Posts Tagged ‘literacy’

Did she say “revolution”?

March 28, 2009

Naomi Klein speaks at the National Conference on Media Reform:

Now I want to return to another moment of profound crisis, after the market crash of 1929, that was the moment that created the new deal. Now it didn’t happen because FDR was a great guy. It happen because people in this country were so radicalized, so determined, so organized that he was able to sell the New Deal to the elites as a compromise because the alternative was Revolution.

Matt Taibbi writes about the 2009 financial crisis:

And all this happened at the end of eight straight years devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society.

Then he says something interesting about democracy, education, and revolution as a two way street:

By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

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More on Catching The Wave

August 17, 2007

It looks like I might have to read and write about Marx. It’s got to be best to avoid mentioning the name, but if I want to use the concept of alienation, even if I want to transform it a little, I should have some idea of how the concept was originally used. I thought for a moment deterritorialization might work, but that’s even more academic and not really synonymous, either way, alienation has a common meaning that circulates outside the academic world.

The wave we’re after, or on depending on your place in the spectrum of alienation, is capitalism’s third. Again back in Harris’ Ontario I saw the effects of policy geared toward business interests on community. The funding for Ontario’s arts organizations was threatened. And these once community based and minded organizations began appealing for funds with business and economic based arguments. The shift in thinking swept these once autonomous community groups up with the wave of capitalism.

Something very similar is happening with this call to catch the knowledge wave, if we understand it as knowledge wave capitalism. Much has been written about the commercialization of our schools and the resulting uncritical acceptance of product placement. But I’ve also read somewhere that capitalism is illiterate, I could look into this and its effect on literacy.

If literacy is seen as being in harmony with a culture’s body of knowledge, then alienation and illiteracy are connected. Developing a method to bring each child individually into harmony with our cultural body of knowledge would be a “micropolitical means of subversion.”

Computers in the classroom or literacy and GUIs

July 27, 2007

What follows is a response to Chris Sessums blog so it might read a little out of context. I put it here because I wanted to add some links to it. ::

Here are a few people in opposition to computers in the classroom.

A back-to-nature movement to reconnect children with the outdoors is burgeoning nationwide. Programs, public and private, are starting or expanding as research shows kids suffer health problems, including obesity, from too much sedentary time indoors with TV and computers. The post could use some formatting, or maybe that’s just part of the anti-computer ethos.

Theodore Roszak The Cult of Information “...the best approach to computer literacy might be to stress the limitations and abuses of the machine, showing the students how little they need it to develop their autonomous powers of thought.” (p.242) The first edition 1986 the second edition 1994

Neil Postman Technopoly…technology must never be accepted as part of the natural order of things, that every technology – from the IQ test to the automobile to a television set to a computer – is a product of a particular economic and political context and carries with it a program, an agenda, and a philosophy that may or may not be life-enhancing and that therefore require scrutiny, criticism, and control.” (p.185) 1992

I’m not quoting these “progressive” “left” or “ultra-left” critics/activists out of complete agreement, more out of respect for the diversity of the back-to-basics movement(s). The neo-luddites are more than neo-conservatives (who can also have us nodding our heads in agreement to their arguments here and there) they’re also ultra-progressives. Dewey didn’t use a computer. Like Roszak says, we don’t need it.

I disagree almost completely with Roszak and Postman, while I strive towards their end goals with my work, I wonder also about the possibilities of these machines.

To your question What can computers really do for kids in the classroom? Stephen Downes answers They can teach them how to use computers.

Downes is completely correct that the computers themselves could teach children how to use them. GUIs are so intuitive, that computers are easier to use than the timer on the oven in your kitchen, not to mention older technology like the 8-track tape (who ever got the hang of those things?). This freaks teachers out that a machine can replace them so easily. Why is it that kids learn more, easier, faster, better in the glow of a GUI? Another question is “do they?” but what we hear is that kids are learning slaves to the machine, and unteachable by humans.

So the question is literacy. Most teachers are politically illiterate, at least in Canada where the governments and media squash them at will and with frequency. Most teachers are computer illiterate, and as such are unable to teach through the machines. If teachers are being replaced (not today, but maybe a not-so-distant tomorrow) it won’t be the machines, but coders who are their replacements. In this day to be politically and technologically illiterate is to be philosophically illiterate, and that’s a whole lot of illiteracy in those claiming to teach literacy to our children.

So yes, the computer itself will teach children how to use it. The fear is that the coders are unaccountable. What are the values they code into the machine? And really how does this differ from Dewey’s constructed environments? Did Dewey propose a system in which those being educated were unconscious of the preferred result? With the computer interface are the graphics using or being used? This interface could be a very powerful metaphor for teaching, but students need to learn to use a computer beyond using programs. And of course the problem with this is a person with the knowledge to code/script/program a computer has an earning potential and interest area that excludes public school teaching as an option.

This is the second time I’ve typed this out and I’m still meandering, but if I’m trying to say something it’s that computers are tools for communication, but the form of that communication is dictated by code. Knowledge of the code allows the users to infuse the form of communication with a personal set of values. This understanding is key for promoting the tool in the “progressive” sphere. All the players in education should be critical of the tools, programs and their uses; they should also have the knowledge to alter those programs to create forms more consistent with their values.

Preface to The New Press Education Reader

December 26, 2006

Today I started into The New Press Education Reader. The beauty of the new blogger’s labels is that it can keep together notes on my sporadic reading. I might not need to change my reading habits after all. I read the Preface today and had some reactions. I’ll put those down right now, and then after reading the articles, I’ll see how my thinking has changed. The first sentence “…a book I wish I’d had before I started teaching so many years ago,..” I’d bet a lot of teachers would say the same thing. Teachers are under-educated/under-qualified. I’m about to go through the process of qualification here in BC, and might document it, but that process is bureaucratic and has nothing to do with the qualities a person needs to teach children. I think there’s a science of learning that can be taught. Unlike medicine or engineering, teacher education is a real in-out experience. The qualities a teacher needs can’t be developed in 8 months. In Part One, “On Teachers and Teaching,” there’s an article about”how to educate not only teachers but children of color.” When I see this I wonder why there would be a difference. Part Two, “Combating Racism and Homophobia” Here’s the line that caught my attention:

Antiracism, Pollack writes, “requires not treating people as race group members when such treatment harms, and treating people as race group members when such treatment assists.”

It caught my attention. It seems such a silly thing to say. Racism is a collection of ugly conditioned emotions in an actor. Imposing the concept of race on children… Why not teach creationism..? And then to impose it willy-nilly like Pollack suggests…. silly. Part Three, “Advocates for Equality:”

Victoria Purcell-Gates offers her considerable expertise to illuminate what we need to do to build the language skills of [children in poverty]

This is something that interests me. Children in poverty, a group that is crosses colour lines, need more than faith. Language skills are retarded in poverty. There is a process of language acquisition, that can be observed. What I’m wondering is how the process is affected by delay. I’d like to believe that through providing proper nutrition and stimulation an elementary school could prepare any child for high school. Is this happening? I’d like to know what we need to do. Part Four, “Parent, Family and Community Involvement:”

William Ayers reminds us That “teaching, like organizing, is an act of faith.”

At this point I’d propose a Project for a Scientific Education (like Freud’s proposed Project for a Scientific Psychology.) An internet search brought this up which seems interesting and current.