Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pseudo-Planning: Disguising Leadership Weakness?

Both teachers and students want science to be authentic, challenging, and engaging. How do you make this happen?   -- ASCD Twitter entry, link to source.

Noble aims no doubt: the kind that warms the hearts of the technically challenged in any field. Leadership cadres are not infrequently composed of no minute proportion of those once-upon-a-time competent persons elevated -- according to the Peter Principle -- beyond their level of competence. Such governing groups tend to rest confident of having done a day’s (a meeting’s) work when they formulate goal statements that ring of sound public relations planning.

Who would reject as undesirable -- using the ASCD examples -- such outcomes as authenticity, challenge, and engagement as goals for school curriculum? But two problems tend to be sloughed off as merely technical, i.e. to be left to subordinates whose burden it will be to try to implement the pursuit of such Holy Grails without knowing their targets or the unavoidable costs involved in achieving them.

Of course, should these technicians threaten to spend more than a pittance of resources researching these problems, i.e. target consensus and feasible implementation, budgets can be restricted to what is politically possible, i.e. to levels that will not raise objections from external powers, equally technically challenged, whose objections might threaten the continued incumbency of the leadership.

So, for example, the “American public” -- read “strong political influencers” -- is concerned about terrorism and lawlessness, but apparently more concerned about the high costs, both to budgets and individual convenience, of technically efficient approaches to dealing with them, e.g. intensive surveillance and inconveniences to personal freedoms.

This situation illustrates the Rule of Imminence: the more distant the threat, the greater the cost discount (unless the more distant cost is vastly greater than the nearer, e.g. nuclear conflict vs. loss of control over a market.). So it is that defense industries exaggerate imminent possibilities of US involvement in foreign armed conflict, while their competitors beat warning drums about domestic infrastructure failures.

Educational and political leaders play this out as, for example in the recent past, a matter of trying to raise graduation rates by changing curriculum for fear of loss of national competitiveness. Forget about other so-called more important influences on a child’s school success. Those are likely cost-enhancing technical quibbles by politically insensitive squints. Defining school goals are the leadership’s task!

Wadoo, zim bam boddle-oo,
Hoodle ah da wa da,
Scatty wah !
(- 1935, Ira Gershwin, It Ain't Necessarily So)

To examine these issues further, see America 2000: A Notable Educational Charade

--- EGR

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Public School Reform: a Major Tactic in America’s Hidden "Class" War

During the period 1985 – 1986 I spent about 15 months, officially and unofficially, as the headmaster of a small, struggling private school in an affluent and very status-conscious suburb of Philadelphia. Not infrequently I attended meetings for headmasters or parents of private schools. At these meetings, one of the most pointedly disregarded “elephants in the room" was the issue of social class. It was “un-American” to broach such a topic among these proclaimed “conservatives,” who often mistook narcissism for devotion to the philosophy of Edmund Burke.

But it was very clear that the regnant opinion in such gatherings was that there was no competition between private and public education. They were "different" schools for "different kinds" of people. In fact, when a bill was introduced into the Pennsylvania "legislature to provide tax relief to the parents of children who were attending other than public schools, people involved in private schooling, excepting the impoverished Roman Catholic parochial schools, successfully opposed this approach to “equalizing” education

Why? As the headmaster of a famed, old school near Philadelphia put it, "We wouldn’t want the wrong people to come knocking at our door just because they could afford tuition with government money."

There is no clamor to reform private or parochial education. It is not because such schools are highly successful or efficient trainers in scientific, literary or mathematical skills; in fact, many, many are not – after all, what is an admissions committee for? And many of the most "successful" students are the most "surreptitious." (See Cheating Well)

But, let's just call their behavior, "discretely in-group-goal-oriented." They are, after all, training to be masters, not servants. (See Peter W. Cookson, Jr. and Caroline Hodges Persell, Preparing for Power: America’s Elite Boarding Schools. New York: Basic Books, 1985)

To examine some related issues, see an analysis done by one of my graduate students, a school principal: Pre-Critique Draft of Major Paper on Class Bias

--- EGR

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Pseudo-Science: the reasonable constraints of Empiricism

Reporter: Professor Russell, is it true that you do not believe in the Supernatural World?

Bertrand Russell: My dear fellow, I do not believe in the Natural World.
Russell, in his reply to the reporter, rejects a traditional distinction, natural-supernatural, that has nowadays reappeared as grist for both religious and anti-religious patty-cake bakers plying their wares to a public undereducated and generally uninterested in the history of thought.

So it is that in this 21st Century it has become very modish for pundits, introducing themselves as aficionados of Science, to invoke scientific research to make sweeping statements, and to concoct sleight-of-mind distinctions about the Universe, its structure and its contents.

For example, we find Robert Shermer, writing in Scientific American (March 2003, p. 47) citing psychological studies which, he claims, "are only the latest to deliver blows against the belief that mind and spirit are separate from brain and body."

Mind (Spirit) is no more than brain and body. Perhaps that is so. But what kind of empirical science presumes to conclude that its own narrow, Earth-time&space-bound investigations apply across time and space? What kind of empirical evidence can be offered for such a claim?

Such presumption has long been indulged in: for example,
1. The sole motivators of human behavior are pain and pleasure.

2. Love is the hyperevaluation of the sex object.

3. Animals are mere mechanisms lacking feeling.

4. There are no non-environmental determinants of behavior.
These propositions, later revealed as very probably falsehoods, were held and promulgated even by those considered to be the intellectual giants of their era.

Note that they all presume to talk about "all" of some category of things, without indicating limits on where and when to look for evidence disconfirming them.

This is not to say that such claims ought to be rejected out of hand as false. Rather, they should be recognized, practically-speaking, as non-empirical, because they are unbounded, i.e. they go beyond what their advocates can produce a critical test for.

Note well: the considerations given above are intended to offer neither aid nor comfort nor rebuttal nor rebuke to the many (often well-intentioned, even if benighted) enthusiasts of esoterica, occult or otherwise.

To examine these issues further, see Religion, Intelligent Design and the Public Schools: serving God to Mammon?

Also relevant is Questionable Assumptions in Social Decision Making. Identifying Trans-ideological Epistemological Presuppositions.

--- EGR

Sunday, August 14, 2016

School “Success”: hoping for miracles.

In a country where celebrity counts so much that Donald Trump can apparently found a university on sheer bluster, and Miley Cyrus can generate 300,000 tweets per minute, why bother remembering Avogadro’s number? -- James Graff The Week 9/6/13 p. 3.
Having been in education almost 50 years, I have long wondered why a country that can put a man on the moon and work abundant wonders in many another field, can persist as a whole in being so distracted by plain, dumb slogans and suggestions of how and why schools should be run. (See Blocking School Reform: “scientific” metaphors)

I studied philosophy, math and smatterings of various sciences throughout my academic education. The questions I encountered were often confusing, ambiguous and, even when sufficiently clarified, hard. Being enthusiastic or well-intentioned or hard-working, by themselves, didn’t help answer those questions. Having knowledge did.

However, when I started teaching as an occupation I encountered practices that, even when failing, seldom were questioned as to their whys and wherefores. Questions? Who really wants to be bothered? Bothersome people need not expect a long or successful career. So, don’t ask questions; just look like you’re getting something done!

However, if you persisted and had not quit in your first three years as most new teachers do, explanations, “theories,” as they were called, abounded. (Actual research, unless it supported "enthusiasm," was disregarded. For an example, see Who Controls Teachers’ Work?) "Theories" virtually gushed from the mouths of anyone who claimed to sport an advanced degree. No matter; their nostrums were generally too vague, or it was too impolitic, or even illegal to put them to the test.

Unless … special funds were available for school “reform.” Then those who could seduce funders into believing that grant applicants could spin straw into gold would often end up making a mint by rebottling old wine or, even, substituting turpentine as a new beverage. see Ineffective Instruction: through ignorance, or distraction?

Some researchers have gone abroad to see “why,” for example, South Korean, Polish or Finnish kids do better in school than American kids do. The researchers report back interpreting what generalities they could make as causes of higher school achievement. (See the review of the book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. by Amanda Ripley. Simon & Schuster , in The Week 9/6/13 p. 20.) Such reasoning is riddled with logical error.

Invariably someone will claim title to being an “educational consultant” by invoking either or both of two long-recognized logical fallacies:
a. After this, therefore because of this; e.g. “Kids whose parents started attending PTA meetings got better grades. So, parents, join the PTA!” or

b. confusing correlation with cause; e.g. kids who (said that they?) believed there was a connection leading from high school to college to a good job, worked harder in high school. So parents, get your kids to (say that they?) believe in that connection and their school work will improve!” (But see Success in College: what might influence it?)
In past years I would mention such things to people in other fields and they would shake their heads in dismay that I had chosen such a madhouse-occupation.

Times have changed. Now when they hear that I have been in education for many years they repeat to me the easy reform slogans of the many ed-hucksters chasing after federal and foundation bucks. And of course, everyone, just everyone has a recipe for making schools better.

Concocting proposals to reform public schools has been a pastime in this country for well over 100 years. (See Perpetual Reform: an American Insanity?) You might think it’s been time better spent than paying attention to Donald Trump or Miley Cyrus. But when you consider not only the money frittered away, but the expectations futilely raised, the hopes dashed, in the long run the costs of playing at “school reform” far exceed the benefits.

Nearing the end of my half-century in this profession, this business, this ministry, I do not believe all the hocus-pocus, the hugger-mugger, about school improvement is merely a matter of stupidity, or disinterest. I doubt, for example, the few thoughtful people imagine that narrowing the focus on teachers will accomplish much.

Rather, I suspect that the widespread attitude that somehow education on its lonesome is going to make up for the weakness in its supporting factors, comes from the unwillingness to concede that even people quite removed from the public schools -- not just students, parents, teachers, or administrators -- are substantially responsible for their failings. (See What Can a Teacher Do? Two myths of responsibility.)

Very likely, what is described as the “failure of the public schools” is promulgated to distract from their abandonment by other, stronger, outside institutions, who finesse away their moral responsibilities to society by settling blame on one of its weakest members.

To examine these issues further, see Moral Responsibility in the Education Industry


--- EGR

Impediments to Improving Teaching: confusing Role and Function

If you want something done, ask a busy person. -- Benjamin Franklin, Pearls of Wisdom
It was a staff development day in the junior high school where I worked in 1974 as a teacher of ESOL and coordinator of the ESOL program. I was asked to be leader for a mixed group of experienced and newly-hired teachers. The topic was “Designing a School.” A few minutes after our session began, I was called by my principal to be a translator to help deal with a dispute between the families of two students. I gave my group the following “assignment” to be done while I was away:
You are going to design a school for 500 pupils, ages 12 -Your budget will be guaranteed at $5000 per student. There are no other restrictions. Use your imagination. Be inventive. (I should be back in 40 minutes.)

When I came back, I asked my colleagues what they had come up with so far. One replied, “It started off well, but we soon got involved in an argument over priorities.” I asked what the dispute was about. Another person piped up, “We couldn’t agree whether we needed more vice-principals or more counselors. It would be too expensive to hire as many as we all wanted for both occupations.”

I asked, “Did you consider at all why you would need either vice-principals or counselors? What was the school going to be about, so far as learning activities were concerned? The answer came back, “We didn’t get to that, because we wanted to get the humdrum necessities out of the way before we considered the more interesting stuff.” Apparently neither Experience nor Recent Mintage guarantees Wisdom or Inventiveness.

Assuming my group didn’t just run out, while I was away, for coffee and donuts, what seemed to be blocking their inventiveness was an all-too-common confusion between roles, which are defined by the type of organizations one belongs to, and functions, which are determined by the kinds of interactional environments one happens to be in.

The difference is clear and very important. Schools traditionally designate roles, i.e. which people are teachers and which are pupils. To each group, according to institutional practice, are reserved certain prerogatives, e.g. teachers have the authority to give pupils assignments; pupils are expected to do them. But surely neither group always functions within the role: teachers can be taught by their pupils as when, for example, the pupil give a presentation on a topic with which the teacher is little acquainted.

Institutionally, many schools have a specialist role, Curriculum Developer, to which is designated the function of creating materials for classroom use. But any competent teacher performs that function persistently as they adapt distantly prescribed documents to the realities of the everyday classroom and to flesh-and-blood pupils.*

In many schools, roles are revolving positions. Personnel are sometimes teachers, other times administrators, and often share functions among their difference roles as when teachers act as disciplinarians, or counselors, and vice-principals as substitute teachers.

Roles develop as schools become institutionalized to meet legal or communal expectations. When a new school starts up, invariably most personnel serve different and changing functions while the scope of their interactions develops. With stability -- read here, “assured funding, etc.” -- personnel become, like insects in amber, frozen into their roles. This is not a bad thing from the point of view of the pupils, who, especially when young, need emotionally the kind of constancy of role, and the consistency of function, that institutions provide. (, see Controlling the School: Institutionalization)

Would-be reformers who imagine that ephemeral groups are invariably better educational environments might well consider the corporate world. Whose stocks retain and gain value with the passage of time?

On the other hand, if the world changes significantly, institutionalized organizations risk ossification. And the roles, the careers, of those persons within them, often obtained through long and painstaking preparation, decrepitate. Eventually, the institutional roles may disappear, even though the interactional functions remain.

For references and to examine these issues further, see Do Schools Really Need Curriculum Supervisors? 
Confusing Role with Function

*See also On The Viability Of A Curriculum Leadership Role: Avoiding Confusion of Role and Function

--- EGR

Mutually Cost-enhancing Objectives (MCEO’s): hiding the “Elephant-in-the-Room.”

Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict. -- Saul Alinsky
Mutually cost-enhancing objectives," MCEO’s, are objectives which are operationally or politically unlikely of being fulfilled simultaneously, because progress made toward one tends to undercut the progress made toward the other. Pursuit of MCEO’s is the mechanism of cost-benefit conflict.

People in most undertakings have encountered such beasts, and not infrequently, for example:
a. you often can’t gain speed for a vehicle and cut fuel costs at the same time;
b. you can’t achieve both great muscle strength and running speed; and
c. on a fixed budget, you can’t accumulate savings and also spend profligately.

However, MCEO’s tend to be the “invisible bugs” in educational or other social programs. Particularly in situations where there is a delicate political balance needed to maintain organizational stability, MCEO’s tend to be the “elephants in the room” that are deliberately disregarded, discussion of which participants are dissuaded from pursuing -- “We don’t go there,” is the warning given. (To see how this may work, see Reconstructing Assumptions.)

Is your political candidate’s opponent a womanizer? If your own is, also, “you don’t go there” -- in public at least. Less newsworthy, of course, is the conflict between the objectives of having all kids achieve a high school diploma and college entrance; or between graduating college and finding high quality employment, or, even, providing adequate medical care without reducing those who provide or need it to poverty.

Some MCEO combinations seem unavoidable: e.g. every birth predicts a future death; every option exercised means others are foregone. But perhaps many MCEO’s can be softened by innovative procedures that avoid ultimate mutual cost generation. That hope has long sprung eternal even in the face of hard experience. But such hopes must not rest solely on mere assumption.

For some issues on cost-benefit conflicts in historical context, see Clabaugh & Rozycki (1986) School Reform via Teacher Professionalization: Is it Cost-effective?

--- EGR

Usurping the Rights of Others

Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
-- Lord Acton
Does power tend to corrupt? How exactly does this happen? Power does so by changing our perceptions of the people over whom we have power or who have power over us. This tempts us to deal with them in ways that may undermine both our personal and our common values.

Long ago John Dewey argued that democracy perfected itself the more its members communicated freely with one another. This jibes with what many researches indicate it is that brings people to mistreat others: communicating on a "need to know" basis.

Those who arrogate knowledge to themselves, who believe they have the right to define other people's needs, tend to see them as mere tools to serve either the personal ends of the arrogators; or, more important, to serve what they understand to be their organization's mission.

To examine these issues further, see Leadership as Usurpation

-- EGR

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Protection" : Prevention, Extortion, Compensation?

"I just bought a magic medallion!"
"What does it do?"
"It protects me from attack by a Komodo Dragon."
"There aren't any Komodo Dragons roaming loose within 10,000 miles from here."
"See! It really works!" --- Tired, old joke.

A well-recognized symbol for the idea of protection is the umbrella. An umbrella prevents rain -- to some extent -- from wetting you. But the hoodlum who demands money from a shopkeeper as "protection" is engaged in extortion. Unlike the rain – that raineth on the just and unjust alike, unconditionally – the hoodlum inflicts the damage selectively on those who refuse his demands.

Many schools do something similar to the extortionist, in pursuing a "mission" to increase parental involvement. In many schools parents who are particularly generous in donating time or money, get "special consideration" for their children when it comes to disciplinary treatments or failures for weak academic performance.

Not a small part of what purports to be "special education" engages in such extortionary activities. Little wonder that many school people complain that an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) is a free Do-Not-Go-To-Jail card for students whose parents are "involved" or aggressive enough to secure one for their child. Many a private and parochial school, especially ones on tight budgets, understand that generous parent donations help school administrators and teachers recognize the extra, special "needs" of the donors' children.

Insurance companies play another trick. It is surprising that it works, but it does. They regularly muddle the distinction between protection as prevention and protection as compensation. Parents and travelers, nonetheless, will buy insurance "protection" against events that are unlikely preventable.

School insurance may pay a parent $20,000 dollars if their child loses a finger while playing or working in the school shop. It doesn't prevent such occurrences from happening. If the schools manage to pass on the insurance costs to parents – as they often do in private or parochial education – there is little pressure on the school to take preventative steps against injury. This is why both private and parochial schools – as well as colleges -- permit the risks involved in some of the more combative sports, like football, lacrosse, rugby and boxing.

Insurance policies provide the buffering that allows schools, athletics enterprises, and parents to run the moral hazards of exposing their charges, their students, their team members, their children, to the risks of physical injury.

To examine these issues further, see Hurt, Harm & Safety

--- EGR

Neurosis Schooling for Social Control: Power-Placebos for the Subjugated?

I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life -- Karl Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Ever tried to swear in a foreign language? Unless you are very well acculturated to it, it doesn’t feel at all the same as cussin’ in your mother-tongue. No cathartic results. You might even begin to wonder how such a concatenation of sounds came to develop such a “nasty” meaning.

A friend’s anecdote shows how it might happen: At age 6, in 1949, he was helping his Mom wash windows using a spray-and-wipe technique. He was the sprayer. She stopped and went to the front door to chat with a neighbor. He walked up behind her and said, “This damn spray-bottle isn’t working …” Crack! Without missing a word or turning around she smacked him right in the mouth! (6-year-olds’ using such language was intolerable!) He joked that he wondered afterward what was so wrong about saying “spray-bottle”?

Considering he told me this story fifty years later shows that the event left an impression on him. But he got over it, it seems. As he told me the story, he did not flinch or stutter as he uttered “spray-bottle.”

However, some people obsess for a long time over matters that most people pass over quickly. Such seeming OCD (obsessive-compulsively disordered) behavior is often provoked by an initiating event that can come to supplant the evil consequence it originally was taken to foretell. His mother’s smacking him for saying “spray-bottle” is a good example. What was she trying to accomplish? Keep him from saying “damn!”? Why bother? To keep the devil away? Or maybe it was just a show to prove to the neighbor that she was raising her son on the strict-and -narrow? What was her worry?

Often a worry is based on the fear of something that people believe they have little power to control. So a ritual develops believed to forestall or lessen the consequences of the initiating event. So it is that people on sinking ships or falling planes turn to prayer. (In order to have an all-knowing, all-powerful and merciful God reconsider what He permits to be happening?)

But cuss-words come and go. Two hundred and fewer years ago such gems as zounds, bloody, My God (said casually), blaggart, could hardly be mentioned in polite company. (Does the term “polite company” still have much meaning?) In a single generation in the US, for example, vulgar, blasphemous or obscene words can transform from the publicly unspeakable to common, often even ceremonial parlance, e.g. suck, crap, deep doo-doo, shit-faced, while childrens’ nursery rhyme vocabulary has become more than border-line risqué. Think of “little pussy whose coat is so warm” or “cock-robin.”

Randall Collins has proposed that there three historically continuous interests have shaped curriculum in schools around the world: Status, Vocation, Social Control. Despite giving somewhat more than lip service to status and vocation, most schools emphasize inculating social control mechanisms, neuroses, weakly attended to by family, church and community.

The persistence and the power of the Social Control schooling mission across ages and cultures are an indication that such obsessive-compulsive behavior is primarily inculcated to protect entitlement structures and privileges, be they consequent to leadership position, Status, or group membership, Vocation.

To examine these issues further, see Permissible School Violence

Cordially, EGR

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Searching for “Reality"? Stipulate A Turtle!

"What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
— Hawking, 1988 A Brief History of Time

Traditions of Stipulation Define Disciplines. We find in West’s Encyclopedia of Law** the following characterization of stipulation as it is used in legal proceedings:
An agreement between attorneys that concerns business before a court and is designed to simplify or shorten litigation and save costs. During the course of a civil lawsuit, criminal proceeding, or any other type of litigation, the opposing attorneys may come to an agreement about certain facts and issues. Such an agreement is called a stipulation.

From this conception of stipulation it is easy to construct parallels for almost any kind of research that does not or cannot push to some ultimate, incorrigible result. Within a discipline practitioners tend to pursue answers to questions arguably recognized as within the scope of their discipline, using methods arguably related to traditional methodologies. One cannot proceed within a discipline without some potential for recognition from others in that discipline that their undertaking is appropriate. Every graduate student learns early on how narrowly one must frame a research question for it to be acceptable to an advisor. (See Becher, T. Academic Tribes & Territories: the Cultures of the Disciplines. 1989.) See All Definition Ultimately Rests on Stipulation, i.e. Communal Agreement.

Of course, one can strike out on one’s own pursuing “gigantic truths” and risk possible self-delusion, uncompensated-for bias,and dismissal, should one's efforts, in the long run, not stand up to criticism from interested parties. Many famous discoverers have run this gauntlet and met with success, if only posthumously. (Many more of us console ourselves with advice from an ancient and also unremembered author: Pan metron ariston.)

But even well-established contexts of research have their own problems. Coordinated group activities, in general, are subject to tensions among authority, consensus and efficiency. Research problems frequently raise issues as to who decides procedures and goals, how much agreement among participants has to be obtained on these issues to come to a decision; and, how best to use the resources available for it.

The sticking point is this: such decision-types, i.e. those arbitrating authority, consensus and efficiency, may reiterate themselves for every decision consequently reached. This reiteration is often dismissed by invoking some tradition of stipulation contexts, e.g. budget limits, time and opportunity costs, political opposition from funding sources, diminishing returns on output, even researcher fatigue or boredom. (See The Fractalization of Social Enterprise)

Just as lawyers on opposing sides may stipulate evidence they have no hope of subverting, so do researchers in any field forego spending time and effort on pursuits that consume scarce resources with little promise of compensatory yield.

But What About Objectivity? Wouldn’t stipulation make it impossible?

In the early 1970’s I met a researcher whose speciality was disease etiology. Her interest was aroused by an apparent correlation between increased density of cancer cases and density of chemical manufacturers in certain neighborhoods of a large Eastern city. She obtained federal funding and began her investigations by interviewing people in those neighborhoods.

Two weeks into her interview schedule, she received a phone call at 3:00 A.M. The caller warned her not to continue the interviews; not even to come back in to the neighborhood. Otherwise, she would “end up with two broken legs.”

Being of a somewhat crusading spirit, she considered continuing with her research despite the phone call. Her husband, however, was not comfortable with her ignoring the threat. Little matter: one day later, while she was still weighing a decision, she received a phone call — this time at an appropriate hour — telling her that the funding for her research had been cancelled. No explanation was given.

No doubt from the research perspective of trying to see if there was a relationship between cancer victims and numbers of chemical plants, a set of conditions had been stipulated which impaired the objectivity of her research. The research was terminated before the experimenter’s intended procedures had been carried out. Lacking more information, we can speculate as to what the research-termination procedure was stipulated to be, although we do not know who had the power or authority to do it.

Objectivity depends on what the proposed object is. If all you want to do is stare through a tube to see pretty patterns, then a kaleidoscope will do as well as a telescope. Every procedure, or instrument employed in a procedure, can be questioned to what extent it creates as well as gathers “data.” Reliable instruments, stipulated as such, may permit reasonable stipulated outcomes, e.g. abridgments of otherwise lengthy procedures. (See Can Criminal or Immoral Behavior Be Dealt With Objectively?)

For references and to examine these issues further, see Knowledge: The Residues of Practical Caution

--- EGR

**West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. S.v. "stipulation." Retrieved August 9 2016 from

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Philosophical "Isms": tradition and dissonance for leadership practice.

It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. – Baudelaire

Leadership preparation in many organizations, e.g. educational, military, religious, even commercial, often requires participants to undergo some exposure to what is characterized as "philosophical" training. No matter to what depth it is carried out, it usually begins with rather simplistic categories charted to facilitate -- by contrast and comparison -- either memorization, or understanding of the relationship between different approaches to practice.

The distinctions made between different philosophies are generally believed to generate, in the long run, important distinctions in practice, as, for example, economic activities pursuing capitalism in contrast to socialism. In the United States, securing funding from governmental bodies is often contingent on applicants stating their organization's philosophy so as to enable judgment of their success while allowing for diversity of goals.

However, there is often a problem which arises both from the vagueness or ambiguity of critical terms used to define such philosophies, due in no small part from failure to recognize that such words as "pragmatic" or " "idealistic" or "behavioral," though fraught with philosophical content, vary in denotation and significance depending on context.

I created the chart to the right as a basic learning aide for professional certification candidates in my university classes. My personal aim was always to show my experienced, adult graduate students -- though in various professions, e.g. education, nursing, business administration, corporate instruction - that they could develop techniques of interpreting, critiquing and applying, what would be otherwise pointless "philosophical" puffery, to achieve the goals best serving their organizations.

I based the chart on careful examination of several published sources (some indicated at the bottom of the chart). My students' initial reactions were that different categories showed a lot of overlap. Worse yet, there were internal conflicts. Obviously, there was, initially, at least, no clear path to be drawn from the short, sloganistic characterization of each "ism" to a real-life organizational goal. The ambiguity and contradiction were very much like what they often found in their own organization's philosophy.

However, by having the students bring in documents to class stating their organizations' philosophies, we could work using the chart as a springboard at articulating cogent reasons why some options for action should be considered better than others in achieving the goals expressed in their organizational philosophies.

To get a more explanation of the chart and fuller references for its sources, see Teaching Philosophy to Teachers: are ISM's Philosophy?.

See also PHILOSOPHY AND EDUCATION: What's The Connection?

--- EGR

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Productive Confusions: Faith with Doctrine, Community with Church

"Hey, how 'bout them Phillies!"
"What? Two good games? Fuhgeddaboudit! I lost my faith years ago!"
--Typical fan comments in Philadelphia
Confusion, which relies on ignorance, naiveté or inattention, is a much used marketing tool, both for commercial and political purposes. Why? Because it works. ("Idealists" who think that everyone appreciates the value of providing a good education, should dwell on this point. See The Classroom Teacher: Who Wants Experts?")

Confusing "faith" with "doctrine" and "community" with "church" has its pay-offs, too. The question to be asked is the ancient, "Cui bono?," "Who benefits?" Do not jump to the conclusion that the answer is: the faithful or a community of faithful.

Confusing faith with doctrine is like confusing a baseball fan with a player, or a hunter with a soldier. The differences here rest on the fact that the behavior of players and soldiers is constrained by discipline, by "rules of engagement," which fans and hunters need pay no attention to.

But even more important, professional ball-players, like soldiers, have commitments to team or to armed service; commitments that amateurs likely do not have. Professionals come with agendas generally not shared with the laity or with civilians.

In the same way, community may be confused with church, even when it is capitalized, e.g. "Church." This is like confusing a home with a house, or love with marriage. They may sometimes coincide, but they are still critically distinguishable.

And who benefits from the confusions? Ask yourself the economic question: "From which persons to which others do transfers of wealth occur?" Who gets the loot? Look past the smoke and mirrors of claims of a "spiritual" transaction. Such may occur, but are they the point?

There are those who believe that such confusion could be cured to some degree if our public schools could include some religious components, a vision of something higher than individual success and happiness, or market competitiveness. Maybe.

But, let us shift our eyes, for a moment, away from celestial glory and salvation, down to the problems we have to deal with everyday in our worlds of commerce and politics. Down to where moth or rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.

For references and to examine these issues further, see Religion, Intelligent Design and the Public Schools: serving God to Mammon?

--- EGR

** Bill Klem. (n.d.). Retrieved August 02, 2016, from Web site: