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Expanding the focus of education

On the final day of the workshop on Cultural Studies of Science Education in Luxembourg, June 19, 2014, my role as a keynote speaker was to synthesize what had come before in the previous days of the workshop and look ahead. The title of my presentation was: “Step forward or step aside: Challenging times necessitate bold visions and practices." During the presentation I had spoken about the necessity for science educators to expand their roles beyond the tight focus on education in the formal schooling years and in- and out-of-school settings such as museums, zoos and nature parks. As I had done in recent publications I advocated a birth through death focus on education throughout the lifeworld – with a focus on producing literate citizens in regard to goal areas associated with wellness, sustainability, and harmony. The project included a stern endeavor to broaden what is meant by science in the lifeworld. In draft manuscripts and oral presentations I had often use the term pre-birth through death to describe the focus for science education. The inclusion of pre-birth was not intended as a gimmick since I have read numerous pieces that have described benefits of providing a nurturing prenatal environment to kickstart life after birth. Also I had considered autiobiographical accounts by high performers such as Yan Pascal Tortelier, who spoke about the influence of his home on his education which he described as starting prior to his birth. 

Tortelier explained that his mother and father were professional musicians who exposed him to classical music prior to birth and through his childhood and adolescence. His father withdrew him from formal education so that he could concentrate on learning music and it is no surprise that he became a professional violinist and then a conductor with many orchestras around the world. When he speaks of his education he acknowledges the importance of being exposed to music, virtually from conception through to the present time. A key point to ponder is that learning is not only agentic, but also is passive, occurring because Tortelier was in a field, with his parents, when they were practicing music. Through exposure to music he developed substantial knowledge, including dispositions to enact what he knew, in an ongoing way that was extensive. In this scenario the knowledge learned might be represented in numerous complementary ways that would include body movements, sound productions involving body parts such as the larynx, tongue and lips, images, and words – including prosodic features such as variations in intensity, frequency, and timbre. As Tortelier learned to play the piano, violin, and other musical instruments the repertoire of tools available to represent what he knew expanded, and when he learned to compose, he was able to represent his knowledge in even more expansive ways. To fully understand Tortelier's education and professional life as a musician it is apparent that history matters and that in his case knowledge and high valuing of music are historically constituted.

Even though I am committed to the idea of learning more about educating pre-birth embryos, my knowledge of how this might be done is practically nonexistent. For that reason mainly I did not use the term pre-birth in my presentation in Luxembourg.

After 45 minutes of presentation there was equal time for conversation. Questions and comments were slow in forthcoming but gradually there was a steady flow. I was amused by the question – "I am surprised that you spoke about birth through death and did not address education after death." I thought the implied question might have been asked to catalyze humor and I addressed the issue in a less than serious manner. Essentially I stated that the question surprised me and reiterated that I had thought more about pre-birth but had few ideas about how education might occur in a pre-birth context. One participant in the workshop, with a strong background in religion and science, had frequently addressed the desirability of connecting beliefs about religion to the learning of science. Although there is a tradition in public schools of making sure that teaching of science is secular, there is good reason to connect what is being learned to what is known and believed – especially if learners have salient differences between religious beliefs and scientific knowledge. My colleague spoke about the desirability of connecting knowledge about science to beliefs about life after death. As I listened to his contribution I was relieved that the question had been taken up seriously, even though I felt that the question, as asked, was somewhat different. 

In my view teaching about aging and death are important parts of education and discussing different standpoints on life after death, or existence after death, especially in relation to science and religion also makes sense. Indeed, I think there is a strong case for people having an understanding of the different stances adopted by science and myriad religious groups including those within the Judeo-Christian cluster and other major world religions such as Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. There is no doubt that a focus such as this would be an important component of understanding different ontologies within heterogeneous groups experienced directly and vicariously in the media (e.g., globally and within countries, constituent units such as states, and local communities “here and elsewhere").  I acknowledge the impoprtance of people understanding the extent to which knowledge of science and knowledge of religion are complementary and different (personally and for others). Furthermore, most of the effort in meeting goals such as this could be conducted out-of-school contexts and in the years beyond formal education. Institutions like the media and those associated with religious practice would be major players. Ongoing programs of research that explore common ground and differences, such as the work undertaken by the Dalai Lama and scientists from different parts of the United States, would be salient components of a program that would address this issue.

As for educating spirits, or people who have died already, this is not something I have dealt with in any rigorous way. Since the Luxembourg conference concluded I have thought about this from time to time and in each case my mind returns to more familiar ground – educating the living. In making this comment I am aware that some have argued that birth and death are not useful categories, preferring a continuum that has no beginning and no end. If this stance is accepted than the possibility of educating along the continuum can be considered, plans drawn up, and efforts be made to enact whatever is planned. Suffice to say, what might be possible depends very much on standpoints that (for me) are in uncharted territory.

I did attend a seminar offered by Brian Weiss on past life regression. The content for the day paralleled his provocative book, "Many lives, many masters." The seminar was attended by more than 2000 people. According to Weiss the gender split among participants was something less than 80% female compared to a little more than 20% male. I found the meditations interesting as activities but did not access anything I considered to be a past life. Certainly I did not connect with “ angels or masters." My experience is in contrast to the large majority who claim to have accessed a past life during the session. When asked for a show of hands almost everybody seemed to have experienced something that they equated with accessing a past life. 

When a colleague died back in 2009, one of my doctoral students, who is a medium, claims to have contacted him "on the other side." For more than a month he conveyed messages from my colleague and it created lots of uncertainties about my own spiritual standpoints. When the medium provided information that he could not possibly have known in advance it really made us take stock of what was happening. At the very least this example serves as evidence of significant diversity in what people accept as reality of what happens after someone “dies.”

So, in the spirit of seriously considering questions that arise in a professional meeting, I acknowledge that science educators might expand their foci to address a continum extending from pre-natal through death. Beyond this, takes me far beyond my personal experience and professional knowledge. I cannot comment professionally and have liitle to support speculation. However, for those who want to go down this pathway, the first steps might entail using activities such as meditation and efforts to dialogue via a medium.  Perhap critical hermeneutic-phenomenologcal projects could focus on seeking answers to questions of the type that are usually associated with interpretive research — including what is happening, why is that happening, and what happens when seemingly stable equilibria are disrupted in an ethnomedodological project. Until more is understood about such issues it is folly to consider educating those who have “died."

The dragon within

The dragon within

"Where will you wear that dragon coat?"  The embossed dragon insignia on the coat would certainly attract attention, especially because of its kung fu styling. "I will just wear it around the house," I proffered. The question bothered me but my response bothered me even more. Surely I will wear the coat everywhere and at all times! It is not so much the coat with its insignia as it is a way of being in the world. The coat is a sign for me and for those with whom I interact. Don’t you see a dragon within me?

The dragon is a metaphor for wisdom. A dragon embossed on a jacket is an explicit representation of wise action, or encapsulating right action, especially ethical conduct. In an implicit way I wear the jacket every day since it is close to my heart, acting as a reminder of how to be in the world, in the moment being wise, acting wise, and being aware of what is happening and especially how I conduct myself as interactions emerge continuously. It is not necessary to wear a jacket embossed with a dragon in order to be wise and enact right conduct. However, occasionally wearing a jacket that displays a dragon is a sign, especially to myself, that I can enact wisdom continuously and, in so doing, maintain awareness of the appropriateness of my conduct. Being human, I expect to fall short and in so doing be aware of my shortcomings and act in restorative ways that sustain a high quality of the living and nonliving universe. Wise action is a requisite for wellness, sustainability, and harmony in the universe – wise action is a benefit for all not just for me. 

Mindfully listening

Mindfully listening is a highly interactive process in which a listener interacts with others in a community, including one or more speakers. It is important that a listener's actions do not disrupt the fluency of others' cultural enactments. To be mindful while listening is to ensure that emotions do not affect ongoing conduct in a deleterious way, but the listener maintains focus on stream of spoken words, while utilizing all senses to monitor what is happening throughout the field. The heuristic contains 17 characteristics of mindfulness, which together constitute a process skill that can be learned and enacted in science and subsequently used as a central part of functional literate citizenry. That is, it is essential that participants in social life listen and speak mindfully.

While listening to the spoken words a mindful listener makes eye contact with the speaker occasionally and monitors eye gaze. Paying attention to the speaker's eyes provides a listener with information about the speaker's convictions and his/her emotional state.

Looking at the speaker and participating synchronously in a non-obtrusive, nonverbal manner is the means by which listeners can show their respect of a speaker. For example, when a listener nods his/her head as a sign of attentiveness, the head nod is assigned to the speaker that the listener is making sense and is encouraging further input from the speaker. Tacitly, a nod of the head is a sign that what is being said is being followed with understanding. Actions for the synchronous unlikely to be received as respectful where is asynchrony is likely to disrupt the flow of cultural enactment and maybe seeing as disrespectful. If it's to intervene, to speak over or to interrupt the speaker would be obvious examples of disrespectful actions.

When violence is delivered via speech in a context of an activity that was supposed to be dialogic, interventions to disrupt the flow of enactment, that is continued speech, are warranted. Initially this might simply involve shaking the head, frowning at the speaker, moving the hand to signal that cessation of speaking is suggested, etc. If the speaker continues to inflict violence by speaking inappropriately then an intervention that involves interrupting the speaker through verbal actions might be considered "right conduct." The important point to stress is that mindful listening involves active monitoring of what is being said in a context of all that is happening. If individuals in the community of participants are distressed by what is being said that in a compassionate and empathetic stance would likely involve an intervention to cease the social violence. There is not a formula to apply to decide whether disruption through verbal actions are warranted – it is a judgment call.

Compassion and empathy are constituents of mindful practice. As an active process, listening should embrace compassion to all participants, including self. What this entails is to provide courtesy to the speaker and encouragement to communicate fluently and effectively. A mindful listener who shows compassion would feel a speaker's suffering, evident in a shared mood, that is, synchronous expression of emotions – especially empathy for others. The expression to walk in another's shoes springs to mind in thinking about a listen at showing compassion for a speaker. The actions of the listener would involve inner speech and nonverbal expression of emotion, the latter being visible to all participants in the dialogue, but especially focused on the speaker. Another thought is that compassion has a meaning of expressing a feeling of empathy for others. Accordingly, compassion and empathy are interconnected. In terms of expressing compassion for oneself it is almost as if the first person I expresses empathy for the suffering of the third person me. To get the full sense of what is intended I find it useful to think of Ricoeur's idea of oneself as another.

Consistent with the ideas that listening should be respectful and compassionate is the condition but listeners can orientate themselves to notice differences and regard them as resources for personal learning and the accomplishment of collective goals. This stance stands in stark contrast to one in which one's personal ideas are privileged over others' different ideas. That is, instead of difference being regarded through deficit frameworks, difference is viewed as expansive, and affordance for producing successful outcomes.

If a listener looks at the speaker it is possible to monitor facial expression of emotions continuously. Since humans frequently express a range of emotions facially the interpretation of oral texts can be expanded by factoring in the emotions associated with verbal utterances. Consistent with the idea that a mindful listener would focus on the spoken words is the added condition that all senses would be used to capture what is happening in the moment. The key about mindful listening is staying in the moment and being aware of all that is happening. To some degree mindful listening can be thought of within a framework of reflexivity – in which listeners become aware of the unaware. In this case the resources available for constructing meaning about verbal texts are greatly expanded by the listener's attention to facial expression of emotion, gestures, head movements, and body movements and orientations. Importantly, expanded awareness opens up the possibilities for acting synchronously and thereby fostering entrainment and solidarity through engagement in dialogue.

Consistent with William Sewell's frameworks about culture, patterns having thin coherence coexist with contradictions. Being mindful while listening can involve a search for both the patterns and the contradictions, taking into account an expanded repertoire of actions that include more than just words. For example, prosody, proxemics, and the hermeneutic analyses of the spoken words can be objects for analysis and interpretation in an ongoing way as a speaker delivers an oral text.

Mindful listening is a constituent of mindfulness and  can be regarded as dialectically related to being mindful while participating in all activities. 

Figure 1

Mindfully listening heuristic

When others are speaking in a dialogic conversation:

  • I monitor the eyes of the speaker
  • I show my respect for the speaker
  •  I express my opposition verbally and nonverbally to unethical speech
  • While listening to others my nonverbal actions project compassion and empathy to the speaker
  • When a speaker says something with which I disagree I try to learn from the difference
  • I make sense of the speaker's facial expressions of emotion
  • I  make sense of the speaker's gestures
  • I nod my head as a sign of  attentiveness
  • Following each utterance I provide an appropriate pause to ensure that the  speaking turn is finished
  • When necessary I seek clarification of  the meaning of an utterance
  • When necessary I request elaboration so as to expand the meaning of an utterance
  • When necessary I check my understanding of what has been said
  • I ensure that my nonverbal actions do not breach the fluency of  what is being said
  • I use nonverbal actions to provide emotional synchrony with spoken text
  • I ensure that my emotional response to spoken text does not stick and create difficulties in understanding subsequent utterances
  • I listen for similarities and differences to what has been said previously
  • I look for similarities and differences in the meanings  represented verbally and nonverbally

Mindfully speaking

To what extent are conversations dialogic in everyday life? To what extent do speakers in dialogue pay attention to sharing the number of utterances and time of talk? Is it important that characteristics like these are shared or is it okay for somebody to speak with an expectation that another will listen, understand, and learn?

As a form of action, speaking is a way to represent what is known about the topic of discussion. In dialogue with others, speaking aloud allows a speaker to represent what s/he knows, for others to listen and make sense of what is said, and for responses to be formulated for purposes such as to elaborate, expand, clarify, question, refute, and accept. Accordingly, when such actions occur there are benefits for the speaker in terms of speaking and in terms of hearing what is said after the initial talk. If there is no opportunity to speak then a person is twice denied. Similarly if there is no follow-up to an utterance the person misses out on learning from a response – or putting it another way learning from others’ talk. In dialogue it seems as if a turn at talk is an opportunity to represent what is known and thereby to learn through action and then to receive responses to what has been said, which creates further opportunities for learning to occur. If the focus remains on what is being said originally then successive turns at talk become resources for speakers and listeners to learn from one another. The value in symmetry, when it comes to speaking, is that every speaker has a chance for the double benefit of acting through speech and acting through listening to others' responses to what was said.

In learning situations, in institutions such as schools and museums, it seems important for learners to practice dialoguing with others so that in every day life they can enact dialogue to maximize opportunities for individuals to communicate clearly with one another while learning from one another. The learning I have in mind is relatively mundane – but extremely important. When interacting with others it is important to understand their perspectives, build respect for what others believe and value highly, and to regard others as resources for personal learning. Whether the dialogue involves a Shakespearean play, how to cook a kimchi pancake, or how to get from Penn Station New York to New York University using the subway, dialogue will necessarily involve a balance that reflects turns at talk and time of talk. The distribution among participants in the dialogue should be relatively equal for a given topic of conversation.

Mindfully speaking involves speakers monitoring the amount of time they have been speaking and the number of turns of talk they have had in relation to others involved in the dialogue. A mindful speaker would wind up a talking turn if and when the amount of time starts to exceed the bounds of what is reasonable. This can be accomplished by transferring the speaking turn to another speaker, preferably one who has not spoken on the topic or has not contributed equitably. Rather than speaking excessively a speaker shows his/her awareness of the value of sharing talk by involving others and thereby to maintaining balance. An important indicator of whether the amount of talk is becoming excessive is the emotions represented in the faces and body movements of others. If speakers carefully monitor others' actions as they participate in dialogue as listeners there can be signs that it is time to transfer opportunities to talk to others rather than continuing to speak. When the signs of others' emotions are such that their interests are waning the speaker can adopt a strategy of opening up the conversation, leaving the decision of who will speak next to the group as a whole, or s/he can redirect the turn of talk to an individual. By monitoring others' emotions information can be gleaned about their levels of comprehension, their interests in what is being said, and the synchrony of their emotional responses with the present utterance/speaker and the topic of dialogue. When asynchronies occur it is important to understand them and to act appropriately.

As well as monitoring others' emotions it is important when speaking mindfully to monitor personal emotions as they emerge, taking care that they do not stick to ongoing conduct, mediating what happens in a deleterious manner. Note, it is not necessary to try to eliminate emotions or to soften their intensity. What seems important is that emotions do not stick to ongoing conduct unless it is seen as important for them to continue and build. This would be true of any emotion. The undesirable feature would be that emotions would build to an extent that dialogue is disrupted and/or diverted in undesirable directions. If this occurs than strategies need to be enacted to become unstuck – that is to let the emotions go so that the focus can return to the purpose of the dialogue. In this example becoming unstuck is a repair ritual. A repair ritual involving "letting go" of emotions is just one example. Another would be when a speaker is interrupted by others' emotions or by others' actions such as gestures and body movements, verbal fillers such as umm, urr, ah, etc. When breaches in the fluency of dialogue occur it is important for the speaker to be able to repair breaches and either continue with an utterance or transfer a turn of talk to others. A condition of mindfully speaking is to be aware that a breach has occurred and assume responsibility to repair the breach and create fluent dialogue as a condition of successful dialogue.

When a participant in a dialogue shows an interest in participating orally it is important not to intentionally shut that person out. The right to speak is neither an individual nor a collective matter – instead, it is an outcome of an individual | collective dialectic. When a person signals an intention to speak, in all the ways that such signals can be transmitted, the speaker should not raise his/her voice to speak over any attempt of the other to get involved by beginning to speak. Although it might be legitimate to argue that the person seeking to speak should not speak until the speaker has finished, it is important to acknowledge the rights of a listener to contribute to dialogue when, if, and as necessary. That is, the right to speak is not preordained as an ongoing (unconditional) right of a speaker. Rather, such a right is contingent on what is happening and there need to be ways of signaling to a speaker that another wishes to participate – to take a turn of talk. Accordingly, when another signals a desire to begin a turn of talk the speaker can pass the baton, confident that s/he can contribute further a little later in the sequence of interactions. A mindful speaker should not assume that what s/he has to say is the most appropriate action in an interaction chain. On the contrary, if another wants to get involved, and it makes sense to do so, then a transfer in the turn of talk can and should occur expeditiously. Failure to transfer a turn of talk will create a breach in the flow because the signal of desire to talk can be interpreted as a contradiction or resistance to enacted culture. The conditions for fluency are that actions occur in a timely manner, are appropriate, and are anticipatory. In the circumstance of a person signaling a desire to assume a turn of talk, a mindful speaker could act synchronously by handing over the baton to the person who desires to speak.

Mindfully speaking necessitates that a speaker is aware of the loudness and frequency of utterances. Both should be comfortable in the sense that participants in dialogue can hear what is said without having to strain to do so and they should not feel the discomfort of shrill utterances that can catalyze negative emotions. Instead, mindfully speaking involves delivery of talk in ways that are comfortable to listen to – not too loud and not too soft, and not containing excessive energy in the higher formants (i.e., overtones). An important aspect of mindfully speaking is that the loudness of what is being said should not disrupt others who are not part of the dialogue. Too often speakers deliver what they have to say with high-intensity that can be heard by others who may not want to be privy to what is being said. A mindful speaker will use an appropriate intensity, pitch, and pattern of intonation. Other characteristics of prosody that should be considered in dialogue are to use speech rhythms that reflect the shared mood of the group, and are consistent across successive speakers. Also, prosodic bridges are usually associated with successful transitions from one speaker to the next. A prosodic bridge entails the symmetry of the intensity and pitch of the utterances of successive speakers. That is, the intensity and pitch used by a speaker who is finishing would be similar to the intensity and pitch of the next speaker. The bridge takes into account physical characteristics of the speakers – such as gender and age. In dialogue, the correlation between the beginning and ending pairs across successive speakers should be highly positive for intensity and the pitch of the fundamental formant (e.g., take 25 successive beginning and ending intensity pairs.  The correlation coefficient between these pairs when mindful speech is occurring would be approximately 0.9.  Similarly, the correlations between F0 pairs across 25 beginning-end pairs also would be strongly positive.)

Other characteristics of mindful speech include speaking for the other, that is, speaking with the comprehension of others as a primary goal. This is best gauged by being attentive to the emotions of others as they may be represented in their actions. It is important that speech is not used in dialogue as a weapon – a tool for social violence. Accordingly, the speaker should be aware of the feelings of others and a necessity to show respect for their identities and especially to show respect for their oral contributions – those that have already been provided and those that are anticipated based on a speaker's knowledge of others participating in the group. That is, a speaker should cushion what s/he has to say with compassion and empathy, having the intention to speak in ways that will promote success for the group as well as the individuals that make up the collective.

Mindfully speaking can be regarded as a process skill that can be developed in a science activity to be enacted as a component of functional literacy in the lifeworld. Whether a person is at home, involved in recreation, shopping for food, being entertained at a Broadway show, or riding home on the subway it is important to be able to speak mindfully and dialogically. As a component of functional literacy it is also the case that participating in mindful speech can enhance the learning of science and contribute to a science of learning.

Draft of “Mindfully Speaking" Heuristic  (codeveloped with Malgorzata Powietrzynska and Konstantinos Alexakos)

When I participate in a conversation: 

·      I act to balance the amount of time I talk

·      When I have been speaking too long I wind up my talking turn

·      Before speaking I pause to make sure the previous speaker has finished

·      As I speak I monitor others’ emotions

·      As I speak I monitor my emotions

·      When asynchronies occur I try to understand them

·      I try to make conversations with others successful

·      When breaches in fluency occur I try to repair them

·      I do not increase the loudness of my voice to continue my talking turn

·      I speak with a similar rhythm to previous speakers

·      I maintain the focus of previous speakers

·      I look for signs that others want to speak

·      I am aware of how long I speak

·      I create chances for others to speak

·      I act to balance my speaking turns

·      The loudness of my talk is appropriate

·      I do not speak to hurt others

·      My talk shows respect for others’ perspectives

 

The failure of science education

When you consider that every politician on earth studied science at school what greater testimony is there for the failure of science education? This thought came to me this morning as I look through the Facebook entries of friends and colleagues such as Peter Taylor who drew attention to the fact that Australia would not be represented at a Congress on climate change. This in the context of the newly elected government overturning the policies of the previous labor government that embraced climate change as evidence of a dire necessity to change lifestyles in Australia and worldwide. But of course it is not just climate change that draws attention to the science education of politicians. To what extent are the practices and policies of governments worldwide consistent with what we have learned from science? Maybe I'm too hard on politicians. To what extent other practices and policies of scientists, worldwide, consistent with what we can learn from science? As a matter of fact, what can we learn from science? Perhaps this should be the mantra for science education!

Carolyne Ali Khan wrote to me this morning and drew my attention to the allegory used by Carl Sagan – the pale blue dot. She provided a link to the following vignette that is so salient to what we value about life, which of course brings us back to science education.

http://www.upworthy.com/the-single-most-mind-altering-photograph-humanity-has-ever-taken?g=2&c=ufb1

Science educators, it might be argued, have failed to look at science education throughout the world and beyond institutions such as schools and universities. Think for a moment about the huge success, in a global sense, of the teaching and learning about individualism, materialism, capitalism, neoliberalism, either or forms of logic, and the deficit views on difference (i.e., if you differ from me you are wrong). The pedagogies that support the teaching and learning of constructs such as these have been successful beyond any claims we might make about the teaching and learning of science in schools and universities. So, what can we learn from pedagogies underlying these successes? Perhaps the focus for science education needs to be broader on learning in the world at large through institutions such as medicine, the media, and of course the family. It is time for a larger view that brings into question the emphasis on science topics that are selected by scientists. Why is it that we privilege the views of scientists when it comes to making decisions about what should be valued in taught as science education? I would not argue that the voices of scientists should be silent – on the contrary, they should be part of a polysemic approach to expanding the priorities for science education.

Recently I have been astonished by the monosemic stance that science educators have taken regarding the nature of science. It is almost as if there is a reluctance to allow different perspectives on the nature of science. In the scholarly debate, rather than embracing an expansive dialogue on the nature of science, there is a tendency to shut down the dialogue through declarations that any differences in the perspectives on what counts as science are simply wrong! Not only wrong, there is a pejorative view that difference is in fact unscholarly and to be deprecated. Unfortunately this stance may be pervasive and even mainstream within science education. Be that as it may, it is extremely damaging and holds back necessary advances that might just reach out to the challenges of science education for literate citizenry.

When we look at the grand challenges that include wellness and sustainability we should include scientific literacy for humanity. In making this claim there is a dark cloud on the horizon. We do not want more of the same. It is time for change. The mainstream needs to acknowledge the monumental failure of science education across the decades and especially now. There is no need to go beyond the failure of government in democratic societies. As I mentioned earlier every politician who has been elected to govern has studied science in schools and probably universities. And yet, when it comes to the decisions made by governments, and those we have elected, what evidence is there of the science education they have enjoyed? The courage and ethical commitments, the values and associated axiological standpoints for the most part do not reflect a science education that even comes close to addressing literate citizenry at a global level. Is this a goal that is simply too ambitious to contemplate?

My grand challenge for science educators, including myself, is to place an umbrella above all of the "new standards," calls for accountability, and high-stakes assessments. The umbrella I have in mind would contain constructs such as sustainability, wellness, and compassion. Obviously there are other constructs that belong in this list. In particular I'm thinking about you Jacques Derrida's monograph on cosmopolitanism in which he argues that cities of refuge need to be constructed to allow refugees to live and stay rather than just to visit. The key idea is that difference should be regarded with respect, not as a resource to label somebody as wrong, not as an invitation to colonize their views, but as a way of thinking that is a resource for everybody's education – a characteristic of a community that has hybrid vigor, values difference, and is expansive in the sense that all participants learn from one another.

Comments? Send mail to: ktobin0@optonline.net

Radical listening

It occurred to me last night as I sat through yet another dreary meeting -- when a person demands "just give me one example!" S/he really doesn't expect or want one example, and … no matter what might be said -- it will surely fall short of convincing.  Usually a person who asks to be convinced is neither interested in being convinced, nor listening to what might be proffered. Next time someone asks -- just give me one example, be aware of the time given to provide the example and note whether the person listens. The challenge for education and educators might not be so much about science and mathematics education as it is about learning to dialogue with others and learn from what they say.

Representation is a thorny issue that is ever present. Who do I represent in this moment?  My experience is that there is a tendency to represent "me" rather than "us".  I wonder if this is another example of creating binaries.  Must it be either - or?  In dialogue, speech is not only for the speaker but also for the listener -- not entirely for the listener, but also for.  The distinction is important.  In what ways is speech "for" a speaker?  And in what ways is speech "for" a listener?  I do not request -- just give me one example.  No, my queries are intended to be expansive.  The purpose of the queries is to catalyze thinking about an issue and to expand thinking and associated action -- including inner and outset speech. I am not speaking to catalyze chatter or to expect immediate outer speech.   Nor do I speak with the expectation that silence will be the primary outcome.  Instead I consider speaking as speaking for and to another -- speaking for the purpose of adding to and expanding dialogue. 

Let me return to representation.  When I speak I am enacting culture -- producing knowledge in action.  What is said, when it is said, and how it is said are all contingent on the unfolding structures associated with the fields in which activity is occurring. Interaction is radically historical, actions and interactions being shaped by what has happened when similar circumstances arose historically. Of course actions and interactions also are mediated by the agencies of others in the field, including the agency of the self. Another way to say this is that enactment occurs in a dialectical relationship of passivity and agency; presupposing other dialectics like self | other. So, how does this lead to the other sense of representation?  Do I pursue my own interests in dialogue or do I pursue the interests of others?  Why ask the question this way?  Is it possible to always pursue the interests of self and other?  If this becomes a goal, and hence a focus for agency, can it lead to an ethics of representation that circles back to some of the central tenets of education and our research in education -- radical listening, right speech, identity … is it necessary to be elected in order for representation to be an issue? Or is it a useful stance to take that in social interaction agency necessarily presupposes symmetry in the interests of self and others? Is it a useful way to think about moral conduct? Is it moral to elevate the interests of self over other in social interaction? What about the converse?  Others over self?  What is the unit of analysis?  Is some form of equilibrium/symmetry necessary in every singular moment or is equilibrium/symmetry best examined over some interval of time-space -- such as an event?

If I am elected do I become a delgate who speaks for you?  Or am I elected to speak with and for you?  Is the with | for dialectic missing in politics? I believe so.  In our local community elected delegates speak for without often speaking with the communities that elected them.  The argument is that "you elected me to speak for you."  Is this how it is?  Do I elect anyone to speak for me or do I want my voice to be part of what those I have elected have to say?  How will they know if they do not speak with those who elect them?  Is election necessary? To what extent does it make sense to argue that all outer speech is political and necessarily involves representing self | other relationships? If frameworks like these mediate agency then over time it also will mediate passivity --- is this what we seek through education?  That is, could we have a goal of reshaping agency to foster outcomes like radical listening, right speech, dialogic inquiry and adherence to an ethics that embraces self | other interests -- all for the purpose of creating a history that will provide a foundation for different forms of passivity?

Social resonance

Sometimes it makes sense to study very different scenarios in order to identify some of the affordances of a theoretical framework that might otherwise be difficult to discern. In the particular case that I wish to address here structural resonance can sometimes be elusive. An example of structural resonance is emotional contagion. People can "catch" emotions from others just by being-in-with them.  As I drove in the early morning to the convenience store to pick up some milk for my spouse's cereal  I heard a violin concerto on WQXR. I had heard the piece many times before and just hearing the first few bars created a strong desire within me to listen to the entire piece. I also found myself tearing up as the music unfolded. I quickly purchased the milk, drove home, and searched for the piece on iTunes. To my astonishment it was not there. I then endeavored to locate the concerto on YouTube. I searched for Johannes Brahms' violin concerto and the top hit featured Alan Gilbert, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Since we are season-ticket holders for the Philharmonic I was attracted to that performance and clicked on it. The orchestra was the North German Radio Symphony and the concerto was performed on Dec 10, 2005 at the NHK Music Festival, NHK Hall (Tokyo). Without knowing much about the soloist, Sayaka Shoji (庄司紗矢香), I began to watch the piece. Almost immediately I was transfixed. Of course the piece is a favorite of mine, but these performers and the performance were exceptional.  I felt as if I was experiencing something was quite unique and special.

The changes in emotion were interesting to watch at several levels. 

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Facial expression of emotion was evident throughout the three movements of the videoclip and it is obvious that the conductor and soloist were close to one another (spatially and emotionally), focused, and in synchrony. Just as obviously the music played a role in the production and maintenance of emotions (and emotional climate) and, at the same time, emotions mediated the prosody of the music. There's something about the hands or more precisely the fingers when it comes to excellence in violin playing. The way Sayaka's fingers moved on the strings make a difference to the overtones/quality of the music and I suspect there is resonance between facial expression, movement of the fingers, and the timbre of the music. I think this is a good example of each of these listed factors (and others in the constituted whole) presupposing one another. From the very beginning of this videotape emotion is etched into the faces of both soloist and conductor. You can move frame by frame once the YouTube video has downloaded onto your computer.  I was interested to see the communication and synchrony between conductor and soloist. Of course rehearsal affords fluency and all that goes with it – anticipation, appropriateness, timeliness etc.

The in-the-moment emotions run the gamut from abject sadness/sorrow to ecstasy. The beginning of the concerto through to the inadvertent clapping midway through and then after the clapping until the conclusion are mirror images of one another. I would assess the emotional climate for each of these two parts to be "inspirational." And yet if you look at the moment-by-moment segments you get an impression that is very different. 

There are many social categories that constitute a structural field that supports the production/reproduction of an "inspirational" emotional climate. These include the relatively young age of the performer, my prior history of attachment to the violin concerto, my prior history of attachment to the orchestra, racial differences between the soloist and the conductor, and virtuoso performance. My thinking is that this is a good piece to review for the purpose of looking to see how theoretical frameworks associated with emotional climate, in-the-moment emotions, structural resonance, emotional contagion, etc., can be studied and what artifacts can be used to support publications about these topics (such as off prints with associated analyses using frameworks such as those of Ekman,Turner, and Collins).

It might be a stretch, but I want to argue there is a deep sense of mindfulness in this performance. I think the spontaneous smile captured in the next offprint,  captured during the inadvertent clapping episode, is a good example of not trying to fight emotions while meditating or maintaining a mindful state. Amusement, happiness, understanding and compassion were spontaneously represented in the Sayaka's face and within seconds she moved on, switched emotions, and was ready for the finale.

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What do you think? Enjoy the performance :-).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zlPe9g1Fvw 


Cultural regressions and lags

For more than a moment I was more than steamed up. Why is it that my interests are so easily set aside? Or is it that they are invisible – not even considered? I take a stand and for several minutes or more I enacted an angry rant – eyes blazing, offensive language, raised and sharpened speech, and aggressive body orientations, postures, and movements. I was fluently enacting a ritual chain that is historically constituted and applicable in many fields of my lifeworld (e.g., at home, work, grocery store and in the streets, the station, and the dojo). What I do next is contingent on what others do and, depending on what unfolds, the intensity of my anger can either increase or decrease.

The stakes for continuing to rant can be high. Social violence can be damaging enough and physical violence (as unlikely as it is) can become more likely as the heat of an interaction ritual increases. What can I do to breach the interaction ritual? Of course there are many possibilities. I prefer a reflexive approach in which I identify the emotion and immediately "let go."  Pema Chödrön used an appealing metaphor of a fish moving through water, making progress without leaving a trace. She used the term shenpa referred to getting and staying attached  – just as I did during my angry rant. I allowed anger to attach itself to my subsequent actions/conduct. Becoming unattached is easier said than done.

An initial step might be to enact a structure to afford resonance for the enactment of an alternative "non attachment" ritual. This might entail something like naming the emotion, letting it go, and intentionally producing positive emotions by smiling and concentrating on the breath. That is, an intervention would be enacted to name the emotion and produce positive emotions by changing physiology. Note that the intervention does not involve blaming oneself or exhibiting other negative emotions such as remorse or fear. The switch from one interaction ritual chain to another needs to be rapid and mainly unconscious. Accordingly, practices necessary to be able to enact a triggering mechanism for a shenpa-oriented ritual chain can be triggered fluently,  that is, in ways that are anticipatory, timely, and appropriate.

This vignette is not unusual for me and "angry rants" are enacted in many fields and associated contexts. What is involved in the scenario I outlined above is cultural regression and cultural lag. I know better than to enact an angry rant, but I do it anyway. On the one hand an emergent structure affords the enactment of an angry rant interaction ritual chain. At the same time my "getting unstuck" ritual chain is not enacted even though I have practiced it and know of its appropriateness. This is an example of cultural lag. I have culture that could and perhaps should be enacted, but it is not enacted when the opportunity arises. Until the getting unstuck ritual chain is enacted without conscious awareness it is necessary for me to have a breaching and repairing routine and this is what I have laid out.

Looking a little more deeply at the scenario I described highlights an issue of competing goals/interests in any interaction chain. I was angered because my goals were possibly valued less than another's goals. I am not arguing that it is inappropriate for me to produce anger. What is inappropriate is allowing the anger to become stuck to my subsequent conduct. Getting stuck can have important consequences relating to my health and the emotional climate of the fields in which my interactions occur.

It is instructive to consider a dialectical relationship between cultural regression and lag. For example in the study we have been doing for some years now in the Bronx the science teacher in the study. In a note to the teacher I remarked as follows:

New culture can be produced, have a high value for many contexts, and not be enacted in practice until its enactment is appropriate. Ann Swidler referred to this phenomenon as cultural lag. Just because particular culture is not enacted, it cannot be inferred that it has not been produced (qua learned), or that it is not valued. As we have seen repeatedly in this research, in regards to your teaching, the structures of the science class appeared to privilege ways of teaching that were grounded in, and well honed by, your years of teaching science in New York. For example, even though you are a strong advocate for collaborative approaches to teaching and learning, that greatly expanded the roles of students to include coteaching, peer tutoring, buddy systems, and the infusion of regular cogenerative dialogues into the ongoing enacted science curriculum, you often resort to teaching approaches that feature you seeking to gain control over students, telling them what they need to know and how to learn, silencing students' voices, and expecting students to align with your ways of thinking and acting rather than noticing differences, reinforcing them, and encouraging their elaboration. You regarded as disrespectful and unacceptable students' failure to accept your "traditional" styles of teaching and enact roles consistent with them. However, you  consistently advocated for creating and maintaining learning environments associated with differences among students, interactive dialogue, and expansive knowledge production systems. Your adherence to the tenets of collaborative, emancipatory learning are evident in his research, professional development efforts with colleagues, and regular scheduling of cogenerative dialogue. Consistent with the idea that fields have no boundaries, the cogenerative dialogue field is evident in both enacted science lessons and meetings with small groups of students and so too were your more traditional styles of teaching. An ever-present contradiction is attributable to continuously emergent structures that served as resonant sites for your consistent enactment of traditional, teacher-centered roles. At the same time, structures emerge continuously as resonant sites for your consistent enactment of traditional, teacher-centered roles.

In response, the teacher described his traditional practices as historically constituted, reflecting his residential Catholic high school experience in the Philippines, which emphasized good manners and right conduct (i.e., good and right). He described the traditional approach as imposing, consistent with paternalism. We experienced a switch from collaborative forms of interaction to what to a "good and right" interaction style in classroom interactions and cogen. There is a possibility that the structures that afforded resonances with good and right interaction are associated with low grade anger, taking the form of frustration, irritation and emotions of that ilk. Even though the teacher set out to enact roles that incorporated collaborative interaction styles it is possible that a buildup of negative emotional energy, related to frustration/irritation, served as resonance sites for the enactment of good and right habitus.

Commodification of scholarship

A tendency to attach identity to symbolism manifests throughout the fields of social life. In science education an unfortunate consequence is the commodification of myriad aspects of conduct.

When I made the transition from high school science teacher/curriculum developer to college level science education in 1974 I had encountered research in science education in my role as a curriculum developer in the previous two years. I had accessed this literature because of a felt need to better understand the psychological underpinnings of science curriculum and to identify what scholars had done in a context of an international explosion in the post-Sputnik era of curriculum development and reform. Soon after becoming a lecturer in science and mathematics education I felt a responsibility to expand my scholarly activities through research and dissemination through publication in journals. At this time there was little pressure to publish in journals, and there were few books in science education. This was to change in the next few years, but the change was barely discernible and an increasing volume of publications in science education was a mere trickle compared to the present day torrent.

My personal beginning as far as publication is concerned began in the Curriculum Branch of the Education Department in Western Australia where, for a little over a year my job was to write curriculum guides to assist high school science teachers to enact an inquiry oriented science curriculum. During my time in the Curriculum Branch one of my colleagues suggested that we apply what we had learned from some graduate-level coursework we were doing to write a paper for science teachers concerning "the law and the science teacher." Although this publication was scholarly, it was clearly an extension of the kind of curriculum work we were doing in providing suggestions for teachers to improve the quality of their teaching.

When I became a science and mathematics educator at Graylands Teachers College I was a strong consumer of journal articles and one or two books that were available in science education. I familiarized my students with the literature and I endeavored to communicate to them a sense of responsibility to be aware of what was out there, learn from it, and in considered ways to adapt  their professional practices as science teachers. A part of my ongoing role as a college science educator was using the literature in my classes, expanding it to connect with local situations and priorities, and preparing elaborated ideas that incorporated what was in the literature. It was just a natural extension to connect such practices to professional development activities for teachers and search for ways to disseminate beyond those who turned up for seminars and workshops. Accordingly, I utilized journals and newsletters prepared by professional organizations at the state and national levels in Australia before I left to undertake doctoral studies in the United States in 1978.

When I arrived in the United States I was encouraged to publish my best work in three types of journals for: researchers, teacher educators, and teachers. This was presented to me as a professional responsibility and I regarded it as such. Furthermore, I was also taught that it was necessary/highly desirable to review intensively the research in a particular area, synthesizing it for the benefit of others. Back in the late 1970s/early 1980s I learned that publication was an important responsibility for scholars. However, at an informal level there was evidence of competition – especially between institutions in the United States who were seemingly competing in regard to the number of papers being presented at particular national/international conferences. In fact, in 1979 I was acutely aware of this competition when papers I presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching conference were required to have a soft cardboard, bright red cover showing my affiliation with the University of Georgia, Science Education Department. It seemed natural and even exciting to join in this competition and to transfer the idea back to Australia when I returned in 1981.

Soon after I took a job at the Science and Mathematics Education Center of the West Australian Institute of Technology, I vividly remember a day when Barry Fraser, our director, requested that we submit a report of our scholarly activity. Since it was the first productivity report most of us had ever submitted is not surprising that many of the listed items would not rank highly. Barry returned "marked up" copies of our reports and we revised accordingly. It was impossible not to compare our relative productivities in terms of these reports and it is probably inevitable that I began to compete. I was determined each time I submitted a productivity report it would have more items on it than the last time. My recollection is that initially the competition reflected personal striving to improve productivity but I am sure there must've been some glancing over my shoulder to make sure that I was at least as productive as everyone else. For me the commodification of productivity was entrenched by 1984.

In those days very few people were aware of the citation index. It was available in various print forms in our library and as a matter of routine I would work my way through it to check to see who was citing my work and whose Key Works were being cited. My primary use of the citation index was to keep in touch with an expanding network of people who found my work useful and engaged in similar research. This was a basis for planning visits to other institutions, communicating via mail, and requesting reprints. However, it was not long before a visiting scholar to my institution remarked that he had reviewed the citations and that my ranking in science education was (as I recall it) in the top five. Perhaps not surprisingly the person reporting to me was at the time ranked at the top in science education and Barry was right just above me. At that point onwards, for me citations were commodified indicators of accomplishment in science education.

A trickle of commodification of indicators of accomplishment in science education signified individual accomplishment, expanded to become benchmarks for comparison among colleagues, and then became criteria for ranking institutions and individuals. The trickle became a steady flow and then a torrent as the number of indicators increased -- annoying bragging about performance became necessary components of productivity reports and requirements for applications for promotion, tenure, new jobs, awards, and documentation of standing within a field. Nowadays symbolic indicators of scholarly accomplishment are ubiquitous. Academic websites routinely report h-index, total citations, citations of the most significant publications, published journal articles,  published books, academic awards, total amount of external funding, Fellowships in prestigious organizations, etc. There is no doubt that symbolic indicators, commodifiers of scholarly accomplishment, have become part of a "new normal" in the Academy. Not only are such commodifiers expected when looking at an academic vita or professional website, if they are not there, absence may be construed as a sign of weakness – that the person has something to hide. Commodifiers have become metonymies for scholarly accomplishment  and there is a discernible trend for a shift in focus from professional practice for the benefit of science education to professional practice as self-attainment. 

An important part of the journal Cultural Studies of Science Education, for which I am co-founding Editor-in-Chief, is a genre of publication that represents the history of science education as lived experience. Consistent with the trend toward commodification has been a tendency to represent academic careers in terms of numbers – indicators that a person has accomplished a great deal without specifying with thick description the nature of those accomplishments. This is a regressive move that in my view is consistent with a problem that relates to identity. It is unfortunate that scholars increasingly identify in terms of commodifiers rather than their contributions that improve the quality of science education in ways that make a difference to the universe, Earth and its inhabitants. Commodification is consistent with self-focus, self-interest, and an inward spiral of representation that is reductive and overly quantitative. In contrast, it seems important to emphasize non-self and constructions/construals of identity. Is it possible that too great a focus on the individual is deleterious to science education?

I was surprised when once or twice I experienced colleagues who refused to be nominated for academic awards. Declination can be seen as an example of not wanting to be attached to signifiers of accomplishment that do not benefit others. In contrast, declination may be construed as elevating oneself "above" those who seek and accept award nominations. Why judge? If somebody makes an offer to nominate somebody else for what they consider to be a well-earned reward, it seems generous to accept nomination in the moment, without attaching to the desire to accumulate such awards. The social violence experienced by the person offering to make the nomination may be greater than that experienced by the person who accepts nomination even though commodification of achievement through awards is not valued highly by that person.  Compassion for in the moment may do more good than harm. It seems appropriate to give further thought to ways in which commodification has permeated normality in science education and query whether there is an appropriate balance in the benefits and harms of such commodification.

Right speech for science education

Saying things you shouldn’t say or speaking much more than is necessary brings a lot of agitation to the mind. The other extreme, complete silence, or not speaking up when it is useful or necessary, is also problematic. Applying right speech is difficult in the beginning; it takes practice.  Sayadaw U Tejaniya, "The Wise Investigator"


This afternoon Susan Malveaux interviewed Russell Simmons, a rapper, about same-sex marriage and a letter he wrote to President Obama concerning inequities of the war on drugs--notably racial discrimination and economic irresponsibility. His position was reasoned, forthright, and courageous. He spoke not for himself, but for the rights of others. Although Simmons was somewhat rushed in making his points on national television he was able to clearly and persuasively articulate his standpoints/perspectives. What he had to say was compassionate and activist – focusing on improving the social lives of minority groups who are oppressed by extant laws, lifestyles, policies, and practices.

Simmons exhibited right speech, a construct that relates to speaking out at the appropriate time. Right speech carries a moral obligation not to maintain silence when it is in the interests at large to speak out. Speaking for others to overcome injustices is at the heart of what is meant by right speech.  

As I listened and watched Malveaux's interview with Simmons, the voice ringing in my head kept asking how could I use of right speech to afford reform of science education in the United States? Just as Russell Simmons stepped forward to act on behalf of others it seemed there was more I could do to shake the policy tree to initiate change in practices. It is noteworthy that Simmons spoke outside of the hip-hop community, where his voice is already powerful – instead he injected his voice into a particular part of the mainstream – the international/national media via CNN, a network that would presumably reach people who had power and/or the ears of those with power.

Parallels in science education concern ideologies that define common sense. Joe Kincheloe and I published a paper that appeared soon after his death in 2009, focusing on crypto-positivism, the pervasiveness of tenets that saturate sensibilities in the social sciences, especially education. For example, there is a tendency to explain social life in ways that are reductionist, creating empirically validated models consisting of causal relationships between variables. Simple models are preferred over complicated models and research designs that are carefully put together to test postulated models are preferred  over more emergent and open-ended investigations e.g., those in the interpretive genres. Reminiscent of my days in the late 1970s as a doctoral student at the University of Georgia there is a preference for research designs that are experimental and/or quasi experimental. Furthermore, research that embraces hermeneutic phenomenology is often seen as exploratory, setting a stage for validation using statistically oriented research. My position is that policies and practices associated with crypto-positivism are exceedingly damaging to education across the board, including educational research. It is not just those who do the research that are disadvantaged by these policies and practices but especially those who participate in education with the hope of it opening access to pathways to enhance social lives. A question i have concerns the amount of money invested into educational research that is consistent with crypto-positivistic approaches that have been with us for many decades. We might argue there is insufficient money invested into educational research and we might also argue that we need to justify spending more money for research like the research that has been supported historically. Who benefits from research that is consistent with the crypto-positivistic mainstream?

A look at mainstream journals in science education reveals vast numbers of studies that present empirically validated knowledge that has documents potential to improve the quality of science education. Similarly, final reports to the National Science Foundation and other agencies present glowing accounts of what works and how it can be sustained to make a significant difference in the foreseeable future. At the same time new programs are funded to make even more improvements in science education creating an expansive cycle that is both reproductive and transformative. But where are the improvements? Reports commissioned by national and state organizations show a consistent pattern that has persisted over the decades – there are problems in science education, the United States is falling behind, equity gaps are increasing, new technologies are increasing inequities … a potential problem might be that reports and solutions to problems are similarly framed by scientism/crypto-positivism. In order to be funded researchers need to align with the philosophies underpinning the reports and subsequently the philosophies embedded in requests for proposals. Is it possible that peer-review panels that evaluate what will be funded are selected by those who value tenets of crypto-positivism and their inclusion in research in education?

I am sure that there are many will argue that I am promoting self-interest. As one of the founding coeditors of Cultural Studies of Science Education I have a vested interest in a standpoint that more more support should promote research that embraces sociocultural theory. Anybody making such a claim is on the right track! I do think that much more research that embraces sociocultural theory should be funded – e.g., hermeneutic phenomenology, ethnomethodology, reflexive sociology, the sociology of emotions, social neuroscience,… etc. It is well and truly past time that funding organizations take a hard look at assumptions that underpin what is valued and who makes decisions about the priorities in science education. My purposes in doing research in science education relate to improving science education throughout the world--to address sustainability, wellness, and mass extinctions; all pervasive problem areas that are worsening. These problems are universal because of the interconnections between the actions of individuals and humanity writ large. Human practices in the United States or China or Brazil not only make a difference to lives in those countries, but to lives and environments throughout the world. 

In my view it is well past time for science educators to look carefully and critically not only at what we do, but why we do what we do and whether what we do makes a difference. There is no doubt that the high-stakes climate in which we do our work makes it appealing to chase the money. Often times science educators will do what they have to do to get the money because unless they do so they can easily not make it through promotion and tenure. Also the  evaluation criteria used to judge the success of science educators so often involves counting publications in mainstream journals and adding up the money obtained from external sources such as the National Science Foundation or private foundations such as the Spencer Foundation. It is little wonder that science educators align with requests for proposals  – doing what needs to be done to get the money!

How can the expansive cycle I address here be breached/truncated? Ironically, it may be that the nature of scientific literacy is at the heart of the problem. Does the way science is taught and learned throughout the United States, in all fields of the lifeworld, predispose individuals toward scientism – a view that science is a superior discourse? Is there a view that empirical validation is an essential step in research in the social sciences? Is higher value associated with statistically validated research "findings" than what is learned from other forms of research? Is research involving large samples more highly valued than intensive studies whose purpose is to create grounded, potentially generalizable theory? Questions such as these have a worrying timbre. A concern is that the stakeholders I seek to perturb will read these questions and regard them as gross oversimplifications, assuring anyone who cares to listen that they are receptive to all viable forms of inquiry. However, axiology is salient to such claims. A person might believe in the legitimacy of multiple genres of research, but assign higher priority to those that conform to crypto-positivism/scientism. This scenario is hegemonic. Educators will accept and adopt common sense practices that favor crypto-positivism and scientism – although they might despise such labels, which will catalyze negative emotions and quick denials ("we are not like that!!"). How is it possible to educate those who make funding decisions that make a difference to science education writ large? 

If right speech is an appropriate course of action to address circumstances like those I have addressed here, which texts are appropriate for garnering support? Based on President Obama's State of the Nation speech earlier this year there is political awareness of a need to improve the quality of science, mathematics, and technology (SMT) education.  Who will decide what constitutes higher-quality when it comes to preparing teachers for SMT education? Who will decide what research is likely to be most salient to support the kind of science education envisioned by the president when he spoke passionately about the need for better quality SMT education? My strong fear is that the "same old, same old" will prevail, as will problems, and as will never-ending calls for catching up, competing, and improving the quality of science education. A sad irony is that within the science education community problems persist and deepen even though we extol the virtues of the research we do and the science education knowledge base is expanding at a seemingly exponential rate. No doubt there is a long way to go and we need to follow a different pathway. For me a critical and central question is, who should lead the way?


© Kenneth Tobin 2015