Marcuse's quotes of Bridgman: To think about

I'm posting quotes and notes from texts I'm reading. These are things I'm still thinking about. If you have ideas, please share!

Operations and concepts

In his first chapter of One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse cites Bridgman from The Logic of Modern Physics from 1928. Nearly a century old, this text (or at least Marcuse's quotes) offers us a lot to think about in terms of education and how we are teaching

“We evidently know what we mean by length if we can tell what the length of any and every object is, and for the physicist nothing more is required. To find the length of an object, we have to perform certain physical operations. The concept of length is therefore fixed when the operations by which length is measured are fixed: that is, the concept of length involves as much and nothing more than the set of operations by which length is determined. In general, we mean by any concept nothing more than a set of operations; the concept is synonymous with the corresponding set of operations" (italics in the original; quoted in Marcuse, 1991, p. 13; from p. 5 in Bridgman).

Connections to Teacher Ed

1. How are we defining the concept of education? Are we limiting it to a number of specific operations?

2. Regarding the rubrics for evaluation and assessment of teacher education programs, as well as pre-license teachers, these evaluations appear to more more closely to reducing teaching to a series of actions, a series of moves made in the class. This is reducing teaching to a set of operations.

3. This could clearly link to scripted teaching.

4. Encroachment of physical science’s approach into behaviorist-approach of social sciences & education.

Implications of operations in teaching

The implications of such thought, according to Bridgman, are also briefly quoted by Marcuse: 

“To adopt the operational point of view involves much more than a mere restriction of the sense in which we understand ‘concept,’ but means a far-reaching change in all our habits of thought, in that we shall no longer permit ourselves to use as tools in our thinking concepts of which we cannot give an adequate account in terms of operations” (p. 13 in Marcuse, 1991, from p. 31 in Bridgman, 1928).

Connections to teaching

1. When we are analyzed and reviewed on a specific set of rubrics, do these rubrics record joy, engagement, passion—from the teacher or the student? No, they don’t. These things cannot be measured or gauged directly. They are also not included as part of the operations because they cannot be adequately described.

2. The endless gathering of data is almost exclusively about what can be defined or what is easily defined. By focusing our attention on the data, we are allowing and enabling the narrowing of what teaching and education mean.

Connections to EdTech

1. How can we use EdTech to combat this operationalization of learning? Are there ways that we can use technology in the classroom to promote and encourage students to do things that are fun, educational, and that are not measurable or able to be quantified?  

2. Is it possible for us to encourage using tech to help students explore the learning spaces that are outside of assessment?