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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Positivism

While preparing for a course scheduled for the fall of 2009 I reintroduced myself to the concept of positivism. In so doing I found great understanding of the tensions I live with.  Positivism is (according to dictionary.com) a doctrine contending that sense perceptions are the only admissible basis of human knowledge and precise thought and that the application of this doctrine in logic, epistemology, and ethics supersedes theology and metaphysics and depending on a hierarchy of the sciences, beginning with mathematics and culminating in sociology. It is the culminating in sociology that impacts the field of education and particularly special education.  All of this came about sometime between 1900 and 1950 and promoted attention to actual practice over consideration of what is ideal. Further the practice must be based on what is knowable from a strictly quantitative perspective.

Positivism elements are considers of lessor import knowing through relationship, experience or observation of the environment. Unless one is counting things relevant to those areas they are of little concern to the educator trying to improve the target (student).

No wonder I have difficulty communicating with some of my peers as they are sure that what I offer and the theories of practice I teach have no basis in reality or knowledge. Tom Srtic is the man to speak with or read if you are looking for substantial insight into this (http://soe.ku.edu/Tom-Skrtic/). 

Sadness washes over me as I see clearly that I am speaking a foreign language and inviting people into a strange culture when I give evidence that suggests the source of teaching is to be found in relationships, environment, cultures and the mix of all of those. This is good news however as I now have been reminded of a plethora of resources that can be offered to teacher candidates and injected into the academy at multiple points of entry.

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