Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I have 4 classroom classes: three Culturals and one Archy. Two Distance Learning: one Cultural and one brand-new Archy. And I am back teaching for the Aggies down in Galveston; that one special challenge with 120 students who are all (the whole campus population) just back from a Fall semester in College Station--home of all the main Aggies, while the small Galveston campus was resurrected from the ravages of Ike. All in all, I have expended a lot of personal energy trying to make a very disparate set of connections with my students: virtual connections, small class connections, large class connections. I have spent long stretches of time in my car driving the long haul to Galveston, pondering the skill set required. I feel as drained as when I did field work and each potential conversation and interaction was a walk out a limb without needed corrective lenses.
But I have learned some things. I have students who really do believe that "the pyramids were built by aliens", that anthropology is about the study of dinosaurs, that dogs have language, that Latinos are more fertile than other people, and that most students don't seem to know the same types of things, by that, I think I mean that I can't tell that they have experienced a common High School experience with a common set of learned content.
They have read nothing and have little knowledge of very basic and fundamental content. It truly does frighten me to think that so many professors are using technology to distance themselves from this knowledge. Better to turn off the lights and cue up the power points; divide them in groups and give the "innovative projects" to work collaboratively on; or better yet build a wiki with no knowledge of what is and is not valid Internet source material: these all examples of activities I have witnessed first-hand.
No easy answers here. It just takes hard work and the desire to connect. Soon, we will be going with the flow and life will get easier. Then I will be able to look outward, again.
Now see, this is the sort of thing I am talking about. How are clickers going to help students learn reasoning skills? How, for that matter, are group projects going to solve that if the instructor is not an integral part of the process? Have you watched them in groups? How can these projects be designed if we don't understand where they are coming from? Particularly if we don't realize that they have had a very individual road of it throughout their high school years. If you want to engage with "their" (monolithic category alert!) understanding of technology than realize that large numbers of them have accessed only the most salacious and titillating aspects of the internet world--it is, after all, way cool to look at sites about alien pyramid building and conclude indigenous people...just, so couldn't do that. They aren't tabula rasa, they need to be retaught and we need to engage with them to figure out how to do that. How about if we put down the clickers and do so---hey, maybe not in the hundreds...maybe we need SMALL CLASSES and active involvement!
Monday, January 26, 2009
This is my life.
Savage Minds, citing yours truly, says they need to be more relevant for the new year.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Back later...the semester calls................
Friday, January 9, 2009
The university is responding to the Pentagon’s call that culture matters. As for the hoped-for impact of educational change on the overall military – “That’s a set of outcomes that the Southern Association does not ask us,” says Brian R. Selmeski, director of cross-cultural competence at the Air Force Culture and Language Center, created at Air University in 2006.
He adds, however: “It is the fundamental reason, I think, why most of us in the center are here and doing what we’re doing.”
The Air Force Culture and Language Center is intended to be, in the chief academic officer’s words, a “catalyst” for the infusion of cross-cultural education across the university’s many schools and colleges, which include, as a sampling, the Community College of the Air Force, for enlisted airmen, the Noncommissioned Officer Academies, and the Air War College, which educates senior officers. Air University’s proposed quality enhancement plan – in shorthand, QEP — is due to SACS this month, with on-site assessment of the plan scheduled for spring.
The proposal is built upon a number of student learning outcomes that, now in draft form, include the acquisition of “foundational knowledge of culture-general ideas and principles.” The focus of the QEP is on general knowledge of culture. For example, students would learn about the concept of kinship, and that it plays out in different ways in different regions.
The draft learning outcomes also include a focus on demonstrating “skills necessary to work effectively in cross-cultural contexts,” “positive attitudes toward cultural differences that predispose learners to effective learning and action,” and, finally, “the ability to apply culture-general learning effectively in specific cultural contexts.” The center’s next hire will be a psychologist who will serve as assessment chair for the effort, Selmeski says.
“The idea is rather than finding anthropologists and co-locating them with military units to assist” — which describes a controversial initiative known as the Human Terrain System — “our focus is to get all of our airmen, all of our students, to be able to be sensitive to these cross-cultural concepts and be able to use them wherever they’re deployed,” explains Bruce T. Murphy, chief academic officer of Air University. “Rather than focus on a particular region, rather than focus on a particular language, what are the five or six or seven or whatever it is, basic questions that everybody has to be able to ask before they go into a region, to do their own operational missions but do them with cultural sensitivity?
Read the full article here.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Sunday mornings is my time for catching up on the world's events. I have been watching the live blog of the Israeli attack on Gaza at The Guardian (would Max Gluckman approve?). They have been updating regularly as events unfold. I have given up on the American coverage having watched the American morning T.V. news shows. I was appalled at the coverage. I think the high point was when Wolf Blitzer spent most of his time trying to pin Queen Noor into some sort of statement denouncing Muslim extremists as she was lamenting the humanitarian crises in Gaza. Hey, Wolf, there are children dying. Anyway, When there is coverage--and there is precious little of that--it is completely lacking in any objectivity or any actual discussion of the full totality of the situation. I heard next to no discussion of the Israel blockade of Gaza since their nominal pull-out some 3 years ago (and preceding the election of Hamas.) One of the leading watchdogs of the press by the press, Editor and Publisher, gives a good summary of the pro-Israel American press coverage.
How could an 18 year old student get an objective understanding of the problem based on this coverage? Is presenting a discussion of these issues not, exactly, what we should be doing as Anthropologists? And yet, our blogs rarely cover these issues--the notable exception being Open Anthropology, wait he is a Canadian. You know, as a discipline, we have no functioning voice in the American dialogue.
Fortunately, there is a wonderful piece, Orwell, blinding tribalism, selective Terrorism, and Israel/Gaza, by Glenn Greenwald at Salon, giving all of us who struggle with undergraduate teaching the Teachable Moments in the unfolding disaster. Sample this argument:
If you see Palestinians as something less than civilized humanAnd he continues his argument:
beings: as "barbarians" -- just as if you see Americans as
infidels warring with God or Jews as sub-human rats -- then it naturally follows
that civilian deaths are irrelevant, perhaps even something to cheer.
Why should a superior, civilized, peaceful society allow the welfare of
violent, hateful barbarians to interfere with its objectives? How can the
deaths or suffering of thousands of barbarians ever be weighed against the death
of even a single civilized person?
So many of these conflicts -- one might
say almost all of them -- end up shaped by the same virtually universal
deficiency: excessive tribalistic identification (i.e.: the
group with which I was trained to identify is right and good and just and my
group's enemy is bad and wrong and violent), which causes people to view the
world only from the perspective of their side, to believe that X is good when
they do it and evil when it's done to them. X can be torture, or the
killing of civilians in order to "send a message" (i.e., Terrorism), or
invading and occupying other people's land, or using massive lethal force
against defenseless populations, or seeing one's own side as composed of real
humans and the other side as sub-human, evil barbarians.
He ends his piece with the language of our discipline and a conclusion we can all agree with:
It's much easier to undervalue the suffering imposed on The Other when you don't have to see it.
Its an interesting thought, isn't it? The idea that we may never solve the violence unleashed in this world without the ability to see the full humanity of all the world's people. Wonder where that idea came from? Perhaps, Mr. Greenwald took an anthropology class. I hope. I just wish an anthropologist had written it. Perhaps, they are all too busy working at "anthropologizing" the U.S. military.