- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
In a general sense education is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, & values from one generation to another. Education can also be defined as the process of becoming an educated person. An educated person refers to a person that has access to optimal states of mind regardless of the situation they are in. That person is able to perceive accurately, think clearly & act effectively to achieve self-selected goals and aspirations. I leave it to readers to access the vast literature on the subject, a subject I have been involved with, and in, for nearly 72 years. For an excellent overview of the subject go to this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education
Learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing, existing knowledge, behaviors, skills,values, or preferences. It also may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves. Learning is not compulsory; it is contextual. It does not happen all at once, but builds upon & is shaped by what we already know. To that end, learning may be viewed as a process, rather than a collection of factual and procedural knowledge. Learning produces changes in the organism and the changes produced are relatively permanent. For more of this useful overview of the subject of learning go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning
The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional qualifications or credentials from a university or college. This was the case for me, and I obtained these qualifications in the 1960s, from 1963 to 1967. These professional qualifications included, for me, the study of pedagogy, the science of teaching, and a range of special subjects which I hope to outline here at a future time. Teachers, like other professionals, may have to continue their education after they qualify, a process known as continuing professional development. This I did from 1970 to 1988 in a variety of ways. Teachers may use a lesson plan to facilitate student learning, and I did this in my first years as a teacher. I also provided a course of study, called the curriculum, which was determined by the educational instutution which employed me. A teacher's role may vary among cultures; my teaching was done in: Ontario, the NWT of Canada, & nearly all of the states of Australia. Teachers may provide instruction in literacy & numeracy, craftsmanship or vocational training, the arts, religion, civics, community roles, or life skills. I taught all these subjects and many more. For more on the subject of teaching go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teacher
Lecture is a word which comes from the French word 'lecture', meaning 'reading'. It is an oral presentation intended to present information or teach people about a particular subject, for example by a university or college teacher. Lectures are used to convey critical information, history, theories, background, & equations. A politician's speech, a minister's sermon, a businessman's sales presentation, among other oral presentations, may be similar in form to a lecture. I worked as a lecturer from 1975 to 1999 with several years during this period working at other jobs and tasks, roles and professions. Usually the lecturer will stand at the front of the room and recite information relevant to the lecture's content. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lecture
In British, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Italian, & some Canadian universities, a tutor is often, but not always, a postgraduate student or a lecturer assigned to conduct a seminar for undergraduate students, often known as a tutorial. I worked as a tutor for the first time in 1974, again from 1999 to 2005 in a School for Seniors. All of this was done in Tasmania. The equivalent of this kind of tutor in the United States and Canada is known as a teaching assistant, a graduate teaching assistant, or a graduate student instructor. For more on this role go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutor
AN ANCIENT PROCESS AND A MODERN QUESTION
In the sense that I have defined education above---the process has been going on for millennia, indeed, epochs and eras, ages and cycles. Go to this link for an interesting analysis of an oft'-asked question about the progress or decline in educational standards: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/nov/19/dreams-of-better-schools/
65 YEARS OF STUDYING THE HUMANITIES
From 1949 to 2015 I have been a student of the humanities in what has become by sensible and insensible degrees: a secular, pluralistic, post-Christian, post-modern, culture and society--at least in the parts of the world where I have lived and taught, studied and written. As a general theory for a historical movement the term post-modern was first used in 1939 by Arnold J. Toynbee: "Our own Post-Modern Age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914-1918." All my life has been lived in this post-modern age. My days have been spent in Canada until I was 26, & in Australia for the remaining years of my life. In 2015 I was 71 years of age. Both these nations have become more secular and less Christo-centric, and Euro-centric. For a useful overview of post-modernism go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism
The humanities are academic disciplines that study human culture, using methods that are primarily critical, speculative, and with a significant historical element. They are distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural and physical, the biological and applied, sciences. The humanities include ancient & modern languages, literature and linguistics, philosophy and religion, as well as the visual and performing arts such as music & theatre. The humanities also include the social sciences: history and economics, anthropology and sociology, area and communication studies, cultural studies and law.
Scholars in the humanities are sometimes described as humanists. However, that term also describes the philosophical position of humanism which some "antihumanist" scholars in the humanities reject. Some secondary schools offer humanities classes usually consisting of English literature and languages, global studies and history, art and music. Human disciplines like history and social studies, cultural anthropology & psychoanalysis study subject matters that the experimental method does not apply to, instead mainly use the comparative method and comparative research. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanities
In 1963/4 I began a B.A. program in the humanities. It turned-out to be 26 years of post-secondary school study which resulted in a series of completed and partly completed: degrees and advanced degrees, advanced diplomas and diplomas, certificates and theses. These 25 years were essentially a continuation of the 14 year western secular education that I began in 1949. In 1988 I brought my 40 years of formal study programs in educational institutions to an end.
In 1964/5 I was a student in the second year of an honours history and philosophy program at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario; in 1965/6 I specialized in sociology; and in 1966/7 my speciality was education studies. One of the many courses I took during those 25 years of university and college, education department & advanced education study was European History: 1400 to 1789. It was in that course that I first heard of Pico della Mirandola(1463-1494), and his Oration on the Dignity of Man that he delivered at Rome in 1486. He was only twenty-four years old. I was 20 years old at the time, and in my second year of the first of a series of serious mood-swings that kept me busy just going from day-to-day and month-to-month. My academic and professional aim at the time was: (i) passing my courses and progressing into the next year of study, and (ii) obtaining some job of interest, some career direction, that was completely unrelated to the many summer jobs I had had since as far back as the early 1950s.
I was not able to truly appreciate this Italian Renaissance philosopher who was, and is, famed for those events of 1486. In that year he proposed to defend his 900 theses on religion, philosophy, natural philosophy and magic against all comers; he wrote that famous Oration on the Dignity of Man which has been called the "Manifesto of the Renaissance," & a key text of Renaissance humanism. Envisaging the moment when God created Man and “set him in the middle of the world” beneath the angels and above the animals, Pico imagines God explaining to Adam that, by virtue of this intermediary position he has unique abilities, “whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts the individual may, with premeditation, select, these same he may have and he may possess through his own judgement and decision. God has has made man a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that he may, as the free and proud shaper of his own being, fashion himself in the form that he prefers. It will be in his power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; he will also be able, through his own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.” This humanism of Pico's is, and was, clearly theistic, God-centred, Christocentric, Eurocentric. This was at the centre of that history course covering, as it did, the years 1400 to 1789.
Surely one of the highest purposes and goals of the humanities today in the 21st century is to assist in the processes of premeditation, selection, judgement, and decision-making. Through these processes people “fashion” their higher and better selves. They are selves capable of properly responding to the moral, social, political, and personal choices of today’s & tomorrow’s world. During the Renaissance, & in the classical tradition from which it drew so much of its inspiration, one of the ideals of the educational activity known as 'philosophia' was to enable the student to live a good life. As we go through the first decades of the twenty-first century, the cultivation of an ethical sensibility alongside cultural and other forms of competency is surely no less important than it ever was; indeed, there may never have been a greater need for the humanities to reclaim & proclaim their high calling as schools for the moral arts upon which society and humanity depend. For more of a series of essays by D.M.R. Bentley on this subject go to: http://canadianpoetry.org/discussionPapers/Bentley_ArtsForChoice.html
Humanism has always occupied a central place in the humanites. It was and is at the centre of my 65 years of study of the humanities. Humanism is a movement of philosophy & ethics that emphasizes the value & agency of human beings, individually & collectively. It generally prefers individual thought and evidence, as evident in rationalism and empiricism, over established doctrine or faith, sometimes called fideism. The term humanism, though, is ambiguously diverse. There has been a persistent confusion between the several related uses of the term because different intellectual movements have identified with it over time. In philosophy & social science, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of a "human nature", contrasted with anti-humanism. In modern times, many humanist movements have become strongly aligned with secularism. Here the term humanism is often used as a byword for non-theistic beliefs about ideas such as meaning and purpose; however, many early humanists, such as Ulrich von Hutten among many others, were strong supporters of theistic beliefs; in von Hutton's case of Martin Luther and the Reformation. They were all very religious. For more on this complex and extensive subject of humanism go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism
In the Journal of Academic and Applied Studies, Vol. 2, November 2012, we find "Towards Humanizing ELT: A Pedagogical Look." "At the heart of humanism," the article begins, "a kind of freedom in discussion is essential." The writers of this article emphasize that, if a certain freedom or democracy in discussion is valued, students must be allowed to speak from their personal vantage points. This humanizes the teaching & learning is facilitated. Teachers and students humanize themselves through dialogue. This paper is an attempt to persuade teachers that having a politically clear stance in the class towards & with students is a step forward humanizing ELT, English Lanaguage Teaching. Another aim of this paper is an attempt toward operationalizing humanism in language teaching.
This journal comes out of an Islamic university in Iran. Humanism now finds its home in the cultural milieux of all civilizations, although not all cultures, political and ethnic groups. In the great majority of the 200+ nations of the world, though, humanism is at the centre of the formal educational enterprize. Humanism finds its place under many rubrics of which pluralism is perhaps the main one. Pluralism emphasizes a diversity of views & it stands out in contrast to a single approach, a single method of interpretation, the sort of one-way fundamentalism.
There are now a host of types of pluralisms in this 21st century:
(i) Cosmic pluralism is the belief in numerous other worlds beyond the Earth, worlds which may possess the conditions suitable for life
(ii) Cultural pluralism exists when small groups within a larger society maintain their unique cultural identities, often called multiculturalism
(iii) Legal pluralism acknowledges the existence of differing legal systems in the world. The Journal of Legal Pluralism, is a peer-reviewed academic journal that focuses on legal pluralism
(iv) Methodological pluralism is the view that some phenomena observed in science and social science require multiple methods to account for their nature
(v) Pluralism in industrial relations is a recognition of a multiplicity of legitimate interests and stakeholders in the employment relationship
(vi) Pluralism in political philosophy is the acknowledgment of a diversity of political systems
(vii) Pluralism in political theory is the belief that there should be diverse and competing centres of power in society, so that there is a marketplace for ideas
(viii) Religious pluralism is the acceptance of all religious paths as equally valid, promoting coexistence
(ix) Scientific pluralism is the view that some phenomena observed in science require multiple explanations to account for their nature
(x) Structural pluralism is a concept used to examine the way in which societies are structured. For more on pluralism go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism
The term humanism is, among many things, a reaction to behaviorism. Humanism, according to one writer, is defined as a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world. It is an advocacy of the methods of reason, science and democracy. Another definition says that humanism is a blending of what the learner feels, thinks and knows with what he is learning in the target language. To be human is to exist with and for others. Put another way, the basic form of humanity, according to Barth (1960), is ―being-in-encounter. This encounter consists of mutual seeing, hearing, speaking, and assisting one another with gladness. As Freire (1970) goes on to hold that humanization is the desired relationship between students and teachers and ultimately between all persons; a relationship constructed on the basis of mutual trust and respect and the prevailing freedom to reason. For more go to:http://www.academians.org/Articles/November2012-1.pdf
CIVILIZED, CULTURED AND EDUCATED
‘Civilised’, ‘cultured’, and ‘educated’: perhaps there were times when these words could rightly be treated as synonymous. Thucydides, in Greek society, and Cicero in roman society may come to mind as examples of these terms being synonymous. Some characters in Jane Austin, Henry James, or Edith Wharton in the 19th and early 20th centuries seem to draw little distinction between these three corresponding concepts. Yet today they hardly overlap at all. ‘Civilised’ refers to a person’s manners and behaviours; ‘cultured’ qualifies someone who is engaged with arts, letters, and other intellectual pursuits; and ‘educated’ is usually applied to people who have successfully attended learning or training courses offered by primary, secondary, or tertiary (higher) institutions. One could be any of the three without being either of the remaining two. For more on this subject, this essay in the online journal Philosophy and Technology(2013), go to:http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13347-013-0124-9/fulltext.html
THE CONCEPT OF RE-READING
Let’s reread Nabokov on rereading. On first approach to a novel, Nabokov claimed, we are overwhelmed with too much information and fatigued by the effort of scanning the lines. Only later, on successive encounters with the text, will we begin to see and appreciate it as a whole, as we do with a painting. So, paradoxically, then, “there is no reading, only rereading.” This attitude amounts to an elitist agenda, an unhappy obsession with control, a desire to possess the text and, with that, there is always the implication that there are very few texts worth possessing. When we perceive something new for the first time we cannot really perceive it because we lack the appropriate structure that allows us to perceive it. Our brain is like a lock maker that makes a lock whenever a key is deemed interesting enough. But when a key—for example, a new poem, or a new species of animal—is first met, there is no lock yet ready for such a key. Or to be precise, the key is not even a key since it does not open anything yet. It is a potential key. However, the encounter between the brain and this potential key triggers the making of a lock. The next time we meet or perceive the object/key it will open the lock prepared for it in the brain.
The act of reading, as defined by Wolfgang Iser, is a process of "becoming conscious". "The constitution of meaning not only implies the creation of a totality emerging from interacting textual perspectives, but it also enables us, through formulating this totality, to formulate ourselves and thus discover an inner world of which we had hitherto not been conscious" (Ricoeur, The Act of Reading, p. 58). Critical reading in this perspective is no longer an ancillary activity, passively receiving the "imprint" of the text. It is, as Wolfgang Iser puts it in his well-known formulation "a dynamic process of recreation" (Ricoeur, The Reading Process, p. 279). this allows the reader to formulate "alien" thoughts and perspectives but also to question existing perspectives and norms (The Act of Reading, p. 147). In reading reflexively, the reader both actualizes the text, giving it significance, and constitutes herself as a reading subject. The interpretation of a particular text is thus "completed in the self-interpretation of a subject who henceforth understands himself better, who understands himself differently, or who even begins to understand himself" (Ricoeur 194-5). For more go to: http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/ReReadingTheorychapter.htm For more on re-reading go to: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/jul/11/rereading-unlocking-the-mind/
THE MESSY ALTERNATIVE TO ONLINE LEARNING
David Bromwich, in an essay in The New York Review of Books (“Trapped in the Virtual Classroom” July 9, 2015), posed the shortcomings of the online classroom. While he admits that information, as distinct from knowledge, can be transmitted to large numbers of people, with the resulting advantages to our society, the disadvantages of such forms of education lie in the lack of human contact—human interaction—that so often lies at the heart of real cultural growth. To read his article go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jul/09/trapped-virtual-classroom/
One of the many amateur photographers who is thoroughly enchanted by the latest technology, which has changed his own focus from the skills involved in chemical photographic processes to those of their digital equivalents, writes about the tremendous advantages of working on an image in his computer, where little mistakes can usually be corrected with a simple key press and where the instantaneous transformations that take place almost routinely provide him with a huge easel on which to practice his craft. Read more at: http://wetland-wetland.blogspot.com.au/2015_06_01
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DAY CARE CENTRES
Child care or day care is the care of a child during the day by a person other than the child's legal guardians, typically performed by someone outside the child's immediate family. Day care is typically an ongoing service during specific periods, such as the parents' time at work. The service is known as child care in the United Kingdom and Australia, crèche in Ireland and New Zealand, and child care or day care in North America. The vast majority of childcare is still performed by the parents, in-house nanny or through informal arrangements with relatives, neighbors or friends. Child care in the child's own home is traditionally provided by a nanny or au pair, or by extended family members including grandparents, aunts and uncles. Child care is provided in nurseries or crèches or by a nanny or family child care provider caring for children in their own homes. It can also take on a more formal structure, with education, child development, discipline and even preschool education falling into the fold of services. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_care
Early childhood education (ECE) is a branch of education theory which relates to the teaching of young children, formally and informally, up until the age of about eight. Infant/toddler education, a subset of early childhood education, denotes the education of children from birth to age two. In recent years, early childhood education has become a prevalent public policy issue, as municipal, state, and federal lawmakers consider funding for preschool and pre-k. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_childhood_education
Historically in Australia, there has been a growing movement behind the development of quality Early Childhood Education & Care Centres. These centres are designed to provide care and education outside of the home for children from birth to five years old. In the mid 1980s, the then Labor Government of Australia promoted & funded the establishment of many centres to provide women who were at home with children the opportunity to move into the workplace. Centre fees were heavily subsidised to make this option viable in the hope that more women would become employed and Australia’s rising unemployment statistics would be reduced. For more on this subject go to the M/C Journal of Media and Culture(V.17, N.1, 2014): http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/765
GOOD AND BAD CURIOSITY
There has probably never been a society that did not erect barriers to certain kinds of knowledge. Moralists since Greek and Roman antiquity have frowned on busybodies who pry into their neighbours’ private lives; medieval Christian theologians condemned necromancers who wanted to discover the secrets of demons; today we fret about state surveillance of citizens and certain kinds of scientific research on human subjects. Curiosity has never been allowed free rein: there has always been a distinction between good and bad curiosity, legitimate & illegitimate knowledge.
Rarely has the question of where to draw the line between them been as furiously and consequentially debated as in early modern Europe. The new geography, the new science, the new periodical press, the new religions, the new polities that shook Europe between 1500 & 1800 were propagated and absorbed in new sites – not just universities, courts and ecclesiastical councils, but also academies, coffee houses, printers’ shops, salons, marketplaces and battlefields. Who ought to know what & how were questions ventilated in Latin dissertations, novels, sermons, scientific treatises, Jesuit ballets, pornography, satirical poems, penny broadsides and presumably many conversations among learned and lay people alike. Curiosity became an object of intense, even obsessive attention. For a review of The Uses of Curiosity in Early Modern France and Germany by Neil Kenny(
Oxford, 500 pages, 2004) go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n12/lorraine-daston/all-curls-and-pearls
DIY LEARNING PROGRAMS
INDIVIDUALIZATION AND PERSONALIZATION OF LEARNING
Individuals like myself who have no desire to enter formal learning programs in schools or colleges, universities or any one of a host of institutional arrangements; individuals like myself who have already spent decades studying in both internal and external programs with their various advanced degree and degree, graduate diploma and diploma, certificate & other credential-producing curricula, are now carefully articulating their own short term, medium term, and long-term professional & personal goals. I am now involved in creating my own model of DIY (Do It Yourself) learning that promotes building a Personal Learning Network(PLN). This PLN is a “universe of people, texts, books, Web sites, blogs, any and all knowledge resources & relationships that help situate me in a community of practitioners.”
Personalized learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments by learners or for learners in order to meet their different learning needs and aspirations. Typically technology is used to facilitate personalized learning environments. Go to this link for many types, plans, and accents of personalized learning some of which I have adopted in the last 25 years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personalized_learning Online learners, like myself, can assemble dynamic, networked personal learning environments by adopting the most popular tools in many particular domains. Having signed up for a Gmail account, a user can publish websites with Blogger, manage groups and mailing lists with Google Groups, video conference with Google Talk, write collaboratively with Google Docs, track topics with Google Alerts, manage syndicated feeds with Google Reader, share video with YouTube, post images with Picasa: do whatever it is that Google Wave is supposed to do. We need not belabor the power and popularity of services such as Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. All this incredible functionality is delivered in remarkably stable and user-friendly environments, and it's available free of charge! I only draw on some of these tools as I articulate my own individualized and personalized learning packages.
Since bringing my 17 years of internal studies programs(1949 to 1970), and 25 year external studies programs(1973 to 1988) to an end, I have been developing, slowly building, my own individualized learning networks. These networks match my own professional and career, personal and interest-based aims and goals. As a student of learning I am slowly expanding my networks for current & future interests & needs. Nicholas Gane & David Beer in their text New Media: The Key Concepts (NY: Berg, 2008) discuss the relevance of new media in relation to these networks. They divide the concept of networks into four aspects: nodes, architecture, flows, and interfacing. These four aspects of networking have allowed me to reconceptualize some of the issues and opportunities in learning: infrastructure, connections, relationships, and screening. Making almost anyone a possible mentor, or source of help & learning, implies that both mentees & mentors are available all or most of the time. Personalized learning embraces learning that happens anywhere, for example in the home, in the community - anywhere. This 'anywhere, anytime, anyplace' learning can be seen in light of the forces of globalization that are influencing this latest trend in education, where time, space and place are experienced as compressed; a death of distance. Go to this link for more on these complex concepts: http://www.enculturation.net/diymentoring
NEW YORK SCHOOLS: BIG CHANGES
In this review in The New York Review of Books(5/3/'15) of Joel Klein's book Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools(HarperCollins, 300 pages, 2014), we read: "In almost every way we can measure, the overall quality of New York’s schools improved under Joel Klein's administration. Some of the new charter schools he opened recorded astonishing gains in test scores among underprivileged children, confounding the much-heard myth that schools can’t do anything to alleviate the educational effects of poverty. But the most remarkable change occurred in the dozens of small public high schools that Klein opened to replace the larger ones he had closed. In a study that came out after his book was published, a nonpartisan research firm, found that students at the small schools—drawn mainly from poor and minority communities—graduated and attended college at nearly a 10 percent greater rate than their peers in a similarly underprivileged control group. And they did so at a roughly 15 percent lower cost per student, mainly because more students at the small high schools graduated within four years. Joel Klein talks about what it takes to improve public education in the United States at this link: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-11-19/joel_klein_lessons_of_hope_how_to_fix_our_schools For more go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/mar/05/joel-klein-transformed-schools-but/?insrc=toc
THE SCHOOL OF LIFE: 'THE CURRICULUM'-- TWO USEFUL WEBSITES
The School of Life has a passionate belief in making learning relevant – and so runs courses in the important questions of everyday life. Whereas most colleges and universities chop up learning into abstract categories; for example, ‘agrarian history’ and ‘the 18th century English novel’, etc. The School of Life titles its courses according to things we all tend to care about: careers, relationships, politics, travels, families. An evening or weekend on one of its courses is likely to be spent reflecting on such matters as your moral responsibilities to an ex partner or how to resolve a career crisis.
Another The School of Life website is a useful general education site. It deals with typical questions like: (i) What are the most important concepts from the history of ideas? (ii) What can the humanities and culture teach us about living today? and (iii) What advice would key thinkers give to the modern world? 'The Curriculum' at this The School of Life site is a new series that aims to fill in the gaps in student knowledge, especially emotional intelligence. These curriculum classes: (a) introduce the vital ideas in a given field & examine how we can apply these concepts to everyday life; (b) help students discover how literature can teach us to lead better lives; (c) help students explore how philosophers have sought wisdom over the ages; (d) help students find emotional sustenance in the works of the great artists; and (e) help them understand how radical political theories shaped our modern democracy, and get to grips with the fundamentals of psychotherapy. Go to these links for more: http://alaindebotton.com/the-school-of-life/ and http://www.theschooloflife.com/london/
In the 4/12/'14 issue of The New York Review of Books a review entitled "Why Is American Teaching So Bad?" by Jonathan Zimmerman appeared.
The article reviewed the following books: (i) The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein(Doubleday, 350 pages, 2014); (ii) Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (& How to Teach It to Everyone) by Elizabeth Green(Norton, 400 pages, 2014; and (iii) Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher by Garret Keizer(Metropolitan, 300 pages, 2014)
Some of that review is found in the following words: "Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars, is an impressive new history of teachers in the United States. For two centuries, as Goldstein makes clear, Americans have simultaneously lauded teachers’ moral virtue & deplored their lack of adequate knowledge and skills. But debate over teaching has shifted sharply over the past two decades, as I was bringing my own 50 years in classrooms as a student and teacher to an end. Public education in the USA has became much more narrowly academic in focus and purpose since the mid-1990s. Thanks to the 'No Child Left Behind' law passed under the Bush administration in 2001, schools are now rewarded or penalized based on their students’ performance on standardized tests. More recently, the federal 'Race to the Top' program sponsored by the Obama administration has been encouraging schools to use students’ test scores in evaluating individual teachers. The primary responsibility of teachers is no longer to encourage good behavior in future citizens, as that 19th century educator Horace Mann insisted. Instead, it’s to ensure that students get the right answers on a high-stakes test.
The shift in goals has unfortunately done nothing to alter the tedious, anti-intellectual practices of American teaching. If anything, the strong commitment to “academic” goals has probably made teaching less academic—so far as the quality of learning is concerned—and more routinized than it was before. When teachers were hired for their inborn ability to “nurture” schoolchildren, many derided or disregarded their intellectual capacities. Now the USA is creating a system that is so firmly tied to scholastic achievement—as narrowly defined by standardized tests—that no serious scholar would want to teach in it. For more on this subject go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/dec/04/why-american-teaching-so-bad/?insrc=toc
Teacher education refers to the policies and procedures designed to equip prospective teachers with the knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, & skills they require to perform their tasks effectively in the classroom, school & wider community. Although ideally it should be conceived of, & organised as, a seamless continuum, teacher education is often divided into these stages and outlined as follows: (i) initial teacher training education with a pre-service course before entering the classroom as a fully responsible teacher; (ii) induction involving the process of providing training & support during the first few years of teaching or the first year in a particular school; and (iii) teacher development or continuing professional development which consists of an in-service process for practicing teachers. There is a longstanding and ongoing debate about the most appropriate term to describe these activities. The term 'teacher training' often gives the impression that the activity involves training staff to undertake relatively routine tasks. This view seems to be losing ground, at least in the U.S., to 'teacher education' with its connotation of preparing staff for a professional role as a reflective practitioner. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teacher_education
THE HUMANITIES: AN OVERVIEW
The humanities are academic disciplines that study human culture. The humanities use methods that are primarily critical, or speculative, and have a significant historical element—as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences. The humanities include ancient and modern languages, literature, philosophy, religion, & the visual & performing arts such as music & theatre. The humanities that are also sometimes regarded as social sciences include: history, anthropology, area studies, communication studies, cultural studies, law and linguistics. For more of this general overview of the humanities go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanities This website has separate sub-sections on several of these humanities and this education webpage, and the other print & electro0nic media pages, deal with one of the broad sub-section of these humanities. Readers with the interest in one or more of the several humanities subjects I deal with can access them by clicking-on the subject headings found at the top of this page as well as at the top-right.
"Somewhere within the total field of human knowledge, humanism still beckons to us as our best reason for having minds at all," so writes Clive James in his tribute and defence of humanism. "That beckoning, however, grows increasingly feeble in many places. The arts and their attendant scholarship are everywhere, imperishable consumer goods which a self-selecting elite can possess while priding itself on being non-materialistic; they have a glamour unprecedented in history – but humanism is hard to find." In an age of almost unchallenged consumer capitalism, value is increasingly understood only in terms of market exchange. See, for example, how student tuition fees are often proposed and discussed using arguments which appeal to the “return on investment” that an individual student could expect from their degree – and often opposed in the same terms.
In such an environment: "The idea that humanism has no immediately ascertainable use at all, and is valuable for precisely that reason, is a hard sell … If the humanism that makes civilisation civilised is to be preserved into this new century, it will need advocates. Those advocates will need a memory, and part of that memory will need to be of an age in which they were not yet alive. What does James mean by “humanism”? He doesn’t define the word explicitly; you could say that defining humanism is what he spends all 912 pages of the book attempting; it is essential to his conception of humanism that it can only be described by such a project, rather than defined in a sentence. It is worth making clear, however, that he is using the word in its “Renaissance” sense rather than in the more recent sense of “secular humanism” as a form of “civilised atheism”. For more on Clive James and humanism go to: http://curlewriver.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/clive-james-on-humanism/
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There are now hundreds of online courses and, if one includes all the external or distance learning programs now available online, the number jumps into the thousands. Here is just one link to several online courses. Lynda.com makes it easy to learn skills on any device with expert-led courses. Go to:http://www.lynda.com/newcourses.aspx?utm_source=strongview&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nc-prospect-nc-20150804
Individualized instruction is a method of instruction in which content, instructional technology, such as materials and methods, as well as the pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interests of each individual learner. Mass instruction is the opposite, that is a method in which content, materials and pace of learning are the same for all students in a classroom or course. Individualized instruction does not require a 1-to1 student- teacher ratio. In 1977, at the then Ballarat College of Advanced Education, I taught a course entitled "individualized learning" to external students working on their B.Ed at Deakin University in the Faculty of Arts and Education, School of Education. As a primary and secondary school teacher from 1970 to 1973, I also taught a range of subjects using individualized learning methods. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualized_instruction
MAKING A MARK
In the last week of March and the first week of April 1999 Nato allies, mainly the USA and Great Britain, entered into a horrific war with Yugoslavia. NATO's military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was sometimes called the Kosovo War. The strikes lasted from 24 March 1999 to 10 June 10 1999. The NATO bombing marked NATO'S second major combat operation in its history, following the 1995 NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In those first days of the war Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia, was bombed and half a million Albanians in Kosovo began to flee their homeland becoming refugees and trying to avoid a process of mass killing by Serbians, a process called 'ethnic cleansing.'
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO is also called the North Atlantic Alliance. It is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on 4 April 1949 when I was 4 years old. The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. NATO's headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is but one of the 28 member states across North America and Europe; the newest nations to join are Albania and Croatia which joined in April 2009. An additional 22 countries participate in NATO's Partnership for Peace, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the world's defence spending. From my perspective, my interpretation of history since 1914, NATO is part and parcel of a process known in the Baha'i community as the Lesser Peace. Each Baha'i has the right to interpret the revelation of Baha'u'llah and the Baha'i teachings in his or own way, but the authority for interpretation lies with only one Body which is elected every five years. It is known as The Universal House of Justice.
In these same weeks, the first two weeks of the war, I taught my last classes as a full-time professional teacher in a technical and further education college in Perth Western Australia, now a polytechnic. In April and May I was given scripts to mark, but the last class I taught was in the first week of April 1999. By the end of that war on 10 June, my wife and son and I were making our plans to leave the city of Perth. We sold our home and on 12 July 1999 we left Perth & drove to eastern Australia. This was yet another pioneering move, this time to take a sea-change & an early retirement to northern Tasmania. I turned 55 during the days while we were driving across Australia from west to east.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, "War in Europe," 11:30-12:20 am, 11 December 2002 to 13 November 2012.
This was one way to commemorate
or was it to celebrate the end of a
working life? Day after day, night
after night---while I ate my evening
meal I watched the bombs dropping,
the shooting in the streets, cities,
towns and villages in Yugoslavia's
hills, target after target in a lighted
chirping box....I'd had my war, too.
My war had been without guns and
jets against confused backgrounds
of a planet & an unmistakable trend
towards the Lesser Peace....at least
from my personal perspectives as I
headed into the evening of my life in
this vast planetizing complex global
civilization, culture, society, world!!!
Consciously involved in a single historic
process, describing as best I could my
twofold date with destiny....with traces
in my memory which would last forever,
having begun to define in quite specific
detail the mark I made over those three
epochs.(1) For without a soul-satisfying
answer, a soul-satisfying mark......what
was the point of it all, what indeed??!!
(1) The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, 1998. The three epochs were the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, 1944 to 2000.
12 December 2000 to 13 November 2012
Beginning with a survey of Bahá’í writings and of emerging Bahá’í approaches to education, the article charts the Macau-based School of the Nations’ philosophy of education. The article considers the implications of this philosophy for the school’s curriculum development process. The article then proposes that the cooperative approach to education offers a potential instructional model within which Bahá’í principles and ideals, with their emphasis on moral education, participation, cooperation, & consultation, could be effectively implemented. Finally, the article discusses the school’s tentative experiments with this model & the steps taken to begin the model’s systematic implementation. The successful continuation of the project, the article suggests, will largely depend on the school’s ability to overcome the constraints imposed by the dominant competitive attitudes and practices and to gain acceptance of the value of a participatory and cooperative approach. For the entire article go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/4.2-Pihlainen.pdf
THE INTERNET, BARBARISM, AND EDUCATION
Glenn McLaren's article "The Triumph of Virtual Reality and Its Implications for Philosophy and Civilization", in Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 8, no. 1, 2012, raises issues which I leave for readers here. The article begins with quotations from two sources: N. Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2010, p. 138, and Martin Heidegger's essay, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1977. I have taken an interest in McLaren's work for reasons other than this article. McLaren works at Swinburne Institute ot Technology in Australia. He is also interested in process philosophy. This article, "Unifying process philosophy: secular metaphysics & fragmentary influences," is an example of his thought at: http://researchbank.swinburne.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/
"What we’re experiencing," McLaren begins in his article in Cosmos and History, "is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: we are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. McLaren says that this is Carr’s generous way of saying that: "the internet is destroying the conditions for civilization and replacing it with conditions for barbarity." The instrumental view of technology, says Carr, is dangerously naive. McLaren speculates about why Carr may be right and why changing this trajectory of civilization will be difficult. "I will also suggest that a world of data hunter-gatherers will not be one conducive to the practice of philosophy," writes McLaren. For more on what I found to be a stimulating article, go to:http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/292/462
STUDENTS AS CONSUMERS AND EDUCATION FOR THE MARKET-PLACE
Robyn Ferrell is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include: philosophy of the image, contemporary art, technology & gender, genre & writing in the humanities, philosophical approaches to feminism, and psychoanalytic theory. For Robyn Ferrell's discussion of the corporate university in her article, her essay, "Income Outcome: Life in the Corporate University" published in the online electronic journal Cultural Studies Review, September 2011---go to this link: http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/article/view/1719/2488
More and more, universities are becoming the servants of corporate finance. Originally, state universities were conceived as a way for working class kids to get a college education. In the last 30 to 40 years, fewer tax payers have been willing to foot the bill. Education is no longer viewed as a means of passing on a repository of knowledge in culture; it has become merely a means of job training. Of course, this had always been the case in the technical and further education colleges, now polytechnics in many places, where I had worked from the 1970s to the 1990s. State Universities are more often forced to seek private funding, which ties them to corporate needs and expectations. The results of this trend are devastating for academic freedom. "Knowledge that was free, open and for the benefit of society is now proprietary, confidential and for the benefit of business. Educators who once jealously guarded their autonomy now negotiate curriculum planning with corporate sponsors. Professors who once taught are now on company payrolls churning out marketable research in the campus lab, while universities pay the cut-rate fee for replacement teaching assistants. University presidents, once the intellectual leaders of their institutions, are now accomplished bagmen." Corporate need is infused into University life, and orient the program along the lines of a job training program. "They speak of the degrees they grant as `products' and their students as `customers' and insist upon `productivity measures' that are more appropriate to widget manufacturing than to broadening students' knowledge and critical faculties." For more go to: http://www.datawranglers.com/negations/ For a useful series of articles on the current state of higher education go to: http://topia.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/topia/article/view/36195/32825
RETOOLING THE HUMANITIES
Daniel Coleman & Smaro Kamboureli, eds. (Edmonton, University of Alberta Press, 300 pages, 2011) have put together this useful book: Retooling the Humanities: Culture of Research in Canadian Universities. I am retired now and in my 70s but, from 1963 until 2005, I was involved in studying and teaching many subjects in the field of the humanities. This review begins: "In the past 30 years, as I was beginning to eye an early retirement at the age of 55 and take a sea-change as it is called in some parts, the state has tried to reinvent the university as an economic driver and R&D hub."
Go to this link for more of this review: https://www.cautbulletin.ca/en_article.asp?articleid=3372 The review continues as follows: "Earlier visions, albeit Eurocentric and elitist, were aimed at increasing cultural capital for student & nation alike. That was the case back in the 1960s when I was studying history, philosophy & sociology for a B.A. in 1966. Now a degree is seen as a guarantee of increased lifetime income. In this framework taxpayers are supposed to see a return on their investment, research to produce “deliverables” and scholars to tie their work to social payoffs that can be audited for impact. Of course that was partly true in the 1960s. After my B.A. I got a B.Ed. and spent the years from 1967 to 2005 teaching, at least most of the time, in a variety of roles. The shift in the larger universities to “research capitalism” has been driven by funding losses. Levels of government funding fell to 58 per cent in 2009, from 84 per cent in 1979 in Canada where I got my degree. The result is the need to “sell” the university to corporate donors and partners and to market increased tuition, and debt, to parents and students. This utilitarian framework counters one that sees the primary benefit of a broad liberal education as the formation of self-critical citizens.
Yearly, 2.5 million research articles are published in one of the 30,000 scholarly journals. Many of these discoveries undergo an inefficient and long publishing process, wasting months, even years, in peer-review and rejection cascades from journal to journal. This is because peer review traditionally has been conducted with a focus on selection criteria such as “novelty” and “significance,” largely as part of a quest to raise the impact profile of a journal. Around 80% of these discoveries are published behind pay-walls, leading to missed opportunities, stifling innovation and economic prosperity. On the positive side, global research budgets are growing year-on-year and will reach close to USD 3 trillion by 2020. As a consequence, within the next 10 years, 2015 to 2025, more research papers will be published than all articles put together over the last 180 years. But academics and society struggle to make sense of ever-increasing research outputs and the mechanisms by which to select impactful research are subjective. The latter is based on the decisions of a few journal editors and reviewers, and picked up for popular digestion by even fewer science journalists.
Frontiers is a community-rooted, open-access academic publisher. Their grand vision is to build an Open Science platform where everybody has equal opportunity to seek, share and generate knowledge, and that empowers researchers in their daily work. Frontiers is at the forefront of building this ultimate Open Science platform. Frontiers has now launched many other community-run, open-access journals across all of academia, and covering hundreds of speciality areas in Science, Health, Technology, Engineering as well as Humanities & Social Sciences. It is one of the largest and fastest-growing open-access publishers world-wide. The Frontiers publishing platform brings researchers more functionalities, services and transparency in the processing of their articles than any other publisher. Loop, the Frontiers research network, is fully integrated across the Frontiers website and since 2015 also on nature.com articles, amplifying the discoverability, dissemination, readership and impact for authors and their articles. For a list of the journals and access to 100s of articles go to: http://www.frontiersin.org/about/journalseries
ONLINE VIDEOS: U-TUBE AND WISE CRACK
A parody of Cliffs Notes, Thug Notes is as educational as it is comedic, cutting to the heart of such classic texts as Crime and Punishment and The Great Gatsby. It encourages readers to develop their own understanding of the book. Reading along with the hilarious Sparky, played by L.A.-based comedian Greg Edwards, viewers can’t help but come back every week for a new video and, whether they realize it or not, they’re taking their own steps to learn outside of the classroom. “Sparky is a regular guy,” says Edwards of his character. “I always think he’s from South Central, East L.A., Boyle Heights, and just a regular dude who enjoys to read. He has a library card, he loves to read, and he talks to his friends… I look at Sparky just like LeVar Burton in a do-rag and saying slang.” But it takes more than Edwards’s charisma and Sparky Sweets’s bibliophilic ways to make Thug Notes a success.
The channel is the brainchild of business partners Jared Bauer and Jacob Salamon, two writers & film critics with a passion for arts education and comedy. Bauer originally came up with the idea of Thug Notes in line at the Egyptian to see Barry Lyndon. “I was joking around with my friend in line about how Barry Lyndon is the original gangster story because, even though it’s a slow-moving, kind of reflective movie about social structures, Barry Lyndon does kill a British officer and make a shit ton of money by gambling,” argues Bauer. “The woman behind me in line was like, 'You obviously don’t understand the movie at all.' I was like, 'Everything I’m saying is accurate; it’s just in another language maybe you aren’t comfortable with.'” For many videos from u-tube's School of Life and Wise Cracks' videos go to:http://www.dailydot.com/entertainment/wisecrack-thug-notes-interview/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_School_of_Life
THEORIES OF EDUCATION
Education theory seeks to know, understand & prescribe educational practices. Education theory is informed by many disciplines including history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and neuroscience. Educational thought is the "reflective examination of educational issues and problems from the perspective of diverse disciplines." It does not necessarily aim to prescribe educational practice as do normative theories, nor does it necessarily set out to describe or explain the way things are, as does descriptive theory. Rather, it is general reflection on what is prescribed and what has been described. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_theory
Critical pedagogy is a theory and a philosophy of education and a praxis-oriented social movement first described by Paulo Freire. It has since been developed by Henry Giroux and others as an "educational movement, guided by passion and principle, to help students develop consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, and connect knowledge to power and the ability to take constructive action." Among its leading figures are Michael Apple, bell hooks, Joe L. Kincheloe, Peter McLaren, and Patti Lather. Critical pedagogue Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as: "Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse." (Empowering Education, 129)
VOCATION AND VOCATIONALISM, EDUCATION AND LIBERAL EDUCATION
The term "progressive" was originally used to distinguish a vocational education from a more academic and traditional curriculum of the 19th century. Such an academic education was rooted in a classical preparation for the university. Such vocational education strongly differentiated students by socio-economic level. Progressive education has always found its roots in present experience, in experientially-oriented educational training. Most of my teaching career was in the post-secondary sector, and in this more vocationally-oriented tertiary educational milieux. This was also true of the last stage of my own university education which was aimed at preparing me to be a primary school teacher. My five years of high school(1957-1963) & the first three years of my university education(1963-1966) emphasized a more academic and traditional, more classical & discipline-oriented educational experience. In my case, in these 8 years, the disciplines involved in this more classical and academic education were: (i) general education in the sciences and the arts, (ii) sociology and philosophy, (iii) history and the arts.
Most progressive, vocational, education programs have the following qualities in common. They are qualities I became familair with in the years 1966 to 1967, & 1974 to 2003: (a) when I acquired my vocational training to be a teacher, (b) when I taught at what were called colleges of advanced education, (c) when I taught at what were then called colleges of techical and further education, and are now often called polytechnics, and (c) when I taught at universities and a school for seniors. These qualities, these characteristics, of the educational process consisted of: (i) an emphasis on learning by doing, that is, hands-on projects, expeditionary, exploratory, experiential learning, (ii) an integrated curriculum, integrating learning and doing, a focus on thematic units, (iii) an integration of entrepreneurship or apprenticeship into the educational process, (iv) a strong emphasis on problem solving, practical activity and critical thinking, (v) group work and the development of social or interpersonal skills, as well as (vi) understanding and action as the goals of learning as opposed to academic knowledge, and theoretical learning for its own sake. Whatever theory did exist its aim was to help provide a practical focus.
In addition to the above six features of this more vocationally-oriented education are the following: (vii) collaborative and cooperative learning projects as opposed to more individually oriented learning based on essay writing, examinations and memorization, (viii) education for social responsibility and democracy as opposed to education for personal enhancement & the fulfillment of potential, (ix) highly personalized education accounting for each individual's personal goals and aimed at training for the job-marketplace, (x) integration of community service and service learning projects into the daily curriculum, (xi) selection of subject content by looking forward to ask what skills will be needed in the future society, the society that the students are entering, (xii) a de-emphasis on textbooks in favor of more varied learning resources, (xiii) an emphasis on lifelong learning and social skills and not such a specialization on academic knowledge, and (xiv) assessment by evaluation of the student's projects and productions. There is, of course, a grey line, a grey area, between vocational training and the more academic, classical educational.
The argument that educational "progressivism" is unknowingly antidemocratic has become commonplace since it was first presented by Robert Hutchins and Arthur Bestor.(1) The argument runs something like this: A democratic society requires an enlightened electorate and cultivated leaders. Merit, not heredity or wealth, should determine one’s opportunities and status, and liberal education provides the means to these ends. Yet progressive educators have asserted that the ideal of a rigorous liberal education is unattainable for everyone. The more modest aims of "life adjustment" and preparation for work are more appropriate for the majority of students. Like nineteenth-century aristocratic opponents of public education, progressives have maintained that ennobling education is beyond the reach of the "common man" and that schools should seek to furnish: (a) elementary skills in academic subjects, (b) preparation for a trade, (c) working knowledge of basic understandings of society, as well as of (d) household maintenance and hygiene. Such an approach has been implemented successfully in the primary and secondary schools, the argument continues, and in a wide variety of new forms of vocationalism which have become part of higher education.(1) Robert Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1936, especially 34-58; Arthur Bestor, Educational Wasteland, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1953, especially 25-100. For a lengthy discussion of this topic go to:http://www.nhinet.org/humsub/stone11-1.htm
MY VOCATIONAL TEACHING
The vocational side of post-secondary education has been my bread and butter for much of my adult life, except for those first 3 years of university, age 21 to 23, when I studied: sociology and philosophy, history & several other humanities subjects in a three year BA. Those 3 years were a necessary preliminary so that I could begin my teaching career as a four-year post-secondary trained teacher. I began my teaching career in primary and secondary education for 6 years, from 1967 to 1973. These six years &, of course, my four year post-secondary education served as a useful, indeed, essential background for my years of teaching in vocational training.
NON-VOCATIONAL JOBS RELEVANT TO MY VOCATIONAL TRAINING
There were also years in my adult life, & my late adolescence, when I was not involved in vocational training, but during which my work experience was relevant to the vocational training I did over many years. The following are several examples of this relevant work experience: (i) 3 to 4 years when I was not able to get a teaching job, from 1979 to mid-1982, and so I worked as: an editor, a taxi-driver, a youth worker, a sub-editor producing radio-news, a maintenance scheduler in a tin mine, (ii) 12 months in total in various summer jobs as: an ice-cream salesman(2 months), a failed electrolux vacuum-cleaner salesman and a failed Colliers encyclopedia salesman, a failed milkman and a failed soft-drinks truck-driver's assistant, as well as a failed telephone-pole repairman(3 months in all in these failures), an abstractor for the Canadian Peace Research Institute( 3 months), and an electrician's assistant in the Steel Co. of Canada, Stelco, in Hamilton Ontario(2 months), cash-register clearance work for the T. Eaton Co. in Hamilton(2 months); and (iii) a successful security-guard and armoured-truck driver(3 months total) in Toronto, a clerk in a department of the provincial government of Ontario( 2 months) in Brantford Ontartio, among what seems now like an endless list of part-time jobs not worth mentioning. In some ways, as I say above, all these jobs could be seen as part of: (a) work experience, (b) job training & (c) background experience for working in vocational training.
The following could be seen as life experience: (a) 3 years on the dole(12 months in 1979-80 and 24 months during 1999 to 2001), and 8 years on a disability pension(2001-2009) due to my bipolar disorder before retiring at the age of 65 on an old-age pension, (b) 6 years on an old-age pension (2009-2015), and (c) 7 months when I was in 2 mental hospitals and 2 psychiatric wards, 1968(6 months) and 1980(1 month). The total number of years of my adult life before retirement at the age of 65 have been 44(65-21=44). For 22 of those 44 years, exactly half, I was involved in vocational training preparing students for various jobs in the workforce. The other 22 years kept me busy in the jobs and activities, roles and the work listed above.
The shift in the potential street value of a BA, a MA or, for that matter a PhD, indicates that teachers & lecturers, graduate & post-graduate faculty must all be engaged in teaching not only to replicate themselves, that is, provide appropriate vocational training. They must also help their students carefully articulate long-term professional goals and objectives. They need to model DIY (Do It Yourself) mentoring that promotes building a PLN, a Personal Learning Network, a “universe of people, texts, books, Web sites, blogs, indeed, any knowledge resources & relationships that help situate their students in a community of practitioners.” Go to Anya Kamenetz, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010), & to this link for http://diyubook.com/ Students are encouraged to build individualized networks for their own mentoring and for learning that will match their own career goals.
Teachers and tutors, lecturers and faculty of all sorts & types cannot possibly advise, or more deeply mentor, students for every possible career opportunity upon graduation. They all need to aim to grow in their students both basic advising connections, more robust mentoring connections, and a range of skills and attitudes, critical thinking skills and various abilities to survive in a complex world; learners/students need to be able to expand their networks for both current & future needs. The following two articles provides suggestions on how to help learners/students effectively. For more on this subject go to: http://www.rmit.edu.au/seh/students/mentorpeertutor and to: http://www.enculturation.net/diymentoring
PhD BY PUBLISHED PAPERS
Refereed publications (also known as peer-reviewed) are the currency of academia, yet many PhD theses in Australia result in only one or two such papers. Typically, a doctoral thesis requires the candidate to present (and pass) a public Confirmation Seminar, around nine to twelve months into candidacy, in which a panel of the candidate’s supervisors and invited experts adjudicate upon whether the work is likely to continue and ultimately succeed in the goal of a coherent and original contribution to knowledge. A Final Seminar, also public and sometimes involving the traditional viva voce or oral defence of the thesis, is presented two or three months before approval is given to send the 80,000 to 100,000 word tome off for external examination. that soul-destroying or elation-releasing examiner’s verdict can be many months in the delivery: a limbo-like period during which the candidate’s status as a student is ended & her or his receipt of any scholarship or funding guerdon is terminated with perfunctory speed. This is the only time most students spend seriously writing up their research for publication although, naturally, many are more involved in job hunting as they pin their hopes on passing the thesis examination.
There is, however, a slightly more palatable alternative to this nail-biting process of the traditional PhD, and that is the PhD by Published Papers (also known as PhD by Publications or PhD by Published Works). The form of my own soon-to-be-submitted thesis, it permits the submission for examination of a collection of papers that have been refereed and accepted (or are in the process of being refereed) for publication in academic journals or books. Apart from the obvious benefits in getting published early in one’s (hopefully) burgeoning academic career, it also takes away a lot of the stress come final submission time. After all, I try to assure myself, the thesis examiners can’t really discredit the process of double-blind, peer-review the bulk of the thesis has already undergone: their job is to examine how well I’ve unified the papers into a cohesive thesis … right? But perhaps they should at least be wary, because, unfortunately, the requirements for this kind of PhD vary considerably from institution to institution & there have been some cases where the submitted work is of questionable quality compared to that produced by graduates from more demanding universities. Hence, this paper argues that in my subject area of interest—film and television studies—there is a huge range in the set requirements for doctorates, from universities that award the degree to film artists for prior published work that has undergone little or no academic scrutiny and has involved little or no on-campus participation to at least three Australian universities that require candidates be enrolled for a minimum period of full-time study and only submit scholarly work generated and published (or submitted for publication) during candidature. I would also suggest that uncertainty about where a graduate’s work rests on this continuum risks confusing a hard-won PhD by Published Papers with the sometimes risible honorary doctorate. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/37
UNIVERSITY GRADUATES: QUALITIES?
The role of the teacher or tutor, instructor or trainer, lecturer or professor, at the post-secondary level, at least a role I found attractive in the quarter century I spent at that level of the educational enterprize, is to disturb the student's current epistomological understandings and interpretations of reality by offering new insights. I did not see this role in the same way as one of my more provocative and challenging fellow lecturers, at what is now the university of Ballarat, saw his role: to search and destroy the foundations on which the student built his current ediface of understanding. I saw my multi-faceted role as helping the students acquire new understandings and constructions of subjectivity. I wanted to open-up the possibility for my students to enact social and political change. I always felt that I had a social purpose beyond producing graduates mature enough, autonomous enough, & well-enough-rounded to fit easily into the slots awaiting them in the wider society on their graduation.
Students, both before and after graduation, are embedded within an institutional framework of knowledge and power. It is, was, and would be a framework characterized by: some degree of discipline, capacity to do a job, institutionally determined criteria for success and failure, teaching and learning, and a general imperative to serve the greater good of the organization which employed them and, hopefully, both the wider community and humanity in general. For the philosopher Immanuel Kant(1724-1804), enlightenment offered and offers a way out of 'immaturity'. Immaturity, in Kant's view, is a state characterized by the acceptance of another’s authority when autonomous reasoning is needed.
Kant was a German philosopher who is widely considered, at least by those who work in the field of philosophy, to be a central figure of modern philosophy. He argued that human concepts and categories structure our view of the world and its laws, and that reason should be the source of morality. His thought continues to hold a major influence in contemporary thought, especially in fields such as: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. For more on Kant go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant Are post-secondary educational institutions preparing students to think independently or just to be cogs in the machine? Do they encourage and enable students to reason freely & publicly? In other words, how does post-secondary education move students beyond simply performing a role in society and doing a job, towards enabling them to engage in social change? What are the implications for graduates? For academics? For universities? For higher education? For an extended discussion of this subject go to:http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/article/view/2001/2485
CAREER CHOICE........STUDENT TYPE
and GOING TO THE BEST UNIVERSITIES
Harvard Magazine had an article in its December 2012 issue by literary scholar Helen Vendler. Vendler has written books on some of the major poets in modern history: Emily Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens, John Keats, and Seamus Heaney. She has been a professor of English at Harvard University for more than 30 years. She is on the Harvard undergraduate admissions committee &, in that article, she wondered if current admissions standards particularly at Harvard, but also more generally at all institutions of higher learning, would make it hard for tomorrow’s literary leaders to gain admission. "The truth is", Vendler wrote, "that many future poets and novelists, authors & screenwriters are not likely, & have not been likely, to be straight-A students---either in high school or in college." I am no literary leader but, as a current poet and publisher, writer & author reflecting back on my student days, I was no straight-A student in either my senior year at high school or during any of my five years of post-secondary, of university, education.
I was a straight-A student from grade 7 through 12, ages 12 to 17, but at matriculation I dipped to a B. Three years later, I graduated from university with an overall C grade; I then got a B in my B. Ed. as well as in my external, my continuing, education in Certificate, Diploma, Grad. Dip and M.A. programs. I don't think I would have got into Harvard after high school back in 1963 and, if I had been successful, I would have been in the lower grades of those who passed. From 1963 to 1967 I suffered from mood swings associated with an undiagnosed bipolar disorder, among other psycho-social problems. I was lucky, I often think in retrospect, that I even passed in each of those 5 years of study.
"The critical question for us on the admissions committee", Vendler continued, "is not whether we are admitting a large number of future doctors and scientists, lawyers and businessmen, or even future philanthropists.....we are; the critical question is whether we can attract as many as possible of the future Emersons and Dickinsons". "How would we even identify them?" she asked. "What should we ask them in our admissions interviews? How would we make them want to come to us at Harvard, even if we could identify them?" The arts through which students will discover themselves, and which I came to find some success in both my academic study and my professional career, prize: creativity and originality, persistence and intensity above academic performance; these arts value introspection above extroversion, insight above rote learning. Students possessing these qualities are unusual, indeed, idiosyncratic, students. They may be, in the long run, the graduates of whom a university will be most proud. Do we have room for the reflective introvert, the timid introspective type, as well as for the future, the gregarious, leader?" Vendler asked a series of rhetorical questions of this nature.
"If one reads Jerome Karabel’s The Chosen", Vendler informed us, "perhaps the most important book ever written on elite undergraduate education in America, one quickly learns that college admissions reflect an economic and political equilibrium. A college, even one as wealthy as Harvard, serves many masters and that means such universities admit legacies and athletes as well as having affirmative action programs. It also means that a university like Harvard creates standards that students then strive to achieve, standards like the ideal type of the straight-A student who is the newspaper editor as well".
My five years in post-secondary education, at several universities, colleges of advanced education and colleges of technical and further education, where I either studied or taught, certainly nurtured my artistic and literary sensibilities. They did this in ways that, say, a more specialist, a more narrowly conceived conservatory, literary education, or even employment position would not have done---in all likelyhood. Great writers and artists have often been deeply, if eccentrically, learned, but not learned across a wide range of subjects. Such literary greats often have had a consuming interest in another art. Walt Whitman loved vocal music; Michelangelo wrote sonnets.
In my tertiary studies, my education in those several institutions of advanced study, I encountered not only the riches of the courses in which I was enrolled, but I also found access to numerous other people like myself; such encounters were a prerequisite, it seems to me as I look back in retrospect, for the creation of the self-confidence that I gradually developed in the literary domain, a self-confidence that took several decades to acquire. In addition, it needs to be emphasized that, many of the most successful writers and poets, authors and novelists have also come out of the wide-wide world. It's the places of employment and unemployment, the ordinarily ordinary, the humanly human non-elitist worlds where much of the literary skills of writers develop and are fostered. Sometimes such literary types find a collective home, and sometimes they do not, and they struggle alone. Often it is that very struggle which makes them the great writers they become.
I am not a professional philosopher or sociologist, psychologist or historian, writer or author, poet or publisher. I am just a generalist, an amateur, a workman, so to speak, in all these fields. These roles became part of my life during and after university, during my passage into and through the wider society. The best, the excellent, students were & still are intensely recruited by business & finance in the fall of their senior year, sometimes even earlier than that. Humanities organizations, like foundations, schools, and government bureaus, do not have the resources to fly students around the world, or even around their home country, for interviews, nor do their budgets allow for such recruiters & their travel expenses. Perhaps money could be found to pay for recruiting trips in the early fall for representatives of humanities organizations. Vendler made this suggestion.
Perhaps ways could be found to convey to junior students that there are places to go other than Wall Street, or some business capital, that pays well. Students need to be told, if they don't already know, that great satisfaction can be found when and if they follow their own passions, rather than a passion for a high salary. Those whose role it is to guide university students to some personal fulfillment need to mute their praise for achievement and leadership at least to the extent that they utter equal praise for inner happiness, reflectiveness, and creativity. They need to invent ways in which humanities students are actively recruited for jobs suited to their talents and desires. These are the sorts of ideas that were part of Vendler's piece of prose in The Harvard Magazine.
In my case, as I went through the first semester of my third year at university, I decided to work among the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic. I was studying sociology & its kindred subject, anthropology, at the time; I had a mentor who was a professor of anthropology in his late 40s. I had come to know him by attending some of his lectures during my final year of BA studies. Both he and I were members of the Baha'i community in southern Ontario. It became apparent by the end of December, and as I entered my final semester of that third year, in 1966, that my best option, the easiest way, to get to work among the Inuit, was to be a primary school teacher. As that final semester went through its final weeks in April and May 1966, I enrolled at the university of Windsor where my mentor, that anthropology professor, was teaching.
I then spent my 4th year of post-secondary education preparing to teach primary school children. By the time I was half-way through that final year, in early 1967, I had an offer from the then Department of Indian Affairs & Northern Development(DIAND) to teach grade 3 in Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island. I was not in any need for specialist recruiting teams to come my way. I had been recruited entirely by correspondence. I spent 1 week in Ottawa, in August 1967, in a training program organized by DIAND and, by the end of August 1967, I was living on Baffin Island in the town of Frobisher Bay, now called Iqaluit. For more on the theme of career choices and recruitment of humanities students go to: http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/helen-vendler-vs-jerome-karabel/
Part 3.2: RESEARCH AND HIGHER EDUCATION
Higher education has been undergoing a rapid sea change since my last years of teaching in those fin de siecle years of the 20th century. From the mid-1970s to the end of the 1990s I taught in post-secondary colleges and universities, some of which are now known as polytechnics. Everyone knows and senses the transformation that is well underway, but few try to comprehend its scope or imagine its future. There has been a quickening conversion of learning into forms of intellectual property & a conversion of the university into a global corporation. This is true in today’s research universities in the United States, and it is increasingly true everywhere else. The humanities have failed as a supposed agency of criticism, evaluation, and intervention in relation to this immense trend.
Although university research encompasses “basic research, applied research, and development,” basic research, now called 'curiosity research' is driven by a sheer interest in the phenomena.” This is justified only on one condition. It is justified only if “it may reach the stage where there is potential for application and accordingly a need for applied research.” Development—that is, industrial utility—is the principal objective of the research university. Innovative research universities are committed to conducting research of national and international standing and this is a subject unto itself. Here is one link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovative_Research_Universities
Part 3.2.1: THE PROBLEMS OF AN ELITE EDUCATION
My post-secondary education was far, far, from what you might call an elite education. The elite eight in the USA back in 1963 were not even on my agenda: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the Univ. of Pennsylvania, & Yale University. The Association of American Universities is an international organization of leading research universities. They are devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education. These, too, were not on my agenda. I went to the university in the lunch-pail city of Hamilton Ontario. It was about ten minutes away from my home on a good hitch-hike; in the summer before my second-year at that university, I moved into a flat with three other boys. I was about a ten minute walk from the university. By the time I was finishing my last year of university in 1966/7, I was driving ten minutes to the University of Windsor from another flat shared with an Inuit boy. I'm not sure I gave the notion of elite education a thought.
Forty years later, in the summer 2008, the online journal, The American Scholar, had an essay on 'The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.' It was written by William Deresiewicz. He began: "Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers. It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an average, or an elite, education will teach you is its own inadequacy." It is probably worse for graduates of elite universites. Elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.
I will quote liberally here from Deresiewicz, a figure of the academy as he undoubtedly is with all the appropriate caps and gowns. He has several degrees from Columbia which qualified him for his professorship at Yale, where he has been the kind of English teacher that the university system needs more than ever as the grip of theory continues to prove that it can relax only in spasms. In the background, and sometimes the foreground, of his many published articles, Jane Austen sets his standards of pertinence, and he would write less well even about her if he had not done time as a dance critic. I'm also quoting in the above lines from Clive James who introduced me to Deresiewicz. James has also helped to mentor me in these years of my retirement in relation to some of the finest writing now available in cyberspace.
"I’m not talking about curricula or the culture wars," writes Deresiewicz, "the closing or opening of the American mind, political correctness, canon formation, or what have you. I’m talking about the whole system in which these skirmishes play out. Not just the Ivy League & its peer institutions, but also the mechanisms that get you there in the first place: the private and affluent public “feeder” schools, the ever-growing parastructure of tutors and test-prep courses and enrichment programs, the whole admissions frenzy and everything that leads up to & away from it. The message, as always, is the medium. Before, after, and around the elite college classroom, a constellation of values is ceaselessly inculcated. As globalization sharpens economic insecurity, we are increasingly committing ourselves—as students, as parents, as a society—to a vast apparatus of educational advantage. With so many resources devoted to the business of elite academics and so many people scrambling for the limited space at the top of the ladder, it is worth asking what exactly it is you get in the end—what it is we all get, because the elite students of today, as their institutions never tire of reminding them, are the leaders of tomorrow." I'll give you one more paragraph from this article in The American Scholar summer edition 2008 before leaving the rest of this delightful essay to readers with the interest.
"The first disadvantage of an elite education, as millions learn, is that it often makes their graduates incapable of talking to people who aren’t like them. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity & race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in the USA and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it. Witness the last two Democratic presidential nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry: one each from Harvard and Yale, both earnest, decent, intelligent men, both utterly incapable--such is my view--of communicating with the larger electorate." For more on what has become an even more complex problem, especially when viewed globally go to:http://theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education/
UNIVERSITIES: WHAT THEY SHOULD BE
Universities should be the most wonderful places in which to think and develop the ideas most needed to help humanity. However, especially in the area known as the humanities, universities have badly let us down. Most university courses in the humanities don't ask the central questions: What can this idea/thinker do for us now?' There is no attempt to connect up the thoughts of the past with the needs of the present. The universities are merely 'antiquarian', preserving the past for its own sake. That's why Alain de Botton started http://www.theschooloflife.com On 27/11/'14 he launched on Youtube a programme called The Curriculum. To find out more, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yh63x6-8po&list=PLwxNMb28XmpdJpJzF2YRBnfmOva0HE0ZI
KEEPING THE HUMANITIES: THE NEED
The following paragraphs come from a letter written to defend the need to keep humanities studies in universities inspite of low enrollments, and in spite of the increasing preference for, and value in, entrepreneurial programs and practical subjects. Such subjects generate intellectual property more than 'old-fashioned' courses of study. Many of the humanities subjects are being increasingly seen as 'old-fashioned.' Dr G. Petsko argues that universities aren't just about discovering and capitalizing on new knowledge; they are also about preserving knowledge from being lost over time, and that requires a financial investment in humanities subjects.
The brilliantly argued and incisively illustrated open letter, dated October 31 2010, written for Genome Biology by Gregory A. Petsko of Brandeis University. makes a case for the humanities, these 'old-fashioned' subjects. The open letter is addressed to George M. Philip, President of the State University of New York at Albany. All university students need to be exposed to the humanities; indeed, at least one or two humanities subjects should be a compulsory part of a university curriculum for science and business studies students, students in all degree programs.Young people haven't, for the most part, yet attained the wisdom to have the kind of freedom that allows them to exclude all humanities subjects from their degree programs.
If you give these students the freedom to chose their academic program, they will often make poor decisions. In fact, without wisdom, it's hard for most people to make informed decisions in relation to their overall study programs.. This idea is thrashed out better than anywhere else, says Petsko, in Dostoyevsky's parable of the Grand Inquisitor, which is told in Chapter Five of his great novel, The Brothers Karamazov. In that parable, Christ comes back to earth in Seville at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. He performs several miracles but is arrested by Inquisition leaders and sentenced to be burned at the stake. The Grand Inquisitor visits Him in his cell to tell Him that the Church no longer needs Him. The main portion of the text is the Inquisitor explaining why. The Inquisitor says that Jesus rejected the three temptations of Satan in the desert in favor of freedom, but he believes that Jesus has misjudged human nature. The Inquisitor says that the vast majority of humanity cannot handle freedom. In giving humans the freedom to choose, Christ has doomed humanity to a life of suffering.
That single chapter in a much longer book is one of the great works of modern literature. You would find a lot in it to think about. I'm sure your Russian faculty would love to talk with you about it - if only you had a Russian department, which now, of course, you don't. I wouldn't want anyone to end up in the 9th Bolgia (ditch of stone) of the 8th Circle of the Inferno, where the great 14th century Italian poet Dante Alighieri put the sowers of discord.There, as they struggle in that pit for all eternity, a demon continually hacks their limbs apart, just as in life they divided others.
The Inferno is the first book of Dante's Divine Comedy, one of the great works of the human imagination. There's so much to learn from it about human weakness and folly. The faculty in any Italian department would be delighted to introduce students to its many wonders - if only universities had an Italian department, which now, of course, many don't. Petsko gives other examples from the classics which are useful to be part of the overall curricula of students. For more of this enlightened defence of the humanities go to:http://genomebiology.com/2010/11/10/138
CREDO AND COMMENT
Erich Fromm is a theorist who brings other theories together. He also emphasizes how your personality is embedded in class, status, education, vocation, your religious and philosophical background and so forth. Since my 5 volume autobiography and my personality is embedded to a great extent in these aspects of life, it seems relevant to make a few comments on the work, the ideas, of Erich Fromm. I read Fromm's books off and on for thirty years. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Maccoby, "The Two Voices of Erich Fromm: The Prophetic and the Analytic," Society, July/August 1994.
The year I began my travelling-pioneering experience for the Canadian Baha'i community, 1962, Erich Fromm, American psychoanalyst and prolific writer in the field of existential psychology, stated his 'credo' in his book Beyond the Chains of Illusions. I have written some of his Credo below since it was consistent with my views back in 1962 and still is. I have commented on some of his Credo expressing views that have remained part of my beliefs during this lifelong pioneering venture spanning, as it does now, fifty years: 1962 to 2012.
"The most important factor for the development of the individual is the structure and the values of the society into which he has been born." Given this fact, my role as a Baha'i has been to spend my life trying to build the kind of society in which it is fit for human beings to live in. For, as Fromm says in his Credo, "society has both a furthering and an inhibiting function. Only in cooperation with others, and in the process of work, does man develop his powers, only in the context of the vast historical processes do humans create themselves. Only when society's aim will have become identical with the aims of humanity will society cease to cripple man and to further evil."
In attempting to transform society, Fromm underestimated, some critics say, the need for individuals to adapt to their society. For the Baha'i to be an effective teacher, propagator, of the New Society that he has become associated with, he needs to adapt to the larger society in which he has been born and in which he lives his life. The difficulties I had in the first decade of my pioneering experience, the 1960s and early 1970s, came, it seems to me in retrospect, from a slow adapting to my society and my own ill-health. Later, in the following decades, my effectiveness was due significantly to: (i) my more effective adapting to society and (ii) better treatment for my illness, my bipolar I disorder. This adaptive process was slow and arduous work and, for Baha'is, it takes place in the context of action toward goals using a map provided by the Founders of their religion and their religion's legitimate Successors.
"I believe that every man represents humanity. We are different as to intelligence, health and talents. Yet we are all one. We are all saints and sinners, adults and children, and no one is anybody's superior or judge. We have all been awakened with the Buddha, we have all been crucified with Christ, and we have all killed and robbed with Genghis Khan, Stalin, and Hitler. Man's task in life is precisely the paradoxical one of realizing his individuality and at the same time transcending it and arriving at the experience of universality. Only the fully developed individual self can drop the ego." Perhaps this is one way of defining the nature of 'Abdu'l-Baha and the reason for His effectiveness and efficiency. The subject is far too complex to reduce to one prose-poem. -Ron Price, Pioneeering Over Four Epochs, 9 October 2002 to 13 May 2012.
There was much truth there, Erich.(1)
I must thank you for your wonderful
and illuminating books, enriching my
life as they have, approximating the
jewelled wisdom of this lucid Faith
that I set out with in '62.....I moved
to Dundas and began to pray in the
streets on cold Canadian afternoons,
read from His sweet-scented streams
and tasted of the fruits of His tree in
those years when my father's white
hair blew in the wind for the last time.
My mother was driven to the end of her
tether & a charisma I had hardly begun
to understand became institutionalized
at the apex of a wondrous World Order.
(1) Erich Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusions, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1962, pp.174-182.
9 October 2002 to 13 May 2012
In most public universities class sizes increased enormously beginning in the early 1960s but, by my third year, all the classes in the subjects I was taking were small. The first two years of university, from 1963 to 1965, I recall having 100s in many of my classes. My experience of university in Ontario Canada was not everyone's. Universities are very old institutions, & one of their essentials remains. The essential to which I am referring, and which was crucial to me, to my acedemic life both in the 1960s & in the following decades, was the mentoring I received from several teachers and lecturers, professors and academically inclined friends. If a student has some talent or, in my case, was highly motivated to do academic work, with a bit of luck such as I had---you can find yourself in the master-student apprenticeship relation. This relationship has been part of the essence of the university experience for a very long time. In that relationship the distractions of everyday life become irrelevant. For most students, on the other hand, university life is just job training and socialization, as well as having fun and surviving the slings and arrows of late adolescence and early adulthood. This is even more true of technical & further education colleges, TAFE institutions or Polytechnics as they are called in Australia. This is not meant as a criticism: students training and being socialized for the job world, the employment market, are the ones who keep the whole enterprise afloat.
I was not one of those students who was born to be an academic. I had to work at whatever academic achievements were mine. My earliest childhood memories, having to do with starting school at the age of five, are about wanting to attract the teacher's attention and praise by knowing the answers to every question and always getting as high a mark as possible on tests and examinations. My initial shyness in the early grades of primary school was overcome by the time I was in the last grades of primary school and my early high school years. But mood swings, beginning in my first year of university, prevented my strong performance ethic from resulting in high marks in my years of tertiary education. From grade 7 to 12 I was a high achiever and, although I did not win any academic medals, my only grade lower than an A or B, was in art and manual arts. I was not a social disaster as some serious students are; I was not morbidly shy as so many egg-heads were and are; I achieved success on the sports field; I had many part-time jobs, during primary, secondary and post-secondary school, all of which contributed to what you might call my normality, my contact with the real world, the non-academic world.
I don't know where this urgency about performance, this sense of and desire for, high achievement in schooling came from; neither of my parents had gone past the eighth grade, both leaving school in order to begin working in the first three decades of the 20th century. My mother & her father were autodidacts, as was my mother's brother. These were family members who undoubtedly had an early influence on laying the foundation for my later academic orientation. By the time I was 9, the Baha'i Faith had come into my life & with it several academics whom I got to know quite closely during my teens and early 20s. All the part-time jobs I had reinforced my interest in school because I could not imagine spending my time, any part of my life, doing these activities except to make money and pass the time. By my late teens I had an inner desire to learn, to study, to devote my life to something beyond the day-to-day routines of living. I shall say more on this subject in the years ahead.
Martha Craven Nussbaum(1947- ) is an American philosopher with a particular interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy, feminism, and ethics, including animal rights. Her book Cultivating Humanity appeals to classical Greek texts as a basis for defense and reform of the liberal education. Noting the Greek cynic philosopher Diogenes' aspiration to transcend "local origins and group memberships" in favor of becoming "a citizen of the world", Nussbaum traces the development of this idea through the Stoics, Cicero, and eventually modern liberalism of Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant. Nussbaum champions multiculturalism in the context of ethical universalism (utilitarianism), defends scholarly inquiry into race, gender, and human sexuality, and further develops the role of literature as narrative imagination into ethical questions. For more on Nussbaum go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Nussbaum#The_Fragility_of_Goodness
PAUL GOODMAN and THE SEARCH
Paul Goodman published Growing Up Absurd in 1960 and Compulsory Mis-Education and Community of Scholars as a single volume in 1962. These were my first years as a Bahá'í and the beginning of my pioneer-travel-teaching life, little did I know it at the time as I struggled through my last years of high school. I enjoyed the pleasures of success in sport, but did not have much luck with girls. While at university in the years 1963 to 1967 I may have come across these books of Paul Goodman, although I can not recall now exactly when I read them. Perhaps I did not read them until I was a teacher-teacher in the early 1970s in Tasmania or a lecturer in the social-sciences in those same years.
These books are part of a literary and intellectual miasma, a complex, fascinating but partly poisonous brew from which, within which, I slowly sought to distil a cup of pure & limpid water. Now, as I look back after thirty-five years(1979-2014) at those first two decades of serious reading, 1959 to 1979, I can see the first traces of my efforts to acquire that first attribute of perfection: “learning and the cultural attainments of the mind.”(1) –Ron Price with appreciation to (1)’‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970(1927/1875), p.35.
You certainly churned-out a prolix
quantity of stuff, Paul. I remember
your work on the periphery of my
brain somewhere in my amygdala
and my hippocampi where all my
memories are recorded, fear and
conscious thought, where all my
emotions are controlled, and the
emotionally charged events are
set for life and I can bring them
back as if they were yesterday.
I’ve lived longer than you, Paul.
You did so much in your short(1)
sixty years—giving Gestalt therapy
a kick-start back then back when I
was a child and adolescent in those
1940s and 1950s, a lifetime ago.(2)
Yes, losing ourselves in learning,
creation and our craft is the way
to become something, contribute
to civilization with gifts of spirit.
You searched for community, yes,
always searching: me, too, Paul...
Did you find any real community?
(1) Goodman lived to the age of 61(1911-1972); I have already outlived him by seven years.
(2) Goodman is remembered as a co-founder of Gestalt therapy in the 1940s and 1950s. Readers can google this term if they are interested.
22 March 2009 to 29 October 2012
AN OVERVIEW OF MY OWN EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
For an overview of my qualifications, my curriculum vitae, my CV, my resume, my background and experience go to this link:https://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&gs_nf=1&cp=16&gs_id=9l&xhr=t&q=Ron+Price
MY WRITING IN THE LIFESPAN
Since so much of my life now, in its stage of late adulthood, the years from 60 to 80 in the lifespan, is connected to writing, that part of my education associated with the act of writing is, in retrospect, a very important part. The following essays deals with the criticism I received for my writing in the more than 60 years from 1949 to 2012.
SOME OF MY EXPERIENCE IN EDUCATION
All that has mattered in my life and career, excluding my life of home and family, leisure and community, has been learning and the cultural attainments of the mind. This became true by my young adulthood, that is by my 20s. Up until then having fun and a life of indulgence was high on my agenda in addition to school and sports, as well as those items listed above. Essay and poetry writing, indeed, a wide range of genres of writing and publishing my writing in cyberspace became important to me after I retired from a 50 year student and teaching life, 1949 to 1999.
During that last half of the 20th century I also played a part in the Baha'i community, in its teaching and consolidation activities across the many Baha'i communities I belonged to over those years. My years of giving advice to students ended by 2005 and now the main form of my advice-giving is by means of my writing and I do this in many direct and indirect ways. The next generation of students and scholars, teachers and people across a wide range of activities in society, at least those who take an interest in what I write, are on the receiving end of statements like "become as informed as you can across as wide a field of subject matter as your interests can take you."
By the time I had retired from the world of jobs and extensive community work, that is, by my 60s in the early years of the 21st century, all that mattered to me, outside my family and my small community of friends, were the words I wrote and published, and that alone. As I saw it, my writing had primarily an educative aim, to instruct by the written word rather than by my activities in a classroom and a school as a teacher and lecturer. I aimed to clarify my own vision and the visions of others with that collirium which is knowledge. My part, of course, across the millions of internet sites and billions of readers, was inevitably a small one. But it was my part, it was at the centre of my MO, my raison d'etre, in these latter years of my life. Of course, my relationships with family and friends were important and, in that context, the control of my passions, especially my anger which seems to have at least part of its origins in my bipolar disorder, was crucial. "Desire is a flame which has reduced to ashes uncounted lifetime harvests of the learned," wrote Abdul-Baha(1844-1921) as far back as 1875. "It is a devouring fire that even the vast sea of accumulated knowledge can never quench." In the 50 years of my life, from 18 to 68, I have had to watch, to monitor so to speak, this tiger of anger.
My intellect and emotions are shaped by what I read, by the quality of the print and electronic media I engage in, and my experience of others in community. My beliefs, vaules and attitudes are all intimate parts of my intellect and emotions. My communities of interaction have always been several, at least from my teens from, say, 1957, more than half a century. At the centre of these several communities of interaction has been the Baha'i community at the local, regional, national and international levels. My behaviour has been shaped by the acquisition of perfections and excellent human qualities by sensible and insensible degrees, as well as the acquisition of faults and weaknesses. As I got into the years of my late adulthood, the years over the age of 60, it became more important to me to help administer as massive a dose of truth to heal the chronic old human disease of ignorance, and to administer this does of truth as much to myself as to others. I did this for the most part in cyberspace by my writing, as I had done it before as a teacher in clasrooms. I aimed to live and strive for the life of the mind, for that above all. I did not feel, in retrospect, that I had wasted my life in teaching students as many teachers have felt as the decades of the 20th century closed and the 21st century opened. Far from it.
My engagement with others in community had been an important part of my life: in schools and in sports, at work and in my religious community. The picture of these several involvements changed with the seasons and with the stages of my life in the lifespan. I was not able to write and publish in my younger adult life because: (i) I was too involved in classroom teaching, earning a living, and various forms of community work. Living in and raising a family, paying the bills and assuming the responsibilities involved in family life kept my nose to the proverbial grindstone, as they say. In addition (ii) I had not yet developed, at least until my 50s and 60s, my own mind and my learning to the point where I wanted to write above all else. I had to unload my several responsibilities: job and family responsibilities, community and its endless meetings and talk-fests.
I do not mourn, as many now do and have done, the waste of precious time and years; nor do I mourn as I look back with satisfaction on the years I have given over to students and their nurture. All this I now see as an important part of the life I have lived. All that matters now lies with readers who come across my work, as well as the readers to come in future years. That suffices and will suffice to make this life, my life, worth living in my remaining years. I graduated from high school in the early 1960s and my career has been shaped to serve four causes: learning and teaching, the expansion and consolidation of the Baha'i community, and service in the wider community. Success, for me, was measured by: (i) my academic achievements, and (ii) the impact I felt I was having on my students. I was involved for decades in the raising up of a new generation of thoughtful students, and the sharing of common responsibilities with others in the building of a learning community of intellect and heart. I measured success by: (a) my capacity to contribute to knowledge in some specific way, to share knowledge with others, both in writing and in the classroom, and (b) to learn from others and join with others in a common life of intellect and the heart. I did not succeed all the time, or as often as I would have liked. But these avenues formed the royal way, the golden measure: scholarship and learning, teaching and sharing, citizenship and caring. It was a gracious ideal, a nourishing faith of learning and involvement in a wide variety of community institutions. As a teacher and scholar my preeminent responsibility has been to teach and to learn, to write and, after the age of 60, to publish my writing.
The paper which follows defines scholarship as disciplined intellectual activity undertaken to help determine the truth of some matter or else to apply in a practical way some previously determined truth. More specifically, Bahá’í scholarship seeks to understand and/or apply truths contained in the writings of the Bahá’í Faith; it may also involve historical/critical studies of the Bahá’í Faith as a social phenomenon. With regard to the first type of Bahá’í scholarship, certain passages in the Bahá’í writings are examined which comment on these writings themselves and which describe the kinds of truths they contain. In particular, it is seen that the Bahá’í writings contain important propositional truths and not just moral injunctions (so-called normative propositions). The relationship between scholarship and other human enterprises is also discussed. The Bahá’í conception of scholarship is seen to be unusually broad in scope and to provide thereby the basis for a much greater harmony between scholarship & the various other activities carried on within the Bahá’í community. For this entire article go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/1.2-Hatcher.pdf
THOUGHTS ON THE CRITICISM OF MY WRITING: Part I
The first criticism of my writing, at least the criticism that I remember, was in 1950 when I was in grade one in the then small southern Ontario town of Burlington, a part of what is still called the Golden Horseshoe. The town is and was jammed right at the left-hand end of Lake Ontario. I’m sure I received criticism of my scribblings in the three years before that in my early childhood from my family members and playmates, perhaps as early as 1947 when I was three or four years old and colouring or printing my first words on paper. But I have no memories of that incoming criticism, no memories until, as I say, 1950. That was 60 years ago: 1950 to 2010.
Early in this new, this third, millennium, in 2004 to be precise, I began to receive written criticism of my prose and poetry on the internet. I had received criticism, mostly verbal, of my published writing from 1974 to 2004 during which time I was able to publish some 150 essays in newspapers and magazines, newsletters and in-house publications where I worked in several towns and cities in Australia. Writing had become, by the 1970s, a more central focus to my life, much more central than it had ever been, although it had always been central in one way or another at least, as I say above, since 1950. When one is a student, as I had been from 1949 to 1970 in Canada, receiving criticism of what one writes is part of the core of the educational process. Sometimes that criticism was fair and helpful; sometimes it was unkind and destructive.
Being on the receiving end of criticism in cyberspace has been, in some ways, just a continuation of the first half-century, 1950-2000, of comments by teachers and students, supervisors and the general public on what I wrote. The internet is full of lumpen bully-boys who prowl the blogosphere. There are the hysterical secularists who proliferate among that immense commentariat. There are the dogmatic Islamists and Christian fundamentalists, among others, who want to impose their absolutes on others. They try to inflict, or perhaps promote, their interpretation of the Quran or the Bible on the rest of the Muslim or Christian communities, respectively.
My experience on the internet, as I say, has just been a continuation of those decades of criticism, and of course praise, that I had already received. “Writers,” as the famous American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said so succinctly over dinner in the film entitled Last Call, “must get used to criticism.” After decades of extensive writing in many places in the public domain, I must agree with this entre deux guerres writer; criticism is part of the air that writers breath and, especially as I have come to find on the internet, writers who have lots of readers. Criticism was part of the air one breathed back in the 1950s and early 1960s as a student. One learned as fast as fear could teach us, as many of us would have put it.
Literary tyrants, people who are going to tell you where and when, why and how you have gone wrong in no uncertain terms, without mincing their words or pulling any punches, without what you might call an etiquette of expression and tact, have always come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. One must learn to deal with them in one way or another as their criticisms come your way in the daily round. There are many MOs, modus operandi, to use a term from the who-dun-its, for dealing with the harsh and not so harsh words of others. Of course, it is not only writers who have to deal with critical tongues and words in many forms. A vast literature now abounds on how to deal with this reality of life. Courses are mounted in educational and other service institutions to help us deal with this pervasive reality of everyday life in the micro and macro worlds which we all inhabit.
THOUGHTS ON THE CRITICISM OF MY WRITING: Part 3
I discuss below in this nearly 5000 word essay, the reactions to criticism of two famous writers. Their reactions throw light onto my own way of dealing with this inevitable reality of existence if one is, as I am, a writer and editor, a poet and publisher, a journalist and independent scholar, a man of words, a writer of belles-lettres, a person with belletrist concerns. For many writers the term belles-lettres is used in the sense to identify literary works that do not fall easily into the major categories such as fiction, poetry or drama, but have a more aesthetic function or purpose. Much of my writing has become, in the last twenty-five years, 1985 to 2010, a hybrid that does not easily and comfortably fit into the major categories of writing.
And so it is that, after sixty years of having to deal with the phenomenon of critical feedback of my written work, I pause here to reflect on the incoming criticism of what I have written and what I now write. I pause and reflect on the experience of two other writers in the last century, writers of fame and much success at least in some quarters---if not in the popular and pervasive culture that surrounds the billions of inhabitants on this planet. Writing, whether on the internet or elsewhere, is--like identity itself—always to some extent a performance and the product of a highly mediated set of cultural, material and institutional forces. There is a complex interplay in both writing and in life itself between the material environment, culture and genetics, between fantasy, wishes and goals as well as so much else. This is not the place to pursue the origins of such literary complexity. What you might call the socio-historical and psycho-social forces behind the act of writing, though, need to be acknowledged, if not discussed in detail, when one deals with a subject like criticism.
For more on the criticism of my writing go to this link:http://www.shadowedrealm.com/forum/blog/11/entry-236-dealing-with-criticism-a-post-on-ron-prices-blog/
GOING TO THE MOON
The day my feet landed on the ground, F.O.G. as the Canadian Baha’is sometimes call it, in my first pioneering post in Dundas Ontario, was Sunday September 2nd 1962. I was 18. I am now 69 and that makes more than half a century of pioneering. Ten days later, on 12 September 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave his “we chose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice University. In that speech Kennedy quoted from a William Bradford in 1630 who had said, speaking of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, that all “honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties.” The USA chose to go to the moon in the 1960s, at the beginning of the tenth and final stage of history according to one Baha’i paradigm. Kennedy outlined NASA’s program for the next five years, September 1962 to September 1967. These would be my first five years of pioneering, the beginning of the last stage of history, the election of the House of Justice, my last five years of formal education, the beginning of my FT job life and much more. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 26/6/'06 to 8/11/'13.
They were hot days back then,
little did I know with my brain
filled and my arms loaded with
books from the first week of 9
subjects that would keep my
nose academically down for
the next nine months and it
would wear me thin---again.
Yes, little did I know about the
stages of history, & the plan to
go to the Moon, my BPD, or the(1)
implications of a new pioneering
move at the end of the Crusade
that had been on the edge of my
young life since late childhood!!
I had just felt a girl’s breast for
the first time in my life at 18 &
I can tell you that the sensation
sent me to the moon and filled
my heart with a grand design(2)
that was far removed from those
associated with a Mystery of God,
from the heroism of keeping that
ship on its course and safely to
port & life’s mighty tasks ahead
of which I knew not a jot or tittle.
(1) BPD is an acronym for bipolar disorder
(2) The content of the last lines of this poem come from the first letter of the Universal House of Justice on April 30th 1963.
June 26th 2006 to 30 October 2012
FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS ON THE INTERNET
After eight years, 2004 to 2012, of receiving, keeping and filing some of the written and critical feedback sent to me by readers on the internet, I must conclude that, thusfar, the negative feedback I have received has been useful in adjusting the nature of my posts. The criticism I have received at a multitude of sites at which I post helps me to adjust my contributions to suit the administrators and moderators, the participants and interlocutors who fill the cyberspace places at these world-wide-web locations.
Most of the feedback in these seven years that has been viewed in a negative light tends to see my posts as: too long, not appropriate, raising the hackles of some readers because they were seen as irrelevant, boring, inter alia. I thought this personal statement here, this brief overview, analysis and comment, would be a useful summary of both the incoming criticism I have received in the last eight years and my views on that criticism. The negative feedback was in the 10% range and 90% of my literary contributions, or posts as they are usually called in cyberspace, received various forms of appreciation.
Some people on the internet let you know, as I have already indicated above, and in no uncertain terms, what they think of your posts. Frankness, candour, invective, harsh criticism, indeed, criticism in virtually every conceivable form, can be found in the interstices of cyberspace, if one writes as much as I do at more than 8000 locations among the 300 million sites and 4.6 billion subjects, topics or items of information at last count, that are now in existence in that world of cyberspace. In the last eight years I have been on the receiving end of everything imaginable that someone can say negatively about someone’s writing and someone.
This negative feedback has been, as I say, useful and I have tried to respond in ways that improve readers’ opinions of my work and, sometimes, of me. Sometimes I am successful in these efforts of explanation and of self-justification, of defence and argument, of apologetics and apology, and sometimes I am not. Such are the perils of extensive writing and human interaction; indeed, such are the perils of living unless one is a hermit and does one’s own plumbing and electrical work, never goes shopping and never talks to passers-by in addition to relying only on the products of one’s garden for food with some hunting should one have the skills.
EDUCATION IN THE ARTS
Arts education in western countries continues to get by. It certainly does not “prosper” in a climate governed by the prevailing winds of enrolment-contingent funding, job-oriented training, and bottom-line thinking. With Plato always as the exception that proves the rule, the Arts have been generally regarded in the Western tradition as valuable both intrinsically and extrinsically, as inherently admirable, even beautiful, manifestations of human creativity and intelligence that can be enjoyed both in and for themselves and as a means of becoming emotionally and intellectually refined or cultivated.
With the Renaissance, when, as in a Venn diagram, the Arts and education came more and more to overlap in a way that prefigured the study of the Arts in modern schools and universities, an emotional and intellectual engagement with, say, poetry came to be regarded as a means of ordering, strengthening, and elevating human faculties that had been damaged at the Fall — a justification of Arts education that, as abundantly illustrated by the work of numerous twentieth-century critics in the humanist tradition such as Northrop Frye continued to be implicit in the study of the Arts in Europe and North American schools and universities until well into the second half of the twentieth century.
Such, very briefly stated, were the beliefs and goals that sustained the study of the Arts in Canadian and Australian schools and universities until the nineteen seventies when, for the various social, aesthetic, and demographic reasons evoked by such terms as “the sixties” and postmodernism, the suspicion began to take root in public and political minds in Europe, Australia, and North America that perhaps Plato was right after all — that whatever intrinsic and extrinsic value the Arts might have is secondary to their subversive, anti-social effects at worst. At best they were also not of much value in the job-hunting world for students who wanted jobs when the education process was alll over. By the 1970s I was teaching in universities in Australia and the vocational bias had begun to play an increasingly strong role in determining what jobs were available to me.
With scarcer jobs, greater social divisions, and, most recently, higher university fees and costs---parents, students, and the public at large have wanted to know the financial value, if any, of the Arts and an Arts education. “Why support an art gallery rather than a hospital?” and “Why do a B.A. rather than a degree in Computer Science?” are very different questions, but they both spring from the now wide-spread belief that, relative to alternatives that are more urgent socially and more rewarding financially, the Arts and Arts education fail to meet the test of promising a public or personal return that is commensurate with the investment that they require; in short, they fail to justify themselves at the bottom-dollar line. The jobs I was able to get were all in the vocational sector from the 1970s to the 1990s when I retired.
In The Postmodern Condition (1984), Jean-François Lyotard(1924-1998), a French philosopher and literary theorist who is well known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition--offered an analysis of the preferred function of post-secondary education in a postmodern or neoliberal society that, as anyone familiar with the policy currents now flowing around and mainly against universities in Canada and Australia will readily attest, has proved clairvoyantly accurate as much in its details as in its general outline:
The desired goal becomes the optimal contribution of higher education to the best performativity, that is, the best possible input/output equation of the social system. Accordingly, univers are called upon to create the skills that are indispensable to that system. These skills are of two kinds. Firstly: there are the skills more specifically designed to tackle world competition. There will be a growth in demand for experts and high and middle management executives in any discipline with applicability to training in “telematics”, that is: computer scientists, cyberneticists, linguists, mathematicians, logicians. Secondly: universities and institutions of higher learning are called upon to create skills and no longer ideals: so many doctors, so many teachers in a given discipline, so many administrators etc. The transmission of knowledge is no longer designed to train an élite capable of guiding the nation towards its emancipation, but to supply the system with players capable of acceptably fulfilling their roles at the pragmatic posts required by its institutions. For more of this excellent overview of the above topic go to:http://canadianpoetry.org/discussionPapers/Bentley_ArtsForArtsSake.html
If asked what gives the Arts a special status and claim, defenders of the Arts-cause must be prepared to assert that the Arts in all places and times are manifestations of human thought, human feeling, human striving, and, indeed, humanity itself on the highest conceivable plane, and that no culture or civilization worthy of the name should expect or demand a reductively pragmatic and pecuniary justification for the exposure of its young people and the dedication of its educational resources to the study of humanity’s highest aspirations and achievements. In short, and less euphuistically, these defenders of the ship of Arts-learning must affirm that: language, literature, history, philosophy, music, painting, sculpture, film and the disciplines to which they have given rise are not the preliminaries or the adjuncts of the best education but its very core and essence.
Since the 1990s, as I was finishing my half a century in classrooms as either a student or as a teacher, many wanted to see universities, colleges, most if not all of post-secondary educational institutions, attracting customers in a competitive marketplace, There would be be a certain amount of public subsidy of these institutions catering, as they should, to consumers. The aim was for students to go on to a job, and hopefully a reasonably well-paid job. The mechanism, which would henceforth largely determine what and how universities teach, and indeed in some cases whether they would exist at all, would be consumer choice. There were naturally, some well-meant nods towards ‘quality assurance’ and ‘safeguarding the public interest’, and there was a concern for mitigating some of the harshest financial effects of this scheme on individual students from less advantaged backgrounds. But what was of greatest significance here was not the detail of the financial arrangements but the character of the reasoning by which these financial arrangements were justified. Universities, it was proposed, should henceforth operate in accordance with the tenets of perfect competition theory. For more go to:
ISAIAH BERLIN AND IVAN TURGENEV
A. To draw now on a famous writer and how he dealt with criticism, I introduce Sir Isaiah Berlin(1909-1997). He was a leading political philosopher and historian of ideas. In a lecture he gave in 1970 on the Russian poet Ivan Turgenev, Berlin pointed out that this famous Russian writer altered, modified and tried to please everyone in some of his works. As a result of this desire to please his critics, one of the characters in his books “suffered several transformations in successive drafts, up and down the moral scale, as this or that friend or consultant reported their impressions.” Berlin went on to say, in that same lecture, that Turgenev was inflicted by intellectual wounds as a result of the criticism of his works by others, wounds that festered in varying degrees of intensity, depending of course on the nature of the criticism, for the rest of Turgenev’s life.
Turgenev was attacked by writers and critics of many persuasions on the Left and the Right of the political spectrum in those days when these political demarcations had more clear and understandable characterizations. This Russian novelist(1818-1883) possessed, Berlin noted, a capacity for depicting “the multiplicity of interpenetrating human perspectives that shade imperceptibly into each other, nuances of character and behaviour, motives and attitudes.” Turgenev, like Riding, could never bear the wounds he received from incoming criticism of his writing in silence. He shook and shivered under the ceaseless criticisms to which he exposed himself, so Berlin informs us.
B. Pleasing others, of course, is important for any writer if he or she is to win a place of success among teachers, supervisors or those in the general public. This is just as true on the world-wide-web. But there is also, and without doubt for millions of internet participants, a new found freedom of expression that cyberspace provides. Part of this freedom, at least for me, is due to the advantages and pleasures of age. Now in the early evening of my life, these middle years(65 to 75) of late adulthood as some human development theorists refer to the period in the lifespan from 60 to 80, with jobs and employment positions far behind me, no one checks what I write before my offerings go into the bright lights and pixelated pages of cyberspace.
My own editing pen is kept busy, of course, and I can edit as much or as little as I desire. Editing has never been one of my favorite activities and I tend to rush this part of the writing job, at least initially. I then revise or alter, subtract or add, delete and generally edit in a multitude of ways as a result of incoming comments, both encomium and opprobrium. Sometimes I make no changes at all to my initial internet post.
After my writing gets onto the world-wide-web: it is ignored, criticized, diagnosed, interpreted, subjected to hair-splittings and logic-choppings by readers and posters, moderators and administrators who inhabit the internet sites. I am on the receiving end of invective and ignominy, negative appraisals and accusations of nefariousness. I am assailed with acrimony, berating and blame, blasphemy and bickering, castigation and censure, condemnation and contumely, denunciation and diatribe, epithet and obloquy, philippic and reproach, revilement and sarcasm, scurrility and tirade, tongue-lashing and vilification. I am given more advice than I have received at home from those I love and who love me over a lifetime of seven decades.
C.1 The criticism I received as a student and teacher in the last half of the twentieth century goes on in pithy paragraphs and sentences, phrases and single words at the several thousand internet sites where my millions of words are now published---to chose what seems to me to be an apt word for the nature and extent of my internet contributions, the places that my words occupy, in the many coloured and black-and-white pixelated pages, the public spaces in cyberspace.
I am viewed as tactless, insensitive, awfully boring and told where to get off, where to go, where to go for further writing courses to help me in my literary vocation and avocation. Sometimes I am told why I should discontinue the practice of writing entirely. I am also told what a wonderful inspiration my writing is. Compliments and acclaim, flattery and praise, abound. These words of encomium and opprobrium that I receive, as I say, are really not much different than; indeed, are much the same as, the words many other writers get when their words are found between hard and soft covers. Even the writings of Shakespeare, the Bible and other major works in the western tradition get great buckets of criticism poured on them from the generations which have come on the scene since the post-world-war-2 years, those now 65 and under, to chose a convenient timeframe for most of those who offer to me their criticisms of my literary efforts and my opinions, my responses to what others write and the inevitable and myriad contentious issues that abound in cyberspace.
While I was teaching at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education in 1974 and at Box Hill Tafe College in Melbourne in 1975, the film Monte Python and the Holy Grail was produced and then released in London. I won't summarize the film's story here because readers can find the story in many places. But this classic satire of King Arthur and his knights has been part of the core of comedy's world in western society now for more than a quarter of a century. This send up of a legend, of courtly love, fidelity and bravery, among other things, symbolized, for me, my getting of humour. I had grown up in a serious household of classical music and religion; I had studied serious subjects in university for four years; I had struggled through the first six years as a teacher, experienced several episodes of bi-polar disorder and lived through a divorce by 1975. These were all pretty heavy-duty items on life's agenda.
By 1975, though, I had had four years living in Australia where humour was a way of life with its slices of skepticism and cynicism, sarcasm and irony, self-mockery and pleasure seeking. During my decades in Australia humour became, as Thomas Mann experienced the process, insensibly and by immeasureable degrees, by subtle and incremental additions and alterations, part of my soul's salvation. Humour was, as Thomas Carlyle put it at the beginning of the Bahá’í Era, "a token of virtue." Self-mockery and humour's light touch became for me, what it was for millions of others, survival tools in a spiritually parched land.1 -Ron Price with thanks to Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Four On An Island, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, p.87.
They've been pumping laughing-gas
into lounge rooms now for over half
a century.1 I remember I Love Lucy
back in the fifties: that was where it
began for me. It's not all bad, Gore.
It's got an important role in our great,
vast brontosaurissmus society, with its
slough of despond and the phantoms
of a wrongly informed imagination.
The laughs have lightened the load,
Gore. I was, like you, once critical
of the whole thing, but I've softened
with the years in this downunder land,
this world that is just not as serious as
Canada which once housed my impulse
to believe, nurtured my imperfections
and let them grow as insidious as a seed.
Laughter came out like a baby, pushed
out, giving birth, born of the pain of life
in a grand and periodic shake-up injecting
a high seriousness with laughing-gas.
Gore, it's not all that bad.
1 A remark made by Gore Vidal in an interview in 2006.
21 November 2006
A COMMENT ON HIGHER EDUCATION
Having spent so much of my life as either a student or a teacher, a lecturer or adult educator, in the field of higher education, I have come to take an interest in that sector of education during the years of my retirement. From 1963 until 2003, then, higher education was on my agenda in one way or another. In my two decades of summer & external studies programs, 1970 to 1988, I took several units or courses in education: its history and theory, its administration & curricula. In the last dozen years, 2004 to 2015, I have tried to follow developments in a very general sense in colleges & universities, polytechnics and training institutions of various kinds.
In the London Review of Books(Vol. 37 No. 6 · 19 March 2015) Marina Warner has written an article on "the disfiguring of higher education." She writes as follows: "I went to university in 1964, a different era, when very few of us, around 5 per cent of the population, had the chance. We were undoubtedly a lucky generation. Now, many many more of us, young and older, are studying for degrees – between 35 and 40 per cent. I approve wholly of this social change; I believe education at every age and level is an unqualified good, unassailably beneficial to the individual & to society and the world. I believe it is as important an indicator of a society’s state of health as nutrition & housing. I entered full employment as an academic late in life. What have I learned since I began teaching at the University of Essex more than ten years ago? That something has gone wrong with the way the universities are being run. Above all, I have learned that not everything that is valuable can be measured."
I have quoted liberally from this article because I, too, went to university at the same time as Marina Warner. I also had a similar experience in my last decade of teaching at one of Australia's polytechnics, 1989 to 1999. Warner says that she was forced out of her professorship at Essex after being told that she couldn’t retire because she was needed. There was much more to her experience; what happened to her also happened to many others as well, but I won’t go over the details. You can read Warner's article. Her experience reveals a deeper and more bitter scene in higher education than outsiders have any idea about. Students & lecturers, professors & scholars from one institution after another have been expressing a wide range of criticisms in the UK. Cries have also been heard from other countries where new methods & policies have been taken even further: from New Zealand and Australia, above all; from Europe, especially the Netherlands, and from certain institutions in the US. I am not going to site chapter and verse regarding my experience before I retired. I will do so at a later date. In a very general sense, though, the central issue is about the transformation of higher education into a business enterprise.
One casualty in the halls of academia in the UK has provided the clause that sets out the conditions of the financial settlement she was forced to agree to during her tenure: "You agree that you have not and undertake that you will not (either directly or indirectly) make, publish or otherwise communicate any disparaging or derogatory comments whether in writing or otherwise and whether or not they are considered by you to be true, concerning the University or any Associated Entity, or any of its or their present or former officers or employees." Another kind of silence is the silence of no comment which universities resort to when confronted with protests and complaints, from inside or outside. As Stefan Collini says in his trenchant study What Are Universities For? (2012), ‘compelling and often devastating criticisms appear to have had little or no effect on policy-making. The arguments have often not been answered; they have merely been ignored. Rather than blaming academics for not speaking out sufficiently strongly, the conclusion is that those who make policy are just not listening.’
A university is a place where ideas are meant to be freely explored, where independence of thought and the Western ideals of democratic liberty are enshrined. Yet at the same time as we congratulate ourselves on our freedom of expression, we have a situation in which a lecturer cannot speak her mind, universities bring in the police to deal with campus protests, and graduate students cannot write publicly about what is happening (one of her students was told by management to take down the questions she raised on Facebook). For a lengthy analysis of the situation in the UK go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n06/marina-warner/learning-my-lesson I leave it to readers with the interest to follow developments in other western and developed countries.
Higher education has been subsumed into a culture of commercial service provision. This has been driven by markets and profit as the industries that design and deliver consumer goods. McKelvey and Holmén characterise this as a shift “from social institution to knowledge business” in the subtitle of their 2009 volume on European universities, and the recent decade has seen many higher educational institutions openly striving to be entrepreneurial. This was certainly the case in the institution I was working in back in the 1990s as i was about to retire. My students had become clients. Despite some debate over the functioning of market or market-like mechanisms in higher education, the corporatisation of higher education has led inevitably to market segmentation in the products the sector delivers. Such market segmentation results in what are called over-differentiated products, seemingly endless variations in the same product to attempt to increase consumption and attendant sales.
Milk is a commonly cited example with supermarkets today stocking: full cream, semi-skimmed, skimmed, lactose-free, soy, rice, goat, GM-free and ‘smart’ (enriched with various vitamins, minerals and proteins) varieties. Many of these varieties are available in fresh, UHT, dehydrated and/or organic versions. In the education market, this practice has resulted in a large number of often minutely differentiated, but differently named, degrees and other programs. Where there were once a small number of undergraduate degrees with discipline variety within them (including the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science awards), students can now graduate with a named qualification in a myriad of discipline and professional areas. The attempt to secure a larger percentage of the potential client pool (who are themselves often seeking to update their own skills and knowledges to avoid workforce obsolescence) has also resulted in a significant increase in the number of postgraduate coursework certificates, diplomas and other qualifications across the sector. The Masters degree has fractured from a research program into a range of coursework, coursework plus research, and research only programs. Such proliferation has also affected one of the foundations of the quality and integrity of the higher education system, and one of the last bastions of conventional practice, the doctoral degree. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/160
A COMMENT ON SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN BRITAIN
I entered the secondary school system in Canada in 1958 as a student; I entered the secondary school system in Australia as a teacher in 1972. This system has been at the centre or at the periphery of my life, then, for over 50 years. I take a broad interest in its practices & policies, its history and development. The London Review of Books(V. 30 N 13, 3 July 2008) provided a useful analysis of secondary school education in Britain since 1944. Compared with the schools they or their parents attended, the comprehensive secondary schools in Britan have been a striking success. The extreme reluctance of the country’s elite to admit that improving A-level results might be the consequence of rising standards is thus not surprising: that would be to admit that the comprehensives have succeeded. ‘Surprising’ also because the view that the comprehensives ‘failed’ is a Thatcherite one based on the false assumption that education can function as a market. In other words the state sector should provide a free ‘choice’ to every customer and, in the process, restore social hierarchies within state education. It is, of course, not put like that by anyone in the Government, least of all the Prime Minister: the post-comprehensive era will, he says, be one of marvellous ‘diversity’ whereby all will have exactly the education they want.
Talent will be rewarded and equality of opportunity made perfect. Yet the only attempt to provide evidence of ‘failure’ is the league tables, which are largely useless since they measure not failure but comparative poverty; and we already know about that. Nor do they measure what ‘failing’ schools often do well: for example, teach children of different ethnicities to live peacefully with each other. The case against the comprehensives is primarily Tory; this would once have made the Labour Party at least suspicious. No longer. The Government is critical of the case only because it apparently does not go far enough. The case for the bog-standards and the historical circumstances of their establishment have, as a result, now largely been forgotten. We need to remind ourselves what they were. For more go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n23/ross-mckibbin/nothing-more-divisive
James Brown, singer, songwriter, bandleader and commonly referred to as The Godfather of Soul, began his career in 1953. Brown became to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan became to lyrics. 1953 was the very year my mother joined the Baha’i Faith; it was the beginning of this Faith’s famous Ten Year Crusade. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Brown rose to fame, I joined the Baha’i Faith and pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community. At the time, in what was the beginning of rock-‘n-roll, I was not into hip-hop, funk, popular African music or afrobeat as it was sometimes called. I listened to the top-40 on my little blue radio in my little bedroom in my little house in the little town of Burlington Ontario with its population, then, of about 5000—in what was then quite a little world. I played baseball and hockey, was a good student, was an ordinarily ordinary, humanly human, kid with aspirations to join “the show,” as the major-leagues in baseball came to be called in future years.
I was so busy with my life, my education, my career, the permutations and combinations of my own interests and perspectives that this one, quite significant, element of popular culture just never entered my sensory emporium—until I saw this TV program on Boxing Day 2008.1—Ron Price with thanks to 1As It Happened,” SBS TV, 26 December 2008, 8:30-9:30 p.m.
I should have got on board
your “Night Train” in 1962
when I, too, began my ride,
or with your LP Live at the
Apollo in ’63 when the last
stage of institutionalization
of that--charismatic Force—
was finally completed, the
significance of which we
hardly appreciated then or
But you were never in my life,
James.....as an item of popular
culture which insinuates itself
into one’s very psyche by its
pervasiveness--thrown up, as
popular culture usually is now,
from that lighted chirping box
which spews info-entertainment,
and education to millions-billions
in a process of planetization, what
one could call one worldism, yes..
I watched tonight how you played
your role from April to June 1967
in keeping those flames of racial
violence low after the assassination
of Martin Luther King and Kennedy.
I missed that story as I was heading,
at the time, into the maelstrom of a
schizo-affective disorder that threw
me into the flames of a tempest that
I have not now fully recovered from.
27 December 2008
DEALING WITH CRITICISM:
AN ANSWERING THEOLOGY
Critical scholarly comments on my work as well as criticism raised in public or private discussions of less scholarly material, should not necessarily be equated with hostility. Questions and judgments, evaluations and critiques, are perfectly legitimate, indeed, necessary aspects of a person's search for an answer to an intellectual conundrum. Paul Tillich, that great Protestant theologian of the 20th century, once expressed the view that dealing with criticism, a process sometimes called apologetics, was an "answering theology.” I have always been attracted to the founder of the Baha'i Faith's exhortations in discussion to "speak with words as mild as milk," with "the utmost leniency and forbearance." This form of dialogue, its obvious etiquette of expression and the acute exercise of judgment involved, is difficult for most people when their position is under attack from people who are more articulate, better read and better at arguing both their own position and the position of those with whom they are in dialogue in some critical exchange at some thread at a site on the internet.
I am also aware that, in cases of rude or hostile attack, rebuttal with a harsher tone, that punitive rebuttal, may well be justified, although I prefer humour, irony and even gentle sarcasm rather than hostile written attack in any form. Still, it does not help an apologist to belong to those "watchmen" whom the prophet Isaiah calls "dumb dogs that cannot bark." In its essence criticism is often just another form of confrontation, an act of revealing one's true colours, of hoisting the flag, of demonstrating the essential characteristics of one's faith, of one's thought, of one's emotional and intellectual stance in life.
“Dialogue should not mean self-denial,” wrote Hans Kung, arguably the greatest of contemporary Catholic apologists. Dickensis a wonderful example of a writer with the capacity to be highly critical of people and institutions. He attacked English institutions especially with a ferocity that has never since been approached. Yet he managed to do it without making himself hated, and, more than this, the very people he attacked swallowed him so completely that he became a national institution himself.
The standard of public discussion on controversial topics should be sensitive to what is said and how; it should be sensitive to manner, mode, style, tone and volume. Tact is also essential. Not everything that we know should always be disclosed; not everything that can be disclosed is timely or suited to the ears of the hearer to paraphrase closely one of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith’s more quoted passages.
To put some of this question of tact, and this topic of personal revelations another way, we don't want all our dirty laundry out on our front lawn for all to see or our secrets blasted over the radio and TV. Perhaps a moderate confessionalism is best here, if confession is required at all. In today’s print and electronic media it seems unavoidable even if only modestly. Much of internet dialogue, though, is far, far, below standards of even a reasonable modesty or literacy as posters “f,” “c” and “s” words abounding and making their way through discussions.
Often the briefest of phraseology, a succinctness that approaches sheer nothingness, and an inarticulateness that has more in common with grunts and sighs as well as whimpers and whims is found at internet sites. So often the language betrays a knowledge of basics deriving from the visual media and little reading. The eye, as one writer put it recently in what I thought was a clever turn of phrase, is so often quicker than the mind. Well, yes and no, I hasten to add on the complex subject of the print and electronic media. Perception and understanding based on the use of the print and electronic media is yet another too complex a subject to deal with here in even the briefest of ways.
Anyway, that's all for now. It's back to the spring winds of Tasmania, about 5 kms from the Bass Straight on the Tamar River. The geography of place is so much simpler than that of the literary, intellectual, philosophical and religious geography that some readers on the internet who engage in complex and not-so-complex discussions are concerned with. Even physical geography, though, has its complexities as those who take a serious interest in the topic of climate change and the worlds of biodiversity and related sciences are fast finding out. Whom the gods would destroy they first make simple and simpler and simpler. I look forward to a dialogue with someone, anyone who is inclined to respond to what I’m sure for some is this overly long post. Here in far-off Tasmania--the last stop before Antarctica, if one wants to get there by some other route than by air or off the end of South America--your response will be gratefully received.-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania, Australia.
13 May 2012
The interwar years: 1919 to 1939
2 See Elizabeth Friedman’s response to: The White Goddess! from the November 18, 1993 issue of The New York Review of Books and Helen Vendler, “Laura (Riding) Jackson,” February 3, 1994.
3 Isaiah Berlin, (1) “Romanes Lecture 1970 on Turgenev: Fathers and Sons.;” and (2) “The Gentle Genius: Turgenev’s Letters selected, translated, and edited by A.V. Knowles
Scribner’s” in The New York Review of Books, 2010.
4 For an interesting examination of this theme readers are advised to google a developing literature on the subject. One good article by Esther Milne, “Dragging Her Dirt All Over the Net: Presence, Intimacy, Materiality,” in Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol.2, No.2, December 2007.007,
5 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, U. of Chicago, 1967, Vol.1, p. 6.
6 Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Haifa, 1978, pp. 172-173.
7 The Bible, Isaiah, 56:10.
8 Quoted in Udo Schaefer’s, "Baha'i Apologetics," Baha'i Studies Review, Vol.10, 2001/2.
THE FUTURE OF READING: CLASSICS
“Classics” have been, at least until very recently, texts capable of maintaining an appeal of freshness and immediacy against the erosion of time. What a classical work of literature achieved was a meaning in the present which was constantly leaving the past “behind.” Hans Gumbrecht, a German-born American literary theorist and currently the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature in the Departments of Comparative Literature, French and Italian, German, and Spanish & Portuguese at Stanford University writes that: "In a broadening present of simultaneities, by contrast, and coupled with a technology that makes oblivion impossible, the presence and immediacy of texts from the past have ceased to be exceptional and exciting."
He continues: "While the aura of the “classics” is thus withering, their function as an institution becomes a matter of personal choice—which we should not necessarily have to consider as a symptom of loss or decadence. Rather, it could be understood as a belated fulfillment of that utopia of subjective freedom vis- à- vis the legacies and institutions of culture that Walter Benjamin was dreaming of in the final paragraphs of his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Of course, it is not impossible to imagine a—quite remote—future of reading in which the heterogeneity of the present situation will have arrived at a more coherent picture. This coherence might turn out to be “the reading culture of the electronic age.” Fourteen years into the twenty-first century, however, we can only state that the situation of reading seems endlessly complex.(1)-Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, "The Future of Reading? Memories and Thoughts toward a Genealogical Approach" boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture, summer 2014. If this subject interests you go to:http://boundary2.dukejournals.org/content/current
On Nov. 20, 1962, in the midst of the Soviet Premier Nikita S. Krushchev's de-Stalinization campaigns, Mr. Solzhenitsyn's short novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, was published--with, it is said, the Premier's explicit approval. Solzhenitsyn became the lion of Soviet letters and "Ivan Denisovich" the first novel to deal with the acutely grim realities of Soviet labour camps. The book was also the account of his eight years experience in such a forced labor camp. The book won him the praise not only of politically motivated de-Stalinizers but of literary critics around the world.
I was only 18 at the time, doing my matriculation studies in Ontario and eleven weeks into my life as a Bahá’í pioneer. Four years later my lecturer in the philosophy of education at Windsor Teachers' College sold me a copy of this book. I had just left the towns where I had grown up in southern Ontario and nine months later I left Ontario for Baffin Island and a job teaching Inuit children in a grade three primary classroom. -Ron Price with thanks to James F. Clarity,"Unpublished At Home," The New York Times on the Web, 9 October 1970.
No one told me and I never asked
about the novels coming out of
Russia back then--or anywhere else
for that matter. I was as busy as
a proverbial beaver getting through
9 subjects in my last year of high
school, wishing I could have it off
with some girl somewhere, anywhere,
but keeping my libido well-under
control in those early pioneering
days at the end of the 9th stage of
history and the outset of the 10th.
Labour camps would never be part
of my story, although there would be
much labour and many camps, none
of your physical pain and torture,
but more mental tests that I could
ever have imagined back in 1962,
tests that would last for some 50
years and, indeed, much more??
20 December 2006