Archive for May, 2017

New View Of The Brain

In this Tuesday’s Washington Post there is an article that reports on research that says our brain rearranges our mind every night, keeps some of the day’s experiences for integration into the pattern that controls our behavior and dumps the rest. The article is about how this takes place. This means we don’t look back, rather we are focused on what will happen to us later today, or tomorrow, etc.

From my standpoint as a teacher of teachers, it helps me understand the lack of interest by education students in the actions and ideas of past educators. It also explains why new methods textbooks sold even though they said almost exactly what previous ones said. Other subjects were similar. Yet, most prospective teachers had stored away selected information about teaching from one or more of their previous teachers. They planned to go out and teach the same way. The problem was that these bits and pieces were difficult to organize in a classroom situation different from the one their model had been in.

It was in student teaching that they got to see that they had to move their thinking to this new situation. The new teaching-learning situations in which teachers and students work together don’t respond to the old method of teaching where the teacher is in charge of everything that goes on in the classroom. Research like this is slowly changing classroom learning. Hopefully educating teachers will get on board.

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What Are Monuments?

Recently there have been a number of articles about monuments in Southern cities about the War Between The States, known more widely throughout the country as the Civil War (if it is known at all). South Carolina flew the Confederate flag on its capitol grounds; Alexandria, Va has its Southern soldier facing south, leaning on his rifle with his head bowed. Richmond has an avenue lined with Confederates on stone pillars. Every Southern city that could afford their version up to the early 20th century has something similar. There are even a couple of statues in the nation’s capitol.

So, how long do/can we keep events alive in our memories? There are a number of attempts to move the Confederacy into the memory cellar of people who still have it in an upstairs room. The flag has been moved off South Carolina’s capitol grounds; it took the murder of nine black people in their church to accomplish this. The mayors of Charlottesville and New Orleans are trying to move their statues to less central places. Depending upon the amount of discord this raises, and it seems to be raising a lot, other cities may attempt the same.

However, this will not be easy. Richmond, capitol of the Confederacy, has a boulevard lined with Virginia confederates and I am sure there is a cleanup group for them. From what I have read and watched on tv, there are two groups with opposite positions, and a majority that really doesn’t care. Paris is full of statues of Napoleon, who was a loser himself. However, his Frenchmen who put them up are the same as Frenchmen today. Like a couple of kings, he represents France in its greatest hours.

In our southern states, there is no such attitude unifier. About half of our black population lives in the south, and they cut the possible number of important Confederate supporters by about half. In addition, there are the Yankees who have moved south since WW II for whom that “War” carries little interest.

As these two examples seem to show, old allegiances can last as long as people have a sense of ties to past events. Germans are an example of what can happen when commitment to a set of values brings such destruction to a social system that it has to be reconstructed. In the case of the Confederate states, they were legally readmitted to the union, but basically walled off economically and socially until Franklin Roosevelt’s administration.

So, monuments seem to be attempts to retain loyalty to people or events from the past that some group thinks important. People such as Lincoln and Churchill and Beethoven have monuments because they contributed to national goals and people. In the case of a divided nation, how do we deal with people whom we have come to view as historically important? George Washington owned slaves, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, in fact, fourteen members of of the Constitutional Convention delegates owned slaves.  Should we remove them from our view?

Using this example, how much of our history do we want to erase? How do we decide?

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Is Any of This Us?

In talking with one of the rectors at our church, she gave me a quotation from Edmund Burke:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I have been thinking about the meaning(s) of this statement and where l can see it today. Having spent my working life trying to help individuals do the most they can with their lives, I see good men and women struggling to make sense of our world. The first place that crossed my mind was in our political life. With change of political life at the national level, it is on my mind every day. Since my party lost the election, and a crowd l could agree with less now holds power, I view every political action with suspicion and worry. With my Republican friends, l have felt for some time that the Federal government ls becoming too big and unwieldy. But, is what the current Republican administration doing is what should be done to reduce expenditures and maintain support where (I think) it is necessary?

In another case, the change in our economic life began, according to our economic experts sometime in the 1960’s. I must say that I did not see it then, and only several years later. All of our economic help, mostly to European countries, created competitors to our steel producers, automobile manufacturers, electronics producers and just about any other manufacturer. By the time I saw what was happening, it had happened. Manufacturing was moving overseas and jobs were going with them, leaving thousands of people unemployed.

In this economic sense, can leaving people without a way of earning a living and excusing it by saying that’s the way the system works be called evil? Government began to respond to this situation by creating new programs of assistance for those in in need, leading to the size and cost of our current government. Unemployment is located heavily among the uneducated and the poor, who stay that way and perpetuate a class society. So, an economic situation of constant invention of machines by humans has created a world in which machines constantly displace people in the economic system. The Democrats have used government to support those who can’t support themselves, spending increasing amounts of money in this effort. The new Republicans see cutting services as the answer to this problem.

Both political parties embarked on routes that if carried to their conclusion, wherever that might be, could bankrupt the government or leave some people starving. Would the breakdown of government be evil?

P.S.  Ford is running a completely automated plant in China.  Will that come here?


Is Donald Trump Proving Eric Hoffer Right?

“All great movements start as a cause, evolve into a business and end up as a racket.”

We are back with Eric Hoffer. The political movement that gave us Donald Trump started as a cause. The appointments he is making to leadership positions in federal government departments indicate he sees federal government as a business. Are we on our way to the conclusion of Hoffer’s statement?

Eric Hoffer was a part of the 1930s depression and he worked at a variety of jobs including cleaning ditches.  During the day he thought about the world he lived in and wrote his thoughts down.  In the forties, he got a collection published and he was off and running as a philosopher (though he never saw himself as such).


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