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Communication and Motivation

Page history last edited by Carol Buse 14 years ago

I'm posting an excerpt of a discussion from one of my PhD classes.  I've changed names and reduced a lot of it to make it shorter.  This discussion caused some problems in the class, and the teacher had to get involved.  It may be useful for a case study?? One way I thought it could be used is discussing Safety in online classes or issues of anonymity, or even keeping students engaged.  Vella has some information on Safety in her Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.  I'm attaching an article.

 

Here is the discussion.

Question: Posted by Teacher:

Conrad and Wyer offer several reasons to explain why liberal education is in decline.  One of these is the belief (among some) that a liberal education is too theoretical and not of any practical value.  Another reason offered is the belief (again among some) that the merger of undergraduate and graduate education eroded the importance of this instruction because it was a part of a more staid and traditional undergraduate curriculum, not a part of the new, shiny, and emerging graduate curriculum.  The authors also pointed to the developing corporate governance philosophy at many colleges and universities as the reason for the decline of liberal education.  In short, I take this approach to be saying liberal education doesn't sell.  Another factor that may be contributing to the decline, however, is some believe (e.g. Stanley Fish) that even though a liberal education - and especially its lessons about morality and democratic values - may be important, we should not hold faculty responsible for what students do with these lessons after they leave the institution.  This argument has the political advantage of saying "yes, this instruction is important and should be a part of the curriculum," but it also protects faculty by saying "you can't really hold instructors accountable for whether students really learn and apply these values after they leave college."  As you may know, the argument is classic Fish. But, although Fish's argument does not bode well for liberal education perhaps he is right.  Perhaps, it is silly to hold faculty responsible for whether students learn or don't learn - especially when the matter concerns values and morality.  After all, whatever happened to personal responsibility, aren't students responsible for learning?   Please post a response to this discussion line that responds to Fish's argument.  You might consider the assumptions (explicit and implicit) that Fish holds about the mind, knowledge, and the purpose of education in making his argument.

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Posted by Cindy:

Oh, it's all so complicated!  How do we impress upon our students a sense of morality or ethics or civic responsibility? Then again, why should we? I get so scared of the word "morality." I always know immediately that it's gonna be someone else's morality, and not mine. I don't like to think of bringing any morality to the classroom, if I can help it.  I agree that teachers shouldn't teach to an agenda either. In fact, I think the less a teacher teaches, the better. Problem-based learning seems like a good model for complicating matters for students. Instead of teachers imparting some agenda--or some “knowledge"-- they can create problems & let students discover an agenda for themselves.  What little I understand about "postmodernism" I love, although Henry Giroux would say we're already past that anyway. In postmodernism, we couldn't possibly teach to a moral agenda; it'd be too boundaried.   Do you suppose we are going through a more profound and chaotic and destabilizing cultural change than any other time in recent history? If we are education leaders, we should probably pay very close attention to the impossible complexity of diversity and see if, somehow, we could just let ourselves be swept along with that current---rather than trying to go in with our history, our agenda, our canon, our morality, our religion, our sense of education.

 

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Posted by Beth:

 Cindy, We've  been swept along already.  The lack of history, canon, morals, or religious beliefs is why are in this "profound and chaotic and destabilizing culture change" that you described.  The absolutes of historical fact of a culture, its morals and religious beliefs, its canon....THOSE thing are the anchors that keep us individually as well as collectively from being swept away. I've never had a student come into my office and ask me how I am able to let go of everything staid and solid and just drift along, or be swept away as you put it.  I have had students come and ask what was the inner fortitude that kept me anchored.

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Posted by Cindy:

My point about being "swept away" is that we should work to become a part of the messy world around us--the diversity of cultures and moralities and religions that our students bring with them, rather than imposing our own existing structures. It is scary to let go & become part of the chaos, but there's a danger, too, in becoming "anchored," because once we're fixed, how do we adapt to change? And are our history and canon "absolutes of historical fact"? It seems to me that history is an interpretation rather than an absolute, so then again, I have to ask: what story of history do we decide to tell? And why couldn't students tell us their histories instead? 

I'm not suggesting nihilism or anarchism, but rather a critical pedagogy that is open to the curiosities and experiences our students bring, rather than a pedagogy informed by a pre-fixed, stabilized view of the world that we bring. We're still stuck in the ol' Freireian "banking model"; we're still "domesticating consciousness." I think if we are to adapt to the changing demographics of our student population, we must take a deep breath & let ourselves be swept away. That could be transformative.

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Posted by Lori:

So, if I may play the "Devil's Advocate", would you - in the same spirit of tolerance -  fully accept and embrace a culture that does not value human life?  For example, within our own borders, would you consider the validity of the KKK's values?  Would you allow their views to be as fully embraced and discussed as the views of, let's say, the NAACP?

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Posted by Joe:

Lori, this is a wonderful question with no easy answers.  Most people view the KKK in a negative light but there are people (a small minority!!) who do embrace it.  Most people embrace the NAACP in a postive light even though in its beginnings it might have been perceived negatively because the emergence of the NAACP meant change in people's beliefs. I do not support a culture that practice cannabalism (especially if they wanted to practice it on me), nor do I accept a Nazi culture that eliminates millions of people because of race (or color or sex or whatever); but I do accept that they exist. 

 

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Posted by Cindy:

KKK values are not my values, and I would not choose to cover KKK values in my classroom.  If a discussion of KKK values came into the classroom, I would ask that students critique those values, just as I would ask students to critique the values of democracy or civic responsibility or human rights.  I think of teaching as asking questions rather than as dictating information.

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Posted by  Lori:

So, by deciding what you would or would  not "choose to cover", isn't that a value judgment in itself?  If, just for example, KKK values were your values, would you then "choose to cover" them? and, if the discussion found its way into your classroom, by asking students to critique the KKK values,  "just as you would ask them to critique the values of democracy or civic responsibility or human rights"; would you not even try to differentiate for them the difference in those values?  I think maybe no matter how you slice it, the teacher Does bring their values (at least a little) into the classroom. 

 

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Posted by Beth:

I agree completely.  In the classroom you must have some values and standards.  Cheating is wrong period.  I think you'd be hard pressed to find any educator who didn't share that value and attempt to uphold academic honesty in his classes.

 

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Posted by LaVonne:

Lori,

How could any one embrace views that killed, castrated, maimed another individual just because they are a different color?

 

 

 

HEre is an article by Vella.  She also has a book out.Vella.pdf

 

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