Thursday, January 27, 2005

spelling errors?!

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer inwaht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.
Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Public discussion: an activity, which is social, intellectual and creative

Democracy is simply a model of governance by discussion. Values change in the process of discussion and decision making. Value formation is a social process involving public interactions. There is a crucial role of public interaction in the formation of values and ideas of justice. In the making of public policy the agency of the public has to be considered in different perspective. It seems necessary to create conditions for more informed understanding and enlightened public discussion.
Public policy has a role not only in attempting to implement the priorities that emerge from social values and affirmations, but also in facilitating and guaranteeing fuller public discussion. The reach and quality of public discussions can be helped by a variety of public policies, such as press freedom, media independence and enhancement of economic independence and other social and economic changes that help individuals to be PARTICIPATING citizens.

Amartya Sen, a liberal economist, in his influential book "Development As Freedom" chapter 12 brillianlty elaboarets on this, please read the book, strongly recommended for everybody esp liberals.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A clarifying comment on a friend's comment

A Torontonian friend, Mr. Namazi in his comment on my last post advised me to write in simpler language and asked why I do think I know something that others do not know and asked what makes me qualified to help others. Earlier he believes there is a typo in my title by using the word "doing" in "doing graduate studies".
I am grateful for his comment, I stated my mission as helping others learn as a facilitator not as a learned philosopher or teacher. Facilitation does not mean transferring knowledge from a wise person to an ignorant. Instead it implies providing an enabling structure for the learners to reflect on their knowledge and build upon it on their own through dialogue and communication with others within an environment. It is a kind of situated learning.
And I definitely feel I am qualified, since it is a relative term. I am relatively qualified to pursue what I thoughtfully feel I could accomplish. I am not sure what words in my post indicated that I, solely, hold on to the throne of knowledge? In this weblog I reflect on my own life and understanding of it. I, sometimes, prefer to write in English for my practice and pleasure. I am not necessarily writing to satisfy my readers. I am writing now for myself. And as an individual I have the right to have a mission based on my take and paradigm of the world. Is my mission an exclusionary one? Did not I in my last sentence clearly indicated that I am aware of my insufficient knowledge of the subject and hoped to learn through the praxis of my research?

Why the hell diong a graduate degree?!!!

Having bored you with all these words on my political learning, simply, explains why I believe there is no choice other than expanding our boundaries, our critical understanding of the world. That is where I draw my mission as to help others learn from the life and the earth to ultimately remove the unfreedoms now exist in our tiny world. And now I am an immigrant, a newcomer, a FOB! wandering around at UofT in such a dream or peut-etre hope!
A doctoral research, although, would be lost or perhaps disregarded within the shelves and stacks of a library, but, arguably, reflects one’s endeavour to carve his/her definition of meaning onto the mind and soul of his/her future.
I chose to pursue doctoral studies, first, to experience, thus learn, the “critical rationality”, the Western fruit of thought, often lost in the midst of the oriental voyage of the modernization order. Second, to profoundly celebrate the salient turn in engineering of my life; defocusing from the science and techniques of “development” to engaging in the development of mindful arts and conscious comprehension of the term. Where else could have been more inspiring than the circle of scholars and students of OISE/UT and the Program in Planning? Third, I chose to pursue post graduate studies to expand my vision, systematically engender my talent and direct my aspirations to social change. In so doing, I am well aware of my insufficient knowledge of the subject and the language of the context. However, I am determined to progress; learning through the praxis of research is my goal and hope.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A bit more on my learnings

After graduation, I was lucky enough to get an actual engineering career (unlike non-actual engineering jobs, recent immigrant engineers do in Canada) in a high-rise complex in the north of Tehran. The work hierarchy was as high as the building itself. I learned the politics involved in hierarchical technical jobs, where non-engineers are the ones who thoughtlessly should do the job, of course, how they have been told to be. I never enjoyed the opportunity of working with such a famous engineering team.
That is why I voluntarily rushed to UNICEF where I first found myself excited after so many years of being attached to so called "instrumental rationality", what modernization project left behind in my country.
My three years of rural development facilitation was the source of all kinds of aspirations and inspirations for the "critical rationality" side of the modernization coin. I was fully engaged in a participatory rural development project in five pilot areas, among them were nomads, herders, fishers, and peasants, surprisingly, none of us spoke the same language!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

And more on political learning

Throughout my 16 years of school back home, I always tried to express my dissatisfaction with the regime in a way or another. I, often, showed it to the symbols of power, be it the teacher, principal, or the dean of graduate studies. Pursuit of such strange feeling materialized in several formats such as disobedience, rebellion and etc. In addition, I tried not to miss any informal meetings held by students of my type. I have definitely learned a lot in those gatherings. Now I feel that I simply wanted to remove the unfreedoms imposed on me by a few ignorant blind authorities who never took the chance to look at the world and re-examine their vision. I am now confident to say that I don’t hate them and I hope one day I will have the opportunity to help them out of such dreadful darkness.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

More on Policitcal Learning; When I could cross the street on my own

In my formal education and through early years of school, I had no significant political learnings or better to say nothing considerable within the planned curricula:

Civic, religious, Persian literature and history courses were the formal sources of what I learned about politics. I learned about the legislation, executive, and legal pillars of the Islamic republic with the ayatollahs on top, representing God. Isn’t it funny? A Republic governed not by people but by God's reps, a very fundamental paradox in the very beginning of the constitution! I should say that the word republic is the result of the attempts made by many who actually influenced the power to defend democracy during the very first days of the revolution, of course, they were either escaped from the country or killed in the prisons later.
Our Persian literature is enriched with poetic stories. With no doubt the moral strength of such wordings have influenced and shaped my idealistic worldview.

In the early years of school, stories from Koran and Bible have inspired me, and I should confess that the traces are still there. It explains why I draw my utopian community with people of some sort of faith, an ultimate belief in human rights or goodness. I don't know something that you believe in wholeheartedly!!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

On My Political Learning; before the time I could cross the street on my own!

Five years ago I had no clue what Halloween meant. In early October Mona, my little cousin, who has the privilege to live here in Toronto all her life; while watching Cinderella for the nine hundred ninety ninth times told me she would love to have Cinderella’s costume for the Halloween. It was the Disney store on the 3rd floor of the Eaton Center where I walked in to get the costume. Oh God, Look at all these kids, jumping in the teddy pool, having no idea what anything other than their games are, let alone knowing imperialism whereabouts, some kind of toy, candy or what? Frankly, I could have even spelled the word at their age.
The reason is simple; because I was a political offspring, in a huge zoo of political animals, selling papers to those political giraffes who bent down to give me a political hug. On one afternoon, my political mother and I joined the pride of political lions who had got the keys to open up the cage. Soon after, colorful flocks of political birds flew above the beds of tulips grew out of red. There I was in the bosom of the true king, who didn’t survive the crows’ rush to the throne. He asked me why I had been there. “ To fight for freedom and against imperialism”, I replied.
I still remember my grandfather's political stand and his arguments with his two opposing sons. Then, I was sure my grandfather was a socialist. I knew Shah sucks and U.S. was sucking our oil. Later, I got to know that Khomeini sucks too. I knew something was happening in Nicaragua at the same time. I have been told stories of the Palestinian kids who have nothing but stone to defend themselves. I knew they were living in the refugee camps on their own soil. Of course I was aware of the Vietnamese success story and I was sure we, all united, would ultimately win the battle and indeed we won.
But it was no time after the victory that I remember, one day I promised my father not to tell anybody even his mum about all these strangers who join us in our tiny apartment a week or two, some with names and some not. But they all had something in common; they helped me memorize all the countries’ flags before I even could read and write. Later, my political but more spiritual mum told me of some of those roommates who lost their lives for the sake of freedom, not achieved yet, of course.
That seed planted in me during those times never enjoyed Islamic gardeners watering her. Now in another settings, she needs to re-orient her passion and excitement while adding some blue rationality to her original yellow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

On Researching Citizneship

Participation positively impacts policy design and is also assumed to benefit participants (community members) by providing them the opportunities to gain representation, exercise political rights and influence local decision making. The process is guided through communicative action, supporting social consciousness and political community.
Meanwhile it is believed that participants develop a body of tacit knowledge helping them to become more informed and more engaged citizens. To analyze the practice of participation and its hidden curriculum of citizenship learning, a multifaceted analytical tool merging empowerment, collaboration and Habermas' theory of communicative action should be applied.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

More On Learning Citizenship

"Learning cannot be designed but can be designed for"*

As I elaborated public policy and civil soceity directly influence our understanding of citizenship. In another words local governance and citizenship education seems to be linked and advanced together. I am interested in reflecting on relevant theories that explain how citizenship education is enhanced in a given society, not within the formal education system but vis-à-vis the governance of the same locale.

Taking the realm of education out of school and integrating it to the realm of local governance requires alternative design and re-arrangement of contemporary governance structure so as to provide opportunities for people to experience this new social interaction and make meaning out of it through reflection. Making meaning does not impact long term changes in knowledge and belief systems unless it is put into practice. Thus, the challenge is to integrate experience and learning or more relevant to say public participation and learning. This suggests there is no specific educator required to educate citizenship but, nonetheless, learning takes place through reflection and participation and respectively, the role of educator should be to provide a space for action and further reflection for people to experientially make meaning (learning) out of this praxis. As you see one can design for citizenship learning to take place within the public sphere.

* Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: learning, meaning and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Friday, January 07, 2005

On Little Black Fish

Here is the English version of the story of Little Black Fish.

On Citizenship Learning

For more information on informal citizenship learning within the realm of civil society, I refer you to an artcile by Daniel Schugurensky on "The Tango of Citizenship Learning and Participatory Democtacy".

Thursday, January 06, 2005

On Understanding Citizenship

Individual's understanding of citizenship is developed through various paths. Civic education programs as part of a formal and planned curriculum constitutes a fraction of individual’s awareness of the civics. Informal learning does contribute a major role in shaping people’s awareness of what it is to be a citizen. The hidden curriculum of social and everyday life within and outside of the schooling system provides under-noticed opportunities for individuals to experientially learn about issues of societal concerns, namely social justice, democracy and economic deprivation. This social curriculum is inter-developed out of the realities of socio-economic relations, cultural norms and power structures. State and civil society are the administrators of this curriculum. State’s sponsored rules and regulations determine the format of civil society and civil society’s social practice, in turn, imposes norms and reshapes the state law. Individual’s informal learning is socially situated within this fluid of state-civil society reciprocity. It is individual’s encounter to this mutual dynamics that helps her develop an understanding of citizenship vis-à-vis state and civil society. People's subjective experience in facing the state's rules and civil society's norms constantly (re)configures their perception of what it means to be a citizen.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

On City Management Course

I am just back from a class on City Planning and Management. I simply chose to go there to check it out. The prof was an MBA professional planner who is remotely out of my academic world of radical adult education and community development.

I have taken more than enough courses and all these extra courses slow down my concentration on the damn thesis. But, you know I love to take courses! During a course, you talk, communicate, learn and meet new people. These, you never find while focusing on your research. It is solely a matter of individual endeavor. There is absolutely no social aspect to graduate research.

This is the reason and now I am very much tempted to take the course. He is different from all the other profs I ever had. He is one of the white males, consultant to many city governments worldwide. Sure, I will get other perspectives in his class. There is also a lot of role playing in his course. We will go through the whole City administration and will reflect on real policies and management practices.

Anyhow, I am planning to check this other course out tomorrow, it is on housing policy. I have heard the prof is excellent. Since I am also doing some research on Tenant Participation System in Toronto Community Housing Corporation this course might be helpful in giving some insights. You know for all these years in Canada, I only took courses on developing countries and development challenges wothin the Southern context. These other North-American centred courses might help in my future job search!!!!

Monday, January 03, 2005

On blogging II

Mes Cher amis! I believe my quest to organize a space for reflection and deliberation on our blogging experience was too soon to be of considerable use by Iranian bloggers. However, I would like to hear on your experiences within this complicated virtual private sphere with substantive public implications. Hoder, himself, encouraged me to pursue this.

Anyways, today was the first official day of 2005. I missed my French class! It took us long to get back to downtown. I am a bit down these days, I cannot stop thinking on my school work and the complicated nature of this undertaking. I have problem connecting my Indian research to the recent one in Toronto. The whole thing is getting out of control. I should start actually going to the City (Municipality) to dig into their Tenant Participation System and see if I could arrange something out of it.

Is not it nice to share even your very thoughts with the whole unknown world?