kocevar-Weidinger, E. (2004). Beyond active learning: A constructivist approach to learning. Reference Services Review, 32(2), 141-148.
Grassian, E. S., & Kaplowitz, J. R. (2009). Information literacy instruction. Theory and Practice, Neal-Schuman Publishers, New York.
Lankes, R. D. (2011). The atlas of new librarianship MIT Press Cambridge, MA.
Michaels, S., O’Connor, C., & Resnick, L. B. (2008). Deliberative discourse idealized and realized: Accountable talk in the classroom and in civic life. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 27(4), 283-297.
Vygotsky, L. (1991). 3 genesis of the higher mental functions. Learning to Think, 2, 32.
Part two, after action report. and preps for next week!
After the weekly reading for MOOC MOOC, it dawned on me that my series of scenarios only includes men, not women. I can fix that by merely adding a couple of scenarios involving women as subjects of study and discovery, not just men, and especially not just old white men, which I have already studiously avoided. But there is something in the bell hooks reading that gives me solace on the whole subject of conflicts across the racism-sexism divide. She writes,
“. . . I want to say that I felt myself included in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, one of the first Freire books I read, in a way that I never felt myself – in my experience as a rural black person – included in the first feminist books I read, works like The Feminine Mystique. In the United States we do not talk enough about the way in which class shapes our perspective on reality. Since so many of the early feminist books really reflected a certain type of white bourgeois sensibility, this did not touch many black women deeply; not because we did not recognize the common experiences women shared, but because those commonalities were mediated by profound differences in our realities created by the politics of race and class.” (hooks, 1994, pp51-52)
So, getting back to the subject of library instruction, this week’s reading of hooks combined with last week’s reading of Freire helps us to approximate what should be the true critical pedagogy for library, and hence, information literacy instruction at a regional comprehensive university, which I will continue to incorporate in plans for my classes this week. The workshop will continue to cover conducting basic searches from the library home page search box. It will continue to stress the importance of using appropriate search terms for both recall and precision of search outcomes. The workshop will show students how the library search box, with all it various functionalities, works nicely in coordination with searches on Google and Google Scholar.
Moving away from the technical aspects of the search, I think including a task that has students look up events involving students their own age, whether of political activism, or sports, or the arts, or whatever, helps students deal with the identity questions that they may be experiencing, contributing to self-actualization of both students and instructors. A couple of tasks incorporating local content, i.e., the great progress in the arts and in education that had its origin in local movements, develops in the student at a regional university a sense of place, of space, and a sense of her/his role in effecting change at the local level that can have national consequences. A task involving some aspect of library history, library science, information and communication usage helps to fix in the mind of the students the place and role of the library, in the university setting and in the greater community. Finally, a task with an international twist exposes the student to the bigger, outside world and their place in it as well.
But back to this week’s bell hooks reading, Teaching to Transgress, chapter 2. I took these notes, in no particular order, but as points to consider further:
1) The importance of self-actualization, and the significance to the students that just as they are growing and learning, so also is the instructor on a similar path of growth and learning. In fact, it is, and this is important, “acknowledged” mutual self-actualization. (hooks, throughout).
2) Students don’t need teachers to be therapists, they already have therapists in many cases. hooks points out that students want and need from their instructors and professors “…an education that is a healing to the uninformed, unknowing spirit. They want knowledge that is meaningful.” (hooks, p. 19).
3) Instructors/professors must embrace the challenge of self-actualization, not resting on their laurels, not content to be the “sage on the stage,” but aware of the learning that takes place for them as well as for students in the classroom. (hooks, p. 22).
4) Hooks makes a reference to an engaged pedagogy where students learn and where teachers grow and are empowered. (hooks, p. 21)
5) Finally, a conversation outside of class, especially in the library or at a university function, can serve as an exchange that reinforces engaged pedagogy. (hooks, p. 20).
OK. A lot to think about. This coming week I have workshops with two sections of sophomore English and two sections of social entrepreneurship. Hope to incorporate elements from this great libguide on online search and syntax (http://libraryschool.libguidescms.com/content.php?pid=645906&sid=5346173). Should provide lots of opportunities to hone #critped and #critlit tools.
After action report.
I was so excited about my first day of teaching that I woke up around 2am and was basically awake until daybreak. I got to work around 7am, made photocopies of the scenarios and cut them into individual strips. I decided to add a sixth scenario to allow for three to four person teams. By 7: 30 I was in the library instruction classroom, setting up laptops for each table, opening up and minimizing the sites I wanted to show, and writing my learning objectives on the whiteboard.
Students from the first of four classes arrived at 8am. For the first section, I likely over taught the material, in retrospect, when I should have provided the required material and allowed the embedded tasks in each scenario drive the learning process. For successive sections, having learned that lesson and having seen demonstrated in the stacks the strength of the embedded pedagogy, I turned the dial back, and limited the classroom phase to 10-15 minutes. The teams were randomly arranged and I assigned the scenarios to each team.
On the way to the stacks, we passed a stairwell that had portraits of each university chancellor. To break the ice, theirs and mine, I told a couple of stories about the chancellor for whom the library was named, Hyram Tyram Hunter. Once we reached the stacks, with 45 minutes left in the class period, I turned them loose to accomplish their assigned tasks. Then, along with their instructor, I roamed from team to team, answering their questions and steering them in their search. It was clear that the students were engaged, even animated, and eager to get their task accomplished. I heard some very interesting comments from the team members, which I hope will be included in their postings to Blackboard. Each team was required to post their reflections/findings/conclusions on the exercise on Blackboard.
It appeared that each successive class section achieved the assigned task quicker than the previous section, and by the fourth class, the teams had accomplished the task and made their submission to Blackboard with time to spare in the hour. I wonder if my over-anxiousness at the beginning slowed the first class down a bit, and if the resolution of my anxiety over the course of the morning was reflected in the performance of each section and each team within the sections.
As an aside, I think the students were very excited about the scenarios that had North Carolina content, though they were equally animated by the Paulo Freire and the Ranganathan questions, and in both cases, exceeded the task requirements.
More to follow…
Some thoughts on my first teaching experience this week.
1. I don’t want to bore them with silly platitudes about libraries. They’ll just say, “so what?”
2. I do want them to get first-hand experience of searching and finding information, to feel the thrill of the hunt.
3. So I am thinking about coming up with a series of “hunt” scenarios.
4. No more than 15 minutes of work in the classroom, then I will camp out in the stacks and let them go to work.
5. I will stay around as a resource, then give them my contact info for later.
6. Each group will be required to share its info with every other group.
7. Each team will appoint one person to scour the libguide.
8. Each team will appoint one person to serve as reporter.
9. Looking for a way to have students post their results and conclusions
Additional thoughts (with help from twitter buddies)
1. May share with them that they are first year learners and I am a first year librarian – we are discovering learning strategies together.
2. Will post hints/tips for each scenario to the libguide page I am going to build Sunday and encourage them to flip through all the tabs during the classroom phase.
3. Might alternate the “terms of the hunt” across the four sections and compare results.
So, the scenarios:
1. Tell me the name of a poetry movement that arose in western North Carolina in the 1940’s. Name 3 or 4 poets from that school and find 2 examples of their poetry. Search terms: poetry movement; North Carolina; 1940’s (Hint: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/brief-guide-black-mountain-school)
2. In the early 1960’s a college in North Carolina became famous when four of its students staged a non-violent protest against then-legal racial discrimination practices. What was the name of that college? List the four students’ names. How many of the four students are still alive? Find two books and two articles covering the event and subsequent movement. Search terms: Sit-ins; North Carolina; 1960. (Hint: http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/commentary/299/entry)
3. What Indian mathematician and librarian became famous throughout the world of librarianship with his 1929 book, The Five Laws of Library Science? Find three articles or two books that look at modern interpretations of his ideas. Search term: “The five laws of library science” (Hint: http://eprints.rclis.org/7252/1/Application_of_Ranganathan%27s_Laws_to_the_Web.pdf)
4. A Brazilian educator and writer wrote a seminal book on pedagogy in 1970 that has become a classic around the world. What was the name of that book and what tiny country in West Africa did he choose for a case study? Search terms: Paulo Freire; pedagogy (Hint: https://libcom.org/files/FreirePedagogyoftheOppressed.pdf
5. There are several websites that focus on how to evaluate websites for accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency and coverage. Define these terms for your classmates and find at least four different systems for evaluating websites and blogs. Search terms: website evaluation; blog evaluation
6. What North Carolina governor, alarmed at the technological progress Russia made with the launching of the Sputnik, decided that his state had to move beyond textile and tobacco and proceeded to establish the North Carolina Governor’s School, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the North Carolina Community College System, and to consolidate the UNC system? Find two biographical items on his life (books or articles). Search terms: North Carolina, governor, education champion.
OK. Just what is meant by Jasperian-split? (p. 79) What is this consciousness as consciousness of consciousness other than a poetic play on prepositions?
Earlier in the paragraph, Freire makes reference to “intentionality” as the essence of consciousness and how “problem-posing” education “epitomizes the special characteristic of consciousness: being conscious of, not only as intent on objects but as turned in upon itself…”
My knowledge of Portuguese makes me suspect something is lost in the translation. So I have ordered a copy of the Portuguese edition from UNC through the ILL system so I can check directly. But never mind, we can still work with it as it is.
I mentioned earlier that I teach my first library instruction class next week. Wednesday. Four sections of Freshman English, back-to-back. One hour each, one hour per semester. I have no intention of boring them to tears with a stack of powerpoint slides. We are going to chat for ten minutes, then turn them loose for 50 minutes to “hunt for stuff” in the stacks and on the library website under supervision. My goal for today is to plan those “hunting” tasks in a way that includes achieving the learning goals already established. It brings us back to “intentionality” and “consciousness of consciousness,” or meta-consciousness.
I don’t want to trick the students into learning, because a “trick” makes it a one-way process that might backfire once they learn the truth. I don’t want to be the guy behind the curtain pulling levers. And ultimately, I don’t want to cut off the opportunity to learn something new from the students, an opportunity that requires, no demands two way free exchange.
Now, back to Jasperian-split. Ok, I admit, I had to look it up. Siri didn’t know, so I went to the Oracle. The Oracle pointed me again to Fanon (see part one) (http://www.crvp.org/book/series02/ii-7/chapter_i.htm) and through him, to these Bob Marley lyrics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg97JiBn1kE):
We’re sick and tired of your ism and skism game
Die and go to heaven in Jesus’ name, Lord
We know when we understand
Almighty God is a living man
You can fool some people sometimes
But you can’t fool all the people all the time
So now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our right
And this Rilke sonnet (http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/archaic-torso-apollo):
Archaic Torso of Apollo
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
In short, the Oracle told me, the Jasperian split is the gap between form/format and content/context in learning, and the awareness that to close that gap one must be willing to create, to re-create, to change the normally acceptable structure and order and to be conscious of that closing and that change as an evolving process, i.e., we know when we understand, and you must change your life.
Now, to Emily Dickinson. ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American Poetry) folks know of my total adoration for Emily Dickinson and have heard me quote that the only way to approach understanding an Emily Dickinson poem is “on your knees,” implying the academic/intellectual humility required. Here are the lines:
From all the jails the boys and girls
Beloved, only afternoon
That prison doesn’t keep.
They storm the earth and stun the air, 5
A mob of solid bliss.
Alas! that frowns could lie in wait
For such a foe as this!
“Jails” as a metaphor for banking approach to education? Freedom from constraints (storm the earth and stun the air) the needful to generate in young minds “their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as static reality, but as reality in process, in transformation.” (p. 83)
I first discovered Paulo Freire on the dusty street corners of Bissau, where dog-eared, well-used copies of his books could be found in plenitude. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t read any of them, but I remembered the name! For the purposes of this blog post, I want to reflect on two ideas mentioned/alluded to in chapter two of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the teacher-student contradiction, and meta-consciousness. Then close with thoughts on the Emily Dickinson poem, “From all the jails the Boys and Girls.” .
But first a digression. Is it just me, or am I seeing shades and shadows of Fanon throughout the reading. Does anyone know if Freire and Fanon ever met? I am sensing a very strong connection…
I begin teaching next week. I am very excited about it. And worried just a bit. Will I emulate my previous instructors and aim to be “the sage on the stage?” Or will I exert effort to break away from the old mold and earnestly seek to resolve the teacher-student contradiction that Freire talks about? I am a librarian, and so much of library instruction is “one shot” teaching, definitely the “banking method,“ where one tries to pour as much information into the students’ heads as possible in that one hour per semester. But how about a new method? How about we turn the students loose, in the stacks and in the databases, and set them on a path of true, memorable, and transformative discovery, discovery in the stacks? Some preparation will be necessary. We will need to “flip the classroom” and encourage a certain amount of “programmed” self-learning prior to the encounter.
But that brings up another issue, one which will repeat itself as we proceed. Is there a foundational need for critical information literacy that underlies the critical pedagogy push? Or is that just an effort to dichotomize, to postpone, to obfuscate students’ engagement. Freire says the teacher-student “…is not ‘cognitive’ at one point and ‘narrative’ at another. She is always ‘cognitive,’ whether preparing a project or engaging in dialogue with the students…In this way, the problem-posing educator constantly re-forms his reflections in the reflections of the students…the role of the problem-posing educator is to create; together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa (common belief/popular opinion) is superseded by true knowledge, at the level of the logos (knowledge of a higher system of thinking and of the world).” (p. 81)
to be continued…