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Notes for Day 1

Notes for Day 1 of Food for Thought

I. Welcome!--to feast that is BMC and CSem

II. Begin by getting to know one another:
Go round, say your name and
tell us a story about one of your favorite foods
(something familiar, something surprising?
what it tastes like/where you ate it/with whom/why)

a sample of what will happen here/outside of here/seeded here,
for next 14 weeks: a conversation among ourselves
we are a various group, with varied experiences; 
we come from various places and we know different things

our first obligation here is to say what we know:
our task is to articulate our experiences—tell stories about them—>
a tricky, bi-partite experience:
to make those stories as compelling as we can—
and to acknowledge that they are always inadequate, incomplete,
to be willing to change them in light of new information:
our second obligation is to be open to revision
(this is hard to do—we get attached to the stories we tell….)

but here’s the basic game plan:
we invite all accounts, and we insist on re-telling/revising ‘em all

we will start by telling stories about what we know experientially,
laying those experiences alongside one another,
and alongside what other experiencers/thinkers/writers
have experienced/known/thought/written about

we will think and write together about the implications of our experiences
for the larger world; course has four sections, on how we decide what
• to eat? (food)
• data to attend to? (science)
• interpretations to accept? (lit)
• counts as ethical behavior? (philosophy/ethics)

Move from the most concrete to the most abstract,
from the most embodied to the most philosophical,
from the most spontaneous to the most revised.

We’re going to start with the dilemmas of being omnivorous eaters,
go outward from that to more philosophical questions:
about being a scientist, literary critic, ethical human being;
The central question of the course is about the paradox of choice—
Really a course about choice,
About the trouble that choosing gives us,
And  how much culture (expertise, education) helps & hinders us.

We are one of two courses in this cluster;
designed syllabus jointly w/ bio prof, Peter Brodfueher
(leech crawling/decisionmaking). Both been here forever;
My training in 18th c. Amer lit, contemp. gender studies, emergent pedagogies.

Meet every Tuesday morning to brainstorm what we’ll do that week;
perhaps meet together w/ Peter’s class a couple of times this semester
(they are across the hall).

Buy three books in Bookshop:
Pollan’s The Omnivore's Dilemma, plus two novels:
Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, &
Sena Naslund's Ahab's Wife.
If you want: Diana Hacket’s Pocket Manual of Style;
Gift from the CSem program: Writing with Sources?
Writing Center info/pens…
All other readings excerpted in packet, available for sale ($15?) next week
(waiting til enrollments have settled, know how many of you there are….)

We’ll be giving you lots of food for thought throughout the next few months,
continually feeding you add’l information,
Asking why we think what we do, how we might learn to think differently,
how we make choices in thinking our thoughts/living our lives
(election choices, aesthetic choices, advising choices,
different disciplines’ attitudes toward choice, free will…)
bring in info also from my working group on choices and constraints

Ask you to write regularly your reflections on these topics, both in and out of class,
And to meet with me every other week to discuss your thinking and your writing.

Hope to meet with (most of) you on Wednesdays, starting next week;
sign up for conferences on Thursday, once your schedules are (more) settled.

Basic game plan: lots of practice in talking and writing
We’ll meet here every Tues/Thus @ lunchtime (bring your lunch if you want;
not inappropriate; we might interrogate what you are eating!).
You’ll have abt. 50 pp. reading to do for each class, and you should always
come ready to say what you thought as you read; take notes, bring questions.
We’re going to get lots of practice talking with each other:
a learned skill, needing lots of experience.
What we’re working towards, value, in talking as in writing:
A willingness to speak up/share you insights, however wacky!
And a willingness to have them be revised in conversation,
tested against further data.
Offer initial thought, encourage you to develop those ideas, back them up.
Risky, hard, important, and required: that you contribute to
ongoing conversation/learning of us all (not just your own, interior…)

To facilitate this: offering an inbetween space; our on-line class forum, /exchange/courses/csem/f08
Each Wednesday night: put up one question we’d like you to answer in that forum
(more deliberate than speaking in class, less formal than written work:
excellent place for showcasing revisionary thinking).
About being a public intellectual: thinking outloud.

First assignment for Thursday; go to the web forum and introduce yourself
by describing your favorite food: write up what you said this morning.
Name/bmc e-mail/username (anon→ account)
Also for Thursday: read 45 pp. from The Omnivore’s Dilemma:
“Our Natural Eating Disorder,” The Plant: Corn’s Conquest” and
“The Processing Plant: Making Complex Foods.” 1-31, 85-99.

What is striking/interesting to you/what questions, what puzzles you,
what don’t you get/want to know more about?
What add’l information you need, don’t have,
to help you understand what you are reading/
What surprises?  (add these thoughts to your post….?)

All this background/reparation for your first “formal” writing assignment,
due on Friday by 5 p.m.: describe a family meal @ your house
(will discuss that more on Thursday).

Every Tuesday I’ll give you instructions for a 3-pp. paper due
by 5 p.m. on Friday; (I’ll often bring in samples of your writing for the rest of us to look @,
work on together (anonymously @ first) in class the following Tuesday.)

Following week I’ll give you another different-but-related assignment
Sequence intended to place what you know experientially into
conversation with something you may not know,
have not encountered before; difficult push-and pull of authority and humility:
Claim what you know, acknowledge what you don’t, yet,
figure out the relation between the two.

In the first book we’re reading, The Omnivore’s Dilemma,
Michael Pollan writes from personal experience,
then adds lenses of naturalist, ecologist, & anthropologist—
we’re going to ask you to work in the same way:
start w/ what you know, go outward, add to it,

What else?

Let’s GET Back TO WORK
Turn to this question of education: what is it that we are doing here?
Go ‘round again, saying,
“For me, education is like….”

What would happen if we now converted our similes into metaphors?
--What is a metaphor?
--What does the word mean (literally)?
What does it do (pragmatically?)?
bear/with/carry across/
μετά (meta), “‘between’”) + φέρω (pherō), “‘I bear, carry’”)

Metaphor talks about a concept by describing something similar to it.
How does a metaphor differ from a simile?

Luisana: A metaphor is a story...incredibly useful because they provide the learner
with a “mental back-and-forth;” requiring a compare and contrast between
two resembling ideas/things/etc....

Alison Cook-Sather: Finding New Metaphors for Education
(from "production" and "cure" to "translation")

Scott Gilbert (Swat Biology) on Science's "Fictions":
The way we think is channeled by the similes, metaphors and analogies we use.
A simile describes a "rational similarity,"
and an analogy states the similarity explicitly.
But a metaphor "hides the source of the identity,
and so heightens emotion and undercuts rationality."
The essence of a metaphor is understanding one kind of experience
in terms of another, and the fit is always going to be inexact....
Metaphor is important precisely because it hides the logic of association
(think of all the words which imply that "argument is warfare,"
or "argument is a path").

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By:
foreground some aspects of an identity
between two items, while backgrounding others
All metaphors fall short
Where inquiry GETS serious is just where this happens,
where the image won’t “carry” the idea “across,”
where you start to see how the limits of our language can limit our world
(and vice versa: how limits of our world limit our language)

Bridging Gaps: Analyzing Our Students' Metaphors for Composing
all thinking is analogical:
necessary feature of discourse whenever we try to cope with a new concept
(optional only after we achieve mastery?)
we make sense of all new experiences in terms of previous information
lack of directness makes metaphor effective:
allows us to express attitudes they could not express directly

Metaphors work when (and because)
they are incorrect, untrue, inaccurate, and subjective...
precisely because they are wrong.
Once any metaphor becomes dominant,
it influences, limits, and controls subsequent actions...
for that reason the metaphor needs to be negotiated by the group.
What happens when we are working from
fundamentally different root metaphors?
What are they telling us about our conception of and attitude
towards the process of being educated?
Metaphors are a starting point for dialogue about these issues....

Let's go back and analyze our metaphors...
what do they say about our attitudes toward this process/education?
Let’s play with their implications:
(If education is….
what am I? my classmates? My teacher?)
What do our metaphors tell us about our concepts of where authority lies?
About our ability to inquire and interrogate?

What did you learn from hearing one another’s stories?
Any revision on your story/metaphor/simile now?
(Add this to your posting, also….?)

See you Thursday!