Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Critical Race Theory

[ cutting and pasting from Facebook ]

I was just listening to KBOO and the professor who seemingly favors CRT was into debunking that it had anything to do with the Frankfurt School or Herbert Marcuse. But why defend it if that's not what they're committed to calling it. CRT means "cathode ray tube" after all.

I gather the NAACP favors teaching true history, uncensored and unfiltered (like "for adults"), and doesn't claim to want CRT in the schools. We could assign that book Caste for example (good one! I'm reading it now! -- shows similarities of Jim Crow laws to Nazi Germany, which actually studied the American example as exemplary).

NAACP is saying (let me know if I'm wrong): "CRT in the schools is a red herring and those trying to ban it are really just trying to push rotten textbooks purged of anything ugly, which is itself ugly."

The interview mentioned some laughable Texas textbook wherein the word "slavery" was purged. Really? I'd like to add that one to my collection.

I think that old canard that what Texas chooses in the way of textbooks, thereby has to be the choice of many other states, given the economics, is entirely bogus. Not allowing textbooks to be distributed electronically, thereby allowing for far more diversity, is systemic racism in action.

Friday, August 20, 2021

From a Quaker Website

When it comes to the European experience, we already tell the story of the United States as one of east-to-west expansion, complete with the Louisiana Purchase, followed by Lewis & Clark and covered wagons.

Before the Civil War, Quakers moved westward for a reason many did:  to escape the stigma of being anti-slavery, an institution supported by local and federal governments. Those against it were a kind of terrorist in the eyes of their slave-holding neighbors and they fled west to escape persecution.

One Quaker I follow, in this westward migration, from the Carolinas to Minnesota, is Sam Hill.  He later made it all the way out to Seattle and settled on the north side of the Columbia River, hoping other Quakers would follow to build a settlement there. Conditions were bleak however and the vinyards would come later.

So for many years, his palatial Maryhill stood alone in desolate country, followed by his remake (scale model) of Stonehenge.  His passion: to build some world class roads. He had discovered their critical importance in his world travels.

In addition to building a first paved road along the Columbia, a demonstration project, Sam conspired with royalty and celebrities of Europe to turn Maryhill into a cultural museum.  Queen Marie of Romania came all that way out west, by Pullman, to bestow upon Sam a train full of art treasures from old Europe. 

Europeans were interested in the intersection of high culture and democracy.  How would the ethic of egalitarianism play out?  Sam Hill, a self made gentleman, was helping to show the way.

I'm seeing Unitarianism as a later wave of anti-slavery sentiment, reaching its peak after Quakerism did.  With headquarters in Boston, centered around Harvard, the Unitarians gave rise to the Transcendentalists, who formed a literary and philosophical movement that also spread westward. 

Walt Whitman, a poet associated with Transcendentalism, was an early admirer of Elias Hicks. 

The Unitarians, at their apex of power and influence, were well aware of the Quakers who had come before them, and who had already reached their apex of power and influence earlier, in Philadelphia. 

Quakers were against participating in what became the Indian Wars, in addition to disowning any who practiced slavery, thereby proving themselves out of step with their Anglo-European compatriots and their Manifest Destiny ideology.

Among the Transcendentalists, playing a central role, was one Margaret Fuller (1810 - 1850), who would drown with her small family, within sight of land, coming back from her adventure in Italy.  Her grand nephew would be R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983). 

Margaret, like Thoreau (with his "night in jail" scene), and like Transcendentalists everywhere, was not enamored with the idea of an American Empire, foreshadowing Mark Twain and the Anti-imperialist League.

One of my favorite philosophy professors, Richard Rorty, whom I met at Princeton pre 1980, later went on to write Achieving Our Country, a slim volume outlining his vision of a future American Left without all the Marxism. 

He traces his own leftism back through such figures as Emerson and Whitman in places, right back to Hegel and German Idealism more generally.  Nietzsche admired Emerson, not many people know, and used him as a role model for his Zarathustra character, by his own admission.

Will Quaker institutions of higher learning perhaps capitalize on these intellectual roots going forward? 

My approach is to show what that might look like, in terms of curriculum designs and reading programs. 

In the words of Dr. Steve Brule:  Check it Out!

Original Posting

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

On The Will to Truth

Simple Recipe

Depending on context, one may inadvertently highly overrate Truth.  

I've already filed many complaints against "existence" as an onerous attribute to have to argue about, in some nevertheless important language games.  I make fun of "egg zist ence" and cite the movie eXistenZ.

Today though, I'm picking on Truth.  

Imagine being hungry, having only specific provisions, and wanting to eat a healthy, hearty, well-prepared meal.  It's on you to perform.  You're the chief chef in this picture, and you get to eat your own dog food (an open source slogan -- means you make your own bed).  

What you'll need, working backwards from available ingredients, is an apropos recipe.

Now, are recipes True or are they False?  They may be irrelevant, for sure, if you don't have the ingredients or anything that will do as substitutes.  Ingredients may include heat, the ability to boil water, chopping devices, mixmaster machines.

In Python-verse, just about anything is True unless it's completely empty, like a recipe for making nothing.  Even that sounds truthy to me.  Does "true" merely mean "of substance"?  Is a brick wall true by definition?  Even if it's just in a cartoon?

So you have lots of recipes to keep in mind, and maybe no book to put them in.  Reading hasn't been invented.  Or they're in a language you haven't learned.

What if the rest of your knowledge base consists of elaborate fictional "fairy tales" (memorable fables) into which are woven the many recipes, invented and handed down through the ages.  To learn the lore of your culture is to acquire an amazingly efficient store and retrieval mechanism.

Humans think in terms of stories.  Stories are easier to memorize.  

So harness stories to store astronomical data, for example.  That's your clock, out to weeks, months, years and generations, whole epochs.  The night sky teaches about geological time.  The mind fills with ways to remember.  Mythology is born.  

Shallow scholars come along later and ridicule these fictional fairy tales for being "untrue" while completely ignoring their important mnemonic role.  The Earth's axis is slowly precessing, from one constellation to a next.  The complete cycle takes just under 26K years.

Beware, in your quest for comprehensivist viewpoints, of any Lust and/or Greed for Truth, as that's likely just the siren song of an attractive dogma du jour.  Be willing to give space to your ignorance, and acknowledge the limits to your knowledge, without giving up on the idea of increasing it.

Think in terms of algorithms (recipes) you might need, and ways of accessing them.  Moves in a martial art.  Kung fu.  Or moves in a sport.  Muscle memories in complement with "storied" memories.  Hardware and software.

What's "true" about choreography?  

As if language were all about "telling the truth" and nothing else equally practical.

Go wash out your mouth with soap (figuratively will do) the next time you catch yourself saying or thinking something so nonsensical.

Sunday, August 01, 2021