Saturday, October 30, 2010

Constructing Social Reality

Here is a link to a Colin McGinn review of John Searle's new book Making the Social World. I think some of McGinn's criticisms may miss the mark, though I haven't actually read the book yet. I have read his earlier The Construction of Social Reality), in which he develops the useful observation, not that reality itself is socially constructed, but that human institutions (money, universities, marriage...) often are pure products of our aggregate intentions. For example, money is a really existing thing, and an important force in the world, but can only exist because and as long as we collectively behave as though little scraps of paper with ink on them have exchange value.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Constructivist Romp

Here is a link to Keane Lundt's dialogue "The Importance of Being Ernst." Enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

State of the Blog Report

I note with pleasure that this week, for the first time in the semester, we had an 87.5% participation rate (that is, seven out of eight of you contributed at least the minimum, stretching a little for some posts that weren't up on Friday). What starts to happen at this level of contribution is that some of the threads generate a little energy, good questions get followed up with thoughtful insights from various perspectives, and each of us can easily find threads that intrigue or annoy us enough to stimulate comments and responses. Some really good questions didn't get explored much (or at all), but they might well have had they gone up a little earlier -- and there's still time!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Try Again?

What, specifically, do members of the class find appealing about Radical Constructivism?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Defending Constructivism

Our discussion on Thursday identified some difficulties with Radical Constructivism. We should be careful not to dismiss it too lightly, however. I propose we attempt to compile a list of the theory's virtues -- features we think are in themselves valuable, aside from any problems the theory may have.

To start, we might agree that it's useful to think about students actively integrating what they learn into the conceptions of the world they make for themselves out of all their experience, rather than just passively absorbing what we give them. Such an image could make a big difference in how we relate to them pedagogically.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Different (and Very Modest) Proposal

Suppose, instead of the previous suggestion, I were to reward each student monetarily in the event that everyone fulfilled the minimum blogging expectation in a given week. (We could make the amount a percentage of the princely sum that St. Mary's College is paying me for the semester!)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Blogging Proposal

Here's a suggestion for confronting the disappointing fact that only about half the class typically fulfills the minimum blogging expectation in any given week. What if full blogging credit for anyonein the class were contingent on everyone's participating at the minimum level? This might leverage peer encouragement and support, and it speaks to the basic point of the assignment, which is that it reaches critical mass by drawing us all into the discussion.

I anticipate that many of you will react strongly to this suggestion; I urge you to make your case for or against very thoughtfully.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Something to consider, as you re-work your CRITO outlines into drafts, is that you might need to scale down to keep the project manageable in the scope of a short essay. One good way to do this is to replace your thesis with one of your premises. Each premise is, after all, the conclusion to an argument of its own, and one of them may well be interesting and controversial enough to be your thesis. You can then think of this essay as a first step or down payment on an adequate treatment of your original thesis -- someday (and explaining the larger project can make a good introductory framing element).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Essay Contest

Those of you interested in environmental matters and/or philosophical issues of private property might be interested in this essay contest:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bill Ayers interview

An interview with teacher, educator, and former Weather Underground radical Bill Ayres.