Insights & Art

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Tag: University

The Yellow Wallpaper Anaylsis

The Yellow Wallpaper

This piece was a literary analysis of the first two pages of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, published in 1892.

This piece of fiction from The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman contains aspects of the mystery and horror genre. Narrated in first person, the writing style allows the audience into the most intimate areas of the persona’s mind. Deliberately using language which is disjointed and jumbled, Gilman paints a picture of someone who is trapped within an old house and a one sided marriage. As the passage progresses, the menacing nature of the house is brought to the forefront of the story, particularly seen in the persona’s reaction to the yellow wallpaper.

The passage starts with an informal and a conversational tone, it is clear that the persona either sees the audience as non-threatening or is unaware of their presence. The abundance of rhetorical question implies that the persona is in conversation with the audience; “Else, why should it be let so cheaply?” and “… Why have [it] stood so long untenanted?” The diction used in this passage is deliberately casual, with no words added which might challenge the reading capabilities of the average person. Bubbly quotes like “The most beautiful place!… It makes me think of English places that you read about…” builds the relationship between the audience and the housewife as they are hearing the innermost personal thoughts of the housewife and thus empathise with her.

The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

– Jeremy Bentham

The conversational tone is reflected in the general sentence structure of the piece. The constant thought interruptions from the hyphens and short sentences break the glossy flow of logic and delivery which is to be expected from most fiction. Instead Gilman’s breaking of the traditional paragraph structure mimics the bumpy rhythm of a face to face conversation. This unusual structure is a visual metaphor alluding to the confused state of the mind of the persona; as sentences seem to be sporadic thoughts instead of contributing to a linear narrative plot progression.

This unexpected transition from the innocent recordings of an annoyed housewife to a tale much darker in tone is accentuated in the disarming and personable nature of Gilman’s writing at the beginning. Humour especially is used to endear her to the audience, “So I take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is…” her clumsiness allows the audiences to relate to her situation of powerlessness. Likewise the persona is able to subtly chip away at the authority of the husband through the repetition of exaggerated ‘resignations to his advice’; “Personally, I believe that work… would do me good. But what is one to do?” These small moments of sarcasm are used to defang John, but also paints him as a stiff and joyless individual. During a moment where she is convinced this house has a “ghostliness” to it, “[John] said [what] I felt was a draught, and shut the window.” The humourous tone in addition to the light hearted subject matter of relocating to a new holiday house portrays the persona as someone who is preserving against small inconveniences. This changes in the final sentences of the passage, the morbid and sickly descriptions of the room heralds the unexpected emergence of the Gothic in a domestic environment.

Apart from using humour in order to convey the persona’s dissatisfaction with her husband, Gilman uses the hyphen to represent her two sided thoughts about him. On one hand, John is her husband and social expectations combined with John’s delicate care for her is appreciated; on the other hand being stuck in the top floor of this building evokes comparisons to Rapunzel. Out of a total of fourteen hyphens in Gilman’s passage, eight of them are used when discussing the topic of John and his dominating influence in her life. By intertwining John’s name with a physical break in writing, the persona conveys how ‘disruptive’ his presence is, but also hints at the possibility that she is suppressing a secondary opinion of her husband. Similarly John is mentioned in a lot of short sentence; “John is practical in the extreme.” And “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes.” These short sentences echo a tone of finality as if John’s character can simply be summed up by a single word or adjective.

Throughout the passage, John is portrayed as the stark contrast of his wife, whereas she likes to indulge in fascinations of the mind, John is (cruelly) scientific and “scoffs openly at any talk of [such] things.” Gilmore’s linguistic choices reflecst the division between the couple; John and his wife are never spoken about as a single unit. The closest the audience gets to this is in the word “marriage” to describe their relationship (it appears once). Yet this word lacks the warmth that “family” or “lovers” carry, it’s simply used to signify their type of relationship and not the feelings attached with it. There are also no inclusive pronouns in this passage, instead the audience is constantly reminded that John and “I” are two different parties with two separate outlooks on life, “John laughs at me…” and “John says the very worst thing I can do is…”

This passage from The Yellow Wallpaper is very personal as the story is not filtered through the lens of an omnipresent narrator. Instead the audience is receiving her thoughts directly; thus firmly placing us on her ‘side’ regardless of her biases. It is only near the end of the passage, when this jumbled mess of thoughts is combined with the darker descriptions of the wallpaper that elements of horror and mental instability steep out from what seemed to be an ordinary tale of family tension.

Whilst the very start of the passage foreshadows the mysterious and Gothic nature of this house; “There is something strange about the house – I can feel it.” And “… I would say a haunted house…” The final lines of this passage are drastically different and really dispel away the tone of innocence from her previous ‘trivial’ ramblings. There is a very noticeable contrast between the room the persona wants with “… roses all over the window…” compared to the wallpaper which is “… repellent, almost revolting.” The words chosen to describe the room depict it as almost a living flesh wound on the building; “… a smoulder unclean yellow [wallpaper]…” and “It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.” This sense of the room being alive is also reflected in the personification of the ‘artistically sinful’ wallpaper that “… suddenly commit suicide.” The connotations of the words “sin” and “suicide” convey that the room is not just uncomfortable to look at but that there is something inherently evil or malicious about its nature.

The literary techniques used in this passage from The Yellow Wallpaper are effectively in accomplishing the goals it sets out to meet. The use of first person, simple and familiar diction combined with the plight of a mistreated wife charms the audience into allying themselves with the persona. However, only near the end of this passage, do the audience start to peer behind the veil of banter and good faith. The combination of imagery and personification presents the room as an animate object with its own frightening agency causes the audience to suspect the terror hidden within this building, but also the possible seeds of mental instability within the persona.

 

A Feminist Interpretation of Islam

mosque

As western nations become more multicultural, there has been a growing debate of how the west should juggle its existing values with the ideals held by Muslims, particularly ones coming from the Middle East and Africa. The Caged Virgin: A Muslim Woman’s Cry for Reason by Ayaan Hirsi Ali fiercely criticises Islam for its inability and unwillingness to adapt to modern (western) values, but also for its treatment and attitudes towards their women.

Ali who labels herself a feminist and an advocate for the freedom of speech, portrays Islam as an ideology which is unwilling and unable to change to its attachment towards its scriptures and the figure of Mohammad. In the chapter The Virgin’s Cage, Ali argues that the Qur’an’s insistence upon women and their sexual purity is a pillar of the systemic oppression which has prevented the sexual liberation of Muslim women. Ali draws a connection between quotes in the Qur’an like “Those who guard their private parts… will inherit al-Firdaus.” (23:5-11) and practices such as marrying off a (female) rape victim to her rapist in order to maintain the family’s honour by insisting she lost her virginity with her husband (p. 20). Interestingly, the book fails to mention how many passages regarding virginity are directed at both sexes, and what she seems to be criticising is merely the patriarchal values in nations which also has embraced Islam. For Ali, it seems Islam as a faith is not only responsible for its dogma but how different societies attempt to implement it; the two aspects of faith and culture are indistinguishable.

This obsession with virginity and purity has, in Ali’s view, created a polarising culture of shame and one of honour. Ali comments about practices such as Muslim women spreading rumours about their peers to taint their name due to the stigma of premarital sex (p. 20). Quotes in the Qur’an like “… that [women] should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.” (24:30-1), inherently portrays female sexuality as something dangerous and alluring, whilst never fully criticising men for displaying their beauty and body to the same extent. Ali considers this desire to curtail female beauty not only as sexist but contributing to a culture where women are the recipient of all blame and sexual responsibility, whilst Muslim men are rarely taught that they are also responsible for their actions (p. 21). Ali further argues that this lack of understanding between the sexes combined with the oppression of female sexual agency in everyday life is responsible for the over representation of “Muslim men in prisons and Muslim women in shelters” (p. 18).

Furthermore Ali believes this focus upon female virginity is an accomplice in the cycle of entrenched poverty and instability which traps many Muslim families. The groom must penetrate the hymen of his wife to consummate the marriage, producing bloodied bed sheets for all to see. Ali adopts a feminist point of view on this act, seeing the importance of this ritual as a possible justification for rape. She writes “a Muslim marriage begins … [with] an act of force. It is in this atmosphere of mistrust that the next generation of children is born and brought up” (p. 24). Whilst I believe Ali to be justified in her reaction to this practice, I do find it unfair that she associates this tradition only with Islam as there are many Pacific-Islander cultures with similar rituals.

Since Islam has not undergone anything resembling the western Enlightenment period, many Muslim communities have not been able to fully separate law and Islam; also known as Sharia. Ali constantly warns that it is crucial that the Islamic world produces a thinker like Voltaire in order to challenge the repressive system of thoughts which places religion and tradition over human rights and science. In the chapter A Need for Self Reflection Within Islam, Ali discusses the cultural pedestal that Mohammad and the Qur’an is placed upon in a lot of Muslim communities. This prevents even the most liberal Muslims from reforming the doctrines into something more moderate and reflective of 21st century western beliefs. Ali believes the inability for these communities to distinguish between the Qur’an and law is the many reason why gender inequality is so ingrained within the Islamic communities and why the Islamic world lags behind in not just human rights, but economically and creatively (p. 152).

In the same chapter, Ali writes that “… Critical appreciation will have to come from within [Islam]” (p. 153). However, for Ali, there seems to be an expectation of the west to paternalistically lead the Muslim communities towards modernity. The Caged Virgin states many times that it is under the banner of misguided multiculturalism that the west refuses to challenge practices like female genital mutilation found in Muslim households. Ali berates these western liberals who supposedly champion ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘equality’ as selfish and obsessed with their image. By removing the incentive for Muslims to assimilate and by allowing Muslims to import their culture unchecked (for the sake of diversity), these liberals have commended the most vulnerable; the Muslim women, to a life under the patriarchy (pg 40-41).

Ali advocates for the adoption of affirmative/ preventative action when it comes to her fight against Islamic practices, especially female genital mutilation. Insisting that families migrating from ‘high risk’ areas, where this practice is still common, should have their daughters checked annually for signs of mutilation (p. 122). This position clearly puts Ali as a defender of the female body against unwarranted harm and her stance against female mutilation is understandable. Whilst I believe Ali has the best intentions and I think that such a policy can help (thankfully) reduce the continuation of these practices in the west, it unfortunately presents the entire Islamic global community as barbaric. By associating this issue with Islam, Ali also unfairly criticises many nations like Indonesia and Iran, where this practice is generally unheard of.

A running motif through her book is that Islam needs to mirror how the western nations treat Christianity; something of personal devotion which does not extend into secular and public life. For Ali, it seems that Islam needs to be almost entirely rewritten and reinterpreted for it to move away from its current manifestation; one which empowers the male and alienates the female. This idea that Islam is unsalvageable appears to even permeate her language, where she seems to use the word the word ‘Muslim’ to describe someone from a certain cultural heritage instead of someone who is an adherent to Islam.

This is stated most strikingly in the quote “[An] analysis of Islam and many Islamic dogmas… Would give Muslims a chance to end individual oppression and… [for] men, women and homosexuals [to be] treated as equals” (Ali, p. 135). In the eyes of Ali, she sees a direct connection between the teachings of the faith and the physical consequences within the Islamic world. The Caged Virgin presents Islam as the root of most, if not all of the issues of the Muslim community; since the Qur’an is held as the highest pinnacle of knowledge. This unchallenged respect for the text has stifled the ability for Muslims to be self-critical about their society, Ali cities the obstacles she has faced as evidence of this.

The biggest strength about Ali’s book; The Caged Virgin is also its biggest flaw paradoxically. Ali’s book paints a very simplistic picture concerning the entire Muslim population. However her unwillingness to differentiate between Muslim societies such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia does hurt the validity of her points as it seems a majority of her issues concern patriarchal values found within Africa and the Middle East. However, at the same time, by not distinguishing between Muslims, she boldly demands that all Muslims critically analyse the human rights issues which seem to more frequently appear within their communities.

Continuing this criticism, one instance where I believed Ali failed to accurately distinguish between Islam and culture, is when she talks about marriage in the chapter What Went Wrong? Ali describes the expectations of Muslim women to only marry within the ‘clan’, reflective of their insular upbringing (p. 50). However, the Qur’an is quite liberal on divorce and explicitly describes marriage as a willing contract between two willing participants, whilst actually giving women some economic and social benefits. In sura 65, the Qur’an states that “when you [Muslims] divorce women, … Do not turn them out of their [husbands’] houses.” Thus what Ali is describing seems to be more reflective of the bastardisation of Islamic beliefs rather than something sexist stemming from the Qur’an.

Saliem Fakir (2007, p. 333) in a rebuttal to Ali’s book argues that Ali’s inability to distinguish between “archaic patriarchal traditions… and Islam… is the biggest weakness in her thesis.” Ann Snitow (2006) further criticises Ali’s broad generalisations by stating that Ali is “so worried about imposing sameness on ‘the other’ that she misses cross cultural similarities” (p. 107).

Whilst I do agree that Ali does unfairly question the entire Muslim population with her words, I do think Fakir is also over simplistic in his assertion that the holy texts have no relationship to some of the sexist practices in Muslim communities. Quotes in the Hadith such as “I looked into Hell and found that the majority of its dwellers were women.” can be powerful justifications of certain beliefs. Ultimately, this is what Ali is fighting against, the manipulation of Islam to justify the ingrained prejudices within patriarchal societies. I believe The Caged Virgin was a legitimately an honest attempt to combat the issues women face in some Islamic nations and it does call out many appalling practices. But with its simplistic depictions, it begs the question how thin the line is between critical analyse and Islamophobia within The Caged Virgin.

The Thinglyness of Thingly Things

japan

What do you make of Heidegger’s way of reading artworks, equipment and things in relationship with each other in “The Origin of the Work of Art”? 

Martin Heidegger’s The Origin of the Work of Art attempts to explore the metaphysical aspect behind ‘things’ and their ‘thinglyness’. In particular, his essays focus upon the difference between ‘equipment’ and ‘art’, the uses of these differences and the consequences. By exploring the thinglyness within both equipment and art, Heidegger touches upon many important and reoccurring concepts such as Aletheia, existentiality and the rift between ‘Earth’ and ‘World’. Heidegger wishes for us to move away from the traditional western view of the subject/object dynamic, with the object having agency and the subject purely being a recipient of that will. Instead Heidegger argues for the being of all things, and all human experience involves the ‘sacrifice’ of the subject which willingly gives itself up to the object/human in order to create a new reality. Thus Heidegger’s views on things, equipment and art attempt to move away from these ingrained notions into his realm of metaphysics.

It is important to look past the physical material or earthliness of art or equipment and to understand what Heidegger perceived to be the core thinglyness of all things. Heidegger says one of the most difficult tasks is to simply “let beings be” and “let things be things”, because humans have constructed the world and their language in such a way that a book is not just a ‘thing’ instead there are many different associations and connotations which cloud the thinglyness from the view of humans. A book fosters up images of pages, font and book covers, yet it can fail to highlight the true thinglyness of a book; an instrument to communicate from the author to the reader; a physical instrument which if read can ‘melt’ away the physical world and teleport the author into the pages (Groden, Kreiswirth & Szeman). I think this speaks to the core of Heidegger’s philosophy which resonated around the core of simplicity and how these distractions chip away from the fundamental desires and goals of being. These distractions serve to cover up what is ‘nearest’ in our lives such as death, love and art whilst emphasising what is most ‘remote’, superficial relationships and attempting to foster social acknowledgement. These veilings of what is closest to the human ‘Being’ will lead us astray and cause humans to focus upon matters which are not important instead of striving for Aletheia or the desire to be great.

For equipment, Heidegger saw it as formed matter, something derived of the earth which was shaped by an external agency. Aristotle’s analogy of the wax stamp is another way to understand Heidegger’s thoughts on the creation of equipment: The wax stamp is comprised of two different ‘parties’ the wax and the stamp which shaped it; yet when understanding the wax stamp, it is impossible to fully separate the ‘form’ and the ‘matter’; the object and the subject. The most important aspect of equipment is the purpose which lies behind it; it is this linear objective which separates equipment from the realm of art. Understanding something holistically is a reoccurring theme within Heidegger and a key reason why he believes that science can never simply reach any truth within the realm of human understanding. The separation and the over-analysis of something conceals its thinglyness in pursuit of ‘more accurate information’. For Heidegger whose philosophy has elements of Romantic thought, understanding light as wave lengths completely destroys the other real effects and associations with light such as warmth, safety and the divine. Heidegger’s quote “the thingness of the thing remains concealed, forgotten. The nature of the thing never comes to light, that is, it never gets a hearing” reflects his belief that science simply rewords what is already ‘known’ and does not impart new knowledge. As a romantic and an admirer of eastern philosophy which moves away from the intense desire to categorise and rationalise within western philosophy, I appreciate Heidegger’s attempts to create a philosophy which is much more interconnected with the physical human experience. I often find myself asking whether western philosophy is motivated for the sake of information or if it is truly trying to uncover a ‘Truth’ to better human society.

Equipment’s main objective is to try to unlock what Heidegger calls the existentiality within things in order to create works of art. Existentiality refers to the glimpsing and unlocking of one’s potential and moving from the ‘actuality’ to the ‘possible’. Whilst this Heideggerian concept is often used to label people who never challenge the status-quo and simply ‘exist’, without deeper considerations for the philosophy of life. In many ways the unlocking of nature’s beauty from a ‘thing’ to a work of art also falls in line with this concept or ascending into something greater. The beauty behind an axe is found in its ability to shape the natural environment in order to create art, whilst art’s beauty shines its radiance or ability to transport an individual into another ‘World’. One may notice how this Heideggerian belief on equipment and its uses mirrors natural law, which rewarded the unlocking and shaping of the natural world in order to forward civilisation.

This stance upon equipment and purpose is noticeably different to how Heidegger perceives art; Heidegger is especially strong in his love and respect for art and its ability to unconceal the ‘Truth’. Whilst equipment prides itself on being ‘non-distracting’ and being formed in a way where the matter or its ‘earthly thinglyness’ doesn’t get noticed or get in the way of an objective: Art is the total opposite as the artist attempts to bring attention to every choice and decision made in the crafting of the artwork; whether this is a musical note, a paint stroke or the chiselling of a statute. In this sense, the art is the real catalyst and creative origin whilst the artist and the equipment are simply the conduits to Aletheia; “like a passage which destroys itself in the progress”.

In order to understand great works of art, it is necessary to decipher two Heideggerian terms; ‘World’ and ‘Earth’, which in true Heidggerian fashion sounds like synonyms yet represents something completely different. The ‘World’ is a fictional reality which one is transported to when they are engaging with high art, for an example, entering an ancient temple may sever one’s connection to the outside physical as they are moved to another realm where the gods dwell. The ‘Earth’ however is the physical ground upon which this temple or piece of art is built, yet the unlike the ‘World’ is in a constant sense of unveiling, the ‘Earth’ attempts to conceal itself, never fully letting a human comprehend it completely. For a painting or a vase, the ‘Earth’ comprises of the physicality of the thing, from the brushstrokes to the grainy texture and colours respectively. Yet the concealing of high art is why certain films, paintings and poems compromise of many meanings and that it may take many viewings before one can come to an understanding; and even then it may not be complete.

By immersing the audience in the greatness of their craft, an artist creates a rift between World and Earth, and the tension is which allows audience to glance at the ‘Truth’. It is important to note that equipment doesn’t have this worldly element to it, nor does it inspire great feelings since equipment is simply there to make achieving an objective easier. However, equipment and art share a mutual relationship, since art can only be formed with the assistance of equipment and equipment only has value in creating. Interesting, artworks are much more depended upon the ‘World’ which surrounds the thing; thus is an ancient statute is removed from their native ‘World’ which they naturally inhabit, their ability to bring viewers into their ‘World’ is severely reduced. Once again, equipment does not have this aspect to its thinglyness, instead, equipment remains linear regardless of the situation and is only not ‘useful’ if it is outclassed by other equipment.

I find Heidegger’s metaphysics fascinating because there is such a cyclical element to it and I see the joining of artworks and equipment to be in a sense a hermeneutic circle where one can only understood by exploring the other concepts in a circular notion. Continuing this metaphor of the hermeneutic circle, Heidegger also sees ‘Truth’ through a similar lens, ‘Truth’ or Aletheia is circular. By unconcealing certain information, another element gets shrouded in darkness and thus Heidegger entertains a relativisitic conception of Truth which is subject to a person’s context, instead of something which is self-evident and unchallengeable. Heidegger perceives great art as one of the few ways to uncover the Truth, and this is only possible when the audience or viewer concentrates deeply without outside distraction. Heidegger’s analysis of the Van Gogh’s painting A Pair of Shoes paints a vivid picture of the thinglyness of the shoes, “From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth.” It is important to distinguish that Heidegger insists art is a window to Truth and not to what is ‘true’. Using Van Gogh’s shoes for an example, the painting’s objective is not to accurately depict the physical aesthetics of a peasant shoe, instead the brush strokes, colour and lighting all create a picture of suffering and scarcity which is the thinglyness of the shoes; the true soul of the object. Interesting that whilst Heidegger argues that equipment (shoes) will never be able to create the tension between the World and Earth which is necessary to inspire and communicate the Truth: Heidegger picks an artwork depicting a pair of shoes (equipment) to highlight the power of art to create Aletheia, ironically highlighting only through a work of art can a pair of worn out shoes transcend their physical equipment uses and create a World for the audience to merge into.

At the core of Martin Heidegger’s The Origin of the Work of Art is his attempt to distinguish and identify the differences in the thinglyness of things. For Heidegger, acknowledging the physical differences between artworks and equipment was not enough; only through understanding the differences in objective and purpose did one understand equipment and artwork. Heidegger’s admiration of high art and its transformative power is evident through his essay; whilst equipment is not placed upon such a privileged status, it is still essential in the creation of art. Art’s ability to open a World is essential in Aletheia; the uncovering of Truth. In many cases, it is through this unveiling of Truth that humans are able to see the irony between ‘remoteness and nearness’ and how many beings attempt to escape from ‘confronting’ topics like death, life and purpose. For Heidegger, very few things are more important than art which has the ability to peel back this façade of social normativity which humans have imposed upon their surroundings. As stated above, art can only be created through equipment and it is equipment; the unsung heroes, which are responsible for creating the environment or situation for the art to come forth from. Equipment rarely draws attention to itself and unlike art, the less noticeable it is, the more effective it is at being equipment. This hermeneutic circle stands at the core of Heidegger’s metaphysical analysis of the thinglyness of both parties; connecting artworks and equipment in a never ending dance, as never ending partners.

MythBusters: Learning Styles

“If there’s something strange in you neighborhood
Who you gonna call? (mythbusters)
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? (mythbusters).”

What the Research says about Learning Styles?

Background:

For the purposes of this assignment, we have chosen to suggest an approach for a school in the Western suburbs of Sydney, with an ethnically and linguistically diverse student body. Being engaged in professional development, the school has noticed the discourse of learning styles in professional spheres and wants to investigate before adopting it as school practice. The following is a paper evaluating the research on learning styles, and suggests an approach for the school to take.

Introduction:

The term “learning styles” is the constructed concept that “individuals differ in regard to what mode of instruction or study that is most effective for them”. Over the last fifty years, the myth of ‘Learning Styles’ has become one of the most popular aspects of educational theory, with it gaining traction amongst the wider academic circles. Pashler et al., states this education theory is very alluring because it presents an easy solution to the paradox of teaching inherently different students within a mass production system. However the popularity of this myth ventures into the field of pseudo-science as its catchy narrative is overwhelmingly unsupported by the current research. Furthermore Pashler et al. states that with the constant active promotion from vendors offering different tests, assessment devices and online technologies, it has allowed educational institutions to easily identify students learning styles, and adapt their instructional approaches accordingly.

It cannot be denied that it is important to recognise that students are diverse and learn differently, whether it is culturally, linguistically or cognitively. The concept of learning styles may seem like a credible approach to cater for this diversity, however there has been limited evidence supporting it. There is some evidence of neural correlation with a preferred learning preference, for example Kraemer, Rosenberg & Thompson-Schill (2008) had the first set of data that showed a neural correlation with a stated style preference, which suggested that those who are associated with the verbal style have a tendency to convert pictorial information into linguistic representations. However, in the majority of the research on learning styles, students who used their preferred learning styles did not fare significantly better than students who were prevented from using their preferred style. It is therefore important that educators are aware that learning styles are not reliable predictors of the most appropriate learning style for any given student.

Alternatively, Huebner suggests the use of “differentiated instruction to effectively address all students’ learning needs”. It cannot be denied that students come from complex backgrounds with a diversity of language, ability and prior knowledge in any given area. They will also have a preference with the way that they learn and retain information. However, evidence suggests that implementing differentiated instruction, rather than teaching to a single style or ability, proves to be the most effective when addressing diverse student learning needs. Instead of grouping students into learning styles, understanding how to promote student engagement and motivation, assessing student readiness and having effective classroom management procedures can enrich the student learning process. Huebner further affirms this statement by stating it is important to understand that with differentiated instruction, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model, instead it builds upon the prior knowledge, interests and abilities that students bring to the classroom.

The Myth of Learning Styles

Massa and Meyer’s study was very effective at highlighting the wide divide between what is the popular narrative and what is academically supported. Altogether Massa and Meyer performed three separate experiments to test whether or not ‘visual learners’ and ‘verbal learners’ excelled when multimedia instruction was given in their respective fields, in a total of 51 cases, 49 showed little or no evidence, for learning styles, with some even showing evidence against.

When Massa and Meyer’s first experiment involving 52 participants showed no evidence to support the learning styles education system, they attempted the exact same experiment in a different context. In the first experiment, the mean age was 18 years old with all the participants coming from the Psychology pool at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In experiment two it, the participants were non-college educated adults, with 15 out of the 61 having high school as their highest level of education. However despite the shift in demographics, the results to experiment two were very similar, with no significant increases in academic scoring in 14 of the 15 experiments.

Out of the 51 cases, 52.94% (27/51) of the time, the results showed a minute leaning towards the expected direction (visual learners getting slightly better results on visual instruction), whilst 47.05% (24/51) the results headed towards the opposite direction. These scores highlight how inconsistent this educational theory is and that there was close to an equal chance of a person either benefiting or not benefitting from learning styles classrooms.

Instead it was found that adding images to aid any form of instruction was a benefit to both ‘visual’ and ‘verbal’ learners, further discrediting the notion that people can be cleanly categorized into either element. This has been validated by studies such as Mayer and Moreno (2002) and Austin (2009) who found multimedia which incorporated animation and narration were consistently shown to be the most effective when it came to student’s retention of knowledge and academic scores.

The Argument for Learning Styles

One of the most significant reasons that the learning style theory gained momentum was due to educators realising that each child is different in the way that they learn and process knowledge. In their book “The Importance of Learning Styles,” Sims and Sims assert that learning opportunities need to be designed with the strengths and weakness of the child in mind. This is an argument which stands true to this day, even though the nuances of the words ‘strengths and weaknesses’ have evolved since then. In Sims and Sims’ time, the goal of learning styles assessment was to “make distinctions that lead to meaningful differences”. This was carried out through theories such as the Experiential Learning Theory presented by Kolb and the Learning Styles model proposed by Grasha-Reichmann. Both of these researchers were making nascent responses to the dilemma which arose from the acknowledgement of individual differences, or perhaps preferences, for perceiving and processing information. Since then, research on differentiated instruction by ability level and all forms of expression have developed these ideas.

The preconceived notions of some researchers have inhibited the critical analysis of data leading some to believe that what was measured was an indicator of different learning styles. Sprenger states that differentiation strategies such as tweaking the content or making instructional changes, need to be implemented after analysing the student’s “learning profile” or style of learning (2008, p.xvi). For qualitative researchers such as Sprenger (2008), who work with small scale case studies or take part in action research in their own classrooms, the idea that a child’s behaviour can indicate the child’s cognitive processes would have been almost self evident as it would have been observable evidence.

Massa and Mayer (2006), although critical of the learning style theory, acknowledges that in their study a correlation between cognitive style measures and processing measures were found where an individual’s professed learning style (visual or verbal) matched with how heavily they relied on help represented through the two styles. However, these findings are few and far between. Given the dominance of the learning styles discourse, it is very possible that researchers and participants alike were unwittingly primed to form these conclusions.

Conclusion

The basic idea of cognitive styles, that different individuals process certain types of information differently, has appeared in many forms and has been part of many theories in various avenues of psychological research. Despite this widespread interest, however, a precise description of what constitutes a cognitive style, both from a behavioral and from a biological perspective, remains elusive.

Although many schools are still inclined to adopt the concept of learning styles into their pedagogy, we would advise not to use it as a basis for teacher practice due to the lack of evidence for it. An overwhelming proportion of the evidence is based on ‘preferences’ instead of an assessment of cognition, or contain flawed and insufficient methodology. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that in fact, what can be described as ‘learning styles’ has no significant impact on achievement.

Given these findings, we encourage the school to adopt the approach of differentiation, where pedagogy is designed to treat students as individuals based on their ability, prior knowledge, literacy and appropriate forms of engagement and management.

This was written by Gi Eun Lee, Kasturi Murugavel, Erica Sung and myself; SC. Thank you for being an amazing team, even if it was for a short period of time.

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The Curtain Call of Rhetoric

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Is Technology indistinguishable from Magic.

Rhetoric is something which is constantly evolving, it evolved under the Humanism movement, it defined itself against the scholastic movement and during the Industrial Revolution it became less and less important as economics opened up trade and communication amongst different nations with different languages. With the spread of the internet, rhetoric has also undergone changes as communication adapts to an increasingly shrinking world.

In my opinion, the internet has allowed unknown individuals to publish their thoughts anonymously meaning that ethos is becoming less and less important and instead there is a larger focus upon the strength of one’s arguments. Likewise powerful influences like situated ethos have been nullified by the internet as the author’s physical appearance and socio-economic status are hidden from sight. I also believe that pathos is harder to effectively implement and aggressive tactics such as intimidation would be poorly received as those rhetorical strategies often require face to face communication or at the very least the use of body language to subtly convey certain emotions and feelings.

I also believe that the main purpose of modern rhetoric is not to ‘persuade’ but rather to simply communicate or pass along a certain message or theme, this is due to the widening audience which can access a speech, article, essay, comment or picture. This means persuasion is harder than ever as the audience will have a wider spectrum of values and beliefs ingrained into them by their culture, thus simple and effective communication seems to be more important than ever as language barriers become more apparent than ever on the internet.

Personally I don’t see this evolution of rhetoric as something which destroys the ‘art’ or ‘soul’ of rhetoric, which is a form of knowledge or practice which has under gone many different transitions and likewise a 16th century rhetorician might of complained about the destructive capabilities of the printing press, something which is integral to modern society.  Instead I think it is necessary that rhetoric evolves along with the world so it does not become an outdated skill left to gather dust upon a bookshelf, void of all relevance.

One Language to Rule Them All.

In today’s tutorial we examined the power imbalance of different cultures in any given society and how there is an unspoken yet widely observed hierarchy within society which determines whether an action, word, gesture or belief is correct or incorrect. This was seen in the story of the Indigenous Australian who had a dream that he meet Elvis Presley and immediately and unfortunately I categorised him as uneducated or dumb because he used Indigenous Australian slang instead of ‘official’ and accepted forms of English. I guess that’s the beauty and flaw of language, the emotional connotations attached to words gives speech an intrinsic emotional underpinning and grounds our communication in authentic feelings. However this also means that unlike scientific discourse, there can be close to no objectivity since certain words will have different meanings depending on one’s context.

The connotations surrounding a word reflects one’s true intentions and labels like men and women carry with it certain values, expectations and stereotypes which society dedicates we follow and these values are grounded into the its citizens through constant repetition. It’s interesting that labels which should be completely objective such as Asian, Lebanese or Australian are also burden with specific associations.

The Knife Edge of Acceptance.

Whilst my discussion posts have generally incorporated my perspective and opinions, I have yet to create a post dedicated solely to myself and my experiences, but for week twelve, I think this is appropriate as next week will be my presentation, something I am definitely looking forward to! I plan to speak about male rights and how feminist discourse has meant that sexism against men is now seen as appropriate or acceptable. (I support feminism and I believe it’s done some wonder things to balance up the genders; however the fact I don’t feel comfortable publishing this thread without defining my position highlights how it has influenced social discourse)

A big part of the challenge will be ensuring that I have a positive ethos as advocates of male rights are generally pierced to be women haters and sexists with outdated views, if I am not about to present my speech without respect, restraint and class then my message will neglected and dismissed. It’s important that I assure the audience that don’t support the restrictive and sexist gender roles and I plan to predict and answer a lot of their concerns within my speech. I also want to word my speech so I can subtly pull the audience ‘over to my side’ and this is done by presenting myself as a moderate armed with sophisticated and relevant statistics and arguments to forward my point.

My main aim in my speech is to change society’s perceptions that men can’t be discriminated against which is as ridiculous as saying “white people can’t be discriminated against because most first world countries are white nations!” I want to start my speech off with something along the lines of… “Men are the leaders of society…” followed by “Women are the leaders of society” and if the audience reacts like I expect them to, then I will point to the hypocrisy in their reactions.

I’m definitely going to forgo intimidation and hopefully through a combination of statistics, good will, ingratiation and moderate language I will be able to present my topic without the label of misogynist slapped onto me.

“Master has given Dobby a sock! Dobby is free!”

I’m glad that a course which was built around the concept of rhetoric did not neglect a speaking component, on a more personal level, these past week threes of presentations have been some of the most enjoyable tutorials I have ever been a part of, so kudos to the ENGL2652 tutors and teachers for assembling this syllabus.

I attended two different tutorials during the final stretch of tutorials and something I noticed within both classes was that every presentation except two was quite serious and focused on a topic which was legitimately a serious issue within society. This was the same for people’s ethnos, as most people tried to be well mannered, polite and respectable with only one speaker trying to use intimidation. I was originally considering doing a satirical and sarcastic piece on why Australia should implement the White Australia Policy or why homosexuality should be out lawed, I eventually decided to speak about discrimination against men, but it would of been interesting to see how a more ’emotional’ or ‘less standardised presentation’ would of functioned.

I also noticed that most of the topics were well suited towards the audience of young teenagers with a generally more liberal mindset, maybe it was to demonstrate good will or maybe the speakers were passionate about those certain topics, but a few I recall include banning Christmas, banning plastic water bottles and the dangers of consumerism.

It was my belief that logos seemed to be generally the most effective form of persuasion during these five minute presentations, not to discredit ethnos or pathos, but those aspects take time to build. Whilst a strong and well-timed statistic or fact only ‘required’ a short amount of time to present, meaning the speaker would of time leftover to expand upon their presentations.

The Second Blog Update

The 18th of May, 2015 has been chiseled into history. Many generations on, my descendants will commemorate this day with a feast. The great songs shall echo through the grand hall of the Ching dynasty, the wine shall flow like the Nile and the ancient kings will rise from their tomb to herald the changing of the new age.

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Ask not what the blog can do for you, but what you can do for the blog.

ONE THOUSAND, EIGHT HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX VIEWS IN A SINGLE DAY.

Note that my previous record was 49 views in a full 24 hours, the jump to 1886 represents a net increase of… 3748.9796%. I was completely stunned when I first saw this, believing that either I instantly needed to get corrective eye surgery or that I had taken one too many shots of Vodka that night.

Now you as the audience must be asking, “How on Earth did you get such an explosion in views?” and secondly “Did you threaten the slaves in the basement your friends to continuously press F5 at gunpoint?” After donning my thinking cap and investigating, I found that my website was linked several times in a Norwegian forum dedicated to academia. Many students used my piece analysing the rhetoric in Obama’s Yes We Can speech (which you can found by clicking here) as a scaffold for their own writing.

The Peloponnesian War cemented the greatness of the Spartans in western lore, the 13th belonged to the ferocity of the Mongols, the year 1788 signified the start of the French Revolution and the solidification of modern day European ideals. But the 18th of May, 2015 heralds the triumph of humanity, the forging of the human spirit. But most of all, the 18th of May will forever be the swan song of the Norwegian nation, they rose like a Phoenix from the ashes, dashing away villainy and corruption in a single stroke.

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So what’s next for Insights & Ball? I’m currently completely swamped in assessments though I’m loving this semester as it is really allowed me to dive deeper in my education degree. The timetable gods have also been merciful and I’ve been able to meet some incredible like minded education peers and to strengthen past friendships that I’ve already developed.However I do have a few essays and articles which I do want to publish in the near future, I’ll be on holidays around the end of June.

Schedule

The Fifty Greatest Moments in the Avatar Franchise
This has honestly been a piece that I’ve wanted to publish for many months. I’ve already established my 50 favourite moments from the Avatar franchise in order. However I would like to re-watch The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra one final time just in case I want to make changes. This article will most likely be stretch out over a five separate post starting at number 50 to the magnum opus, I find posting 50 consecutive moments in a row to be a little extreme and very ugly on the eyes.

Tim Duncan; an Ode to Greatness
Duncan is a living legend, the embodiment of a professional, the symbol of longevity. His resume is overwhelming, 5 different championships, 2 MVPs, 3 finals MVP and a ridiculous 18 regular seasons under his belt and another 18 PLAYOFF RUNS played. However, Duncan is nearly the end of his career, how will he proceed? Will he silently exit the game, content with the legacy he has craved out, or will he strive for another championship run?

The Yellow Vicks; a Cherished Memory
The yellow Vicks cough drop will forever be associated with my childhood. My grandmother will always reward me with that delicious treat, promising that this would be the final one of the night. However she could never contain her love for me and by the end of the night, I would sit in my parent’s car with four or five cough drops happily consumed in the stomach. That was close to a decade ago and now her Dementia has cruelly stolen away her memories, ripping down her charisma and destroying her independence. I visited her in the nursing home recently, I tried to make conversation but it was hard connecting intimately with someone who was starting to forget you. As I walked out of her room, I left a packet of yellow Vicks near her bedside table, maybe for one more time she will remember me, the past laughs we shared and how much I loved her.

These are the pieces that I have lined up, however I write whenever I’m motivated and if an idea or an event catches my fancy then I’ll focus on that topic instead. Though I hope that you as the audience have a better idea of what I’m planning to focus upon and I hope that you’ll follow me as I document my life, my beliefs and my experiences before I, too, am whisked off the stage off life.

To my Norwegian viewers, I salute you.

Farvel, Chingy out.

Seedy Phallus Interpretations.

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Account for the different interpretations and impact of phallic symbolism within Greek society reflected by ancient Greek mythology and rituals. 

The phallus was a reoccurring symbol through ancient Greek society with its interpretations used to support a patriarchal society validated by Greek mythology. The phallus evolved from being just a sexual reproductive organ into a symbol of sovereignty, a weapon and a tool to preserve the foundations of a society. A man’s genital also became a reflection upon the individual, supposedly highlighting his status, birth and whether he was civilized or a savage. Finally a man’s phallus became regarded as an agricultural tool and a symbol of fertility. These representations of the phallus are reinforced by the Greeks myths which were a fundamental element to the construction of the ancient Greek society. The significance of the phallus created a civilization based upon phallocracy- a cultural system symoblised by the power of the phallus.

The constant repetition of the phallus throughout Greek culture was a constant reminder of the male dominance of society. It was written within Greek mythology that the image or carving of a phallus could be used to shield against the “evil eye” from hypnotizing an individual. That belief system slowly turned the phallus from just another male limb to a symbol “intended to bring good luck to the beholder.”[1] The fact the phallus was present and linked to most aspect of Greek society acknowledges the importance of it as a symbol (Image 1.) Statues of Hermes with an erect phallus were used as markers of territory between states and to ward away evil spirits and omens. Statues and artworks of phallus were so common that “buildings were surrounded by phallic pillars”[2] and “[Athena] was studded with statues of Gods with their phallus exposed.”[3] The overwhelming presence of the phallus within the public sphere reinforced the fact women were second class citizens and that Greek culture was one which heavily favoured men. Voodoos with erect genitals found near graves and tombstones reveals that the phallus was also involved in black magic rituals and witchcraft. The dolls were a visual representation of a man’s foe, and it attempted to channel hostile spirits recently deceased to “cripple the most significant limb”[4] of the intended target, their genitals.

A man’s phallus was also frequently portrayed as a weapon within Greek art, conveying the strength and authority of manhood. The major Greek gods are often portrayed aiming their designated weapons towards the crotch of their sexual targets. Zeus brandished a thunderbolt or a scepter, Poseidon, his trident; and Hermes, his caduceus towards their victims (Image 2.) The phallus and its associations with masculinity are echoed in the mythology of Uranus and Cronus. The sky and earth are not separated until Uranus who locks Gaea in a “perpetual sexual embrace”[5] has his genitals removed. The castration also signifies Uranus’ fall from grace and importance within Greek mythology as his son Cronus steps up and fills his position of authority. Without his genitals Uranus cannot lead his family, the castration was more than just a physical act; it implied that he had lost the “essence of a man’s being.”[6] The symbolism of the phallus extends further than just a sexual organ; it stands as a characteristic necessary to rule.

The deeply embed sexual tension in ancient Greek culture was due to the sexual restriction of women and their complete lack of voice, symbolised by the myths of the Amazon women. The Amazon warriors were defeated by Attic hero Theseus, suggesting that democracy could only thrive if society kept “women’s sexuality properly in check.”[7] The Athenian warriors re often depicted stabbing their weapons into the breast of the Amazon warriors particularly near a nipple. This was done to dramatise the warrior’s “assault on their femininity”[8] and to suggest the sexual conquest of men over women. (Image 3) It was feared “any concession to women would lead to the collapse of social order built by men” thus the repetition and significance of the phallus within Greece society was meant to maintain social order.

A man’s phallus was eventually transformed a general representation of the individual and the shape and size of the genitals were supposed to be a direct reflection on the male carrier. Aristophanes describes the perfect man to be equipped with a “small prick” similarly Aristotle states a smaller penis is more fertile since the seed has to shoot a shorter distance.[9] A large, circumcised penis was a mark of barbarism and savagery; male foreigners are often depicted with larger genitals in Greek artwork and pottery. This is seen in the God; Priapus, whose constant erection was a sign of his uncontrollable lust and large of social etiquette. Fathered by Dionysus or Hermes and born to Aphrodite, this Asiatic God was cursed by Hera to be impotent and ugly highlighted in his satirically large erection. Thus distancing himself from the other noble and more “respectable” Olympian gods in mythology. (Image 4) For a Greek culture which was heavily built upon notions of logic, knowledge and reason, large unsuppressed erections were a sign of a man’s inner primitive nature and something to be shunned by society. In general large sex organs were “considered coarse and ugly and were banished to the domains of abstraction”[10] and rejected by Greek men as redundant and aesthetically repulsive. (Image 5)

Like the Satyrs, Priapus was often mocked in mythology, both were driven by uncontrollable sexual urges however neither could successfully have sexual intercourse. Priapus was disturbed by a donkey whilst trying to rape Lotis and Satyrs fail to have to sex with maenads. Despite the abundance of sexual activity the major male Gods engage in, “the consumption of the rapes and any visible sexual excitement were never shown.”[11] Once again the belief that an erect phallus was a mark of a barbarian, meant gods pursuing their sexual targets are often portrayed just in the pursuit and not actually engaging in sex (Image 6.)

The phallus was also depicted as “the primary source of life”[12] and an agricultural tool necessary for the “harvest” for the next generation. This notion is once again reflected in the Greek mythology of Uranus’ castration. Cronus’ weapon of choice for this act was either a sickle or a scythe,[13] both tools traditionally reserved for the reaping and gathering of crops. This has resulted in slang terms for sexual intercourse such as “to plough” and semen being the seed. The blood from Uranus’ severed phallus created the violent female spirits named the Erinyes and Giants, beings of “enormous strength and violence” whilst the semen and foam created Aphrodite.[14] There is a concerted effort to push male independence and dominance within the reproduction process, males like Uranus can infringe on a major element of female identity; child birth. This belief is reflected in the birth of Athena and the birth of Dionysus, where Zeus performs both the male and female duties in child birth; sexual intercourse and the delivery of the child. The phallus within Greek mythology challenges the significance of “mother earth,” the notion that females are the most essential aspect in the creation of a new generation. To further this point, Hera jealous at Zeus’ abilities to fulfill the role of both sexes, attempts to have a child without a male partner. The result was a crippled Hephaestus who was shortly abandoned by his mother for his disfiguration and rejected from living within Olympia. From a time in history when the male role in “reproduction was not recognized” by Greek culture. Greek mythology tried to reinforce the notion that the phallus was the primary requirement in the continuation of the human species. In general the stories of the Greek gods reflect the “tensions between the sexes” and the disjointed family unit during ancient Greek society. The mythology fundamental to the establishment of Greek culture looks only to acknowledge the importance of the phallus, thus transforming it beyond just another organ.

It is clear that to maintain a strong patriarchal society, the role of women had to be restricted and their sense of identity infringed upon, the Greek mythology serve as a justification for the dominance of men in a public and private sphere. The phallus stood for many different symbols, all of which empowered man and justified their reign within society. From being a good luck charm to a sign to ward off evil, the reoccurring phallus within Greek culture was an attempt by men to preserve the phallocracy. The phallus was also portrayed as a weapon; embed with physical power and in Uranus’ case, a necessity to rule and lead your family. Apart from that a man’s genitals has also evolved to represent an agricultural product, essential in the prolongation of the human species. The Greek mythology serves as a reflection of the culture and as a tool to maintain the pillars of a male dominated society. The phallus, the limb that separates the sexes begins to adopt many associations with power, fertility and strength legitimizing the patriarchy.


REFERENCING.

[1] Skiiner, B. M., Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture (2005), Oxford, UK., Blackwell Publishing Ltd., p. 194.

[2] Keuls, C. Eva., The Reign of the Phallus (1985), N.Y., Harper & Row, Publishers., p. 6.

[3] Ibid., p.2.

[4] Ibid., p.78.

[5] Powell, B. B., Classical Myth (2009), N. Y., Pearson Education., p. 84.

[6] Keuls, C. Eva., The Reign of the Phallus (1985), N.Y., Harper & Row, Publishers., pp. 78.

[7] Skiiner, B. M., Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture (2005), Oxford, UK., Blackwell Publishing Ltd., p. 38.

[8] Keuls, C. Eva., The Reign of the Phallus (1985), N.Y., Harper & Row, Publishers., pp. 4.

[9] Ibid., p.68.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., p. 50.

[12] Ibid., p.60.

[13] Powell, B. B., Classical Myth (2009), N. Y., Pearson Education., p. 84.

[14] Ibid., p. 85.