How We Should Respond to a Pro-Nazi Teaching Assignment

This teaching assignment that compelled students to take a pro-Nazi position against Jews was obviously a bad mistake, but it is one in which we all of us (especially those in the Jewish community) need to demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to the teacher. Justification of hatred is not something that is legitimate in a class teaching students how to think, especially in a classroom of teenagers. Yes, we can justify any horrible action or idea through reasoned argument, but humanism and our ethical principles have to intervene at some point. At the same time, the teacher was probably not intending to promote antisemitism and hatred, but rather the opposite. Further, all the time we permit actors in theater and film to portray Nazis (think Ralph Finnes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List or Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler in Downfall [Der Untergang]), and we want them to do so in a convincing fashion. In fact, we applaud them for it and give them awards. This is not an easy topic, and it’s one where all of us can go astray. Let this event not be an opportunity for recrimination and shouting, but a teaching moment.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/nyregion/albany-teacher-gives-pro-nazi-writing-assignment.html?_r=0

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Nice Money if You Can Get It

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The Valmadonna Book Collection Goes on Sale Again

A fascinating story that illustrates the precariousness of Jewish cultural heritage:

http://www.forward.com/articles/137521/ (via Dianne Bazell)

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Packing Heat on Texas Campuses

Whoopee! This should be fun for faculty and students, as they deal with anger management issues in classrooms.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/10/us-campus-guns-texas-idUSTRE74902920110510

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NYC Leads the Nation in Promoting Health Food Choices for Schoolchildren

This is inspiring. New York city has introduced a massive healthy food program that will affect children’s food choices not only in NYC, but throughout the country.

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/03/05/nyregion/100000000700483/citycritic-school-lunch.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=thab1

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Practice Test-Taking Is Key to Learning

As in most things, practicing what you will be doing at a given time is excellent preparation for actually doing it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/science/21memory.html?hp

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A Petition To Endorse The Statement of 41 Nobel Laureates on the Issue of Academic Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East)

If you are opposed to academic boycotts and divestment (now frequently aimed at Israel) , please forward this to anyone you think might be interested.

http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=21
http://spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=9&Action=View

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Gordon Pinsent Reads Justin Bieber’s Memoirs

This satirical skit is hilarious.  I’ve been laughing all day.   It shows how wisdom is a lot less likely to take hold at the age of 16 than at the age of 66.  Unlike music or science prodigies, individuals usually develop wisdom only with time and experience.  (Via Dianne Bazell and Greg Davis)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih-2O_gdYZo

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Google Art

http://www.googleartproject.com/

This is a momentous development, making the art of the great museums available to anyone with an internet connection.  It will have a profound impact on world culture, erasing many geographical and socio-economic boundaries.  (Via Nelson French)

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Theory and Practice: China Has an Economic Plan — The US Does Not

Robert Reich notes the fundamental difference between the economies of the US and China:  China has a plan, and we don’t.  This hands-off approach has characterized both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations.  In general, the US relies on faith in the free market place, while China assumes that the government must make careful plans to advance its interests.  Consequently, the Chinese invest heavily in green industries, even when there is no immediate profit and cost is high, because this technology is the future.  Whoever controls it will have an enormous advantage in global competition.  The US engages in talk, but not much action.

The US has an almost magical faith in the free market.  It’s almost as if the US believes that simply reciting an ideological creed will guarantee economic success.

The US still has one advantage:  the deep creativity and inventiveness that marks our culture.  Americans do not rely on the past and on tradition, but look for new and original ways of doing things.  This has always carried the US through before, and I hope it will continue to do so.  But can the US rely on this, while others make plans?

The whole issue relates to an even more fundamental matter.  Will human beings rely on ideology or on practical, integrative approaches to solve problems?  Ideology is  pure theory, ideas separate from concrete reality.  Communism, Marxism, radical free market capitalism, absolute pacifism, religious fundamentalism, and postmodern theory all fall into that category.  They are ideologies rather than evidence-based methods. Significantly ideologues exist on both the left and right. among both the secular and the religious.  Even when something contradicts the theory, followers of the theory simply ignore the data, because fundamentally day-to-day life is messy, confusing, ambiguous, contradictory, and therefore too difficult to interpret.

While the US has recently been primarily concerned with ideas about what should work, the Chinese and others are approaching matters pragmatically, testing for what actually does work.  The US would do well to return to its historical roots in pragmatism and develop more of a balance between theory and practice.

http://robertreich.org/post/2830348699

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Studying Philosophy at a Community College

“As state universities cut back on humanities programs, LaGuardia Community College in Queens, N.Y., is going in the opposite direction. At LaGuardia, philosophy is king and challenging the stereotype that four-year colleges are for intellectuals and community colleges are for career training” (via Dianne Bazell).  Humanities offer students training in how to analyze, to think, to synthesize, and to transform themselves in a fast-past, changing, world.  Humanities also give students a chance to think about what matters, which is is a crucial skill for employees, organizations. and enterprises that must reinvent themselves.  (Via Dianne Bazell)

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/04/132633254/philosophy-valued-at-one-community-college

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“Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?emc=tnt&tntemail1=y:

“The constant stream of stimuli offered by new technology poses a profound new challenge to focusing and learning” (via Nelson French).

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Course Syllabi

If interested in my teaching syllabi, please see the page, “Teaching: Syllabi” under “Larry Kant”: http://mysticscholar.org/larry-kant/teaching-syllabi/

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Sparks of Light

Everything and everyone has a spark of light. We are here to learn to see it.

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End of Oxford One-Word Exam

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/28/world/europe/28oxford.html

The end of the one-word exam at Oxford.

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The Real Meaning of University Libraries

http://chronicle.com/article/Marian-the-Cybrarian/65570/

(via Deirdre Good)”Through the many twists and turns of Darnton’s book, one major point emerges: ‘Libraries were never warehouses of books. They have been and always will be centers of learning. Their central position in the world of learning makes them ideally suited to mediate between the printed and the digital modes of communication.'”

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Teaching Philosophy in the 2nd Grade

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/education/edlife/18philosophy-t.html


Teaching philosophy to children is a noble activity. Perhaps wisdom will come sooner and with fewer hardships

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Yoga’s New Wave

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/fashion/25yoga.html
A movement against the rock star model of teaching yoga and an emphasis on practice over star instructors

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Meaningful Conversation

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/talk-deeply-be-happy/
Substantive conversation and talking deeply leads to greater happiness. I have always seen meaningful discussion as the core of teaching and wisdom (which should be the goal of all learning)

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