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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: October 4, 2004
Latest Update: October 4, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Planning Your Field Activity for Transforming
Dominant Discourse

Placing these suggestions within the social construct of grade certification:

Attendance is not imposed. No specific assignments are imposed. No tests or deadlines are set. That means that as you structure your own learning through this semester, you'll have to think carefully about what will signal to me that you have performed your commitment to learning ethically and in such a way as to benefit our learning community as well as yourself. You also need to think about letting me know that you have learned what I have taught, not just wandered off on your own with no conceptual linkage to the curriculum and syllabus. When you cannot be in the classroom, you still have access to my lectures. Let your work reflect that you have been a party to our discussions.

Because our theme for the semester is Transforming Dominant Discourse, and because all our classes are focussed on praxis this semester instead of banked education (in its connotation of learning taken primarily from authorities accessible in books), you should recognize that I will be more comfortable with A's based on sharing your efforts with others: with friends, coworkers, family, strangers, whomever. This semester, especially, sharing is a key factor. That's because dominant discourse is about discourse that you can't have without sharing, and you surely can't transform it without sharing.

Most Important: Don't forget you have to stay in touch with me so that I will know you are completing your work competently and conscientiously.

Concepts we all need to be clear on:

  • dominant discourse - what everyone is saying, generally accepted "facts" or "ideas" that no one bothers to question

  • transform - in the sense I am using it, transform means to bring to awareness so that we can consciously talk about the unstated assumptions that underlie most of our positions. The change that I am asking us to create is not to any given position or idea, but to a willingness to recognize that there are many facts and/or ideas that we have never really questioned ourselves or others about.

Levels of affect we need to be clear on:

  • informal - this is the level at which affect is highest, where we shout rhetoric back and forth, and generally don't listen to anyone but ourselves or those on "our side" When this occurs in discourse, we need to call a time out long enough to acknowledge the affect and remind ourselves that our purpose is to talk to and hear each other. Phrases like the following may be helpful.

    • "I can see where you're coming from. . . ."
    • "We need to ask if this is personal experience or has been studied more broadly . . ."
    • "We hear that that position is hurtful to you and angers you . . . "
    • . . .

    Practice in small groups until you have a few pat phrases that seem to work effectively. Do not allow a group to take this rhetoric out of control. It's hard to give people a good experience with discourse if they go away from a screaming match. Nor does the academy want that result with its community, or you with your friends and neighbors.

  • formal: there is less affect with the formal level of exchange. One way you might get to that level with a community-academy bridge group is to use your one-page handouts. Give them some information. It helps to have enough that they can take that information away with them. It may also help to have several copies of information on other issues for those who may want it. Don't make them feel that they need to read. Once again, that's not our objective. We want them to talk and become conscious of the social issues, and if they want information we want to be able to provide it.

    It's OK to tell them about the site, but most people out there are not going to research these issues on the Internet. Offer what they indicate they want. You might even offer to download something they want to know about and send it to them, or give it to them at a later time. This is the academy role - to provide information and data as requested to empower governance discourse in our local communities.

  • technical: - this is the level at which we begin to actually listen to one another and explore different perspectives. Our purpose in this initial field work is illocutionary. That means we want our guests to go away with a little more knowledge and understanding of each other, and with the feeling that the university can offer knowledge support if they want it. That means a number to call where someone will answer and say: "We'll be glad to get you that information."

    Think back to our own class discussions and remember that it's easier to be interpassive and stay silent at first. Go prepared to open the disscussion yourself. This is where the visual component is so helpful. A copy of the bello performance art piece of the body wrapped up and in a fetal position can do more to get people talking than just our telling them that it's OK to talk.

    You could pose Questions, but then you would be leading the discourse into avenues that we had charted. That is not governance discourse. Our purpose is to bring together people from our community and empower them to start a forum on their own for their own discourse. In the best of all possible worlds they'll get together again on their own.

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