all over the place about the artifice of education

 
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Suzanne Hale



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 11
Location: Ottawa, ON Canada

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 5:59 pm
PostPost subject: all over the place about the artifice of education
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'The artifice of education'
I am wondering about this term, and what it might mean in terms of creating and using teaching strategies that connect to students and reach and teach in thorough ways.

Looking at puppetools and puppets through some of your work Jeff, you talk about puppets and especially play as being a jewel in the crown of evolution...that is our (us mammals') ability to play and use play to teach... having occupied a great role in the evolution of our brain and survival as a specises.

I have also come across a great booked called the Nature of Birds that looks at evolutionary biology...and behavourial ecology, and shows how certain colours, calls, and behaviours that have evolved over time, have let to specises survival and adaptations in birds, insects etc.

and so my point here, that as teachers...in looking at the how...of how we teach...(no so much the what)...that we need to recognize the role of artifice. That no matter what we are creating ...teaching strategies that although may work in our minds...something that we make up, that is a construct or artifice...of our own creation. And that may or may not work, and so if a strategy doesn't work...then we have the opportunity to dig deeper into artifice and find something that does.

... rather than thinking of education as fact...hard cold fact..if we recognized it as artifice, that fits into a world made up of artifice, then maybe we have a better chance at getting things right. Artifice is everywhere...the shapes of buildings, the sounds of voices, shrieks of cars...we respond on a visceral level...artifice is the grid upon which we grow and evaluate the world around us...it so seems to me...

If we look at another meaning of artifice...the placing of value and recognition on timing, sound, context, colour, shape, design, and on language shape, voice quality...etc, then the creating of artifice as a device to teach...using character and context could be extremely powerful. for some reason I have always seen good teaching as being transparent...but maybe nothing is transparent..

Sometimes as a teacher I get so serious about my connection to my subject...and so I want to teach with a very specific message, but the question I would like to ask myself is what if I opend up my own understanding of artifice and allowed the subject I am teaching to linger inside...and let some wind blow through...and place some elements of artifice in my delivery then and present it to the students and see what they do with it...so that everything is not literal, and concrete, but carries shape, sound, colour context, texture (literacy and figurative) etc?

(I realize that puppets can do all this) but if we don't recognize that artifice is a natural component that mammals like us respond to...for learning - for everything...then we are missing a whole repetoire of skill and possibility.

The artifice of education...could help teachers not take themselves too seriously, could encourage students to actively participate because they are responding on a more personal gut level.

Lately I have also asking myself how is it that people respond so quickly to each other. Just by seeing a person for 20 seconds, in my mind I have determined who I think this person is...not just by fashion style, but by physiological make up, face shape, over body posture, size, intention of movement, etc. I wonder if this comes from the same place as recognition and response to artifice. It must.

And actually it is rather like artifice...because as you get to know a person, it becomes clear that they have qualities that you would not have a clue about, if you had only relied on their visual make-up.

Inside and outside of artifice...the other side of artifice...maybe we really learn as we pass from through...from the outside to the inside to the outside of artifice. ...hmmm....Like the cow jumping over the moon...

Well, that has to be enough words. thanks for considering this....

PS...maybe sometimes we can we overloaded with artifice too..? Especially because humans can create it so damn fast...whereas nature takes her time...
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Last edited by Suzanne Hale on Tue Jun 26, 2007 6:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:01 pm
PostPost subject: Artifice
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ar·ti·fice /ˈɑrtəfɪs/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ahr-tuh-fis] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun
1. a clever trick or stratagem; a cunning, crafty device or expedient; wile.
2. trickery; guile; craftiness.
3. cunning; ingenuity; inventiveness: a drawing-room comedy crafted with artifice and elegance.
4. a skillful or artful contrivance or expedient.
[Origin: 1525–35; < AF < L artificium craftsmanship, art, craftiness, equiv. to arti-, comb. form of ars art1 + -fic-, comb. form of facere to do1, make + -ium + -ium]

Nay, the same Solomon the king, although he excelled in the glory of treasure and magnificent buildings, of shipping and navigation, of service
and attendance, of fame and renown, and the like, yet he maketh no claim to any of those glories, but only to the glory of inquisition of truth; for so he saith expressly, “The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out”; as if, according to the innocent play of children, the Divine Majesty took delight to hide his works, to the end to have them found out; and as if kings could not obtain a greater honour than to be God’s play-fellows in that game.


—Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning (1605)


Bacon, the Father of Modern Science, knew that truth could be coaxed from hiding. That discovery needed search and romance. That a deeper understanding of nature lay behind a veil. And that a structure of knowledge that guided the inquiry of seekers could one day become what we have today in the West--the ever advancing growth of knowledge we know as science and the well known methods by which we pursue scientific research.

But this was not an entirely rational structure. It was based in part on a reverence for mystery and wonder. Scientists are not born and bred on short answer knowledge; they are carried into the world on the wings of curiosity, fascination, and a freedom to be alone.

In 1841, near the sunlit mist of an Alpine waterfall, a rainbow caught Faraday’s eye. After recording his observations about the “steadfast” behavior of light amidst the “storm of passion sweeping across it” in his journal, Michael Faraday would typically share them with his friend, James Maxwell. Nobel-prize winning physicist and author, Richard Feynman, declared that, “From a long view of the history of mankind—seen from, say, ten thousand years from now—there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the nineteenth century will be judged as Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.” But arguably it was Faraday’s discovery in the mist that marks the moment of conception.

Faraday looked past the veil and fought fire with fire, met the play of the light and its patterns with the fire of his imagination. The qualities and strategies of nature are best discovered by minds that possess like qualities and strategies of thinking and processing. Many would argue that this quality arises out of rare happenstance, I believe this supports educational practice that makes children who win rare examples of genius, and contributes to a great waste of human resources. I believe, like Bacon, that the pursuit of science can help us enlighten the practices of Education to make learning infinitely more productive and fulfilling than it is today.

Brain scientists are pointing to the brain physiology to explain its workings. They tell us that emotions are the required 'warm up' that must precede productive thinking. I think they have done a pretty good job mapping out that brainy territory. The only problem is that after the information is collected, we will still be faced with putting it to work. I think that Brain Scientists are going to have to go back and look at some of our forebears (the animals) to see how they managed learning.

Because nature does take her time, I will take a page from her book and return later with further observation and then some dialog as well on this great, mysterious subject you have connected to matters of the classroom--where undoubtedly the hand of artifice should be seen and touched. Some might argue that artifice is better left to the movies, but that would leave all those great opportunities for magic and wonder in the classroom for someone or something else to create (the gaming industry, for example), and I don't think we would want to do that to children's minds--or to our schools.

Over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That Nature makes.

---Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale


Last edited by papertalker on Mon Jul 09, 2007 8:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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Suzanne Hale



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 11
Location: Ottawa, ON Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 1:32 pm
PostPost subject: Education as artifice, Artiface as education.
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Wow. thanks for such a thoughtful answer...I am thrilled to see that you really considered my question.

I look forward to more discussion/conversation.


Suzanne
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Suzanne Hale



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 11
Location: Ottawa, ON Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 7:21 pm
PostPost subject: artifice art arffgh
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Well I gleamed a few choice phrases from your last post...the beautiful sweep from Francis Bacon to Feynman to Shakespeare and you, the joining bits inbetween.


I thought it was very interesting to note, that essential for creating is the
"freedom to be alone". That is so true and interesting, and I suppose a deal breaker. If a person is not free to be alone, by choice or design, then they have much less viability to create. What does it mean, free to be alone...for children - or adults really? How much confidence or knowledge does a person have to have, to allow another the freedom to be alone?

in regards to the classroom...you write: where undoubtedly the hand of artifice should be seen and touched. I might add, grasped firmly and shaken! Shaken like we shake hands, shaken firmly for grounding...and also shaken as though it was a salt or pepper shaker...and therefore shaken and sprinkled liberally all around the class!

I looked up the definition for art. Here is what it said:

art noun.
Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.

(Hmmm, counteract? Must be an old definition...like from 1337?)

The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.
The study of these activities.
The product of these activities; human works of beauty considered as a group.
High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value.
A field or category of art, such as music, ballet, or literature.
A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.
...ouch! definitely an old definition...

A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building.
A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer.

Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation: the art of the baker; the blacksmith's art.

Skill arising from the exercise of intuitive faculties: “Self-criticism is an art not many are qualified to practice” (Joyce Carol Oates).
(use of intuitive facilities...animal nature?)

arts Artful devices, stratagems, and tricks.
Artful contrivance; cunning. (close to artifice...as seen earlier...)

Printing. Illustrative material.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin ars, art-.]

SYNONYMS art, craft, expertise, knack, know-how, technique. These nouns denote skill in doing or performing that is attained by study, practice, or observation: the art of rhetoric; pottery that reveals an artist's craft; political expertise; a knack for teaching; mechanical know-how; a precise diving technique.

I just wondered how the word art and artifice are related or not?
NO doubt somehow art means elevated....and artifice...something lower..yet in my mind both are devoted to creating a response, a reaction as though what was experienced is real, when actually it is created for a very desired, specific outcome. The first element of both being choice...one has to choose what to create. Maybe the difference is depth/breadth of choice?

hope these wonderings haven't gone too far afield.
Suzanne
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:16 am
PostPost subject: The Land of Far Afield
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No apologies for venturing far afield. Didn't you use 'all over the place" to explore the subject of Artifice?

I like the concept of silence you introduce, which is in contrast to the cold-hearted classroom exhortation: "Johnny, Stop Daydreaming." In my school, if a child who makes that shift into his inner world would be invited to share, if he was so inclined, his journey.

Dreams: I will have to report on what Rodolfo Llinas has to say about the brain's capacity to dream voluntarily at another juncture, but whatever it is, you can certainly say that this power that derives from the brain's symbolic nature to interpret for us some of our unconscious needs, fears, and desires in a mysterious brain bubble of image, narrative, emotion, and vision is a form of artifice.

In fact, the brain's ability to make visual sense out of the world through an eye designed to absorb light and then reconstruct and re-invent and re-process that light into an image of the world is itself an act of artifice that is the power we inherited from our one-celled ancestors (thank you).

All of life has used artifice as part of its learning equipment, and that equipment has served its user well when it worked in accordance with nature.

Artifice
Interface
Ediface

I am streaming now: The overarching geometry of the constellations. The invisible filament attaching us now on the world wide web that 'holds' this web site along with the pixels being punched out by my fingers poking plastic keys with symbols imprinted on them--not to mention the amazing amalgam of metal and plastic containing the integrated circuitry in my computer that propels it all forward...the same web that people get 'caught in' out of habit and which they can't easily escape after years of 'user interface' is not unlike the web spun by Mr. and Ms. Spider who must learn to adroitly navigate the filaments they create lest they catch themselves in their silken gauze.

And the artifice involved in the creation of our modern systems of learning--our schools? Certainly they are traps as much as they are opportunities.

More to come
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