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Situatedness, Categorical Thinking, and Culture of Silence in the Clinton-Lewinsky Fandango

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Situatedness, Categorical Thinking, and Culture of Silence in the Clinton-Lewinsky Fandango

Answers by Jeanne
Explain three (3) of the following concepts in 25 words or less. E-mail gif Jeanne at

  1. Explain categorical logic, as Minow uses it.

    Categorical logic or thinking means thinking that tends to categorized people or objects or case. For example, people are seen as either male or female, not more complex than that. A person is seen as angry or not angry, not as concerned and frustrated by a given context, but seeking expression for his/her feelings, which may or may not be anger. Categorical thinking tends to go down a list. Is it vegetable, mineral, or animal? requiring the choice of one. Then, if it is vegetable is it in its vegetable state or has it been altered? Then, if it is in its vegetable state is it bigger than a bread box, and so on? Each question narrows the focus of the previous one, but this is an awkward way to get information, yet it is the law's way. Minow objects to such thinking, for it omits the context, the narrative. (at p. 46)

  2. Explain situatedness. "Situatedness" is the narrative component of data that explains the many perspectives of the context in which the data occur. Situatedness is socially constructed. In a classroom exchange, the situation of the student who is worried about his/her grade is very different from the situatedness of the teacher who controls the grades and is not focused on the individual grade of a student. These separate concerns may make it difficult for them to hear each others' voices.

  3. Explain the purpose of the Dear Habermas site. (See About the site from Navigation page.)

    The purpose of the Dear Habermas Site is to establish a forum in which process texts can be published and become accessible to all. Student and faculty writings, during the course of teaching and learning provide an important gloss to texts. But usually such writings go uncollected and invisible to readers of the texts. Dear Habermas provides a forum in which such process texts can be valued appropriately, published, read intertextually with the published texts themselves, and lead to future publication. See further explanations linked through This forum also provides an experimental approach to distance learning in which the forum can remain open to all and provide the beginning of teaching for public discourse.

  4. Explain hierarchy, asDuncan Kennedy expresses his displeasure with it.

    Duncan Kennedy's frustration with hierarchy is based largely on the educational infrastructure it fosters and supports, recreating itself in the manner of an auto-poietic non-learning subsystem. Those who have power at each level in a hierarchy tend to puff up like bullfrogs and bully those with less power. Research from preschool on has shown that when exposed to such behavior, students tend to imitate it. (Look at the educational literature on how elementary and preschool children imitate forceful and aggressive actions, such as hitting the table, when their teachers exhibit such behavior.)

    I think Kennedy is wrong in his frustration with his students. He establishes dyadic one-on-one relationships with them and is then frustrated when their response to the instituional system is not consistent with that dyadic relationsip. Susan Silbey's work on normative relationships within the legal system confirms that one cannot transfer one-on-one patterns of relationships from face to face groups onto institutional patterns. If professors aren't willing to deal with the puffed up bull frogs of bullying, then students are in no position to do so. But if Kennedy found measures of the relationships he has built with students and their effects, I don't think the evaluations would be nearly as unenthusiastic as he assumes. He is asking his students to measure the effectiveness of teaching within their rules, their system, not his, not his students'.

  5. Explain the culture of silence, as Paolo Freire uses it.

    The culture of silence is that social-cultural context which does not permit the voice of any who have not been accepted into the prevailing hierarchical system. It is the culture of "do what you're told, don't explain, don't complain, don't whine, and don't draw attention to yourself. After long periods of time, those who have suffered such imposition of silence come to believe that they have no voice, no control, merely to accept whatever happens to them as beyond their power to influence. Freire described thus the condition of the Brazilian peasants. Women's Ways of Knowing describes thus the effect on young women from (often poor) backgrounds and those who find themselves in restrictive language environments (environments where you're told "do this, do that" and given no explanation and chance to participate in or counter the orders.)

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