Jim Gee

(Another title from Gee. Recommended for anyone at least mildly familiar with video games and interested in education. If you do read it, I recommend saving some time by skipping right to the end — the final chapter is an excellent summary of all of the chapters.)

Stacey and I spent some time this afternoon talking about the Gee reading. As I’d expect from him, it’s very interesting and  accessible. What good can literacy do?

I clung to his paraphrasing of Freire: “Freire believes that literacy only empowers people when it renders them active questioners of the social reality around them” (37). Active thinking is the only time we’re really doing anything useful anyway — the way that Descartes struggled with his “evil demon” (aside from the deus ex cop-out) was to realize cogito, ergo sum — and in his argument, he really isn’t just saying “I think, therefore I am”, but rather “I am thinking, therefore I am.” It’s that present act of thinking that proves existence, and it’s that present act of thinking that is the only hope for reading in light of Plato’s dilemma.

It’s something I’ve recently talked with my wife about, actually. I’ve come to be a rather liberally-minded person, but have realized that I don’t question ideas, politics, policies, etc., as much as I did when I described myself as a “moderate.” I was thinking, and so I was not (in Gee’s world) controlled by the political machina or by society to think a certain way about the information input. But now, I have to ask myself: Am I thinking, or no?

What this means for my work is that I have to make sure that the guys are thinking about what we’re doing (and perhaps more importantly — or at least more directly — I have to make sure that I’m thinking about the work I’m doing). This presents some challenges — I think we might have to be sneaky about how we get them to be thinking about it. Definitely incorporating news articles and/or editorials seems to be a good way to do it — to get them to be actively thinking about their reading and writing.

They might also find the Plato discussion interesting — I mean, it’s ultimately about social power and the man, right? That’s a language that these guys speak, understand and care about.

I’m also interested in how Gee’s statement about education/literacy as a social norming tool works here. “[Education] has stressed behaviors and attitudes appropriate to good citizenship and moral behavior, largely as these are perceived by the elites of the society” (34). This puts us into a tricky situation, I think. For the most part, the boys are in Turning Point because they’ve engaged in what we generally believe is self-destructive (or even socially destructive) behavior, and I don’t think we can easily dispute that or say that it’s only the elite who say so. However, what is their road out? That, I think, we can say is determined by an elite.

These are questions that such minds as Gee and even Plato have struggled with… and I’m not sure I’ve done any better at coming up with an answer! But it all makes for very interesting food for thought.


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