Christianity, Modernity and the Idol of Education

The essence of education today is the undermining of everything that stems from the past. The catch-phrase for such uprooting is “social justice,” which is a misnomer, since there can be no justice when the intent is the destruction of all that came before. True social justice does exist, of course, and is the consequence of Christian morality. The early followers of Jesus, in the Roman world, first invented social justice when they undertook good works for no tangible reward. For example, they would collect the abandoned bodies of the poor and give them a decent burial; or rescue babies left in the open to die of exposure; or pool funds to buy the freedom of slaves who were never coerced to become Christian. Real social justice is the quiet work of aligning society to the ways of God – thus negating both politics and power.

What we see today is the subversion of Christian virtue, so that good works are turned into a power dynamic, where groups claiming “historical marginality” are sanctioned. Since everyone still agrees that goodness matters – modernity has given it a political definition – empowerment. In effect, modernity is a process of subversion.

But what is modernity? Briefly, it consists of four types of narratives: that physical reality exists separate from God, so it matters little if God exists or not (i.e., secularism); that each person is autonomous (i.e., individualism); that we can create who we are according to any image of ourselves we desire (that is, self-deification, or auto-theism); and that the world will only keep getting better because of technology (i.e., progressivism and presentism). “Narrative” means an explanation which is repeated constantly to maintain coherence within a group.

(Here, it is important to point out that “postmodernism” is a fake term, adapted from architecture. Few understand this, though ignorance has never stopped anyone from fulminating. The term is fake because no one has yet proven, once and for all, that the world has actually moved beyond modernity – that the world no longer functions as modern. Thus, even though much ink, virtual and actual, is continually being spilt on the horrors of “postmodernism” – the horrified only end up wrestling with modernity – and losing in the process, because the “post” keeps moving).

The consequence of these narratives runs deep. Secularism assures everyone that life can be good and happy without God (which highlights the grand failure of the Church). Individualism entrenches self-indulgence. Auto-theism gives purpose to life as the ceaseless pursuit of pleasure (aka, self-fulfillment). Progressivism demands the construction of utopias because progress alone knows how to fabricate a better world, the first step to which is righting all the imagined wrongs inherited from the terrible past.

In all this, modernity seeks to overcome and replace Christianity (which it holds created all the defects of the past which now need correcting). Tis will lead to the creation of the New Man (down to gender). This New Man will be the great citizen of the coming utopia. But until that high stage of human evolution arrives, men and women must be remade, because they cannot function in the imagined utopia as they are, tainted by Christianity – and being nothing more than bio-mass, they must be perfected by modernity. Such is modernist “salvation.”

Thus, for some, “salvation” will come as transhumanism, where humanity merges with machines to live forever, while the brain is lulled by pleasure-inducing psychotropic drugs (as Yuval Noah Harari fantasizes). For others, redemption will be found in neo-paganism, or “archeofuturism,” where the old gods are again worshipped and life returns to a pretend-time before Christianity came along and ruined everything. And then there are those who work to “save” the planet, rather than humanity – by ridding the earth of its most pernicious foe, the destructive human being. Modernity’s inherent anti-natalism serves this fantasy well, via abortion, gender fluidity, homosexuality, contraception. Babies are the great evil. This is the return of human-sacrifice that is inevitable whenever Christianity weakens.

All three of these utopias (really dystopias) are promoted and justified by the education system. Nevertheless, they are failed endeavors (as all mad schemes tend to be) – for consciousness cannot be reset to some default mode. Once the mind knows something, how can it then unknow it? After two-thousand years of Christianity, how can the Christianized mind and its accomplishments be undone? Thus, how do you worship Odin and Thor, with an iPhone in your hand? Or, how do you become a machine when you still have to lull the brain with drugs? And, how do you work to get rid of humans, while also decrying wars, weapons, climate change, gun-violence and murder? In all this barren wasteland of modernity, the soul cries out in its exile for something greater than the immediate. That cry dismantles modernity, and justifies Christianity.

This habit of fantasizing about dystopias is, in fact, the legacy of the true father of modernity (whom few mention, for obvious reasons), namely, the Marquis de Sade. He described meticulously, and unflinchingly, what a world without God is all about – relentless hedonism enabled by the cruel exertion of power, in which the weak are used and then destroyed. Pleasure is the only purpose of life. The world that comes after morality is Hell itself.

Those beguiled by the allure of an atheistic world that will yet be decent, just, kind and good, without the bother of superstition about a Man in the Sky, should lower themselves into the world of de Sade and honestly admit whether they would like to live in it. You cannot have all the benefits of a Christian civilization and then imagine that all of it can be sustained by the Godless. That is simply dishonest. Thus, every atheist should be asked what s/he thinks of de Sade. Any form of revulsion only means that that person’s atheism is simply a lie. The choice before the world is simple, therefore – the Marquis de Sade or Christ. If you say neither – then modernity will give you de Sade by default, because modernity does not have Christ. Recall, this choice was once made earlier, when Barabbas was on offer.

Because modernity is the logic of education today, it offers neither instrumentalism nor idealism. This makes it a false idol that people are taught to worship as the great benefactor of humanity. The fact is that degrees have little to do with jobs, and the ideas being taught in schools have little to with God, or transcendence, let alone civilization. There is only the tiresome rhetoric of fashioning utopias that shall come once all the old systems of oppression are finally destroyed.

Those that advocate STEM are near-sighted modernists, who cannot answer two fundamental questions. How many scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians can industry actually support, let alone need? And, how is cheap labor to be addressed, for there are competent STEM workers the world over? This means that more STEM only adds to the problem of modernity.

Then, there is the fact of how degrees are obtained – by way of massive debt. Few speak of the ethics of educational institutions selling their products (degrees) by way of the debt-industry. Thus, education becomes a corrupted function of capitalism, which destroys lives by turning young people over to debt-slavery. The massive human trafficking industry functions on exactly the same model, where persons trafficked must first pay off the debt owed to those who trafficked them. Likewise, graduates must first pay off those that “educated” them.

But what is to be done? First, the Church needs to ask herself – why can she no longer bring people to God? Why must people, who once were her flock, now chase after “spirituality,” and even neo-paganism, to look for God – or give up and embrace atheism or agnosticism? Once this question is properly understood and then fully answered, the Church can finally counter modernity. Until then, the Church will continue to be another function of modernity, just another narrative.

As for education, it must once again be aligned with the Christian understanding of life. To do so, schools must be made smaller and community-based, which would make them the responsibility of parents and the parish church (but only those churches that actually want to resist modernity). The lure of institutionalization must be avoided – because nothing is more soulless than vast bureaucracy.

The content of education must be made fully anti-modernist, which can best be done by using the medieval trivium and the quadrivium. The greatest need right now is to build base knowledge (now utterly lost) which will then lead to holy wisdom. This can only be done through the teaching of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. Afterwards must come the teaching of music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. These seven subjects will not only stop the destruction wrought by modernity (by making meaningless its various narratives) – but they will also prepare the mind for truth (a quality now being lost, if not lost already). Truth alone can knock down the false idol of modernity and its attendant education system, because truth and Christ are one.

Afterwards, these schools must lead into smaller, focused learning centers, again parent-organized and parish-based, that are instrumental in nature (apprenticeships, including music), or idealist (which teach history, philosophy, classic literature, languages and theology). There is no longer need for universities and colleges and their meaningless degrees. As for the cost, teachers must be given housing, allowances for necessities and a small stipend. This cost would be borne by the parents and the parish-church.

Historically, education was never about jobs. It was about giving humanity the moral equipment to do good works and to struggle for Heaven. It was about the care, cultivation and salvation of the soul through the pursuit of truth. The by-product of such an education was civilization, and thriving industry. If we still want civilization, then we will have to abandon modernity – because the one cannot contain the other.

Such deinstitutionalized education will require a great deal of courage and faith – because it will mean choosing to live forever against the modern world. And it will require the Christianization of capitalism. Here that moving remonstrance of Jesus should be brought to mind – What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul? Can there be a better rebuke of modernity and a better summation of what real education is all about?

The photo shows, “Christ in the Garden of Olives,” by Paul Gauguin, painted in 1898.

The Virtue Of Tolerance

He hath forsaken his covert as the lion,
for the land is laid waste because of the wrath of the dove,
and because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
(Jeremiah 25:38)

What does it mean to be tolerant? What makes tolerance virtuous? Indifference? Not caring about what others think? Jaded apathy to the world? Of course, not.
True tolerance is not passive heartlessness; it is the patient suffering of wrongs for the sake of justice. What is the key difference between callous indifference and the virtue of tolerance? Tolerance requires a code of ethics; the knowledge of right and wrong. Indifference knows neither good nor evil.

 

For example, if I am indifferent to violence, then I don’t care about the abuse of those around me. I don’t desire to change their behavior (Why would I try change the world if I didn’t care about it, and I felt it couldn’t affect me?).
Perhaps I don’t care about the violence around me because I don’t know of its existence. Or, I don’t know because I just don’t care. Afterall, isn’t apathy the greatest ally of ignorance? The two deserve each other.

But where are the tolerant? Where do they stand in the face of violence?
Those who truly tolerate violence are not passively indifferent to its horror. They’ve lost the right to be blissfully ignorant; they’ve made the fall. They, more than anyone else, know the sins of the world. Why? Because they suffer through them every day. True tolerance – like love – is suffering.

The original meaning of the word, “suffer” was “to permit,” “to allow,” or “let” (as in those famous words of Christ, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” in the King James translation of this passage from Luke 18:16. This original meaning was replaced in the seventeenth-century by the current understanding of “suffering” – to undergo pain or cruelty.

Blind eyes and deaf ears are the broken satellites of the wicked heart; but the tolerant cannot look away.

But what good is there in just looking on? Doing nothing is exhausting after all. What are they tolerant waiting for? Justice? Reason? Love? God? All of these are just another word for salvation I suppose, but who’s being saved?

Maybe the tolerant suffer for the sake of something greater than themselves. In the Crito, Socrates suffered the injustice of his trial – not because he was indifferent to injustice – but because he believed his suffering was a small price for the preservation of a just and law-abiding society.

It’s quite possible that the tolerant seek to be saved. But from who? Why themselves of course! Is there a greater enemy? As Nietzsche warned “fight not with monsters lest ye become a monster; for if one gazes into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.”

But let us stop to consider the possibility that the truly tolerant suffer for the sake of those who trouble them. Parents, teachers, and lovers are too familiar with patently suffering for the sake of others in the hopes that they’ll change.
It’s important to say that you don’t tolerate the entirety of the one you love, rather you tolerate the sins of the one you love. Could you imagine if a husband asked his wife “Do you love me?” and the wife responded “Well… I tolerate every part of your totality and suffer through your very presence.” That’s not love – that’s a stockade.

Someone who loves you doesn’t tolerate you so much as they tolerate your defects – because hopefully there’s more to you than that.

But those who love others do tolerate the unsavory aspects of their nature, and that requires strength, patience, kindness, and the ability to look beyond the ugliness of the immediate. True beauty is found by tolerating skin-deep faults and seeing the transcendent aesthetics hidden in all things.

Why do we tolerate the ones we love? Because it gives the other a chance to be reconciled; it is the path of forgiveness. Tolerance gives the unreasonable the chance to see reason; the hateful a chance to love by being loved.

When we are intolerant of the trespasses of others, we cast the abysmal around us into further darkness. But when we show tolerance through the open arms of hospitality or in the guidance of a helping hand, then we offer the stability that the other so desperately lacks.

But is tolerance practical? Why not force people to cut off their offense’s cold turkey? I tell you now that nothing is more impractical than a firm belief in the draconian.

The word, draconian, comes from the story of the Athenian lawgiver Dracon, a ruler who assigned the death penalty as a punishment for most of the minor offenses committed by the citizenry. Plutarch writes how “Dracon himself, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones.”

The idea that one can remedy the offenses of a society through intolerance is not a novel idea. Did it work? What became of Dracon? He was exiled and his laws were immediately repealed!

What renders the draconian state a useless enterprise? That fact that the state does not, should not, and more importantly cannot control everything that happens among the citizenry. Most of the economic, political, social, intellectual, and cultural decision-making has always existed in the hands of the citizenry. The unwritten laws and social norms of the people has always outnumbered and outweighed the written laws of the state in both power and magnitude.

Thus, when someone uses hard-power to force reformation instead of tolerating the growing pains connected with the mobilization of soft-power and liberality, the result is most always tyranny.

History shows time and time again that “getting tough on crime” is nothing more than a myth for fake news to print and saber-rattling demagogues to howl.

Want to end homelessness? Then show tolerance by sharing what you have, not hunting those who have nothing.

Want to end drug addiction? Then show tolerance by providing users with needles and clean doses.

Want to end alcoholism? Show tolerance by providing a space where people can get a drink and talk about their addiction.

Want to end hate speech? Then tolerate it through free speech because you’ll never end racism, homophobia, and sexism through coerced speech, or speech that must conform. We’ve tried it before, and it never works.

Want to end barbarism? Show tolerance through civility.

Want to end intolerance and hate? Show tolerance and love even if it kills you.

As the Christian apologist Tertullian writes, “That’s why you can’t just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Your praise those who endured pain and death – so long as they aren’t Christians! Your cruelties merely prove our innocence of the crimes you charge against us … And you frustrate your purpose. Because those who see us die wonder why we do, for we die like men you revere, not like slaves or criminals. And as they find out, they join us.”

Tolerance is the heart that beats on in a world of heartless indifference.

 

The photo shows, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” by  Nikolay Losev, painted in 1882.

Henry VIII – The Good King

When we look back at the reign of Henry VIII, the common view is that he was power-besotted man, who was fond of young girls and great revelry, and had an enormous appetite that saw him grow from a handsome, athletic youth to a bloated old man, who could barely walk.

This extreme view certainly makes for good press copy, but is rather distant from the truth of the man and his reign. It is this image that Carolly Erickson, in her biography, Great Harry, successfully explodes, and instead gives us a version of Henry that is often overlooked – that of a sober, forthright and indeed forceful man, who was not only a loyal Catholic, but a good king, who was much beloved by his subjects.

Nevertheless, there was a transition as well, which no doubt has given rise to the image of Henry VIII as an ogre, who was happily divorcing or beheading six wives. And this transition was part and parcel of the turbulent times during which Henry reigned, for it saw the establishment of the Protestant faith in England, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and a path of independence from Rome for England.

The approach that Erickson takes is one of insight into the character of Henry, rather than any attempt on her part to either extol or destroy the “legend of Henry.”

In fact, Erickson examines the great intellectual and physical vivacity of the young Henry, as he became a king at the age of eighteen, and his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and then his slow decline into middle age and rather decrepit old age.

Thus, the contours of her book can also be seen as her examination of a great king, who declines into an ogre, desperately seeking an heir to his throne, while controlling those around him with fear.

The underlying question that Erickson seems to be asking is how does a gifted, talented young man become a vengeful executioner? There is, of course, no one answer to this question, as Erickson shows.

Indeed, the contours of Henry’s life show this transformation, as Erickson reminds us again and again. Henry was a man of “majestic childishness,… absurd mixture of naïveté and cunning, boldness and poltroonery, vindictive cruelty and wayward almost irresistible charm.”

Therefore, the actions of such a complex person need to be examined not only carefully, but also sensitively, since Henry struggled not only with internal problems, but also external ones, especially with France and Spain.

But he also saw himself as above other rulers, a mythic knight of old: “Henry appeared to incarnate all the ardent vitality of Christian knighthood, the dauntless zeal that for the right could outbrave all dangers.”

But at home, he needed to assure his subjects of the rightful claim of the Tudors for the English. The problem lay with his father, Henry VII, whose grab for the crown came only as result of a precarious win at the Battle of Bosworth, in which King Richard III was defeated. In fact, other than the victory, Henry VII had no right to the English throne at all.

The only way Henry VIII could expound the myth of the Tudors was to produce a male heir, who would not only secure the Tudor line, but also demonstrate that God was firmly on the side of the Tudors, whom He continually favored.

As well, a generation earlier, the War of the Roses had left England devastated, and Henry VIII did not want the plague of dynastic instability to run rampant in the nation.

Thus, Erickson astutely explains his relentless quest for an heir, within the context of Henry’s political reality, since this was an age in which children (especially royal ones) were seen as being gifts from God. What would it say about Henry and the Tudors, if God withheld this gift?

Erickson demonstrates that this quest became all consuming for Henry, and because of it, Henry undertook monumental decisions that would change England forever.

The problem, as he saw it, lay with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had not produced an heir. Henry sought for an explanation. He found one, in that Catherine was the widow of his older brother, Arthur, who had died while Henry was young, thus bringing Henry to the throne.

In his own eyes, marrying Catherine was incest, and he asked the Pope, Clement VII, to dissolve their marriage based upon this fact, which became known as the King’s Great Matter.

The Pope refused, and Henry sought other measures. Henry found resolved the Great Matter, by accepting Protestantism, and bringing about the English Reformation, and all the ensuing legal and political changes, such as the Oath of Succession, the Act of Appeals, the Act of Supremacy, the Supplication against the Ordinaries, and the Ten Articles.

Thus, Henry steered the course of England away from the rule of Rome towards a greater role, which would be realized by his daughter Elizabeth, and afterwards.

The man that Erickson presents to us is also one of great and boundless energy: “ Along with his tough, untiring physique Henry had a superabundance of nervous energy which urged him on from one diversion to another and which put a keen edge on his every movement.”

Erickson excels in this sort of description, which not only captures the true character of Henry, but also the very vitality of the man, for we see him full of life, someone reveling in the powers of his own body and mind.

It is this character of Henry that captured the hearts of his subjects, for they saw in him a king who was not only energetic, but more importantly as a man of action – and action was the most defining characteristic of the Renaissance, and Henry embodied the spirit of his age perfectly.

Thus it was that Cardinal Wolsey referred to him as the “‘prince of royal courage’” who would rather lose half his kingdom than abandon his undertakings/” It was this tenacity that marked the entire length of Henry’s reign.

Thus, the portrait that emerges from Erickson’s book if one of a man, who is both a shrewd reader and manipulator of men, and a rather moving man, who is seeking to do everything in his power to leave a great legacy behind.

In effect, Erickson takes the legend of Henry VIII, and places it side-by-side with his reality, which he documents minutely.

The result is a complete portrait of Henry VIII, as he really was, a man at once worldly and political, boyish and shrewd, playful and vindictive, loving and cruel. It is within these polarities that Erickson’s portrait of VIII greatly excels.

 

The photo shows, “The New Learning, Erasmus and Thomas More Visit the Children of King Henry VII at Greenwich, 1499 ” by Frank Cadogan Cowper, painted ca. 1910.

Thoughts On Two Plays By Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s two plays, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, both express similar ideas, but the results are the exact opposite.

In Hamlet, we see deception, malice, intrigue and lies leads to death and great tragedy, while the same sort of things lead to marriage, happiness and comedy in Much Ado About Nothing.

The reason for this difference lies in the fact that both plays use these strategies in a completely opposite way. In Hamlet, deception, intrigue, malice and lies are used to further revenge; while in Much Ado About Nothing these same elements are used to ensnare lovers, and the entire façade is nothing more than a game.

Therefore, it is the result of these strategies that determine how each play will turn out, whether it will be a tragedy, or a comedy.

In Much Ado About Nothing, there is of course endless deception. Both Claudio and Don Pedro are deceived, and this leads to Hero’s discredit, but this dishonor is overcome by the lie of her death.

And by way of this death, she is reborn, or resurrected into a state of redemption, where she becomes part of her lover, Claudio.

This intrigue is mirrored in a more comic way by Beatrice and Benedick, both of whom are fooled into thinking that the one loves the other, and because of this pretense they actually do fall in love. In both of these instances, we find that deception is merely a means to an end – to gain love and happiness.

However, it is important to realize that even in this comedy, there is good deception as well as bad. For instance, when Claudio declares his intention of wooing Hero, Don Pedro decides that he will help Claudio, and he woos Hero on behalf of Claudio.

This only leads to a mix-up of intentions, because Claudio (encouraged by Don John) now comes to believe that Don Pedro has betrayed him. Suddenly, the illusions have become reality, and reality has become an illusion, and the characters have a hard time keeping the two apart.

As well, during the ball, Beatrice and Benedick flirt with each other, while pretending they do not know who is behind the mask.

The deception becomes evil, or sinister, after Claudio rejects Hero, and her family announces that she is dead; this is done to punish Claudio.

Full of remorse, Claudio tries to make amends, and comes to Leonato in order to marry his niece, who is actually Hero. But suddenly, a group of masked people enter and force Claudio to marry while blindfolded. This points to the saying that love is blind.

But strangely, this method of marrying suggests that it is no longer a matter of love, but an attempt at redemption on behalf of Claudio, who says: “Which is the lady I must seize upon?”(V.iv.53).

Therefore, deception is an illusion that brings characters to the brink of disaster, to tragedy, but then veers away and returns to reconstruct reality back into what it was, and in this reality, the lovers find happiness and true love.

This allows for Claudio and Hero is be who they really – lovers. In fact, tragedy is avoided precisely because deception has not been allowed to play itself out entirely.

There comes a time for unmasking, when truth is revealed. And when truth is revealed it brings great happiness and joy, as Benedick says: “Come, come we are friends: let’s have a dance ere we are married that we may lighten our own hearts…”(V.iv.120ff).

The mood is entirely different in Hamlet. Again we have deception and lies, but the outcome is tragedy and not happiness.

The reason for this lies in the fact that where in Much Ado About Nothing the attempt was to find a wife, in Hamlet the attempt is get revenge.

In Hamlet too there is much masking, where people hide their true intents, chief among them being Hamlet himself, who hides his true feelings in order to spur himself into action.

In fact, the only truthful person in the entire play is Ophelia, who never swerves in her love for Hamlet; it is only he who thrusts her away. He does this in order to make sure that nothing will hinder him as he seeks his goal – revenge for his dead father.

In fact, he tells Ophelia: “You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish it: I loved you not”(III.i.119-120).

This revelation is also a lie that Hamlet tells in order to get rid of Ophelia. As in Much Ado About Nothing, deception does have its own results. In the comedy, there was a brief dark period, when Claudio feels remorse for causing the supposed death of Hero.

But in Hamlet, the death is very real – for it is Hamlet’s deception (his rejection of Ophelia) that ultimately kills her. The truth is that he does love her, but he must hide his love from everybody, in order to carry out the revenge that his father’s ghost has asked him to do.

Hamlet knows that he must deceive in order to get revenge. If he tells the truth, he will fail, because truth will force him to reveal what he wants to do.

This is why he assumes the role of the madman. But this madness is also a lie. It is important to note that the only truthful person in the entire play, Ophelia, is the one who is driven made because of lies and deception.

As the Prologue King states: “This world is not for aye, nor ‘tis not strange that even our loves should with our fortunes change”(III.ii.210-211).

Therefore, Hamlet is deceiving not to win the heart of Ophelia; in fact he is not interested in love: “Love! His affections do not that way tend,” observes Claudius (III.i.169).

Rather, he is deceiving in order to find the murderer of his father, and then give justice to the ghost of his dead father by executing the murderer.

Therefore, there is an entire detective story and a legal drama unfolding as well; and Hamlet must carry on both roles – the investigator and the avenger.

When he finally gets the chance to kill Claudius, he discovers that the force of revenge consumes not only the killer but also the avenger himself, and so when the play ends, the stage is literally littered with dead bodies: “Take up the bodies: such a sight as this becomes the field, but here shows much amiss,” states Horatio at the end (V.ii.412ff).

Thus, both Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet involve deception, lies and malice, and yet one play ends in love, happiness and marriage, while the other ends in death and bloodshed.

This is the result of the intended outcome of this deception. In the comedy, the outcome is to ensnare a lover; in the tragedy the outcome is to get revenge.

 

The photo shows, “Children acting the ‘Play Scene’ from Hamlet, Act II, scene ii,” by Charles Hunt, painted in 1863.

 

 

 Indigenous Ways of Knowing?

Once again, the brilliant minds at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, better known as OISE, has graced the world with another one of their hair-brained theories. It’s called Indigenous Ways of Knowing and it’s coming to schools near you.

OISE is rallying teachers to poison our children with these ludicrously pre– non-historical ways of thought.

CLICK HERE to be forwarded to the module on OISE’s website designed to educate teachers on what is and how to teach Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

What exactly is Indigenous Ways of Knowing? Well, buckle up because for anybody with half a brain it’s going to be a bumpy ride as we dive into the seven topics of this half-witted module.

 

TOPIC ONE “What is Indigenous Knowledge?”

So, what exactly is Indigenous Knowledge? Your guess seems to be as good as anybody else’s. Our mis-informed friends at OISE don’t even define what they’re talking about. Like many of the buzzwords taught at our universities, they’re about triggering certain emotions as opposed to thoughts.

To quote the module, “In this module, Indigenous knowledge is described rather than defined. There are sources and characteristics that are shared among diverse Indigenous peoples but a hesitance to define it in one limiting way.”

No worries, let’s just cut them some slack and carry on with the module. But wait! What is the reason they give for not being able to describe what they are talking about? Oh right…. it’s because of those rotten Westerners….

According to the module, “Indigenous knowledge definitions can be problematic because they often use the dominant knowledge system (Western knowledge) as a frame of reference.”

See what I mean about triggering emotions instead of thoughts? They even blame the West for not being able to articulate their own thoughts. Is Western guilt hitting rock bottom? Or is it as the Irish say, “if you think you’ve hit rock bottom, wait a while and you’ll hear a knock from bellow.”

Then, they quote Dr. Marie Battiste‘s description of  Indigenous knowledge. She claims that “Indigenous knowledge compromises the complex set of technologies developed and sustained by Indigenous civilizations. Often oral and symbolic, it is transmitted through the structure of Indigenous languages and passes on to the next generation through modeling, practice, and animation, rather than through written word.”

The module then states “Indigenous knowledge is embedded in community practices, rituals, and relationships. As a living knowledge, it is holistic, contextual, and relational.”

In other words, Indigenous knowledge is comprised of stone aged tools, pre-historic oral traditions, and rituals.

 

TOPIC TWO “Characteristics of Indigenous Knowing”

Finally, it’s time to dive into the descriptions given about the characteristics of Indigenous knowing. The characteristics of indigenous knowing are that it is “personal, orally transmitted, experiential, holistic, and narrative.”

What do these folks mean when they say that Indigenous knowledge is personal?

They mean “no one person has the truth… With multiple perceptions at the core, indigenous knowledge actualizes itself in context….thus indigenous knowledge is highly dynamic.”

Translation: more of that Post-modern garbage juice which claims that there is no real truth and that “everything’s, like, your, like, opinion man.”

If there’s no “real” truth, and everybody knows just as much as everybody else, then why are we paying you to teach us this garbage? If the students know as much as the teacher, why should they show up to class (or take the time to study this absurd module)?

What do these folks mean when they say that Indigenous Ways of Knowing is orally transmitted?

To quote the module, “Oral tradition is not a precursor to literate traditions. They are simply different ways of knowledge keeping.”

I think that they might have put the wrong herb in the peace pipe on this one. Oral tradition is not a precursor to literate tradition? What are they talking about?!

Do they even know what history, the study of written records, means? Or what pre-historic societies are? Do they not understand that people spoke to each other before they invented script and started to write things down?

I feel obliged to remind you that these people are the teachers of your children’s teachers!

What do these folks mean when they say that “Indigenous Ways of Knowing” are experiential?

Well, the module claims, “The land is alive, the only way to know that is to be on the land. The senses can know more deeply and concretely than knowledge gained though reading or being told.”

I’m not going to lie, there is some truth in that claim. One only has to read a bit of Walt Whitman to sympathize with this position. But that being said, I severely question how deeply one can understand a blade of grass just by holding it, as opposed to learning about it in a botany text book. Furthermore, it is very questionable that holding it, seeing, and tasting it provides a “deeper” understanding.

What do these folks mean when they say that “Indigenous Ways of Knowing” are holistic?

The module defines Indigenous knowledge as holistic because it “brings together internal and external worlds, the physical and the spiritual.”

Hold up….

Last time I checked, The Canadian Public School Board was a secular board. Then why are we telling teachers to introduce Native Spirituality into the classroom? Isn’t the entire idea of secularism the right to be free of religious rule and religious teaching?

Is telling teachers to teach Native Spirituality fair to other spiritual denominations?

For example, The Orthodox Church of America claims to be holistic. Orthodox also believe their teachings are universal and unite the external and internal parts of ourselves. As strict monists, they believe in the existence of only one world (that the natural and supernatural are united as one in the same world).

Ironically, the OCA also has a disproportionately high number of aboriginals, particularly the Alaskan Kodiak naitives, in the hierarchy of their church.

Should teachers be allowed, or rather encouraged, to bring in American Orthodox priests to teach their children about the “wonders of creation” and the “Orthodox Ways of Knowing?”

If Indigenous Ways of Knowing are spiritual, then like other spiritual teachings it doesn’t belong in a secular classroom.

If Buddhists and Orthodox Christians have to leave lessons about their incense usage at home,  Indigenous Ways of knowing should leave stories about the “sacred prayers” of the peace pipe at home as well.

What do these folks mean when they say Indigenous Ways of Knowing is narrative?

They claim that “Indigenous knowledge is conveyed using a narrative. Stories contain the knowledge that is needed to live in a good way. Transmitting vital teachings without preaching.”

That sounds like it’s OK, until you start to actually think about it. Hate to break to these guys, but telling moral stories is one of the oldest forms of preaching. It’s what that Jesus guy was doing when he spoke in parables.

All this shows is that they want to preach to children in everything but name.

 

TOPIC THREE “Sources of Indigenous Knowledge”

The module lists  “1. Traditional knowledge, 2. Empirical Knowledge, 3. Revealed knowledge” as the sources of Indigenous knowledge.

First off, how do we know that what the Indigenous think is “traditional knowledge” actually is what the Indigenous pre-European contact actually believed?

If everything is passed down from word of mouth, then how do we know that pre-European-contact-indigenous groups actually believed the stories that we currently claim are “traditional” native stories? Isn’t it possible that some of these stories are post-contact historical retro-projections?

Second, they’re misusing the word “Empirical.” Empiricism is an epistemological philosophy invented by Europeans invented in the 17th and 18th century.

If all they mean by “Empirical Knowledge” is that the Indigenous saw, felt, smelt, heard, and tasted things then whop-tie-do. There’s nothing special about that.

Welcome to the human condition. It certainly doesn’t make the indigenous way of knowing anymore distinct from anybody else’s way of knowing.

Third, how are we going to teach our children the Indigenous Way of Knowing if it comes to us in dreams and revelations?

The module defines “Revealed Knowledge” as “dreams, visions, and intuitions.” all of which are un-teachable.

What happened to citations? Verifiable and falsifiable hypotheses? The scientific method? Can teachers consider knowledge credible simply because it came to them in a dream?

 

TOPIC FOUR “Indigenous Axiology, Values, and Ethics “

In this part of the module, the focus is on the values and ethics within Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

There is nothing here that Ancient Greek Virtue philosophers didn’t already propose. Above all else, at least when the ancient Greeks spoke about ethics, they could write their thoughts down and have future generations check their notes.

This way each generation wasn’t working from scratch and from the time torn tatters of broken miscommunications found in all oral traditions.

After all, to quote the module, “the way one one comes to know is as important as what one comes to know.”

 

TOPIC FIVE “Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science Side by Side”

Here comes the fun part.

The module is actually putting this Indigenous Ways of Knowing nonsense on par with Western Science.

The module starts by denouncing science as nothing more than a Eurocentric and Imperialist tool to push aside the ideas of other cultures.

“The modern Western World developed in tandem with the expansion of European colonial empires. With colonial imperialism came an emphasis on the centrality and superiority of European theories and ideas also known as Eurocentrism. Eurocentrism has used Western science to discredit and delegitimize and marginalize Indigenous knowledges … This process has also been described as Cognitive imperialism (Battiste, 1986)”

Let us concede that Europeans turned to tribal peoples and spoke out against superstition, regional folk lore, and mislead mysticism. Is that really so bad?

Let us further concede that Europeans were even quick to push aside useful knowledge possessed by the natives because of pompous and ignorant racism. Does that mean that suddenly the epistemology of Western Science is on par with Indigenous Ways of Knowing?

Is all epistemology, all ways of knowing things, equal? Of course not.

If not, how does Indigenous Ways of Knowing compare with Western Science. Luckily for us, the module measures them both against one another in a Venn diagram.

CommonGroundCircles

^Cited from the geniuses at OISE^

The module explains how the Venn diagram presents “characteristics of both systems side by side to illustrate the different emphases, assumptions and outcomes of knowing within each system.”

Notice how they didn’t put “holistic” in the middle. Are they claiming that Western science, which studies the universal laws that permeate everything from to quarks and galaxies, is not holistic? Do they even know what Western Science is?

Apparently not, considering how they put “practical experimentation” as exclusively indigenous. It’s not like Western Science conducts any practical experimentation … Oh wait! It does! That’s what laboratories are for!

Who do they think comes up with the vaccines, generates new space aged materials, and increases agricultural yields?!

I’m just glad that they recognized that Western Science, and not Traditional Naive Knowledge, possess “global verification; hypothesis falsification; quantitative written records; communication of procedures, evidence, and theory; mathematical models;” and most importantly “skepticism” because God knows belief in Indigenous Knowledge requires blind faith.

The fact that they didn’t put “limited to evidence and explanation within the physical world” in middle just goes to show that “Traditional Native Knowledge” is just more religious neo-paganism.

Does this belong in a secular school system?

 

TOPIC 6 & 7 “Indigenous Knowledge and Learning, Re-imagining Education” & “Suggested Activities”

In these parts of the module, they argue that educators should “Re-imagine Education” and conduct activities with their students on  “Indigenous Ways of Knowing.”

This includes sharing “with your fellow learners this living representation of First Nations Holistic Life Long Learning model Created by the Canada Council on Learning and the Aboriginal Learning Centre.”

Remember that this module is designed for the teachers of your children.

Is anybody considering home school?

 

DISCLAIMER 

The module, like any faulty product, comes with a disclaimer.

It states, “Remember that the boundaries between the two are not so hard and fast and that both kinds of knowledge can exhibit different aspects. Most importantly, there are instances where indigenous knowledge and Western Science overlap.”

Personally, I completely agree. But insomuch as they define describe what Indigenous Ways of Knowledge is in contrast to Western Science, the more I feel like I need chemotherapy to get rid of this mental cancer.

 

The photo shows, “Le guerrier Iroquois,” by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, hand-tinted etching, done in 1797.

Jesus The Man

Have you ever noticed how certain people seem to fill a room with their presence? They simply walk in and everyone turns their way.

Sometimes this magnetism is due to an individual’s athletic prowess, stunning appearance, wealth or great intellect.

Yes some people can captivate others just with their presence.

If you have ever been invited to a reception where a member of the royal family for example is due to appear. People are quite happy waiting, making small talk and nibbling their canapés. Then when the royal member appears all attention is turned towards them. They command your attention; they become your complete focus.

When Jesus was going around Galilee speaking to different groups of people; he also commanded attention and became your complete focus. People said of him; ‘no one has ever taught like him before.

Nor had anyone ever divided a room more quickly than this prophet from Nazareth.

It was not his wealth or beauty that people noticed, he did not have those; nor had he much money.

And Isaiah said of him he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him.

So what was it that made him stand out above all others ever born in any generation past, present or future.

Well it was many things; it was his; grace, his power, his forgiveness, his teaching, his miracles, his compassion, his unceasing love and courage.

His presence was unmistakable. People either loved him or hated him, but they Never ignored him.

Many people then and since have tried to soften Jesus’ raspy cutting edge remarks concerning the human condition.

But it cannot be done without watering down his message and ruining the picture of his true character.

Much of the history concerning Christianity has centred around domesticating Jesus and reducing his message to one that suits all tastes and one that we are all comfortable with.

But that can’t work otherwise the gospel loses its potency and power. In North America and Europe Revisionist theology is causing the church many difficulties as some seek to revise what the bible actually teaches. In other words Christianity should be so watered down that it possesses no risk of offense to anyone. Something like A benign domesticated Jesus who is robbed of his ability to disturb others from their spiritual sleep walk.

Today we live in the age of Equality. Equality is king. It is the god many worship. And equality means no one gets offended.

But the fact is that Jesus is as disturbing now as he was then. Look how many times Jesus provoked outrage amongst his listeners and many of the other disciples for that matter.

Now I am not saying that we should all become firebrand preachers there’s enough of them already; or go about being offensive to people of different faiths or no faith.

But the fact is that we cannot portray Jesus without causing some people to feel uncomfortable about the way they live their lives and their attitude to him. Truth by its very nature is exclusive. Truth cannot mean all things to all people.

The Apostle John described Jesus as, ‘one full of grace and truth’. These two words encapsulate what it means to be a Christian. We act with grace and empathy, but we also stand for truth. That is biblical truth, which is not distorted or adapted to suit trends. Nor should we be afraid to speak in the public square giving the reason for our faith.

Sadly in recent years western Christianity has retreated from speaking out for what it believes, and instead allowed confusion and distortion to take the centre ground.

Jesus has this knack of shining his light into the darker recesses of our lives, which proves to be uncomfortable because there are things there that we know should not be there.

Jesus spoke powerfully yet skilfully. He spoke with authority yet with restraint. He spoke lovingly yet insightfully.

Jesus had always something productive and effective to say. Something that would make you wonder and look at him and say to yourself; well I never thought of that before.

He also had a knack of shattering our illusions. That’s the first point I want to make this morning. He shatters our illusions.

A leading Christian academic once said; ‘what we need is more disillusioned people’. It’s an interesting comment and one worth thinking about.

Disillusioned people by right should see themselves for what they are; disillusioned.

Disillusioned with the meaning and purpose of life and disillusioned with themselves. Disillusioned or heart broken people tend to be more open to God.

We live in a world filled with illusions; some are physical, some mental, and some spiritual.

Thanks to the advances in cosmetic surgery for example; if we don’t like what we see in the mirror; we can hide it; stretch it; tighten it; tuck it; remove it, enhance it; and replace it all in the same day. We gently massage the illusions we create with fantasies of unending health; wealth, eternal beauty; but always avoiding the inner poverty of our souls. The soul is the last place we tend to. We ignore it; and we do so at our peril.

Illusions are things or states of mind that we erect in order to prevent us from dealing and grappling with the truth.

We can maintain the hoax by borrowing money we don’t have, or buy stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t know and never see again. And so it goes on.

Our cosmetic and monetary enhancements are vain attempts to flee the real truth about life and death, about weakness and insecurity; and the advertising companies are making a fortune as they tap deeper and deeper into our insecurities.

The Pharisees in Jesus day got a lot of bad press. They were the religious zealots, the fundamentalists who viewed themselves as righteous, pure and basically perfect. They had created illusions about them selves; their role, and position in society.

But when they encountered Jesus; Jesus shook their self-righteous illusions to the core. Woe to you;

Woe to you; woe to you he said. He then went on to slate them for their hypocrisy.

You could hear people in the crowd saying but Jesus; That’s not how you address important religious leaders; but that’s what Jesus did. He had to use that particular approach. Jesus of course reached out to others in different ways. He spoke to the woman at the well in a very courteous yet penetrating way. But he shattered her illusion about happiness being found in relationships with different men.

He spoke to the rich young ruler lovingly. But he shattered his illusion that possessing wealth and being good was the key to life. He told him the truth. He did not compromise and run after him and say I’ll make it easier for you. Just give some of your wealth away.

He spoke tenderly to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery; but he shattered her illusion by reminding her that adultery was not acceptable and a sin against God. He told her the truth. He healed on the Sabbath Day shattering the Pharisees illusion about how the Sabbath Day was to be used.

Even his parables shattered illusions concerning money, faith, the kingdom of God and so on.

If the parable of the Good Samaritan didn’t shatter illusions about equality, discrimination, race, and creed I don’t know what did. A few months back I was listening to Radio 2. A man called John Lloyd was being interviewed.

His name is not particularly well known. But John Lloyd is a TV producer and the man who wrote the scripts for Spitting Image, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, QI, and Black Adder to name but a few. It was a very interesting interview.

Lloyd spoke about his fame and fortune as a scriptwriter for many Top Comedy TV programmes. He had a lovely wife, family, home, wealth and position. He had it all. And then he woke up one Christmas Eve morning, and suddenly thought for the first time in his life; what is this all about and he spiralled into years of depression; which he has now come through.

Lloyd possessed the dream of success in the eyes of the world; but when he achieved it; he said; it meant nothing to him. There was a sense of pointlessness to it all.

He built around him the successful trappings of comfort, fame and wealth but ignored the state of his soul. He constructed an illusion. His illusion about life had been broken. King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes said the same thing.

The second point I would make is this. Jesus often used three little words to get his message across.

Jesus rarely went into lengthy discourses. He tended to keep things short and to the point. Do you know what those three little words were? When he spoke to the crowds he would often say; ‘you have heard that it was said.

hen he turned things round by saying; ‘but I say’; ‘but I say’.

Three important words that gave a whole new dimension to what he said and to what others had said before him. The people wondered; who is this who speaks to us in this way; no one has ever spoken like this before.

I don’t know if you have ever heard powerful captivating speakers. They are a very rare commodity. But once you hear them speak you will remember them and their message for a very long time. Martin Luther King’s highly charged ‘I have a dream’ speech in Washington DC in 1963 Even when I hear it on Youtube the hairs on the back of my neck still rise.

Or Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons during the 2nd WW in 1940; we will fight them on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets. But Jesus words blow all other speeches away by comparison. Jesus was a highly skilled orator even at the age of twelve he was able to debate with the leading rabbi’s of the day in the temple.

When he uttered These three words; ‘but I say’ basically he was saying; Pay attention; pay attention and listen to what I am about to say,

Because what I am about to say will turn your world upside down and give you a reality check. And you need to hear this.

Now some people were open and excited about this; others were offended. Nothing has changed. Reading chapters 5 to 7 of Matthew, which includes the Beatitudes, is a reality check for us all. It removes any man made illusions.

‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, do not murder; but I say anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

You have heard that it was said; do not commit adultery; BUT I say anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

You have heard that it was said; love your neighbour and hate your enemy; but I say love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’

Whenever we hear words like these they not only arouse our curiosity they make us think and look at things in a different way.

It should not surprise us that in Jesus’ day his words separated friends, split families and shocked his followers.

Every time he taught or preached he was sparring with the prevailing opinions of society, and was one of the reasons he got himself into trouble.

If a man takes your jacket from you, give him your shirt as well he says. ‘If someone strikes you on the check, turn the other towards him.’

‘Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you. Lend to those who cannot pay you back.’

These are words that shatter our illusions. This is the way God talks. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Whenever we read such words our automatic reaction is to justify ourselves. And we begin an analysis.

Can these attitudes and ways really work in this world; is Jesus really in touch with reality. Does Jesus not know that the world doesn’t operate like this?

Does Jesus not know, does he not realise that throwing money at people who can’t pay it back displays bad business judgement and may lead to financial ruin for both parties. And what kind of defence policy would our nation have if we took cheek turning seriously with the likes of North Korea and Russia breathing down our necks. There are no easy answers. But Jesus’ words remain.

What are the illusions Jesus shatters with you? Might some of your illusions be?

If I follow God he will always keep me healthy and strong.

God helps those who help themselves.

What goes around, comes around.

Because I go to church God will look after me.

I can manage my greed and lust on my own.

Look after number one.

I’m basically a good person.

As long as you have your health.

Don’t offend anyone.

The strange thing is Jesus never said any of those things. !!!

Do you see the difference between what Jesus says and how we think and interpret his words? The illusions we erect to safeguard ourselves which really cause us more harm than good.

Maybe you will allow Jesus to shatter or dismantle what you have erected over the years.

Alan Wilson is a Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland, where he serves a large congregation, supported by his wife. Before he took up the call to serve Christ, he was in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for 30-years. He has two children and two grandchildren and enjoys soccer, gardening, zoology, politics and reading. He voted for Brexit in the hope that the stranglehold of Brussels might finally be broken. He welcomes any that might wish to correspond with him through the Contact Page of The Postil.

 

The photo shows, “My Soul is Sorrowful unto Death,” by James Tissot, painted ca. 1896.

The Humanities And Language

It is often assumed that the discipline of the Humanities involves anything and everything that cannot be properly be classified as a proper science. It is also commonly assumed that language is simply a method of communication – so that flapping one’s arms is the same as speaking; or, one may draw a picture, since a picture is worth a thousand words, as he adage tells us.

Before proceeding further, perhaps its best to define our terms so that we do not bogged down with assumptions.

Turning to language, we need to understand it as thinking more than communication. The founder of linguistic philosophy (Wilhelm von Humboldt) tells us that language is the expression of thinking peculiar to a people, even the most primitive of people, those closest to nature, as he puts it. Communication is only the simplest, basic level of linguistic use.

The most intensive use is the generation of ideas. The philologist Max Mueller continues Humboldt’s description when he describes language as “the outward form and manifestation of thought.”

And Humboldt further defines language as the medium through which humanity encounters reality – “Man lives with his objects chiefly as language presents them to him.”

The philosopher, Ernst Cassirer, succinctly described language as first the symbolic rendering of expressions and second the engendering of discursive thought; or, in other words, reason.

Thus language is the principle which serves to link together complexity in order to produce meaning, or what may be called abstract thought. In brief, for Cassirer, language is the entelechy of knowledge.

This obviously means that language has more than a denotative function – it is more than simply communication.

To quote the Danish linguist Louis Hjelmslev: “A language is that into which all other languages, and even all other conceivable language structures may be translated. In language, indeed only in such, can the inexpressible  be dealt with until such time as it is expressed.” Language, first and foremost is ideas.

Given the intimate association of language with thinking and knowledge – why do we hear the teachers of language referring to it as a “form of communication?” What purpose does this extreme simplification fulfill?

Having briefly defined language, we may do the same for the humanities. Again, we encounter confusion. The tendency nowadays is to view the Humanities as anything that is not science; and this confusion continues into areas which veer into science (like anthropology, psychology and sociology).

So, what are the Humanities? In a very straightforward way the Humanities have always meant the study of Greek and Latin – that is, the discipline of the Humanities has always been tied with the learning of language – because it was (and one hopes still is) believed that by learning a language, in a disciplined and structured fashion, a person became educated and refined.

Thus the Humanities are based upon the understanding that education is only possible through language. Therefore, the Humanities are not anything not science – but very specifically education in language – and those disciplines that promote language – namely literature, philosophy, biography and history. And it is here also that we have the very history of education.

But we now speak of skill, rather than education, and language is simply another tool to further the demands of the labor marker, rather than the promotion of being a good human being – the traditional goal of education. Skill is not about education – it is about labor and production.

Education is about building the good human being – or about the esthetic, moral and intellectual nature of humanity. Skill is about the material environment and its conquest. Skill is about bondage (the demands of labor). Education is about understanding the exercise of freedom.

And then there are countless falsehoods that permeate teaching institutions. The worst among them is the notion of “learning styles,” and the absurd notion of “right-brain” and “left-brain” learners. Study after study has amply demonstrated that there is no such thing as “visual learning” or “auditory learning,” or kinesthetic.

Nor does the brain function in left and right compartments. And yet, these false notions are so popular in educational institutions – and worst of all, entire pedagogies are built around these falsehoods. Why? As researchers recently observed in an extensive in the Journal of Psychological Science, “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing.”

Disturbing because students are being taught based upon false assumptions. Is an educational institution a place where pop-psychology should be followed?

And yet the popularity of these views in pedagogy is enormous. And the literature is enormous. But it is literature produced by the non-specialist – by the amateur. Why do teachers follow these falsehoods?

And recent studies also tell us that the only way possible for the brain to learn anything is through language. Thus, the physical brain is Humanistic. It is built primarily for language, for thought, for ideas. And the world that we live, the labor that do, is a function of thought, of ideas. The world that we inhabit is the product of Humanism.

Thus to neglect confuse Humanism with anything other than language is to deny the importance of thought.

 

The photo shows, “Le quai aux fleurs,” by Marie-François Firmin-Girard, painted in 1875.

What Is Thinking?

Over the years, higher education has become thoroughly vocationalized, and people come to university and college expecting to be trained for the job market.

More and more, society sees the academy as nothing more than a training facility where specific and transferable skills are acquired by individuals which can then be translated into careers and jobs in the marketplace.

Inherently there is nothing wrong about such a view of education; jobs and careers are fundamental to a happy life. But there is an essential problem here, because a primary component is being consistently ignored, which we can get to by asking a simple question.

What guarantees a career or a job or a paycheck in the first place? It is not proficiency in skill – rather, it is the context in which this skill is to be practiced. And this context, of course, is society. It is only within the context of a good society that jobs, careers – in short, the good life – can be guaranteed.

But if education is nothing other than training efficient workers who only know how to apply their skills in job situations – who will manage the needs of society so that it continues to be good, continues to be that context in which jobs and careers, and the good life, are to be guaranteed? If no one is educated in taking care of the good society, will society continue to be good? There is a strong and direct co-relationship between prosperity and the good society.

In our own political and cultural context, the good society is the liberal democracy, which depends upon the idea that all of us must work together to maintain the goodness of our society.

In order to do so, we must be educated in the wisdom of the liberal democratic tradition. But if we only worry about training for jobs, who will have the knowledge to ensure that our society remains both liberal and democratic – that it retains its goodness?

And what are the characteristics of such a society? They are ideals that we all aspire to and expect our society to provide – namely, freedom, personal worth, individual rights, and a government entirely answerable to the people.

Notice none of these expectations depend upon skill, upon being a good worker. And none of these expectations have come about as a result of industry’s efforts.

Industry can function in any type of society. It has loyalty only to profit. These expectations are, of course, ideals – and ideals require two things: education – not skill – and humane thinking.

 

How We Are Expected to Think

The enduring emphasis of skill in the educational system is also an emphasis on two kinds of thinking, and the neglect of a third kind. Skill is closely related to know-how, or technical knowledge, and to analytical, or scientific, knowledge.

The former is repetitive and performative, in that a skill is repeated in order to produce the same result. Scientific knowledge seeks to explain or predict; it can do no more.

For example, many children are prodigies with mathematics or music, in that they have acquired the skill to repeat notes or numerical patterns. Their expertise, or skill, is marvelous to witness – but no one turns to them for guidance on issues of freedom, individuality, or responsible government. Why?

Because we know that skills are not higher-level thinking. In the same way, a physicist understands fully how to establish models that can test natural laws and predict what nature may or may not do – but we do not consult this person about matters pertaining to the good society, or love. Why?

Because physics is analytical and cannot be used to understand goodness or love. Despite these obvious handicaps in scientific and technical knowledge, we still demand that higher education worry only about training workers. While everyone is functioning smoothly in industry – who is looking after the functioning of society?

Perhaps the reason for voter apathy, for example, and low voter turn-out may directly be related to this question.

There is a third kind of knowledge, which may be labeled practical wisdom. It is not technical, explanatory, or predictive. It is concerned with ideals, with formulating judgments and making decisions, and it directly relates to the way we encounter the world around us and the way we participate in society.

In other words, there is a specific kind of thinking which directly relates to the good society. Practical wisdom is about ideals. Life is always greater than tangible, material things.

Indeed, what is more important to human beings – happiness or skill?

To worry about skills is to desire to become a robot. To worry about happiness is to understand our humanity – because to be happy each of us must reflect upon what truth is and what goodness is, and each of us must create meaning in our lives. Skills can do neither of these things.

To be happy, to have meaning and value, we need to think critically, in the true sense of the term.

 

The photo shows, “Man at his Desk,” by Georg Friedrich Kersting, painted in 1811.

A Defense of Free Speech

Into blind darkness enter they that worship ignorance; into darkness greater than that, as it were, they that delight in knowledge (Isa Upanishad).

On March 20th, 2018, Faith Goldy was going to give a presentation at Wilfrid Laurier Universities’ Paul Martin Center.

LSOI (Laurier’s Society for Open Inquiry), the group hosting the event, claims that they invited five professors to challenge her views, but that none of them accepted. Thus, the debate was turned into a presentation.

Yet, before Goldy could give her controversial presentation the fire alarm was pulled. With the sound of alarms, Goldy left the campus and adjourned to the adjacent Veteran’s Green Park with her audience.

LSOI promised that they would invite Goldy back for a second appearance. 

This promise underscores the need to make a definitive judgement as to whether the WLU should allow Faith Goldy, and others like her, to be able to speak on campus.

I argue that it is in the interest of the school to rule in favor of allowing the speaker to return and give her presentation uninterrupted.

The university should allow the presentation because otherwise they may fall prey to dogmatism, the regulation of speech may lead to inequities, and free speech is in the interest of the marginalized groups they seek to protect.

Before diving into the ethics, I wish to discuss Faith Goldy’s position. She describes Euro-Canadians as the “native people” of Canada. She proposes a solution to stop the “ethnocide of the White race” and save European Canadian Identity.

One of her claims is that “High IQ Chinese are taking over the class rooms,” and that universities should do the opposite of affirmative action to Asian applicants, i.e. select against them in the admission process.

Commonly accused of being a “white supremacist” she counters that the reason for her measures are the opposite of white supremacy. She does not think that White people are the smarter superior race, on the contrary, it is because Asians, Jews and Indians are smarter “races” she takes her discriminatory stance.

This discriminatory stance is to “save” White people from becoming subservient to new “masters.” Also, she adopts what many would call an anti-Semitic stance.

Goldy says, “the first time we got an immigrant over-class was in 1881 with the great wave of Ashkenazi Jews” (who are “literally the smartest race on the planet”) came to Canada.

But wait, there’s more.

I want to make it clear that these are Faith Goldy’s views and not my own. It would be deceitful and unjust to omit these views to reader when discussing this controversy, especially when I seek to defend her presence here at WLU. For my own part, I abhor this line reasoning.

But, this article is not about what I think of Faith Goldy, it is about the effects that come with regulation of free speech.

The first reason why the university should allow freedom of speech is because it negates a slippery slope into dogmatism.

Universities are meant to be the anvil of new ideas, paradigm shifts, and revolutionary ways of thinking. When institutions regulate the speech of their constituencies, they tend to build their own echo chamber.

The fallout of this policy is that it creates a continuous cycle of reinforcing the status quo. As John Stuart Mill points out, dogmatism presupposes one’s own righteous stance on an issue.

Historically, it is hard for intellectuals to claim any level of infallibility in regard to evaluating “Nazi” points of view. In fact, people forget that the original Nazis were part the university intellectuals of their day.

The Einsatzgruppen were swarmed with highly educated members. Dr. Ohlendorf, one of the leaders of the Einsatzgruppen even had two PHD’s.

Intellectuals may be wise, but they’re not infallible. As long as that is the case they can never justify dogmatic policies for what are often grey areas.

Even if they are correct about Faith Goldy, who is to say they will continue to give correct evaluations of the speakers after her? Dogmatism is avoided completely when one ceases to regulate speech.

The second reason why universities should allow controversial speakers to discuss is because they may have a few good points to make, even if they are racist bigots.

There is always the possibility of a “diamond in the rough” when it comes to notorious orators regardless as to whether they are racists.

For example, many of the pro-slavery arguments that came from South of the United States were despicable. But even these Southerners made some good points that the US Northerners were afraid to confront.

The pro-Slavers contrasted the well-being of their slaves with the wretched lives of black factory workers in of the North.

Pro-Slavers might have been dead wrong about everything else, but they made great point when they showed that the horrors of industrial capitalism for blacks were not that far off from the conditions of a Southern slave.

If the North seriously confronted that statement, they might not have waited till the 1960’s (over 100 years later) to initiate social programs against poverty.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. That saying might be true for Goldy and other controversial speakers after her.

The third reason why controversial speakers like Goldy should be allowed to speak is because the violation of rights such as free speech endanger the public good in the long run.

Politics can be unpredictable.

You might have a party in power who “justly” silences the “unjust.” But what happens when power changes hands?

After initial censorship, that the silencing of others has been normalized, so now who is going to stop the misusing of that power?

The forth reason why free speech should be allowed is because it dissolves hate speech in the long run.

Dialogue is the crucible of changing thought. The best way to destroy hate speech is by argument, reason, and public discourse.

John Stuart Mill points out how if we do not fearlessly discuss truth then it loses its lively quality and becomes a dead dogma.

Speech is more then just fact and fiction, communication is the fabric that holds our societal consensus together. If we cease to be engaged in grappling with what we believe in as a society, then we might forget why we believe in the values we profess.

As time passes and truths become unquestioned, we forget over the generations why we believe them.

Members of our community begin to stray ideologically from the truths we have established in the past. Free speech is how we recover those members who have been lead astray.

For example, take Harvey Milk’s famous Hope Speech in 1977. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay congressman in the USA. He was a civil rights leader for the gay community.

After years of toil, abuse, and violence the gay community questioned the continued protest as opposed to going back in the closet.

In his Hope Speech, Harvey encouraged them to hang on to hope. Here, he extended his sympathy to the hardships of the gay community.

But at the same time, he utilized the power of free speech when he told them “unless you have dialogue, unless you open the walls of dialogue, you can never reach to change people’s opinion.” 

Far from telling the LGTBQ+ community to remain silent, he told them to speak out.

He advised them all to come out of the closet, so that they could show the world that they were not pedophiles or a sexual menace, but that they were people like anybody else.

Free speech may seem like it is against the wishes of the marginalized, but, it is their most powerful weapon. Can we really afford to take that away because some members of the population feel offended and unsafe?

The whole point of a PRIDE parade was to offend the sensitive conservative onlooker. The flamboyant display was meant to be an act of provocation to the members of society who preferred that gays remain behind closed doors.

The idea was to be proud instead of being ashamed.

Once upon a time, it was the LGBTQ+ community who were seen as the dangerous misfits who made the world unsafe for society.

John Stuart Mill and Milk were right. They knew that free speech led to ideological cohesion, not fragmented hate. Truth brings people together more than it drives them apart.

Free speech allows for the hateful to be confronted.

When it is illegal to express ones hate in public then one keeps it a secret. When this happens, hate is preserved behind closed doors and whispered behind the backs of future victims.

The hateful do not change their minds just because we make it illegal for them to hold a hateful stance. Instead they simply go on unopposed.

For example, if I was a racist and the school made it illegal for me to express my racist views, then I would never bring it up in public.

My hateful opinion would go unchallenged and I would simply become a secret racist who went around committing quiet acts of racism.

If I am allowed to express myself, then I increase the chance that others will confront my views. This increases the possibility of swaying hatful people through dialogue to reasonable positions.

The worse thing we could do is let hate to speak out unchallenged. When society failed to mobilize an ideological counter to Faith Goldy, we missed our chance to shed light on the darkness of her thoughts.

I’m not saying we would change her mind, but we might have changed the minds of audience members grappling with these demons.

I concede that there are times when one should break the law to do what’s right. I sympathize with the person who pulled the fire alarm on that day. But was this person really doing what was best for society by pulling the fire alarm?

I do not think so.

I argue that allowing free speech was the right thing to do, not shutting down dialogue. Because a true conscientious objector breaks the law for the good of society, and this person did more harm than good, thus I deny labeling them as a true conscientious objector.

I would not be surprised if they thought that they were doing the right thing, but they were misled.

These are the reasons why I think Wilfrid Laurier University should allow Faith Goldy to speak again upon her return.

It’s not because I agree with her views. On the contrary, I think they are horrible. But if we regulate free speech we fall into the greater darkness of dogmatism. Intellectuals are smart, but they are far from infallible.

Free speech may take a while to prove its worth, but in the long run it becomes the safe guard of the marginalized. It is the arguably the most powerful tool for keeping society engaged and on the same page.

Furthermore, it is our obligation as citizens to take on these speakers. We should not support these horrible views, rather we owe it to the marginalized to stand up on their behalf by debating these orators.

More importantly, we owe it to members of the community who are struggling with these ideas and those who have been blinded by them. Since Socrates, our task has been to take people out of the cave of illusory shadows and show them the light (even if they make us drink hemlock for doing so).

 

The photo shows, “What Freedom!” by Ilya Repin, painted in 1903.

Higher Education?

Over the years, higher education has become thoroughly vocationalized, and people now come to university and college expecting to be trained for the job market.

This means that society sees the academy as nothing more than a training facility where specific and transferable skills are acquired by individuals which can then be translated into careers and jobs in the marketplace. Inherently there is nothing wrong about such a view of education; jobs and careers are fundamental to a happy life.

But there is an essential problem here, because a primary component is being consistently ignored, which we can get to by asking a simple question. What guarantees a career or a job or a paycheck in the first place? It is not proficiency in skill – rather, it is the context in which this skill is to be practiced.

And this context, of course, is society. It is only within the context of a good society that jobs, careers – in short, the good life – can be guaranteed.

But if education is nothing other than training efficient workers who only know how to apply their skills in job situations – who will manage the needs of society so that it continues to be good, continues to be that context in which jobs and careers, and the good life, are to be guaranteed?

If no one is educated in taking care of the good society, will society continue to be good? There is a strong and direct co-relationship between prosperity and the good society.

In our own political and cultural context, the good society is the liberal democracy, which depends upon the idea that all of us must work together to maintain the goodness of our society.

In order to do so, we must be educated in the wisdom of the liberal democratic tradition. But if we only worry about training for jobs, who will have the knowledge to ensure that our society remains both liberal and democratic – that it retains its goodness? And what are the characteristics of such a society?

They are ideals that we all aspire to and expect our society to provide – namely, freedom, personal worth, individual rights, and a government entirely answerable to the people.

Notice none of these expectations depend upon skill, upon being a good worker. And none of these expectations have come about as a result of industry’s efforts. Industry can function in any type of society. It has loyalty only to profit.

These expectations are, of course, ideals – and ideals require two things: education – and humane thinking.

 

The photo shows, “Girls Singing On A Park Bench,” by Minna Heeren, painted in 1873.