April 23, 2006

Class Minutes - April 19, 2006

Minutes for 4/19/06 Study Circle:

Class began with a discussion among Richard and Kevin regarding an MSA proposal to limit faculty member’s abilities to grade based on class attendance.
- This relates back to a previous conversation that we had in class. Kevin wants to propose a university policy that does not allow for professors to grade based on attendance. Tim gave the warning “Be careful what you wish for,? based on the idea that instead of grading based on attendance, those faculty members who do so will instead change their system such that a written assignment or some way of monitoring class participation will be created. Furthermore, in this previous discussion, we talked about how certain class formats should not be permitted to have attendance requirements (for example, Sociology 3811 – Basic Social Statistics) – such as large lecture classes, whereas in discussion type seminars, it is imperative for all to be in attendance and participating to create a strong intellectual community.

This week’s reading: Chapter 12 – Teaching Criticality
- Presenter = Richard

A. The chapter begins with an overview of each author in the book.
B. Importance of critical thinking – what to think critically about.
C. Balance between theory and practice.
D. Erich Fromm & Angela Davis as key theorists.
E. Class dynamic: Who is feeding the questions that facilitate discussion? Teacher or student?
F. Ideas about personal reflection – is it good to be done in isolation? Is it reflexive? Can it be tainted by others? (for instance, by the teacher’s presentation of the material) – Do/Can teachers thwart out creative and critical thought by superimposing their interpretation of a reading and treating that like the “right? interpretation?

Important Quote from the text:
“Both [Fromm & Habermas] believe that decisions arrived at through fully participatory, inclusive conversation are the cornerstone of democracy, and both believe education can play a role in teaching adults the dispositions necessary to conduct such conversations. As a teacher, I share this dialogic emphasis, though my use of it has changed greatly over the years. When I began teaching I viewed discussion leadership as a wholly artistic process, one distinguished by creativity and constant improvisation. I still believe these factors are important in discussion, but they are very far from being the whole story. Too often what is justified as a laissez-faire approach meant to demonstrate the teacher’s refusal to dominate conversation actually serves to bolster wider social inequities that have been imported into the group. The people who talk the loudest and longest mean their voices get the most attention in the world outside. A misplaced belief that teacher interventions automatically represent an unwarranted domination also led me to think that the best discussion leaders were those who were invisible. If a discussion leader said or did nothing during the conversation to indicate his or her role as the teacher, then I used to argue that this person was an emblematic adult educator. Now I am not so sure. While remaining silent is a legitimate stance in some situations, there are others in which the teacher is required to be strongly interventionist. This does not necessarily mean talking a lot. One can be silent, for example, but have played a strong role in determining the inclusive ground rules governing conversation.?

Points of conversation on this topic:
- being quiet vs. talking out
- over-dominating speakers
- Brookfield’s 3-person rule: 3 other people have to speak before a person is permitted to speak again.

- When teachers read something and present it – they have their own point of view.
- Discussion question about class participation: If a student is generally quiet and not personally willing to volunteer him/her-self to speak in class, is it oppressive or problematic to call upon that student? Does it promote critical thinking by forcing students to verbalize their thoughts when they otherwise don’t do so in an oral format?

- Discussion about an idea Tim came up with last semester for participation in large lecture classes: For participation points in a class, each student would be required to sit in the “discussion rows? twice in the semester – the instructor would pass around a clipboard and those in the discussion rows would sign in – anyone who is sitting in the discussion rows is fair game to be randomly called upon to answer a question.
- Discussion about Socratic method: Is Tim’s proposal the Socratic method? Is the Socratic method an effective method of teaching? Does it promote students being more prepared going into class? The idea of grading based on the ability to defend one’s own position/opinion with reasonable evidence.

- Discussion about the lack of team-teaching / inter-disciplinary courses at the University of Minnesota.
o Richard: Students don’t always recognize that the teacher is voicing an opinion. Having a teacher from a different discipline co-teaching a course can expose those opinion-based statements as opinions and teach students critical thinking by demonstrating where are the areas in research where there are contested debates on any given topic. Providing two or more different perspectives on a topic in a course promotes critical thinking by making students engage with differing perspectives and to weigh the evidence to see what they find more convincing.
o Kevin: There are examples of classes in each discipline that could be co-taught, for example, Basic Social Statistics would be a course well-suited to be co-taught by a Statistician and a Sociologist.
o Tim: Playing devil’s advocate, having two instructors debating a particular topic in front of a class potentially has the ability to undermine the authority and credibility of the instructors – not very many professors are very openly willing to have their own perspective be challenged constantly in front of a class of impressionable undergraduate students.
o Richard: Co-teaching opens the door to opportunities to demonstrate that there is not just one academic opinion on any issue.
o Kevin: Does not mind if professors are made uncomfortable for the sake of promoting critical thinking skills among students.

Richard: Problem with Marxist theory is that it speaks to liberals – it does not help conservatives learn because conservatives resist / have visceral reactions to Marxism. (for example, associating Marxism with the brutality of Stalinism.)
Tim: Sociologists aren’t really trying to buttress the status quo, however – sociologists generally resist conservative ideology due to its largely unsociological basis.

Kevin: Quotes on resistance in the text (pg. 358 and 370) – radical pessimism?
- Concerns over what SHOULD the system be if we break down the current system? What is the plan for reconstruction?

Marcuse: Personal reflection vs. Habermas: Group work & discussion as the key to critical thinking.

Tim: Discussion about graduate seminar structure – students generally have to write at least one reaction paper on the readings for a given week to provide initial thoughts and reactions that are untainted by anyone else’s interpretation / based on personal reflection. These pre-prepared thoughts are then brought in for helping facilitate class discussion.

Richard: It’s tough to teach Marx – perhaps it would be easier to teach Erich Fromm in classes before Marx (citing text – pg. 362).
- Teaching adults – critique capitalism – how do you teach people to be critical a system that they are a part of?
- There are certain readings that one should focus on before others – some students have a visceral reaction to readings on critical theory.
- Richard referencing Tim’s comments from last week regarding the need for everyone to have a sociologically-informed perspective on capitalism.

- Tim’s example: Tim went through an existential crisis working at Best Buy when he first became a Sociology major in undergrad. Tim had major Marxist tendencies at the time and felt very conflicted about working in an environment where he had to sell TV/DVD accessories to people that they really didn’t need, and the entire basis of job performance was based on one’s ability to push these unnecessary items on to customers.
- Richard quoting page 361-362: “This is why it’s important, early on, to get students to distinguish between capitalism’s ideology and functioning and their own role in the system. There are many who work in corporate America who believe strongly in the need for workplaces to be locations for the exercise of human creativity and who think they are working to humanize an inhuman system. When students in my courses read the manuscript on alienated labor, they find it expresses many of their own misgivings about their own workplaces. They would not use Marx’s language to describe their reality, but they recognize the spiritual and creative diminution signified by the relentless devotion to the bottom line of corporate profits.?

Richard: Critical Theory as a response to Marx
Kevin: Critical theory as about more than capitalism – but largely as a good starting pint to talk about critical thinking.
Richard: Thinks Critical Theory reflects Marx / promotes socialism.

- We started talking about how critical theory constantly focuses on capitalism as an oppressive ideology and class as a stratifying variable. We came to the conclusion that this book has not persuasively looked at all the ways in which people may be stratified in the world in terms of life experiences that drastically influence the way they experience the world.

We decided to compile a list of all of the various different ways in which people are stratified in this society or other societies (This may be perhaps the most comprehensive list that any of us have ever seen).

Class & Socioeconomic Status
- Occupation
- Wealth & Landownership / assets and debts
- Income
- Educational Attainment – where did you go to school? Degree level?
- Parents’ class/SES background

Sex & Gender
- Performance of Gender Roles
- Gender Identity

- Slutty vs. Monogamous
- Sexual Orientation
- Sexual Deviance (fetishes, philias, etc.)

Race & Ethnicity
- People may be stratified based upon skin tone within their own race (think about the brown paper bag rule among African Americans.)

Heritage & Ancestry
- Country of origin

Geographic Location
- School district
- Rural vs. suburban vs. urban
- Region and state
- Developing world vs. industrialized world
- Geographic access to valued resources

Citizenship Status

Nation-State Affiliation

- Cultural practices
- High culture vs. “Crap? (Measures of “Cultural Sophistication?)
- Cultural stereotypes

Religion and/or Creed
- Denomination / sect
- How religious are you?
- Do you adhere to a literal interpretation of scripture? Literal interpretation of certain parts of scripture?

Perceived “Friendliness?
- Pessimist vs. optimist
- Idealist vs. realist
- Introverted vs. extroverted

Organizational Affiliations and Memberships

- What language(s) do you speak?
- English-as a second language?
- Accent?

Networks & Personal Connections

Government Benefit & Welfare Statuses

Military Status
- Honorable vs. dishonorable discharge
- Post-military success?

Political Ideology
- Economic vs. social politics

Status in Society
- Fame / Name Recognition

Perceived Athletic Ability

Perceived Academic Ability
- Book smarts vs. street smarts
- Verbal vs. analytical vs. writing skills

Subcultural Affiliations
- Tribe? Cult? Etc.

Age / Cohort

Health Status

Able-Bodiness / Disability


Attractiveness / Appearance / Image
- Height (think about the treatment of dwarves/midgets)
- Weight

Family Structure
- Parental status
- Relationship / marital status

Criminal Status
- Disenfranchised voter?
- Perceptions of being a terrorist

Philanthropic / Altruistic People

Forms of protesting injustice
- Violent vs. non-violent protest

Transportation status (ie – do you have a car? Do you bus? Walk? Etc.)

Food Choice
- Veganism / Vegetarianism

Discussion of surplus
- Richard: We are a product of a revolution against the Depression generation (conservative consumption) – we always want more and more.
- Tim: Do we have the ability to create a culture based on need rather than surplus?

End of class

Posted by at at 3:16 PM

April 19, 2006

Download a Book on Critical Pedagogy for Free

You can download a book on critical pedagogy entitled "Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy Today" (2005) (edited by Ilan Gur-Ze'ev) just by typing its title Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy Today to Google.

From the backcover:

For the first time ever, the leading figures in today's critical education join forces. The collection, , offers a project in which the leading figures in critical education meet young academics who dialogically relate to each other’s work and critically reflect on their own contribution to Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy. In its nineteen chapters this book reconstructs the history of Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy and presents various and conflicting responses to the possibility of a present-day counter-
education. This collection offers a milestone and a new beginning in the relations between alternative (modern and postmodern) critical theories and critical pedagogies.

Posted by at at 6:21 AM

April 6, 2006

Witch-hunt in US campuses?

As a related comment to Tim's apt text for the meeting, please read Guardian's (UK) story of a recent witch-hunt of progressives in US campuses


And Peter McLaren's response, and reflection on accusations of being a dangerous Marxist professor


Posted by at at 9:37 PM

March 28, 2006

March 29 Critical Pedagogy Presentation

In his article “The Critical Turn to Public Sociology,? Michael Burawoy provides a semi-detailed historical account articulating the need a greater turn toward public sociology within academia. He emphasizes the desire to convert Marxism from a marginal theory to the dominant strain in thought in sociology. He says, “Reversing the prevailing wisdom, we tried to demonstrate that Marxism was the true science while sociology was but ideology? (314). He articulates that the structural functionalist paradigm of earlier days was not conducive to promoting public sociology, but was in fact a defender of the status quo. He provides a detailed account of how sociological theoretical ideas were transformed in the 1970s:

The radical assault on postwar sociology was surprisingly successful. From the early 1970s on, trench after trench succumbed to invading forces: stratification gave way to class analysis and more broadly to the study of inequality, conditions of liberal democracy gave way to studies of state and revolution, social psychological adaptation to work gave way to theories of alienation and the transformation of work, sex roles gave way to gender domination, value consensus turned into the diffusion of ruling ideologies through school and media, irrational collective behavior became the politics of social movements. Fortresses fell as old classics went into abeyance and new ones appeared. Marx and Engels became part of the canon while Durkheim and Weber were given radical interpretations. Feminism and then Foucault were soon knocking at the door. (316)

The process he describes is what many saw as the death of sociology, but says that the discipline was actually “reorganizing itself? (316). The new order, as he calls it, was a move toward theoretical paradigms based on the practice and happenings going on in a radicalized world. Burawoy says, “The radical sociologists of the 1970s were trying to carve into theory what was happening in practice, trying to catch up with a world pregnant with its opposite? (315). This new order has radically shaped the critical lens that many sociologists adhere to today.
The Frankfurt School, so integral to the field of critical theory, resisted scientific inquiry. Buroway says, “From the beginning, Frankfurt-influenced critical theorists had been skeptical of competing with bourgeois science on its own terrain, the danger of losing sight of critique, of subjugating what could be to what is. Science was the problem not the solution? (316). The rise of post-modern theorists, enmeshed with the “old guard,? feminist theorists, critical theorists, and Marxists, radically changed the face of sociology as a profession. A backlash came from multiple sociological theorists who lamented the “incoherence, fragmentation, and lack of center? of the discipline (317). Buroway adds, “Nor was the displaced generation completely wrong, sociology had lost its singular program, that almagram of grand theory and abstracted empiricism, with ‘middle range theory’ holding both to the fire, all controlled by an old boy network that spanned a few elite departments? (317). What I see happening in this enormous historical transition in sociology is a democratization of ideas. No longer could structural functionalism, as the dominant hegemon, be permitted to suppress the voices of those who saw the world through a different lens. The rise in different theoretical frameworks in the discipline was accompanied by different life experiences based on the demographic transition of the sociology professorate. Critical race scholars, queer theorists, feminist theorists, and labor movement scholars have come to find their place in the table of what now appears to be the smorgasbord of sociological theory.
Two interesting trends that I have personally witnessed or been made privy to in the sociology profession deal with this large demographic shift in the professiorate as well as the substantive areas covered in sociological theory courses. If one looks at the faculty of the University of Minnesota Sociology Department, currently a near 50/50 gender split is seen. However, it should also be noted that the overwhelming majority of the female faculty members are Assistant Professors who have been hired in the past 5 years. Clearly, a commitment to change and diversifying the professorate may be accomplished by putting people in positions such as departmental chairs and associate chairs who are committed to such a cause. If one were to look at the demographic trends of the departmental faculty just 10 years ago in 1996, one would find a dramatic imbalance in the gender composition of the department.
Secondly, my experience in my graduate level sociological theory course last year was quite the smorgasbord of theoretical frameworks. To briefly summarize the semester, it progressed in the following fashion: Marxist theory, Pierre Bourdieu, Georg Simmel, Network Theory, Postmodern Thought, Standpoint/Feminist Theory, Emile Durkheim, Neo-Institutionalism, Max Weber, Norbert Elias, Rational Choice Theory & Methodological Individualism, the Micro-Interactionist Tradition, Goffman & Symbolic Interactionism, and finally Jurgen Habermas. It is hard to currently envision a sociological discipline that is unified by a “core? theoretical framework – researchers borrow from various theorists who inspire their own work and ideas. While there are tendencies not to follow down the Durkheimian path in contemporary sociology, the fact remains that currently there is not a hegemonic strain of sociological theory. Thus follows several questions:

1. Is a “science? defined by having a core set of theories that guide its practice? Is there something inherently bad about not having a unified set of theory that guides all empirical research?

2. Is it not inherent that with sociology being the vanguard of civil society (as Burawoy puts it), that it should the discipline to lead in the democratization of the social sciences?

3. What does it truly mean to be a “public sociologist?? What should be the aim of public sociologists, according to Burawoy?

4. Can sociology truly be the unifying discipline that “transforms the world??

5. What is the role of sociologists in analyzing the standard practices of other academic disciplines and professional realms?

6. Is it the goal of public sociology to influence policy or is there another more important purpose for the existence of public sociology?

7. Burawoy paraphases Andrew Abbott in saying that there are “inbuilt tendencies of professions to establish their status by distancing themselves from publics, by fetishizing the inaccessibility of their knowledge? (323). Certainly, sociology as a discipline is not divorced from this phenomenon. Thus, how do we make sociology more accessible to the general public, and more specifically, how should public sociology be made more accessible to the public?

8. How do we use public sociology in the classroom to facilitate adult learning? What are some of the learning techniques that are most effective in bridging abstract theory with lived experience?

The 9th Chapter of Steven Brookfield’s book, “The Power of Critical Theory: Liberating Adult Learning and Teaching,? focuses on the democratic imperatives of adult learning advocated by Jurgen Habermas. Contrary to a post-modern approach that sees language as a slippery slope in which commonalities in understanding cannot be reached, Habermas views language and “communicative action? as the key to adult education. Brookfield says, “Habermas’ hope for regenerating democracy resides in adults’ capacity to learn, in particular, to learn how to recognize and expand the democratic process inherent in human communication? (247). For Habermas, the most intriguing question was not how adult learning happens, but rather how it DOESN’T happen (248).
Brookfield says that “The explanation Habermas proposes as to why adults are not continually and conspicuously learning is that contemporary political and economic systems, and their various steering media, attempt to foreclose the possibility of any learning that challenges systemic imperatives. Since learning involves asking ‘why?’ it is potentially very threatening to the system and must be controlled? (248). He also says that Habermas believes that critical thought cannot be learned without an earlier stage of un-critical thought in life. In his opinion, “We are not able to reflect back on internalized norms until we have first learned to follow them blindly through coercion imposed from without? (271). This is quite an ironic stance to take, but it makes sense – we cannot be critical of the world in which we live in until we have experienced something that we feel the need to be critical of. So, essentially from Habermas’ perspective, people need to experience a level of cognitive dissonance with the world in which they live in order to think critically. Thus, I think this has an interesting connection to sociology as a discipline. Sociology largely makes people challenge their taken-for-granted assumptions about the world and make take people out of their comfort zone and put them in a realm of cognitive dissonance. This does not happen with everyone – so here is a fundamental set of questions of adult learning:
How and in what ways do students resist sociological arguments that they are “learning?? Do individuals have to experience cognitive dissonance in their own lives to be able to think critically from a sociological perspective or can critical educators facilitate an environment of cognitive dissonance? In a critical environment, how and why do students resist “un-learning? processes?

The key concept for Habermas is communicative action, which he defines as “actions that happen when attempts by people to communicate ‘are coordinated not through egocentric calculations of success but through acts of reaching understanding’? (253). This sounds very much like a difference between a rational choice model of socializing in contrast to an interpretive approach of socializing. Rational choice theory would argue that the world is market exchange and that your interactions are going to be calculated based on who can do what for you – without saying much about the qualitative nature of those interactions. An interpretive approach would look at communication not specifically in terms of who you would interact with, for what purpose, and why, but rather the kind of communication that individuals are trying to foster with one another. Communication is never a one-sided exchange. Even a comedian or politician speaking in front of an audience is communicated with by the reaction of the audience through laughter, applause, or disparaging backlash. Along these lines, in regards to Habermas, Brookfield says, “The ability to put aside egocentric calculations of success in a society run by money and power is a learned ability. Indeed, in Habermas’ view, learning to do this is the adult learning task, made doubly difficult by the existence of schooling systems run according to the competitive ethic and the spread of civic or familial privatism? (253).
Habermas sees communicative action as the key to promoting the principles of democracy in society and in adult learning. “As long as we live in association with others, and as long as we accept that our lives are better without constant conflicts and disputes, then communicative action is required,? says Brookfield (260). Brookfield adds:

At the heart of human speech lies the desire for mutual understanding. In Habermas’ view, “reaching understanding is the inherent telos of human speech…the concepts of speech and understanding reciprocally interpret one another.? The point of speech, indeed in many ways the point of life, is to come to understandings with others. Such understandings allow us to build relationships and alliances, thereby giving our lives meaning. When people agree on something, they enjoy ‘the intersubjective mutuality of reciprocal understanding, shared knowledge, mutual trust, and accord with one another.’ This kind of agreement represents the sort of solidarity that Habermas described as the most endangered resource on the planet. (260).

Despite what the media would want to make us believe, it is not the political battles between Democrats and Republicans that makes the world spin around – it is the commonly agreed upon values that most Americans agree upon that makes our society coherent. Republicans and Democrats have more in common than they differ. If we are constantly questioning the motives of those with whom we are in communication with, it is difficult to really ever facilitate effective communication. Accordingly, Brookfield says that Habermas “believes that each time we enter into a conversation we are continually judging how far we can trust what our partner is saying. In effect, we are assessing a number of validity claims implied in the other’s attempt to speak to us? (262). There is a difference between what I just said and what Habermas argued – I am arguing that many individuals in society largely assume certain things about a person based on demographic characteristics and that language can serve as a way to reify those stereotypes. That is what I see as one of the most pervasive problems in society today. This may be related to Habermas’ concept of validity claims, but it differs in that Habermas believes that people are actually listening to what the other person is saying and making an interpretation. I think what is equally important is the pre-interpretation / pre-judgment that people make about one another that makes effective communication in American society a large obstacle to overcome.

This raises a couple important theoretical questions:

1. How do we teach people to “unlearn? prejudice? Can prejudice really ever be unlearned entirely?

2. This will sound like a critique from the post-modern perspective, but take it however you will: Can individuals who have two different interpretative schemas of how the world works and what are the priorities and values of social life really speak to each other in a common language that the other will understand, or will they just be speaking past each other? How can we as a society and as adult educators facilitate “communicative action? among those who radically disagree with one another on issues they are highly passionate about and are resistant to listen to those who disagree with them?

Posted by at at 3:34 PM

March 11, 2006

Richard Sennett on the New Capitalism

What are the differences between earlier forms of industrial capitalism and the more global, boom and bust version of capitalism that is taking its place? In recent years, reformers of both private and public institutions have preached that flexible, global corporations provide a model of freedom for individuals. But as Professor Richard Sennett explains with this latest economy model come new social and emotional traumas that only a certain kind of person can prosper from.

Professor Richard Sennett, Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Bemis Professor of Social Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology talks about his new book in BBC 4 Radio (link below).

The Culture of the New Capitalism
Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 030010782X


Posted by at at 10:43 AM

March 3, 2006


Imagine students asking why their curriculums produce ignorance about international relations, ignorance about market competition's violations of solidarity, sagacity, and sustainability.
Imagine students deciding enough is enough. Maybe one particular student who wears a funny hat and has a history of being aloof, or perhaps one who looks straight as a commercial and was high school class most likely to have a million friends, will write a song about masters of the universe - and unseating them. Maybe another student will write about floods drowning people's hopes, and about a rising tide of our own compassionate creation lifting people's prospects. Maybe another student will write about resurgent racism and sullying sexism, and then about combative communalism and feminism and their time finally coming. And maybe students will hum the new tunes and sing the new lyrics - and rally, march, sit in, occupy, all while waving a big, solid fist.
Imagine students not just sending out emails to their friends and allies, but entering dorms and knocking on every door, initiating long talks, communicating carefully-collected information and debating patiently-constructed arguments that address not only war and poverty, but also positive prospects we prefer.
Imagine students earmarking fraternity and sorority members, athletes, and scholars, for conversation, debate, incitement, and recruitment. Imagine students come to see their campuses as places that should be churning out activists and dissent and come to see themselves as having no higher calling than making that campus-wide dissent happen.
Imagine students schooling themselves outside the narrow bounds of their colleges, learning that there is an alternative to cutthroat competition and teaching themselves to describe that alternative and to inspire others with it, to refine it, and especially to formulate and implement paths by which to attain it.
Imagine students, now sharing many views and much spirit, angry and also hopeful, sober and also laughing, sitting in dorms and dining areas forming campus organizations, or even campus chapters of a larger encompassing national community of organizations – perhaps something called students for a participatory society this time around – or even students for a participatory world – and maybe even having each chapter choose its own local name. Dave Dellinger SPS. Emma Goldman SPS. Malcolm X SPS. And for that matter, Rosa Luxembourg SPS, Emiliano Zapata SPS, Che Guevara SPS. And so on.
Imagine, in short, students rising up with information, relentless focus, and some abandon too, becoming angry, militant, and aggressive, but keeping foremost mutual concern and outreaching compassion.
Imagine all this pumping into the already nationally growing U.S. dissent against war and injustice, pumping into the neighborhood associations and union gatherings and church cells and GI resistance, a youth branch willing to break the laws of the land and to push thoughts and deeds even into revolutionary zones. Imagine students singing, dancing, marching, and law breaking up a storm.
That is something the antiwar movement, the anti corporate globalization movement, the movement for civil rights and against racism and sexism, the movements for local rights against environmental degradation, the movements for consumer rights against corporate commercialism, and the labor movement too, all need. -- Michael Albert (www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=1&ItemID=8631)

Posted by at at 4:36 PM

February 26, 2006

Access Journalism and the Crisis in Washington

Special Lecture with Todd Gitlin: "Access Journalism and the Crisis in Washington"

Sociologist and journalist Todd Giltin of Columbia University will lecture on "Access Journalism and the Crisis in Washington." Professor Gitlin's lecture will begin at 2:30 with a Q&A/discussion period at 3:30. A reception will follow at 4:30.

Monday, February 27, 2006
2:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Room 100
Murphy Hall
Minneapolis Campus

Posted by at at 10:38 AM

February 24, 2006

Students Must Be Actively Involved in Their Education

"Critical pedagogy does not end with the idea of using student experiences to frame curricula. Rather, it proposes that education should always go beyond that point by encouraging students to become active participants in their education (Anderson & Irvine, 1993; Macedo, 1994; Shor, 1992). Students who are active participants are engaged with the teacher and the curriculum. They contribute their own ideas and learn to wrestle with ambiguities and challenge assumptions. Active participation also means that they cocreate curricula with the teacher to ensure that their needs and interests are given primary importance. Finally, it means taking action and transforming the world in order to eliminate disadvantage. Social transformation is the ultimate goal of critical education." (Sophie C. Degener, http://www.ncsall.net/?id=562)

Posted by at at 6:24 AM

February 23, 2006

Transformative Education: Ethnic Studies for the 21st Century

This forum is sponsored by: Department of Chicano Studies. Additional Sponsors: African American & African Studies, Dept of American Indian Studies, Dept of Asian American Studies Graduate School, Immigration History Research Center

Tuesday, March 7, 2006
2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Room 402
Walter Library
Minneapolis Campus

Department of Chicano Studies 19 Scott Hall 612-624-6309

Join Department Chairs Earl Scott, Patricia Albers, Josephine Lee and Louis Mendoza, of the Departments of African and African American Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies Minor and Chicano Studies, Graduate Students of Mas(s) Color and undergraduate students for a forum presentation and discussion on the role of Ethnic Studies in the 21st Century. Forum participants will discuss the personal, social, theoretical, and political challenges and benefits of advancing social justice and learning in an era of demographic transformation. Reception to follow. This event is in collaboration with the Council on Public Engagement (COPE) Place-Based Education Working Group.

Posted by at at 3:45 PM

A Reflection

Today I was interested in to read from Moacir Gadotti’s book (Reading Paulo Freire, 1994, p. 128), which can be read in digital form in UMN library website, about the criticism according to which Paulo Freire -- one of the founding figures in international movement of critical pedagogy -- never explicated his view of decent society, or clarified the nature of the revolution needed to construct a decent society based on radical humanist values. Is this true? And if so, is it because his belief in dialectical thinking, or the idea that the ‘road is made by walking’? In other words, to his idea that “there are no finished models of society as the social structure is always in motion? (p. 130). Is it further so, like Gadotti points out, that there are at least two sorts of social change, those of mechanical and dialectical (or dialogical)? Mechanical change would mean that socio-economical change of society and its means of production would somehow directly affect psychological, social and educational spheres. Assumingly this was not Freire’s argument. Dialectical change would require overall change from socio-economics base to such superstructures as social, cultural, educational and spiritual. And beside that it would demand strictly individual change in attitudes, and in ‘being-in-the-world.’ Or, as Gadotti interprets Freire: “Oppression does not take place only on the social plane but also on the individual level. And it is just on this level that authoritarianism can be seen. And it is just here that oppression must begin to be fought, that is, where it is nearest to us.? (p. 130.) -- So, what is Freire’s answer to the troubling question regarding the logic of societal change? How does it happen? I am quite convinced that Freire did not think that education and educators could make a change – not to mention a revolution – by themselves? -- Besides that basic question, I read the previous quotation in the context of higher education: How should we start building ‘organic learning alliances’, in which we would act not as antagonist teachers and students, but as co-operative allies in a resistance movement? I think the really hard part for most of the mandarins in the academia would the following: “The preservation of traditional methods of education in a revolutionary context signifies the distance between dream and practice. One of the revolutionary struggles is the struggle for the renovation of the methods and procedures at the same time as the content of education is renewed.? (p. 131-132.)

Posted by at at 1:38 PM