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September 05, 2006

Comments

Indecisive

You introduce discussion of emotion into your classroom? I'd have never guessed from reading this exclamation-point filled blog...

Hugo

Indecisive, I was raised by academics, trained to cultivate my mind's capacity for reasoned discussion. I was raised to value logic, solid argument, and the scientific method. I was taught how to do precise historical research, testing and validating hypotheses. And I am so grateful that I was given those tools. They are valuable indeed.

But these tools only get us part of the way to our goals. We need trained minds that are informed and influenced by compassionate hearts; we need our reason to work in conjunction with our gut instincts. I want my students to learn to do both. Just as Aquinas believed faith and reason were ultimately compatible, many of us believe passionate emotion and reason can work together to lead us towards the truth.

There is not a single exclamation point in my entire 300-plus page doctoral dissertation. Nothing in bold, either. It's deliiciously subversive to be able to use them here!

djw

The fact that 30-odd community college students have X, Y and Z emotional reactions to a set of data is in and of itself an interesting and valuable tidbit of knowledge that's worth knowing and contemplating. This isn't an either-or thing.

Connie

Discussion is something I wish there was more of in the classroom setting.

Paul

One problem I see with emotion in the classroom, it is much easier to guide an individual in a particular "direction" then to show them by reason. In other words, if an instructor has already arrived at a conclusion, it’s easier solidified by emotion then giving a logical demonstration. This can be an extremely powerful and effective means to an end when used irresponsibly. In my exceedingly long journey in obtaining a formal education, I have witnessed this abuse increasingly. I feel sadden for younger generations.

Jendi

It seems to me that people's feelings are way too intermingled with their arguments as it is. It becomes hard to have a reasoned debate about your viewpoints when you're so invested in them emotionally that a challenge to your intellectual position feels like a shaming judgment on *you personally*. I'm all for taking a step back during a heated classroom discussion, to check in with the participants' feelings and *why* they are so attached to their views. But it does seem risky, in an unequal power setting such as a classroom, to ask students to put their feelings on display. For me, growing up as a victim of bullying (by peers, not family), the classroom was a safe space precisely because it was depersonalized - you were judged on the quality of your work, not anything more intimate and vulnerable. There's already so much pressure in school to say what the teacher wants to hear. The more personal revelations you have to make, the more chance that you will compromise something really important to you - not just your theory of economics or your interpretation of Huck Finn.

The Gonzman

When it comes to the pursuit of knowledge, I have to be on the side of not wanting emotion in it. Bad. I want data. Emotions lie. They encourage people to not look at truths which are unpleasant, and they make excuses, and rationalizations. Facts don't lie. Data merely is.

jfpbookworm

On the other hand, when we say "only logic-based approaches to the material are acceptable", that itself introduces bias.

Why should my opinions be preferred just because I've been taught how to express them in a more scholarly style?

Mermade

If I had taken Women in American Society with a professor who merely taught its history - without discussions, emotion and providing some sort of personal lesson with it, I still probably wouldn't consider myself a feminist. And that goes for any other class. There more the teacher tries to reach the students on a personal level, the more you learn and WANT to learn. Indeed, I think that including personal discussion with textbook-based lectures separates mere knowledge from genuine learning.

Antigone

When it comes to the pursuit of knowledge, I have to be on the side of not wanting emotion in it. Bad. I want data. Emotions lie. They encourage people to not look at truths which are unpleasant, and they make excuses, and rationalizations. Facts don't lie. Data merely is.

Bullshit. It is bullshit for the reason that Vulcans are hypocrits: you cannot escape emotions.

Why pursue knowledge? Because you are curious. Curiosity is an emotion.

Why do you like doing well on a paper? Because you feel pride. Pride is an emotion.

Knowledge, and the pursuit of, is FULL of emotions. "Facts" are not dispassionate. If you read that X number of people in the world are living in poverty, and you don't feel emotions (my most common are disquiet, rage, and sorrow) then you don't care about the knowledge. The knowledge is useful because it causes emotions, not because it is dispassionate.

I'm sick of the system that says emotions are invalid. Emotions are HIGHLY valid, AND intergral to any activism or pursuit.

Besides, to say that you are "dispassionate" normally leads to the major Vulcan hypocrisy: arrogance.

Mermade

Amen, Antigone!

DaveTheRave

Why should my opinions be preferred just because I've been taught how to express them in a more scholarly style?

jfpbookworm, you're talking about style, not facts. Big difference. The truth is a wonderful thing - it is your ally. Follow the truth, and eloquence follows too. This doesn't mean emotions and the truth are mutually exclusive - it's just that emotions can cloud judgement, or even be used as a smokescreen. It's far too subjective, and when you consider emotions can be habitual, or at least Pavlovian, they can even fool the person feeling them that what somebody said is wrong or hurtful! They can be unreliable indicators. Reading up on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will tell you more about this.

I, at least, am not compelled by emotion alone - I want to know the content of what someone is saying is based on fact.

jfpbookworm

DaveTheRave: I'm not sure what you're considering "fact" here and what you're considering "style." Is what we're calling logical reasoning a fact or a style?

DaveTheRave

DaveTheRave: I'm not sure what you're considering "fact" here and what you're considering "style." Is what we're calling logical reasoning a fact or a style?

Logical reasoning should point to facts. It's easy to use logical reasoning to point to conclusions you emotionally want to make, so logical reasoning in itself is not enough to form accurate opinions of reality around you. Sometimes it's difficult to know what is a fact and what isn't . It's up to us to try to be objective in these situatons rather than emotionally decide what 'feels best' to believe (rather than actually KNOW). By the way, I see this present in most people - it's normal human behaviour to decide that what feels good to believe in is more compelling than an awkward truth that causes cognitive dissonance against our current view of things.

Facts may even conflict with your emotions (a kind of emotional dissonance) but emotions are often unreliable, hence the dissonance.

jfpbookworm

I think you're still failing to acknowledge the extent to which "logical reasoning":

1) is reliant on the selection and interpretation of data, rather than the data itself;

2) is employed as a method of persuasion rather than an "objective" attempt to get at truth; and

3) is a learned skill that correlates with one's educational opportunities (and as such, privileges those people and groups who have had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the process).

The idea of objective facts leading to inevitable conclusions is a compelling one, but it's not all that reflective of the world we live in. (Not to mention that facts, no matter how objective, can only tell us what is, not what ought to be.)

DaveTheRave

jfpbookworm, I agree that facts can be used to reach deliberately misleading conclusions - we've all seen this happen before.

My point is that emotions are unreliable indicators of truth, and we shouldn't base our opinions simply on how we feel. Emotions often deceive us, or are even just simply habitual reactions to 'trigger words' or 'trigger events'.

Indecisive

Hugo,
I hope you didn't think I was disparaging you for your use of exclamation points. I agree that there needs to be more than "reason" and "head knowledge" involved in learning (though I'm not the most expressive person you've ever met).

Part of the issue is the difficulty of translating speech into type (especially for such a chatty medium as blogs tend to be). Exclamation points are just so darn difficult to interpret (as is sarcastic understatement, which is my own stock in trade). My own personal tendency is to use an exclamation point only rarely, either where I would in conversation shout or be dumbfoundedly quieted in shock (which I would use !?!?!? to express in print). I suppose when I read your blog, I can't help but imagine this kind of reaction every time I see an exclamation point, which would in fact be much more excitement expressed than I could imagine from pretty much anyone.

And in the midst of trying to compose my own dissertation, I also understand the need to have alternative communicative outlets than what's allowed in typical academic settings.

Hugo

No worries, indecisive, I wasn't offended.

Sometimes, as the product of a family and a culture that valued understatement and subtlety, I want to rebel with boisterous, sloppy, embarrassing exuberance!

The Gonzman

Ah, the Trekkie University "Logical Reasoning 101" course.

Very simple, Antigone - I don't use emotional "reasoniong" because it all but invariably results in one proceeding from a conclusion that one emotionally wants to reach, and filtering only those facts which are emotionally comforting and supprtive of that emotional gratification. There is a reason that "Appeal to emotion" is a logical fallacy.

If I hear that X many people are living in poverty, I want an accurate count. And I want to know "Why?" You cannot possibly provide a solution without knowing the cause.

As to objective facts, I agree - your emotions are not invalid. They are however, irrelevant. No matter how much it angers you that autumn follows summer - nonetheless, it does.

Paul

"You cannot possibly provide a solution without knowing the cause"

When dealing with emotions one sure can Gonz...affirmative action, eradicating the electoral college because the "wrong" President gets elected, or even feminism being the solution to gender equality--the list goes on and on.

Hugo

FWIW, folks, some of y'all are building a big fat straw man. I never said I dispense with facts entirely to wallow in a sea of emotion! In my classes, we talk about facts and narrative and analysis -- and occasionally, we take a step back to check in about our feelings about it all. Emotion is a way of knowing truth, but it is only one way, and by itself, it is unreliable. On the other hand, when accompanied by an appreciation for reason and the facts, it offers balance.

The Gonzman

Question is, Paul - is it the correct one? Genocide as well is a "Solution" to racism - no race to be discriminated against - problem solved. There's a reason it was called the "Final Solution," after all. A very valid solution. Borne out of emotion - in that case, hatred. Andrea Yates murdered her five children out of "love." The litany goes on, covering all points in between.

I never knew a fact to murder anyone.

Antigone

Gonz-

I use Star Trek cuz this is the internet, and 9 out of 10 people are aware of that cultural touchstone.

"Facts" are entirely based on your perspective. Even if every thing you say is based on the scientific method, you are still using the perspective of the scientific method: that is an axiomatic system. You use it because it "Feels" right.

The "Final Solution" you alluded to is a PERFECT example of how "Facts" is an incomplete answer. Factually speaking, the final solution was a perfect fix for the "Jewish Problem". Now, myself (and probably you I hope) don't think that having a Jewish population is a problem is bad. Same thing when it comes to anything else Paul listed: if you don't care about minorities or women's rights, then our "Solutions" seem emotion based because you don't think the problem is real.

Paul

For the record, I believe those examples I gave are directly the product of emotions or feelings and I don’t agree with any of them as being a solution to their related problems (see my first comment).

The Gonzman

if you don't care about minorities or women's rights, then our "Solutions" seem emotion based because you don't think the problem is real.

Nonsense - what is being proffered by many is "If you don't believe in our solutions, then you don't care about XXXXX" and that is pure and unadulterated BS. I don't believe in the solutions because I don't see any evidence of it working. I believe in other solutions because I see evidence of it working.

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