Vacillation Over Time

Vacillation Over Time

Sketch Club

A few days ago I posted a drawing of a road sign that depicted, in theory, “four possible routes,” one of which is indicated as “temporarily closed.” In that post I referenced a paper by George Spindler that I think helps to explain these “four alternatives.” By all means feel free to check out that reference to see how Spindler applies this typology to what happens when prospective teachers undergo teacher education, how they integrate exposure to countervailing approaches to teaching and learning, and what effect that heterodoxy has on their teaching styles once in the classroom with real students. What’s stuck with me ever since I was first introduced to Spindler’s framework in the early 1980s as a grad student in anthropology, besides its timeless applicability in terms of teacher education, is its essential typological power and generalizability, especially in the polarized context of our current political discourse.

To shorten this a bit, I’ll pose a question. How many sides are there to the story? Two right? Two because you’re either right or wrong, right? Two because there’s good and bad, black and white, up and down, in and out, and so on, right? Well, you guessed it; not so fast, right? Right.

Spindler’s typology, while its used in a purely inconspicuous and instrumental fashion, helps us see that there are perhaps more than two sides to the story, as it were. And here’s the thing. There aren’t just three sides either, you know, that side that magically emerges whenever you look at both sides of the story…in what some might call a fair and balanced approach. No, no magic here, even though that’s heading in the right direction. Why? Because it’s very possible and even more tempting to look at two sides (or more) in an unfair and imbalanced way. In Spindler’s typology those who incompetently, unfairly, and inconsistently look at both sides of the story are identified as Vacillators. So now there are at least three ways to get carried away by the story: (See Temporarily Closed)

1. Exaggeratedly right-leaning (i.e., crazy from the get go coming from the Right). Derived from Spindler’s Reaffirmative Traditionalist,
2. Exaggeratedly left-leaning (i.e., crazy from the get go coming from the Left). Derived from Spindler’s Compensatory Emergentist, and
3. Incompetently and inconsistently both right-ish and/or left-ish leaning (i.e., even crazier coming at times from both sides without even knowing it). Derived from Spindler’s Vacillator, the most dangerous and destructive orientation.

Now, there is a fourth side that Spindler calls the Adjusted. This orientation requires the most cultural, communicative, and interactive competence. My aim is to identify myself as an Adjusted, but in all honesty, I admit that I’m not always successful.

Where do you see yourself?


7 thoughts on “Vacillation Over Time

  1. Pingback: Temporarily Closed | portfoliolongo

  2. I’ve downloaded that George Spindler paper, for a bit of light reading! Given time…I may well get through it all. 🙂 I’ve had a lovely visit here at your blog today – was fun! P.s In case you don’t see it, thought it best to let you know I’ve replied to your msg over yonder, at facebook. All the best, Janette


  3. Enjoyed my wade through Spindler’s dearth of words – an interesting read. Some of which seems familiar from my long ago teaching studies days..daze…a daze mostly induced from the dazzle of all the new words and terms, I had to learn! Mind you, the meanings of many made good sense; it’s just that, remembering them all, was at times a mind boggling manoeuvre. Ah a little alliteration to clear my thinking – was just going to say, I also like to think of my self as being reasonably “adjusted”. Though my initial meandering, may have you thinking otherwise!
    As always Paul, a wonderful post. All the best, Janette


    • How did I miss this? First, you are so right. Spindler’s language is a bit clunky. For example, “compensatory emergentist.” Remember, this was back in the late 1950’s. It’s Sputnik lingo. How ’bout “reaffirmative traditionalist.” The list goes on.
      Also, I too would like to think of myself as falling in the “adjusted” category; but, I can see that I’ve meandered.
      OK, now on to today’s comment…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Paul, thought I best let you know I mentioned you on a page I just published, and I also have a link to you post about your iPad Pro. ( I can link it to another post if you prefer – they’re all excellent!) However, I thought, it was also in the recent post, I just published, which has an excerpt from that page. Not so, not to worry. 🙂 Hope all that makes sense! As ever, I’m enjoying your pics and words; love your sense of humour! You may not have seen it yet, but I recently left a comment here, above, about my read of Spindler’s words. All the best, Janette.


  5. Hi Janette – Thank you for mentioning my illustroblog in your post today,
    I’m honored to be situated by you in any post of yours, especially in one of your posts that deal with artistic technicalities, since I’ve learned so much from you on top of being routinely delighted. I deeply appreciate your generosity and natural inclination to explain your know-how, do-how, and be-how freely and without hesitation. Thank you, and all the very best, Paul


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