As I dive deeper into my first doctoral class, I hear Eliza Doolittle in the musical “My Fair Lady” singing the above. All these made up words that don’t speak plainly – “processual” (Lave, p.158), “historicism” (Lave p. 159) and “positionality.” It almost seems as though the writers are working to keep readers out rather than draw us in us. I love to read yet this week’s readings have been torturous. Pivovarova’s paper (2014) is a great original study about the effects of tracking high and low achieving students. Reading it left me confused. Rosaldo’s (1994) mini-ethnographic stories entertained, but some of his sentences are convoluted and absurd, e.g. “This chapter uses a series of examples to explore the consequences of thus understanding the factors that condition social analysis (page 169).” Where’s the subject? Where’s the verb? I am confused. If researchers want to make their writing and thoughts accessible to an average person, they need to write for the average person. I’m so sick of words.
As McCarty writes in her editorial introduction to the special issue of Anthropology & Education Quarterly (2005), “…the shift toward English represents a shift away from the Indigenous (p. 3).” As researchers focus on English even when working with native peoples, the history, culture and a connection are lost. In my current state of frustration, I could rewrite that sentence as “the shift toward academic writing represents a shift away from coherent language.” Academicians are creating their own words and language that is inaccessible to those who aren’t in the circle. It feels oppressive to me. This must be how some community college students feel when they hear instructors mention “Blackboard” and “MEID” and “SIS.” It’s a new vocabulary as well as new, never-performed-before actions – e.g.,”blog” and “submit electronically.”
“Show Me” is the name of the song referred to in the title of this blog. Youth Participatory Action Research seems geared to do that. Researchers “show” each other what is important and what they need/want to know. Adult researchers show the youth how to use research tools while the youth show the adults what’s important to study and how to relate. That is dialogue. McCarty writes that she is looking for dialogue in the theme issue of Anthropology & Education Quarterly (2005). However, if the writers all have doctoral degrees and if people with doctoral degrees make up less than 1% of the population (as Sue Henderson advised us last week), does that 1% isolate itself with a language not understood by most of the rest of the world? I can see researchers wanting (and needing) to develop their own language; yet it seems antithetical to the idea of social justice when this language cannot be understood by 99% of the population.
Perhaps what I am experiencing is akin to the tracking that Pivovarova (2014) writes about. Those of us who are “low-achievers” are put in class with the “high-achievers.” We don’t bring down the high achievers too much (depending on the distribution), but we low-achievers can be brought up. I feel I am benefitting from all this wordy reading and writing, but I am wary of becoming one of the oppressors. I want to relate with my colleagues and students in an authentic way. Parker Palmer’s classic book, The Courage to Teach (1998) gently encourages the reader to be authentic. To teach in dialogue with students. Though I believe many of the authors we read are hoping to establish dialogue, with such convoluted writing, dialogue is a distant dream for this tyro doctoral student. Words, words, words…(when I can relate) I love them.
Lave, J. (2012). Changing Practice. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 19(2), 156–171.
McCarty, T. L. (2005). Indigenous Epistemologies and Education — Self-Determination, Anthropology, and Human Rights. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 36(1), 1–7.
Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.
Pivovarova, M. (2014). Should We Track or Should We Mix Them ? Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
Rosaldo, R. (1994). Culture and Truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.