• ssu
    1.5k
    When reading (and listening) about the fallist movement in South Africa, a student movement in 2015-2016 that started with protests of "Rhodes must fall" and morphed into "Fees must fall"-student protests (which btw in the end were moderately successful), I stumbled to a rather strange debate of "decolonizing science".

    In the South African context, this isn't suprising, as the country has the difficult past with apartheid. And mostly the debate is what in other places would be seen as a normal debate about pedagogy and modernization of the curriculum, which naturally is an important topic in the educational sciences, in learning theory and so on. However sometimes this debate becomes quite odd, like with "decolonizing mathematics" with "ethnomathemics" (see here). In Canada a similar discourse of "decolonizing science" has emerged and the argument isn't anymore about pedagogy, but science itself and it being culturally dominated by Europe (or basically by whites).

    The argument of science or the scientific method being Eurocentric becomes very odd. Here's a quote from Glen Aikenheads and Dean Elliots article "An Emerging Decolonizing Science Education in Canada":

    Shool science usually attempts to enculturate all students into the culture of
    academic Eurocentric science, replete with its canonical knowledge, techniques, and values.
    Many science teachers want all their students to be able to think like a scientist, behave like a scientist, and believe what scientists are purported to believe

    Terms like "canonical knowledge" and "values" of science are strange as the scientific method seeks to be first and foremost to be objective. And if learning science, physics, chemistry or math, that is referred as "behaving like a scientist", is hard, Aikenhead and Elliot have a view on why this is:

    But teachers certainly fail to meet this goal; except for the small proportion of students who, like the authors, have worldviews that harmonize with the worldviews endemic to Eurocentric sciences. Most students’ worldviews differ, to varying degrees, from the worldview conveyed by conventional school science. - Students who do not feel comfortable taking on a school science identity (i.e., being able to think, behave, and believe like a scientist) represent the vast majority of any student population.

    So math or chemistry being hard means that you aren't comfortable with the identity taught to you. And of course the answer is non-Eurocentric science, Indigenous science or knowledge, that differs from the Eurocentric science according to the view of the authors the following way:

    Indigenous ways of knowing nature combine the ontology of monism and spirituality with the epistemology of place-based, holistic, relational, and empirical practices in order to celebrate an ideology of harmony with nature for the purpose of community survival. Knowledge in Eurocentric science expresses an intellectual tradition of thinking, while Indigenous knowledge expresses a wisdom tradition of thinking, living, and being (Aikenhead & Michell, 2011). Broadly speaking, an intellectual tradition emphasizes individual cognition, while a wisdom tradition emphasizes group-oriented ways of being as practised by living in harmony with Mother Earth for the purpose of survival.

    The normative statement and agenda is quite obvious from the definition of Indigenous knowledge "emphasizing living in harmony with Mother Earth for the purpose of survival". It's obvious that the scientific method is willfully misunderstood and simply viewed basically as a tool of political power. Because arguing that the scientific method is an objective way to study reality and isn't a normative endeavour (and is quite international) would just be seen as a proof of eurocentrist views! In my view this can lead to similar nonsense as creation science, scientific humbug that has an agenda. It is as if missunderstanding Kuhn's scientific paradigm in a vulgar way likely emerging from ignorance.

    As one Asian academic discussing the subject put it well: "In order to critisize Western Science, you do have to know Western Science".

    So my question (thanks if you have made it so far) is if this is just an academic red herring or an example of how academic knowledge has fallen? Or am I just a believer in Eurocentrist science that doesn't get the point of decolonization of science?
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    am I just a believer in Eurocentrist science that doesn't get the point of decolonization of science?ssu

    It looks that way...? :chin:
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    the scientific method seeks to be first and foremost to be objectivessu

    Seeks to be, but perhaps fails to achieve this aim? I think that's the issue, isn't it? :chin:
  • Echarmion
    651
    Seeks to be, but perhaps fails to achieve this aim? I think that's the issue, isn't it? :chin:Pattern-chaser

    The scientific method is just that: a method. It doesn't seek to do anything, it's either correct or it's not. While some particulars of the scientific method can be debated, I can't see anyone arguing that it's entirely wrong.

    So my question (thanks if you have made it so far) is if this is just an academic red herring or an example of how academic knowledge has fallen? Or am I just a believer in Eurocentrist science that doesn't get the point of decolonization of science?ssu

    As with many current discussion relating to gender, race and identity I think it's interesting to consider the specific cultural norms and prejudices that might be enshrined in the way we perform, view and teach science. No doubt it is interesting to contrast the approaches of different cultures to concepts like reality, knowledge and truth.

    Where these kinds of approaches go astray is if they start to argue for an uncritical, or total, cultural, moral or epistemological relativism. I skimmed the article you linked, and the authors point out that relativism is not the point. It does, however , sound like this particular line of argument necessarily leads to it. Sentences like:

    Indigenous ways of knowing nature combine the ontology of monism and spirituality with the epistemology of place-based, holistic, relational, and empirical practices in order to celebrate an ideology of harmony with nature for the purpose of community survival.

    Certainly don't help.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    While some particulars of the scientific method can be debated, I can't see anyone arguing that it's entirely wrong.Echarmion

    Neither can I. :chin:
  • unenlightened
    3.9k
    Or am I just a believer in Eurocentrist science that doesn't get the point of decolonization of science?ssu

    I'll have a short go at arguing this to be the case. Let's assume for now that there is a scientific method, a blueprint that applies universally to anything one might wish to study. And let's grant that it is impartial and objective in all the relevant senses. Still it is the case that scientific practice is subject to other considerations and forces. Take medicine, for example. It is much easier to get funding to research a field that promises to produce a patentable remedy, than one that might produce an equally effective remedy that is un-patentable - eg a diet.

    Now consider how much research effort has gone into looking for racial and sexual differences of intelligence, personality, and so on. Allow that it has all been done with impeccable scientific methodology, still one can ask why this is the thing that matters, or rather who does it matter to?

    In other words, science is not just method, it is institutions, it is embedded in society that directs its enquiring gaze howsoever objective and impartial, at some questions and not others. And here is how it can be used against a culture :

    "There is no scientific evidence that...XYZ"
    But if the society that controls science finds it convenient not to know XYZ, there will never be any scientific evidence, though another culture may have known it informally for millennia.
  • Arkady
    762
    The argument of science or the scientific method being Eurocentric becomes very odd.ssu
    Except that it's not as if, for instance, the Chinese do not perform science as we know it in the West. When they launch a space probe, they presumably rely upon the same equations as does NASA. There is no "Chinese physics," any more than there is a "Jewish physics," as someone once fulminated. The fact that the modern scientific method arose relatively recently in the West (let us semi-arbitrarily say in the 16th century), it doesn't follow that there's something essentially Eurocentric about the entire affair.

    I believe it was Carl Sagan who wrote about modern African hunter-gatherers tracking their prey, and being able to discern the the approximate size of the animal, the direction in which it's traveling, how recently it passed by, etc by the characteristics of its footprints, and noted the similarity to the work of planetary astronomers who study impact craters on distant worlds.
  • Necuno
    16
    This is an interesting twist, but not surprising. It flows into the social sciences as well. A year or so ago, I did a Google search for "Jared Diamond racist" and came up with two pages of hits on blogs, articles, etc. arguing about whether Professor Jared Diamond is a racist in relation to his book Guns, Germs and Steel (1997, won many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize) and his theory of "geography is destiny." Jared Diamond in interviews has stated that he is not a racist and that those who say he is have misunderstood or refused to understand the geo-environmental destiny argument (and consequently, also the problem). A similar search at the same time for "Max Weber racist" returned similar results, with the addition of him being accused of imperialism, Darwinism, nationalism etc.

    David S. Landes in "Why Europe and the West? Why Not China," (Journal of Economic Perspectives – Volume 20, Number 2 – Spring 2006) describes "the seventeenth-century European mania for tinkering and improving." Together with Jared Diamond, the two describe what is now known as the East-West Technological Inversion in macro-history. Professor Raymond Birn in Crisis, Absolutism, Revolution: Europe 1648 to 1789 describes generally a similar process in European orientalism:

    "Not only did the Jesuits bring Christianity to China, but they also brought China to Europe. In doing so, they impelled an intellectual mutation that had been taking root since the Thirty Years War. To the troubled European society of the late seventeenth century, the Jesuit image of a near utopian civilization governed by moral sages uncorrupted by intolerance, passion, or material desire, offered a refreshing contrast. Kangxi was viewed as a philosopher king whose sense of justice and virtue made Leopold I or Louis XIV seem like moral pygmies. Europe swallowed fact and fancy about China. For the first time, a significant body of Western intellectuals cast doubts on the ethical superiority of their own civilization. Paradoxically enough, this was occurring at the moment when the very same thinkers were producing rational explanations about the physical universe that Eastern sages could not hope to match." (2nd Edition, p. 169).

    It comes down to this: Because of European colonization and exploitation over the course of 500 years, a significant part of which (but not solely) was due to technological superiority, anything associated with the West is suspect (look up the actual meaning of "Boko Haram"), and science and technology in particular (and a form of materialism, consumerism) are seen as belonging to the West and not to humanity in general in much of the world, and thus, we now have discussions under various guises of how to separate science from the West. Science is associated with both racism and with bad history, and with the uncertain changing world in which the youth of those places find themselves. This is a huge barrier to education in those places, as opposed to the West where science can easily be presented in primary schools as beneficial.
  • Judaka
    395
    To play devil's advocate, a culture predicated on an understanding without science is clearly going to be undermined by it. It's not a scientific truth that using science is better than not using science, the importance the West places on science could be seen as a Western idea. I think that they are protesting their worldviews (which are objectively incorrect) are being undermined by science, it's a cultural issue.

    Certain interpretations of Islam, for instance, would clearly have to change if Western science was accepted completely. I'm sure Muslim scientists are fine but the general populace's interpretation of Islam clearly runs contrary to what we've learned through the scientific method. If someone wanted to teach that "the scientific method and testing shows both genders to be of equal intelligence" since that would undermine certain interpretations of Islam, would we be surprised if such people didn't want that? Would it be surprising if they rejected that being taught because they don't want their children to be "Westernized"?

    They are also arguing against is the use of science as an interpretative focus in their cultures. For things to be true or not true based on the scientific method completely changes how people look at things.

    It's also a power thing because if children go to school and learn about Western science and start to focus on those ideas, their parents don't have the same chokehold on knowledge that they used to. Indigenous "elders" who don't verify their beliefs using the scientific method is going to be in competition with teachers who do. It's a war over the child's mind.

    Just some ideas based on bits and pieces I understand, I can't speak to the validity of them with regards to the people referred to in the articles provided.
  • fdrake
    2.5k
    This is slightly off topic I suppose, but I started reading through the article @ssu linked, and I absolutely love this:

    (Aikenhead, 2006a; supporting citations are omitted)

    that's such a huge fuck you to a skeptical reader. It's just 'You won't, I know you won't.' I'll have to steal it.

    The article doesn't actually say Western science (whatever that is) is wrong or produces falsehoods, it's a critique on an institutional level. The goals of their argument are to support the following notion:

    A cross-cultural science curriculum promotes the decolonization of school science.
    Indigenous students learn to master and utilize Eurocentric science and technology without, in
    the process, sacrificing their own cultural ways of knowing nature. Cross-cultural school science nurtures walking in both worlds – Indigenous and Eurocentric. In the Mi’kmaw Nation, some Elders talk about two-eyed seeing that emphasizes the strengths of both knowledge systems (Hatcher, Bartlett, Marshall, & Marshall, 2009). By walking in both worlds or by two-eyed seeing, Indigenous students (rural and urban) gain cultural capital essential for accessing power as citizens in a Eurocentric dominated world while maintaining their roots in an Indigenous wisdom tradition.

    For non-Indigenous students, cross-cultural school science can nurture a richer
    understanding of the physical world. Their Eurocentric dominated world can be an impoverished mono-cultural world that stifles diversity. By learning to walk in both worlds or by two-eyed seeing, non-Indigenous students gain insight into their own culturally constructed Eurocentric world, and they can gain access to Indigenous cultural capital essential for wisdom-in-action for their country’s sustainable growth (Glasson, Mhango, Phiri, & Lanier, 2010

    So what they'd like is more inclusive teaching practices along ethnic lines, a greater emphasis on practical demonstration, and an introduction of 'Indigenous knowledge' as a cluster of practical methodologies for doing... stuff. Doing stuff nowadays requires familiarity with technology; engaging with any research team or technology developer group requires being in accord with 'Eurocentric science' - or at least being able to adopt its vocabulary and methods of thinking.

    In the authors' view (it seems to me), what they want, is to remove cultural identity based alienation's effect on people's developmental prospects, and they think that incorporating education about such cultures into the curriculum would help address that.

    I don't agree that teaching cultural practices or ideology alongside normal science in the science classroom is particularly appropriate; not because I think 'indigenous knowledge' is worthless or whatever, but because I see some basic level of technical understanding over most scientific fields as a necessary goal of education which expands people's developmental potential more than the alternative 'indigenous wisdom' that competes with it for science classroom time.

    But I would like to see a greater emphasis on cultural/historical/anthropological/social/political education in curricula, and would also like to see more practical demonstrations incorporated into teaching especially with regard to 'Eurocentric science'. An overemphasis on decontextualised theory breeds boredom and then ignorance.

    I mean, the worldview that school history taught me is that before William Wallace there were dinosaurs and then another bloke called William stopped slavery, someone else who surprisingly wasn't named William discovered antibiotics, and now we have an understanding of reality down to its fundamental constituents and somehow that required trade, which is capitalism. Hitler came along at some point and killed a lot of people, but everything's back to normal now. Eventually because of an unfortunate incident with planes and buildings we were told about a writhing sea of angry brown people who weren't Indians because Indians are our friends and have this cool light festival thing. Outside of the classroom I was surprised to learn the Indians were only our friends when they weren't stealing our jobs.

    Edit: though it does seem the kind of paper that would probably cite agricultural field studies to establish that cultural pluralism is more sustainable (#sneering academic jokes).
  • fdrake
    2.5k
    It does make a lot of effort to give their claims an empirical backing though, eg:

    In Alaska, cross-cultural school science resulted in Indigenous students’ standardized science test scores uniformly improving over four years to meet national averages (Barnhart, Kawagley, & Hill, 2000). Classroom teacher/researcher Medina-Jerez (2008, p. 209) maintains that what matters most is “the acknowledgement of cultural differences in the classroom that provides the needed attention to each student in coping with his/her strengths and weaknesses as they feel integrated into the cross-cultural scenario of the classroom.”

    The 'uniformly' there is important. I'm too ignorant of the data to weigh the specifics of 'improved schooling' that incorporates more practical demonstration and social/cultural pedagogy vs one which focusses on 'indigenous knowledge' to provide those improvements in the way the paper advocates.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    Thanks for the responses, all!

    Except that it's not as if, for instance, the Chinese do not perform science as we know it in the West. When they launch a space probe, they presumably rely upon the same equations as does NASA. There is no "Chinese physics," any more than there is a "Jewish physics," as someone once fulminated. The fact that the modern scientific method arose relatively recently in the West (let us semi-arbitrarily say in the 16th century), it doesn't follow that there's something essentially Eurocentric about the entire affair.Arkady

    I think this is my point too, but unfortunately arguing that there is no "Chinese physics", that there's only physics, will obviously sound to those believing the Eurocentrism of science argument obviously as eurocentric view. And when it comes to fields like mathematics, the argument that math has to be decolonized has to start from apparent ignorance of mathematics. Starting from the fact that we use the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. Just try to quickly count what is MCMXCI + IX is (it's MM, obviously).

    Historically this kind of argumentation, that science has another agenda than just being a method of inquiry and hence we have to have a different kind of science, has had dire consequences for science especially in totalitarian systems where being "politically correct" takes a whole new meaning. You already mentioned "Jewish physics", which was then opposed with Deutsche Physik in the Third Reich (and actually earlier), which is a perfect example of mixing race ideology with a natural science. Lysenkoism in biology is another perfect example from the Soviet Union, which truly set back Russian genetics research (and research in other socialist countries too). And many times scientific research is portrayed to have a separate normative agenda, just look at the opposition to stem cell research or one of the biggest scientific topics of today, climate change. We lose something when science is seen as a political statement.

    Basically the problem aren't the well argumented views that want to take into consideration local culture, non-European science history or local traditions, the problem is the vulgar and basically ignorant views that take purging science of "Eurocentrism" literally. And when these ideas go a bit too far, it's very difficult then for academic community to respond that "this is nonsense" when it has accepted that science ought to be decolonized.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    So what they'd like is more inclusive teaching practices along ethnic lines, a greater emphasis on practical demonstration, and an introduction of 'Indigenous knowledge' as a cluster of practical methodologies for doing... stuff.fdrake

    Take for example two food crops on which much of the world depends: corn (maize) and potatoes. The indigenous hunter-gatherer populations of North America did not find these plants in a form anywhere close to their modern presentation. The plants had to be bred up to their much larger, modern (as of 1492) size and form.

    Tomatoes are another western hemisphere food crop that had to be improved to be useful. And then there is chocolate which maybe required plant breeding, but also required the discovery of non-obvious methods of processing to become delicious.

    Every culture on the planet did pretty much the same thing--all without "Science" as the contemporary world knows it.
  • fdrake
    2.5k


    Yes. I didn't mean to suggest they were empty of content or insight.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    In other words, science is not just method, it is institutions, it is embedded in society that directs its enquiring gaze howsoever objective and impartial, at some questions and not others. And here is how it can be used against a cultureunenlightened
    Any human endeavour has it's societal aspects.

    I think that this is well explained by Kuhn's theories, yet Kuhn basically as a historian of science doesn't at all to say that science would be just a social construct.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    The kind of thinking you are concerned about in science infested the humanities tower first, then the social sciences building. Now they have begun attacking the science and math quad. Fumigate your quarters before they get any farther.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    The kind of thinking you are concerned about in science infested the humanities tower first, then the social sciences building. Now they have begun attacking the science and math quad. Fumigate your quarters before they get any farther.Bitter Crank
    My leftist friend, this shouldn't be anything new to you either.

    I'll try to give an example:

    Let's assume that there would be a new socio-economic model that would describe how our World works far better than anything else before and for some reason people would understand and accept the model. The problem is that we wouldn't look at it like "Now there's a nice objective model on how the World economy works...", no, the immediate response would be "How can we solve the current problems? how can we make the World better with this model?". And those are normative statements, how can we make things better. Hence they aren't at all just about applying the scientific method anymore. As I've said earlier, the old name of economics, political economy, was much more informative and truthful.
  • Moliere
    1.7k


    I'm just skimming this paper you linked, but I'd encourage you to look at it again with a different idea in mind tham relativism.

    I ran a quick search on your Canadian paper and the combination "social construct" does not appear in that paper.

    The Canadian paper seems concerned with integrating indigenous knowledge into the wider scientific curriculum, focusing on Saskatchewan in particular as an example of what this looks like in practice. The problem is that the social stuff is getting in the way of teaching the science stuff.

    Objectively speaking this isn't about social construction at all, but how to help students to learn. They note that there is a general problem with scientific pedagogy in that it alienates the student from the subject matter, and that this alienation is more pronounced in the cases where the social world has experienced European colonization.

    They state:

    A cross-cultural science curriculum promotes the decolonization of school science.
    Indigenous students learn to master and utilize Eurocentric science and technology without, in
    the process, sacrificing their own cultural ways of knowing nature

    So, really, this is mostly about getting students to learn given the real obstacles teachers face, and very little about the social construction of science or something like that.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    I know you were not suggesting that.

    I was taught in school that the ancient European people (never mind everybody else) were pretty much ignorant and incapable of scientific thinking. It seemed to me then, it still seems to me, that this was not the case, and could not be the case. Hunter gatherers, and then agriculturalists, later metal workers, then builders and so on, all had to be good observers and had to apply analytical thinking to survive, first, and then improve their operations.

    Grafting of trees started in China t least 4000 years ago. Grafting one variety of apple or pear onto a related but different variety is a non-obvious procedure, which requires skill and patience -- several seasons may be required before the grafted tree delivers the intended fruit. The 'primitive' arborist also has to understand something about the physiology of the tree. What he knows may not sound like "physiology" but the right kind of plant tissues have to be in contact with each other for a graft to be successful.

    What seems like backwardness was usually a lack of the right material. Western Hemispheric and Australian aboriginal people didn't develop the wheel because they didn't have suitable draft animals. (this is out of Guns, Germs, & Steel). Hitching kangaroos to a wagon would have been an unhappy experience for everybody concerned. Buffalo were big and strong enough to pull loads, but they are not inclined to cooperate. It was the misfortune of horses and oxen to be cooperative enough to end up hitched to wagons until the internal combustion engine came along.

    Farmers did without plows for millennia; it wasn't that they were too stupid to use plows -- they used what they could make. A good plow (like The Plow That Broke The Plains) required steel, which happened to be in short supply until the Industrial Revolution. A craftsman could make a steel sword, but actually beating one's swords into sod-turning plows proved to be impractical.

    There ARE instances of raw stupidity. The miasma theory of disease, for instance, remained stuck in the brains of medical doctors for decades after it was obvious that something other than vapors caused disease. Our contemporary anti-vaxxers are another example of raw stupidity.
  • Arkady
    762
    The miasma theory of disease, for instance, remained stuck in the brains of medical doctors for decades after it was obvious that something other than vapors caused diseaseBitter Crank
    I think it's still widely accepted, though, that the vapors are the primary cause of swooning and of female hysteria.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    Objectively speaking this isn't about social construction at all, but how to help students to learn. They note that there is a general problem with scientific pedagogy in that it alienates the student from the subject matter, and that this alienation is more pronounced in the cases where the social world has experienced European colonization.Moliere
    Yet this isn't just about that the pedagogy isn't the best possible one and hence students are lagging behind. The paper, as other similar ones talking about decolonization of science, start from the premiss that Eurocentric science is used as a tool of opression against the colonized, marginalized indigenous people. Quote from the paper:

    school science overtly and covertly marginalizes Indigenous students by its ideology of neo-colonialism – a process that systemically undermines the cultural values of a formerly colonized group (Ryan, 2008). As a result, an alarming under representation of Indigenous students in senior sciences
    persists.

    Hence the call for "decolonization" assumes that science education has a neocolonialist ideology. This is not at all just your 'ordinary' call for improving educational methods, but also a deliberate accusation that science is deliberately used as a tool against certain people.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.6k
    school science overtly and covertly marginalizes Indigenous students by its ideology of neo-colonialism – a process that systemically undermines the cultural values of a formerly colonized group (Ryan, 2008). As a result, an alarming under representation of Indigenous students in senior sciences
    persists.

    This is just pseudo-academic gobbledygook.

    "Neo-colonial ideology" is a generalized bogeyman that portrays all western progress as dependent on the intentional or reckless rape of all other cardinal directions (juxtaposing it with science is an exaggeration within an exaggeration). When perceived as a western invention, through the intersectional looking glass, ontologically it becomes defined as a tool of oppression for any way that it does not approach people or political issues with with absolute emotional sensitivity and on bended knee.

    It's nice to have critical-sounding rhetoric that uses words good, but unless it has some substance then it's just a fashionable trend.

    So my question (thanks if you have made it so far) is if this is just an academic red herring or an example of how academic knowledge has fallen? Or am I just a believer in Eurocentrist science that doesn't get the point of decolonization of science?ssu

    Fallism is less about science in any tangible way, and more about the general dissatisfaction with social disparities between perceivably western and non-western ethnicities. There's an emotional debate going on, and science has been dragged into it (and unfairly accused of taking sides) like some kind of unlucky brother-in-law.

    Something is indeed rotten in the state of academia, and social "sciences" directs it...
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    vapors are the primary cause of swooning and of female hysteriaArkady

    The uterus was believed to wander around the body like an animal, hungry for semen. If it wandered in the wrong direction and made its way to the throat there would be choking, coughing or loss of voice, if it got stuck in the the rib cage, there would be chest pain or shortness of breath, and so on. Most any symptom that belonged to a female body could be attributed to that wandering uterus. — Terri Kapsalis: HYSTERIA, WITCHES, AND THE WANDERING UTERUS: A BRIEF HISTORY OR, WHY I TEACH THE YELLOW WALLPAPER

    STOP THE HYSTERIA!

    This woman's uterus has managed to find its way into her hair -- you can see what disastrous consequences a wondering uterus can have.

    The-motor-phase-of-a-hysterical-attack-Paul-Richer-Etudes-cliniques-sur-lhystero.png
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    Thank you for succinctly summarizing the great pile of academic horse shit. Kudos, kiddo.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.6k
    My pleasure! Shoveling shit, after-all, is the backbone of philosophy!
  • ssu
    1.5k
    Fallism is less about science in any tangible way, and more about the general dissatisfaction with social disparities between perceivably western and non-western ethnicities. There's an emotional debate going on, and science has been dragged into it (and unfairly accused of taking sides) like some kind of unlucky brother-in-law.VagabondSpectre
    Fallism came and went in the South African university circles just like Occupy Wall Street movement in the US. Both aren't anymore active in a major way, but the undertones haven't gone away for sure. To say that science has been just dragged to this as an innocent by-stander might accurately describe the situation. The Apartheid era education system where a minority had a good education system while the black majority had a lousy one won't naturally correct itself without investment and a lot of hard work. But that surely isn't the fault of science itself. To argue that science is Eurocentric or Western can have true repercussions, if the views would go as so far as with Boko Haram. Naturally South Africa is very different from Northern Nigeria.
  • Hanover
    4.9k
    So my question (thanks if you have made it so far) is if this is just an academic red herring or an example of how academic knowledge has fallen? Or am I just a believer in Eurocentrist science that doesn't get the point of decolonization of science?ssu

    Either the rocket makes it to the moon or it doesn't. If a study of nature that rejects the political views of Western society sends rockets straight to the moon, with our rockets meandering and never quite finding their way, or at least doing so less efficiently, I'll subscribe to the anti-West system. Science is the study of the empirical and its verification is based upon empirical observations.

    Science is the single most powerful way we have of discovering knowledge about our world. As the oppressed duly note, knowledge is power and without it comes weakness. The solution is not to delegitimize science in order to level the playing field so that those ignorant of science have the same power as those who do not, but it's to educate oneself and gain the knowledge one lacks. The great equalizer is education, not denying one's ignorance and celebrating one's stupidity.

    I suspect you agree with all this?
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.6k
    Fallism came and went in the South African university circles just like Occupy Wall Street movement in the US. Both aren't anymore active in a major way, but the undertones haven't gone away for sure. To say that science has been just dragged to this as an innocent by-stander might accurately describe the situation. The Apartheid era education system where a minority had a good education system while the black majority had a lousy one won't naturally correct itself without investment and a lot of hard work. But that surely isn't the fault of science itself. To argue that science is Eurocentric or Western can have true repercussions, if the views would go as so far as with Boko Haram. Naturally South Africa is very different from Northern Nigeria.ssu

    Fallism, like Occupy, came and went, but their underlying emotional discussions have been going on for over a hundred years (the Marxist perspective begat a century of socialist romance as a reaction to the gross and novel inequality created by the industrial revolution, and the economic/social/democratic emancipation of African Americans, along with the South African and Pan-African struggles against exploitation and discrimination, has been the central issue in Black intellectual communities since the late nineteenth). Fallism, as far as I can gather, was a short-time business end of this larger and older movement and emerged mainly in redress to academic inequality. Given that democratic equality and academic opportunity for Black South Africans has only relatively recently become a reality, it makes sense for a cultural movement to address any extant disparity directly (though they certainly chose the wrong vector of approach). The Occupy Wall-street movement in a way encapsulated the self-same dissatisfaction, but it took a more general perspective by not overtly focusing on race (although, Occupy did suffer from its own unique problems: what they called "the progressive stack of virtue based leadership", others others might call a headless chicken. What happens when you put 10 anarchists in a room and tell them to plan to implement their ideas? Cat herding for 400, Alex).

    Despite the zoo of failed or malformed social movements aimed at addressing economic and social forms of inequality, they keep (d)evolving because there are there are genuine disparities and injustices that persist (and because solving these problems in practice is immensely complex). The ever looming wealth gap, at a time when we're on the verge of a second industrial revolution (the AI revolution), and when the long term costs of industry are more and more deferred to the people (especially their children), is a serious threat to our long-term stability. (It's no wonder Marx is making a comeback). So there is indeed a need for these kinds of movements, just more practical and useful ones.

    Like so many reactionary movements it was full of vim and vigor but it had no coherent direction or practical vision. Ironically a scientific approach could have been very useful to them in identifying the most effective objectives and methods; creation through destruction is not always helpful.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    . The great equalizer is education, not denying one's ignorance and celebrating one's stupidity.

    I suspect you agree with all this?
    Hanover
    Education is a great equalizer indeed. So great, that even if one can argue that our intellectual abilities differ as does our abilities in sports, where physical training is good for everyone, but not all can be top athletes, it still is so overwhelmingly important that in larger groups of people the difference doesn't show. What matters is how much resources are put into education, what is the ability of the teacher and how positive environment towards learning the school gives to pupil.

    Let's take an example, my country, Finland, which has many times been marketed as a country where school education is great and has been top of the line for some time (although it has fallen a few places) in international rankings. Even Michael Moore has come here to be in awe about it. However even here in Finland there are differences between schools and those differences have become bigger. If you would take just Southern Finland, the country would be in PISA science performance rankings there alongside with Singapore (1st place), but add up the schools in Northern and Eastern Finland and Finland is at 8th place. Btw the US is 23rd place. And the biggest reason is basically money. The larger cities and municipalities of Southern Finland can invest more into education than poorer rural areas as we don't have oil as Norway does. Of course this is a rather meaningless difference as obviously any education system ranked in the top 10 or so in the World is quite OK, but it does show that even in a country where the education system is extremely homogenous, the teachers are quite the same, you still get differences. Then how bad the situation is when there are truly huge differences in schools? In the US there is a problem with the quite large gap between the best and the worst schools.

    Put the focus on Africa and the picture simply is catastrophic. You have teachers that barely now more than their students. You have 1st grade classes of 80 to over 200 children attending. You have the problem that the language used in school isn't the mother tongue of the pupils. You have huge drop out rates and children going through the education system without learning properly to read and write. Less than 10% of the young people get tertiary education. South Africa puts the most into education in Sub-Saharan Africa, but even it is plagued with a dismal system. This has huge effects on the workforce and hence the economy. The lack of engineers, doctors and other professionals means that the continent can only provide low-skill manufacturing and raw materials.

    When the differences in the education system are so huge and problems so big, then it becomes quite trivial arguing about 'decolonizing' the education system or science. At worst, the whole 'decolonizing science' argument becomes a scapegoat to cast the blame on somewhere else and at worst, the 'decolonizing' and use of 'Indigenous knowledge' leads to unintentional or intentional lowering the standards of education.
  • Hanover
    4.9k
    the biggest reason is basically money.ssu

    It's hardy that simple. The example of the Washington DC school system being a good example of heavy spending and poor results: https://www.heritage.org/education/commentary/high-public-school-spending-dc-hasnt-produced-desired-outcomes

    I don't know the demographics or social economic variations among the various regions of Finland, but I might guess that those more poorly performing schools have students that are from less advantaged families. I wonder if they sent the southern Finnish students to the northern schools and vice versa if you'd really see a decline in the performance of southern Finnish students and an improvement for the northern ones. That is to say, much starts at home. I fully believe that my kids, for example, would have done well even had I not been in a good school district. A real reason my school district is good is because the parents who stress education in the home have sought it out and we've all come together to the same place..

    Your African example also makes the point as well. There's abject poverty, war, government instability, disease and all sorts of other things the students are contending with. It's just not reasonable to think that a huge monetary contribution to the educational system is going to put those students on par with Finnish students. It's also not reasonable to think that throwing more money at the inner city schools of Washington DC is ever going to put those students on par with the students within my fairly affluent suburban school system.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    It's hardy that simple.Hanover

    Biggest reason, not only reason. And in the example I was talking about, there are factors like homogenous and functioning training of teachers, a functioning public sector that isn't corrupt. And the differences hadn't been there prior in a similar fashion. Are the families different? Of course, I think that there is many times in some schools nearly a hostile attitude among students towards learning. Those who try hard and succeed to get good remarks are "teachers pets", perhaps even bullied. But then again, in every country you do have upper and lower classes and those children that have issues stacked up against them.

    Like so many reactionary movements it was full of vim and vigor but it had no coherent direction or practical vision. Ironically a scientific approach could have been very useful to them in identifying the most effective objectives and methods; creation through destruction is not always helpful.VagabondSpectre

    Yet that wouldn't be so galvanizing. With using the Scientific method usually you normally end up with something quite boring. The real problem becomes what then? What do you implement? What to replace "Eurocentric" science with? What is the decolonized science or the decolonized curriculum?

    I think this South African academic Jonathan Jansen puts it well when he says that movements like decolonalization of the curriculum have a short half-life and simply run into the "institutional/settled curriculum" of what already exists, what is the norm and how things have been done. Decolonization is an incomplete answer and doesn't solve the real problems that there are. It cannot be a hammer for all needs.

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