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RE: [xmca] Mediation and a teacher's resignation

I agree with Andy. Here are some additional thoughts on the use of "mediate"
in conjunction with NCLB.

There are several definitions of mediation (from the look up dictionary
courtesy of Encarta) 
1.	intervene to resolve conflict 
How does NCLB/federal policy work to resolve conflict? What is the conflict
that needed resolving? It has definitely functioned as a type of
intervention, as many teachers will attest. Was the conflict the old
pendulum swing between conservative practices and progressive practices? Did
it effectively resolve the conflict or has it just created more of a
pronounced insurgence? 
2.	 oversee agreement 
In a sense federal policy is made to oversee an attempt to solve a dispute
and to reach an agreement. Whether both sides feel as though they were
included in this agreement is not really the point. NCLB has functioned to
mediate what happens in schools in this sense by making regulations and
specifying factors of compliance.
3.	 achieve agreement
 as in the usage "mediators negotiated a ceasefire" (I want to add a
ceasefire of neurons in many cases dealing with NCLB, but I will refrain.)
This is where mediation is a word used to preserve hegemony and neutralize
dissent. Those who realize what they are losing in this type of agreement
like to paraphrase with words such as "coercion". 
4.	 transfer something (from physiology) to act as a medium that
transfers something from one place to another in the body. 
NCLB has directly and indirectly created a physical medium in the atmosphere
of schools that has transferred much between many bodies and minds. 

Is mediation good or bad? Does mediation have to imply only good? Does the
use of the word have to imply an intentional and deliberate action, as in
"Monica mediated the children's reading development in the classroom?" I
don't think so. Anyone who understands the process of development described
by Vygotsky realizes that the mediation can occur by cultural and
environmental means, not by the designation of them as official mediation,
but more like the mediation in the last definition, the one that comes from
physiology. Mediation can be affected actively by individuals, it can be
affected by institutions, it can be affected by technology and culture. When
we appropriate the term "mediation" as a deliberate act that cannot occur
without proper certification, or agency, we exclude the many and actual ways
in which mediation occurs for students and teachers, really for any
participants in any social system. I say "for" because" much of the
mediation is decided and implemented without the consent of those whom it
affects-just like NCLB. Governments, panels, experts, policy makers,
researchers, parents-we make deliberate attempts at providing appropriate
mediation. Our opinions vary: we negotiate, we fight, we work together, we
attempt to teach and mediate learning, but along with our intended actions,
we also produce an environment in which much is mediated that was never

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Gregory Alan Thompson
Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 2:53 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: [xmca] Mediation and a teacher's resignation

I'm currently putting together an AERA panel on the meaning of
"context" and the mediating power of contexts and one of the
panelists is doing a paper on how national public policies
(esp. NCLB) mediate teacher-student relationships at the very
local level.

In light of this, I was wondering about the question of
"mediation" that is raised by Kim's earlier post with the
letter about the teacher's resignation -- in particular, in
what ways was (in this case) the teacher's relationship to her
students mediated by NCLB policies. (and this makes me wonder
whether it would be enough to use the weaker term "affected"
as opposed to the stronger term "mediated" - for those
mediationalists on the listserve, how can we disambiguate
these terms: "mediate" vs. "affect"?). 

In looking through the letter, I was able to point to only a
few places that made the strong argument for how NCLB was
mediating (or even "affecting") the teacher's relationship
with her students. One was where the teacher notes that her
class didn't work because it was not "in compliance" with the
scheduling. Another was that they could no longer enforce a
"no tolerance" policy (I'm not familiar enough with NCLB to
know if this was part it, although it is clearly implied). 

So I'm curious if there were other ways in which this
teacher's relationships with students (and with her principal
and/or other teachers) would have been mediated by NCLB? A big
part of my question stems from my own ignorance of NCLB and
the implementation of it - a knowledge which the teacher seems
to assume her audience has (and one would hope that Arne and
others at his office had this knowledge). Nonetheless, it
seems important to consider how these high level public
policies mediate (affect? constrain/enable?) relationships at
the lowest levels.

As a first time XMCA poster, I'm curious to hear your ideas. I
should note that I'm not a policy thinker, I do close-in
analyses of learning interactions, but it is hard to ignore
how the outsides are also inside of these interactions (an
antinomy that is resolved by an understanding of the mediating
power of social contexts?). 

Greg Thompson
Ph.D. Candidate
The Department of Comparative Human Development
The University of Chicago
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