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Things I Believe
In 2002, I started including this memo with syllabi for all classes I taught. Since then, people have begun to refer to it as "Lynn's Manifesto."
Dr. Sandro Barros' adaptation of this page.
On university educational research and school teaching
I don’t believe university research needs to be relevant to teaching in schools.
Educational research that has no relevance to school teaching may have value on its own terms if it engages in inquiry that allows us to see things in a new light.
The assumption that university research must apply to school teaching sets up a doubly problematic assumption of authority: 1) university researchers are assumed to have more authority about classrooms than teachers in schools, and 2) university research agendas are assumed to be dictated by the needs of schools. Neither of these positions is respectful.
University research may be helpful or harmful to schools or teaching in ways that researchers never intended or anticipated.
One activist role for university research is to run interference between teachers and economically driven state and corporate pressures.
I begin with the assumption of equality (see
I ask questions only when I do not know the answer.
I engage substantively with other people's work, but I believe both praise and evaluation are ethically problematic (see, e.g.,
I do not believe I, as teacher, have the right to set "requirements."
I worry that anonymous course evaluations are condescending.
If you are in a course, it is because you want to be there.
On theory and practice
I believe there is no theory without practice, and there is no practice without theory.
Often the term
Things we now take for granted as practical (like behaviorism) were once outlandish theories.
It’s useful to analyze the theories that are embedded in practices, and the practices that continually reiterate theories, because then we understand more about the consequences of our actions.
On the politics of clarity
I don’t believe that accessible language is necessary for educational writing.
“Accessible language” often refers to familiar terminology, but if ideas are already familiar, then there’s little chance to learn anything new.
Language development is part of the learning process from childhood on. There’s no reason to stop learning new vocabulary just because it’s grad school.
Becoming familiar with academic jargon is part of becoming inducted into the “culture of power” of the academy. You may elect not to use it, but it’s important to be familiar with it.
Unfamiliar ideas sometimes generate unfamiliar ways of speaking.
Sometimes fancy language is an unnecessarily complicated way of saying something simple. It’s good to learn to tell the difference between overblown language (on the one hand) and difficult language that is elegant, complicated, or multidimensional (on the other hand).
Some writers are intentionally obscure. It might be an attempt to sound profound, or it might be an attempt to create a more intense experience for the reader.
On expository writing
I believe that language, thinking, and knowledge are intimately entwined.
There is no necessary opposition between creative writing and exposition.
Conventional structural demands of academic writing do not have to be limitations; they can serve to enhance multidimensional understanding.
Good analysis is a creative process.
Striving to put complex ideas in understandable form is the educational/pedagogical project.
There is a place for art in the academy; the best expository work has poetic elements.
Art without exposition might get you an MFA but it won’t get you a Ph.D.
On critical reading
I believe that critical reading entails being suspicious about games of truth.
Critical reading does not mean approving or disapproving; it does not mean agreeing or disagreeing. It means to discern the strategies of argument, to articulate the assumptions of what counts as evidence, and to evaluate the political consequences of taking that stance.
It’s often useful to ask, “Who does this article think I am?”
Personal experience can be useful evidence in some cases, but personal experience does not necessarily trump other kinds of warrants.
is a culturally specific and historically contingent notion, so it’s helpful to ask, “What does this argument mean by
is a culturally specific and historically contingent process, so it’s helpful to ask, “What counts as
in this argument?”
On the ethics of research
I don’t believe we can ethically separate means from ends.
Research methods are themselves part of the production of knowledge.
Everything is political.
Research methods are political and pedagogical techniques, whether we intend them to be or not.
Ethically sound research in education has pedagogical value. The research is designed in such a way that everybody involved has a chance to experience something valuable, and nobody has a foreseeable chance of getting hurt.
Ethical concerns can rarely be resolved according to fixed principles because most situations are unique, or they are too complex for fixed principles.
On educational technology
I believe Web 2.0 technologies offer radical educational possibilities.
For Internet uses, Web 2.0 modes are unlike read-only Web 1.0 modes, and unlike algorithmic Web 3.0 modes.
Web 2.0 blurs the boundary between readers and writers in real time and thereby functions as a medium of knowledge production that is historically unprecedented.
Conventional approaches to knowledge production favor Web 1.0 modes in education, which are authoritative. The radical potential of Web 2.0 is rarely recognized in educational circles; it does not preserve traditional lines of authority, knowledge production, or curriculum.
The radical potentials of Web 2.0 can be used and abused just as any other educational technology can.
On interdisciplinary reading, or “What does this have to do with education?”
I believe all fields of intellectual inquiry have something valuable to offer educational researchers.
Education is concerned with the production of knowledge, and it is worthwhile to study the production of knowledge in all disciplinary fields.
Educators work in all disciplinary fields, so it is reductionist to confine our reading to the field of education.
Bringing other research traditions into conversation with educational issues is healthful in the same way that diversity is healthful for all groups.
On sacred cows
I believe it’s worthwhile to problematize concepts we take for granted.
Sometimes rhetorical forms obscure as much as they clarify.
Reflection, community, constructivist teaching, conceptual framework, rubric, critical theory, pedagogical content knowledge, social justice
teach for understanding
are terms whose meanings are not at all clear or obvious to me.
I’m not sure what
© 2002, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2016 Lynn Fendler
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College of Education
Michigan State University
, East Lansing, MI 48824
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