[Its.an.education.project] An "About" statement? (Was: untangling constructionism)
echerlin at gmail.com
Sun May 11 10:40:12 CEST 2008
I have to apologize for misleading somebody into thinking that my
comments in the e-mail below were quoted from Seymour Papert's book,
Constructionism. This led to my words being credited to Seymour on the
Sugarlabs Wiki. Since the quotation is from me, the author of the page
might consider whether that is what is wanted on the page. (I have put
my own name on the page.)
When I copied and pasted the words "the following essay" I lost the
context in which the actual essay from Constructionism follows next. I
did not realize that by writing my own essay afterwards, I would
produce this ambiguity.
On Mon, May 5, 2008 at 2:31 PM, Edward Cherlin <echerlin at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, May 5, 2008 at 8:05 AM, Greg DeKoenigsberg <gdk at redhat.com> wrote:
>> I am a novice in the language of constructivism,
> Seymour Papert admits to a similar problem. "...when the concept
> itself is in evolution it is appropriate to keep intellectual doors
> open and this is where we are now." I'm copying him on this, and I
> hope he will give me some guidance on how I can construct something
> better than what I am telling you about. Let us begin with what Papert
> himself wrote.
> The following essay is the first chapter in Seymour Papert and Idit
> Harel's book Constructionism (Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1991). Out
> of print. $186.83 used.
> Constructionism vs. Instructionism, lecture
> Constructionism should not simply be defined, Papert says, because
> that would trivialize it. What we are looking for, in the spirit of
> Costructionism itself, is ways to guide people to create the kinds of
> experience that allow them to construct similar concepts in their own
> worlds. Those who already have such experiences get much of the idea
> immediately. A suitable construct is already there, waiting for its
> new name. Those who are ready to try the experiment at length and in
> detail can readily grasp more and more of its meaning over time. The
> problem comes if you encounter somebody who responds to the question,
> "You know how you built up your own understanding of the world, don't
> you?" with some version of "No, I don't, and you can't make me." Since
> they are very likely correct on both points, it is quite difficult to
> help them. But not impossible.
> In such a case it sometimes turns out that the other person has been
> given incorrect information, and correctly rejects it, or has
> misunderstood something. But I have encountered naysayers in this and
> other realms who are basically not listening because they already know
> the truth, and do not wish to be confused by the facts.
> It would be an interesting study for some to find out how such people
> constructed their intellectual fortresses, although the answer in many
> known cases is quite depressing: Their parents forced it on them.
> Cults, Flat-Earthers, and other such closed societies. In other cases,
> it results from reaction to mortal fear: AIDS deniers, knee-jerk
> Islam-bashers, Crusader-bashers. Cognitive dissonance is the
> phenomenon in which a conflict between belief and fact makes belief
> stronger, resulting in rwars in religion, politics, software
> preferences, and education theories. Sometimes, we just don't know.
> The most direct way to get a handle on the real meaning of
> constructionism is to pay attention to the ordinary misunderstandings
> that occur in your life, and what it takes to clear them up. Not what
> you suppose it takes, or what others tell you it takes, but what it
> actually takes. Observing the residue of misunderstandings that don't
> get cleared up is also essential, although in that case you only get
> to observe what didn't work.
> The great task for children is not to get the facts right. Nobody gets
> to do that. Sure there are plenty of facts, but which are they, and
> what do they mean?
> The great task is to construct a personal epistemology, ontology, and
> ethics, not as a formal system, but as behavior, even brain structure.
> Epistemology is the construction of personal standards for telling
> fact from fancy, truth from fiction, and certainty from doubt.
> Ontology is the construction of theories of what exists. Ethical
> constructions remind us of what we think we should do even if we don't
> want to, and why. Everybody has them, and normally no two of us agree
> on them. The epistemology of Prussian-style education is, the King and
> his ministers are always right, and even if they weren't you would
> have no business questioning them. Or, at the classroom level, "It's
> true because I said so, now shut up and sit down!" The same attitude
> is common, even usual, in ontology and ethics as well. It's real
> because I said so, You have to because I said so.
> Most people assume that mathematics is a science of perfection in
> which everything is proved with complete certainty. Mathematicians
> don't agree. The divide into Idealist/Realist (Mathematical objects
> and ideas have independent reality) and Nominalist/Formalist camps
> (Math is just syntactic games with symbols, and isn't "about"
> anything), among many others. (See Philosophy of Mathematics at
> Wikipedia for a good sampling.) They don't agree on what constitutes a
> proof, either.
> The situation in all other subjects is, of course, far worse than
> that. Descarte's epistemology, starting with, "For all my doubting, I
> cannot doubt that I doubt," led him to an ontology in which people
> have souls and animals don't, so animals don't have real feelings, and
> from there to the ethical proposition that people can do anything they
> like to animals, and nobody has a right to object. Every other formal
> epistemology and ontology proposed in philosophy, religion, politics,
> or "practical" life seems to have similarly dubious ethical
> consequences. Certainly the people who hold quite other theories all
> think so.
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