Archive for April, 2010

26 April 2010

Science textbooks, girls and performance

World Science reports that “mostly-male book images may reduce girls’ science scores“. Or to frame it more positively, more images of girls in the textbooks increased girls’ performance.

Part of the rea­son boys tend to out­score girls in sci­ence clas­ses may be that most text­books show pre­dom­i­nantly male sci­en­tists’ im­ages, a small ex­plor­a­to­ry study has found.

The stu­dy, on 81 young high-school stu­dents, saw the “gen­der gap” ap­par­ently re­versed when youths were tested based on a text con­tain­ing only female sci­ent­ist im­ages, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said. The gap re­turned in its usu­al form when ma­le-only im­ages were used—and van­ished when the pho­tos showed equal num­bers of men and wom­en sci­en­tists, re­search­ers said. … (April 23, 2010)

The full stu­dy: Jes­si­ca J. Good, Julie A. Woodzicka and Lylan C. Wingfield (2010). “The Effects of Gender Stereotypic and Counter-Stereotypic Textbook Images on Science Performance”, Jour­nal of So­cial Psy­chol­o­gy150 (2): 132-147. (Abstract)

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18 April 2010

Language and culture

Question: What percent of languages in the world are primitive in the sense of not having a system of sounds, words, and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of culture?
Answer here on the second “flashcard”.

More tutorials on human communication by Dennis O’Neil.

14 April 2010

Discourse of diving

Now that I am looking, the discourse of diving seems to be everywhere…

Nintendo’s Endless Ocean, for instance, takes us to the “pristine waters of fictional Manoa Lai Island”.

  • Diving signifies: discourses of tranquility, peace, undisturbed nature, health environment…
  • Internal contradiction: divers disturb the very undisturbed nature they want to attain…
  • Nevertheless: still very beautiful, highly enjoyable and thoroughly addictive!

Hot diving tip: Watercolours Dive Centre, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia.

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13 April 2010

Grammar in schools

On the comeback of grammar in the new Australian curriculum for English. In the Sydney Morning Herald.

Grammar was cut in the ’70s because of a view it didn’t help students’ writing, said Dr Sally Humphrey from the University of Sydney’s linguistics department.

”It was like, ‘We’re just going to give you building blocks; we’re not going to show you how it works in text.”’ The grammar starring in the new curriculum ”isn’t a set of rules for ‘correct’ use”, she said, but ”a set of resources or a tool kit” to be used according to the situation – whether it’s texting, giving a presentation in class or writing a history essay. […]

It’s about ”letting kids in on the ‘secret’ of how good writers and good text producers do their work through the resources of language, through the resources of grammar – ‘hey, this is how it’s done!’,” Dr Humphrey said. ”And that’s an equity issue … Kids who haven’t got access to middle-class homes and middle-class ways of using language that are valued in the schools, they do need [the workings of language] made explicit.”

The draft curriculum is open for comment until 23 May 2010.

12 April 2010

Schools, tests and human rights

A potentially very effective blend of discourses was seen earlier this week at the National Union of Teachers conference in England. Christine Blower, the NUT’s general secretary, condemed national tests for 10- and 11-year olds (“Sats”) by critically articulating their reduction of children to “little bundles of measurable outputs” with the UN convention on the rights of the child. Under the convention, children are entitled to an education which helps develop their “personalitites, talents and abilities to their fullest potential”.

Blower said: “The NUT says ‘yes’ to risk-taking and exciting approaches to learning and ‘no’ to children as little bundles of measurable outputs.” (Guardian, 7 April 2010)

11 April 2010

Integration and the discourse of “concreteness”

The debate on integration in Germany continues. But certain aspects are aggressively excluded from the discussion.

Today a round table discussion on “Tacheles” on Phoenix (state-funded public television channel). Participants discuss, among other things, “positive examples” of educational projects to assist integration. One is a bilingual primary school in which all kids learn subjects in both German and Turkish.

After some comments on the project, Cem Gülay

Cem Gülay

Cem Gülay

says that it is important to remember that education is not the only important aspect to integration. There are over 20,000 young people of Turkish background with university degrees in Germany, but when it comes to getting professional jobs, they are clearly discriminated against. He starts to give concrete numbers: 1 to 3.

The moderator jumps in: wait, wait, wait, we’re talking about this concrete project. And cuts Gülay off, turning to the next participant.

Discursive strategy of “concreteness”: using “the concrete” to disrupt mention of larger systemic issues such as institutional racism. Yet Necla Kelek was not interrupted when she translated the specific project into a mention of women’s position in Muslim societies.

Unfortunately, Gülay’s comments on this topic are not included in the range of clips available on Phoenix’ website.

Hamideh Mohagheghi

Hamideh Mohagheghi

Practical critical discourse analysis on “Islam”

Hamideh Mohagheghi, Chair of the Muslim Academy in Germany, does a nice bit of practical critical discourse analysis (in the video summary below at around minute 3:30) by drawing attention to the moderator’s use of “young people with a Turkish background” and “young people with a Muslim background” as synonyms.

Around minute 7:50 she takes apart the concept of “highly religious people” – what on earth is “highly religious”, she asks. How are we supposed to measure that?