Cognitive science, meet the angel of history

The _New York Times_ is running “an article”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/27/science/27side.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin on a “recent article in _Cognitive Science_”:http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15516709cog0000_62 by Nunez and Sweetser which demonstrates that Aymara speakers imagine the past to be in front of them and the future behind them — reversed, in other words, from the spatial metaphors we use in English. The Times article notes “If they are right, this is bigger than anything the 60′s tossed up. Is it possible that human concepts of time can vary this much because of language and culture? And what would it be like to think this way? Do I have the rest of my life behind me? And how can I let bygones be bygones if they’re right in front of me?” Nunez and Sweetser also makes a to-do about the rarity of this pattern, since, it claims that “so far all documented languages appear to share a spatial metaphor mapping future events onto spatial locations in front of Ego and past events onto locations behind Ego.”

Cognitive Science produce attention-grabbing headlines much more frequently than anthropologists, and this article is a prime example of how they manage to do so: ignorance.

Have Nunez and Sweetser actually conducted some sort of exhaustive examination of ‘all documented languages’? No. In fact their citations reveal that they have examined a grand total of seven: English, Wolof, Chagga, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and American Sign Language (to be fair one of the articles they site has ‘more cross cultural data’).

If Nunez and Sweetser had looked a little bit further — for example to the Pacific — they would have found that these sorts of metaphors are quite common. Consider:

It is interesting to note that in Hawaiian, the past is referred to as ka wa mamua, or “the time in front or before.” Whereas the future, when thought of at all, is Ka wa mahope, or “the time which comes after or behind.” It is as if the Hawaiian stands firmly in the present, with his back to the future, and his eyes fixed upon the past, seeking historical answers for present-day dilemmas. Such an orientation is to the Hawaiian an eminently practical one, for the future is always unknown, whereas the past is rich in glory and knowledge. – Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, Native Land, Foreign Desires, p. 22-23

Or this one:

Ka wa mamua and ka wa mahope are the Hawaiian terms for the past and future, respectively. But note that ka wa mamua (past) means the time before, in front, or forward. Ka wa mahope (future) means the time after or behind. These terms do not merely describe time, but the Hawaiians’ orientation to it. We face the past, confidently interpreting the present, cautiously backing into the future, guided by what our ancestors knew and did. -Jon Osorio, Dismembering Lahui p.7

which resonate wonderfully with:

This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. -Walter Benjamin

Thus Hawai’ians, like Benjamin’s Angel of History, also imagine the future behind them and the past ahead of them. A friend who studies Babylonian reports something similar. And of course the English term “before” when used spatially does actually mean ‘in front of’ — how many stagings of MacBeth have you seen in which he asks “is this a dagger I see before me, the handle towards my ass?” Timelines typically run from left to right, where the movement from distal to proximal time is analogized to the direction of the motion of the act of writing (in English).

So it would be interesting to see how wide-spread various spatial metaphors of time are both within _and_ across cultures, and I wouldn’t be surprised if — once someone actualy gathered some EVIDENCE — future:past::front:back is a primary and widespread way connecting these dots.

But this article and the coverage of it epitomizes everything that is wrong with cognitive science as a discipline (although, to be fair, there is certainly a lot right with it as well) and how it is received by the press and public. It confirms our popular prejudices by rediscovering Standard Average European cultural categories as ‘universal’ and relegating other cultures to ‘exotic’ and ‘unusual’ status — a move that requires an incredible forgetfulness of human cultural diversity.

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

31 thoughts on “Cognitive science, meet the angel of history

  1. [T]his article and the coverage of it epitomizes everything that is wrong with cognitive science as a discipline…. It confirms our popular prejudices by rediscovering Standard Average European cultural categories as ‘universal’ and relegating other cultures to ‘exotic’ and ‘unusual’ status…

    Yes, yes, yes!

  2. Just to add (and only because I happen to be taking a break from marking papers from a second year language and society class at the moment)…there has been, and continues to be (at places like the Max Planck Institute http://www.mpi.nl/research), research into just this phenomenon since Edward Sapir’s work in the 1920s (inspired, of course by Boaz before him), continuing through the Sapir-Worf hypothesis (cf. Sapir 1949; Worf 1956) and beyond.
    This includes an explosion of research in to metaphor in the last 20 years, following Lakoff and Johson’s Metaphors We Live By (1980), which is a fun exercise in making(SAE)strange. This research has looked at a vast range of languages, spoken, written and signed, from many families and, surprise surprise, there is nothing new or unique about Aymara (and nothing ‘normal’ about SAE)
    It’s also worth noting that the upshot of more rigorous (if still often problematic) research is that language and cognition are intertwined rather than deterministic of one another, and that, while the specificities of spatial root metaphors may vary, they are always based on culturally relevant experiences. Also, the Future:Past::Back:Front is primary and widespread, and is(as you mention) correlated to writing, but also to social and physical context (I think you can find more on this at the Max Planck site).
    Anyway, I share your frustration; this is basic intro to linguistic anthropology stuff that’s been distorted and sensationalized! If Nunez and Sweetser submitted their paper to my class, I’d give it an F; they’ve missed the point completely!

  3. The person at Language Log and I both pick up on Polynesian languages here as a possible counter-example. Interesting. And Zoe — in re Sapir/Whorf: exactly!

  4. The defense is interesting, but at least for Chinese and English, I’m not convinced that his dismissal holds. A better example than qian2tian1 (前天) and hou4tian1 (後天), meaning “day before yesterday” and “day after tomorrow” respectively, would be yi3qian2 (以前) and yi3hou4 (以后). The first means *both* “in front of” (spatially) and “before, in the past” (temporally); the second means “in back of” (spatially) and “after, in the future” (temporally). Both spatial usages can be used with respect to ego. I don’t know about the uses of gesture among native Chinese speakers, of whom I am not one, and honestly I don’t quite see the significance of gesture in this argument either, but on the other hand I am not a linguist.

    At any rate, as Rex points out, English “before” means in front of ego, and “after” means behind ego (though it’s getting a bit archaic — but then there’s the related word “aft” which is still alive and well), so the argument for Aymara’s uniqueness still doesn’t seem to hold much water.

  5. This discussion is fascinating. I wonder, though, who will bring the information it contains to the attention of the New York Times or, better yet, to Nunez and Sweeter. Strikes me that this is a marvelous opportunity to contribute to Cognitive Science by enriching the world knowledge on which it depends. It would be rather sad if all this turned out to be was bitching to other members of our own clique while we turn up our noses at the members of another.

  6. Thanks for the push John. I’ve just sent off a Letter to Ed. at NYT. It’s not that I think it’ll run (it was proboply too long…yet another bad habit of mine), but I took your point to heart and set my hand to keypad (I would have sent it to Cog Sci, but i’m a bit too afraid of taking my foot to my mouth, maybe you can feild that one).

  7. Thanks, Zoe, for taking action. I’d be happy to follow up with the Cog Sci folks except for one thing. We have several people here who obviously know more about linguistic anthropology and the relevant languages than I do, not to mention academic affiliations that add credibility. I’d really like to see Kate or Rex or Kerim reaching out across disciplinary boundaries.

  8. Well, I recently wrote a paper on the cognition of time for an intro to cog science class, and one of the things that I found was this selfsame issue of variability in ego-centric and moving time models. I’m surprised that this is being treated as a controversy at all, and even that the authors would claim uniqueness for aymara. If I’m not mistaken (my source is Roberto Calasso in ‘The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony’) even the ancient Greeks used an ego-centric model of front/past-back-future – so it sounds like there is a conflation of the linguistic with the cultural happening in this controversy as well. How is it that seasoned academics missed what a grad student could find by conducting a few searches on the internet?

  9. Hmm, maybe what this really says is that you should read the Guardian rather than the New York Times? Their article explains things rather better. Of course people could actually read the Núñez and Sweetser paper! It’s a lot more sophisticated than many of the commentators suggest. They clearly have a wider appreciation of the debates about universality, they certainly do not regard Standard Average European categories as universal and others exotic (they refer to English as “an equally exotic language”), the case of ‘before’ and ‘after’ is discussed in the paper, etc. In any case the main point seems to be that this is seemingly the first case to establish the ‘reversal’ in a thorough manner – as opposed to rumored instances in Hawaiian, Maori, Malagassy, vis a vis the actual context of usage, and placement of ego etc. Crucially they are not arguing that no other languages use words meaning front:behind for past:future in various contexts, but that instead of the dominant ‘time is ego’s motion along a path’ conception, “Aymara uses a static mapping of past and future onto the space in front of and behind Ego, respectively.” It is worth noting that Lakoff supports the findings of this paper.

    Jeez, I am such a grump old contrarian. But I should note that I finds there’s lots of other stuff to disagree with in this paper and Cog Sci generally…

  10. Thanks Tim. I agree that it is important to distinguish between how the press reports findings like this and the substance of the actual papers – the two are often quite different. I think it is perfectly valid to criticize the times reporting, but one shouldn’t automatically assume that the origional study shared the same faults.

    There is a good short interview with Daniel Everett, who did the Piraha study, in the April issue of Anthropology News (AnthroSource members only).

  11. I agree that the comments here are becoming dangerously reactionary. There is a difference between 1) the lousy coverage science inevitably gets in the popular press 2) the things that drive anthropologists nuts about cognitive science IN GENERAL and 3) problems we might have with this particular research after we but into the disciplinary assumptions of cog sci. My biggest problems are with 1 and 2.

    I’ve taken a very brief look at Kevin Moore’s dissertation on Wolof, the one that Nunez Sweetser cite as containing other ‘cross linguistic’ references and really there isn’t much there — it moves pretty quickly to Wolof. So I’m still not convinced there’s any good survey of the literature out there they can use to hang claims of Aymara’s staggering uniqueness on, or at least neither their article nor Moore’s reference it.

    I’m not familiar enough with this literature to really speak on it but it does sort of rub me the wrong way (i.e. #2 — problematic disciplinary assumptions). But then that is probably why I’m not a cognitive scientist!

  12. I\’ve now re-read the Guardian article, and I\’m still confused as to the nature of the claims being made here. I still haven\’t read the original article, but I\’d like to know what exactly is being argued here. One possibility is that whereas most languages have BOTH ego-centered and special metaphors for time, the Aymara use ego-centered metaphors for both. (Lateral and forward/back depending.) The other possibility is that this is tied up in some interesting way with how the Aymara language expresses evidentials (as the Guardian article suggests without actually using that term). But even the Guardian article does a pretty lousy job of explaining things here.

  13. From the abstract:

    Cognitive research on metaphoric concepts of time has focused on differences between moving Ego and moving time models, but even more basic is the contrast between Ego- and temporal-reference-point models. Dynamic models appear to be quasi-universal cross-culturally, as does the generalization that in Ego-reference-point models, FUTURE IS IN FRONT OF EGO and PAST IS IN BACK OF EGO. The Aymara language instead has a major static model of time wherein FUTURE IS BEHIND EGO and PAST IS IN FRONT OF EGO; linguistic and gestural data give strong confirmation of this unusual culture-specific cognitive pattern. Gestural data provide crucial information unavailable to purely linguistic analysis, suggesting that when investigating conceptual systems both forms of expression should be analyzed complementarily. Important issues in embodied cognition are raised: how fully shared are bodily grounded motivations for universal cognitive patterns, what makes a rare pattern emerge, and what are the cultural entailments of such patterns?

    Hm, as we suspected, this doesn’t sound like they’re claiming it’s unique.. I suspect they’re more concerned with what this sort of evidence (“Gestural data provide crucial information unavailable to purely linguistic analysis…”) implies for accounts of cognition than they are with Aymara as a linguistic curiosity.

    { six months later, when my university gets online access to this issue… }

  14. For those who cannot access the article, you can get a free copy at Nunez’s own website [PDF]. I am sorry I don’t have time to summarize – and indeed, am not sure I can very effectively.

  15. I don’t know Arvind, I agree that they are emphasizing the need to look at gesture (though again, not a radical move)but I do think that they are claiming some uniqueness of Aymara and its speakers:

    The Aymara language instead has a major static model of time wherein FUTURE IS BEHIND EGO and PAST IS IN FRONT OF EGO; linguistic and gestural data give strong confirmation of this unusual culture-specific cognitive pattern. [my emphasis]

    In the spirit of Tim’s nice disentangling, let me put it this way: There are two problems here that will not, no matter how carefully I read the paper (theirs, or the Times or Guardian), be removed from their postions embedded in my craw.

    One: The overly deterministic relationship between language, cognition and culture and the bounded and homogeneous (and biological?) concept of culture implied by the above. And

    Two: The radical othering that is present not only in their article but, and perhaps more problematically, in the NYT article.

  16. The determinism is one of the things I find slightly irritating too. But it is probably fair to say the radical othering cuts both ways. Many of the claims about this reversal amount to that, and may well have been originally seized upon as examples of a people focussed on the past, unable to deal with the future – doomed in colonial eyes in other words. I have no evidence for this but I wouldn’t mind betting that the so called reversals were first pointed out in each case by an old-school ethnologist. That the ‘fact’ of reversal has been seized upon by post Maori- and Hawaiian- renaissance indigenous scholars as evidence of positive difference is perhaps ironic. To me the Hawaiian case for example seems no different to English when you account for the reference point (either time itself or ego). So that ‘the past’ ka wa mamua means “time in front” or “time before” (which incidentally is the same in some pidgins – taem bifo) whereby the reference point is ‘now’ or some other fixed point in a stream of time, rather than ego (eg: before the missionaries came – bifo kam). If today were Tuesday, English speakers might say Monday is the time before, because Monday comes before (in front of) Tuesday in the stream of time. In radiocarbon dating we refer to years “before present” which again is literally in front of the present, using an ego-less reference point. However in English I would never say that “tomorrow is behind me” because when I use myself as the reference point the past is behind and the future ahead according to conventional spatial metaphors. In Hawaiian this is also probably the case (though I am happy to be proved wrong). For example when I refer to the “distant future” I would use kēia mua aku (according to online dictionaries!) or “that which is away ahead”. Would a Hawaiian ever get up in the morning and say “I’ve got the whole day behind me!” instead of “I have the whole day ahead of me!”? For this is exactly what Aymara speakers appear to do. And they also continue to do it when speaking Andean Spanish in some contexts (unlike Hawaiians when speaking English?). It should be pointed out though that in Nunez and Sweetser the linguistic case for the Aymara reversal is not clear since their evidence is slight – they have to rely on gesture to ‘prove’ it. And I do wonder why all of their subjects are sitting down and the effect that has had – after all the model they suggest is one of static mapping where the speaker sits still in the landscape, knowing what is in front of them (the past) but not what is behind (the future), as opposed to the moving subject model where the landscape unfolds ahead (the future) and retreats behind (the past).

  17. Sorry, the first part of that comment isn’t very clear. In the bit before I start banging on needlessly about Hawaiian, I am referring to the examples of languages/cultures who utilise the front=past back=future metaphor that have been claimed for various parts of the world – not the Aymara case. Mostly I mean Maori, Hawaiian, and Malagassy although others have mentioned Greek, Chinese, Japanese etc.

    In addition the phrase kēia mua aku is not well translated. Kēia = that or this, mua = ahead, and aku = away from the speaker. The dictionaries are here http://wehewehe.org/

  18. Having read through the full introduction, I have come to the following summary of the studies results.

    Using complementary linguistic and gestural methodologies, we eventually argue that Aymara has basic time metaphors that represent a radically different metaphoric mapping from the ones commonly found in the languages around the world studied so far. Aymara thus appears to be the first well-documented case presenting a genuine fundamental difference in the organization of time construals. Interestingly, it is not difficult to find an embodied experiential motivation for these “different” metaphors; it turns out that Aymara and English could be seen as basing their temporal metaphor systems on somewhat different aspects of humans’ basic embodied experience of the environment. However, given how unusual the Aymara metaphors for time are, further questions are raised about the cultural matrix within which particular spatial experiences of time are developed and linguistically coded.

    My personal conclusion is that much of our discussion has been much ado about nothing. The statement that

    Aymara has basic time metaphors that represent a radically different metaphoric mapping from the ones commonly found in the languages around the world studied so far.

    “Studied so far” plainly refers to languages studied in the academic/disciplinary context, a.k.a., cognitive science, with which the authors affiliate themselves. To read it as referring to all languages whatsoever is pseudo-critical nonsense.

    The next sentence reads,

    Aymara thus appears to be the first well-documented case presenting a genuine fundamental difference in the organization of time construals.

    This is a potentially impeachable claim, but the evidence presented here so far is of a suggestive rather than conclusive nature. Comparable examples may be found in Chinese, Hawaiian, etc. If, however, someone knows of a comparable case that is as “well-documented,” providing both linguistic and videoed gestural data, as the Aymara case on which the authors focus, they haven’t yet told us about it. So the claim remains unfalsified.

    The third sentence in this series reads,

    Interestingly, it is not difficult to find an embodied experiential motivation for these “different” metaphors; it turns out that Aymara and English could be seen as basing their temporal metaphor systems on somewhat different aspects of humans’ basic embodied experience of the environment.

    In other words, in presents the Aymara case as well within the range of “basic embodied experience” common to all humankind, rendering merely bombastic accusations that the Aymara are being treated as some kind of essentialized Other.”

    The conclusion that the Aymara case appears to be sufficiently unusual to raise all sorts of interesting questions is equally inoffensive.

    So, dear ranters and ravers, I ask you, “Where’s the beef?” (Pun intended)

  19. bq. But it is probably fair to say the radical othering cuts both ways. Many of the claims about this reversal amount to that, and may well have been originally seized upon as examples of a people focussed on the past, unable to deal with the future – doomed in colonial eyes in other words. I have no evidence for this but I wouldn’t mind betting that the so called reversals were first pointed out in each case by an old-school ethnologist. That the ‘fact’ of reversal has been seized upon by post Maori- and Hawaiian- renaissance indigenous scholars as evidence of positive difference is perhaps ironic.

    Perhaps the fact that the “othering” cuts both ways is not so much a postcolonial irony, as an indication of the limits of Said’s understanding of the meaning of difference: might it not be the case that marking self and other is a fundamental human tendancy, whose political implications are dependant on the ways it is done and the meanings attached to it in particular cases? Indeed, might not the great irony be Said’s inability to imagine that difference from the European Enlightenment could ever be anything but inferiority?

  20. bq. “Studied so far” plainly refers to languages studied in the academic/disciplinary context, a.k.a., cognitive science, with which the authors affiliate themselves. To read it as referring to all languages whatsoever is pseudo-critical nonsense.

    John, the “beef” I think is with exactly this: the sense among cognitive scientists that nothing has ever been done before they did it. There is an implied claim that that other people who looked at such things were doing so in an “unscientific” perhaps “anecdotal” fashion. This is sometimes combined with a striking naivete regarding things we (anthropologists & fellow travelers) take to be basic knowledge. I’ll admit that this is an interesting case, and the authors of the paper were trying to address some of what has already been said, but what if they had worked with a linguistic anthropologist who could have cautioned them against the sort of extravagant claims they made, and instead pointed them to the possibility of positioning themselves with the extensive literature on deixis generally?

  21. Just Googled Eve Sweetser, who, it turns out, is a full professor in linguistics at Berkeley, with a bio that reads as follows,

    Eve Sweetser
    Professor

    (semantics, syntax, historical linguistics, Celtic languages, speech act theory, metaphor theory, semantic change, grammaticalization, gesture)
    Ph.D., Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, 1984. Her primary research interests include historical linguistics, semantics and meaning changes, the semantics of grammatical constructions, cognitive linguistics, metaphor and iconicity, subjectivity and viewpoint, the relationship between language and gesture, and the Celtic language family. Her 1990 book, FROM ETYMOLOGY TO PRAGMATICS (Cambridge University Press), explores generalizations about synchronic and diachronic patterns of meaning in the areas of model verbs and conjunctions. She currently directs UCB’s undergraduate Cognitive Science Program and also teaches in the Celtic Studies Program. She has published articles on topics including modality, polysemy, metaphor, conditional constructions, gesture, and Medieval Welsh poetics, and has a forthcoming book on English conditional constructions co-authored with Barbara Dancygier.

    Except for one thing, I would hesitate to assume that she doesn’t know what she is talking about. That one thing is the information explosion, the big bang that has radically expanded the universe of possibly knowable/citable things.

    We live in a world where none of us knows more than a microscopic fraction of what there is to be known. And, while we should do more reaching out to scholars in other fields that address topics similar to our own, how many of us actually do this? How many of us now stop before writing a paper to consult the Social Science Index (or similar reference sources) to try to identify everyone who has worked on a topic similar to ours? Instead, that is, of citing people we happen to know about because we went to school with them, they happened to be included in the syllabuses of the courses we took, or they happen to be currently trendy?

    Serendipitously, I once spent a year in an AI Project where Cognitive Science, a la Roger Schank and Roger Abelson, was very much the “in” thing. What I observed was a bunch of very smart people, deeply aware that the programs they were trying to write would have to incorporate a lot of what they called “world knowledge” but, like other academics, having trouble keeping up with the literature in their own field, yet alone look elsewhere for stuff to read in their non-existent spare time.

    My sense is that we anthropologists are no better off. Would you disagree?

  22. My beef is right in front of us (pun, again, intended), and is a different cut than the others (double down on the pun anti).
    Tim: It sounds like your making the activist case for strategic essentialism. I agree, there is a time and a place (I’ll just let you read between the multiple meanings from now on) for that, but I don’t think that this paper, or the reporting on it, are then and there.
    John: While N&S do recognize the universality of concept metaphors being rooted in socially relevant experience, but the implication is that, since there metaphors are radically different, they are too.
    My point, call it bombastic if you like, is not so much that they are wrong or that their science is bad, but rather that their framing of the study (which is kind of like what you would expect from biologist discovering a new species) is problematic and maybe even irresponsible, especially given the public attention its getting.
    I think CometJo is saying kind of the same thing, though a bit more graciously than I would (I think its up to them to do the research, not ling anth to spoon feed it to them).
    I would also like to award CometJo the metalinguistic-allite-pun-aphor-ation of the month award for

    pointed them to the possibility of positioning themselves with the extensive literature on deixis generally

    Now, its a statutory holiday here in Canada, which means I get to enact the national imaginary by marking papers while drinking beer by the lake (after sitting in traffic for 4 hours).

  23. John: While N&S do recognize the universality of concept metaphors being rooted in socially relevant experience, but the implication is that, since there metaphors are radically different, they are too.

    I understand your assertion. I simply don’t believe it. The passages I cited indicate to me that the authors share the conviction of Lakoff, et.al. (see, for example, Philosophy in the Flesh) that all human language use is, in origin, metaphorical and that all metaphors are ultimately grounded in shared human experiences, which are taken to be universal. Note, in particular, the third sentence quoted above, where it is stated clearly that,

    Aymara and English could be seen as basing their temporal metaphor systems on somewhat different aspects of humans’ basic embodied experience of the environment.

    .

    The notion that the Aymara are radically other because they use an unusual metaphor isn’t at all consistent with these assumptions. Thus I infer that your reading is wrong.

    Got any evidence to the contrary handy?

  24. Comet Jo and Zoe – I would agree. I doubt N&S or their reporters know what strategic essentialism is. The scholars that Rex cites may well be doing just that. Isn’t that last line in the N&S paper just a classic plaintive call though…a rare butterfly about to die.

    Some might be interested to read about critics within the cog sci discipline. Chris, a “cognitive pyschologist” at Mixing Memory has a post on this. While seemingly accepting the Aymara study, he argues that there is no current evidence for time being conceptualized metaphorically through mappings onto space – because most of the experiments are circular.

  25. Tim, thanks for the pointer to Mixing Memory. If nothing else, that is a marvelous example of scientific argument. We are shown the data (including the photographs of the gestures) and offered an alternative interpretation. Am I convinced one way or the other? Not yet. But I’ve learned something and found a place to go for more. Thanks again.

  26. I’ll write from the viewpoint of Curriculum Studies and Action Research where a debate fluorishes over ‘reflection.’ In our work in back country and urban South America, we found that perhaps action research is a catalyst that impels researchers into the unknown rather than dragging or directing them backwards. The mirror of research does not reflect people’s faces, but rather is a portal into a closer look at problems we cannot name nor ascertain. One hope with educational research is that it would help people stop to consider,’Where do I want to get to?, rather than ‘Where do they want me to get to?’ However, the 2 positions, the critical and the technical, may not necessarily be in contradiction or conflict. We as academics can often simultaneously become more like the teacher we want to be as well as developing curriculum in a way that meets external demands.

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