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Tuesday
Feb072017

Science of Science Communication seminar: Session 3 reading list

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It seems to me, on the day upon which Betsy DeVos was elected Secretary of Education, that it would be worthwhile to examine the culturally cognitively driven history of education policy in America. How does this relate to the science of science communication?

I only got as far as the abstract to the 1193 Baron article, Why Teach Thinking? This states that instruction in "actively open minded thinking" has two functions. It helps students think on their own. It helps them understand the nature of expert knowledge. Most importantly, I believe, is Baron's point that such learning will teach students to recognize false claims to systematic knowledge. I think that questions hinge on whether or not the powers that are in control want this to happen.

In my opinion, this article: "How Dewey Lost", https://web.stanford.edu/~dlabaree/publications/How_Dewey_Lost.pdf#page=1&zoom=auto,-95,798, is a good explainer for how it all went down in a past iteration of attempts at educational reform.

This point is highly pertinent:

"The contest over different visions of schooling is not judged based according to the rules that govern formal debate, such as rigorous logic or solid evidence. Instead, reform ideas win or lose according to the way that they resonate with a particular social context, attract or repel particular constituencies, and respond to the social problems that seem most salient at the time."

This article goes on to discuss a debate between the still well known John Dewey and the now essentially unheard of David Snedden regarding liberal and/or vocational education that took place in 1914.

Snedden argued that what he called "social economy" calls for vocational education system that prepared the "rank and file" to become efficient "producers". Snedden wanted this system to be separate from liberal education, which he also derided as "shrouded in the clouds of mysticism". Dewey argued for a broader educational system that included vocational education but "still held as its supreme regard the development of such intelligent initiative, ingenuity and executive capacity as shall make workers, as far as they may be, the masters of their own industrial fate".

Fast forwarding to the events of today, I think that item #7 in the post above needs to be viewed in the light of not just how group affinities, founded on common outlooks and values, can drive the transmission of scientific knowledge or inhibit it. But first, by looking at how outside special interest forces can create linkages and create fears that aids in advancing their own agenda forward. And thereby, set up conditions in education that pre-stage a culture that in turn, perpetuates those world views.

Who knows what about what and how?

We could start with the obvious anthropological observation that humans are human because they operate within cultures, not just by instinct. And the most basic manner in which cultures are transmitted is by elders to their young.

In terms of science, the work of Peter Dear, "The Intelligibility of Nature. How Science Makes Sense of the World", http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/I/bo3750620.html explains that science has two aspects: Scientific Philosophy (the knowing) and Instrumentality (the doing based on scientific information, often generating what is referred to as "Scientific Progress").

I'd also bring into this discussion the work of George Lakoff, regarding how the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives relate to group identity. In Lakoff's opinion: " The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative)." See; https://georgelakoff.com/2016/07/23/understanding-trump-2/

In modern educational terminology, these differences are encompassed by two popular educational curricula:

1. Core Knowledge, which emphasizes assimilation of facts. This is the label given to the methods first publicized in books by E.D. Hirsh, which proscribed what facts, in his opinion, a child at each grade level ought to know. http://www.coreknowledge.org/. This curriculum is often used in charter schools.

Common Core is the name for a set of standards that also describe what a student should know, but which place more direct emphasis on what are called higher level thinking skills. This is described as being more about what should a child be able to do. Discussions about the Common Core governmental standards can't really yet be said to be relevant to science education because the development of these standards has been so controversial that the only ones out so far are in English and Mathematics. Not Science. Not History or Social Studies. Most of the controversy actually has to do with content, items such as evolution or civil rights. In a compromise during the Obama administration, Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander basically came to a compromise under which Federal oversight regarding curriculum decisions were recinded and sent back to the states.

In my opinion, the election of Trump, like the Brexit vote in the UK is the result of the stresses that are occurring because we are in a time of global disruptive change. What we are seeing is the sort of divisive xenophobic forms of populism that tend to arise at such economically and culturally stressful moments as many members of the public see no role for themselves (and their values) in the future. The way forward, as it was in the aftermath of the first industrial revolution, is to work to restructure society in response to the changes in manners that lead to more opportunities for all.

But the way forward is not going to be easy. It is a false promise to promote the idea that a good STEM education will be the route to good jobs for multitudes of people. Science and information science jobs are also subject to automation. Again as with the industrial revolution, serious thought needs to be given to restructuring work, work hours and overall environmental conditions. With serious efforts at the redistribution of wealth. But on the other hand, a repressive, radial right wing form of populism that disparages capacity for "open minded reasoning" or "scientific thinking" could drive civilization backwards.

At this moment, much is being made of the hope of infrastructure jobs to revive the economy and put people back to work. My partial counterpoint to that at this moment is this video, out of China: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrTL8_42rLs. Yes, it still takes humans to build and operate this, just as it took people to build and operate a steam shovel. But the displacement is real. As it was back in the day for those wielding a pickax and shovel.

I don't think that the issues above should be just discussed in terms of how they are driven by group affinities, but rather how knowledge of how group affinities can be molded and exploited, and can enable those currently in power to stay in power. Examples of this are not only the fossil fuel oligarchs, but also as Trump supporters note, those elitists who meet at places like Davos and make decisions about the world without participatory democratic processes.

The recent US Presidential election, and the Brexit vote, both occurred without a deeper discussion of the underlying reality beneath what seems to be "alternative facts". On the Democratic Party side, there was remarkably little acknowledgement that an improving GNP did not mean prosperity for all, and new jobs at a WalMart or Amazon warehouse were no replacement for the identity (or income) gained in previous blue collar industrial work. On the Republican side, there was a lack of acknowledgement that we couldn't head backwards and end up as well of as some were in the past.

The issue now is how to make "Scientific Progress" something that is inspirational and allows the public to feel can benefits their own future.

February 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

@Gaythia--

I agree that Baron's "valid science recognition" point is critical, and a real contribution to the Dewian predecessor. You'll likely find the Keil paper very interesting too

February 8, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

I couldn't find the Keil paper you referenced online, even Keil's own website didn't go back that far. I did find a wealth of other interesting papers though, here: http://cogdevlab.yale.edu/publications

One of my favorites so far is this one: http://cogdevlab.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Fisher_et_al-2016-Cognitive_Science.pdf.
The Influence of Social Interaction on Intuitions of Objectivity and Subjectivity.
"...changes in objectivity are explained by argumentative mindsets: When people are in cooperative arguments, they see the truth as more subjective..."

February 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

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