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[Xmca-l] Re: The non-effects of affirmative action??
- To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The non-effects of affirmative action??
- From: David Dirlam <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2017 16:26:56 -0400
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These are sad affirmative action numbers, Mike. It seems cultural change
can be frustratingly slow. The legacies of low expectations, unequal
educational opportunities, and relationship-destroying requirements are not
ceding much to current efforts.
*Science* recently had a letter about a South African program that appears
to work very well for under-prepared STEM students:
The Engineering Augmented Degree Program (ENGAGE) at the School of
Engineering at the University of Pretoria in South Africa (*2*
is one example of an inclusive program that welcomes all but strives to
help those who are less prepared. The ENGAGE curriculum gradually increases
the volume of work over five years to help students adjust to life at the
university. The students are provided with mentoring and other forms of
academic and social support, including peer-to-peer interactions. This
program has documented stunning success for students from underrepresented
such as black students from poor townships, and the concept may merit
serious consideration by other colleges and universities.
Decades ago, when we were first creating developmental rubrics for writing
in New York State, the teachers in the campus school at Plattsburgh
produced strikingly accelerated progress by using the rubrics "real-time"
while interacting with the students. One class that was a year-behind
tested grade level in second grade was found three years later by a member
of the Bureau of English of the State Education Department to be able to
pass the Regent's High School Exam in Writing. We had ten dimensions of
writing. The teachers responded to student writing individually by posing
questions that offered opportunities at the next developmental level from
the one shown. For example, egocentric writing would be responded to with a
question like "What does Jeanie think about it?" turning the egocentric
audience into friend-directed correspondence. The teachers would also
design activities based on a similar principle. For example, when all the
students were comfortable writing to each other, a project would be created
that involved each student writing to the whole class based on their unique
I used the techniques that the campus school teachers taught me to teach
entire classes of Appalachian college students how to do psychological
research. Their success was acclaimed by numerous independent observers. In
recent years, though I've been paid to work one-on-one with academic
faculty, it has been a group of after-school music teachers who have made
the most serious attempt to implement "real-time developmental education."
They are part of the international El Systema movement, started in
Venezuela. In all those cases, the process has been a sort of
multi-dimensional scaffolding, where the teachers all knew each of the ten
or so dimensions (ladders) in the scaffold and used them spontaneously in
their relationshps with students.
Standardized tests, in contrast, act as roadblocks (or sinkholes) in the
path of implementing education based on such teacher knowledge. They
fragment knowledge into such small compartments that a computer (Watson)
can outperform the best human experts in fragmented knowledge. But nobody
is touting or even trying to create computers that compete with scientists
in the creation of science, compete with designers in the creation and
marketing of new designs, or with courtrooms in the creation of new
interpretations. That kind of integrated knowledge and practice escapes the
thinking of too many who have the power to affect change.
I'm sure xmca readers have similar stories. The methods for getting results
are known, but too often, the sources of funding impose competing methods
that stand in the way of effective relationships and resist those that
create opportunities for them. In thinking about how to initiate a
transformation toward developmental and relationship thinking, I have read
and re-read the last paragraph of your *Cultural Psychology* many times.
Adopt some form of cultural-historical psychology as your theoretical
framework. Create a methodology, a systematic way of relating theory to
data that draws upon both the natural sciences and the cultural sciences,
as befits its hybrid object, human beings. Find an activity setting where
you can be both participant and analyst. Enter into the process of helping
things grow in the activity system you have entered by bringing to bear all
the knowledge gained from both the cultural and natural sciences sides of
psychology and allied disciplines. Take your ability to create and sustain
effective systems as evidence of your theory’s adequacy. The failures are
sure to outnumber the successes by a goodly margin, making it certain that
you will never run out of interesting things to do.
We've passed the tenth anniversary of that quote. I wonder what we have
learned since about how to sustain the successes.
On Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 11:48 AM, mike cole <email@example.com> wrote:
> The trends documented in this recent NY Times article ought to be of
> interest/concern to this discourse community.
> And look where the explanation is to be found ---
> Affirmative action increases the numbers
> black and Hispanic students at many colleges and universities, but experts
> say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that
> begin earlier.
> Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic
> less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality
> instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United
> States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights
> Surprise! The explanation stops there. :-(