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Subject:

Fwd: Re: ?

From:

Rosan Chow <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Rosan Chow <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 11 Aug 2000 09:22:37 -500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (162 lines)

I am forwarding some correspondence between Norm and I. I feel that his insights are too
valuable not to share. Hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. 

Rosan


Rosan Chow
Graduate Student
College of Design
North Carolina State University
– 

From: Norm Sheehan <[log in to unmask]>
To: Rosan Chow <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 13:19:16 +1000

Thanks Rosan

It is really easy to interpret m y statement as a support for airy-fairy
individualistic creative fancies, however, i have been part of the critical
pedagogy tradition for a long time now and therefore believe that the
notion of literacy as a critical freedom to construct identity and me aning
in the world is too essential an element of human agency to be linked to a
presumption of value. After all it is the assumption that the illiterate
has no value (ideas, intelligence, understanding etc), when it is
illiteracy that stops them from exp ressing the value that they DO have,
that lies at the core of Friere's project. 

In the context of my work the products of the Aboriginal designers i work
with have often been seen as meaningless and valueless in their local
context ...outside this conte xt in the Museums and art galleries they are
valued at the very highest levels...this applies even more strongly to
Indigenous Knowledge systems. IK has been subject to direct projects of
extermination in Australia (& many other areas including the Frieri an
context) 

So i would state that while it is easy (and necessary)to propose questions
concerning the value of an individuals product in a PhD study... in doing
so we must be aware that any value we impose is only valid within the
limited context of the attitudes that drive this value formation and
interpretation & that all new ideas will necessarily conflict with
established value systems in some way. 

I think that this leaves us with some alternatives (please add to these
because i think this is the key to your question)

Critical pedagogy and post-colonial theory provide us with the opportunity
to see that when we establish a single continuum of values as a means for
providing some kind of social certainity (a 'good' PhD) that we are also
constructi ng patterns of inclusion/exclusion and that these patterns not
only limit possibilities in the process but also inhibit the flexibility of
the system to address changing contexts. Values are good but limit flexible
and equitable & timely responses to difference and change. So PhD needs to
balance value judgements to individual project not impose norms.

In education (which a PhD is) precriptions for action can state what must
be known as an assessment device...however this often also becomes to mean
what CAN be known...in research this approach is limiting. i would suggest
that standardised assessment (values) are in conflict with PhD program
intent & implementation. Although they are necessary in selection of
candidates and some aspects of the assessment of completed theses. Values
themselves are important but more so IS WHEN AND HOW they are applied. This
is an essential part of program DESIGN especially if the program is
individual and creative. The means & timing of value assessment may be more
import ant than the values themselves. 

Critical theory training is inherent in the progress of higher education
(we evaluate the dimensions of our subject more as we move towards a PhD) I
TRUST that each project has its value (even if i can not see it) because
learning is not only about the project it is also about the learner. One
role of a supervisor (especially in research) is to facilitate learning
about the nature of self-deception in research intent and evaluation. In
Indigenous contexts ambition, self-g ratification,& a need for power and
control are seen as self-deception and the focus is on true learning which
usually comes with some deep personal sacrifice. Imagine these criteria
being imposed in a political science, marketing or economics PhD. 

In a ny case Trust in the learners intent accompanies their commitment to
this task...in other words this PhD thing is not easy so if a person makes
the commitment  TRUST THEM and trust in the pain of the process which will
transform them. Also trust that thei r project will have value to others
someplace and time... Value in the learning potentionl that it provides for
others (even if this is as a negative model because in research we often
learn more from our failures)is also important.

 PhDs are all 'self-i ndulgent' from most points of view but i also think
your question relates to how useful the information they produce is. Who
can pre-judge this without risk...a completely self-indulgent research may
provide beneficial world changing results...Einstien wa s completely
self-absorbed in persuing a symmetry that he alone believed must exist in
physical mathematics...sure some PhDs will provide 'useless' information...
but being self-indulgent may not be a factor in this.

i believe very strongly in individual human agency as the well-spring of
collective worth and choose to suspend judgement and appreciate the
learning process as the source for renewal, insight and the expansion of
individual (and therfore collective) consciousness. I also fear value
structur es because i know they have layers of (often hidden) exclusions
that limit people. 

So we know that human agency through learning and sharing is worthwhile
because this is our natural instinct as social beings...in a phD this
relies on the relationship b etween the mentor (supervisor) and the
candidate (not student) if a PhD is self-indulgent and meaningless these
two are responsible. I think that there are very strong values at work here
in the PhD structure...personal, individual & contextual values based in
human trust...if we see it this way i cannot percieve any stronger value
system to ensure relevant and true learning.

Norm


At 10:48  9/08/00 -500, you wrote:
>Hi Norm
>
>I have been thinking about your posting and something is bugging me. I
hope that 
>you may help me to think it through. It is about the individual and the
collective.
>
>Although I sense that if there is no individual development, there can
never be 
>collective development, I have a question concerning about duty. If the
essence of 
>a Ph.D. is to cultivate individuals, how can we ensure individual
exploration doesn't 
>turn into self-indulgence that has no relevance to anyone else's life? 
>
>I ask this question because I think to be able to do a Ph.D. is a
privilege even though part of
>it is earned, part of it is just pure chance, a chance that is not given
to everyone equally within
>our social systems. I often think that the privileged owes it to the
public to do something
>that is relevant to them. I think that no one can be someone unless she or
he is related to 
>someone else. To be relevant is part of our humanity . (Paulo Freire's
thinking
>underlines my thoughts). 
>
>Thanks Rosan
>
> 
>Rosan Chow
>Graduate Student
>College of Design
>North Carolina State University
>â?? e
>
>
[log in to unmask]
Norman Sheehan
Senior Research Officer
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit
University of Queensland
Brisbane Old 4072 Australia




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