Two weeks ago or so I was fortunate enough to give a presentation on the Null Curriculum of Sex and Gender in the Sciences. During my part of the session we processed through what we were historically taught about sex (namely that there are two), gender (also that there are two and that it should correlate with biological sex), and all the things we weren’t taught. What haven’t we been taught?
Well, we usually weren’t taught that:
there are at least 6 sexes
the Eurocentric and Western of gender has been and always will be in flux
Intersex folks call into question the consistency of our correlation of gender and sex
Intersex “conditions” are extremely common.
1/1600 people do not have XX or XY chromosome configurations.
1/200-1/2000 people have an intersex condition to include physical “abnormalities”
All of these scientific, historical, and biological facts constitute the null curriculum. The Null Curriculum is the idea that: Facts/information deliberately or unintentionally omitted from formal education and informal social norms can have as much, if not more, influence on our relationships and actions as the facts and information deliberately included. (Matheis)
If it is right, then in not learning about these notions the policies and practices we enact even at institutions of higher education may reflect a false science and have a negative impact on folks who live and learn here at the university. Yet, who was attending the teach-in?
Not the people who are in-charge of creating and amending policies. If they aren’t going to attend things that, quite obviously they need to hear, then what needs to be done to pull them into conversation about the impact of the null curriculum on our practices and policy?
If I could change one thing right now in Higher Education, it would be our educational model. Specifically, I think we absolutely need to, and must, move away from the banking model of education that tends to be the default throughout many of our disciplines.
In this model there are the folks with the knowledge and those without. The “haves” present the material to the “have-nots” and in doing so allow them to acquire something that they were lacking; this is obviously a deficit model.
The open access journal I’ve chosen to look at is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP). Although I wasn’t sure if it would count as an open access journal per se, after reading through the site it seems to qualify even if it has a slightly different model than most.
While I am in favor of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), I also think that for all the positivity there is a way in which we tend to gloss over some of the sticking points for the approach and the negative impacts privileging the digital over the actual can have on faculty at a given institution.
It was not in Raj Lyubov’s nature to think. Character and training disposed him not to interfere in other mens’s business. His job was to find out what they did, and his inclination was to let them go on doing it. He preferred to be enlightened, rather than to enlighten; to seek facts rather than the Truth. But even the most unmissionary soul, unless he pretend he has no emotions, is sometimes faced with a choice between commission and omission. “What are they doing?” abruptly becomes, “What are we doing?” and then, “What must I do?”
— The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin (2010, p. 124)
When I started reading the selections for this week the above quote from one of Ursula Le Guin’s books came to mind and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s went into my hand. In higher education, in our graduate school careers, in the courses we teach, and with the students we work with the question remains: what are we doing?
How far do you have to go to pee? Take a few minutes to think about it and then think about how far you’d have to go if the closest restroom was closed.
For many people on this campus, the answer to the first question is “right down the hallway” though for some folks the answer may be “on the next floor”. For the second question, a number of folks may answer “on the next floor” and, maybe, a few would say “the next building”.
Would that answer change if you were disabled? Would it change if you had a small child you had to take care of? Would it change if you were trans or gender non-conforming?
When it comes to admissions, philosophy has a bit of a problem. By this, I mean that in hiring we have a tendency to hire white men and to not even have a single woman as a final candidate. How does hiring relate to admissions? Quite a lot.
Last semester, President Sands addressed a motley crowd on the grounds of Smithfield Plantation. Marketed as a talk that would address the necessity of owning our past if we are going to “Invent the Future,” the sparse, and now deleted, advertisements on Facebook drew members of the university community from various areas and disciplines. Thus framed, persons from the IEC, GIA, Philosophy, VT Engage, Inclusive VT, and other university affiliates gathered together in the pavilion to hear about plausible shifts in the conversations held about the plantation and its historical connection to the foundation, and upkeep, of the university proper. At the cession of the talk, many were still waiting to hear the talk which had been promised (or perhaps more charitably the talk which many expected to be furnished to a group which included people of color, students, faculty, staff, and the decedents of the Prestons who founded the plantation 240+ years ago).
When we consider ethics in the discipline, one conversational topic that sometimes comes up is a question of accountability: when people are not being ethical, who is able to step-in and holds folks accountable?
When it comes to the sciences the answer, at least some of the time, is The Office for Research Integrity (ORI). ORI is the entity that is tasked with investigating allegations of research misconduct among many other things. For this post I’m going to focus on one of the cases that ORI investigated last year.
Before you continue to read this post, and for once it’ll be rather short (comparatively, but not by much), take a few moments to answer the above question. While I will be, quickly, linking what I am saying to Freire’s work and thoughts, although I will be assuming relative familiarity with Freire’s problem-posing model and not explaining it, my set-up is going to be non-traditional. In fact, I am going to be pulling from Philip Hallie’s “From Cruelty to Goodness“. Hallie is a scholar who investigated the cruelties of the Holocaust and worked to answer the question I posed to all of us earlier. Given the recent events here at Tech against our Jewish community, it is an answer that I think salient for the critical pedagogy we are investigating this week.