Dangerous worldviews

“Die gefährlichste Weltanschauung ist die Weltanschauung derer, die die Welt nie angeschaut haben”.

I have set myself the task, over the upcoming weeks, of airing my take on internationalism and education. In my previous post, I said that there are three aspects to be considered: international, intercultural and interlingual. It was of interest to me, then, when this quote from Alexander von Humboldt (14 September 1769 – 6 May 1859) popped up in my Facebook feed. While it is not entirely clear as to whether he actually uttered or wrote these words, they express a sentiment that resonates with why internationalism and education should be paired together. In this sense, this post might be considered to be a preamble to the posts on international, intercultural and interlingual that will follow over the next couple of weeks. Or, at the very least, the start of a preamble to some sort of final paper on the subject.

Tangentially, von Humboldt was a Prussian, geographer, naturalist, explorer and influential proponent of Romantic philosophy and science. He was incredibly well-travelled, having been appointed to positions over the course of his career that would require his presence in different places across the globe, or driven to different places in the world on account of his research. If this utterance was really his (and I would like for the sake of argument and convenience to say that it was), then he certainly had the academic background, respect and credibility to make it.

While von Humboldt’s words give ‘internationalism’ a degree of historicity and veracity, despite the fact that it is unlikely he would have used the term ‘internationalism’ to describe the perspective he was conveying, I see in von Humboldt’s words something more. It is the fact that they can be seen as a call to action to teachers to bring the world into the classroom. By bringing the world into the classroom, teachers can help students create and maintain an identity that is informed by the world and not an identity that is in tension with it, an identity that embraces the world and does not live in fear of it. In light of events in recent days, weeks and months, the place of teachers in this world is never more important.

Blogging voice: contrived or real?

I am not new to this blogging thing and one of the things I have noticed about blogging is that one’s blogging voice is different from that which one speaks with when drafting a chapter in a thesis, writing a marker’s report or composing a paper for a conference. Of other educationally-related blogs I have looked at (or indeed have followed), I have noticed that the blogger’s writing seems to flow more freely than compared to those texts that are engaged in more professional or specifically academic space.

Does this mean that the blogger’s voice is not as learned? Does this mean that the blogger’s voice is articulating words that are not as well considered? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is the anticipation that someone might be reading the blog. Perhaps it is the desire to make sure that what is posted is something that is of interest to the casual reader in the hope that he or she might return again to the blog. Perhaps it is the anonymity, albeit in a limited sense, that a blog provides that gives a sense of freedom. I am not sure. What I do know is that I have often wondered why one’s levels of creative output disappear or change when one shifts from the professional / academic piece to that which exists online.

I suspect it has everything to do with the anticipation and anonymity that comes with being a blogger. Certainly, there is a blogging etiquette in that you must be prepared to stand by your opinions online as if you were justifying them in a face-to-face environment. In other words, what you say online should be no different to what you say away from your blog. I think the ability to churn out a 2000 word post in a short space of time and then not be able to do the same with a thesis chapter – despite the fact that the level of knowledge for the topic being covered in the blog could well  be commensurate with the level of knowledge for the section being covered in the thesis – is that there are more heavily defined conventions when it comes to writing a thesis.

That is not to say that blogging is something that happens without any conventions or rules. There are a couple, particularly in relation to the comments one posts, the treatment of others both in and out of the blogosphere and so on. Conventions for blogging are not nearly as acutely defined as those related to the presentation of research. In one sense, I believe that blogging is an outworking of postmodernism. If we apply the concept of blogging to the construction and depiction of history, then blogging can be considered to be a medium for conveying history in a postmodern mode.

Let me ventilate what I mean by using a comparison with what might be considered to be a typical approach to the writing of empirical history. In a empiricist’s account of the past, one would expect to find footnotes and reference lists. The preoccupation with the sources, and indeed with primary sources, is something that has been characteristic of the empirical approach since the nineteenth century. The art of blogging bypasses this expectation. Certainly, there is the capacity to cite sources in a very direct way; hyperlinking the source so there is a direct connection between the blog post and the cited source. In one sense this is the epitomy of empirical history. Technology has provided the means for a reader to judge for themselves the validity of the source material upon which the historian has based his or her argument. The journal-like nature of a blog allows for free thought. There is no need to cite sources or footnote references because the nature of the blog is to allow for a freeflow of ideas. If relativism is at the heart of postmodern thinking then a blog encourages the reader to arrive at their own determination of  the discussion that has been posted. The reader has the ability to verify, in an online manner, what the blogger is saying. He or she has control over this themselves, in a very real and direct way.

So, is the blogging voice contrived or real? For me, it is quite real. I blog in the same way as I might lay out ideas in a classroom for students. The turns of phrase I use in a blog are conversational but they are not what would appear in a research-related publication. I meet the expectations that are set for successful writing in an academic context. I don’t think a blogging voice is contrived. It is simply a reflection of a different way of thinking and of discussing ideas. It is free of the formality that comes with academic publications, both in terms of the writer being free to express their ideas and the reader being able to verify what has been said, but this freedom from formality does not equate to a lack of academic integrity. No. The style may not conform with a peer-reviewed journal or the writing guidelines for a dissertation that is about to be submitted for examination but it can, if the blogger so wishes, remain a thoughtful and objective exercise in critical thinking.

My hope is that will be the case for this blog, as I continue to add to it.