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25 Words or Less
Paper Clips: Links Between Ideas

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 15, 1999
Latest update: August 10, 2003

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Index of Topics on Site Cutting to the Chase

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, August 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

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25 Words or Less for Quick Conveyance of Your Learning

What's the most important thing you want the Other to know?

  • general to specific

    Suppose your topic is violence? Maybe you just want to say that violence is bad. But that would never convey to anyone that you had seriously thought about the topic of violence, and had something to say about it. The statement is too general; lacks detail.

    Maybe what you really mean is that you do not like the results of violence, would not like to engage in violence, and would like a community that discouraged violence. Because this statement is specific it immediately suggests at least three following paragraphs:

  • results of violence
  • personal choice not to engage in
  • community discouragement of violence

    Are we talking about street violence, drive by shootings, child abuse, domestic violence, war??? Chances are that one project can't cover all those aspects. So here is where you must start to choose.

    The 25 words makes you settle on a single topic - all that one paragraph can hold.

  • But you will certainly have more to say for a fuller discussion, say in class or as a blog on our site.

    Remember that the 25 words or less is just a way of providing continuity in your report of learning. For quick checks with us in the hallways or in our office or on e-mail. But even those quick communictions need preparation. "I don't like war" won't cut it, for all the reasons just given above. But if you think about how you don't like war, and how that relates to what we've been discussing and reading, and then recognize that that's lots more than you can say in 25 words, you can choose those 25 words more carefully, like "The global infrastructure is changing so quickly in the world today that today's enemy is tomorrow's friend. We can't "know" for sure what or who we're fighting." That's 27 words. But who's counting? Don't write it out and memorize it. Just think it out. Then you'll be on the right track.

    When there's more you want to say, then put together a submission for learning credit, and share it with the class, and e-mail it to us. ,

  • give another example
  • compare to a source - an example you read somewhere or heard somewhere
  • link facts to a policy - like trust, or the need to beware, or whose interest is being protected, or why the community or the city or the state or the world needs this
  • link facts to a theory - what theories are there? in what field? could you compare it to a theory in another field, one of the other social sciences, or pbulic administration?
  • link facts to underlying premises, unstated assumptions, privileged subjectivity

    Want a guide?

    Pick anything you've read that appealed to you.

  • go back and see how the ideas were linked.
  • then try linking that way

    For short communications with your teacher, especially in hallway or cafeteria conversations, cut to the chase, pick one of the many things you could say, one that matters to you, and say that. On e-mailed messages use the same technique. We are not assuming that what you say or e-mail is all that you have to say. We are assuming that you really do have something to say. Take a few minutes to locate the specifics that will tell us something, and to link them to the conceptual ideas we have read about or talked about in our class and Internet discussions.

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    Paper Clips, All in a Kite's Tail

    Paper clips are a metaphor for all the experiences, thoughts, acts, everything that has gone into your apperceptive mass since infancy, and maybe even before birth.

    Concept of apperceptive mass: A description of the mind: I like to use the term "stew pot." In the days of extended families in an agrarian culture, there was always a big pot on the stove into which all leftovers were tossed. Everything tossed in added immeasurably to the ultimate flavor of the stew. By skimming off the top, you got a different flavor from that of scooping down and stirring the whole concoction. That is how we can seem to be different people at different times and in different contexts. It all depends on what the stimuli of the context bring up from the apperceptive mass.

    There is an immediate analogy to learning. Some experiences stay on the top, some affect us profoundly and affect the whole set of our experiences. Sometimes you answer questions by skimming the surface of the pot, offering whatever happens to be there. Sometimes you delve more deeply and find very different answers.

    There is a further analogy in how you incorporate what you learn into your entire apperceptive mass. Sometimes information is forced on you. You just leave it there on top, in short term memory, forget it soon afterwards. Other times the information matters terribly, colors your whole life, then you find it connected in some way to all the other experiences in the stew pot. Think of paper clips. Some come out one at a time. But many are all strung together. If an idea in the stew pot is well connected to other ideas, and you recall one of them, all those other connected ideas come up with it.

    Hint: The best way to remember what you have learned is to connect it well to everything else you know and have experienced. That way, there'll be lots of paper clips that will bring the idea you are searching for up to consciousness.

    Technical Term: Apperceptive mass or Herbartian apperceptive mass