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My undergraduate University days were nothing like what is routinely described as the ‘University Experience’.  It was a much more utilitarian experience – go to class, take notes, and then rinse and repeat the next day.  Add review said notes and study as test time rolled around.  The social aspect of University was pretty much all but lost on me at the time as the group of friends I had at the time did not attend.  In hindsight, not having friends doing the same thing made focusing on my studies much more difficult and it extended my stay at the lovely U by a few years.   Lessons learned and what not.

So, my Uni days were, to oversimplify, just highschool but harder.  My real learning started or at least the path to intellectual maturity started after I earned my degree.  It also helped that my partner was smart af and pushed me to become more rigorous in developing and defending my thoughts and arguments.  So when I read this essay I could understand what they where saying, but couldn’t really relate to what was being said of the state of university/college campuses regarding the moral/social development of their students.

For me, finding my moral and ethical centre was quite independent of the educational process, such as it was, during my tenure at the U.  Granted, of course, I was being exposed to and learning about topics that would, in the future, inform my ethical-self and boundaries, but nothing on the level which seems to happen in the US college scene.  So then while reading this quote intrigued me:

   “It is entirely reasonable, then, for students to conclude that questions of right and wrong, of ought and obligation, are not, in the first instance at least, matters to be debated, deliberated, researched or discussed as part of their intellectual lives in classrooms and as essential elements of their studies. “

What?  Isn’t inside the classroom where the great arguments and debates should happen?  I mean, it is in the university that you can hash out and grapple with the big problems with the help of professors and the knowledge that they bring and provide of the big thinkers that have grappled with these questions in the past.  The university is where you can make mistakes and get nuanced feedback that will sharpen your intellectual faculties and better equip you to lead the examine life, right?

(It’s funny – none of this really happened for me – sit in class, get taught stuff, regurgitate stuff – was the order of the day).  But yeah, in the formal sense, if you’re not going to university to grapple with the right and wrong questions, then why go?  Getting a degree for job is nice and stuff, but attending higher education is supposed to be more than that.

Here is an excerpt from Wellmen’s take on the the state of the university experience in the US:

 

“The transformation of American colleges and universities into corporate concerns is particularly evident in the maze of offices, departments and agencies that manage the moral lives of students. When they appeal to administrators with demands that speakers not be invited, that particular policies be implemented, or that certain individuals be institutionally sanctioned, students are doing what our institutions have formed them to do. They are following procedure, appealing to the institution to manage moral problems, and relying on the administrators who oversee the system. A student who experiences discrimination or harassment is taught to file complaints by submitting a written statement; the office then determines if the complaint potentially has merit; the office conducts an investigation and produces a report; an executive accepts or rejects the report; and then the office ‘notifies’ the parties of the ‘outcome’. 

These bureaucratic processes transmute moral injury, desire and imagination into an object that flows through depersonalised, opaque procedures that produce an ‘outcome’. Questions of character, duty, moral insight, reconciliation, community, ethos or justice have at most a limited role. US colleges and universities speak to the national argot of individual rights, institutional affiliation and complaint that dominate American capitalism. They have few moral resources from which to draw any alternative moral language and imagination. 

The extracurricular system of moral management requires an ever-expanding array of ‘resources’ – counselling centres, legal services, deans of student life. Teams of devoted professionals work to help students hold their lives together. The people who support and oversee these extracurricular systems of moral management do so almost entirely apart from any coherent curricular project. 

It is entirely reasonable, then, for students to conclude that questions of right and wrong, of ought and obligation, are not, in the first instance at least, matters to be debated, deliberated, researched or discussed as part of their intellectual lives in classrooms and as essential elements of their studies. They are, instead, matters for their extracurricular lives in dorms, fraternities or sororities and student activity groups, most of which are managed by professional staff. “

It seems less of an organic process, and more of a ritualized ‘thing ya do’ to start making the bucks in society.  It seems like such a waste that we have strict qualifications to get and to graduate, but at the same time that we’re not challenging people, making them stretch and reform their assumptions about the world.  Where else can we have the space to do such important life work?

   I’ve written more than my fair share of five paragraph essays.  Graded a few in my time as well.  It would be nice if we could spend the time and teach people different ways of grappling with thoughts and ideas in their writing.  The online Aeon Magazine has some surprisingly good and thoughtful articles, this one by Sam Dresser is a fine example:

 

“Carrying out this kind of teaching calls for concentrating effort at two levels. One is teaching students how to make meaning at the sentence level, using syntax to organise words to say what you want them to say. Books on writing at the sentence level – my favourites are Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (1981) by Joseph Bizup and Joseph M Williams, now in its 11th edition; and Fish’s How to Write a Sentence – lay out a series of useful rules of thumb: be clear, be concise, be direct, focus on actors and actions, play with language, listen for the music. The other is teaching students how to make meaning across an entire text, using rhetorical moves that help them structure a compelling argument from beginning to end. My favourite book in this genre is Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say. I use all three in a graduate class I teach on academic writing.

I’ve also developed my own set of questions that writers need to answer when constructing an analytical text:

1. What’s the point? This is the analysis issue: what is your angle?
2. Who says? This is the validity issue: on what (data, literature) are you basing your claims?
3. What’s new? This is the value-added issue: what do you contribute that we don’t already know?
4. Who cares? This is the significance issue, the most important issue of all, the one that subsumes all the others. Is this work worth doing? Is the text worth reading?But, you ask, aren’t these just alternative sets of rules, much like the Rule of Five? I say no. One difference is that these are clearly labelled not as rules but rules of thumb. They are things to keep in mind as you write (and especially as you edit your writing), many of which might be in tension with each other, and which you must draw upon or ignore as needed. Another difference is that they resist the temptation to provide a rigid structure for a text of the kind that I have been discussing here. Deal with issues in the literature where it helps to frame and support your argument rather than confining it to the lit-review ghetto. And don’t make the reader wait until the conclusion to find out what gives the text significance; most people would stop long before this point.

Rules of thumb call for the writer to exercise judgment rather than follow the format. Of course, it takes more time and effort to develop writerly judgment than it does to follow the shortcut of the five-paragraph essay. Form is harder than formalism. But the result is a text that does more than just look like a piece of writing; it makes meaning.”

I like his guidelines and suggestions for writing, although I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up my 5 paragraphs quite yet.

pomoHow We Reached the Point Where We Can’t Hear Each Other” is a article on Counterpunch by Joseph Natoli.  I’ve excerpted some of the beginning bits for context, but the best is when he focuses on what is happening in Education and how people are taught to think these days.  I’m also a fan of his borrowing of radical feminist methodology that focuses on the the material reality of the situation and the naming of the problem.  I heartily recommend you read the full article, as it suggests reasons why we are becoming less social despite ‘social’ media and the corrosive effect that identity politics, one of the crown jewels of post-modern theory, is having on our society.

[…]

“The intent of a past analog world to put us all on the same page so we could all direct ourselves in common to our common, societal problems is something now disseminated into an infinitude of self-designed enclaves. We have connectivity between the like-minded, or opinionated, but not conjunction which Bifo Berardi defines “as a way of becoming other.” (And: Phenomenology of the End, 2015)

If you want to reflect beyond the entrapment of your own personal experiences and the personal opinions derived from such, you are desiring something that has been superseded.

If you want not to be the blind man who feels the tail of an elephant and pronounces the elephant to be shaped like a snake, you are hoping for a door that leads out of the room of your own limited experience.

Unfortunately, there is no longer any need to leave that room because cyberspace has designed the whole world to be your room. You can blog, tweet, text. Video, emoji your reflections online without any intent to augment social knowledge or understanding or to encounter a counter-punch that will cause you to adjust your views.”

[…]

“We exist now within narratives, not impeccable logics and sound proofs, air-tight arguments or binding adjudications. For reasons too elaborate to condense, we have accepted Nietzsche’s view of reason as a pawn of power and have retreated to our own personal reasoning.

This retreat to personal arbitration of all matters is expressed in the politics of identity, a politics concerned with the full emancipation of the individual not as defined within any cultural, religious, historical, or anthropological notion of the individual, but defined by each and every variety of individual. It is as if the individual is a knowledge within itself.”

[…]

Education is also in a special dilemma considering the mission here is get a student to put his or her personal opinions and preferences and different experiences out of sight and attend to a rationally validated collective representation of a subject.

Nathan Heller points out that elite colleges find that the cultivation of the individual is not an easy matter when students will not leave their personal “experiential authority” at the door. (“The Big Easy,” The New Yorker May 30, 2016) One is not reading to extract eternal verities, the Enlightenment dream, or to deconstruct the pretenses of those same verities. In the climate that Heller describes, no content can be permitted to transgress the personally defined identity of the reader or listener.

An Oberlin student who Heller describes as “a trans man …educated in Mexico, walks with crutches, and suffers from A.D.H.D. and bipolar disorder …lately on suicide watch” objected to a discussion of Antigone without a trigger warning, i.e., characters in the play committed suicide. Identity-based oppression is responded to with a theory of intersectionality, which contends, “who knows what it means to live at an intersection better than the person there?” Thus, personal experiential authority now contends with a pedagogic tradition of minimizing the effects of personal experiential authority on objective, rational reflection.

Education attempts to respect individual arrangements of the results of critical thinking but not allow those arrangements to taint the process of critical thinking. This long standing agreement is no longer in effect. We have reached the point where we cannot engage in any way what may “trigger” our personal dislike or what may upset a private space we have self-designed.  Long standing notions of both education and society are dissolving.

We now listen to our own voices and our clones in “social” media, a pathological condition that undermines much needed social and political communication and interrelationships. The way out, as with all pathologies, is to first recognize the condition, observe the point we have reached and reorient our compass.”

Teaching critical thinking in public education has always been a revolutionary activity, as this article confirms, it looks like it shall continue to be in the revolutionary category for quite some time.

 

David Cromwell excels at identifying key points of friction between public and private interests.  In this excerpt he examines how higher learning is being bent to fulfil its corporately mandated responsibilities to society.

“This [Academia] is a privileged sector where critical thought and enquiry into human society, the natural world and the cosmos ought to be the norm; not where overwhelming pressure to conform to state-corporate interests should be exerted on teaching and research agendas. 

    why_are_we_the_good_guys How can academic ‘collaboration’ with large corporations which are, after all, centralised systems of illegitimate power, not lead to compromise, distortion or worse?  It is clearly not in the interests of such institutions to promote rational and honest study into the problems of a corporate-shaped society.  It is in their interests to commandeer the publicly-funded research while co-opting supposedly neutral and objective academia as ‘partners’.  And all the better if highly trained university researchers working in narrow, focused disciplines remain disconnected from the interests in other disciplines, or more importantly, from the concerns of the general populace.

     ‘To work on a real problem (like how to eliminate poverty in a nation producing eight hundred billion dollars’ worth of wealth each year) one would have to follow that problem across many disciplinary lines without qualm, dealing with historical materials, economic theories, political obstacles’, observed historian Howard Zinn, author of The People’s History of the United States, who died in 2010.  ‘Specialisation ensures that one cannot follow a problem through from start to finish.  It ensures the functioning in the academy of the system’s dictum: divide and rule.’  Zinn provided a potent example: ‘Note how little work is done in political science on the tactics of social change.  Both students and teacher deal with theory and reality in separate courses; the compartmentalisation safely neutralises them.’

    Any management vision of how the university sector, or any place of higher education, ought to develop that does not recognize the nature of the iniquitous capitalist society in which the university finds itself embedded, is short-sighted.  And, moreover, any such ‘vision’ that is not committed to making radical changes in the way society is structured is tacitly, if not actively, supporting the status quo.  The same argument applies to any major institution in society.”

-David Cromwell.  Why Are We The Good Guys? pp. 216 – 217

   So, great you have a degree, well done sport!  Did they teach you to comply or to question the society that you inhabit?

Well, it is nice to know I have a little job security. :)

children   Religion doesn’t just happen in the 21st century in the West.   Religion must be instilled into children, magic and fable must be taught to be revered and most darkly, the fear of eternal punishment must be enshrined in young minds.

Hell for children is a very real fear – it torments their thoughts and causes a great deal of unnecessary anxiety.  My question to the religious is simply this:

Why make your children fearful?

Isn’t there enough to worry about life with regards to food, shelter, and security to add another imaginary layer of anxiety to the mix?  Is that a responsible action to take as a parent?

Of course it isn’t.

Being afraid for yourself is not a great motivator for ethical action, and yet that is the implicit lesson that resonates through so much of religious teaching.  Consider also how the fallacy inducing mode of binary thinking is encouraged and reinforced.  You are good with Jebus and bad the the Devil… etc.  Serious ethical actions and thoughts require moving past that first easy binary of good and evil because almost every encounter we have as individuals in society is a mixed bag of ethical and unethical choices and behaviours.

Stating moral relativism here always leads to the conclusion that somewhere down the line – anything and everything will be permissible.  Given that the last 1700 hundred years or so of religious dominance in the field of ethical behaviour I would have to say that absolute morality path isn’t exactly a slam dunk either, as far as worthwhile moral systems are concerned.

I’m always here on Sundays giving both barrels to religion and its antiquated notions of how the world is – seldom do I offer what I would like to see happen instead of the religious tomfoolery so easily demarcated and dispatched.

The vision I have is one that requires a society that understands how ill equipped our species is for rational, logical thought.  Bearing that in mind no expense must be spared to raise children in a safe, welcoming, and stimulating environment in which the only worry they will have is what new thing they will learn after lunch.

How far off is this goal?

Too damn far away.  Every time I’ve been called to a kindergarten or pre-k class some of the children there have come to school hungry.  Nothing defeats curiosity and learning like an empty belly.  Too many times I’ve been empty handed at lunch, because I’d already distributed my lunch to other children, yet there was yet another to feed.  (Don’t worry we always find something).

I need my society to realize how important it is for all children to have the basics of life taken care before I can start helping them explore and comprehend the world around them.

Bringing this back to religion and the insecurity it supposed to soothe – how about some more focus on doing ‘good works’ rather than all the political nonsense currently dominating the religious sphere.  How awesome would it be to have another volunteer (religious or not) in every classroom there to support learning and socialization?

There are so many ways to help children.  The problem being that the outlay of time and emotional investment (for both the secular and religious) is prohibitive; and that, sadly,  is structural feature of society.

Because Magic, taught as fact, in the curriculum is AWESOME!

Because Magic, taught as fact, in the curriculum is AWESOME!

Further breaking news: The Edmonton Public School Board will also remove Soylent Green Recipe Book from the Foods curriculum.

How does feculence like this happen in my school system?

“An Edmonton teen and her mother have filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over a high school sex education class delivered by a religious-based group.  Last year, Emily Dawson, 18,  took part in a two-day class delivered as part of the Career and Life Management course at McNally High School.  The teenager says she was shocked by what she heard.

“Basically shaming the girls and making them gatekeepers and meanwhile making it sound like the boys had no impulse control,” she said.  

The Edmonton Public School Board used the Pregnancy Care Centre to conduct the course.  The centre is affiliated with Care-Net, an American based anti-abortion movement. Both groups focus on advocating abstinence from sex.

picardwtfHow many other little “whoopsies” does the EPSB have up its sleeve?  The NRA about the value of gun control and firearm safety?  Exxon on Environmental Stewardship?

What the crap?

First, lets establish what our Experts in Christian Misogyny are advocating.  From Care.net –

Care Net promotes and supports sexual abstinence until marriage among youth through its LifeWise Program. LifeWise services are available free of charge to churches, schools, and any youth-serving organizations. Care Net will also partner with parents to provide neighborhood programs in homes or at Care Net’s facility on the east side of Madison.

  Care Net works to end abortion, not primarily through political action but by building a culture where every woman receives all the support she needs to welcome her child and create her own success story. By empowering women and men to make courageous, life-affirming choices, Care Net and our affiliate pregnancy centers end abortions every single day.”

Well, isn’t this just a “Grade-A” glistening block of bullshit on display. They also run Pregnancy centres to hoodwink traumatized women and baffle them with religious bullshit and obstruct them while they attempt to obtain a legal medical procedure.

What a charming bunch of folks, god bless their hearts, we are dealing with here.

So, let’s take a look at the facts of the matter just to show exactly how full of shit our christian care.net friends are and the poisonous message they brought into the Edmonton public school system.

From:

The Failure of Abstinence-only Education: minors have a right to honest talk about sex. – Published in: Sexuality and the Law Symposium, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 12-62, 2006.

“Abstinence-only sex education is anything but educational. At best, it deprives students of the knowledge necessary to manage their own sexual health. At worst, it is dangerous to minors and to the public health. As the Waxman Report concluded, “[s]erious and pervasive problems with the accuracy of abstinence-only curricula may help explain why these programs have not been shown to protect adolescents from sexually transmitted diseases and why youth who pledge abstinence are significantly less likely to make informed choices about precautions when they do have sex.”18 In a society that purports to value children, the state should foster healthy, informed minors who are equipped to manage their sexual health responsibly. At the very least, the state should not encourage or support educators and programs in misleading children and promoting false, dangerous, and potentially injurious practices.”

~~~~

“In light of the potential health risks associated with these curricula, abstinence-only education cannot be justified as intending to serve any significant state interest. While the government may have an interest in encouraging abstinence in unmarried youth, its current policy is being pursued at the expense both of truth and public health. Importantly, there is no evidence that providing comprehensive sex education promotes increased sexual behavior or dilutes the message that abstinence is a preferable choice, as proponents assert.250 Furthermore, the government’s singular focus on abstinence represents an educational policy that is inconsistent with the democratic educational objective of preparing adolescents to make responsible, informed choices.”

More on efficacy of Abstinence only versus comprehensive sex education.

“Using figures from 1995-2000, Advocates for Youth (www.advocatesforyouth.org) reports that the HIV rate for Americans 15-24 is five times that of German youth of the age. The U.S. teen syphilis rate is six times higher than the Dutch; the chlamydia rate is 20 times that of French teens; and our teen gonorrhea rate is a whopping 74 times higher than the Dutch.

European programs that provide uncensored sex education and promote condom use are the reasons for this success. Contrary to what one might expect, European youth have fewer sex partners than Americans do and begin sex slightly later than Americans. What is alarming, however, is that America has the largest percentage of girls who have sex by age 15.

The U.S. also has the highest teen birth rate among 28 developed countries. According to a UNICEF study, less than 10 per 100,000 teenage girls in Korea, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden gave birth in 2001, whereas 52 American teens per 100,000 did.”

More on the failure of Abstinence Only Education – Here, Here, Here, here…  Let us conclude then that our dear Christian Misogynists are the engineers of the fail-train; happily throwing more coal into the fire as they move full speed ahead and with Jesus and Ignorance at their side, they are unstoppable.

We should get back to Kelly and Emily and their experience with these professional dispensers of mendacity.

Kathy Dawson says she tried to pull her daughter Emily out of the class for the second day. But she says the school informed her that Emily had to take the class in order to pass her course.  So she joined her daughter in the classroom. A single mother, Dawson said she was shocked what students were told about families like hers.

“Well, that our children are prone to depression, suicide, juvenile delinquency,” she said.

The remarks also surprised her daughter.  “It’s not something that you hear every day where you’re getting bashed for being in a single-parent home.”

Kathy Dawson was also upset the class appeared to focus on values instead of science.”

See.  Seeeeeeeeee?!?  This is what happens when you let this sort of religious malevolent altiloquence into the secular classroom.  Shaming single parent families, fuck-ya god hates you – and lets not forget about the eternally burning homosexuals…

“I have a friend that is a lesbian and she was asking what would happen if she didn’t want to stay abstinent and then the educator said, ‘We’re not here to talk about that,’” Dawson said.

Yes, telling young children that they’ll burn seems a little out of place in Canada (and the norm for secular societies), so we’ll just ignore your question instead.  The nice people at Care Net are so full of love, tolerance, and compassion.

Full marks to Kathy Dawson for taking action to get these people out of the school system.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has now accepted the Dawsons’ complaint. 

“I’m training up my kids to respect science and demand science in their education,” Kathy Dawson said. “So this is a long haul, and I’m fully prepared to take it all the way.”

This is pretty much a slam dunk.  Is religious bunk allowed in the classroom?  Yes/No  If the answer is yes, then the leaders of secular school board will have some explaining to do.

The EPSB took action –

the EPSB wrote that it had a registered nurse observe one of the presentations unannounced and found the information “met our standards and expectations on every level” but that it would still look for new presenters for the next year.

“Having said that, we’ve heard a lot of concerns expressed from the public over the last several days about guest speakers invited to present on the topic of sexual health education,” the board wrote.

“We are asking our schools in the fall to use different presenters so that we can continue this conversation, and focus on meeting the needs of students and parents.”

 

Well the school board doesn’t have its head entirely up its ass.  Woo!

[Source]

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