Monday, September 24, 2007

Comparative Classroom Ethnography

When I criticize people for calling their case studies and qualitative work ethnography they often reply, "it might not be the same thing you mean by ethnography, but I can call it ethnography if I want to. You don't own the term." I tend to reply with a riddle:

If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does it have? The answer is four. You can call a tail a leg, but that doesn't make it a leg. Similarly, you can call a case study, with thick description, of a school in your own culture an ethnography, but that does not make it an ethnography.

- Joseph Tobin

I think Tobin has a good point that we can apply in general. Just because someone claims to "own" something, doesn't mean it's fact. Always question, that's the art of learning.

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