Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reflexion on Classification

The article of Bowker and Leigh explores the hidden parts of the classification purpose in humans, and how this may lead to ethical and social problems.

These are some quotes I found important and my commentary or example is below each of them:

1) "For any individual, group or situation, classifications and standards give advantage or they give suffering. Jobs are made and lost; some regions benefit at the expense of others." (p. 6)
2) "(...)the act of assigning a classification can be socially or ethically charged." (p.25)
People of very low socio-economic backgrounds do struggle everyday to obtain better education, better job skills, and better job conditions. It is somewhat easier for me to link this with my country context. As an example, I can mention the problem of people living in government-supported public residential complex and poor communities. And I think this issue also applies to USA. A job recruiter should not discard an applicant because he or she comes from one of these communities, but who can really ensure that? You can have many government offices trying to help, ombudsman, laws, etc; but meanwhile you have a population reinforcing everyday the misconceptions surrounding people coming from public residential complex, you will maintain that sort of hidden classification for the purpose of segregation and benefiting a small population.

3) "The decision to classify students by their standardized achievement and aptitude tests valorizes some kinds of knowledge skills and renders other kinds invisible." (p. 6)

If you will solely rely on the GRE or SAT test, for example, to measure a student's potential to undertake graduate or college studies, many people will be unfairly evaluated as "low achievement students". How do you know if those discarded students had the potential to become leaders and top contributors if you don't give them the opportunity, if you don't use other mediums to evaluate these students?
4) "(...)classifications shift historically." (p. 19)

Taking the example of children with learning disabilities. Perhaps 50 or 100 years from now, that term will be outdated because somehow professionals will find the effective ways to integrate a series of factors (don't know which ones) ranging from nutrition to specific teaching methods that will make those children succeed in a different learning environment. That environment will not be anyhow similar to what we have now.

About the questions that Pawley asked today, my comment is that a blog might be perceived as like if one were "talking out loud in an empty room"; however, people who are not accustom to share their opinions can find this medium a good one to start out. Eventually, the skills that have been developed here, will be transposed to a different context.


Robin said...

you pulled out some very provocative quotes - that get at the heart of why we included this chapter in this class. while it is human to classify - it should also be human to challenge what those classifications mean and their impacts on people and society.

and thanks - we hope that the blog space provides a place for people to share their thoughts and engage with others. i was once in a class where the email space we created got more discussion than in the class- there were interesting reasons for this - all of which pointed to the value of having different ways for people to engage in their own way.