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Archived Rants 2

Education versus Socialization -- 2 November 2009

Should OERs venture into socialization issues? Do we know where to draw the line?

◊ Both education and socialization are processes of learning. At one time in the past the difference between the two was very distinct, but as time passes that boundary becomes more blurred. Furthermore, as we shift to a "Gardening"[1] approach to education (as advocated in our community), we will pay more attention to the values we teach and the kinds of things that were historically left to socialization rather than included in the educational curricula.
◊ Socialization is the process of learning to become human. It is the way that society-culture perpetuates itself. It was originally distinguished from education in that it was ad hoc, informal, and unplanned. It focused more on values and acceptable behaviour than on information and knowledge. Then schools began spending more time on teaching little children basic life skills, like how to put on rain gear, paying attention in class, when and where to go to toilet, being nice to others. As time passes. topics once left only to informal methods are being taught as part of the educational curriculum, for increasingly older students.
◊ Life skills courses are now being taught for people of disadvantaged situations. These include prison inmates, and include aboriginals and other ethnic minorities (who often have statistically disproportionate representation in prisons). Apart from mechanical skills, such as opening a bank account, using a fork, and writing a cheque, they teach social skills.
◊ Eye contact, for example, can be one of those. In all other animals, including primates, making eye contact is a sign of aggression, and is avoided so as to avoid conflict. In most cultures and societies around the world, similar symbolism is or was practiced, ie avoiding eye contact as a sign of respect. In Western societies, in contrast, eye contact is seen as a sign of honesty and transparency. It is not biologically "natural" (instinctual), but is socialized into us. Many investigators, police officers, social workers, teachers, see the avoiding of eye contact by people of some ethnic minorities as a sign of dishonesty, when it is a sign of respect. Guilty by ethnocentric miscommunication.
◊ Socialization is (or historically was) distinguished from education by being informal, ad hoc and unplanned. It is the process of learning to be human. From birth to death. We can also distinguish between primary and secondary socialization. The first one starts at birth, the other whenever our social environment changes and we need to adjust. Anthropologists sometimes use the terms enculturation and acculturation.
◊ Today, many things that are not exactly academic are included in the curricula for pupils at the lowest levels, Some of those are for very practical reasons, such as when and where to defecate and urinate (not in the classroom, please). Others have to do with safety coming to school and going home. Dressing for snow or rain before returning home is included.
◊ Is there a place for such life style training for older students? It is increasing, whether we agree it should or not. Anyone who has had young men in the back of the class – full of their hormones and a desire to be macho, feet up, leaning back, arms folded across their chests – may well agree. But what about other topics? Is school a place to teach values, beliefs and social graces (or other aesthetics)?
◊ If so, should we in WikiEducator set up a course or topic in socialization, how at teach it, to whom to teach it, what to teach at different ages and educational levels? I think the answer would be yes, and if so we need to set up a collaboration page on which we can all contribute. --Phil Bartle 05:21, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
◊ This is the basis for follow-on work Socialization - an open WE collaboration about teaching and learning "socialization" Valerie Taylor

Previous rants:

Ageism, Sexism, Racism –– 2009 October 16

What is the role of education in the struggle against prejudice, bigotry and discrimination? Is this a valid concern for Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

◊ We are biological creatures; animals, to be more specific. That means our bodies vary over time, and we are products of the genetic contributions of our parents and their predecessors. There are three biological characteristics that everybody has, and they each have social consequences – how we treat one another – our age, our sex, and our inherited physical characteristics.
◊ Socially, we tend to portray each of these as having distinct categories with identifiable boundaries between them. Biologically the characteristics are far less distinct. Socially, we think of only two genders, masculine and feminine. Biologically although we use two words, male and female, there is a range of sexes. Our population has far more than two sexes. We differ biologically in age very little from day to day, yet we use arbitrary calendar dates to make important distinctions between infants, children, adults and seniors. Socially, we think of races as distinct categories, yet we use variables that are inconsistent, are contradictory, and are ranges without boundaries, to create those arbitrary racial categories. Biologically, there is no such thing as race.
◊ What is important here is that we use these arbitrary and inconsistent social variables, age, gender and race, to label people differently, and to think of and treat people differently in an unfair way, based on those invalid distinctions.
◊ Most studies show that children are able to distinguish among these variables, but take them as given and natural, and do not make value judgements based on them. They have to be socialised to become prejudiced. To counteract that we need to use our educational institutions to teach values of acceptance, tolerance, flexibility and fairness. These need to be designed for the abilities and knowledge of the students, which are usually correlated with their ages.
◊ The analysis sketched above, which is a core part of first and second year university social science courses, may be too sophisticated for elementary school children, but is not for adults at any level of subject, and certainly can be included in middle and secondary school curricula. A simpler approach, one of acceptance of all of us (including our selves) as valuable no matter what we look like, might be more appropriate at elementary level. There is a wide range of approaches between those two.
◊ This is not the place for a "paint-by-numbers" prescription, for we want to encourage educators to create new and appropriate methods and topics. It is important, however, that teachers are aware of the arbitrariness and superficiality of racist, sexist and ageist ideas, and that they are not based on scientific (including biological) facts. (I had a secondary school biology teacher who expressed his opinion that Hitler was right).
◊ Treating people unfairly (eg access to education. to employment, to housing, to club membership, to voting) for any reason is unfortunate; when it is based on bigotry, it is criminal. Our whole educational system, orthodox and non orthodox, is a major tool for preventing and mitigating it.
◊ We need to have an answer to those who accuse us of destroying their traditional culture, where discrimination is practiced. Far from it. Culture is not static, and if we try to preserve it, we pickle it; kill it. Culture is a living organic entity, and must grow and change to live. What we are doing, then is helping to make it stronger by adapting to the evolving world social environment.
◊ As we develop Open Educational Resources, it is our responsibility to include this topic wherever appropriate throughout the whole range of subjects. Most obviously it should be included in social studies courses. Less obviously it should be included in science courses such as biology and zoology. Debunking the notion that there are distinct categories of race, sex and age is the responsibility of the biological sciences. A wide range of other subjects can easily have appropriate places for adding the topic. Taking the "Gardening"[2] approach to education, where "the taught" should be considered before "what is taught," should encourage us to consider the needs of societies and communities when designing and presenting educational resources. --Phil Bartle 14:21, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

See the WikiEd open educational resource on Inequality

Earlier Rants

Language Learning; a Lesson about Learning –– 2009 October 1

One of our training documents describes a method for learning a language that is unwritten. The method also works for learning a written language . . . without resorting to writing (or to books, to note taking, or to learning the rules).

◊ The method is based on the idea that how we learned our first language, at ages 1-3, served us well, but the way a second language is taught in school is far different. True, we lose some of our language learning abilities as we get older, especially if we do not exercise them, but it is our methods, not our natural abilities, that are in focus here.
◊ When we learned our first language, we did not use text books or notebooks, we did not memorize vocabulary; we did not memorize grammatical rules. Oh we did learn grammar, but we did so by learning what felt right, not what the regulations were.
◊ The method was designed so I could learn a language in Africa to do anthropological studies there. I later used it for training community workers to learn a language if they were assigned to a community where they spoke a different language. The method is to pretend that you are a three year old, select only words and phrases that are useful in your daily life (Please pass the salt) and train your friends and colleagues (as informants) to repeat the term after you (you must not repeat it after them). Without telling them what you are thinking, you pretend that your informants are your older brothers and sisters, correcting your pronunciation. You choose 1-5 words only each day, no more, no less. You vary the way a word is used (I want water. He has water). Within three months, you aim for fluency, which means the ability to operate in the language, with a limited vocabulary, about a hundred words only (what we tend to use in daily life).
◊ Although your ability to learn a new language has decreased, you have burned learning pathways in your brain, and this method takes advantage of them. While you train your informants to not think of themselves as correcting you, just repeating after you, you pretend you are three years old getting corrected.
◊ You might think at first a certain fruit is a napple, which can be easily corrected later when you learn how to read and write.
◊ I think this method can be adapted to teaching a language to a group of students, even though it was designed for self teaching. I see hints of it in the most up to date methods of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and language immersion programs.
◊ What is important here is the degree to which the method can be adapted to teaching other subjects and topics. Using text books and notebooks is efficient and convenient, and encouraged by schools and colleges that are becoming more and more like corporations. unlike an environment that encourages teachers to explore and create new and unorthodox methods. Text books and notebooks encourage conformity, monotony and homogeneity (like McDonald's hamburgers).
◊ It may be that the new challenge of not using text books and notes, may not only make it better to learn introductory levels of each topic, but also preparing the learner to learn the more advanced elements better. I would like to hear from collaborators on WikiEducator their thoughts and experiences with unorthodox methods of learning. --Phil Bartle 01:34, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
See and collaborate with the WikiEducator open educational resource, Learning a Non Written Language

earlier rants:

Methods of Learning are Not the Same as Methods of Teaching –– 2009 October 10

We encourage alternative and non orthodox methods of learning, and this affects how we present them to the learners, but they are two different things, and we must be careful not to confuse the two. At first this sounds too obvious, but when we are creating alternative and non orthodox processes, it can become easy to forget.

◊ Recall that among other ways of learning, including watching and listening, we recommend "doing" as the usually most effective method of learning.
◊ When we set up a learning session for the students to play roles in a particular scenario, for example, it is the students who are engaged in the "doing" to learn. The teacher is creating the context for that to happen. There is not one single way to create it. When the teacher organizes a literacy class into a planning meeting to decide on a project such as going on a field trip to collect fish prices information then come back to construct signs to indicate the prices of fish, it is not the teacher who engages in the doing, the students do, and the teacher creates the context for that to happen. The teacher can choose among many ways to create it, and design new ones.
◊ In the common orthodox method, the teacher does all the doing: preparing the content, setting up the props, making the presentation, responding to feedback and questions. The teacher, by doing, learns much about the subject, and sometimes forgets that the learners are not "doing" (just listening and watching), are less stimulated, and are learning less. The teacher can easily become puzzled, even irritated, that the learners are so slow.
◊ The teacher must first decide on or plan the learning method(s), and to choose what is appropriate both for the students and for the topic. That comes first. Choosing or planning the approach of the teacher, the methods to use, comes second. They must complement the methods of learning, not duplicate them. There are many possible ways to teach for each method of learning, some not yet known, so there is no automatic formula.
◊ In other words, designing a session must necessarily include both the methods of learning and the methods of teaching, and be planned to be complementary to each other. Three separate elements. All too often, teachers plan classes with a focus on one or another, usually how to teach it, rather than with a balanced and complete approach which not only includes both but also how the two relate.
◊ As we develop OERs (Open Educational Resources) we must not just parrot tired and worn approaches used in the classroom. We need to provide the best, and that includes a call for more analysis of the needs of the students and of the topics, and a willingness to be creative, novel and experimental. --Phil Bartle 07:18, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

See the WikiEd open Educational Resource, Training Methods


  1. See Agricultural Revolution, Culture and Open Education
  2. See Agricultural Revolution, Culture and Open Education

Previous Rants


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Feedback2.png Please put your comments in the Discussion page; Click on the discussion tab at the top of this page. --Phil Bartle 21:37, 20 April 2009 (UTC)