How did the members of the early Frankfurt School understand the predicament of modern politics?
The Frankfurt School uses a variety of interlocking issues to describe their understanding of the predicament of modern politics. The initial issue at the time they were writing was why the Marxist progression of history had not occurred. Stalinism was, to the Frankfurt School, not a genuine socialist order. The left-wing were starting to approach Socialism by more gradual means, a pattern that was evident as early as the 1880s when Orthodox Marxism had reached a crisis. The working class had not caused the cataclysmic struggle against order Marx anticipated and economic explanations no longer were adequate to explain this. The explanation the Frankfurt School provided dealt with type of rationality that had prevailed, post-Enlightenment, producing the ‘sick’ authoritarian character of the bourgeoisie. The decline in the revolutionary proletariat was attributed to the destruction of the skilled, educated working class by modern, rationalised methods of production, and also by the methods of mass manipulation and violent repression. They used Weberian concepts to explain the ‘instrumental rationality’ and its role in capitalism’s ability to destroy the preconditions of critical, revolutionary consciousness. They distinguished themselves as Critical Theorists, who were particularly interested in exploring the possibilities of transforming the social order through human praxis, opposing the rigid logic of positivism. While the Frankfurt School retained many Marxist tenets, they also drew their answers from other schools of thought. The notion of rationalisation used by members of the Institute adhered to a number of Weber’s major tenets of thought. Particularly they focused on the extension of Weber’s means-end rationality, or as they called it, instrumental reason or subjective reason. They also agreed with Weber that the Reformation and Protestantism were important for the formation of conditions necessary for capitalist development. Capitalism provided major momentum to the further development of instrumental reason, and this advance of instrumental reason led to disenchantment (particularly after the Enlightenment). The extension of formal, means-end rationality to the ‘conduct of life’ became a form of domination as means became ends, so the workers were working in a mechanical totality, removed from the enjoyment of work. In advanced capitalist societies, economic anarchy is interwoven with rationalisation and technology. Capitalism could not have come about without a fixed set of technical, rational, legal norms. Capitalism had changed however, and the Frankfurt School believed there was a ‘new order’ in which technical rationality had become the guiding principle of society.
What is 'formative assessment' (also known as 'Assessment for Learning) and what does it look like in practice?
‘Inside the Primary Black Box’ was a pamphlet written in 2009 by Christine Harrison and Sally Howard, which formed part of a series going back to 1998 outlining the range of strategies to introduce formative assessment in primary classrooms across the UK. Formative assessment is also known as ‘Assessment for Learning’, defined by the Assessment Reform Group as ‘the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learning are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there’ (Assessment Reform Group, 2002). This is in contrast to summative assessment, which is also known as ‘Assessment of Learning’, described by Waugh and Jolliffe as ‘a summary of what pupils have learned at a specific point in time’ (Waugh & Jolliffe, 2013). There are four broad aspects of AfL; feedback, peer and self-assessment, classroom talk, ‘including the activities to promote talk and the role of questioning’, sharing learning success and criteria (Marshall & Wiliam, English inside the Black Box, 2006). Ultimately the emphasis on teacher-student relationships is key, particularly in terms of modelling language and providing open ended questioning, which broadly sits in line with constructivist theories of education. One of the core principles of AfL that was outlined in ‘Inside the Primary Black Box’ was the classroom culture of ‘higher order’ questioning, that ‘challenges children’s perception of the world around them’ and helps them to ‘reconstruct understanding’ (Howard & Harrison, 2009). There is one additional, and vital, aspect to a classroom culture that involves lots of questioning, and that is the encouragement of curiosity. Harrison and Howard stated that the teacher’s questioning ‘utilises the curiousity and enthusiasm with which children come to school with’ (Howard & Harrison, 2009). Ultimately, feedback is the teachers ‘professional judgement about the next steps in learning’ (Howard & Harrison, 2009) and needs to be for the benefit of the child rather than the adult. The Assessment Reform Group lamented that greater attention was given to ‘marking and grading, much of it tending to lower the self-esteem of pupils, rather than to providing advice for improvement’ (Assessment Reform Group, 1999). But as Gadsby notes, ‘effective feedback can be tricky’ and some of the most effective feedback can be ‘verbal feedback given to pupils on a minute-by-minute basis during a lesson’ which is more useful to children who can immediately act on the advice (Gadsby, 2012). She enourages teachers to ‘evaluate their current practices’, making sure they are is progressive and she insists that pupils ‘respond to your feedback’, thereby confirming their understanding (Gadsby, 2012).
What is passive tense and when is it used?
Let us look at the sentence, 'the boy kicked the ball'. In this sentence, we have the subject (the boy), doing the action (kicking) on a subject (the ball). This is an active sentence, where we have a subject acting on something (the boy kicking the ball). In a passive sentence, the subject no longer is the focus. Instead, we typically place the object at the beginning and the action after 'was' (assuming past tense) - 'the ball was kicked'. You can add the subject on to the end if you wish, saying 'The ball was kicked by the boy'. Other examples: 'The car crashed into a tree' (active) 'The tree was crashed into (by the car)' (passive) 'The criminal attacked the man' (active) 'The man was attacked (by the criminal)' In these examples, you can see how the passive tense is useful. In news reports, or in publications that are attempting to show neutrality, it may be important that they do not name the subject. So by using the passive, they can say, 'the man was attacked' without naming the attacker, if he is not known or they are not permitted to publish their identity. It is also considered a more formal tone of writing and is typically common in older examples of literature.