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Asking what educates excludes nothing, for it is possible that anything and everything educates in one way or another. On StudyPlace we jumble up all sorts of educative experience. This openness does not warrant the cliché that when something includes everything it tells us nothing. Inquiry works actively, like seeing and hearing: excluding nothing does not mean attending to everything. We describe a field of vision as blinkered when it is narrowed only to its field of focus. We do not live and think like harness horses, likely to shy off track at an unexpected object to our side. We avidly include all we can within the periphery of our full, active vision, and within it we look, first at this and then at that, with a mobile focus as the body twists, the head cranes, and the eyes dart about, wonders of muscular flexibility. We attend to those elements of everything that we judge to be interesting, important, worthy, desirable, significant, not to the mere residue after all the exclusions have taken effect.
Thus, attention does not exclude; it preserves everything within the periphery in a state of latent relevance, allowing for the play of attention as it moves itself from one thing to another, startled, attracted, bored, determined, flattered, or moved. To what, then, do we attend to on StudyPlace? With everything included in a state of latent relevance, what are likely to be the active vectors of attention on it?
People direct their attention through diverse means — political, economic, social, cultural, institutional, intellectual.
- Political direction will effect StudyPlace indirectly, if at all.
- Arising from the spontaneous, voluntary contributions of peers, economic incentives will exert little influence on its patterns of attention.
- Social and cultural determinants shaping what happens on StudyPlace will be substantial, probably changing over time. At first, a small base of contributors are imprinting their interests and concerns on the site — a medley of the academic, urban, global, American, liberal, humanist, pragmatic, and pedagogic. As the base of contributors grows, so will the components of the medley, until it includes, perhaps, just about everything, thereby ceasing to structure attention with effect.
- The same holds for the institutional. StudyPlace draws its initial contributors from Columbia University, particularly the school of education, Teachers College, but possibly not in an entirely representative way, and with more contributors, its institutional identity will dissolve.
We have remaining then the intellectual determinants of attention and these are important because they are internal to the enterprise itself. We might broadly group them in three interpenetrating activities — research, scholarship, and criticism — and ask how each attend to particulars among the many matters within the horizon of awareness.
To be developed —
- Criticism and the assessment of importance
- Scholarship and the assessment of significance
- Research and the assessment of explicability