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[Xmca-l] Re: The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S. Nationalism

Just in time, I have been gifted with a way to "ascend (out of this discussion) to the concrete." 

Mike mentions "forms of action" and says some colleagues are saying "focus energy on academic work." Faculty committee work is part of academic work. 

I just got a phone call from a colleague who teaches at California State University and who is, with me and others, on an advisory committee convened to revive the moribund Labor Studies Program at Laney, a community college in Oakland, near where I live. 

Everyone is probably aware that Labor Studies programs are target practice for right-wingers. If you're not aware, you aren't surprised. So the program at Laney has been shrinking for years. The idea now is to revive it by joining it with the Community Studies Program, which is an umbrella Ethnic Studies program. This makes sense, right? Latino Studies, Black Studies, Gender Studies, Women's Studies, Asian Studies and Labor Studies intuitively seem to belong together. They address people who are likely to be working for a living.

So our advisory committee will meet Thursday night and the big issue is this:  A core required course is going to be "Community and Labor Organizing." This course already exists in the Community Studies program. If it is submitted to the Academic Senate un-changed, it will speed through approval and be offered in Fall 2017. It will also count for transfer to the State University and UC systems. 

The catch is that as written, it has to be taught by someone with an advanced Ethnic Studies degree.

The easy thing to do is to shrug and let it through without changing it. But an Ethnic Studies degree does not prepare someone to teach labor organizing.  First, there are a lot of technical issues that come up in labor organizing. The tricks and traps of labor legislation are just the beginning. Second, although you might think that labor unions and community based organizations (CBOs) are natural allies, they have a very hard time working with each other in practice because of the way authority runs through them. Someone with only a degree in Ethnic Studies will not know this stuff. 

But it's not just a matter of the content of the course. Letting the course go to approval as is would eliminate the possibility that any of the program faculty who come our of labor (who usually have degrees in Philosophy, History, Political Science) would be able to teach that class. 

So, is this worth the fight? It looks, on the surface, like a tempest in a teapot. But it's a concrete example of a moment when you can put the teeth of economic justice into the mouth of (block that metaphor). 

I will go to the meeting Thursday night arguing in favor re-writing the course description to allow faculty who do not have a degree in Ethnic Studies to teach this course. I will say that it's worth losing a semester because there is something bigger at stake here.  This is also academic work.

Helena Worthen
Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com

On Jan 24, 2017, at 10:18 AM, mike cole wrote:

> Hi Michael
> Nice thought from Bateson. And I see that Peg has just posted a link
> to the book. Its certainly a keeper.
> But it does not speak to forms of action that people in our current
> circumstances. Some of my colleagues argue that it is essential for
> academics in these times to eschew politics in any visible form and
> to focus energy on the academic work precisely in order combat over
> simplification that threatens human life.
> The basic starting point of the LS/US Nationalism paper, as I see it, is
> that claim that the threat of nationalist/populism is GLOBAL and that it
> poses huge challenges to LS researchers. So we might not want to get too
> caught up in examining Trump/US version of this problem without considering
> the rest of the world and its history. The 20th Century provided at least
> two clear examples of what happens when this configuration of
> nationalism/populism arises in modern times - two wars to end all wars. If
> we are in fact returning to the 1930's in this regard, we are doing so in
> an unparalleled set of circumstances for homo sapiens.
> So as professionals/citizens, are there forms of action, lines of research,
> that might be proposed that would nurture the beautiful in circumstances
> that do not involve high levels of radiation and mass destruction? Is
> tending to our intellectual gardens the direction to go? Or are forms of
> action of the sort proposed by the authors the right direction? And if the
> latter, what do we know from past experience that might guide our thinking?
> They set out to open the discussion in a major journal.
> Seems like the task here is to see what this group might possibly add to
> their attempts to strategize the future based on our collective experience.
> Mike
> PS- Seems like Alfredo's perezhivanie project, as an exercise in
> international collaboration to both test a basic theoretical claim of
> Vygotsky's and to so collectively, might combine the academic and the
> political just a little. And just a little might be a lot.
> On Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 9:40 AM, Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu>
> wrote:
>> So I am re-reading Bateson, somewhat in light of current happenings and I
>> come across this paragraph near the beginning of Mind and Nature,
>> "There seems to be something like a Gresham's law of cultural evolution
>> according to which the oversimplified will always displace the
>> sophisticated and the vulgar and hateful will always displace the
>> beautiful.  And yet the beautiful persists."
>> Wise words for his time and ours.  The information in nature will always
>> bring us back around to the beautiful if we let it, but it always seems to
>> slip through our fingers.  Maybe another take on the arc of justice.  The
>> trouble of course is every time we let the vulgar and hateful displace the
>> stakes seem to become much higher.
>> Michael
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@
>> mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Alfredo Jornet Gil
>> Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 1:59 AM
>> To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <
>> xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S. Nationalism
>> Francine,
>> I agree analysis is only one tool and I hope we can do much more here and
>> elsewhere. But the overtone window seems to resonate well with our quest
>> for understanding the possibilities/conditions for hearing Trump's voice
>> sound like a pleasant flute or like toilette flush.
>> I think the idea of Irony also adds to the question of perezhivanie and
>> Trump in the sense that different perezhivanie will also imply different
>> forms of generalisation/consciousness. Irony seems to always involve moving
>> a step up in the types of generalisation or metaphor.
>> A good example may be found in considering the "Love Trumps Hate" message
>> that has been going around in the media. Although I am no linguist, I am
>> gonna give it a try: If you were to hear the assertion literally, you may
>> hear an imperative to do love Trump's hate in such a way as to enter into a
>> double bind situation. To find yourself in this situation, you need to
>> stick to the transitive form of the subject (you love) with respect to the
>> object (Trump hate). You kind of have to have faith in this form, respect
>> the integrity of the object and the integrity of the subject each in its
>> own terms, and so you may come to feel confused, or perhaps end up hating
>> just the same way Trump plays he hates.
>> On the other hand, to be able to hear "love trumps hate" as a message of
>> love, as an equivalent (as per Vygotsky's equivalence) for another message
>> that we also have seen these days, "when they go low we go high," then you
>> have to take the relation between subject and object in a higher level of
>> metaphor: you now hear the sentence in a context that modifies both subject
>> and object; hate and love cannot be exclusive opposites. The sentence then
>> is heard as intransitive, love and hate no longer are independent. And most
>> importantly, once you hear the sentence in its intransitive form, love and
>> hate no longer are the same.
>> Similarly, to hear everything Trump said and take it literally takes a
>> very different act of faith that it takes hearing it literally as an irony.
>> Alfredo
>> ________________________________________
>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> on behalf of Larry Smolucha <lsmolucha@hotmail.com>
>> Sent: 24 January 2017 02:35
>> To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture,  Activity
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S. Nationalism
>> Message from Francine:
>> Helena Worthen was right - I am serious about finding (and creating) new
>> tools for understanding  the Trump movement. Analysis is only one tool and
>> there is no insight when it is overused. Figurative, analogical,
>> metaphorical thinking gives us other tools. Recognizing IRONY means getting
>> the punch line in a joke (as Freud
>> explained in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious).
>> Is there a termteson in literature for the reversal that commonly occurs
>> in fairy tales?
>> All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost . . .
>> 1) The ironic reversals that are taking place as people change their
>> alignment with
>> political parties remind me of a geophysics phenomena - the reversal of
>> the earth's magnetic field that can happen over hundreds of thousands of
>> years. Both are disorienting. I will give this more thought, but for the
>> moment consider this much. When magnetic fields shift it is not all at
>> once, magnetic currents in the molten layers beneath the earth's solid
>> crust change polarities, sometimes causing a total
>> reversal. Our political parties are commonly referred to as polar
>> opposites but those
>> polarities are not fixed they are fluid. The blue collar working class can
>> shift from the Democratic Party to the Republican. The Black vote can shift
>> to the Republicans, the Democrats don't own it. In the 1950's Russian
>> sympathies were a hallmark of the left, now the left denounces Trumps
>> outreach to the Russians. [A caveat here - this is two dimensional thinking
>> because there are only two poles on one geometric plane.]
>> 2) There is another concept, the Overton Window that is a scale of how
>> radical of a discourse the public will tolerate (also called the window of
>> discourse). The Window
>> opens and closes along a range of discourse from the acceptable to the
>> unthinkable. What discourse resonates with the general public (strikes a
>> chord)? What will they regard as taboo (or not politically correct)? Issues
>> like that.
>> Here are a couple links worth looking at:
>> Donald Trump & The Overton Window --Resetting America's Political <
>> http://www.nationalreview.com/article/428200/donald-
>> trump-overton-window-american-political-debate>
>> www.nationalreview.com/.../donald-trump-overton-window-american-p<
>> http://www.nationalreview.com/.../donald-trump-overton-window-american-p
>>> ..
>> Trump's Win Smashed the 'Overton Window' | LifeZette<http://www.
>> lifezette.com/polizette/trumps-win-smashed-overton-window/>
>> www.lifezette.com/polizette/trumps-win-smashed-overton-window/
>> Can any of this be used with the concept of perezhivanie?
>> ________________________________
>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
>> Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2017 9:37 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S. Nationalism
>> "Irony" - good word to introduce here Francine.
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden
>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>> Andy Blunden's Home Page<http://home.mira.net/~andy> home.mira.net Andy
>> Blunden's Home Page with links to pages I maintain and mail-to buttons
>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>> [http://www.brill.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/
>> public/ftp/images/products/295x295/92947.jpg?itok=j5KXqZw3]<
>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making>
>> The Origins of Collective Decision Making | Brill<http://www.brill.com/
>> products/book/origins-collective-decision-making>
>> www.brill.com
>> The Origins of Collective Decision Making, identifies three paradigms of
>> collective decision making - Counsel, Majority and Consensus, and discovers
>> their origins ...
>> On 23/01/2017 2:32 PM, Larry Smolucha wrote:
>>> Message from Francine Smolucha:
>>> The key to an analysis of the Trump movement is understanding the
>>> fundamental IRONIES that have rocked American politics.
>>> The workers revolution has resulted in the
>>> workers/unions deserting the Left, the socialists, the Democratic Party.
>>> Trump is a Capitalist regardless of whether he actually has a Republican
>> ideology.
>>> The workers' movement has been hijacked by a capitalist.
>>> The other great IRONY is that Trump wants to make Russia a U.S. ally
>> (again).
>>> The Left, the socialists, the Democratic Party are the ones demonizing
>>> Russia -
>>> what a reversal!
>>> Since CHAT derives from Russian psychology (Leontiev and Vygotsky) and
>> the backlash against Trump is also a backlash against all things Russian -
>> this puts CHAT in a particularly awkward position. How can a cultural
>> historical psychology that originated in Russia become the leader in the
>> anti-Trump discourse? or lead an anti-Trump educational movement? You are
>> even extolling a Russian concept PEREZHIVANIE.
>>> I think the XMCA needs to examine its own perezhivanie at this time.
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>> <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of mike cole
>>> <mcole@ucsd.edu>
>>> Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2017 3:01 PM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Cc: Mariane Hedegaard; Reijo Miettinen; Seth Chaiklin
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S.
>>> Nationalism
>>> Helena et al --
>>> An important emphasis in the article for me was on the fact that
>>> although the article focused on the American nationalist movement that
>>> has just pulled of an alt-right coup, similar movements are poised to
>>> take hold in a lot of places in Europe to join the many already
>>> entrenched unsavory governments in other parts of the world.
>>> The CRADLE center in Helsinki is under very concerted attack and the
>>> right wing government appears, from this distance, to be making great
>>> progress on destroying its legacy. The same process has been in
>>> Denmark for some time, also with apparent success.
>>> What do our international colleagues who have already felt the hot
>>> breath of right wing nationalism have to offer in terms of strategies
>>> of resistence?
>>> Back to "what is to be done," that sombre question from an earlier
>>> era. The answer last time did not produce what it promised.
>>> mike
>>> mike
>>> On Sun, Jan 22, 2017 at 12:22 PM, Helena Worthen
>>> <helenaworthen@gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Thank you, Alfredo - I gave it a read.
>>>> Sure, of course they're right. But I am very disappointed.
>>>> I was hoping that the following was only item #1 in a long list of
>>>> "what the 2016 election made apparent":
>>>> The 2016 election has made apparent the need for scholarship that
>>>> explicitly defends and furthers the rights and well-being of people
>>>> of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, people who are differently
>>>> abled, LGBTQ communities, and the earth. These are stances that have
>>>> been limited, at least explicitly, in the Learning Sciences.
>>>> But the call for inclusion was not just #1, it seems to be the whole
>>>> thing.  In other words, it's all about identity -plus the earth, of
>> course.
>>>> While inclusion is necessary, it's not even a start. Yes, research,
>>>> teaching, publishing, promotion, conferences - everything associated
>>>> with teaching and learning has to include everyone as equals (see
>>>> Andy's book) in one way or another - but then what? What are they (we)
>> supposed to do?
>>>> Where does the pretty language touch the ground?
>>>> I was listening to a broadcast of the Women's March in DC on Saturday
>>>> morning, and Kamala Harris, who was the California State Attorney
>>>> General and is now a junior Senator from CA, was addressing the
>>>> rally. She said, "People always ask me to talk about women's issues.
>>>> I say, 'Oh, I'm SO glad you're interested in economics!! Let's talk
>>>> about economics."  And she ran through a whole set of parallel
>>>> back-and-forths, always pulling identity questions back to wages, jobs,
>> earning, supporting your family, etc etc.
>>>> Much as we need to wipe away any barriers to the Learning Sciences
>>>> (and the professions and institutions dedicated to them) due to
>>>> identity, until the Learning Sciences start taking a look at the
>>>> place where most people spend most of their lives - not school, I
>>>> mean - but work, they will be engaging in a soft conversation at the
>>>> edge of the real issue. It's a pleasant conversation but it doesn't
>>>> put a hand on the levers that translate skill and knowledge into rent
>> and groceries.
>>>> H
>>>> Helena Worthen
>>>> helenaworthen@gmail.com
>>>> Berkeley, CA 94707
>>>> Blog about US and Viet Nam: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
>>>>> On Jan 22, 2017, at 11:38 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil
>>>>> <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Here it is,
>>>>> http://cognitionandinstruction.com/engagements-the-learning-
>>>> sciences-in-a-new-era-of-u-s-nationalism/
>>>>> Alfredo
>>>>> ________________________________________
>>>>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>>>> <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>>> on behalf of Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com>
>>>>> Sent: 22 January 2017 20:24
>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S.
>>>> Nationalism
>>>>> Someone please re-send the link to this article?  I think I'm going
>>>>> to
>>>> want to read it and respond to Mike's question.
>>>>> Thanks - H
>>>>> Helena Worthen
>>>>> helenaworthen@gmail.com
>>>>> Berkeley, CA 94707
>>>>> Blog about US and Viet Nam: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
>>>>>> On Jan 22, 2017, at 12:25 AM, Alfredo Jornet Gil
>>>>>> <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> Mike,
>>>>>> thanks a lot for sharing this article. You and Michael, who have
>>>>>> and
>>>> know more history, have spoken in terms of reminiscences. I have
>>>> lived and know less, and the article feels like fresh air. During my
>>>> PhD, I begun to increasingly feel that I had to due something to act
>>>> and respond to the increasing ecological and humanitarian globe
>>>> crises. But how could I do anything if I had children and a PhD to
>>>> finalise?? What could I do that would also be doing my job as
>>>> researcher in a department of education? It was very difficult to
>>>> find anything, partly because almost every academic quest would focus
>>>> on learning, but so little on social development. How many scientific
>>>> articles are dedicated to socio-political questions in the most cited
>> educational journals? I felt very powerless.
>>>>>> To be able to address these questions within my expertise, is a
>>>> challenge partly because contrary to Dewey's hope, educational
>>>> research has only marginally focused on these questions, and yet they
>>>> may be exactly the question that matter to education. What are we
>>>> educating for? Indeed, what is education for? I think we face a
>>>> serious problem when someone (like myself), being an educational
>>>> researchers/scholar, still has to scratch her head wondering <<how
>>>> can I make my profession matter to social change and development?>>
>> Vygotsky would be shocked!
>>>>>> Alfredo
>>>>>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>>>>> <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>>> on behalf of mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu>
>>>>>> Sent: 19 January 2017 04:51
>>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S.
>>>> Nationalism
>>>>>> Yes Michael,
>>>>>> It feels like the world of the later 1930's about the time I was
>>>>>> born as that period came down to me through the prism of a family
>>>>>> of "premature anti fascists."
>>>>>> For a great re-creation of those times see the highly ambivalent
>>>>>> film by Frank Capra, "meet John Doe." It has American big capital
>>>>>> interconnected with fascism combined with populist collectivism in
>>>>>> a manner that
>>>> points at
>>>>>> the media (as then experienced) as the bad guys in disguise. Happy
>>>> Ending,
>>>>>> Beethoven Ode to Joy and all.
>>>>>> It's come round again, nastier this time.
>>>>>> Mike
>>>>>> On Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 6:20 PM Glassman, Michael
>>>>>> <glassman.13@osu.edu>
>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>> Mike
>>>>>>> It was so interesting to read this note after reading the
>>>>>>> Cognition and Instruction essay.  All the way through it I kept
>>>>>>> thinking we have been here before.  It reminded me of the
>>>>>>> scholars, especially those who had escaped from Germany, trying to
>>>>>>> make sense of what had happened to
>>>> their
>>>>>>> society during World War II.  The foremost in my mind was Lewin.
>>>> Except I
>>>>>>> wonder if he would say the process of transformative action starts
>>>>>>> not
>>>> with
>>>>>>> emergence of quasi-needs, but our willingness and abilities to
>>>>>>> step
>>>> back
>>>>>>> from our quasi-needs and the ways that they drive us, often to
>>>>>>> dysfunctional behaviors that it ultimately destructive to both our
>>>> society
>>>>>>> and to us as individuals.  How hard this is to do, we have to keep
>>>> going
>>>>>>> back again and again.  The quasi-needs, tribalism, acceptance,
>>>> standing are
>>>>>>> always there.  It is how they shape us that is critical.
>>>>>>> Michael
>>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
>>>>>>> xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole
>>>>>>> Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 8:31 PM
>>>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>>>>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] The Learning Sciences in the era of U.S.
>>>>>>> Nationalism
>>>>>>> In following  the perezhivanie thread I encountered the note I
>>>> re-membered.
>>>>>>> And interestingly mis-remembered. A translation into my focus on
>>>>>>> mediational means. He places the starting point of the process of
>>>>>>> transformative action at the emergence of quasi-needs (from Kurt
>>>> Lewin).
>>>>>>> That seems correct to me. The new mediational means emerge under
>>>>>>> environmental presses. Ever functionalist ego need a goal(!). (The
>>>> problem
>>>>>>> with functionalism) In David's words,
>>>>>>> Perhaps the place we should look for "exaptations" that can save
>>>>>>> both
>>>> our
>>>>>>> personalities and our environment is not in our evolved needs, but
>>>>>>> in
>>>> yet
>>>>>>> to be designed quasi-needs. Artificial organs, after all, always
>>>> suggest
>>>>>>> new and ever more artificial functions, like chess and language.
>>>>>>> This point seems worth keeping in mind as we look at where this
>>>>>>> group
>>>> of
>>>>>>> critical scholars who work within the Learning Sciences
>>>>>>> disciplinary framework would like to lead us.
>>>>>>> mike