Re[4]: grading ourselves to death

Michael Hamende (HamendeM@CTS.DB.ERAU.EDU)
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 16:29:47 EST

Jeff says to Mike HamendE:

"Mike, I would quibble with Sharon on this statement because it
ignores two important facts about power relations: they are neither
universal nor sufficient for manifesting authority. "

I guess that depends on how you want to define power and authority. I
think Dr. C means that the power that resides in language and
rhetoric. I agree with her that language is a pretty powerful thing.
Is it more powerful than a 357? That depends on what use you intend.
If you want to kill someone a gun is much more effective and efficient
than rhetoric. However, if you want to persuade someone in a
courtroom for instance or persuade your way on an airplane a gun won't
get you too far.

"A gun speaks a lot louder than words these days."

See above.

"You piss someone off at the wrong time in the wrong place and you die
no matter what you have to say."

In this case the only solution is body armor, a tank, or a bigger gun.
Your argument doesn't seem very productive and is rather extreme.

"My point is that power does not shift into the hands of the person
who has "knowledge." Power is only knowledge insofar as it enables
the user to gain access to positions of authority to mobilize socially
recognized power within hierarchical human relations."

Knowledge is very much power in all human relations. The power of a
gun is very limited in its uses.

"When the hierarchies fail..."

There are no human relations.

"..., no authority is awarded the speaker."

As we discussed at length before authority gets "awarded" all the time
regardless of hierarchies.

"Because the power resides not in the individual, nor in the
linguistic system, but in the mutual relationship shared by the
speakers and because there are numerous intervening social relations
that affect how hierarchies are percieved, power can only be mobilized
when a whole host of interrelated and often conflicting cultural
relationships are alligned."

I don't think its that complex. Individuals have power whether they
deserve it or align it or not. Language has power. Both regardless
of social relations. The power of both get mobilized weather the
planets are aligned or not.

"An example: I might be able to talk the talk of investment
banking and be able to demonstrate an extensive knowledge by showing
the successes of my own investment portfolio, but Wallstreet bankers
wouldn't give me a glance unless I graduated from a small group of
highly regarded graduate MBA programs."

Bad example. I don't think this is true. I'm sure there are any
number of investment bankers who graduated from other places or not at

"Transfer this example into learning standard English, or rhetorical
moves, or even critical thinking. None of these cases are universal
or sufficient to make a difference for our students within a range of
different contexts."

Rhetoric, language, and critical thinking are (and should be even
more) universal. If students learn them they will make a significant
difference to them as they go about their lives.

"All I am saying here is that "empowerment" is the wrong word."

I never said anything about "empowerment."

"We do not give power or provide a means for students to take power."

Maybe you don't. But I believe that students will access a certain
amount and kind of power if they learn rhetoric and the use of

"As i have said, power don't work that way. We may be working to
enfranchize students, or help them begin to see the ways in which
power functions within our society. And, we may genuinely feel good
about what we have helped our students learn and accomplish after they
leave us. We may have accomplished things that neither we or our
students even recognize in terms of motivation, or life direction.
But we have not given power. I have grown to distrust the word so
much that it is nonfunctional for me (similar to multicultural


"Using empowerment to enhance citizenship is perhaps the most
complex of symbolic actions. Think about the implications of what
this means. First of all, good citizens are citizens to the
nation-state first, themselves later (at least this is what folks have
implied here). What makes a good citizen? Think about this question
in light of the 1960s or the 1920s. From the state's perspective, a
good citizen is one who is complacent, happy, willing to work hard and
fight for the state. A good citizen is competitive and materialistic
and contributes to the gross national product. A good citizen does
not challenge institutional structures unless they somehow cross
ideological lines that are shared by a broad spectrum of other
citizens. In recent rhetoric, a good citizen does not demand
PC--impose tollerance rather than teach it."

You define a certain kind of citizenship. Not the kind Beth, Sharon,
and I had in mind (I think).

"When we invoke the political language of citizenship we need to be
careful to say what exactly we mean. I'm betting the things I have
named here were not what you had in mind."

You got that right. See above.

"But, because education is a function of the state..."

Sounds like we agree that that's a problem. But I think there is a
lot of education that is not a function of "the state."

"...and we have been so imbued with the rhetoric of democracy espoused
by Dewey and others, it is nearly impossible to talk about education
or educational reform without invoking the discourses of nationalism."

An educated citizen is better for themselves and the state. Both will
be better for it. A rhetorical position that ignores the well-being
of the other to serve only the individual is not good either. That
kind of thinking is what has us bordering on extinction now. There is
no such thing as the isolated individual who does not interact with
others. And our primary method of interaction is through language.
Hence language has a certain amount and kind of power.

"THose are dangerous waters."

I'm not sure why?

Mike Hamende