EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Race & Racialization in Canada

In Cooperative Blog Posts on October 31, 2013 at 10:13 am

(by Emma, Mike, Josh, & Shenai)

In Jennifer Kelly’s Under the Gaze, Kelly explores “the process of racializing society” and looks into how “social groups are distinguished and subjected to differential and unequal treatment on the basis of supposedly biological, phenotypical and cultural characteristics”. I found the discussion lead quite well into the critical conception of ideology brought up in the previous readings by Thompson. I found that Kelly took a similar approach to this ideology, although possibly had a slightly more negative conception of ideology, stating that: “we can understand the function of ideology as one of obscuring the exploitative relations”. By obscuring these relations, an ideology can allow for the maintenance of that relationship and Read the rest of this entry »


The Fetishism of Educational Credentials (and the secret thereof)

In Commentary on October 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm

(by Liz, Adam, Shaylene, & Alannah)

Karl Marx was born in 1818 to middle-class parents in Trier. He was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. He is the founder of the theory known as Marxism, which holds that societies advance through class struggle. He is the author of Capital Volume 1, which for our purpose discusses fetishism, which is the power an object is believed to hold over other objects. In particular, it discusses how society’s values determine the importance of commodities.

Looking at Fetishism in terms of the value or derived pleasure of an object, one may become entirely removed from the actual value or reality of that object.  There may be great social status placed on a very expensive wedding dress, and it can be said that wearing a beautiful dress would bring undeniable pleasure to the bride. But does a fancy wedding dress add value to the outcome of a marriage? (See David Harvey’s discussion of this topic on YouTube…Marx’s concept of fetishism…not wedding dresses)

Now let’s take this same fetishism and place it on education.  The value of a good education is held quite highly in most societies and is often attached to a higher title or status.  People work hard to get into University thinking that once they graduate they will have a fantastic job and make a lot of money.  This idealistic outcome is not the same as placing value on education for the purpose of expanding knowledge.  Educational institutions seem to perpetuate this ideal of school equalling success in society in order to stimulate enrollment.  The reality is that merely obtaining an education does not guarantee a career or success and, although it does open doors, most people do not realize that education is just a tool.  Here the true value of knowledge is replaced with the idealistic dreams of prestige and money.

Objects and services take on inherent values above and beyond their objective value. Education is one of, if not the single most important feature in social mobility, and due to this it arises as a positional good as people clamor to distinguish themselves from the pack. A cruel reality in our society is that once everyone has an education, the important distinguishing-factor that confers so many advantages becomes the standard. We can see this today in our societies, youth unemployment in Europe reaching 26 million(1 in 4 eligible workers under 25), many graduated with postsecondary degrees, despite there being 8 million less youth in Europe than there was in 1989 (Dorling, 2013). A degree itself no longer guarantees a job , so people are going above and beyond. The article about the kindergarten test prep shows this concept; when education is available for all, then students must be  exceptional or from private ,elite institutions (think Harvard, Princeton, etc) to maintain  education as a political good by differentiating themselves relative to the pack.

What power or value do humans attribute to objects in society? What forms does this ‘object’ take? Consider a person without an ‘education’. What is their demand in society? Are they valued, in terms of wage, at a similar status as those who have a formal education? Would they be able to find a ‘desirable’ job? If society did not place such high value on education, would you be here right now?


Dorling, D(August 2013). Generation Jobless: The worst youth employment crisis in European history should be blamed on its millionaires. Retrieved from http://www.newstatesman.com/economics/2013/08/generation-jobless-worst-youth-unemployment-crisis-european-history-should-be-blam

Education as a “Positional Good”

In Activities on October 26, 2013 at 11:00 am
Do you ever feel caught up in a “rat race” in your education? In generations before yours (assuming you are a 20-something), post-secondary education was much more a rite-of-passage: an opportunity to explore the world and learn about oneself. But many young adults today are instead pre-occupied with the anxiety of positioning themselves for entry into a tough labour market. Teachers and parents may have fuelled this anxiety for you and/or your peers with dire warnings that adulthood without some sort of post-secondary credential is a dead end. Under such conditions, education can become an exercise without joy.
In our next class, we’ll spend some time thinking about and discussing the conditions that have led to education as a tenuous defense against what Barbara Ehrenreich (1989) described as a middle class Fear of Falling. Ultimately, we hope you’ll be able draw on the readings below and  some of your own experiences and observations to think about the link between formal education and social mobility. To this end, we’ll unpack two questions:

1) What are positional goods, and how do they relate to education and credentials?

Once we’ve got that sorted out:

2) How does education relate to social mobility?

Start with Marx’s “The Fetishism of Commodities and the secret thereof,” taken from Capital Vol. I, Ch. 1. It’s a brain buster, but see if you can work out what it means to “fetishize” something (still not sure? see herehere, and, less obviously here). Also, try to figure out the distinction between “use value” and “exchange value” in commodities (or “goods” – we’ll use those terms interchangeably).

The two short articles on weddings and test preparation for elite kindergartens (no kidding!) are current examples of “positional competition,” a concept which will be taken up in more detail in an excerpt from a 2002 Keynote entitled “The Opportunity Trap: education and employment in a global economy.” In this lecture, Phillip Brown challenges the rhetoric of governments and international organizations like the OECD that “knowledge economies” demand increasing levels of education. As you read this excerpt, see if you can deepen your understanding of “positional conflict” and make connections to the two short pieces you’ve just read (Administrators note: oops! forgot to link to this great blog post!) . How does this lead to the “opportunity trap,” and (just for fun,) why is this a particular problem for the middle class? Also, give some thought to how education and credentials “sort and select” people for occupations.

Finally – and this isn’t directly addressed in the readings but we’ll take it up in class – give some thought to why different occupations are differently valued. Because people wouldn’t chase “good jobs” if we didn’t have some sense of what a “good job” is. Being paid well is kind of a no-brainer, but is that all that’s going on? Why do some occupations have lots of status even though they don’t pay as well as others? See if you can think of some examples of “high status” and “low status” occupations, and ask yourself what, besides pay, causes people to make these distinctions?

Social protest: balance, democracy, truth

In Cooperative Blog Posts on October 24, 2013 at 7:47 am

Just because we have freedom of speech, doesn’t mean we get to say whatever we want. This is how we feel after watching the documentary “Discordia” which follows the lives of three activists at Concordia University after the September 9th 2002 riot. The video follows three students; Samer Elatrash, Noah Sarna, and Aaron Maté. While following the three students around campus the video shows a campus filled with chaos. Samer is the head Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights group and Noah is head of the Hillel Jewish students group. These are the groups in conflict during the documentary; with Aaron Maté, the vice president of the Concordia Students Association, representing the mediation between both groups.

With the riot came active “debates” that took place between the two opposing side in the hallways of the school. The discussion never seemed to have a true focal point, and tend to become racial accusations. Both groups, in some situations, have ample evidence and cause for their case; however neither group is willing to hear the others point of view. So when arguments do come up between the groups, they turn into racist claims and name games meant to attack the other group. No group can ever make an argument without the other claiming that they are being: racist, anti-Semitic, Nazi’s (somehow), or Read the rest of this entry »

Opinion: Keep tackling the sex trade’s dirty little secrets

In Commentary on October 23, 2013 at 11:27 am

What do you think about this enticing bit of public pedagogy? Is discomfort — even severe discomfort — essential to learning? Should it be? Are there occasions when discomfort is totally out of bounds?

Opinion: Keep tackling the sex trade’s dirty little secrets.

Chomsky vs. Foucault

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2013 at 10:29 am

Chomsky vs. Foucault

I always find this debate interesting. For some, it will appear dated, but it really is worth watching. For my students, try to pay attention to the different ways in which they conceive of “human nature” (or reject the concept altogether), the ways human beings are positioned in the social world, the differences in the capacities attributed to them (and the origins of these capacities), and/or the different ways in which they are seen to have (or not have) control over their lives (agency).

Are your receptacles empty?

In Cooperative Blog Posts on October 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Paulo Freire is known worldwide as a driving force and major supporter of the critical pedagogy movement. The main message from Freire’s body of work is that of creating a society more just and equitable for all members.

Freire summarizes the education system to be a banking system in that students come into the classroom as blank slates, and it is the responsibility for teachers to fill students up with knowledge. The teachers (depositors) deposit their knowledge into the students (depositories) who willfully accept everything that is given to them. “[When a teacher ] Read the rest of this entry »

School lunches: whose domain is that lunch box anyway?

In Commentary on October 17, 2013 at 7:42 pm

This story must have some in a tizzy by now. What to think when a principal sets high standards that infringe upon the alienable right to eat sugar?

Mom unhappy with school’s rules about sugary snacks (with video).

Do higher entrance standards hit the mark?

In Commentary on October 17, 2013 at 9:00 am

Has Simons hit the mark? Should U of A be a more “elitist” university? Does she make a good point, or does her argument rise and fall on her trust in high school exam results?

Simons: Rising entrance standards hit the mark.

Big Business in the Classroom

In Cooperative Blog Posts on October 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

By Nathan, Kaitlin, Daneka, and Cheyenne

Andrew Hodgkins, author of, “Petrol’s Paid Pipers” (2011), is a local boy.  He comes from northern Canada and is doing his doctoral studies at the U of A in Educational Policy Studies.  Hodgkins studies a vast number of ideas from vocational education and training partnerships, resource development, to Aboriginal governance.  His background in both education and resource development allows him to really focus his discussion on the topic of big business funding education.

John B. Thompson on the other hand, Read the rest of this entry »

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