Bird Droppings April 19, 2022

Making a difference each day

“Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world” Paulo Freire

A Brazilian educationalist and one of the most influential thinkers of the late twentieth century made famous the term dialogue in his writing. As I read a bit about Freire this morning, a word in his vernacular that is interesting praxis for teachers is that horrible battery of tests for certification. For Freire, a meaning with import is “acts which shape and change the world.”

“Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, this sidedness of his thinking in practice…. All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mystics find their rational solution in human practice and the comprehension of this practice…. The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Karl Marx, 1845 Theses on Feuerbach: II, VII, XI

It is through thinking that events change and draw meaning. It is not simply thinking but applying these thoughts.

“It is not simply action based on reflection. It is an action that embodies certain qualities. These include a commitment to human well-being and the search for truth, and respect for others. It is the action of people who are free, who are able to act for themselves. Moreover, praxis is always risky. It requires that a person ‘makes a wise and prudent practical judgment about how to act in this situation” Carr and Kemmis 1986

Wise and prudent are not often used in most human situations, and it is infrequent that most people think about world good, even community good. We live in this more self-oriented society, a society of hedonism.

“Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing.” Mark K. Smith, 1997

There are pieces here I started with a word dialogue and have moved rather rapidly through the concept of praxis, but after reading Mark Smith’s comments, the idea of human flourishing impresses me. I find it we do that perpetuate humankind’s species and ideals, and thoughts. I did a questionnaire for the state department of education on Thursday last week. The questions discussed standards and assessment and such combine that with teachers who are uptight with only five weeks or so left two till the end of course tests. This is now standard in most states but part of quantifying, but I question whether we are making strides in education. It becomes all about cramming pieces of information into the minuscule brains of teenagers. I recall Sydney J. Harris’s comparison to stuffing sausages. In our great effort to quantify, we have stripped quality.

“Educators have to teach. They have to transform transfers of information into a ‘real act of knowing” Paulo Freire

So, cramming and pouring vast amounts of information into students to take a test that had to be pushed up due to the calendar and state parameters makes a lot of sense. How much water can be poured into a one-liter bottle, and how many state officials will it take to figure it out. A summer or two ago, I recall reading tests to students with learning disabilities, almost a paradox in and of itself “reading graduation tests.” I looked across at my water bottle, and that thought hit me can we put more than a liter of water in a liter bottle. Immediately, I thought to freeze the water expands when chilled, then heating it again expansion. How do we put a gallon of information in a one-liter container, or is it ten gallons of material?

Back in the winter 0f 2019, on a trip to the mountains and a walk-through visit to the Foxfire museum, the reality of doing this hit is possible to fit ten gallons of knowledge in a one-liter container. The museum curator and guide held up a copper device and talked about the mainstay of mountain life in years gone by, “moon shining” the device he held up was a condenser used in making white lightning, grain alcohol, or moonshine. In theory, you can condense and distill those ten gallons to whatever capacity you want. You teach the necessary aspects borrowing from Freire, “transform transfers of information into a ‘real acts of knowing.” This is the key to taking the content and applying context. Then it will be remembered and provide the latitude to advance thinking and that person’s direction in life and make a difference. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts, and be sure always to give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

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