Socrates asked his students, "What is justice?”. There was never any doubt that the philosopher educator and his students knew what the word “justice” meant as they could agree on examples of justice. Defining justice was another issue, not as easy, to be able to explain what it was conceptually that all these examples had in common.
In a study carried out by Pedraza and others it was demonstrated that there is a strong correlation between the level of formal education and the ability to define a given phenomena or category. Two young Puerto Rican adults in New York City were asked to define what is motherhood. The one young man with a high school diploma provided certain qualities, abstract generalizations, that would encompass motherhood without having to provide examples, The junior high school drop-out used a "mata de yautía" to describe what motherhood is.
Three farmers in Puerto Rico were recently interviewed regarding the use of laboratory modified seeds. Two of them were college graduates and the third one was a high school graduate. The first two spoke in general terms using concepts and ideas applicable to any farm. The high school graduate used specific examples to demonstrate the effects of modified seed on his plants.
How do you move your students from one level of conceptualization and verbal ability to one where knowledge is decontextualized?
Students in a Spanish-English bilingual first grade elementary classroom were given crayons and big sheets of paper and asked to write something. Different symbols appeared on different students pages: numbers, letters, combinations of signs, scribbles and some drawings. When asked what were those things on the page, some of the students said letters, and when asked what did the letters say, they looked bewildered as the letters were letters, and did not say anything. Others, when asked the same question gave full stories.
CCNY students majoring in bilingual education were asked in Spanish to define bilingual education. Some gave definitions that were quite abstract while others gave examples of bilingual education practices.
The use of the coma to suggest what is not explicit stated in a sentence can cause great deal of comprehension problems.
The first grade teacher changed the card with the word "mesa" written on it, from the table where it was placed to the entrance door. When asked what the word said, some of the children who read it correctly the first time read "puerta" when it was placed on the door.
Time and space are warped.
The internationally known (so she claimed) CCNY professor of math education was not able to understand the function of the zero in the pre-Columbian Meso-American societies nor why young Latino expert domino players were failing in her math classes.... (to be continued)