Re: Elite post-this and that

Michael J. Salvo (
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 11:20:52 -0600

At 12:14 AM 10/13/96 -0600, Eugene Ortiz wrote (in response to me):
>I agree with Steve, that many fycomp students are probably so po
>that they don't know a mo exists. Still, they ARE in a "box" and it's very
>much tied with a very strong ribbon manufactured by the Department of Mo.
>It seems to me that we too often get stuck in the argument over how best to
>impart knowledge or skills. But imparting knowledge or skills is top-down
>and assumes a finite amount of knowledge or skills to impart and I thought
>we were past that. Better to concentrate on inquiry, don't you think?:
>discussing ideas for ways to open students to seeing that it's okay to
>inquire, that inquiry is more important than imparted knowledge, that
>ultimately reading and writing is the means for inquiry, and that inquiry
>neither begins nor ends within the confines of the aforementioned hallowed

thanks for the response, gene, and jeff too. i think one of my worries
right now is that our halls will become *hollowed* -- emptied of all
substance -- if we allow our culture to berate us into feeling guilty for
our positions of relative comfort -- and dumping baby out with bathwater.
even as a grad student, and an adjunct for three years before this, i
recognize that i have *relative* comfort. what i don't want is exxon
university or more branch campuses of mcdonald's burger u.

gene, i agree a hundred percent: inquiry is the key. inquisitiveness
creates a ground for lifelong learning and for overcoming the fear of
knowledge acquisition. however, students who have been trained to be
passive receptors of static knowledge which is being doled out to them in
shiny shrink-wrapped boxes often benefit from disscussion of critical
literacy. ironically, students have to be encouraged from the perceived
"top" of the heirarchy to engage in inquiry.

but then the trick is to show that the top of the heirarchy ain't even
visible ... yet. isn't this where the grading thread erupted? some of us
feel compelled (impelled / imperiled?) by some vague authoritative pressure
to grade "objectively" -- rather than examining the social webs that
generate the momentum behind bell curves and grading standards. what's
important, for me, is to help students generate authentic questions and then
have them generate answers for those questions ... but "authentic" is an
impossible measurement, and it gives rise to the whole expressivist mess of
"authentic voice" -- i'm not talking about that exactly ... but about this
student-generated inquisitive knowledge-making classroom.

so gene, i agree that *ideally* i should be able to suggest inquiry to my
students and have them pursue knowledge *making* rather than acquiring
stasis. however, it is necessary to cajole students out of complacency and
passivity through rhetoric within a pedagogy designed to *encourage* (not
enforce!) critical literacy, student-generated inquiry, conscientizacao.

in our context, when students are passive, and *expect* domino's to deliver
their term papers in 30 minutes or the next one's free, if we want to get to
inquiry over banking-concept education, we have to confront and destabilize
student's expectations. and it takes a little top-down rhetorical work -- i
have to construct an appeal which makes sense to students which allows
alternative ways of seeing/thinking to exist. pete sands (pete, you on this
list?) said that as the teacher, he builds a house into which his class
moves, then the class spends the semester renovating the class. the
metaphor of moving walls, making additions, and changing the floorplan works
well for an inquiry-driven classroom, but *someone* (the teacher) has to
create that first floorplan ... but then let students re-create the
structure *and* the purposes of the structure to fit individual needs.

it's a dangerous business. i don't think i've been completely successful,
however there have been moments in which i've seen the possibilities open up
before me ... and i'm not talking about a *confrontational* pedagogy but a
*problem posing* education. my favorite question is "why." if a student
makes an assertion, i ask "why." than i ask "why" the argument and details
used to support the argument are effective. "why" do you think that? "why"
is that something everyone should know? "why" do you think it happened that

and "just because" and "it's common sense" *aren't* acceptable answers.