Archive for August, 2008

The establishment

August 24, 2008

Noam Chomsky is a good example to show establishment thinking.

Chomsky is often dismissed by academics. The grounds for dismissal are many. There are better models of the press. His language is imprecise. He’s a linguist, not a political scientist/journalist/communication theorist/historian.. etc., in other words he’s from outside whatever legitimated academic discipline is being used to dismiss him. His work is too American. His work is too simple. You get the feeling in academic circles that it would be best if Chomsky were simply forgotten.

In academic circles the complaint is his popularity, which is completely the opposite of the academic label that’s used to dismiss him in the popular (corporate) press. How can completely contradictory criteria be used by two very different organizations?

Chomsky is a critical writer who’s been working on the front lines of the social justice movement for decades. As a worker for social change, he calls for changes in established social organization. This is a threat to anyone whose status depends on an established social organization, so for an established organization that communicates in the language of a middling 6th grader Chomsky is too academic and for the academic world which communicates in fashionable obfuscating jargon he’s too simple. But the relationship he’s got to these two social organization is a desire to see them changed. Because these social organizations are a collection of bodies working to maintain their status within the establishment it is the desire of these bodies to see Chomsky’s work discredited.

critical thinking

August 24, 2008

In his introduction to Chomsky on miseducation, Donaldo Macedo writes, “As our society allows the corporate cultures to reduce the priorities of education to the pragmatic requirements of the market, whereby students are trained to become “compliant workers, spectorial consumers, and passive citizens,” it necessarily has to create educational structures that anesthetize students’ critical abilities, in order to domesticate social order for its self-preservation.” (Chomsky, 2000, p.4)

This is hard stuff for teachers to swallow, but Macedo goes on to say that teachers “are technicians who, by virtue of the domesticating education they receive in an assembly line of ideas and aided by the mystification of this transferred knowledge, seldom reach the critical capacity to develop a coherent comprehension of the world.” (p.10) I don’t think teachers can swallow this. They may “know it” in the sense that they know there was once an emperor who pranced about in the finest robes until a child saw that he was naked. We “know” this story, but do we experience it in the world? Can we experience it in the world and continue to function in the world of transferred knowledge, can we continue to consciously live “life within a lie.” (p.6)

This is dangerous business, to allow our critical capacity to develop a coherent comprehension of the world. The tradition of Critical Theory is peopled by the unemployed (fired and quit), silent, suicidal, assassinated and insane. It’s easy for Macedo to write that “We must first read the world — the cultural, social, and political practices that constitute it — before we can make sense of the word-level description of reality.” (p.11) When Macedo writes that Chomsky “energetically stresses, teachers need to sever their complicity with a technocratic training that de-intellectualizes them so they “work primarily to reproduce, legitimate and maintain the dominant social order from which they reap benefits.””(p.12) can he not see that this voluntary severing from the dominant social order will also sever them from that benefit?

Who has a coherent comprehension of the world? Even if teachers, or anyone who is part of an established social organization, were to sever themselves from the functioning word-level world, the world-level meaning does not become immediately available. Most thinking people have glimpsed the horror of the world, but few can sustain the necessary study of that horror to communicate any meaning. The task is dangerous, but necessary if we are to meet Feire’s challenge to educators, “to discover what historically is possible in the sense of contributing toward the transformation of the world.” (p.13)

Red Means Rest

August 22, 2008

That’s a George Carlin line, "Red means rest". In a bit about driving he offers this advice for dealing positively with red lights. If you’ve got to stop you might as well relax. This is coming from somewhere…

Marc Ngui from Bumblenut is in Paris. He recently updated his website. Looking around, I came across this. (Here’s Marc’s site.) In some way these diagrams help explain my recently ended hiatus from posting here, and they will probably also help explain the free riffing attempts that will be posted here in the very near future. In words, I’ve been lost in thought. Mixing metaphors, I went in over my head. Now there’s nothing left to do but revel in the confusion.

I’ll get the names and dates later, but a relevant story goes: An apprentice animator asked a master, while he was working, if he ever listened to music while drawing. The Master screamed,"What a stupid..! I’ve never heard a more stupid question in my fff- life!" When the master calmed a little he added, "I’m not that smart, I can only think of one thing at a time." There may be a time and place for extreme singular concentration, but we also need the ability to think in the multiple, or at the least, if only one thought is possible, make connections, and move quickly through multiple concepts. It’s an ability, that I need to work on. Any talk of education will lead quickly into a complex concept of the social. Thinking through the complex, and communicating, while thinking through complex concepts, networking in complex ideas, should be a staple of education. Who will educate the educators?