Learning For All Americans... Not just "Real Ones"!!!

With the advent of the Internet and its related technologies (e.g., social networking sites like Facebook), it is rather ironic that people are becoming more anti-social. Prior to the advent of the Internet, people were forced to socialize with individuals and groups who they might have later on discovered to be inherently different from them. Accordingly, people were forced to learn to be more tolerant and thus more psychologically-diversified. However, modernly, people can be proactive (and avoid meeting people that are different from them through online filters) and essentially create closed groups/circles or affinity groups which have been selectively filtered to include people that think at least somewhat like they do.

Please excuse me if I call this generation the "Spoiled Generation". Essentially, it is a generation of learners who are being spoon-fed with information that are filtered via search engines retrievals and who, themselves, concurrently filter everything that they like as things that are fun to learn in their extra-curricular activities. It is a rather “reality show” generation. However, in life we all should learn both from the 'good' and 'bad' situations. As we all know, it is hard to get 'spoiled individuals' to behave in ways that differ from those in which they were spoiled.

According to the assertions that I read in Shapiro and Stefkovich (2010), this phenomenon/approach falls within the metaphor of the American Melting Pot, which differs from that of the Chinese Hot Spot. Considering the context of institutional education, which should be somewhat an extension of home education, which is one of the main reasons why students get homework , which should technically be supervised by their parents, many of which elicit student-parent interactions because part of educating younger learners should include either educating the parents or at least working as partners with the parents. The metaphor of the melting pot left it to the schools to educate students from many cultures through a common language, a common history, and common goals, principles, and values. With this approach, the schools bore the burden of producing the social and cultural integration required to create “real Americans” (p. 134).

But What is Meant by Real Americans?

Judging by the writings in the literature Such as that of Cushner et al. (1992), this concept seems not to have changed for more than 100 years. It seems that the Real Americans are white and they are adults: they are middle-class (or trying very hard to be) (p. 135). Despite the emphasis on acculturation through the schools and other institutions, there have also existed other forces in America such as the distinct languages, histories, goals, principles, and values of different ethnic groups that emerged from the community, the home, and the individuals themselves. For many minority groups, then, in this age of diversity, the melting pot metaphor no longer seems viable. Instead, the concept of the Chinese hot pot may be a better fit for their view of American culture. In the hot pot, despite the emphasis on acculturation through the schools and other institutions, there have also existed other forces in America such as the distinct languages, histories, goals, principles, and values of different ethnic groups that emerged from the community, the home, and the individuals themselves. For many minority groups, then, in this age of diversity, the melting pot metaphor no longer seems viable (p. 136).

Individuals migrate to the infinity groups, many of which may not have psychologically-healthy goals because such groups appeal to their personal desires. They do it because they can. It is rather easy and lazy to deal with only things or people that we like. But this is rather a set up because in real life that would simply be wishful-thinking; whether at home or at work, we all have to deal with people or situations that we dislike.

Currently, America has segregated itself into many different types of neighborhoods (e.g., Black, White, Asian, Jewish) to its own detriment. People do so mostly because they falsely believe that it is the only way they can maintain their authenticity and partly because they hold prejudice and even sometimes racist views about one another. Modernly, artificial intelligent (AI) systems have been used to allow users to create groups and systems on the fly that include like-minded members. This is only a continuation of the “American Melting Pot” phenomenon. It is rather psychologically lazy, since it is so much easier to deal with folks that think, look, walk, dance and speak like we do, than to do the same with those, who seemingly differ from us in many ways.

It is dangerous to continue to create such generations of spoiled learners because they will essentially be too spoiled to be bothered by learning environments that don’t appeal to their sensibilities. There is also the issue of the untamed behavior of such learners in environments in which they only have like-minded thinkers. It is rather like "the blind leading the blind". As a professional who specialized in software engineering and did a Master's thesis in artificial intelligence, I am familiar with the power of artificial intelligence and virtual reality and its impact on young minds. It is no accident that we have had so many mass shootings by the very "young real Americans" who are essentially sequestered in suburbs in which they are not allowed to explore other cultures and thus forced to create virtual like-minded and often disillusioned groups. This is a dangerous trend, especially if we consider how some AI entities (e.g., “bots”) in the form of avatars, which already exist and already assist users in organizing their work schedules, reminding them of important scheduled meetings, arranging travel, and so forth can also be used in other ways. Many of the same type of device now interact with humans on a daily basis. But this is only the useful/good aspect of such human-like machines (p. 359). However, the idea of dealing with mis-behaving, or self-destruction-driven artificially-intelligent machines and users can only be ignored to our own detriment. Will the latter require AI machine controlling agents to police misbehaving machines and users?

According to Stefkovich (2010) an important question/issue, then, is whether we will need to expand the conventional realm of moral consideration to include these entities. In answering this question, however, two additional, and perhaps more basic, questions need to be examined: (i) which kinds of beings, or entities, deserve moral consideration? (ii) why do those beings/entities warrant it? Prior to the twentieth century, ethicists and lay persons in the Western world generally assumed that only human beings deserved moral consideration; all other entities—animals, trees, natural objects, etc—were viewed merely as resources for humans to use (and misuse/abuse) as they saw fit. In other words, humans saw these “resources” simply as something to be used and disposed of as they wished, because they believed that they had no moral obligations toward them. By the mid-twentieth century, the assumption that moral consideration should be granted only to humans had been challenged on two distinct (though not altogether unrelated) fronts. One challenge came from animal rights groups, who argue that animals, like humans, are sentient creatures and thus capable of feeling pleasure and pain. Based on this comparison, proponents for animal rights have argued that we should (p. 361). Thus, should the same be extended to artificially-intelligent systems and their users (e.g., Facebook)?

In a nutshell, to what degree should we work to ensure that our course content is presented in a way that most of our proposed learners would find appropriate to their sensibilities?

We cannot please all people all the times. Accordingly, we have to have sound and diversity-friendly rules by which all should all play. We have to move away from the elusive American melting pot model to something that is more like the Chinese Hot Pot model in which people are encouraged to be themselves and culturally aware while respecting each other as opposed to aspiring to simply be “real Americans” or “Real American-like” or not. At that point, we can design culturally-friendly instruction not just for the purpose of so doing. We will have included team members from various cultures who will have given us the right perspectives as to appeal to learners from all walks of life, but not just for the purpose of meeting such a criterion. As educators an instructional designers our goal is to make learning engaging by many means necessary, but in order to do so, we have to may have to move away from the American melting pot model to the Chinese Hot Pot one a bit sooner than we’d like to especially with the advent of the Internet (p. 135). We can encourage, invite and allow learners to be themselves among both mainstream (norms) learners and culturally-diverse learners and foster a Chinese Hot Pot (non-monolithic) society as opposed to a American melting pot (monolithic) misnomer.

Reference

Shapiro, J. P., & Stefkovich, J. A. (2010). Ethical leadership and decision making in education:

Applying theoretical perspectives to complex dilemmas (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Dr. Lorins is the Chief Editor of LorinsPost.com... This article has been sponsored by RapidGigsPlus.com