Welcome to the second (due October ) of four Non-Major assignments for our class
Welcome to the second (due October ) of four Non-Major assignments for our class, which, taken together, will account for your attendance/participation grade for our class, amounting to 40 percent of your final grade. (Accordingly, each Non-Major assignment counts for 10 percent of your final grade.) This week's assignment is different from last week's assignment--Personal Evaluation--because it has two parts: (1) Ethics and (2) Knowledge Building. For each part of this Non-Major assignment, you're asked to review the required materials, as indicated in the descriiption of each project, and then provide thoughtful responses to the questions posed at the end of each part. You may share your responses for both Ethics and Knowledge Building in the form of an e-mail, or--if you prefer--another program, such as Word, PowerPoint, or Prezi. The most important thing to remember is this: You should feel absolutely free to contact me with any questions you may have about either part of this assignment (or, for that matter, anything else we cover in class), because I want you to succeed. Due Date: The Ethics and Knowledge Building Non-Major assignment will be due by For this second Non-Major assignment, you'll be undertaking both Knowledge Building and Ethics, as discussed below. In describing each of these assignment components, we'll divide this assignment overview into three sequential sections, Why, How, and What. Let's take the two parts in alphabetical order, with Ethics appearing first. Part 1: Ethics Why devote an assignment component to Ethics? Though we might try to keep our personal and organizational lives (whether the organization involved is a place of business or an academic institution) absolutely distinct from one another, it's nearly impossible for most of us to accomplish this sort of "life compartmentalization," and very often the overlap between personal and organizational lives involves ethical issues. If we don't carefully consider the potential implications of our actions--and the actions of those with whom we work--we can numb ourselves emotionally, which can be (as you'll see in the Ethics option below, which involves an organization that is simultaneously a business and an academic institution ) damaging to both ourselves and the institutions we study at or work for. How will the assignment for both Ethics and Knowledge Building be conducted? Please develop thoughtful responses to the questions we'll be exploring below in the What section for each assignment component. Note that because this assignment is intended to fulfill part of the attendance/participation component of your grade for our class, please consider the assignment as a kind of "mini (or micro) presentation" that you might make in class. Accordingly, what's being asked for here is a succinct delivery of your perspective--so you need not worry about authoring lengthy, refined sentences to share that perspective. Bullet points, not "style points" are what's called for here. But I do ask that you be fully clear (using expanded bullet points, where appropriate) in your responses, as your perspectives on this issue are important. What will the Ethics component involve? . In terms of PowerPoint slides, we'll look at just one set, Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development, which is attached. In terms of Video links, you're asked to look at the following TED talk videos: Here's the link to a TEDx talk on the educational side of ethics: It's called "The Significance of Ethics and Education in Daily Life" (time: 10:31)
Here's the link to a TEDx talk on the business side of ethics. It's called "Creating Ethical Cultures in Business" (time: 8:54)
For Ethics, we'll consider (and this is the most important part of the Ethics option, since the assignment is directly derived from it) the following scenario, which is set at an Ivy League institution (henceforth the "Institution":) located in New England. Sam, the main character, is a 25-year-old college graduate who is working as a science writer at the Institution; the year is 1975. Scenario. Sam takes his job as a science writer seriously, or at least does his best to take his job seriously, but he's also serious about his social life. Though Sam is inherently shy and avoids alcohol, he is far from a prude, and appreciates the "heightened experience" he associates with recreational drug use, LSD in particular. Sam is bright, physically fit (he runs every day), spiritually aware, kind to others, and fun to be around. He likes the people he works with at the Institution and people there seem to like him in return. Sam's boss at the Institution is Dave, a brilliant eccentric--the sort of "mad scientist" that seems to lurk in every corner of the Ivy League. Dave studies insects--he's an entomologist--but with a twist: he believes that the evolution of insects, which have been on the planet for millions of years longer than human beings, can play a groundbreaking role in the treatment of human diseases. He is also competitive, and he has his eye on the famous E. O. Wilson, the world's leading authority on myrmecology (the study of ants), who has a chair at the Institution, and who has written extensively about social insects. In his most recent book, Wilson draws social parallels between ant behavior and the behavior of human beings in groups. Dave, however, though he is in the grip of intellectual vanity, and is very jealous of Wilson's success, focuses his research on a different type of insect: moths and butterflies. He is convinced that one of the hormones associated with metamorphosis in these insects--prothoracicotropic hormone, or PTTH--can be used to treat diseases in human beings. His theory, which has yet to be tested, is that injecting the insect hormone PTTH in human cells infected with a virus can "teach" these cells to temporarily metamorphosize into a new cell form that is impervious to the effects of the virus. To Sam, who is eager to write about cutting-edge science, this theory represents fascinating possibilities. But there is a problem--or, rather, two problems. The first problem is that Dave, in addition to suffering from intellectual envy (not uncommon in the Ivy League), has issues with both alcohol and self-discipline. He cannot channel his attention into any experiment he undertakes, and, as a result, he leaves the lab often to visit a local bar, and often does not return from the bar for the remainder of the workday. This results in the second problem: Sam, who is interested in and motivated by the work that Dave is pursuing, very often has nothing to do. Inertia, it turns out, is a common issue at the lab, especially among younger workers. Sam soon realizes that Dave is an alcoholic, and so Sam spends more and more time in the company of other young science writers at the lab, including Lucia, who is on an academic exchange program from another reputable institution in northern Italy. Aside from her communication talents (Lucia is fluent in four languages), Lucia's accent and physical attractiveness make her the epicenter of attention; around the lab, she has quietly acquired the nickname "The Lovely Lucia," which she does nothing to discourage. Through the years, Sam has had a number of platonic women friends, and he sees Lucia--though he, not unlike several other young men at the lab, is also attracted to her--as just another platonic friend, not "relationship material." As for Lucia, who is the same age as Sam, she wants to fully engage in American culture of the era, which, in the "Me Decade" of the 1970s (as described by writer Tom Wolfe), for her involves having a number of relationships with young men at the Institution, often simultaneously. Sam, who is in no way jealous, sees Lucia's tales of romantic adventures--which she shares with him in a tasteful, non-salacious way--and her bold lifestyle as a form of entertainment. Sam recognizes that he is what might be called an aural voyeur: he likes hearing about the lives others lead, and since Lucia has an interesting, ever-evolving life story that she is always eager to share, he is equally eager to listen. But Sam also sees Lucia as frivolous--certainly very bright, yes, but more party girl than intellectual--and he has no interest in pursuing a relationship with her, though he likes talking with her very much and respects the perspectives she shares with him. One night, however, everything changes. Sam, who lives with several housemates in a large Victorian house, receives a phone call from Lucia at a local bar. She asks if Sam can come out to see her (she knows Sam does not drink) because she "needs to talk." It is nearly midnight on a weeknight, and both Sam and Lucia must be at work at the Institution the next day. Sam suspects that by calling so late at night, Lucia may have met her match with her latest romance, and is looking to Sam for a bit of male advice. But when Sam gets to the bar he sees a different Lucia; she seems a bit drunk and flirtatious. Though Sam has already determined he has no interest in Lucia, youthful hormones have a way of overcoming initial objections. (Sam has already been down this road before, and is willing to try it again.) Sam is, in sum, not invulnerable to the charms of an attractive peer, and--having nothing better going on in his own romantic life at that moment--Sam senses that his platonic friendship with Lucia is about to change. But there is something else going on at the bar that disturbs Sam. While Lucia is in the ladies' room, a man that Sam recognizes as his boss, Dave, emerges from the crowd and wanders toward the table Sam and Lucia have been sharing. For a moment, Dave seems to hover over Sam, looking at him with a quizzical expression--as if he knew he was supposed to recognize the young man in front of him, but could not quite manage to do so. Then Dave left, slowly and unsteadily making his way to the door, still seeming befuddled. Sam stares at the door for a full minute after his boss leaves. But when Lucia returns from the ladies' room, Sam pretends nothing had happened, making no mention of Dave. Sam also notices something about Lucia: though she already has had several drinks, she has to be high before she can spend the night with a man. Sam, who informally evaluates human behavior as a reflexive habit (he was editor of the paper at college), sees this as Lucia's clever way of crafting a psychological escape for herself. If she's high, she's not guilty of doing anything questionable, or perhaps anything that can be remembered clearly enough to be questioned. Sam thinks that when she has the excuse of being high, it's as if nothing has happened at all. Sam thinks that this must be how she's been able to engage in so many liaisons with so many different young men. Sam also realizes that he is just another in this long line of young men for Lucia. In the beginning of their relationship, Lucia gets high on marijuana, which she carries with her everywhere. Though Sam had thought she would move on from him very quickly--after just a night or two--Lucia begins spending more and more time with him. Sam realizes (and wonders whether Lucia realizes this as well) that this pattern of getting high and having sex may have taken shape because of the shapelessness of their jobs at the Institution. They had started out at the Institution with hopes for an intellectual adventure rather than a romantic adventure, but those expectations had fallen far short of the mark. And now they had this pleasurable but directionless relationship. It was as if they went to work during the day and--having nothing of value to contribute there--then would go home together at night, get high, and have sex. Lucia spent less and less time talking about other men, and more time talking about her disappointment with work. Sam would echo this. What was there to say? Dave didn't seem to care, and the Institution didn't seem to care. Sam and Lucia began to see the time they spent at the Institution--time that they call their "Big Nothing"--as just a way of padding their resumes. But was there anything so wrong with that? Sam and Lucia realize that they can turn this experience at the Institution into anything they want, as far as their work histories go. One night, Sam says that he and Lucia are like intellectual shoplifters--they're robbing the store they work at by getting paid for doing nothing. Lucia says, If that's the case, then Dave is just the leader of a criminal gang, because he's getting paid for doing nothing, too. And making a lot more money than we are, Sam adds. Lucia and Sam continue to sleep together, but a kind of dull listlessness sets in. They both receive raises they do not deserve. (Sam thinks that the Institution is aware of Dave's behavior, and is in effect paying them to say nothing: hush money to cover for a lush, to his mind. Since Dave is already a famous scientist, the Institution gains more credibility by keeping him employed there. Dave also has tenure, so nothing can happen to him.) With the raises they receive, Sam and Lucia can afford more expensive drugs--marijuana has been replaced by cocaine. They do lines of cocaine night after night after night, until one night Sam notices that the light seems to go out in Lucia's eyes. She is still there with him physically, but her personality--her will, her sense of self, her personal power, something that he had always experienced and never really bothered trying to define--is there no longer. She has become just a shell. If this has happened to Lucia, Sam wonders if he can be any more than a shell himself. The next day, they get up and go back to the Institution to do no work at their do-nothing jobs, knowing that they will come back that night and repeat the cycle, and then continue to repeat it over and over and over again. Summary of Ethics Option. Ethics is always a difficult subject to evaluate because it can be so slippery and imprecise to define. (As a member of congress once defined pornography, "I'll know it when I see it.") Very often, evaluating any situation through an ethical lens involves imposing one's own standards on a pattern of behavior that can be difficult to understand. In the scenario involving Sam, Lucia, and Dave, the behaviors are such that no work is getting down and seemingly unhealthy relationships have been developed--not only between individuals, but between individuals and their workplace. Assignment (for Part 1): Ethics Now for the heart of the matter. For the Ethics component of this assignment, please develop carefully considered responses to EACH of the following four areas of concern: 1. Ethical Challenges? For your perspective, does the situation involving Sam, Lucia, and Dave seem to pose ethical challenges in any way? If so, how and why? If not, why not? (Please briefly explain.) 2. Culpability? Even if you do not believe there are ethical challenges in the interactions of Sam, Lucia, and Dave, on whom do you place blame for the way the situation evolved? Sam? Lucia? Dave? The Institution? Or do you feel that no one is blameworthy, or that all are blameworthy? (Please briefly explain your choices.) 3. Sexual Harassment? Ethical standards evolve over time. Looking at the situation through the contemporary lens of 2021 rather than the independent-minded, hedonistic, free-wheeling, "sex and drugs and rock and roll" lens of 1975, which was right in the middle of what was colloquially known (thanks to Tom Wolfe) as the "Me Decade," do you see Sam as perpetrating a kind of sexual harassment, since--even though she certainly is the more aggressive of the two--Lucia is always high during their sexual encounters? (Please explain how and why Sam's behavior would qualify--or not qualify--as sexual harassment.) 4. Institutional Accountability? Lastly, would you hold the Institution accountable in any way for Dave's wayward behavior and the deepening descent into drug use by Sam and Lucia, or is this merely personal impropriety on the part of the individuals involved? Is there any way in which you believe the Institution could have--or should have--interceded? (Please discuss in brief, explaining how and why the Institution should--or should not--be held accountable.) Part 2: Knowledge Building Why devote an assignment component to Knowledge Building? Though Knowledge Building (which is part of Deep Constructivist Learning Theory) was developed in academia, at the University of Toronto by Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia, it's actually a common-sense, democratized approach to solving problems of all kinds--in business, academia, and life--and it relies exclusively on the input of individuals, who call upon their life experiences to transform knowledge into a "product" that can help all of us. It's especially important to note that Knowledge Building believes that the "product" of our individual experiences can always be improved, and that this improvement begins when we share the benefits of what we experience with others. How will the assignment for both Ethics and Knowledge Building be conducted? As was the case for Ethics, you should develop a thoughtful response to the What section below. Note that because this assignment is intended to fulfill the attendance/participation component of your grade, please consider the assignment as a kind of mini (or micro) presentation that you might make in class. Accordingly, what's being asked for here is a succinct delivery of your perspective--so you need not worry about authoring lengthy, refined sentences to share that perspective. Bullet points, not "style points," or well-considered short paragraphs, are what's called for here. But regardless of whether you use "expanded bullet points" or paragraphs, please strive for clarity in bringing your perspectives to light. What will the Ethics component involve? In terms of PowerPoint slides, please review the Knowledge Building slides (which are attached). In terms of pdf articles, you're also asked to review an article by Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia, "Schools as Knowledge Building Institutions" (also attached) In terms of Video links, you're asked to look at the following videos: Here's the link to Marlene Scardamalia's very short introductory talk on knowledge building (a field of study that she co-founded) in education. It's called "What Does It Take to Become a Knowledge Creating Society?" (time: 1:29)
Here's the link to a TEDx talk on knowledge building. It's called "Failure is Knowledge, Knowledge is Success" (time: 10:22)
Assignment (for Part 2): Knowledge Building Now for the heart of the matter. For Knowledge Building, please develop carefully considered responses to each of the following: For Knowledge Building, the task you're asked to undertake will involve introspection rather than reading a scenario like the one for ethics involving Sam, Lucia, and Dave. What you're asked to undertake instead is careful reflection on the value of an individual lesson you've learned through your own personal experience. [This can be, for example, a kind of introductory summary of your Necessary Upheaval project (one of our three Major projects); it can also be another personal learning experience you've undergone, the meaning of which continues to resonate with you (as you anticipate it will for the remainder of your life).] 1. Overview of your experience. Please provide a clear, brief, bullet-point (or paragraph-based) descriiptive summary of the learning experience itself and (this is most important) how it affected you 2. Learning Outcomes. Describe the personal gains (e.g., insights that you didn't have previously) you realized as a result of having had this experience 3. Sharing Your Lesson. Finally, and perhaps most important of all (since the practice of knowledge building involves extending insights to others), choose a specific target audience--e.g., your peers, older people, young children--that you believe would particularly benefit from learning about your experience, and briefly discuss what means you would use to deliver this information to the this audience (e.g., face-to-face communication, handwritten letters, group e-mail, telephone conference call, Skype), and--importantly--why you believe your personal experience will be of relevance and significance to the audience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *