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Caliifornia State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: September 18, 2001
Latest Update: September 20, 2001


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from the Week of September 17, 2001 - Week 4

Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors: September 2001.
"Fair use" encouraged.

"Is this real?"
Journal entry by Keith Greene

On Thursday, September 20, 2001, Keith Greene wrote:

Hi Jeanne,

I don't know if you know me yet but my name is Keith Greene and I just added your 355 (thoery) class last week. I am a Sociology major. I think it is great that you give us the opportunity to get online to read your lectures and then respond.

I first want to respond to the your Terror in the City reading. The first thing I thought about the whole incident was, "Is this real?" I never thought I would live to see anything like it. I thought I was dreaming until I pinched myself and came to reality, saying to myself this is real. I just cant understand how any human being can kill another living soul or more or less over 5000 human souls.

Next I will respond to the reading on Levels of Learning and Their Affect. It seems to me that middle level affect when it comes to grades would be the most important. I think that we are all trained that if we always come to class, be on time, take notes, do all assigned work, and pass all test with high grades than we will automatically get a good grade.

jeanne's comments
Good comment, Keith. That training that if we follow the rules, we'll get good grades is indeed formal learning, and that level is normally accompanied by middle-level affect. Of course, if we examine carefully what grades are so supposed to signify, we'll find that A's are supposed to represent exceptional work, and that many teachers therefor assume that there should be very few A's. C's were once meant to represent the informal rules to which you are referring. Most people today would consider a C for following all the rules an unfair grade. This is one reason we need theory - so that we can distance ourselves a little from the actual situation and see these conflicts more clearly.

I am not saying that this not a good way to earn good grades but what I am agreeing to is that once you find a professor like yourself which alters this fashion or tradition of learning then it does indeed get stressful and harder for you to get the A you really want.

jeanne's comments
I think you're right, Keith. It is harder on two levels, to function well in both theoretical contexts. First, seeing alternatives to traditional learning, constrained by set rules of engagement, awakens us to dissatisfaction when we encounter structural violence, or harm that occurs when the rules do not take our actual situation into account. For example, an awareness of the conflict between old theoretical approaches to grading and the new reality of certification (being certified as an A, a B, or a C student for purposes of employment, for example) may translate into greater frustration, as you begin to understand the structural violence of the institutional setting.

Second, the awareness of and acceptance of responsibility for critical learning, learning in which you are granted the freedom to explore in depth and to choose effective measures of that learning, carries much more ambiguity. There simply are no rules, and that is far less comforting when you are tired and overworked, when you want to say "Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it." That's a very superficial form of learning, and the recognition and recall level, but it demands less thinking, less responsibility.

Those of you who have been trying to figure out why there are Weekly Readings and Suggested Measures of Learning AND a Current Issue each week, might be able to see now that the weekly readings are there to offer you that crutch when you'd rather not take charge of your own learning. The Current Issue is there to allow you to take charge to whatever extent you are comfortable with taking charge.

I guess the bottom line is that is why God gave us the ability to function and adjust to new things.

jeanne's comments
I think you might be right, Keith. That does seem to be what makes us human, n'est-ce pas (isn't that so)?

The only thing is that if you been trained to do something your whole life when something new comes along you question if this is right or wrong or even sometimes you might think that this person is going against the social norm in society.

Keith Greene (Soc 355)

jeanne's comments
And now you have touched on several important concepts we have discussed in the last few weeks:
  • The privileging of subjectivity

    We privilege our subjectivity when we presume that our traditional way of doing things is inevitable (Gordon Fellman speaks of this - I'll link to it later. Nag me.), that that's the way it should be, has to be, and that our traditional way is "the right way."

  • Dominant discourse

    Dominant discourse is our collective discourse on issues that concern us. It's the discussions we have of the "everybody knows" variety, and the most commonly shared perception of reality as we are living it.

  • Normative expectations

    Normative expectations make up the dominant discourse. These are the expectations we develop of each other in our personal inter-relationships, in our institutional rules and our sense of their "rightness," in our stereotypical assumptions that lead us to privilege our own subjectivity that we "know" what the Other is like.

  • Bloom's Taxonomy of Educatiional Objectives

    The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in which both the affective and the cognitive domains of learning are categorized by educators, to lend some light to the conflict between alternative approaches to grading. On the Disctance Learning Resource Network of the U.S. Department of Education.backup

Does all this help you to see why it is so difficult to bring about real social change?