Rationale for this exhibit:
The nature of the CORE course encouraged students to reflect on the variety of readings and topics covered within the curriculum. I chose to use journal entries and email/newsgroup posts as a way to express my thoughts and feelings as I attempted to integrate the CORE experience in my life as a citizen, practitioner, and scholar. I have included three brief reflections within my portfolio --- the first, a reflection which I have connected to the summary of an earlier interview with my advisor. This reflection examines my perceptions of the power as it relates to this important relationship.
The additional two reflections included on this page examine power metaphors in the context of organizational structure and function ... and the experience of power in relationship to my trigroup (a group of 15 students from CORE, combining three smaller groups of 5 ... we worked in small groups during the first term, and completed a lot of work within the trigroup during the second term).
To introduce these reflections ... during the CORE, we examined two models in relation to power ... "power over" --- based on domination and autocratic control ... presented through Machievelli's The Prince ~~~~ and "power with" --- based on shared authority and collaborative decision-making ... presented through the writings of Seth Kreisberg. I won't go into a lot of background material here ... but my colleague, Dave Bechtel has some really interesting and perceptive reflective pieces on his web site which you might also want to check out, in addition to what you find here (unfortunately, Dave's website was discontinued when he left the University).
Reflection on Power: "Power Over" vs. "Power With": Structure and Function
Power is expressed within relationships ... with self, other individuals, groups, and organizations. I find myself wondering if the model of power ("power over" vs. "power with") impacts the structure and function of relationships, or whether structure and function determine the power model.
Kreisberg examines the attempts of classroom teachers to employ "power with" in teaching. He reports changes in the structure and culture of the classroom --- increased student-to-student interactions, increased mobility of students, group work, participatory decision-making between students and teacher --- in this case, as evidence of "power with". They are changes which occur as a new model of power is put in place. "power with" in the classroom seems to require a drastic change in the culture of the classroom ... hence, the function of both the teacher and students. Students become more active participants in the learning process ... active participants in the classroom community. Teachers move from being the sole transmitter of information ... the pedagogical demigod ... to a member of the overall community, more aligned, in terms of power and participation, with other members of the community (students). A fundamental and far-reaching structural change occurs, coupled with transformed roles for participants. What does this require from participants? Kreisberg speaks to the challenges the teacher faces as she relinquishes power and control ... and takes on a new, and less powerful role within the community. What of the students? New responsibilities, new rights, new expectations.
Machievelli draws clear lines of importance between power and structure/function. He outlines requirements for the successful assertion of power ... and includes a host of structure and function recommendations --- The Prince, in many ways, serves as a "self-help guide" ... perhaps with the subtitle: "How to act like, look like, and be perceived as the leader you deserve to be!" Conquer completely, assert power thoroughly, express your virtu at every possible turn, gather (but do not trust) agents to do your "dirty work" ... the earlier-day version of "don't let them see you sweat."
This "power over" model impacts structure and function in just as drastic a way as the Kreisberg classroom examples above. The role of leader is a solitary one ... agents and advisors surround you, but are never your equal. The masses you lead remain far-removed from you, though you may wisely come to know their condition, you do not share it. Your perspectives remain separate, never mingling for long ... and if they do, only for the specific purpose of bolstering your own power. Roles are well-defined, and shaped within the structure of the relationship: a leader lead ... followers, follow. Quite a contrast to the "power with" model of shared rights and responsibilities.
What does this model require of participants ... the leader must be unequivocal (or at very least, appear to be) ... strong ... impenetrable ... invulnerable. Followers must be compliant and trusting (again, at least appear to be, lest the Prince's agents take notice).
This dichotomy of power ... true "power over" or "power with" ... most probably occurs with varying degrees on a continuum. There are appropriate, and inappropriate, uses of both. While my view of a teacher utilizing a "power over" model with kids classifies the teacher as a "bully" ... it seems to me that in the midst of an emergency, such as a fire, I would evaluate a teacher engaging in "power with" negotiations with students, as incompetent ... actually, negligent! Perhaps function determines the power model ... and structure?
As I think about power within CORE, some of these same issues arise ... here are some of my observations:
Our varied cultures and experiences, coupled with our within-CORE experiences,
determined how we responded to the challenges ... and, in part, how successfully
we have each met those challenges.
In many ways, CORE has provided us all with a lived experience of both Kreisberg's "power with" and Machievelli's "power over" ... and brought the readings into our personal and professional realities. I feel that I have fought, kicked, screamed, enjoyed, celebrated my way through CORE ... the full range of emotions and responses ... Early on, I made a decision to participate in the process as fully as possible ... as a commitment to myself and the emerging community represented by CORE ... in spite of the discomfort. I have accomplished that goal, and learned a lot about myself, other people, and power along the way ... a good investment of my energy.
Reflection on Power and Organization: The Tri-Group Experience
CORE provided lots of opportunities for me to work in collaboration with others ... first in small group, and later in our trigroup. The trigroup experience was an exceptional opportunity to experiment with different metaphors of organization and power. Our group had quite a few folk who were active and vocal participants in the community ... and provided an opportunity for either conflict or cooperation. Early on, our group seemed to work well ... we were focused, respectful of each person's involvement ... and moreover, collectively, we seemed to "sense" just how well we were working together from the first group meeting. The sense of collective identity and well-being provided us with a commonality which then allowed us the freedom to explore and express a group identity. Our group emerged with a real focus on claiming the CORE experience as our own ... we evaluated our participation as a group in class activities as to whether the activities would reflect our group process and goals. We claimed and exercised our power ... in small and large ways. We attempted to reach consensus on any major issues ... and allowed individual initiative to take the lead on the smaller ones. This helped focus our energy on important issues ... and allowed us to do the work we needed to do effectively, while concurrently minimizing conflict.
Interestingly, my impression, at first, was that most, if not all, of the trigroups were functioning in a similar manner. Feedback from class members outside of our group ... through informal comments and reactions ... helped me to realize that our group was approaching the trigroup experience differently than other groups. While I cannot comment on exactly how the other groups operated (most of our interactions during the second term were within trigroup) ... I can say that my group provided me with some interesting outcome of a successful "power with" community:
The "power with" model we used served us well ...
Thanks to all of the members of TriGroup C,G,K ... though we never chose a new name for that designation ... I really do believe we did much more ... we chose an identity!
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