Saturday, 25 October 2008

The effect of examination on pedagogical culture

This is from the same book just quoted, again so I can return the book. This one is from quite a nice article considering the old "scholarship" exams in Queensland.

I am concerned with the training effects of the examination on teacher and pupils where its rituals, its meticulous attention to detail and the pedagogical culture in which it operates, produce the 'docile' bodies that Foucault has described, as well as the resistant and excluded bodies which the regular school, on the authority of the examination, is able to legitimately discard. (138)

The technology of the examination was able to govern not only the primary school's curriculum, but it also produced a certain kind of teacher, one who coached, by various and often unethical means, "successful" scholarship candidates and secured good passes. This examination produced a mind-set which governed pupils' bodies in time and space, allowing for certain pedagogical practices whilst neglecting or disallowing others, and effectively dividing a student population along the lines of ability and curriculum. (147)

I think its place in a book about "Taught Bodies" is a stretch, at point, since "bodies" is the word the author seems to use for "people" and time and space really just describes existence. I have not quoted quite a nice paragraph about the physical (hot - Qld) conditions of exams in the 1950s but that part really is about bodies.

Daphne Meadmore, Testing Bodies of Knowledge in Clare O'Farrell et al, Taught Bodies, Peter Lang (New York) 2000.pp137-147

Immediacy and physicality?

There is almost a whole genre devoted to the disembodiment (is that a word?) of online education - an approach I am yet to find convincing, though it certainly presents some things to think about in it. This is one, which I am quoting so I can return the book, which is overdue. What I find interesting about this particular quote is the intersection of time with space and bodies.

The waning of interest in the immediacy of pedagogy is abetted by the imperative for "reflection," a term which is now well represented in teacher education course outlines (along with empowerment and special needs). Reflecting on a pedagogical event is more important than enacting it. As teachers we must learn about our pedagogy by looking back at past events in which we are no longer bodily present. We look back only in order to look ahead - and we look ahead to learner outcomes.

In the marriage of learner-centredness and lifelong learning, there is of course a rationale for pedagogical work which is also beneficial to teh idea of education as a privately provided user-pays endeavour. New information technologies can be harnessed, the curriculum package can be perfected, and those teachers' bodies, which are stumbling blocks to best practice can be stepped around, over or on. Teachers who have had the foresight to reinvent themselves as facilitators to the paying use are more likely to remain as a human resource in a learning environment where pedagogy is no longer enclosed by spatial, temporal boundaries.

Erica McWilliam, Stuck in the Missionary Position? Pedagogy and Desire in new times, in Clare O'Farrell et al, Taught Bodies, Peter Lang (New York) 2000. pp27-37

Monday, 20 October 2008

We are satisfying a direct need of our nature in its very acquisition: Newman's knowledge

University Education...has a very tangible, real and sufficient end, though the end cannot be divided from that knowledge itself. Knowledge is capable of being its own end. Such is the constitution of the human mind, that any kind of knowledge, if it be really such, is its own reward.
What the worth of such an acquirement is, compared with other objects which we seek, - wealth or power or honour or the conveniences and comforts of life, I do not profess here to discuss; but I would maintain, and mean to show that it is an object, in its own nature so really and undeniably good, as to be the compensation of a great deal of thought in the compassing, and a great deal of trouble in the attaining.
...we are satisfying a direct need of our nature in its very acquisition... valuable for what its very presence in us does for us after the manner of a habit, even though it be turned to no further account, nor subserve any direct end.

John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University. Discourse V (1852) Knowledge its own End. 1966 Edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. pp.77-8

Sunday, 19 October 2008

It acts as umpire between truth and truth. Newman's University.

What an empire is in political history, such is a University in the sphere of philosophy and research. It is, as I have said, the high protecting power of all knowledge and science, of fact and principle, of inquiry and discovery, of experiment and speculation; it maps out the territory of the intellect, and sees that the boundaries of each province are religiously respected, and that there is neither encroachment nor surrender on any side. It acts as umpire between truth and truth, and, taking into account the nature and importance of each, assigns to all their due order of precedence.
John Henry Newman, "General Knowledge Viewed as One Philosophy", 1852. Quoted in Pelikan, p57

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The 6 virtues of scholarship

In his 1992 book The Idea of the University: a re-examination, Jaroslav Pelikan, in his fifth chapter, proposes six personal virtues of university scholarship. Simplistically put:
  1. Free inquiry
  2. Intellectual honesty
  3. Trust in rationality and its processes
  4. Moral imperative to communicate the results of research
  5. Values humanity
  6. Practices discipline
(1) Free inquiry should be unlimited, but free speech is slightly limited, in that it is not OK to maliciously yell "fire" in a lecture theatre and things. 
(2) Universities and scholars must protect academic honesty at all costs: failure to do so on a systemic level will cause the collapse of the university as an idea. 
(3) Rationality - in quite a liberal sense - is seen by Pelikan as the primary, defining characteristic of university-based knowledge. The other types of knowledge: political conviction, religious faith, experience-based wisdom, applied know-how can be a part of university-based knowledge, but rationality is core to it. 
(4) Communication of knowledge affirms a commitment to the protection and continuity of knowledge that has been the core mission of universities forever. 
(5) Valuing humanity applies not only to research ethics, but to the conception of learning and development of a whole person, of teaching as including pastoral care, of tolerance with conviction and civility in discourse as a means of managing inevitable fundamental difference. 
(6) A curious, but valuable leftover of monasticism, discipline and self-denial, Pelikan claims, is a key characteristic in the biographies of great modern scholars. He says that there is a responsibility in the recruitment and training of scholars to "stress the correlation between the fulfillment that comes out of scholarship and the ascetic discipline that goes into it" (p.55)

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Humility and distinction: doing exams

"At critical moments, when these airy-fairy balloon captains (who had descended from their remote medieaval heights to set exams based on textbooks they themselves had written) began to feel that the toothy smile of the boy facing them was just a little too light-hearted, then – just like that – Carsten could capitulate, bow his head, draw in his horns, and the appropriate beads of anxious sweat would break on the bridge of his nose, convincing the two professors that the voice they heard – his, Carsten’s – was coming to them from the dust and the depths of humility and altogether from far, far, far beneath them – and so, naturally, he was awarded a distinction."

Peter Høeg History of Danish Dreams, p.293

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bourdieu, Homo Academicus

Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, 1984, Polity Press

Throughout this book, Bourdieu uses the phrase "in short" at the start of some of the longest, convoluted sentences I have ever seen. Definitely a close relative of Humphrey Appleby’s

I've quoted some relevant bits here. A couple I paraphrased because a single idea took two pages (but only 4 sentences) for Bourdieu to say.

"As authorities, whose position in social space depends principally on the possession of cultural capital, a subordinate form of capital, university professors are situated rather on the side of the subordinate pole of the field of power and are clearly opposed in this respect to the managers of industry and business. But, as holders of an institutionalised form of cultural capital, which guarantees them a bureaucratic career and a regular income, they are opposed to writers and artists: occupying a temporally dominant position in the field of cultural production, they are distinguished by this fact, to differing degrees according to the faculties…from the less institutionalised and more heretical …as opposed to those who belong to the university." (36)

"The academic managers…produce works of a tone and style which combine the neutrality of a positivist account with the blandness of a bureaucratic report, in order to obtain the effect of respectability necessary to cloak the recommendations of the expert with the authority of science" (124)

"The wage earners of research…can no longer surround themselves with the charismatic aura which attached to the traditional writer or professor, small producers exploiting their own independent cultural capital, which tends to be seen as a divine gift. This is all the more the case since the products of the new research work often bear the mark of the conditions in which they were accomplished: these ‘reports’ and ‘accounts’, often drafted in haste to meet a deadline, according to the standardised norms of mass productions, and, because of the need to justify the funds spent, bound to sacrifice all to display the amount of work done." (125)

One unbelievably long sentence that says that the old university system was dependent on its hierarchies to reproduce those hierarchies, replaced by a new system that is: “a plurality of worlds controlled by different laws for the unified world of differences produced by one dominant hierarchical principle”. (125)

Regarding May 1968: “…the propensity of the various professors to associate defence of the teaching community with a defence of the protected market which ensures them a strictly controlled academic public varies with the degree to which the value of their products depends on the stability of the market, or, in other words, with the degree to which their competence – that is, their specific capital – depends on the statutory guarantee conferred by the institution. (126)

“At the time of the crisis of May 1968, the conflict…did not oppose generations understood in the sense of age but academic generations” (147)

“…children who have come from the dominant class and who have not managed ro reconvert their inhereited capital into academic capital … In short [which, frankly is a phrase that can never apply to Bourdieu in Homo Academicus] In short, the specific contradiction in the mode of reproduction in its educational aspects, which can only contribute to the reproduction of its class by eliminating with their consent a number of its members, takes on an increasingly critical form with the growing numbers of those who see their chances of reproduction threatened and who, refusing to accept their exclusion, find themselves falling back on a protest against the legitimacy of the instrument of their exclusion, which threatens the whole of their class by attacking one of the bases of its perpetuation." [In short] 163)

May 1968: politicisation is the process where politics dominates all other types of thought, excitements and tendencies to classify mean individuals identify in groups they did not belong to before and separates them from groups they formerly did (breaking up the disciplines and reforming groups according to politics). But Bourdieu takes a couple of pages to say it and I couldn’t find a short enough quote. (190-191)