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GIF Minutes for December 12, 2003

Prepared by Judie McCoyd

Attending: Tom Young, Corey Shdaimah, Judie McCoyd, Ken Richman, Anne Dalke, Paul Grobstein, Cheryl Selah

Readings: The Metaphysical Club by Menard, continued
Goodwin Liu, "Knowlege, Foundations, and Discourse: Philosophical Support for Service-Learning," Fall 1995: 5-18.
Kenneth Richman, "Epistemology, Community and Experts," Fall 1996: 5-12.
Robert E. Tucker, "Biting the Pragmatist Bullet: Why Service-Learning Can Do Without Epistemology," Fall 1999: 5-14.

Prior discussion of Corey's current dissertation chapter on autonomy vs. compassionate care led into discussion of the articles from the perspective of who the experts are who "know what is needed" and by whom and how. Anne then gave an overview of how she came to select the 3 articles to complement the Menand and then Ken provided an extensive discussion of the history surrounding Liu's context for writing the article (working within the Americorp umbrella and trying to utilize service learning while avoiding noblesse oblige- identifying service, reflection and classroom time as components of good service learning.)

Anne started discussion by asking "Well, what does 'belief' get us over 'Truth'?" Ken asserted that it allows revisions of thinking to occur- he said Rorty says all we have is belief since all knowledge is provisional; we should quit thinking about tying to find "the way the world really is, or "truth."

Corey suggested that the faith part of belief is what throws one off, not some belief in Truth- ie, how much does one believe in one's belief. Ken explained the difference between pistus (belief) and episteme (knowledge). Corey reiterated the idea that beliefs may bring students to service learning while knowledge growth is what is cited. She raised the question of how one avoids noblesse oblige in service learning if it is done in a paternalistic "serving" language. Judie furthered this question by asking how power fits into the equation since the academic credit providers have a power interest in how service learning occurs as well. Corey raised Addams' notion of being "afflicted by the other" as a learning experience- but cautioned that this can only happen if one is open to the potential transformation of oneself. Anne tied this to the diversity conference where students and teachers are being challenged to be open to being transformed by one another.

Tom raised the question of where the service is and how that differs from engagement. Anne suggested that maybe we'd moved beyond "service." Paul suggested that leaving social justice ends open may mean that the justification of this type of learning is really on ly the engagement itself. Ken strongly disagreed stating that social testing is how we improve and allow our belief to turn to action- he stated "What-works- pragmatism is different from knowledge/beliefs ascertability."

Corey returned to our previous discussions that maybe the self reflection is the piece that is most important- like the agonizing/grappling discussed previously. Paul summarized Tucker's argument that service learning could be justified religiously, but now Liu and Richman are justifying it epistemologically, and that he does not believe it needs those justifications, but is justified pragmatically by the fact that it is effective. This may be pure pragmatism and leads to political progressivism as growing from this. Paul asserts the primary rule of thumb in social change is "never re-make a mistake", but Ken questioned how one knows how to classify something as a mistake, to which Paul replied that that can only be determined by each individual.

Tom suggested that maybe individual mistakes bring on community feedback that cause one to "leave the field." Paul asserted that it's possible to "advance one's own story by hearing other's stories and that these then create ways that new stories are devised that become progressive- meaning that progression comes in not re-making the same mistake." It was observed that Paul's version makes the individual paramount while Ken's makes the community paramount in determining what is 'moral'. Paul pointed out that his view allows for more diversity in stories believed to hold accuracy even where divergent paths exist (Western vs Eastern medicine). Ken suggested that different communities allow for these divergent stories to continue to exist. Corey pointee out that these views of divergent stories are all well and good until the details create tension- like who is affected by decisions with potentially ill consequences ("like the homeless downwind"). Paul continued to argue that communal forms are OK too, but that he chooses to stand free of them and follow an expansive internal drive.

Judie commented that it seems that we're once again back to a prescribed process- grappling, expansive internal drives- as opposed to a prescribed truth or absolute. She wondered if that gets us further or not. Tom returned to Paul's assertion and asked if he agreed with Paul that it's all about the individual, how does the individual do it without community? Paul replied that culture is bound to create discomfort for some (and comfort for others), but that a utopian culture would allow for each individual to develop their own story. Tom questioned why this hasn't occurred and Paul felt that it's due to inordinate numbers of gate-keepers- at which point this gate-keeper recognized the constraints on time and ended the meeting (at which point we learned that Tom was a new Grandfather- CONGRATULATIONS!).

To Come:

Jan 23- Explorations of Teaching-
Paulo Freire (1998) Pedagogy of Freedom, Ethics, Democracy and Civic Courage, Rowman and Littlefield

Jan 30- GIF
Ray McDermott and Herve Varenne, "Culture as Disability"
Herve Varenne, "Extra Burdens in the Search for New Openings: On the Inevitability of Cultural Disabilities"

Feb 20- Carol Gilligan- The Birth of Pleasure


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