Saturday, January 16, 2010

Writing about the obvious

How does a person (namely, me) go about writing about that which is just obvious?

Here's the general thesis of the paper I'm currently working on: "Classroom design tells us what we think learning is.  And most influential beliefs about how learning happens are wrong while the beliefs about the purpose of learning are, at best, uninspiring."

This seems so painfully obvious to me that I can't believe I'm even considering writing about it.  But, if it is obvious, then why are we designing classrooms the way that we are (and by 'we' I do not mean me)?  Do we not care about learning?

So, I assume what I think is the more generous interpretation, namely that what I'm writing about is either not obvious (unlikely) or something that needs to be brought to forefront (at least possible).  This seems a better interpetation than we just don't care - if nothing else, it gives me hope.

Now I'm trying to make the argument (without actually relying upon scientific data) that our environment influences us emotionally.  Now, I'm not using scientific data because, seriously, this is something that at least ought to be clear to someone once they think about it.  My task, then, is to walk the reader through this thinking so that it becomes clear to them.  For those who already agree with me, well, I suppose they should stop reading and move onto something that might actually affect their lives [a complete tangent: I just realized why people use "impact" (incorrectly) as a verb....because when using 'impact' you don't have to agonize over which of "effect" or "affect" to use.  A phenomenon becomes clear.].

At the moment I'm trying to make the case that what we experience through our senses (colors, sounds, surfaces, smells, etc.) influences our emotional states and I'm, again, stuck with this seeming just obvious to me. 

I'm tempted to just say that being able to sense something means that we are able to be emotionally affected through that sense (nasty smells, sights that make us turn away, sounds that make us cover our ears).  I suspect, however, that (a) I need to argue this (and actually can, I think) and (b) I'm treading on ground well-worn by philosophers in, say, the 18th century.  So, there we go.  Bounced back from the cutting edge soo quickly.  

Yes, my name is Hume.  Nice to meet you.

1 comment:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I do think it's obvious -- and I also think that one of the main challenges I face in the classroom is that the space hasn't changed, (nor have class sizes) but the expectations as to what IS good teaching have changed radically.

As a result, I'm expected to have a much higher level of student interaction in the classroom, in a space that barely holds enough uncomfortable desks to seat my 50 students. I'm expected to do in-class writing assignments when the students barely have room to open their book on their desk. I'm expected to assign papers that are revised to classes of 50 -- (5 of them, I'm at a CC) -- and to give helpful and significant comments to 250 papers at a time.