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Re: [xmca] The national context for education funding in the US

Happy to see all the discussion that came from posing the question of how else to do higher ed better.

Mike is quite right, I think, that a key issue is how academics define what's academic, which means what gets academic credits approved by the faculty senate. Of course as we also heard there are differences between universities in terms of how narrowly (valued specialist knowledge and canon classics only) or broadly (also university service to the community) definitions go.

But it's no secret I think that university notions of what is intellectually valuable have moved from the avant garde of some centuries ago (when perhaps they were the only game in town, institutionally) to what seems pretty conservative and frankly "academic" in the pejorative sense today -- i.e. tradition for tradition's sake, knowledge without critique or with only standardized forms of pseudo-critique, specializations whose use-value (even in a broad sense) seems only to be self-serving within academic status communities, etc.

And with a lot excluded by ideological contrast: no such thing as learning from real-world experience (except perhaps ethnography), no relationship between intellectual value and human or community value, no such thing as emotional learning (neither emotion as essential to significant learning or learning to refine and extend one's capacities to feel), no spiritual or aesthetic dimension to learning. The exclusion of the arts as such from the academic, admitting only their histories and criticisms as academic. All these contrastive exclusions have their own particular histories, of course, but it's odd to still be stuck with them.

On "service&learning" (with a small alteration of the punctuation and semantic connotation), I too have argued a lot in recent years that in- school education, of whatever kind, can never be sufficient or satisfactory (for lots of reasons, see for example http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jaylemke/papers/Re-engineering_Education.htm ; a slightly different version was published), and that a key element of what we need is a back-and-forth between experience in the non-school world and critical reflection and theoretical examination of that experience in something more like the classroom seminar. I was writing mostly about secondary education, but many of the arguments apply to higher ed as well. I was not thinking just of learning- through-service-to-others, but also of internships and apprenticeships, and exploratory experiences across a wide range of social institutions and settings.

There are just a very limited range of things you can learn about while sitting in an otherwise empty room, talking to people and reading books. That range is I think exactly what has come to define the "academic" dimensions of life/knowledge. Philosophy, mathematics, abstract theory of any sort, historical accounts, literature. Natural sciences added a very small dose of "the laboratory", meaning in effect another room containing only as much of the World as needed to replicate simplified, idealized versions of the canonical evidence for some bits of the standard theories. (Not enough certainly to challenge those theories or to make new discoveries.) Around the edges of this Academicized World are some oddities: geological and ecological fieldtrips, the rare bus to the zoo or museum (also, note, these latter are idealized, simplified facsimiles of the world which are designed to reinforce dominant theories/conceptualizations).

How bizarre that all the rest of life, which cannot be learned about while sitting in a classroom, becomes ipso facto defined as knowledge/ experience of no intellectual value.

In the higher education context, of course, we know that by and large in major research universities our colleagues across departments don't really care all that much about teaching and education anyway. So it's interesting to consider the limitations of the Academic also as they apply to our research practices. To what extent is it true that highly valued academic research is by definition research that can be done in a room with nothing but books and documents (literary studies, historical studies, law, theology), or nothing but the equipment needed to test a specific hypothesis (physical and biological-medical sciences)? And what of the human/social sciences? The experimental tradition certainly fits the Keep-the-World-Out paradigm of academic research/education. The survey tradition was genuinely innovative, but still gains its intellectual respectability exactly by not letting people tell us anything we haven't asked them, and converting all our interactions with the social world into minimalist documents (SPSS printouts). Even field-based studies gain respectability exactly to the extent that they "focus" only on answering some set of narrow, pre- defined questions. Once again we are pretty much only left with ethnography as a more open-ended research tradition, and frankly, its academic respectability is marginal at best compared to the other traditions (if still better than Education, Comm Studies, and few other stepchildren).

I preach here to the choir, I know. But my point is that it really is necessary to continue to challenge the equation of the traditionally academic with the total domain of intellectually valuable knowledge and intellectually useful practices (quite apart of course from the socially useful ones, about which universities mainly don't care anyway). I'll put it as blunty as I can. Universities are in danger of becoming intellectually irrelevant if we don't critique and broaden our definition of what is intellectually valuable. That applies to both research and teaching, to both content and methods.

Dinosaurs got bigger, too.


Jay Lemke
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Mar 30, 2009, at 4:49 AM, Mike Cole wrote:

Yes. Here we see the fusion of cognition and emotion, and as I wrote
I am CERTAIN that Emily, Peter, Eugene and others organize activity that
evokes the same effects. REAL education. Great stuff, when it can be
squeezed out of the iron cage.

On Sun, Mar 29, 2009 at 5:57 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

I think I cried at the same point in "Cultural Psychology" too.  :~


Mike Cole wrote:

*I.** You think you have much to offer the kids, pearls of wisdom,

morals, etc., but you end up learning and growing more than them! I
their world view and perspective was limited, sometimes stereotypical (all their Chinese jokes made me laugh though), but I discovered mine was just
limited in the ideas and judgments I carried into the center with me.
back, I think it’s sad that I was surprised to find that some of these
were brilliantly intelligent, and ridiculously talented in so many other ways. Too often I feel that kids, especially in lower SES areas, who are surrounded by teachers, parents, other authority figures who have low expectations for them, end up having low expectations for themselves. Yet
there I was, with my own sorts of expectations.  ..I really came to
appreciate the whole “structure” or maybe it’s more accurate to say
“structured chaos” of the learning center. I don’t know how exactly it works the way it does, but all I know is that it created an atmosphere and
place that allowed kids to feel safe and comfortable enough to be
explore, learn, grow. It allowed for the relationship between the buddies and the kids to grow and flourish on its own, without having to follow
predetermined rules or guidelines (other than Ms. V’s that is), and
of this, I think that’s what allowed for such great relationships to be built within the short timeline of 10 weeks! It’s amazing how attached the buddies and kids can get to one another, and I’m not quite sure how it happens, but I think it’s more than enough evidence to show that we must
doing something right at the learning center.  *

*I can’t express how much the kids at the learning center have brought so much joy to me this quarter, but it has moved something in me that I’ve
on the edge about for a long time now. I’ve always considered teaching to be something I was interested in and wanted to pursue, but I wasn’t sure
was something I was really that passionate about. I do love working with
sorts of kids, and teaching them, building that relationship with them, learning from them. But there was truly something different and special about my experience at the learning center that made me look back on it
and say, “This is what makes me want to teach – to be able to interact
kids like these, to love these kids, and to have them love you back…” I want to see these kids do well, I want to be there to help them learn and grow into strong, independent individuals, I want to help them in any
way I can. I most certainly was not expecting this class to give me that extra little bit of inspiration, but it did, and it’s undeniable. It’s
just that these kids in and of themselves are inspiring, but it’s also so much intertwined with what you do with the kids, the relationships you
how you get involved with them that makes the difference for them, and for
you.  ( 3/19/09)*

* *

* *
*II:  **I do not think anything would have prepared me for what I
emotionally and mentally went through this quarter. This course truly has been a humbling experience and it amazes me to look back to measure my growth, not only as a student, but a person as well….. I challenged myself and worked with people that I never worked with before. And the fact that
survived and everything worked out shows that I can do anything I put my
mind to. If anything, I surprised myself because I was so scared and
intimidated sometimes by the adults and even the middle school girls, but looking at the way I handle those situations, it almost came natural to
I never knew I had it in me* (3/19/09).

On Sun, Mar 29, 2009 at 4:44 PM, Duvall, Emily <emily@uidaho.edu> wrote:

In my reflection work with my students I tend towards the critical,
challenging institutionalized positionings of teachers and learners, of parents and children, etc. Assumptions are challenged in the work we do.. Including assumptions about and rigid notions of a more 'knowledgeable'
It opens up opportunities to mess with understandings of the zpd and to
engage in conversations about scaffolding versus mediation.

In some of the product oriented work, like the assessment project, it allows my students not only to engage in interesting conversations about policy, politics, accountability measures, etc and how it impacts on our understandings of children learning to read. In this project, requested by the Title teacher of a school, I hope my students will come to see how our grassroots efforts can address the inadequacies of the 'system'.. Revealing the limitations of accountability with regard to its impact on teaching, as well, is what I see emerging in our Readers Theatre Club.

Many of my students believe they live in a homogenous world where
everyone has equal opportunity and that such things as the Aryan Nations
are in the past and best ignored or slavery is in the past and
irrelevant to Idaho.  Learning to break through the veneer of
appearances, developing a critical lens on multiple
levels...incorporating theory in a meaningful and practical way rather
than a text book understanding... these are some of my goals.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu ]
On Behalf Of Peter Smagorinsky
Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2009 2:08 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: RE: [xmca] The national context for education funding in the US

I realize that service-learning has gotten a bad rap, which doesn't mean
that it can't be carried out with intellectual rigor. My sense from
being in
a Fellows group on my campus is that serious s-l education is designed
to serve the community and to challenge students intellectually, and
to promote conceptual change regarding issues such as poverty,
etc. If it's a research site (like 5D and ultimately, I hope, like my course), it could also provide a Hawthorne effect that could enhance the

I'm fairly comfortable with the term service-learning. The hyphen,
incidentally, is less a grammatical touch than a sign of the connection between the two terms and constructs. And so while service comes first,
while courses no doubt don't eradicate poverty etc., s-l courses can
feed hungry people (my colleague's course does this) and help kids
(my course does this), and so they help chip away at larger problems. In
case, I developed the course because most students who enter our teacher
program come from the honors/AP track of their high school and never met
kinds of kids they mentor/tutor in the alternative school; and yet their careers will undoubtedly begin with assignments to teach middle and low
track students. So it was set up as a learning experience for my
students in
which, in conjunction with book club readings and discussions in class,
learn about populations with whom they have had little contact and
develop a
personal relationship with one kid from such a background, then put the experience and the readings/discussions in dialogue in order to write a
study. The book clubs are also designed to model a pedagogy that lies outside the repertoires of most of my students, who have been lectured
for most of their education, and suggest to them that alternatives are

I was supposed to present something on this site at AERA but have no
money left, and so have had to cancel my trip. This is the first year
offered the course and so the syllabus will get revised in light of some realities that have come into play this semester (e.g., what to do when
mentoring relationship is undermined by the student's unannounced
But I think it's going well.....only the course evaluations know for
sure. p

Peter Smagorinsky
Professor of English Education and Program Chair
The University of Georgia
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu ]
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2009 2:19 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] The national context for education funding in the US

What bothers me about the term, service learning, Peter, is that it
no serious
intellectual engagement related to the critical, scholarly activities at

While we still run a 5thD course of the kind described, it is by no
restricted to education
or psych majors. Majors from all over the map participate.
And we also are engaged in an entirely different sort collaboration
with a
learning center at a HUD housing
project. The range of joint activities is vast, as are the serious life
problems facing all residents, so it provides
a marvelous canvas upon which students can explore the relationship
their own life paths and the
conditions of life of people in very different circumstances.

I gather, Peter, that your experience is like mine: There is a serious,
positive, improvement of a generalized sort
in the further education of the undergrads. There are also some nice
outcomes, sometimes, for people in the
community, but it is a little difficult to erase poverty, sexism, and
rascism by this means. But since the question
Jay posed was about improving higher ed, and since these kinds of
are in perfect allignment with the
policies of the present administration in Washington (for the moment)
line of action seems timely.

Thanks for the links.

On Sun, Mar 29, 2009 at 10:44 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu>

Hmmmm, this sounds remarkably like the way the 5th Dimension

experience at

UCSD works.
I know that others attempt similar ways to integrate student work into communities, a.k.a. "service-learning" in US contexts. I'm teaching

such a

course this semester (see

http://www.coe.uga.edu/~smago/SL/SLSyllabus.htm<http://www.coe.uga.edu/%7Esmago/SL/SLSyllabus.htm >
7Esm <http://www.coe.uga.edu/%%0A7Esm>


for the syllabus), which I developed through a grant from UGA's Office


Service-Learning. One of my friends from the Fellows has a great


described at http://www.uga.edu/columns/070910/news- urbanfood.html.


efforts can also serve as great research sites and thus combine


research, and service into one project. They also provide students


important experiences and close the town/gown gap by serving community
members in need. p

Peter Smagorinsky
Professor of English Education and Program Chair
The University of Georgia
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu ]


Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2009 12:02 PM
To: Jay Lemke
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] The national context for education funding in the


My answer to your last question, Jay.

Make participation in real world settings, linked to relevant academic


including reading and writing, mandatory for all students attending


college or
university. Use money to do this mainly to support grad student


who themselves are gathered into groups supervised by senior

professors as

of their courses.

All evidence is that such practices improve student commitment to more serious study at the university, increase the intellectual and social
capital of those with whom
they work, and increase understanding of social justice issues among


privileged students, e.g., those who can afford to attend a



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Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/ >
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:
From Erythrós Press and Media <http://www.erythrospress.com/>.

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