Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 35 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Secondhand Derrida & Hospitality: postcolonial, communicative & #edtech interpretations

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 35 seconds

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I just started reading about Derrida’s philosophy of hospitality, via a link from Scott Johnson. I have not read Derrida himself, but this article Scott posted in a comment on my blog.

The basic idea of the impossible, unachievable unconditional hospitality is one in which the host gives of their home and of themselves to the guest unconditionally. In reality, the host often imposes their own conditions on the guest, and even statements like “welcome” and “make yourself at home” entail expressions of power as to whom is hosting, a reminder of whose rules apply in this context, and the guest is a stranger who gets the sense of having to be careful about these.

I received the ideas of that article on three different levels:
A. The postcolonial, literal level of hospitality and treatment of immigration
B. The way I had first heard of the concept, via a podcast on rhetoricity and how we listen, receive, and respond to things we hear, how open we are to the ideas and thoughts and rhetoric of another – so hospitality to others’ ideas
C. The online visitor/resident metaphor, and wondering about how openness and blogging and MOOCing changes the landscape of hospitality and the interpretation of visitor/resident and so on

Man, I don’t know Derrida much but I have a feeling he’d like my multi-layered disorganized post coming up – so buckle up 🙂

A. Postcolonial
I was particularly struck by something that has plagued me for quite some time, and which i allude to in an earlier post on visitors/residents where i talk about Mexicans in Texas.

The idea here is this: Western media of previously colonizing countries is inhospitable in the extreme towards immigrants (illegal as well as legal ones to a lesser extent). When people are surprised by terrorists who grew up in the West who turn against Western governments, they completely ignore the amount of hostility immigrants go through. It’s not a justification for terrorism, that’s not what I am saying; but I am saying that Western governments and populations should not speak about immigrants and their children as if the West had done them a favor; the West is indeed not only (generally) treating them inhospitably NOW, the West’s former colonial practices and current neocolonial practices are the reason these people had to flee their country of origin in the first place; the West is partly to blame for supporting the currently oppressive regimes ruling these countries. The West is not solely to blame for any of this, but it is partly to blame. More importantly, as Ben Jelloun suggests, the former colonies had welcomed the French on their soil and allowed them to take and now France does not wish to reciprocate. With a great big difference: the colonizers entered by force, with power, and took to their heart’s content (or whatever); and now,the formerly colonized try to immigrate to the former colonizer in a weak position seeking asylum. The asymmetry is tremendous.
How dare the British talk in the media about how tiny their country is, and how there is no space for immigrants in it, when for years and years they imposed upon my own country and took of its goods unconditionally and oppressed my people in their own homes. I don’t need lessons in history to say this. It’s an abomination. And it continues in this. In my existence of a scholar only in the English language; only through studying at English-language institutions, only through teaching in English. That I can now only understand my own culture through Western eyes, as I now read Derrida’s ideas as understood by someone else and I read them in English, to communicate about them in English.

America is the land of illegal immigration. Everyone who went there first way back when, immigrated and imposed upon the natives living there. And now they’re upset about illegal immigrants. Really…(shaking my head)

The part where Derrida talks about unconditional hospitality as allowing the guest to deprive you of your home… Hello, Palestine?

Western societies now treat immigrants as parasites, when in reality, those same Western societies were the ultimate parasites on our countries first.

End of rant. [Added later: And no, I’m not talking about you (my Western friends), I’m talking about other people in history and in society who embody the practices I’m talking about. I’m not generalizing about everyone]

This post gets lighter, and less angry, I promise 🙂 But I hope I got the point across.

Side note, the author of this article Kevin O’Gorman critiques Derrida and Ben Jelloun for writing about hospitality without directly/explicitly discussing their own status as immigrants to France. I am curious about this fact, but also, though I have not read much Derrida, in this article itself Ben Jelloun himself is quotes for saying something about how he feels when encountering incidences of racism. I’m not sure of the context of what he’s saying, but that sounds pretty straightforward to me. Unless the author here wanted Ben Jelloun to talk about incidences that occurred to him personally, in which case I don’t know if Ben Jelloun has done so. The author mentions political bias, says he isn’t accusing them of it, but that lack of discussing it leaves room for doubt. Err, doubt about what? Their positionality is explicit by their identity. Sure, it’s great to be explicit about how one’s identity shapes one’s views, and I do it as explicitly as I can all the time… I don’t know how common it is in other fields, but not all scholars do it in the same way.

B. On Rhetoricity
So a shift now. To thinking about hospitality to new and foreign ideas. This is something I would like to delve into further, but maybe when I read the original Derrida and listen again to that podcast on rhetoricity. I am thinking about the connection between this and concepts of narrative imagination and empathy and now we receive the ideas of others. How, as Derrida says, hospitality always includes some hostility. When exposed to the ideas of another, we are always faced with an inner resistance to this foreignness. Rosello is cited for mentioning how guest and host must accept “the painful possibility of being changed by the other”. And this reminds me of a recent post I was talking about change and humanity. I got some really insightful comments on that one that I need to get back to. But basically what Rosello is talking about here, this openness to be changed by another… That’s powerful. It’s an attitude and a willingness that we can switch off, but can we switch it on at will? Can we teach it? Is it desirable? I don’t know…

C. On the Online Visitor/Resident Metaphor
This one… This could be fun to play with.
I first thought of the part where Derrida says using the word “welcome” is already an exertion of power, and I remembered how in some MOOCs, when someone new comes in and i say welcome or i welcome them, i give the appearance of it being my home, even when i am not actually a co-facilitator of that MOOC. It occurred to me once that i shouldn’t do that, so i changed it to saying things like “looking forward to learning with you” (whether or not i am a co-facilitator, because it’s true),

I then thought about my blog and wondered if it was a space of unconditional hospitality. After all, it allows anonymous others to read it and look at it and reciprocity is not required (Derrida seems to suggest these conditions are impossible, so i am suggesting they’re possible via open scholarship and blogs). However, I thought about it a bit more and realized it is not completely unconditional. Reading, receiving, linking, quoting, even plagiarizing from my blog is unconditional from my side; however, comment spamming, trolling, etc., are things I try to put limits to, and have the power to moderate via my blog’s back end. Also, I would not open myself completely to having someone else impersonate me and write on my blog for me, so if is a very conditional openness – open to read but not t write. So it’s not that open, after all.

I’ve been wondering recently how much I should engage with #rhizo15. I don’t want new people to feel they’re joining an already-establised fortress and community that they can’t join; and yet I want to help make their experience better (knowing full well that I could make it worse). Do censor myself going forward, behave in a particular way or behave as I am? And this already becomes the situation where:
1. I do not even know if i am host or guest in this case
2. I am letting the upcoming entry of guests affect how i think i should behave, though i am unsure if i am guest or host even…

It’s worth thinking about…

I’m tired now, so I’ll stop here and try to read the full Derrida. Eventually.

29 Comments

  1. Thanks very much for writing this up/down and sharing it. I am more conscious now about ‘welcome’ and yes what might #rhizo15 be like. Maybe call it something else?

  2. Hesitant too on participation in Rhizo15 (or however it is named). Afraid to be taken for the “establishment” or to fall into defending the process from misinterpretation. Neither resident nor guest roles seem appropriate to the spontaneity I think the space needs. What else to get involved in now is uncertain to me. Until some medical issues are resolved…

    Rhetorisity and being changed by the other sounds like some deep stuff. I switched to a Native Plain Cree woman for my psychologist in part because I’ve built up so many counter-arguments to Western-based advice offered by counselors tromping around in my head that I wouldn’t listen. Though she’s Western trained her interpretation feel just a bit unfamiliar as if seen by other eyes and reported in other sensibilities. In an important way I’m defenseless to her suggestions.

    This may also be why I prefer Women doctors and specialists. I compete with males. Become aggressive, challenging and very Alpha. Not unhappy with that side of me, gotten me through some bad times but it’s a limited function tool and needs to be kept on a chain. Maybe being changed by the words of males would be that painful possibility for me? Can the familiar be transformative? Letting go of things that don’t work is easy compared to accepting things that seem disagreeable but might be right. This could get dangerous!

  3. These are fascinating ideas Maha. Thanks for writing this up. Postcolonial discourse on immigration is interesting in itself, but cast within this frame of (un)conditional hospitality, it seems especially relevant to many aspects of education. Ibn Khaldoun may have been the first social scientist to take the long view of the rise and fall of civilizations and to take a step back when looking at issues invitation, participation, inclusion and the management of stability within systems.

    Rosello’s “painful possibility of being changed by the other” is another important idea. Here, “painful” is an example of an inscribed attitude that draws attention to an important power differential in traditional views of teaching where expert is pitted against novice. Models that challenge this differential tend to become controversial – collaborative learning, open learning, auto-didacticism, and other models that reduce or eliminate the authority of the instructor. In the 1930s, Celestin Freinet’s collaborative “pedagogie du travail” was denounced by the French Communist Party for undermining the authority of teachers and Freinet was ejected from the Party.

    But, collaborative teaching cannot always be avoided in adult education and may be an essential component in continuing professional development. Instructional designers working with faculty cannot present themselves as authorities over them. Here, the possibility of change must be equally accepted by both parties, and this means that all authority must vanish. The management of ego will probably become more important as we move to more collaborative and open models of inquiry and knowledge creation in a wide range of fields.

  4. Thanks Mark, makes me think about how I approach authority. Times when I’m open to expertise there’s a feeling of sharing the same world without any fundamental imbalance or feeling I need to protect something in me. In rejection there’s a feeling that a particular version of reality is being imposed on me as if my perceptual skills need to be turned off in order to take in what is offered.
    I don’t disagree to the surrender* of defenses to gain insights from understanding how someone else perceives the world but I am wary of being overpowered and accepting sugar coated wrongs.
    Currently dealing with people who consider themselves so right in their intentions that there really is no other place to be but in agreement with them is not easy. They have marked a line that I must cross and I can’t do it. It’s a kind of sanctity of good intentions line where I need to completely shed self, not in agreeableness but in shame for who I am or how I represent myself. This surrender is not the business or right of anyone to ask of another. But, what do I miss be not crossing the line?
    *”Surrender” is a loaded word but does suggest the powerful trade-offs involved in truly changing our minds.

  5. Hi Scott. Your comments about self-righteous power are very interesting. This thing must be familiar to everyone. Burns gives it short shrift in his poem, The Unco Guid – one of my favorite poems ( http://www.robertburns.org/works/93.shtml ) and I think it may be something that lots of people prefer to overlook.

    But, our profession is rife with people who “know better” and just want to be left alone to fight the good fight. These are the ones who always seem to know “what students need” and their gnostic knowledge is called up as argument, justification, and last word in almost every discussion of policy and pedagogy, formal and informal.

    In fact, it is an assertion of authority and a defense of power over others, lower in status then themselves. These could be students, parents, colleagues, even administrators. It is related to hospitality (a la Derrida) in that we are all guests in the classroom, which is the undisputed domain of the instructor. Any attempt to expand the boundaries of hospitality, by inclusion of guests in substantive decisions about teaching and learning, will offend the authority of the instructor.

    This is a pedagogical problem since it forms a significant barrier to collaboration among colleagues and inclusion of students. Derrida may suggest that we manage this conflict by expanding the boundaries of hospitality, while acknowledging that unlimited hospitality is an impossibility – the teacher will always have ownership of the space and of the time and what unfolds within it. Their good intentions must always be acknowledge and praised and surrender is not within the realm of possibility. What we have are limits to collaboration…

  6. Mark that’s a great poem. Agree that knowing better is a great barrier. All the front line people I deal with in the medical system are so annoyingly corrective I’ve stopped asking for help. Can’t even talk to them any more. No doubt they think they mean well and if I was the model patient they are happy to treat then their cheerful indifference would surely return.

    I do have one specialist and her staff that are wonderful, helpful and understanding. I use her as a model of care. As my Proctologist, our interviews can be somewhat awkward though is encouraging that one end of me is agreeable to the medical system:-)

    In late 60s US politics there was a term: “Benign Neglect” that fostered a policy of essentially ignoring difficult social problems as only resolvable by those directly experiencing them. Excellent excuse for doing nothing and easy to turn into the falsehood of “empowering” people to solve their own problems.

    Wonder if we could invent the science of “intention management” and write a guide to saintly evil? Could start with an illustration from McDonald’s restaurants. All the seating at their tables is brightly colored, convenient and welcoming. It has all the aspects of hospitality except the seats are tipped slightly forward to be slightly uncomfortable and encourage you to enjoy the meal, but not hang around. The intention seems authentic on the surface but underneath it serves only the corporation.

    • This idea of benign neglect is getting to me… I do think some forms of anarchy that call for libertarianism call for that – removing state-run healthcare and education…for example?

      Also the idea of knowing better makes me think of what i hate about my role as faculty developer… This thing where faculty are made to doubt their ability to teach because they never learned pedagogy (or worse, technology). Sort of justifies my existence, but annoys the heck out of me…

      • I read a paper the other day that reminded me of you. The writer was claiming that instructional design was a creative act so teaching it was really about teaching creativity. I’m also interested in faculty development and I see that difficulties arise in the space between developers and faculty, each claiming a kind of expertise and authority over a particular domain.

        I’m looking at Activity Theory, specifically Cultural-Historical Activity Theory as a framework for bridging this problem. I am wondering whether this can be overcome by creating a collaborative middle space where new knowledge can emerge which is not the property of either instructional designer or faculty developer. By drafting both into a NEW creative endeavor, we might be able to promote productive collaboration that results in something other than compromise, wounded feelings, and completed check box forms attesting to “best practice” compliance.

        Does any of this sound familiar to you, Maha? Can you see a creative space emerging between ID and faculty?

  7. Hi Scott. I also remember benign neglect from the 60s. “Intention management” is new to me but I have read about design features of fast food restaurants that are supposed to move people out quickly. This is interesting from an educational standpoint since it suggests that design can also impact engagement, interest and persistence. One of the Arab world’s cultural foibles is a prohibition on ever saying “no” so benign neglect has become a way of life. There’s even a dedicated verb to express it /tannish/ – Maha knows this of course!

    Both techniques – benign neglect and intention management – are ways to compel others to do what we want them to do so they are the antithesis of collaborative, or perhaps, hospitable, work. If someone with whom I am meant to collaborate is doing this, it means that our activity has become a zero-sum game. My objective would then be to move them back to a collaborative mode. I see instructional designers – particularly in the US – positioning themselves as experts. Designers tell academic faculty “you need this”, and it’s often a hard sell.

    Your accounts of doctors again remind me of Illich and his warning that the goal of medicine was to transform everyone into patients, bringing them under the direct control of doctors. This means that the real interests of the medical profession lie in promoting sickness, not health – healthy people are independent of the medical industry. This assumes that medicine is organized as an industry and that health is a commodity… of course, this is not true : )

    • Ha funny i responded to Scott along similar lines (Illich, faculty development) before reading Mark’s comment!

      Re “tannish” i think what is worse in Arabs is saying “inshallah” to mean “probably not but i will pretend i said yes”. I try to avoid it but even my 3 year old worries when she asks for something and is told “inshallah”…she insists that i say a direct “yes”. Interesting, right?

      • Illich and faculty development. Yes – I see a strong connection here with Medical Nemesis. Illich says that doctors promote sickness since health is the commodity that they sell. By analogy, institutionalized education promotes stupidity since knowledge is their commodity.

        You cannot sell health to healthy people, and you cannot sell institutionalized learning to people who are smart enough to teach themselves. The real role of state education is to disable the natural learning faculties of human children, locking them into a lifetime of dependence on (educational) authority.

        Now, for faculty development, this scenario does not work. We need faculty to be able to teach themselves and the usual power play > shut up and listen to me! I am the authority! only raises hackles. I suspect that one of the biggest difficulties in faculty development relates to the politics of power – it really is like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. Good luck with that. Or, rather, inshallah, this will work nicely.

        • Mark, my wife works in instructional design and some faculty development and she’d love the idea of a neutral place to practice her trade. Her hiring came immediately after a new president took over and he’s a guy with zero “person skills” and his first act was to cook up a reason to fire the faculty union rep and spread rumors about faculty be let go if they didn’t cooperate with the college’s plan to put everything online. Needless to say my wife and her department tasked with building online courses were labeled as enemies right away. As I worked there too it got spread to me.

          For some instructors in the Native orientated departments it was perfectly legitimate to question “conversion” to online. The kids they teach come from impoverished, isolated reserves immersed in oral culture and strong family affiliations. Essentially these students need translators to interpret white western educational “values” along with culturally appropriate content at first. In 2007 there weren’t any instructional designers and my wife did her best to consult and take steps to appropriately design courses. Trouble is, no one wants Native people, with their land base taken away they don’t “belong” anywhere any more. So beyond art courses, First Nations orientated education is gone.

          Second group, particularly Business instructors have been actively hostile and I have no sympathy for them. They are bad instructors, behind in their fields and content be stuck where they stopped 25 years ago. They attempt authority but invest nothing in deserving respect and somehow get away with it. Sometimes a new one comes through but they leave pretty fast before they too become zombies.

          What’s sad is especially in backwards places like this good teaching is so important and it just isn’t here. Guess this how colonial behaviors are passed on:-(

          • Hi Scott. Making hamfisted threats is really a great faculty development strategy. I’m sure that works wonders. This task is highly unpredictable, even without pathologically compromised administrators overseeing it. Ostensibly, it is a veritable mine field and problems arise less because of personality, skill, or personal roles than because of the way the task is structured and because of the environment in which it unfolds. So, I think you’re right. A neutral space must emerge where people can collaborate unimpeded by ego, status, or tortured expectations of the other.

            First Nations is a whole nuther thing. I would say that being rejected by the “majority culture” – one has the option of opting out and waiting for history to take its course. This ties in again with Derrida’s hospitality theme. First Nations do not need the white curriculum, especially since that society has no use of them anyway and will not accept them until they forget who they are. This requirement to self-annihilate before being accepted is, frankly, unacceptable.

            Online education makes no sense if the tech infrastructure is not there, or is not robust enough to support it. Illich speaks of tools for conviviality, which means we use what is at hand and what gets the job done as well as possible. Tech is just a means of connecting people. The wires and silicon are meaningless. It is the connections that are important and those connections are human. Traditional education lives in the collective memory of the people and should be recalled, nurtured and cherished. People are the stories they share and the millennia of oral tradition can vanish in one generation.

            Have you heard of Moses Asch? This man armed himself with an audio recording machine and went out to record American folk music before it vanished beneath a buldozer of commercial recording. This is how much of our culture was rescued. Why would this not be a curriculum? Why would it not have value?

            I will need to be convinced that good teaching exists. The best teaching makes itself quickly unnecesary. Learning is the point and when learning and teaching become one in the same, this is when we can start to think that what we are doing is really worth doing.

            • Mark, the problem I can see with a neutral professional development site would be giving credit for qualifications earned. My problem is having experience only at the learned college of sociopathology I imagine anything sponsored by the institution being of any use.

              That said I can imagine traveling PD professionals traveling from town to town holding meeting in tents while security makes sure no administrators or politicians get in. Schools could then offer the usual shit in the mornings and real education in the afternoon. Students could sleep through the type they don’t like.

              To be honest I can’t see the schools lasting much longer without instructors taking their profession back. Left to boards of governors and administrators schools will be reduced the place NOT to go for an education.

              • Hi Scott, Tony Bates at Athabasca University has been working on the problem of evaluating and accrediting independent learning – which includes all learning outside of established institutional channels. There are several proposed solutions. One of the easiest is to follow the model of professional accreditation where training is divorced from evaluation. After completing a course, you are accredited independently. This is done in law, medicine, pharmacy, accounting, real estate, and a number of other professions.

              • Hi Scott, Here is a recording of Tony Bates talking about this topic. The talk is titled “Making Technology Transform Teaching” but what he really talked about was accreditation.

                http://change.mooc.ca/week06.htm

              • Oooh i have another post i am writing about accreditation! Ur giving me lots of material, mark! I didn’t reply to ur earlier comment because my fac dev post is co-authored and the idea is still developing as we write it. As in, it’s not an idea i formed so i decided to write it… It’s an idea that i wanted to think about so i decided to write it with someone so we could think it thru 🙂

  8. Picked up Illich on the medical system though I’m reading a book on caring in nursing first. Charles Taylor wrote “The Ethic of Authenticity” and I may go back to soon and try to find a connection to hospitality–I’m sure it’s there.

    As for Intention Management (IM), not sure where this came from though I think from Noam Chomsky or Communication Studies. I’d define IM as hiding neglect behind an expression of good intentions. Like when I was fired my boss pointed out, “you weren’t happy here” as if she was removing a burden of anguish from my battered soul. Considering that staff at the college has dropped over 50% in the last 6 years she might also have noted my pioneering role in preparing the path for others:-)

    You’re right Maha, kids see right through a “yes” meant to please. Our kids would reply with that hamburger commercial saying “Oh yeah, well where’s the beef?” > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CYqQPhXfRU&feature=youtu.be < and I think they saw an insincere promise as saying something would probably not happen.

    When the college here opened it was part of treaty negotiations where the government could steal all the First Nations' land to give to the logging and oil industries. The school started out pretty decent but now ranks worst in the province and no longer provides the culturally sensitive specialized teachers adept at training for the Native population. Instead, "upgrading" has been moved back to the public schools where the kids have already experienced failure. The whole thing is sold as enabling self-determination when it's really abandonment of obligation based on an imbalanced relationship. Theft.

  9. Mark, ironically we live and work about 1 hour’s drive east of the Athabasca campus but virtually everything here 180 degrees different. One thing here in Alberta is everyone talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. We have the highest level of environmental regulation in all of Canada but no enforcement. Highest per capita incomes and the lowest equity between men and women. It goes on, but why bother people’s word here means nothing. Which doesn’t diminish what Tony Bates is saying, only if adopted here it will be empty BS.

    As for neutrality, I did help instructors with technology and quality assurance things. It worked because because I was unqualified and didn’t challenge their professionalism. Nor was I a friend of authority or political gaming and didn’t tell tales. The official PD person at the time had an MA in education but was bossy and not a good teacher. She’d move too fast and act like a know-it-all. Though I wasn’t a teacher either I had taught apprentices in the trades and been a “difficult” student–just like the ones they taught all day. Plus I’d listen to their stories of being pushed around and having material forced on them that didn’t “fit” their students. Like stories of urban living when these kids had no public library, movie theater, book store, free recreation center or anyone in their family who ever finished high school.

    I remember change MOOC and will find Tony’s paper that I copied but never read. I have thousands of credit hours of extension courses and trade upgrades but couldn’t trade them for a nickle.

    • HI Scott,

      Thanks for this interesting account from Alberta. It isn’t surprising that there is no walk after the talk. These are politicians and they are almost always myopic, seeing only as far as the next elections – so it it isn’t a short walk, then forget it. That’s why their “investment” in education is typically in buildings and equipment (smart boards, computers and so on). These are things you can by and give to people, take a picture with, cut a ribbon. After the photo-op, it’s business as usual.

      Your experience teaching apprentices is very interesting. One of the salient issues of development in the Middle East (and possibly throughout the developing world) is “knowledge transfer”. I’ve been talking to a lot of industry and trade stakeholders here about this recently. The model – as best I understand it – is that there is a foreign expert who “transfers” their expertise to a local apprentice. This follows a traditional and asymmetrical model of teacher / learner. The bottle neck is with accreditation / certification of learning. Typically, this takes the form of a standardized instrument of some sort, often controlled by a third party agency in the West. The real role of the expert is to get the apprentice through the certification process successfully. Then, the credential is regarded as prima facie evidence of expertise.

      This model breaks down at two points: 1) the foreign expert has little interest in working himself out of a job by “transferring” his expertise to a local; 2) credentialing is not evidence of other than a bare minimum level of competence – maybe not even that is the evaluation process is perfunctory or misaligned with objectives or teaching (this is the pedagogical piece you mentioned earlier).

      Apprenticeship is a move toward a more collaborative model, less asymmetrical model. The objective of apprenticeship is not to achieve a credential but to integrate new people into a community of active professionals – a community that is usually also a learning community. Traditional, liberal arts education was clearly oriented toward this goal. However, over the past several decades, education has become more and more like training with it’s focus on narrow goals and minimum standards. To do this, we need to draw industry into the accreditation process.

      • Mark, I honestly don’t know how it is that all ur comments seem to relate to some piece i am writing or another! Either my blogposts reflect seeds of my ideas and your comments show ur thinking along the same lines, or we read the same things (i have had an article in draft about standardization and when i read articles on Al-Fanar about accreditation of Arab Univs, i edited it to fit that context – let’s see how it ends up published, if at all). Then i see ur comment here 🙂

        • This is probably an example of confluence. I don’t actually read that much but I talk to people, try to understand what they’re saying, and think about it.

          Knowledge transfer doesn’t work because people who make decisions don’t think about the problems involved – for whatever reason. Often there are cultural motors that are not considered – education is certification, for instance. This type of thinking is very dominant in the Arab world and supported – at least in the Gulf countries – by a strong focus on “objective truth”.

          This attitude is deeply embedded and appears in maxims such as /al hallalu bayyin wal haramu bayyin/ … it appears in religious exegesis as a strong trend in Wahhbism – a strong cultural influence (maybe chicken and egg here), and it appears again in the focus on certification. Certification also accords with a possibly independent tendency to monopolize authority and withhold information. In tribal politics, at least, information is a primary source of leverage – and one does not give it away for free.

          I don’t know if your article in Fanar considered this. None of these comments are intended as criticism of anything – this is just an attempt to understand the environment. We know that not a bit of anything can be changed in isolation .. /inn Allah la yughayyir ma bi qaumin hatta yughayyiru ma bi anfusihim/

  10. Maha, my wife is off to a “working” conference in Philadelphia mid-May and now on a quality assurance committee. She’s a big fan of pedagogy as the road to quality as opposed to simply writing down standards built by backwards designing from abstract outcomes. I’ll find out the name of the Conference and get back to you.

    I think of accreditation as very multifaceted. Knowledgeable from the ability to reason from many angles? How to measure the ability to apply workable options rather than only fixed solutions?

  11. Mark, from a Christian standpoint (before Luther anyway) accreditation was a kind of permission to be expert in in different matters of the Holy truth and could be purchased (tuition?) and I think traded on the market. As a token of blessing these certificates bypassed the Saintly requirements of suffering and misery on the road to revelation–Beatification Lite if you will.

    So maybe in some way education positions people in social roles but only by restricted standards agreed on, codified and ‘policed’ by traditional authority? In this case a culture would be locked down and so orderly it couldn’t move. I know very little about Islam but remember that tribalism was expected to melt away with the arrival of the Prophet as a unifier? Though not necessarily to become another set of rigid standards but a release from ingrained behaviors that held people apart.

    The isolation of the North creates tribalisms of huddling together for survival. Maybe this arrangement is reflected everywhere, more openly and currently (but not exclusively) in the Middle East? This must be a legacy of Colonialism where people’s natural cultural evolution was totally disrupted leaving them with only a past with no connection to who they could have been?

    Maha, do you think standards might be a sign of insecurity or self-doubt?

    Conference Leslie is going to:
    Developing and Managing Competency-Based Education
    http://lanyrd.com/2015/developing-and-managing-competency-based-education/
    Competency
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-robert-mendenhall/competency-based-learning-_b_1855374.html

    The interest at her college I think comes from a recent crisis where the coordinator of the Paramedic department neglected to log student’s completions of units during the year. This included misplacing of exams to measure competency and whether they passed. As a result students told to retake the whole 2 year program before they could graduate–days before they were to graduate. The college also lost it’s accreditation and a whole department went down. Things were settled but in discussions it was pointed out that the local college program was popular because it was “easy” compared to other colleges and graduating was a no-brainer and were found to be unprepared for the actual work. As much as I dislike authority and standards it seems humans need them:-(.

  12. Wow, read this in a heart beat!

    So a question: I don’t really understand this statement:

    “How, as Derrida says, hospitality always includes some hostility.”

    If I understand this right hospitality here means opening ourselves to new and foreign ideas.

    If we agree that hospitality always includes hostility, then we also assume that the two parties are different and separate from each other in the first place and that they are perfectly happy in their positions. But if we are seeking new ideas then the change doesn’t have to be painful, in fact it can be quite exhilarating?

    • Hi Suzan, yes, but always hospitality means you are coming from somewhere different than whoever (or whatever if we are talking ideas) the guest is coming from. You usually host someone on your own terms (think France and banning hair covering for Muslim women; think a blog where i moderate which comments go thru and can delete ones i don’t like ; think classrooms and choice of language and rules and how these can include or exclude). Does that resonate with u? That even as exhilarating as it can be, it is still on someone’s terms – the host’s?

      • So there is always a dominant one (the one holds the power) when we talk about hospitality. I need to think about this a little–the interpretation here is very different from how I normally think of it in my native language (Turkish).

        I’ve been thinking about “integration” lately (here is an example for those who aren’t familiar with the concept: http://www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/for-qualified-professionals/living/integration-courses). My brain is trying to make connections between integration and hospitality, but I’m not there yet:)

        • So there was a paper i read about integration vs assimilation for immigrants. Immigrants can choose to stop using native language, dress, customs and be assimilated; others choose to keep their native everything and never really work with new country and then there is a middle ground where you maintain both. I didn’t follow ur link to see which one is meant in the link w ref to Germany… But i sense continental Europeans generally prefer assimilation whereas UK is more tolerant of diff cultures… I may be wrong

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