Title: LAWRENCE Cremin’s LEGACY: TRACES OF EDUCATION IN THE ORDINARY BUSINESS OF LIVING
Chair: Michael Scroggins (Teachers College Columbia University)
Organizer: James J Mullooly (CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO)
Discussant: Raymond P McDermott (Stanford University)
Session Abstract: A pertinent legacy of the educational historian Lawrence Cremin for anthropology is to be found within Traditions of American Education (New York: Basic Books, 1977). In this broad work Cremin stakes out an interactionalist position, “From this interactionist view stems the definition of education as purposeful, the conception of the configuration as a patterning of institutions, the view of personality as a biosocial emergence, and the idea of the educative process as a continuum of contemporaneous and successive transactions. (162)” Cremin’s oft quoted definition of education flows directly from this position. Elaborating upon Cremin’s interactionalist definition of education is beneficial for two related reasons. First, as Cremin noted elsewhere, his definition of education is narrower than definitions of enculturation or socialization. An immediate consequence of this narrowed perspective is to focus attention on the purposeful activity of participants and away from hidden process occurring with bounded minds. Second, Cremin’s definition of education lacks a sense of inevitability. Education cannot be automatic, nor can an outcome be pre-determined. Educative interactions are, rather, contingent upon, and open to unforeseen improvisations, interventions and resistance. Interactions are both formed by and forming of activity and must be considered within the moorings of a particular context and a particular purpose. The papers in this panel explore the interaction between unexpected events encountered during the ordinary business of living and the purposefully educative reactions to them. The explanatory power of Cremin’s approach to education throughout the lives of people is clearly illustrated in the wide array of contexts included in this panel. The first three papers focus upon aspects of career development both in the U.S. and abroad. Scroggins describes the applied work of engineers as they navigate the unknown waters of their future livelihood as engineers. Bang focuses on the work of South Korean high school students and their parents as they work to improve their chances at success in university. Santana’s paper illustrates the ongoing work of Mexican wrestlers as they build and maintain their careers in the public domain of Mexican popular culture. The last three papers focus on issues that are more peripheral to career building but are no less important. Van Tiem describes the work of psychotherapists who work with the unpredictable behavior of horses as a means to educating patients about themselves. Wessler’s paper illustrates the educative power that reactions to urban violence can have for children in Harlem. Finally, Mullooly’s paper focuses on unexpected moments in the formative years of students and the significance such moments bring to these students’ future career choices. The session will conclude with a discussion by Raymond McDermott who will link all the papers together through a discussion of Cremin’s theoretical frame.
Engineering Opportunities: Tactics and Appropriation In the Ordinary Business of Selling Yourself
Michael Scroggins (Teachers College Columbia University)
Paper Abstract: In his essay Public Education (1976), Cremin brought attention to those non-school institutions which play a pedagogic role. To condense and restate Cremin’s argument, legion are the institutions which educate while few are the institutions we recognize as educative. Engineering pedagogy is, at its core, based on applied work. This has two immediate consequences, a) within engineering, experience is prized over academic qualifications and b) engineers have an easier time than most professionals slipping between the worlds of private enterprise and the academe. This is another way of saying that engineering, more than most disciplines, has one foot firmly in the business of ordinary life and the other tepidly in the realm of theory. As such, the training of engineers is a productive place to find those institutions which are rarely thought of as educative. I will argue through a case study of an engineering project at a middle tier public university in California that the interaction between two unexpected events a) a change in California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, which has caused a contraction in the variety of lab classes and academic activities available to engineering students and b) the ongoing and persistent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have caused a change in the technical skills required by engineering firms, have together caused a change in the experiences engineering students deem necessary to attract an employer.
Lucha Libre: Constraining “Free Struggle” In Contemporary Mexico
Adela L Santana (Independent Researcher)
Paper Abstract: Lucha libre (which translates as “free struggle”) is a spectacle located at the crossroads of combat sports, popular theater and circus. Yet in spite of its comedic element, lucha libre requires an end to each match where winners and losers are clearly distinguished. Additionally, the committed interaction and performance of the public is essential to the ongoing, culturally productive value of lucha libre as a defining spectacle in contemporary Mexico. Even if every spectator knows the rules of the game almost as a religious mantra, these rules are voiced very loudly at the beginning of each match: “these luchadores will fight 2 out of 3 falls without a time limit”. What follows is a spectacle based as much upon the meticulous gym training whereby grapples, falls and conditioning drills are learned as it is on the rigorous mental discipline that is worked by a luchador in order to develop ring knowledge, his/her own particular charisma and an understanding of the audience and how to interact with it. The improvisations, interventions and acts of resistance that occur within this highly bounded space require a complex conceptualization of education that will engage with the intensely malleable significations that are put forth in every match. I will utilize Lawrence Cremin’s theoretical frame to approach the wide spectrum of unpredictable outcomes that incorporate the public as well as the luchadores into a vortex of strenuous physical action, cultural symbolism, gender and body politics as well as inventive conceptions of self and body.
Pedagogical Objects: Education In the Context of Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy
Jennifer Margaret Van Tiem (Teachers College)
Paper Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore moments and processes of education about the self as an object made available to pedagogical surveillance. In this context, it is imperative that education be “contingent, and open to unforseen improvisations, interventions and resistance,” in order to vivify a kind of symmetry between the work process (therapy) and the object being worked upon (the self). In the context of equine-assisted psychotherapy, a horse mediates this symmetry between therapy and the self. Networks of context-specific artifacts, people, and horses offer a somatic and emotional context and it is through activating aspects of these elements, in a particular order, that therapy is intended to occur. That which brought individuals to the therapy session is rarely pointed to and whatever encouraged attendance is exercised (or exorcised) by a curriculum of lessons made up of particular work that specifically entails practicing seemingly-extravagant techniques with one’s body. At the same time, therapy sessions almost never conform to the planned curriculum and, yet, the work of the therapy is not compromised. Given these observations, equine-assisted psychotherapy offers a revealing context in which to explore and expand upon Cremin’s notion of “the educative process as a continuum of contemporaneous and successive transactions,” as the potential asymmetries offered by the horse raises questions about what qualifies as an educative transaction and process, while also forces attention to that which is “empirically available” in order to be responsible to the uniqueness of the horse.
From “Merit” to “Merit(s)”: Unintended Outcomes In South Korean University Admissions
Yookyung Bang (Teachers College Columbia University)
Paper Abstract: In 2007, ten South Korean universities began to implement alternative criteria for student evaluation, and more universities followed the trend soon thereafter. Instead of relying exclusively on standardized test scores and high school grades, these institutions adopted a holistic approach, citing prestigious U.S. universities as their models, in order to “qualitatively” evaluate each student’s “potentials and individual characteristics” and to reduce pressure on students and parents spending much money and time to prepare for the high-stake national standardized test for university entrance. This research explores how South Korean high school students and families navigate the recent changes in university admission policies and how they “informally” educate themselves about the new system in order to gain access to “formal” higher education. During the nine-week study, students and families were observed to attend information sessions held by for-profit private educational institutes and universities and participate in online forums in order to educate themselves about the new definition of “merit.” As Cremin’s notion of education points out, in such educative moments, the produced outcomes may be intended or unintended, and the unintended outcomes “may be more significant than the intended.” As the students and other stakeholders explore and contest the new admission system, a specific and relative notion of individual “merit” emerges in the process.
“Ordinary Violence”:Harlem Youth and Everyday Education
Sarah Wessler (Teachers College Columbia University)
Paper Abstract: This research explores how adolescents acquire safety information in informal settings outside of education institutions, clinics and community programs. Homicide is the leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 19 in New York City and Harlem has one of the highest preventable mortality rates in the United States. Harlem teens report frequent exposure to violence in schools and neighborhoods and have high school dropout rates above the national average. Preliminary research findings explore strategies used by youth to make sense of ordinary violence: one young woman describes the annual ritual practice to honor a murdered loved one, another young man reveals his methods to prevent harassment by local police, and a third teen reads an online news report to separate fact and fiction of a brutal neighborhood shooting that resulted in the death of an ex-boyfriend. During this three-month pilot study, adolescents living in Harlem were observed at home watching television, hanging out with friends, and communicating with one another via social networking tools and websites. Youth shared anecdotes and discourses about neighborhood violence and constantly developed strategies to ensure health and safety. Findings from this research will provide educators, administrators and policymakers with a clearer understanding of how safety information among urban youth is learned and disseminated informally. Through these everyday conversations and practices we can more adequately bridge discourses between safety and disparity to address the complex needs of urban adolescents.
Unexpected Education: Understanding the STEM Pipeline In California’s Central Valley
James J Mullooly (CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO)
Paper Abstract: There has been considerable focus on the current underrepresentation of U.S. citizens – and minorities in particular – in STEM fields (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). In response to this trend, a number of efforts have been designed to encourage U.S. students of all ages, classes and ethnicities to become more interested in STEM areas. The current study illustrates how Lawrence Cremin’s approach to education sheds light on an improved understanding of this problem. Cremin’s definition of education “recognizes that there is often conflict between what educators are trying to teach and what is learned from the ordinary business of living” (1976). Cremin’s implicit dichotomy between “other phenomena” and “ordinary phenomena” moves away from the classic dichotomies of formal/informal education, school/home, best/worst practices by shifting the emphasis from approaches entrapped in “opportunities to learn” methodologies to approaches which are open to the unknown and how to prepare students for such unknowns. The presentation reports on two ethnographic investigations of the sorts of “unexpected educations” Cremin’s work accommodates. The first looks at the efforts of one engineering students’ work at organizing a team of poor, rural Latino middle school students to compete in a large robotics competition in their region. The second looks at the routine activities of teachers and students at an urban public high school that is incorporating a focus on “unexpected educations” through the implementation of a novel pedagogical model that offers a variety of career pathways to students.