Friday, September 26, 2008

Parallel events, causation and other musings

I must concur with Christy's assessment of correlation: its not good enough. I can see the necessity of research that shows correlation, it just appears logical that someone would proceed to determine if some of the correlations were causative. But that brings me to the crux of matter. Research in the social sciences (including education) is different that research in hard sciences, as one of the readings related. That may be why Christy struggles with correlation, and why I do too. We were both in the objectivist hemisphere of the grid, though she was in the lower right and I was off the grid in the upper right. Some day I must come to realize this fact, but I think it would really help if researchers in the social sciences and education would quit calling their work "Scientific Research." It makes me recall Anna and the King (movie version: The King and I). We could coin a new, more authentic term, for example: good-enough research or even "Educational Research." That would work for me and reduce my increasingly frequent bouts with cognitive dissonance.

Now for class and how it goes. Vachel's demo of the correlation function in Excel was great stuff. Melanie said it only appears in Office 2007, but I also found it in Open Office 2.4 which is free and multi-platform. I must also admit I am a skeptic, so I checked Excel 2003 and found a correlate (correl) function hidden there also. So this tip was cool! Thanks Vachel.

Now for the classroom. O. K., the cat is out of the bag. Who is researching the attrition rate of doctoral students confined to small spaces? That is the only reason I can deduct that 11 doctoral students and their kind master are week by week stuffed into a low tech cul-de-sac created in the dark ages before Kenneth Eble published Professors as Teachers (1971), which stated that the physical accommodations for learning were atrocious and derived from medieval torture chambers and French monasteries. This is not good modeling folks. I suggest we form a doctoral students' union, compose a manifesto, stock up on garlic, and begin negotiations with the bourgeoisie. Better yet, let's move class to Portofino's, a bar, a church, or somewhere that is conducive to human beings and Boone's environmental fluxes. If we were cattle or chickens, the humane society would help us. Seeing we are on the top of the food chain, we have no advocate.

Resolve: That Cohort 16 hold class at the Chancellor Peacock's house every Tuesday afternoon (and on the two weekends we are in town), eat his food, and drink his beer until the situation is remedied. I am sure this course of action would speed up the negotiations and work better than any formal complaint that we can lodge. His house also has lots of free parking.


Monday, September 22, 2008

SET et al

In the community college setting, each instructor sees (semester by semester) a particular piece of research that directly relates to teaching, or should I rather say holding class. The technical term for this survey form of research is SET (Student Evaluations of Teaching). Administrators place some predictive confidence in these surveys, though in type they appear to be simply descriptive. It is easy for the shrewd instructor to manipulate both SET input and the results. Let me give an illustration.

Although SET are used to present quantifiable data, often using a 1-5 scale (strongly agree, agree, no opinion or neutral, disagree, strongly disagree) resulting in percentage breakdowns, it has been documented in the literature that student input can be directly influenced by one or more of the following: candy, gender, easy course requirements, personal appearance (hot or not) and professional favors. For example, if I want high student ratings on a bad course, I would prep the students at least a week before SET by showing funny movies, giving out pop corn, and allowing students to write their own final scores in the gradebook. On the other hand, if I taught a rather difficult course, I could get a poor SET score merely because I gave a difficult test, did not allow late work, or wore stinky sox on the same day of SET.

This is not to totally ignore or call for a moratorium on the use of SET, but it goes to illustrate the need for controls, not only over the control group and its environment, but in interpretation of results and the possible fallacy of basing quantitative reports on qualitative data and highly subjective input. This is definitely not rocket science from anyone's point of view, unless that be be the viewpoint of one's department head.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Philosophical Position Paper

It is difficult to make a statement of philosophical position without first establishing the limitations of such. For example, a person may believe in liberal economic policy (liaise faire or free markets), yet be a fiscal, moral, and ethical conservative. There is currently a Christian constituency that is theologically conservative and sociologically liberal. Positions that would have been impossible or paradoxical in the past appear common in a post-modern world. Therefore, instead of appearing contradictory or inconsistent, I will present my philosophical position on three fronts: reality, transcendence, and daily life. For example, I hold to an objective view of reality and believe it’s out there aside from any human perception. As far as transcendence, I believe everyone rolls their own, although Acapulco gold differs from horse manure (even though some choose the latter). I realize that this is a subjective stance with an objectivist hierarchical reference point (bad-good-better-best). Finally, I believe in the mind and that we have the power to create poverty and plenty via our thoughts. Do humans create meaning, definitely! Do humans also create myth, absolutely! This appears to be a constructivist framework, but with a twist: not all meaning making is valid. Let me expand the foregoing premises.

Stuff exists. Lots of stuff exists. Can we know or detect it all? I doubt it, nevertheless it exists and is part of the universe in which humanity lives. Not all things that exist can be seen, either with the naked eye or aided with scientific instruments. Astronomers know dark energy and black holes because of attraction. 95% of the energy in the universe is undetectable and un-measurable at the present. Simply put, there is a lot of stuff out there that we have no way to measure, no quantitative assessment of, and no indication except for its influence on visible matter. It’s similar to what Jesus said about the Spirit: “The Spirit breathes upon whom it desires; you hear its voice, but cannot tell where from where it derives.” So both the seen and the unseen world exist out there, whether or not humanity can either measure or detect it. This objectivity does not seem to be an empirical judgment, since it rests on the testimony of mystics and visionaries.

On the other hand, some very cherished “realities” do not exist. Humanity creates myth. Many feminists believe in a patriarchal society that stretches back to the countless ages, but that may be a non-existent construction of a reality that is only in the minds of feminist. Marx constructed a history of humanity, based on a similar oppression. It was not real, and if so it does not and has never existed. I believe many such myths have arisen in the modern world because of a certain religious faith directed toward both the hard sciences and the social sciences. Humanity has been told that a reality exists that is only a hypothesis which can be neither verified nor falsified. It is very possible that the mythology of the modern world exceeds that of any former age. Therefore I hold that humanity as a whole, and individuals in particular, are as liable to accept myth today as in any time before, verification being a poor test on many levels and falsification being impossible at the present. That organic life arose from inorganic matter is a case in point, and though utterly unobservable and mathematically improbable/impossible, it is the dominant paradigm in the contemporary scientific world.


Humans can know some things: name, rank, and serial number are a good start. The list may continue with date of birth, gender, biological parents, ethnicity, country of origin, political party, and favorite ice cream. These facts can be established with a good degree of certainty for many folks, though possibility not for all. Historical records, such as birth certificates, driver’s license, passports, and family Bibles have know to house data to verity these areas of personal data. These sources may even be subject of falsification, the apex of veracity according to Karl Popper. Even if historical records are discovered to be unreliable, we are still left with knowledge of a negative sort. It is logically impossible to say that humans can know nothing, for in that negative statement is an affirmation that knowledge, even if it means we know nothing like Socrates, is possible.

Furthermore, if Jung was right about a collective unconsciousness, then Plato was also right (at least to an extent) that knowledge is recollected rather than learned. Folks may not exit the womb with calculus hidden somewhere in the little gray cells (to use Poirot’s phrase), but they do come into the world with archetypes (Jung) or body language (Joseph Campbell).


Logical analysis, and both the scientific and historical method offer a reliable framework for many areas of study, but these may not tell the whole story. Methodology is highly context and content dependent. To determine whether or not there is a certain level of student attrition in the university demands a quantitative methodology, but to determine why there is a certain percentage of attrition may require a qualitative methodology.


I like counting noses, counting words, counting recurrences, referring to texts, and consulting experts. I have a hard time seeing how a narrative could challenge quantitative data, but I also realize that a picture (objective data) grants no conclusive facts without the story that accompanies it (see Appendix 1).


I am not a positivist. I don’t believe that either metaphysics or theology is non-sense. I can not see how science could exist without speculation, anymore than metaphysics could. I am an empiricist modified by rationalism and mysticism. I believe in a real world that can be experienced. I hear the birds in the morning and the crickets at night. I have seen the moon rise and Orion march across the night sky many times. I have read how the little dipper spins around Polaris like a clock and have seen the same. Other humans have witnessed and documented these facts for thousands of years. Much of the universe moves in an orderly, predictable fashion, else our daily lives would be complete chaos. G. F. Moore called this a common sense philosophy. These phenomena force me to speculate on intelligent design. I really need a 3-D model to express my position; both Guba and Morgan fail me. I am not a social-constructivist. Though I believe that man has the ability to make meaning, he just as readily makes myth. It would be more correct to say that mankind makes sense of his surroundings and experiences, and the range of making sense is extremely limited. Else, why would scholars even attempt to write books, or why would students attempt a philosophical position paper?

Appendix 1

The Lord is my Shepherd

Islamic terrorist drowns Jewish sheep

PETA Alert!

Shepherd forces sheep to bathe

Radical Sheep cell leader
strangles and drowns Jewish shepherd
while bystanders watch.

Is a picture really worth 1,000 words, or is a picture meaningless withoug verbal descriptors?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Seidman: Initial thoughts

Before I could finish the article by Seidman, The Idea of a Science of Society: The Enlightenment and Auguste Comte, it appeared to me that the author had not followed recent developments in the History of Science. When viewing the history of science and religion, there are two basic hypotheses. The first was promoted by Draper-White and is termed the Conflict or Warfare thesis, and sometimes referred to as Protestant-Whig warfare/conflict thesis. The other model, and the dominant paradigm in current history of science, is the complexity thesis. It is clear that Seidman either does not realize the current position of the history of science or else deliberately chooses an failing model on which to frame his argument. Let me give some examples.

It is now considered that Galileo was not censored for his scientific views, but for his lack of protocol. Copernicus' work had been in publication for sometime before it was banned as a result of Galileo's politics. The story is long and involved, but two examples will help clarify matters. First of all, both Copernicus and Galileo challenged a Ptolemaic model of the universe, not a Christian one. This Ptolemaic model was based on Aristotle, and it was not just astronomy, but the Protestant reformation that rejected Aristotelian philosophy which had been championed by Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics. It is clear that neither Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, nor Newton were nothing but dedicated Christians. There was no such a thing as the institution of science vs. the church. All of the discussion took place within the church, within Christianity. There is even an argument among experts of the history of Science (Lindberg, Brooke, Huff) that the scientific revolution could have only taken place within Christendom, seeing that both the Muslim world and the Chinese had dropped the ball because of their overly ridged social institutions (no safe haven, no rule of reason or logic, and no corporate law).
Secondly, no matter how true the hypothesis, Galileo could not prove heliocentrism in his day and actually offered one example (the tides) that we reject today. What was needed was the proof from parallax, which would have to wait a century. So even if there had been positivists in Galileo's day, they would have had to reject his argument as lacking empirical proof. Aristotle ruled the day. This had nothing to do with religion, since Augustine (5th century) had already promoted the idea of accommodation, that the biblical authors wrote as phenomena appeared to them in day to day life, not as scientists or those of later generations.

Therefore, since Seidman chose the now defunct Conflict thesis, pages 11-16 are replete with error and exaggeration as to the historical nature of the rise of modern science. I can see no other reason for Seidman taking this route except prejudice, since it is hard for me to believe that he is actually ignorant.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Positivism: Continued Musings

If we take Comte epistemological evolution, nearly all varieties of epistemology are covered except for Plato's recollection hypothesis. Comte's three stages of knowledge are as follows:

1) Theological -revelation
2) Metaphysical - reflection
3) Scientific/Positive - experience or empirical

One might state that the theological stage derives knowledge from a epistemology based on divine revelation of all truth, but only Islam would qualify under such a strict understanding of revelation. For instance, modern Judaism holds at least four models of revelation, all of which are mediated (through prophets for instance). But Rabbinic Judaism also believed that if God had not revealed the Torah to Moses on Sinai, then the Jewish people would have had to extract it from nature. This gives a peculiar empirical twist to revelation. Both Greek philosophy and early Christianity considered reason as a faculty of divine revelation. Though philosophy was considered the handmaiden to theology, reason never was. Initially reason was the touchstone for Christianity, though not reason as the opponents of Socrates, the sophists, contended. Thus revelation characterizes an epistemology that is subjective, derived from an inner light to some extent, but not necessarily irrational or non-rational.

A metaphysical epistemology would believe that knowledge comes from reflection, that is if anything can be known. Here we confront the contemporary constructivist, some post-positivist ideologies, and the ancient sophist in the same venue. It was the sophists that sought to teach the students of Athens that nothing could really be known; it is the constructivist that offers the same relativistic ramblings. Socrates confounded the sophists, stating that although it was true that they knew nothing, it was not accurate that nothing could be known. Socrates's point was that most folks had not considered the validity of their own premises. Constructivism, the heirs of the metaphysical stage, may allow either an irrational or non-rational epistemology. Metaphysics in this model was considered non-sense by logical-positivism.

Finally, scientific or empirical knowledge is the end of the positivist train. When we have reached this stage, and to Comte all men and societies must go through all stages, then we have arrived to positive knowledge, in contrast to natural knowledge (Crotty). In later positivist incarnations, both theological and metaphysical epistemology would be considered non-sense. The Vienna Circle that flourished in Einstein's era rejected all metaphysical or non-empirical knowledge as meaningful. Wittgenstein proposed verification, but Karl Popper went further to propose falsification as the only test for scientific veracity (demarcation). But strictly speaking, Einstein could not be considered a positivist; he said religion and science asked different questions (Mein Weltbilt), and thus requiring methods other than logical analysis (Vienna Circle). Quantum theory also threw a monkey wrench into the works, not to mention the seminal work by Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of the Scientific Revolution (1962). In the musings of current day experts in the philosophy of science, Michael Ruse states that the hypothetical deliberations of faith and the hypothetical deliberations of science are hard to distinguish. That is, the idea of demarcation (Popper) between science and faith are not discernible in their early stages. This brings us back full circle in somewhat parallel to Kegan's concept of systemic thinking, if fully expanded.

The failure of positivism was its belief that the stages of epistemology were linear. It is much more possible that the stages exist simultaneously in the same person, although related to differing context and content. Positivism does leave us with a reality and an ontology that says some things do exist "out there" independent of perception.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Positivism: Initial Thoughts

Let me begin with the definition of post-positivism or post-positivist.
  • A post-positivist is a positivist that has met his/her demise at the hands of a constructivist.
Each one will need to construct a meaning before proceeding.

Positivism is a child of its own age, being the aftermath of the French revolution and the Napoleanic era. Remember the book Anna and the King or the film, The King and I? Well the king of Siam was a positivists, at least he believed himself to be such. In simple terms, a positivist believes that science is the Messiah. In contrast, a constructivist believes that education is the messiah, a Marxist believes that revolution is the messiah, and a feminist believes that she is the messiah. Having lost all concept of religious faith in the enlightment, there arose a host of substitutes. It seems that mankind is incurably religious. Now back to positivism and Auguste Comte (pronounced Kont).

Comte was a disciple of Saint-Simon and coined the term sociology, but that may not be entirely so. Nevertheless, Comte may be called the father of sociology as a scientific discipline, or at least he wished that it would be considered such. Comte claimed three eras of epistemology and human development: theological, metaphysical, and positive (scientific). In actuality, the use of the word "science" to cover all disciplines was would not be used until late in the 19th century, prompted by a lecture in the Royal Academy. The basis of positivism was epistemological empiricism. (more to come)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Second Class Meeting

Well, it seems that the mortality rates due to the first class were not as high as had been projected. The population actually increased by nearly 20%, which by the way makes the room that much more uncomfortable. It is not the courses or the writing which will determine if Cohort 16 has the stuff of doctoral character, but rather endurance or perseverance in a small confined space. This aspect was designed by former cold war and Vietnam war prisoners. If we can make it through the confinement, the other tortures will just be routine. In a more enlightened world, where prison suites parallel the best Dubai luxury hotels, ASU doctoral students would have an easier life. But it is as the ancient prophet said, "Through much tribulation we must enter in to the kingdom of God ...." Why should today be different.

The dilemma that the class faced yesterday appears to me to be endemic in scholarly societies where dog-eat-dog is the rule of law. There is also something here to argue against radical individualism and constructivism. If everyone is in the habit of making their own meanings, they take little time to actually define terms. Terms that we confronted with double and triple reference were paradigm, ontology, subjectivity, objectivity, and reality. This lack of concrete definition is no fault of the class. A great deal of the blame should go to writers like Guba who first blames Kuhn for multiple references to the work paradigm, then himself does the same for ontology, ignoring the age-old philosophical denotation of being, existence, for his own connotation and epistemological confusion (Guba 18). Such tampering with the terminology is inexcusable.

Guba lists ontological as a methodological question, then defines or references the termonology as "what is the nature of the knowable or what is the nature of reality." I don't believe that this is an accurate reference of ontology. The word ontology derives from the Greek participle of the intransitive or linking verb "to be, to exist," not to be confused with Hinduism's articulation of all being or creation, OM, though the connection is interesting. Therefore ontology is what exists, what is, or being. It is neither how we know it, which is epistemology, or how it is perceived, which is one of the theories of reality, either nominalism or objectivism/realism. For instance, an ontological question is "does God exist." This question says nothing of either how or if we can know God (epistomology) or if God is an objective reality (objectivism) or only in our minds (nominalism, subjectivism, constructivism). What is knowable tends to center in epistemology; what is reality tends to center in modes of perception, neither of which constitutes what exists. To be frank, we neither know, understand, nor perceive much of what is real in the universe, if indeed energy is real. That dark energy, dark holes, and about 95% of the universe is currently neither known nor understood by humanity does not negate its existence. There are many things known to various species of the animal kingdom that are not known to humanity, these elements are both real and exist, though they are not yet a part of the perception of humanity.

Some of these perception may have even been lost between lower and higher life forms. Take the parallel between certain animals and birds which seem to have an innate sense of direction and the male homo-sapiens, who claims a innate sense of direction, but the data collected by the female of the same species proves the contrary. The male of this species, when confronted with the data, may claim that there is no one right way to get to the convenience store two blocks away. The female, of the same species, claims that she can see the store's sign when standing on an ironing board on top of the roof of the car, so there must be a direct route to anyone to who God gave enough sense to get out of the rain. (A map or GPS are only instruments of instrumental rationality used by positivists, and such items are not taken seriously by relativists, since who knows if the lines or roads may change under the cover of darkness).

At this point a light comes on in the females head (one of the ladies in class even called this a paradigm shift). The female remembers distinctly that her mate often fishes in the rain, plays golf in the rain, mows the grass in the rain (at dark), and will even wash the car in the rain. It is also a proven fact that males wash the car to make it rain, which has replaced the native American rain dance in form, although not in ritual. With this data, the female of the species deducts that possibly the male of the same species does not have enough sense (God given or otherwise) to get out of the rain, and there drops the issue as a fruitless waste of time that could be used to chase the kids that have now spread to the four-winds whiles the parents were attempting to navigate two blocks to purchase de-vitalized food imitations and drinks with enough sugar to give a horse a rush and a good start on the road to diabetes.

We have now entered the first phase of becoming true philosophers, having collected and logged all the wrong answers. The next step is to collect an equal mass of all the wrong questions, and finally to associate questions and answers with the precision of a game of pickup sticks. We are not entirely confused at the present, but given time, each of us should become at least as daft and illogical a Guba or any other relativist within 4.9 miles of the Duncan Hall.

Let me close today's ramblings with a little story. I was recently told by an ASU professor of philosophy: "I was a relativist, until I became a parent." Can any class member verify the ontology of this statement or offer a supporting narrative?


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Crotty, Burrel-Morgan, and Vanilla pudding

Entering the grotto for the first series of readings presented a renewed perspective. If it were not for Guba, I would call this reading an exercise in philosophical overview. Since Guba is included, I consider the readings philosophical overview and a lesson on how to make vanilla pudding. But how did I come to this conclusion? Let me elucidate.

Both Crotty and Burrel-Morgan offer a scholarly synopsis of the varied horizons of social research. In both articles, the reader sees the relationship of ontology, epistemology, human nature, methods, and methodology as it relates to both research and the researcher. In contrast, Guba attempts to tell the reader how to make vanilla pudding or horse shoes. I can not really determine which, but whatever the case I am sure that Guba would consider my construction valid. Let me take a moment to muse on Guba, his religion (constructivism), and world view (relativism). I begin with last things first.

Guba declares himself a relativist almost as a sly turn of fate. You see, says Guba, we are all relativist by nature it's just that some are adverse to coming out of the closet and really declaring our preference for vanilla pudding. Now I admit, this statement is somewhat of a construction, but Guba would no doubt approve. The parts of Guba's article that trouble me are not that he fails to give a list of ingredients for vanilla pudding, but that he uses such definite or absolutist words in the process. For instance, Guba uses the definite article at least six times in the first paragraph. A relativist should consider the definite article and all of its kinfolk off limits. The reason being, well, its just too absolutists. The second foible that appears early on in the article is the use of "every" as in everyday. This is a definite no-no for a relativist. It has the smell of positivism all over it, nasty stuff it is. But the last error to appear in the first paragraph of Guba, but by no means the least, is his use of quantitative methods, numbers, and math. This is a clear sign of positivism on the one hand, and an indication that Guba has fallen off the wagon in full view of his readers: "[Kuhn] ... has used the term no fewer than 21 different ways." Now I would affirm that such blatant used of math has no place in vanilla pudding.

In the second place, Guba wears his religion on his sleeve. It is not enough that he denotes a paradigm as a "basic set of beliefs that guides actions," but he initiates credo ("I believe it is important to leave the term ... in limbo" p. 17) before he concludes with the facts. Now vanilla pudding looks and smells more like theology, with creed, a place in the after life (limbo), and moral instruction ("guides action"). It was the opinion of the early positivist Comte that man evolves through three levels of consciousness: theology, metaphysics, and science (positivism). It seems that Guba is attempting the first level, though with some difficulty and contradictions. At least in the end, Comte admitted that positivism was a religion. Guba does not promote the same authenticity with constructivism.

Finally, I have a few closing remarks on baptism. While studying Guba's discourse on vanilla pudding, I ran across a little aphorism. It seems that Guba was hired for a position with a six figure salary. When he presented himself for his payment for services rendered at the end of the year, he was given a bag of apples and $6.

Though appearing somewhat down cast, Guba responded to the lady at payroll in true constructivist fashion. "Ms. Fancy, I can understand why you gave me six one-dollar bills. I did sign a contract for six-figures and that could be constructed as six bills of any denomination, though I could have sworn that it was $600K. That must have just been my construction. But what I can not understand is the bag of apples. I can not seem to make a meaning of the fruit."

Ms. Fancy responded in pure positivist precision: "Make Apple butter."

I will leave it to the class to draw their own conclusions.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Opening Day: Our first EDL7110 Class

The theme for the class was hopes and fears, with an emphasis on the fears. As a class and as individuals, we feared being guinea pigs, having cruel and unusual experiments performed upon us (or by us) in the name of science, humanity, or education. Some of us wondered while we wandered in and out of various states of consciousness whether or not we would be a test case that would result in the professor's beautification or damnation in the educational Valhalla of contemporary society. This was not to mention that some wondered as they wandered in and out of consciousness, whether or not we may run out of time, with experiments and surgeries half-done and internal organs left exposed whiles the surgeons scampered off to golf games and other pressing adventures. This was a reasonable scenario having reflected on the reading list that included two full sets of Encyclopedias, one written in French and the other old Norse.

But there were also hopes, hopes that we would not get just another one-sided story, either of the excellence of one singular theory or philosophy, implying the banality of all others, or the damn fool idea that one was just as good as the next. All involved wished both objective and subjective views expressed upon all points and critical examination of even the most treasured theories, including absolutes where they existed and options where they did not.

Some in the class had become wearied with the absolutist pronouncements of professed relativists. A case in point is as follows: "There are no absolutes." If that is not an absolutist statement, then we should all retreat to the sandbox. It would be much more authentic to say that some disciplines function on a model of absolute truth and others do not, or, for some disciplines there are best (or one best) practices, but for others there are not.

So how did our initiation go? Well, there were no fatalities by the end of class which creeped into the late hours of the night (or early hours of the morning, I was too bleary eyed to remember). But again, the roll has not been taken for this week as of yet. There may have been delayed reactions to the medicine.