Wednesday, October 10, 2007

09.25.07 Response to class 4 - ignatian pedagogy

There is no outline posted for the referred class, bc I did not write down notes as I read this text.
Ken's presentation though was pretty acurate, and I tried to include also things that I retained from my reading in this response. Sorry if anyone was looking for an outline for ignatian pedagogy.

The initial class discussion today was about freedom of speech. The starting point was the question should the Iranian president be allowed to speak in the University of Columbia? Another question raised in the same line was : Should the Iranian president be allowed to say things like “there was no holocaust”?

I was confronted with the freedom of speech a few days ago while listening to the radio, and similar questions came to my mind. Not referring to the Iranian president, but to the conservative commentator on the radio show.

This person would tell everyone who disagreed from him to shut up because they did not know better than to say those stupid things and embrace those stupid ideas. Having conservative tendencies myself, i was outraged by such a lack of respect for the opinion of the other. I thought He was the one that should shut up, because he had no right to say someone had no right to speak out their mind. But on the other hand – isn't he also allowed to speak out his mind? Then where is, if there is one, the limit for freedom of speech? Does freedom of speech imply that we can put others down and tell them they can not say certain things? Does it imply that evil people that hate democracy can be invited to talk in a university?

The professor's opinion was that when your statement is not of truth, it is a way of distorting history, therefore this is no longer freedom of speech, this person should not be allowed to say those things. I think then, and I believe other classmates might have had the same thought, certain things cannot be said. Offensive speech people goes beyond freedom of speech because it causes evil. But then how is the Columbia incident justifiable? Another classmate mentioned that the reason why that was possible is because it was in a setting in which you already know what to expect when going there or in another case when turning on the radio.

The Internet is another instrument that is braking down the barriers to free speech.

Because the discussion was going back and forth with the names democracy and freedom of speech someone did ask a valid question in my opinion “Are we limiting in this discussion the notion of democracy to the notion of free speech?” And then I think a solution came up from a former law student “There are limits to free speech – it is not absolute, and these limits are imposed by law – we can't do it ourselves, based on our preferences – free speech is based on law and so are its limits.” That makes a lot of sense to me. Freedom of speech is not a license to kill, to hurt anyone, or to say harmful things. Unfortunately it seems, people take freedom of speech to an absolute level and forget that this is actually a privilege granted by and limited by law.

Then the discussion turned to the natural way a class on philosophy of education would turn. “What things can be talked about in class?” It really confuses me sometimes though, how we move from one subject to another, when many times I see no connection between one thing and the other. How from this question we moved on to separation between church and state, religion, creationism and homeschooling. Thinking about it later i can see a connection between all those subjects, but not on the way they were presented then. It is indeed a very slim connection.

Here I am, after having thought about it, wondering about the question and the way it connects to the initial theme. Should we talk about creationism in school? Then my question is should we talk about evolution in school as if it were scientifically tested and proved, when it offends so many children's beliefs, and it actually to this day it is no more than a theory? Creationism being the greatest opposition to evolution should not be mentioned? What about intelligent design, which is the non-religious opposition to evolution? Then I ask if freedom of speech of those who do not believe a widely accepted theory should be ignored. Someone asked what is the relationship between education and democracy - democracy is so strong that it can protect everybody's freedom of speech. Is that so?

In terms of our readings it was said that democracy is so fundamental that free speech should be protected, but when we begin integrating all the variables of rights of individuals, things start falling apart. That's when it is time to break things down.

Maybe certain people have the right to choose depending on their social-economic status. For instance, people that are wealthy can choose boarding school. People that are not have to go to public schools and put with the teachers apparently neutral discourse, that ends up being extremely disrespectful to the young Christian students who are taught their views are incorrect.

Also, when it comes to opportunities, some school systems have more opportunities than others.

The presentation today was by Ken. Ken is Jewish and talked about the Ignatian pedagogy text, including his experience of going to a Jesuit school. In the brochure it says that every student must take core subjects – including theology and philosophy. He did take those subjects. The brochure shows that its goal is to prepare the individual to lead and serve the world, it's about training the individual for action, either for God or any worthwhile pursuit.

According to Ken's presentaiton the text presents the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm as being composed of 5 elements, that in his opinion is pretty much how every teacher should understand his relationship to students.

The 1st element is context – teacher must become familiar with students experience, determine how these experience shapes the student – teacher should really know the student's world and share love with him.

In order to be a teacher, says Ken, you need to care about the students, because the kids pick up on whether or not the teacher likes them.

He mentions one thing I had never heard about – the melavine concept in which you profile the students by talking to parents and previous teachers so you can teach them as individuals. He got this concept from the book “One child at a time”. He also provides ideas on other ways of getting to know kids – advisory, class meetings, get-to-know-you projects ( I wonder what these project are supposed to be like).

The 2nd element is experience. And there are 2 types of experience. Direct experience and Vicarian experience. Now how do you create a direct experience to the students? According to ken through field trip, sports, and similars. What about a vicarian experience, the one that is lived through someone else? It could be done through analysis of texts, video watching.

3rd elem – reflection – reflection and experinece go hand in hand

4th elem. Action – doing something about what you learn – learn about the poor, then volunteering to help them.

5th element – evaluation – post learning element – assessing the growth of the student of a person and mastery of knowledge.

Jesuits expect this paradigm will guide the students through life. These are indeed great guidelines. For teachers and students. Teachers become better teachers. And the text highlights that this methodology develops a strong relation between teacher, student and subject matter.

Ken mentions how reading those characteristics reflected the kind of education he received. Having worked with Jesuits, he has a lot to say about reflection and the idea of being a teacher.

Our Professor says he has changed his way of teaching in the past years – he believes teaching is a way of sharing – he made a choice of talking about his personal life. He thinks story telling is a fantastic pedagogical tool. Ken agrees with that, and uses with his students. He says that the children love it and it helps build a bond with the students. Because the teacher personalizes himself as a human being.

It is interesting to actually have someone with that kind of experience presenting this text specifically. Because it really makes the ideals from the text come to life. Especially when the text is about how to implement the jesuits ideal for teaching.

But we did get back to something talked about the class before though, because of the personalization issue. The counselors are not supposed to personalize, is what we hear. Why not? Does this kind of professional must separate himself so he can be objective and help that person? I believe that is the most appropriate answer. Counselors have to make sure the focus is the person on the chair – if you personalize as a counselor your moving the attention from that person to you and the whole point of counseling gets thwarted. I guess the whole idea behind counseling is that – the person stands alone, the counselor is not supposed to be an influence, but a tools. It is different from teaching, when you teach you are sharing stories, you are becoming part of the child's world. When you are teaching you are creating an environment. There is a fine line – you don't want the students to get too comfortable to be telling you too much. It is still a professional situation.

The last comments on this class has to do with one of the last interesting things I heard. And one of my favorite points - Jesuits see everything as a opportunities for education. When a kid is doing something wrong, use it to show them the difference between right ans wrong – not only reprimand. Teachers today are legally required to report bullying (years ago there was no need to). Regardless of the religious side, this does make sense in a secular classroom setting – there is much moral that has to be taught through lessons.

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