— David Tansey and Elaine Weiss at Moyers & Company. Crunching Test Scores Isn’t Enough to Educate Our Kids
William Labov in The Atlantic (1972). Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence
When I was just ten my first nephew was born. I think that had a lot to do with my interest in child development. For a few years when I was still a boy I had lots of time with babies and toddlers. I don’t have children of my own, and in many ways haven’t had a lot of connections with kids through my life. But I’ve never lost a sense of awe while watching children negotiate through the world.
I’m not proud that I messed up my first attempt at college in the mid-seventies and never got admitted to the child development program. But looking back I learned so much from my attempt and that’s mostly a result of the thousands of questions I was asking in a rich intellectual milieu. All that questioning nearly drove me over the brink.
As I’ve mentioned before discovering Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind and Christopher Alexander’s The Oregon Experiment were mileposts that gave me a sense there was a path somewhere through the thicket of questions. Both authors led me to more reading. Bateson introduced me to Cybernetics, and to a certain extent to anthropology. Alexander made me read more of his writing, but also I discovered early on that he’d studied with Jerome Bruner.
A couple of days ago I noticed a statement by Douglas Hofstatder in an interview in Popular Mechanics about the field of Artificial Intelligence:
I might say though, that 30 to 40 years ago, when the field was really young, artificial intelligence wasn’t about making money, and the people in the field weren’t driven by developing products. It was about understanding how the mind works and trying to get computers to do things that the mind can do. The mind is very fluid and flexible, so how do you get a rigid machine to do very fluid things? That’s a beautiful paradox and very exciting, philosophically.
I thought when I read that: Yeah that’s true, I should post some links. But it’s been harder than I thought to find some links to post. One difference in the early days of AI was the impetus to build a machine was to better understand how the mind works; the machine as a model to test. But the machines were so amazing the impetus became more about the machines. So much of the interesting and exciting work that was done got orphaned.
Still, many interesting connections have been made, for example computer programmers picked up on Alexander’s book A Pattern Language. But there was also a change in sensibility or style that’s more broadly applicable. People think of the sixties as a sort of romantic era, and some of the ideas get dismissed as romanticism. One of the hallmarks of the time was a quest for meaning. Often along that quest people were one or two steps beyond romanticism.
At the time my courses in psychology were very much bent towards academic psychology and behaviorism. Just as general guide, qualitative evidence has to do with meaning, whereas quantitative evidence is has to do with cause and effect and behavior. So it’s perhaps easy to over-emphasise the importance of meaning then. But it does seem to me when it comes to evidence-based education the quantitative is dominant almost to the exclusion of the qualitative.
The search for meaning appears neglected. For me it’s difficult to imagine good evidenced-based education without a focus on meaning. Hofstadter, I gather from other reading, feels as if he’s somewhat on his own with his studies. But as he suggests there’s a body of work about understanding how the mind works that’s ripe for rediscovery. Jerome Bruner is alive and his work is still relevant, and probably hasn’t been completely vanquished from the halls of education as an academic discipline. There are tendrils of the era everywhere really. And it’s worth revisiting the work once again.
— Margaret Mead via ERIC. Age Discrepancies in the Understanding and Use of Modern Technology, Especially the Mass Media. Or How Parents and Teachers Fail to Tune in on the Children’s Media Environment. (PDF 1968)
Shrinkranks put up his take on Cognitive Behavior Therapy and its place in psychotherapy. And expressed curiosity about what readers of his blog make of it.
Evidence is good, but there are different sorts. I note that evidence-based education functions to reduce the ability of teachers to use judgement and to script teacher student interactions.
Evidenced-based education curriculums, where teachers’s every words are determined by the authorities—commercial entities—are used primarily in settings where students are poor. Middle class and upper class parents wouldn’t tolerate the evidenced-based packages enforced on children of poor parents.
My impression of how CBT as evidenced-based psychotherapy is being sold to the public is quite like how evidenced-based education is playing out in schools.
Of course, “evidenced-based” doesn’t have to mean the commodification of teaching or counselling. But look at “the evidence” in education the commercial authorities selling their packages point to: teacher’s aides don’t help, class size doesn’t matter, and scripts make teaching idiot-proof.
The evidence which stands out for what’s being sold as “evidenced-based” is a way to reduce the professional standing of teachers and counsellors and to reduce the costs associated.
Miles from the nearest school, a young Ethiopian girl named Rahel turns on her new tablet computer. The solar powered machine speaks to her: “Hello! Would you like to hear a story?”
She nods and listens to a story about a princess. Later, when the girl has learned a little more, she will tell the machine that the princess is named “Rahel” like she is and that she likes to wear blue—but for now the green book draws pictures of the unnamed Princess for her and asks her to trace shapes on the screen. “R is for Run. Can you trace the R?” As she traces the R, it comes to life and gallops across the screen. “Run starts with R. Roger the R runs across the Red Rug. Roger has a dog named Rover.” Rover barks: “Ruﬀ! Ruﬀ!” The Princess asks, “Can you ﬁnd something Red?” and Rahel uses the camera to photograph a berry on a nearby bush. “Good work! I see a little red here. Can you ﬁnd something big and red?”"
— Neal Stephenson quoted from his book The Diamond Age in an article by Evan Ackerman at DVICE. Ethiopian kids hack OLPCs in 5 months with zero instruction
— John Restakis at P2P Foundation Blog. John Restakis and Michel Bauwens on the FLOK Society Transition Project in Ecuador
— Henry Giroux at his Web site. Paulo Freire and the Politics of Postcolonialism