Collaboration – In-Class Activities section of the the Pedagogy Project (Hastac)

A core premise of the collaborative pedagogy is for the instructor to function as “less of a ‘master explicator” and more as a facilitator” therefore leading to the potential dilemma of crafting pedagogy that is both student-centered and participatory while maintaining critical analysis and academic rigor.  The Pedagogy Project of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) provides crowd-sourced resources for educators seeking to develop syllabi, lesson plans and assignments.  I reviewed the section on In-Class activities which corresponded to my interest in incorporating participatory learning tools into undergraduate and certificate labor studies programs.  The majority of the students in these courses are working adults and many are members, staff and leaders of workers organizations accustomed to popular-education techniques utilized within skill-training and leadership development workshops.  What sorts of in-class activities can best foster bigger-picture critical engagement and discussion within an academic classroom setting – tools that can work both in the academy and reach greater numbers if incorporated into worker education outside the academy?

Module #6 on “Game Pedagogy for Teaching Marx’s Capital” piqued my interest.  The game is played in two parts – the first to simulate C-M-C in which payers exchange commodities and the second based upon M-C-M as an exercise in capital accumulation.  If gaming can be used to demystify Capital, certainly models can be also found to ground discussions of precarity, globalization, historical precedents for organizing without the New Deal labor rights framework and other strategic dilemmas confronted by workers and workers organizations.  As noted in the module discussion, these participatory tools only facilitate a limited examination of complex issues – they draw students in making them more engaged participants as a basis for higher-level discussion, not as a substitute for the instructor but enhancing the teaching and learning prospects of classroom interaction.  The inclusion of the In-Class activities provides a vehicle for collaboration towards strengthening and refining individual modules but also for expanding their reach as educators adapt them to their own classroom context.

Robert Parry brings another perspective to the controversy over “fake news”

A couple of the blog posts reference the conversation and controversy about the detrimental impact of “fake news” stories going viral prior to the elections.  As part of this there has been a call for Facebook and other social media sites to intervene and more strongly moderate the content of Facebook postings.  I share the concern about the ability of the right to massively disseminate damaging false information.  However, I am also very concerned about the likelihood for greater efforts to control and limit our access to information with a Trump presidency – and think it’s important to consider critically the implications of joining in with calls for greater control.  I am sharing Robert Parry’s article from this perspective.  Below is a brief quote and link to the full article.

“In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, a hot new issue – raised by President Obama in an international setting on Thursday and touted on The New York Times’ front page on Friday – is the problem of “fake news” being disseminated on the Internet. Major Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are being urged to censor such articles and to punish alleged violators. Also, teams of supposedly “responsible” news providers and technology giants are being assembled to police this alleged problem and decide what is true and what is not. But therein lies the more serious problem: who gets to decide what is real and what is not real? And – in an age when all sides propagate propaganda – when does conformity in support of a mainstream “truth” become censorship of reasonable skepticism?”

What to Do About ‘Fake News’

| | | Next → |

Provocation: On Freirien Pedagogies for Liberation in the academy and our movements

It’s an understatement to state that the opening chapters of Freire’s Pedagogy of the oppressed resonated with me on multiple intersecting levels; a reflection of my own philosophical underpinnings and life experience growing up in a working poor family in Newark, NJ, as a long-time organizer of low-wage workers and presently as a non-traditional doctoral student with aspirations to engage in critical “big-picture” labor and working class education – like many others with ambitions to foster  “critical reflection” as the basis for praxis, “reflection and action upon the world in order to change it.” (51)  It is difficult to hone in on just a few points about a treatise as essential as Freire’s but here are some observations from my standpoint both as a long-term organizer and experience and aspirations as an educator within labor and social movements and in the academy.

Freire delineates the painstaking process through which the oppressed may overcome norms and structures of dehumanization and attain genuine agency; for the oppressed to be able to “wage the struggle for their liberation, they must perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform” (49) Making  this consciousness-raising (conscientizacao) possible requires overcoming internal and external obstacles faced by the oppressed.  Internal obstacles include their own self-depreciation, humility and fatalism, the tendency to assume the interests of their oppressors as their own and to compete with rather than join together with others of the oppressed in the effort to elevate their own status.  At the same time as the oppressed may fatalistically accept and blame themselves for their own lot, for the oppressors, “having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own “effort,” with their “courage to take risks.” (59)  And as Freire observes even those of the “oppressor” class that seek to stand on the side of justice often adopt an approach more of charity than solidarity – believing themselves better situated to assume leadership rather than trusting the ability of oppressed peoples to possess knowledge, engage in critical reflection and take ownership over their own movements.

Anybody that has spent any time organizing understands these barriers as well as the capacity of people to transcend them.  Freire draws out these processes and the necessity of employing a humanizing pedagogy constructed upon critical reflection, experiential knowledge, and the engaged action of the oppressed as the only means of undoing systems of oppression and making humanization possible.  “It is only when the oppressed find the oppressor out and become involved in the organized struggle for their liberation that they begin to believe in themselves. This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection: only then will it be a praxis. Critical and liberating dialogue, which presupposes action, must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the stage of their struggle for liberation.” (65)

| | | Next → |

Technology, time-discipline and worker control then and now

“What needs to be said is not that one way of life is better than the other, but that this is a place of the most far-reaching conflict; that the historical record is not a simple one of neutral and inevitable technological change, but also one of exploitation and of resistance to exploitation; and that values stand to be lost as well as gained.” (93-94.) This quote captures a core tension at work within E.P. Thompson’s analysis of the interplay between the technological tool of the clock (and in fact the normalization of the systematic marking of time itself) with the structuring of the labor force to adapt to the exigencies of industrial capitalism. Thompson’s study lays out the centuries-long transitioning of labor from “task-orientation” in which work varied in length and intensity according to need to systematic, time-controlled, work-discipline within industrial production designed to maximize efficiency and labor’s value to the employer; i.e. the remaking of time as currency no longer to be “passed but spent.”

Notwithstanding Thompson’s tendency to gloss over exploitation also present in earlier, more flexible labor models, for example the unpaid labor of women and children within home-based piecework, he richly depicts the transition through which employer control over work-time was regularized and internalized, and sometimes repelled.  Through this process workers learned to demarcate their time and establish boundaries between work, now the expenditure of labor for purpose of survival, and life, now viewed as leisure time separate from work.  Or in more direct usage of Marxist terminology, the separation of workers from their work-process and species being.  I found Thompson’s thick usage of primary documents, and sharp irony, particularly salient as he mapped out the imposition and internalization of the Puritan moral order. Work and efficient time usage is sanctified as the highest aspiration of a virtuous life whereas leisure among the masses is a scourge to be eradicated – even worse when combined with incivility, as Thompson notes “this clearly, was worse than Bingo: non-productivity, compounded with impertinence.” (90) And in the spirit of capitalism, the technological instrument of the imposition of time-discipline enabling capital’s extraction of surplus value would also become coveted by those whose labor value was being extracted as an object of consumption.  Thus, the watch became a fashion accessory desired not merely for its functionality but also as a status symbol – which Thompson reinforces in his biting observation about retirement gifting “for fifty years of disciplined servitude to work, the enlightened employer gave to his employee an engraved gold watch.” (70)

To what extent does Thompson’s analysis apply to the interplay between technology, work and life as we experience it today in the 21st century? Certainly, our present day technological instruments, MacBooks, Iphones, etc structure both our work and everyday life and, to a certain degree, have become objects of acquisitive consumption which we upgrade and accessorize beyond immediate necessity.  For many of us our smart phones have become extensions of our bodies, never leaving our hands.  However, more pertinent is the manner in which digital technology has penetrated and transformed the ways in which we experience both work and everyday life.  While digital technologies optimally could enhance worker flexibility and control over work time, the current balance of power has enabled capital to utilize flexibility for their own purposes – with workers peppered with continual emails and text messages, spending their evenings responding to the latest correspondences in preparation for the following day or inputting edits into collectively produced google-docs.  If prior time-control of hours of work established a demarcation between work and life which would drain work of meaning, today many workers look wistfully upon a time when they could leave the job-site with the expectation that, unless urgent, no after-hours work communication would occur.  Certainly these changes have benefited some employees including those who can now utilize flexible work for child and elder care, doctor’s visits, trips to the gym, etc – although the ability to take advantage of this flexibility varies greatly depending upon status and position.  Moreover, while the “uberization” of work touts worker flexibility in actuality it more frequently transfers the imposition of time-discipline from being employer-imposed to system-imposed while enabling capitalists to evade regulatory accountability to employees.  Meanwhile, the new cohort of flexible workers juggle multiple demands for inadequate compensation amidst an expectation of permanent availability – and without established work hours as a means to demand compensation for real hours of work.  So capital has transcended the need for clock-imposed work-discipline to generate profits and has learned to incorporate newer, digital technologies to its benefit.

| | | Next → |