[lbo-talk] Platypus: what we are, what we do, and why

Alan Rudy alan.rudy at gmail.com
Mon Apr 12 20:30:17 PDT 2010

On Sat, Apr 10, 2010 at 5:32 PM, Jeffrey Fisher <jeff.jfisher at gmail.com>wrote:

> Speaking of Bloom's taxonomy, is there anything resembling empirical
> evidence supporting it? Or is it just something that Bloom pulled out of
> his
> behind and everybody glommed onto it? I've not gone and read the book --
> which, yes, I suppose I should do, just 'cuz nobody who *espouses* the
> taxomony has read it, either -- but it seems to be entirely what you might
> call *a priori* in nature . . .
Well, I don't think Bloom et al. pulled it out of his/their behind/s... but this stuff is OLD school educational psych, initiated in the late 1940s and "completed" in the mid-1950s. The whole taxonomy is more interesting than the six "cognitive" steps alone ) http://www.businessballs.com/bloomstaxonomyoflearningdomains.htm#bloom%27s%20taxonomy%20overview), but it's basic structure lends itself to reification (and forgetting the five "affective" and five "psychomotor" steps - much less integrating the three columns.

My sense is that the NCLB and RttT crap basically treats the six cognitive steps as a bottom-to-top and accumulating series. First you learn to recall data before understanding it. Second you seek to be able to apply your understanding and analyse the structure of your knowledge before, finally, engaging in second order analyses in order to creatively synthesize that knowledge and evaluate its utility relative to others. Such an approach, which may or may not be in line with Bloom's intent, assumes students are blank slates/empty containers that are activated by the inscription of knowledge by educational professionals. I'm sure Bloom intendes that inscription and activation to occur through receptiveness and imitation, reaction and manipulation, action and precision, value articulation and integration, and internalization and naturalization - where all five dual steps are more or less controlled by the educational professional.

Now, of course, all of this goes directly against my own learning style - which hated every single minute of classes that treated me in this kind of infantilizing way - and my pedagogical style which seeks to engender understanding and data recall by provoking students to engage, synthesize or reject (but still remember and understand) new material on the basis of their already rich and contradictory experiences, knowledges, values and naturalizations. I know that many people - my wife included - are quite good at step-wise data, understanding, analysis, synthesis and evaluation methods... I believe, however, that such pedagogical commitments tend (not universally, but strongly) to produce rote and utilitarian approaches to the life of the mind, social/environmental justice and political economic power/lessness.

I want my students to find learning encompassingly erotic rather than mechanically reproductive - anyone wonder anymore why I like Haraway(?) - inspiring rather than drudgery and No Child Left Behind, the Race to the Top and every enactment of Bloom's taxonomy stikes me as leaving young people in a uninspiring and depoliticized world of mechanical drudgery... what a nightmare.


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