Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10.16.07 Maxine chapter 1 and Noodings chapter 3, 4

Greene – the dialectic of freedom

Chapter 1

Today freedom = self determination, self reliance, independence

If we are independent we can do what we want, we have power.

If that is true we should be celebrating today, but the times are troubled with irresponsibility, illiteracy, unethical behavior and relativism.

Greene questions if todays notion of freedom is a good one. She believes today's troubles are due to it, and questions what we are teaching our children – what kind of culture we are perpetuating.

Many poets in the 20th century have realized this carelessness, thoughtlessness, lassitude, but we keep on celebrating our “freedom”.

She complains of som sort of apathy. We have this one idea of freedom as of being independent, but that type of freedom leads us to not question what is wrong. We take everything for granted.. Few of us do question. Even those who do, lack a set of shared values in their solutions. The general feeling is that of not caring about public concerns.

The reason is that people do not have a desire for thinking. Thought = freedom to reflect, to distance yourself from the subject and look at it and at what it could be. (look at things as if they could be otherwise.)

Because we have no desire for thought, we don't feel need to gather in public spaces and establish a “sphere of freedom”- maybe that means getting involved with community issues. That sort of lack of involvement leads to a feeling of victimization and powerlessness, which makes the concepts of freedom, bill of rights, like “inalienable rights” meaningless ideas, simple slogans.

Freedom = the capacity to reflect, the capacity to distance yourself from your life and look at it as it could be, “look at things as if they could be otherwise.”

She says we are in a time of reform (what reform is that?)

In this book she wants to explore alternative modes of being in the world, and the implications of this idea for education.

She mentions ideas of freedom of Dewey, Sartre, Foucault and Merlau-Ponty, Freire.

To Dewey freedom is about consequenses not antecedents. “we are free as we become different”. So freedom to him is about the ability to change ourselves?

Freedom is to be attained in to be attained in a context of social situations, making transactions with conditions and people. “whatever is chosen and acted upon must be grounded [...] in an anwareness of a wolrd lived in common with others.”

To Sartre freedom is an opening of spaces or perspectives dependent on our actions, motivated by our becoming conscious of a deficient reality. The movement only happens when we feel there is a challenge.

The problem she sees with our culture today when she thinks about this view is that accomodations come too easily – in life and in school.

Contemporary schooling doesn't challenge children to interpretive thinking, to relfect on the reality of their lives. They are supposed to attend to what is given from the outside world. This leads us to view reality as objective and to take things for granted, to not care.

What are the consequences of this way of living:

-unreflective consumerism

-having more instead of being more.

-freedom being self dependence instead of relationship (freedom is supposed to be social)

-people consider themselves free if they can get what they want, or if they have no obstables on the road to success.

To Freire freedom has to be grounded in accepting a situation as ours, “overcoming alienation”, that means to affirm oneself as a human being capable of decision, and recognizing the situation we are in.

This means that what we have today dehumanizes us. We need to find our true vocation, to become human again.

Greene talks about the dialectic of freedom. She wants to eliminate the either/or relation. For instance, she wants to reaffirm the significance of desire and the significance of thought. I am not sure if she means that she wants to go beyond what other philosophers believed and find a relation between what they consider to be bad – the desire to have more things – and what they consider to be good – the reflective thinking.

She repeats that every human situation is marked by a type of dialectical relation, there is always some tension, not the kind that can be overcome or synthesized peacefully.

Freedom will only be achieved when obstacles are perceived as obstacles and not as given. The examples she gives are: an immigrant that suffers indifference or neglect, minorities that face discrimination, children that face barriers imposed to them in the search for the creation of their authenticity. If those hardships are perceived as natural, you can't imagine a better state of being. SO you might even be proud of your autonomy, but you won't try to change your situation.

Another option for these option for these people is not to stay accommodated to their situation, but to simply uproot themselves and leave their traditions behind!

She mentions a book that deals with the uprroting situation – it is the Czech “the unbearable lightness of being”. This book talks about a person who leaves home and moves to the US, and does what she wants, but has no real realationships. She is free, but her freedom is meaningless. The lightness of being means the lack of links.

That is used in opposition to kitsch, which means slogans that are part of a culture, but are usually taken for granted. Slogans like “our traditional vaules” or “the barbarism of communism”. The people that break out from that and leave their traditions have some sort of negative freedom, and she examples Daniel Boone, and the hippies.

In another Czech book that deals with freedom , she thinks the author is trying to say that freedom is not missed if you don't have anything to be obstructed. Like in a dictatorship, you may feel free if there is nothing you might want to say that will get censored. If you don't feel that you are being restricted, you take freedom for granted, like breathing.

Under dictatorships some people want to say things they are not allowed, those people are the ones that feel like they are in a gas chamber – that is when you finally fight for freedom as someone who desperately need air would .

She thinks that is why freedom is usually a very strong value for people from eastern europe.

All of these things she is describing are relevant for education because education should be the means to lead the people to go beyond themselves, to think about what they are doing to open a world of learning and reflective thinking. But that doesn't occur very often today.

What happens is that the schools are required to prepare the students to feed the world of economic competitiveness, consumerism, lack of ethics, with the students being prepared to accommodate to this world, and not to think and challenge it. Almost nothing is done to solve the problems we faced today like homelessness, pollution, crime...

but schools are asked to prepare people for being successful in this world and put a stop to the problems that they are challenged with, like suicides and teen pregnancy.

She mentions how the teachers, even the ones who had other plans, are constrained to adapt to the present demands and prescriptions. Many educators might have chosen to be silent even if they are those who find it “difficult to breath”. And they are so important to model to the children the search for their own freedom.

She talks about how important it is to this current system that people feel no need to rebel. If they believe the promises of this world (wealth, security and happiness) they will stay quiet and do what is prescribed. They will be passive audiences.

She says that the world today is interpreted that way, people are given things to believe in, so they keep passive. And when the world is so interpreted, it is not easy for people to see something wrong with it. They just live in this world of symbols that is presented to them.

These symbols are like the gas chamber. No one feels that the air )freedom) is being taken away.

But she mentions there were instances in which people challenged a reality that seemed unalterable. She mentions the French Resistance in WW2. Those people took action become they had beomce challengers. They belived a different reality could come, and that Nazis were the obstacle they had to come together to overcome. They could have used excuses such as the fact they needed to take care of their families, but they preffered to fight for the possibility of transformation. They only did that because they thought that their current situation was unbearable and it could be otherwise.

She brings this case because those men believed they could come together and fight for a change. They could have simply complained and done nothing to change anything. Also they veiwed freedom as something that is was coming to them for the first time. It was not a gift, but something they had to fight for. She suggests that people find freedom when they have a project they can mutually pursue.

It is unlikely that people think about breaking through the structures of the world if they don't have any attachements to others. We create a society of strangers, where noone cares about anyone's problems.

She talks about two ways of withdrawing from the challenge of thinking. Some people play the game of society, they identify with the notion of freedom and just move through it looking for success. Some others go into the search of themselves and create their own shelters inside their minds, but they keep on playing the game in their real lives. Both of these groups refuse to take consciousness. The cooscious person is always engaged with others.

It is taking all of that into consideration that she wants to explore the problem of freedom and to develop a view of education for freedom, that would take our realities and our human condition into account.

Finally she mentions that she knows her book is not the first to talk about the need for an awakening. She knows of the problems a pluralistic country faces, and she is aware of ambivalences regarding equality and justice, and of the tragic dimension in human life. She belives that tragedy brings challenges though. She mentions it might be time to confront this challenges and empower the youth to recreate a common world and rediscover what it means to be free.

Noddings – the challenge to care in schools

Chapter 3 – beyond the disciplines: a critique of liberal education

She will argue that liberal education is a false ideal of universal education

(what is liberal education exactly? - it is a set of disciplines designed for general education rather than specific occupations)

Main argument – inadequacy of traditional subject matters as the ideal universal education.

Question left open in the end – is there a set of subjects that are deisreable or necessary for all?

It is considered the ideal education for college people.

It is standard for sceondary school, as college prep.

She will focus on qustioning the use in secondary school. I assume then that she assumes that primary education must be identical and universal for all children.

Her arguments will be in this order:

-it is inapropriate as universal education bc it is a small set of human abilities, which will lead to unequal outcomes.

-the political rational for it is misguided

-the content is not what all children need.

-popular arguments agains tracking can be used against liberal arts.

Some people argue that true democracy comes only with equal education for all children.

But equal doen't mean identical. And besides, equal should include something beyond subjects, like decent schools, adequate coaching, encouragement and advice.

One author says that there are no unteacheable children, but failing parents and schools. Noddings believes that most children can learn most things, but children should have educational opportunities that enhances their talents and not that measures their ability to do algebra. If they are not good at algebra, they are considered inferior.

Some people are never going to learn certain things. That doesn't make them worse people. (I wonder though, if everyone is properly trained they will learn everything – some people just don't get theology or art, because they were not properly exposed to it...? I wonder if everyone got proper exposition to every subject from the liberal arts curriculum, they would all prosper at an acceptable pace. Now the question would be if that curriculum is really meaningful to constitute a fine educated person. Also, even though she says that everyone should not have identical education, but an education that will enhance their talents, one-how would you discover hidden talents, especially in the timid children like me? And how would you decide up to where in education the curriculum should be universal?)

There must be some body of math that every children should know (she answers my argument), but she will not discuss that at this point of the book.

She mentions for instance drug babies, many of them might not even be able to learn. Some of them might want and be able to, but liberal arts might really not be their top priority when they have so many other needs to learn. Once they meet their basic needs, they should have a curriculum tailored to their interests and abilities.

It is a waste of money and talent to insist on liberal education for all.

She questions “the best education for the best is the best education for all.” Who can decide which curriculum is the best education?

It would be ideal if we could design a curriculum that gives attention to every human capacity and that people were incentivated to develop the ones they identify with.

And should capacities be unqually valued? A curriculum that values only a couple of these capacities, creates unequal and unfair results.

Some arguments are strong in favor of liberal arts. The political aspects – it has been historically associated with the people that were privileged with power and wealth. So why should we deny children the opportunities of getting privileged education usually reserved for the cream of society?

But she is not convinced that this type of education is really the best for everyone, neither for the mass nor for the elite. Except for those with talent in linguistics or math. Although that wouldhave to be modified.

Also she uses Dr. Seuss story of the sneetches, to talk about the power structures, and how the notion of best shifts to accommodate those who are privileged. From this point of view, giving all children the education of the best just for this political standpoint's sake is useless. This education is only privileged because those who are privileged claim it as their own. Privileged knowledge will change more easily than the power relations.

She requires instead an educational, not political, argument for requiring all children to take those privileged subjects. Because this approach fails to address the question of whether or not this knowledge should be important.

She thinks a good test to evaluate this type of privileged education is the question “what would happen if we succeeded?”

Everyone would follow on to college and to white collar jobs – the question she raises is – would everyone want this? Then a bunch of intellectuals would share blue collar jobs (unlikely), or those who did not do well in the system would end up in jobs by default (what happens today), without an opportunity to really develop their own strengths, they'd not be in the best job for them.

This type of ed indeed preprares students for a class of jobs. And the children might learn to view the other types as contemptible.

A more familiar argument to liberal education (mine for isntance) – the contents are things that everyone in society should know.

Her argument is :

teachers of different areas will complain that students or people have no culture if they don't know certain things particular to their own fields. But so many people excell in their fields without really mastering the core contents of others.

She is distressed that 17-year-olds don't know certain things, but more that students are not learning what schools are teaching now. The situation here is not this one: The students are not lacking the knowledge because the knowledge is not part of the curriculum. The situation is: the students are not mastering the content. If they think no one cares, they can't find a reason to attend to the content.

Students will listen to people who matter to them and for whom they matter. The ignorance of today is because children do not find meaningful adults in their lives to comment on meaningful content. “Relation preceeds engagement in subject matter.”

now most of the curriculum content is not really necessary for everyday life. It is just a mark of the “best” (the elite), because it has been like that traditionally. That is why oppressed minorities make it a point of having it universalized.

(did not understand the point of page 38 and 39. but...) she mentions how we are so worried about not getting into each other's field. We even withdraw from giving any sound advise that any sensible person would, fo rthe sake of not entering someone ele's field.

At public schools, teacher's refrain from talking to students about morals, bc they say it is the pastor's or parent's role. But intelligent adults can and should talk to children about values.

Next argument has to do with trying to put everyone on the same track, but lowering the quality of the course for some so much, that it doesn't prepare them for anything really.

So she argues for tracking, I think that means putting students in tracking according to their interests, either in liberal arts or in commercial, or industrial tracks. She says there is nothing sacred about the liberal arts curriculum. The arguments agains tracking are not educational – they are political and economical. (WHAT IS TRACKING?)

So we strive for placing everyone in higher tracks instaead of attacking the hierachy of those tracks, because we are disturbed about the fact that minorities are usually placed in lower tracks at large numbers.

Schools could focus on giving the students an integral kind of education, by taking them to cultural events, having them participate in discussions with adults from the community at meal time and talk to occupational models from society who would take some of them as apprentices.

Many people reduce the responsibilities of the school to academic only, bc they believe schools are being asked to much, and that is why children don't learn anything. The one writer's argument is that schools should value only academics, and students that fail here should learn that this failure is only in one type of failure, and that there are many other areas that person could succeed.

Noddings argues that a student that has spent 12 years receivein gthe message of failure at school will be unlike to realize that there are other areas in which he might succeed. That is why other abilities should be part of the school curriculum.

She doesn't completely ignore the validity of his argument. Schools maybe have too much that is asked from them, but that is because schools are burdened to accomplish something society doesn't want to itself, like getting rid of racism.

Next chapter she will look for an alternative to morally deficient schooling.

She compares the fact that rich and poor schools are so different from each other in their conditions, and that to bring them to equality would require the wealthier to be willing to share their resources or sacrifice a little and they are not willing to do so, yet they are the products of the current education we have, which goes to show that morally this education is deficient.

The 2 authors she counter argues here are Robert Hutchins (the best for the best), and Mortimer Adler (evry child can learn everything-identical education for al)

Noddings – the challenge to care in schools

Chapter 4 – an alternative vision

Imagine a world in which education was designed by people that valued relationships above all.

Dewey believes that the community should want for all children what the best parents want for their own children. He disagreed from Adler and Mortimer.

Dewey admired Plato's idea that a child should be educated according to his own needs and talents.

Plato only believed there were 3 categories of admirable occupations. Dewey disagreed from him.

It says that Dewey did not think that the children should be educated based on societal needs and occupational destinies and I thought that this was what Plato defended.

She asks us to imagine that we have a large family with many different children to raise – how would we want them to turn out.

This is a complicated experience bc since we have different cultural perspectives, what we want as the best for our children may vary. Because more than intelligences we are concerned with the development of characteristics important to the groups we belong.

But most parents would say they want their children to be happy, escape severe illness, develop talents, and be loved and respected.

Parents want to preserve the live of the children, to foster growth, shape them according to what is acceptable. Some times these 3 ideals conflict.


Ruddick puts together 3 schemes we should consider in order to successfully answer this question, even though we are so different:

1-there should be one set of different programs that will work on the children's different intelligences (7 to Gardner), and for those subjects that every child should learn, there should be an adaptation to capitalize on their abilities. There should be no testing unless requested by the parents or child. The most iportant shuld be the interests, not the testing of cpacities.

2-because moral and acceptability are still missing from that, there shuld be another set – human activities – that concetrates on activities and behaviors that enable to children “to live productive and acceptable lives”.

3-The next set to be part of a child's education, the one that will teach the different forms of care, is the set of basic affiliations (race, gender, class, religion). This set of affiliations will influence the way we will teach the children the different types of care, and which of these types will have priority over which.

When talking about care she speaks from her own perspective and afiliations.

Not talking about any special school organization in this chapter, she is just giving way to dreams. What should this ideal education for this large family of many children have.

Care for self – what that means from Noddings perspective.

She wants the children to be educated for physical health and grace.

Grace – key word for her here – means integration of body, mind and spirit – it is about recognizing that we can't control everything and that we all have gifts and limitations we are born with.

There are several aspects of self. Physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual. We can't separate them in real life, but it is easier to label them to talk about them.

Physical self – nutrition, hygiene, exercise, appearance.

It should not be reduced to physical education and classes that talk about parts of the body, like biology. Things that really matter to teenagers should be dealt with – complexion, stature, missed periods, unbidden erections, drugs. Drug education today is only in some curricula because drug is a problem, but it is usually not with the intent of explaining to the student that this is not a problem that is particularly evil or unique to them.

Spiritual self – almost no attention at public schools. Students have a lot of questions about spiritual things, about god and life after death, and these could be discussed without violating the establishment clause. A particular religion can not be taught in a public school, but the students can “learn something about the human longing for god or spirit.” Some students are going trhough the worries of rejecting their parents religion. It is also important that they can ask important questions concerning religions, so they will not accept non-sense, so they will not confuse indifference with respect.

Occupational self – choosing an occupation comes in addition to finding out who they are and what they want to become. Students whose talents fall in the spatial and bodily categories are usually diagnosed with some learning disability, anf their parents generally fight to prove that the kid can fix that, bc he is a bright kid. These kids would be the leading ones if all children were to have access to manual works of various kinds. Such students would feel much better about themselves if school credited them for their talent.

This would not necessarily doom these students to a set of narrow curricula. Academic skills could be learned focusing on their interests. Eg.Learn the history of machinery, visit museums, debate and investigate ethical and enviromental problems. I had a teacher who wanted us to do that. When she saw students that were failing in her subject, she would ask what they were interested in. I had a classmate who was a surfer, and the teacher asked him what good articles about surf he had read lately, what what his favorite surf magazine was. She wanted him to see, that he could become learned in the subject that really interested him and at the same time learn his language skills.

Care for intimate others – intimately related to self. The kind of persons we are affect the quality of relations we enter.

Forming relations with friends, relatives and mates are part of our aspirations in shaping an acceptable child.

If we can't agree on how to do that at schools, because we are culturally diverse, should the children suffer the lack of that learning? (I think children should learn that at home. They can practice it at school bc school is part of society, but how will teachers teach something that parents might not be happy with?)

Her expectation is that boys and girls would be prepared for the work of attentive love.

She questions how we see it as a problem that women have little room entering occupations typical of man, but no one seems to see a problem the fact that men have little participation in occupation typical of women. There should be more men in childcare.

Also the students should learn about the cycles of life.

Because families don't provide experiences in this area anymore, the school must do it.

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