the dialectic of criticizing and knowing

It has been a long time since I’ve written on the blog. I have been thinking about the very concept of promoting critical thinking — that I mostly identify with. Yet, recently I started to feel like there is something I might be doing wrong — well, let’s be fair: not necessarily “wrong”, but not entirely “right” either. Anyways. I want to reflect on this a bit.

May be because I am a newbie social science academic, or a first-generation immigrant, or a life-long student with strong philospohy-logic background, or simply because I am sagittarius-rising, I have never ever accepted any given rule/law as it is, and always kept a questioning (or say, skeptical) attitude towards any given Truths (with capital T). Since I learned a lot from this attitude, I am also a fan of the trend of promoting the critical thinking in academia. However, as time passes by, and my role as an academic becomes widened and deepened with experience, I started to realize that the very idea of “critical thinking promoting” started to (subtly) annoy me.

I feel like may be in academia, especially in social sciences, may be we -academics tend to over-value the critical thinking attitude over knowing, and dismiss the fact that a good criticism is only possible with profound knowledge. I realize that I keep giving critical thinking exercises, but not equally focusing on knowing.

Well, someone with a social constructivist perspective would challenge me and say discussion, and critical thinking “lens”, will be the tool of building knowledge, that reciprocally strengthens each other. Yet, my very challenge appears at this moment of stating “lens”. How this lens develops? By the means of stating the exact opposite of what is said/written –without having no valid knowledge based argument?

This issue again goes back to slave-master dialectic of Hegel, which is proved to be effective in many areas of life, including apprentice system in education, industry, healthcare. That is, the slave desires to overcome (?) the master, as s/he recognizes the master’s power. Then, s/he works for, and identifies with the master. By the means of identification (which is a transcended/sublimated form of recognition), the slave becomes/overcomes the master. Fraire says the exact same thing in the pedagogy of Oppressed as well. He says, the oppressed can not overcome the oppressor by anything other than speaking the language of the oppressor. Recognizing the desired qualities of the oppressors is the way to transcend them.

However, in education, we may have a tendency to promote a not-well-grounded critical attitude in the classrooms — at least, I realize may be I do have. I feel like we simply tell the students to yell the world that “it is doing it wrong”. And promote the students to find “reasons” why the world is all doing it wrong, instead of focusing on the students telling/communicating with the masters/the world regarding what “it is doing right”.. May be what we actually need to promote is recognition and appreciation skills.

All in all, I plan to be mindful about paying extra attention to knowing/applying/using and a bit less focus criticizing as I keep teaching. To put it in a better way, I will implement the criticizing practice as a level-up procedure, and use my favorite brilliantly effective 5 to 1 rule: For one criticism, you need to state 5 statements of knowledge.

Let’s see how it will goes.

PFP#9: PFC vs Limbic System

 

Below, there is a nice chart named 50 ways to think creatively. As I did loved most of them, and am willing to integrate them to my teaching practice, I am also considering in which phase of the education we should promote them as the educators? Ugur Mumcu, a journalist from Turkey, argues that “An idea is not possible without proper knowledge”. Also Bloom’s taxonomy puts CREATE cluster at the top stage of the learning process.. Thus, to the later phases?

It is so very interesting that, prefrontal cortex (responsible for cognitive processes, knowledge, morality etc) is the part of of the brain which develops the last (and may be the least), as opposed to the limbic systems (responsible for emotions, and creativity as well). And we argue that the education should target the PFC development first, and then should promote limbic system activation.. We are all about balance, ha <3

image

PFP#8: Critical Thinking vs Synthesizing Thinking

 

As the social science instructors, we have been discussing on the value of critical thinking. In my classroom, I am using the resources from the website http://www.criticalthinking.org in order to describe what critical thinking is and how it helps and how it can be improved.

There are various methods to improve critical thinking, and to my experience of teaching for more than 2 years, providing an anti-thesis for a given thesis is not the most difficult part of the “effective thinking skills” . What I would like my students to work more on is the synthesizing thinking skills, which I define as combining the theses and anti-theses, and coming up with a synthesized understanding, which is open to the anti-theses and thus, to further development.

Although synthesis is considered as a part of the critical thinking skills, I am not sure they refer to the same constructs. In a lot of the cases, while asking for critical thinking capacities, we are asking the students to come up well-grounded counter-arguments, and we value counter-arguments, and the conversation usually end up there. I believe, it is better to encourage syntesis approach in education. Asking the students to come up with new questions, new definitions, and new understandings of the phenomenons..

 

 

PFP#7: Education Systems in Dfferent Countries

 

The discussion on the education systems on different countries were very inspiring and intriguing to me, creating a sudden AHA moment to many of my struggles with regard to teaching in the US context. I learned that many countries like China, Taiwan, besides Turkey,, are primarily using the public school system, with standard examinations.

One take away from the ONE exam format, determining which area of study the student is going to follow (which indirectly determines, the career path of the individual as well), I got is, although it seems like a “One Shot” or a “Risk”, it seems to create a sense of determination from early on, and eliminates many socioeconomic factors that influence the career path of the individuals. That is, no matter what your SES level is, if you can not have a high score in that particular exam, you are basically choosing a moderate path. It is based on success, determination, dedication, and performance.

However, in the private school based contexts, the path seems to be more freedom based, but behind the curtains, it is much more risky and unfair. The promoted social structure is more likely to “preserve” the existing ones, and overall making the rich richer and the poor poorer across the generations.

All these makes me question the “freedom” in the so-called liberal contexts? To what extent we are “free” to choose? What are the determinants of our choices, with regard to educational opportunities? Something to consider..

PFP#6: Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs in Education

So, I will write my remaining blog posts on some tips and techniques on teaching.

First, many of the education improvement researchers argue that, structuring the class on the basis of Bloom’s taxonomy verbs helps the students to benefit most.

Bloom’s taxonomy verbs are grouped in 6 groups, as seen at the image below:

Bloomtaxonomy

In the classroom context, according to the the book named Assessing Critical Thinking in Middle and High Schools, the Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used in a variety of creative ways. I will provide some examples for the college context.

the REMEMBER verbs can be used in the form of memorizing the information, in the form of multiple choice and true false exam questions and class activities.

The UNDERSTAND cluster can be used in the form of activities asking the individuals to describe the key components and characteristics of particular processes. For instance, asking the students to describe how the ecological system works.

The APPLY cluster can be used in the form of activities like asking the students to build a structure, or carry a conversation by the means of using specific rules and instructions. For instance, the students can be introduced to the five effective components of effective communication, and can be asked them to practice these components in one-to-one interactions.

The ANALYZE cluster can be used in the form of activities, encouraging the students to analyze (as it sounds) a specific situation or condition. For instance, the students can be asked to analyze the sociopolitical context during the World War I period, by focusing on the socioeconomic factors influencing the relationships between the countries.

The EVALUATE cluster can be used by asking the students to evaluate a given situation based on specific criteria. For instance, the students can be given a particular observational treatment integrity rating scale of a particular treatment style, and asked to evaluate a therapy session effectiveness.

And lastly, the CREATE cluster can be used by encouraging the students to organize the information in a specific way. For instance, the students can be given some instructions, like building a group and asked to use specific information in their creation.

The CREATE cluster is considered the peak of  learning process, as it encourages independent, creative, and critical thinking. Developing a class based on these principles would be very helpful.

 

hsp#1: fetishization as a desperate attempt to normalize free-floating anxiety

 

Woaw. Just woaw. This week’s readings were pretty “triggering” to me in which I have been writing and deleting my comments continuously since last week. Many themes are flying around me, and I am not sure whether my English skills will be enough to catch these ideas and convert into an “understandable” blog post here. Let’s try and see how it goes..

In both articles (Han et al and Hooks), the authors reflect how the “human” side of both populations are constantly denied, by themselves and the dominant culture. In Han article, the gay men are talking like they are the trinkets on the showcase –waiting to be picked up by a “decent” dominant culture representatives, which will prove their decent-ness. In Hooks article, Tina Turner (I am still freezed by the quote) talks like she is an un-real figure who was not affected by the frustration of her very first time of sexual intercourse. Only by reading between the lines the reader can pick up her real feelings.  It seems like for both populations, being (and feeling like) a human is prohibited.

Why?

First of all, it is so very interesting to see that, although two articles are written by 20 years apart, and on different populations (one is on gay Asian men experiencing racism in gay community, the other on Black women experiencing racism in American society), it seem like, nothing changed, and the mechanism is the same: immense fetishization.

On Lectures on the Philosophy of History, by referring to the religious rituals of the primitive societies, Hegel (–) argues that supernatural powers are attributed to the “fetish” objects, and gradually these fetishes become the “transitional” objects between material world and the other (heavenly, other-world, or non-world-y) one. In his well know article on Fetishism, Freud takes a similar stance, and argues that by the mechanism of “denial (actually, Freud defines it as “disavowal”)”, the fetish “remains a token of triumph over the threat of castration and a protection against it.”  That is, the child denies the fact that the mother does not have a penis, and instead, replaces the penis with the fetish (in the case Freud presents, replaces penis with foot).

By both Hegel and Freud, fetish is considered as a “transitional object” between what is frightening (aka the other-world, in Hegel’s conceptualization of primitive societies’ religious rituals, and the mother’s castration in Freud’s conceptualization of foot fetishism) and what is acceptable (aka the [ordinary] world, in Hegel and the [ordinary] reality, in Freud). Both thinkers argue that “power” is attributed to the fetish. I would like to add one more layer to their conceptualization. I believe, by the means of fetishization, we can also say power is “distilled/ singularized/ objectified” to a single object, and thus the free-floating fear, the uncanniness, anxiety-without-a-reason is warded off. Thanks to the mechanism of fetishization in primitive societies, the world becomes more of a safe space.

For instance, if an earthquake or eclipse happens, the primitive society members can assume that earthquake or eclipse happened, “because” they did not do “enough” for the fetish object. Or, as in superstition, bad luck sticks to the person for 7 years “because” s/he broke a mirror. Or, as in astrology, the computers crash, “because” mercury is on retrograde. Or, the man with a women-foot fetish can successfully ejaculate “because” unconsciously he feels safe that the woman is not castrated. All these because’s help to make uncertainty less unbearable.

Similarly, in both articles, the authors clearly state how fetishization functions in the gay community and the society in general, by “turning” the Asian gay men into skinny, or feminine, or pale, or whatever the adjective is, and “turning” the Black women into wild, butt-y, or whatever the adjective is, fetishes. Perceiving “them” as fetishes helps to make the uncertainty less unbearable.

I believe, fetishization is an attempt of normalization of the (un)conscious attempt to normalize the anxiety, fear, or terror of the unknown. An attempt to accept, but a poor, problematic, and ultimately, failing attempt.

Fetishization of the body parts or the bodies of the non-white people is a common practice, and I do not necessarily agree with Hooks that the fetishization is bad-intended, as I am accepting and agreeing that there CERTAINLY IS bad-intended fetishization remarks. Let me explain. For instance, she argues that, the breast-like chocolates are referring to the Black-nanny tradition in slavery period. I certainly can see what she means, as I certainly agree that the perception of men of the (Black) women has a tendency to oscillate between two opposite images: mother and whore.  According to Freud, this is the ultimate dilemma of the men’s mind. According to Lacan, the mother-whore mix is the ultimate desire of men’s mind (well, please bear with the heterosexist tone here, they have a point, really). Here is a representation of Lacanian woman:

lacan

According to Lacan, the m-other as a “whole” is the scariest thing ever. As she give birth to the baby, she can also end the baby’s life. She is omnipotent and omnipresent for the baby’ and the father, the language, the system, the order functions as a rescuer boat. Lacan describes mother as a mouth-open alligator and the father as a stick between her teeth. I will not go into detail of the annihilation anxiety of the child. Klein goes, as Lacan does.

In this regard, the “Real” woman image is a fatal one, characterized with Eros (life) and Thanatos (death). She is frightened because she is unknown, as the Other in the society is. All the forms of the Other (including Women, LGBTQ+ABCDEFG.., Racial/Ethnic/Cultural.. Minorities, People with disability, People with mental illness,,), that are unknown are tried to be accepted (and understood) by the means of desperate attempts of de-humanization.

It is easier to understand non-humans, especially the objects. It is easier to accept objects too. Especially when they are dispensable, exchangeable, or expandable. Yet, apparently, since the Other (asian gay, black man, turkish woman etc.) can not be “reduced” into an object form that could have all these sense of safety creating qualities, there is a long way to walk, through uncertainty: For the fear, by the fear, and despite the fear.

 

 

PFP #5: Inclusiveness

I think most of the non-inclusiveness comes from just lack of experience and fear. Fear of all sorts, but basically fear of unfamiliar. Difference is just anxiety provoking and it is innate. And all we are just experiencing this uncanny feeling when we confront with an unfamiliarity. Many research also support this hypothesis, including the well known harvard implicit racism test that can be found here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ , which reflects that racism (and other non-inclusive attitudes) are strongly correlated with unfamiliarity and fear.

Freud describes the fear of unfamiliar with the term “unheimlich” that can be translated as uncanny, and Lacan sets the uncanniness, the anxiety at the core of human existence. As does the various philosophers including Heidegger, Husserl, and Sartre. So, I think, before heating the discussions with divisions, we need to sit and listen the other being (whether s/he is inclusive or not, or familiar to us or not). Since we are all humans, eventually the familiarity will reveal itself, that will soothe the anxiety.

In this regard, I do think that the strongest tool to promote inclusiveness as a mean to reach the best versions of ourselves and help people do/be their best is to work on the principle of familiarity. Neurologically speaking, without including limbic system (aka emotions), and just focusing the prefrontal cortex (aka thoughts), we can not create effective learning. Learning happens when the brain is involved in the process as a whole. Thus, rather than setting signages for human zoos, we can invite and welcome the personal stories and highlight the similarities, rather than getting lost in the rabbit holes of differences. Here is an amazingly wonderful speech by Chimamanda Ngozi, named The Danger of Single Story, showing how the prefrontal cortex focused training induced educated-blindness effects the relationships and providing some delicate insights on how similar we humans actually are, enjoy if you did not before.

 

 

PFP #4: Technology Use in Classrooms

 

As a life-long student who learned the concept of “edutainment” in United States, I have pretty ambivalent feelings about using technology in the classrooms. I believe, as educators and current professors, we need to be mindful about the purpose of using technology in the classrooms.

I recently facilitated a conversation session at the Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy (CIDER), on the use of technology in the classrooms, in which as the educators we discussed the pros and cons, and brainstormed for ideas for a “digitally informed and productive” classrooms.

The upcoming ideas from the conversation session was similar to most of the research findings: Yes, the students do like to use technological devices in classrooms, but the effectiveness of this practice is still questionable (Bullen et al., 2008; Cuban, 2001Rutherford, 2004; Tan, 2013).

There is still a need for a comprehensive pedagogical models with regard to effective use of technology in the classrooms. Here is an iconographic on the possible ways to use social media in classrooms

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social media teachers

hsp #4: Liberations

What are plausible intellectual precedents of the sexual liberation movements in 1920s?

According to the authors, in late 1890s and early 1900s, Freud’s work highlighting sexuality, the research done by sexologist Havelock Ellis, the books by Carpenter, influenced the paradigm regarding sexuality in America. Freud’s work suggesting that sexuality is an essential aspect of living and is present starting from the very beginning of infancy, and the (sexual) energy condensing on different body parts all through the ages made a huge impact. Freud was the one who introduced the idea that, sexuality is a normal process of living beings, and functioning for the well-being of the individuals.

Similarly, Ellis’s work was a huge attempt in normalizing sexuality. He wrote masturbation to be “autoerotic forms of relaxation”, and sexuality should be characterized with “not more restraint, but more passion”.

Not because I am a psychoanalytically trained person, but because Freud’s work was revolutionary and he was (and still has been) harshly criticized by many for different reasons, in my reality-construction, I give most of the credit to Freud’s work. His new-perception (well, he has the precedents for sure,, but he was the one who put things clearly) of sexuality as a normal process, present from birth to death, triggered a paradigm shift. Sexuality, started to be perceived as a normal bodily function, rather than a tool for reproduction.

Along these intellectual pursuits, in 1920s the sexual liberation movements started to mushroom in here and there. People started to express their thoughts/feelings in a more liberated fashion. Similarly, the shift in body-politics reflected itself with regard to perceptions about contraception. Women started to say “It is my body, it is my decision”

What factors make the birth control movement significant?

First, as mentioned above, birth control movement reflects the paradigm shift with regard to sexuality. People started to perceive sexuality as a natural experience of their bodies and to own their experience. Second, as happens right after the paradigm shifts, protesting the reproduction-focused sexuality discourse, naturally created the discourse of contraception. Third, owning the body via birth control gradually lead to a paradigm shift regarding perception of marriage. “If we will not have babies, why we have to be married?” idea started to mushroom, and more and more people started to cohabitate, rather than getting married. Also, the birth control movement gradually shifted the perception of womanhood as well.

I believe, birth control is one of the worst things happened to patriarchy. If I was a proponent of patriarchy, I would definitely damn curse birth control (as the religious communities already do ahahah), because it does not only gives women a power to decide on their bodies (not to withdrawal of their hubbies or whatever) or to remain abstinent (and thus stayin away from the pleasure of a bodily function), but also to control their paths in the society. Birth control frees women from the idea of “fate” which is deadly enough from a religious/patriarchal point of view :o)

PFP #3: Ethics

Here is a new funding opportunity for conferences and workshops, designed to stimulate ethical research:

http://www.grants.gov/custom/viewOppDetails.jsp?oppId=280981 

Description: In accordance with 42 C.F.R. Part 93, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) seeks to support conferences to develop multi-disciplinary networks to build upon existing evidence-based research and stimulate innovative approaches to preventing research misconduct and promoting research integrity. ORI is especially interested in supporting conferences that lead to extramural grant applications on research on research integrity and peer-reviewed publications. Conferences or workshops must be designed to provide a forum for discussion and produce tangible outcomes related to at least one of the following themes: 1) responsible conduct of research training; 2) fostering an environment that promotes research integrity; 3) prevention of research misconduct; 4) handling of research misconduct allegations; 5) whistleblowing; 6) international issues in research integrity; or, 7) other topics clearly linked to research integrity and compliance with 42 C.F.R. Part 93.

Glad to see that research integrity is taken very seriously, and aimed to be highlighted through various funding campaigns.