[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images are from Lapham’s Quarterly June/July 2022:Education, except where noted.]
[Click or right-click on an image may give the option to open it separately.]
[NEW to Lapham’s Quarterly? See the standard notes at the end of this review. After 50+ LQ summaries I jump right in.]
[This is a READING section, for those who might stumble in looking for photos. My edits/summaries of the L.Q. historical journal continue.]
My best friend said that the solution to this or that problem, large or small, was EDUCATION! I still agree.
As noted, I once heard Werner Erhard say, to paraphrase: ‘A teacher is one who creates a space for learning to occur.’ This led me to stumble upon, and borrow from my local library, ‘Speaking Being’ by Hyde and Kopp, a weighty tome (3 or 4 pounds I’d say), and a weighty tome, the complete transcript of Werner presenting the four-day Forum with a page-by-page parallel discussion of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy on Being. I did est (Erhard Seminars Training) and many associated programs, including many with Werner, in the late 70s and 1980s. (Can’t you tell? Me neither. I drifted.) The book is too weighty for me, so I’m back to the slightly more mundane Lapham’s Quarterly.
It’s HOMEWORK, the third section of Voices in Time. The bane of all school existences.
In 1901 Rabindranath Tagore is pertinent on the restrictions of normal education:
“The young mind should be saturated with the idea that it has been born in a human world which is in harmony with the world around it. And this is what our regular type of school ignores with an air of superior wisdom, severe and disdainful. It forcibly snatches away children from a world full of the mystery of God’s own handiwork, full of the suggestiveness of personality. It is a mere method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individual. It is a manufactory specially designed for grinding out uniform results. It follows an imaginary straight line of the average in digging its channel of education.” (P. 136)
“Our childhood is the period when we have or ought to have more freedom—freedom from the necessity of specialization into the narrow bounds of social and professional conventionalism. I well remember the surprise and annoyance of an experienced headmaster, reputed to be a successful disciplinarian, when he saw one of the boys of my school climbing a tree and choosing a fork of the branches for settling down to his studies. I had to say to him in explanation that “childhood is the only period of life when a civilized man can exercise his choice between the branches of a tree and his drawing-room chair, and should I deprive this boy of that privilege because I, as a grown-up man, am barred from it?”” (P. 138)
Segue to beloved 1960s Berkeley:
“Education in America, as we have come to know it, is a strictly utilitarian endeavor. The colleges and universities have not been established for the sake of education.”
“The black student in America has, for as long as anyone can remember, been the victim of mental brutality, character subversion, and inundatory alienation from his black community. His value to his community at the end of his college or university career has been zero. His community has thereby been left without the element most essential to its regeneration and construction—its aware young people. Black students can no longer afford to be educated away from their origins.”
“We have outlined a proposed course of study that we believe necessary not only for our education but for our very survival. We ask that this proposed program be considered in the light of the stark realities of American society. We ask that this program be considered because the destruction of our minds and the current rate of attrition for our students can no longer be tolerated. We ask that this program be reconsidered because nothing less will do.”
—Afro-American Student Union, from its “Proposal for Establishing a Black Studies Program.” The University of California, Berkeley, inaugurated its African American studies department in 1970, two years after the union submitted this proposal, and offered thirty courses in its first semester. (P. 144)
T.H. White from The Once And Future King:
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it, then—to learn.” (P. 139)
Margaret Haley, 1904, from a speech advocating teacher unions such as labor unions have:
“There is no possible conflict between the good of society and the good of its members, of which the industrial workers are the vast majority. The organization of these workers for mutual aid has shortened the hours of labor, raised and equalized the wages of men and women, and taken the children from the factories and work- shops. These humanitarian achievements of the labor unions—and many others which space forbids enumerating—in raising the standard of living of the poorest and weakest members of society are a service to society which for its own welfare it must recognize.” (P. 150)
“If there is one institution on which the responsibility to perform this service rests most heavily, it is the public school. If there is one body of public servants of whom the public has a right to expect the mental and moral equipment to face the labor question and other issues vitally affecting the welfare of society and urgently pressing for a rational and scientific solution, it is the public school teachers, whose special contribution to society is their own power to think, the moral courage to follow their convictions, and the training of citizens to think and to express thought in free and intelligent action.” (P. 150)
“Two ideals are struggling for supremacy in American life today: one, the industrial ideal dominating through the supremacy of commercialism, which subordinates the worker to the product and the machine; the other, the ideal of democracy, the ideal of the educators, which places humanity above all machines, and demands that all activity shall be the expression of life. If this ideal of the educators cannot be carried over into the industrial field, then the ideal of industrialism will be carried over into the school. Those two ideals can no more continue to exist in American life than our nation could have continued half-slave and half-free. If the school cannot bring joy to the work of the world, the joy must go out of its own life, and work in the school, as in the industrial field, will become drudgery.” (P. 151)
“It will be well indeed if the teachers have the courage of their convictions and face all that the labor unions have faced with the same courage and perseverance.
Today, teachers of America, we stand at the parting of the ways. Democracy is not on trial, but America is.” (P. 151)
“Our whole life is but one great school; from the cradle to the grave we are all learners; nor will our education be finished until we die.“
—Ann Plato, 1841 (P. 151)
“The only function of a school is to make self-education easier.“
—Isaac Asimov, 1974 (P. 155)
Kim Il-Sung, founder of communist North Korea, speaks clearly on just what is communism, lest we forget:
“The kernel of communist ideology is the class consciousness of the working class, and the main content of communist education is class education. By intensifying class education, we should make sure that all the students fight selflessly for the interests of the working class with an unwavering working-class viewpoint and on a firm working-class stand. It is particularly important to educate them to hate the enemies of the revolution. Those who do not hate the enemies of the revolution cannot fight with determination against them, nor can they become true revolutionaries.” (P. 156)
Cassiodorus, C. 533 A.D., is eloquent in arguing for steady pay for teachers of grammar and rhetoric.
“Grammar is the noble foundation of all literature, the glorious mother of eloquence. As a virtuous man is offended by any act of vice, as a musician is pained by a discordant note, so does the grammarian in a moment perceive a false concord.
The grammatical art is not used by barbarous kings: it abides peculiarly with legitimate sovereigns. Other nations have arms; the lords of the Romans alone have eloquence.” (P. 159)
The extract is sub-titled by L.Q. as ‘Spell-check’, but as I understand it, spelling is a component of language separate from grammar, “in’t”, as Shakespeare might say. M’lady is the grammarian in our abode, lest I forget.
There is a brief extract From Texas House Bill 3979, “An Act Relating to the Social Studies Curriculum in Public Schools.”. Convoluted Critical Race Theory, as near as I can tell. Confusing and belabored. ‘Nuf said.
Andrei Platonov (who?) (Wikipedia here I come) writes well of his love of the railroad and machines:
“Being with metal and machines required a great deal more sensitivity than being with wild animals or with plants and trees. You can outwit something living, and it will yield to you; you can wound it, and being alive, it will heal; but machines and rails don’t yield to cunning—they can be won over only by pure goodness; and you can’t afford to wound them, because they don’t heal. A break is mortal. And so Fyodorov behaved sensitively and carefully at work; he even avoided slamming the door of his little cabin, closing it silently and delicately, so as not to disturb the iron hinges or loosen their screws.” (P. 166)
Norman Douglas has a blueprint for education:
“If I had a son, I was saying, I would take him from school at the age of fourteen, not a moment later, and put him for two years in a commercial house. Wake him up; make an English citizen of him. Teach him how to deal with men as men, to write a straightforward business letter, manage his own money, and gain some respect for those industrial move- ments which control the world. Next, two years in some wilder part of the world, where his own countrymen and equals by birth are settled under primitive conditions and have formed their rough codes of society. The intercourse with such people would be a capital invested for life. The next two years should be spent in the great towns of Europe, in order to remove awkwardness of manner, prejudices of race and feeling, and to get the outward forms of a European citizen. All this would sharpen his wits, give him more interests in life, more keys to knowledge. It would widen his horizon. Then, and not a minute sooner, to the university, where he would go not as a child but as a man capable of enjoying its real advantages, attend lectures with profit, acquire manners instead of mannerisms and a university tone instead of a university taint.” (P. 170-171)
Such an idea has appeal and merits. I was too immature going to college out of high school. Never grew out of it. Few live to be a hundred, but perhaps around age 12 or 14 we should outline a hundred-year plan, then modify it as we go along. It might beat aimlessness.
Alan Bennett bears looking into. His satirical revue Beyond The Fringe included Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. I think a filmed version is on YouTube.
Gotta’ love Audre Lorde’s account of early education and her teacher Sister Mary of Perpetual Help:
“My first-grade teacher was named Sister Mary of Perpetual Help, and she was a disciplinarian of the first order, right after my mother’s own heart. A week after I started school, she sent a note home to my mother asking her not to dress me in so many layers of clothing, because then I couldn’t feel the strap on my behind when I was punished.
Sister Mary of Perpetual Help ran the first grade with an iron hand in the shape of a cross. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. She was big, and blond, I think, since we never got to see the nuns’ hair in those days. But her eyebrows were blond, and she was supposed to be totally dedicated, like all the other Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, to caring for the colored and Indian children of America. Caring for was not always caring about. And it always felt like Sister MPH hated either teaching or little children.” (P. 176)
I have found this section hugely more riveting than the first two. Loved it. As always, my curiosity has been sufficiently piqued that I’ve spent a lot of time in Wikipedia, looking to find ‘who were/ARE these people, events, et al!’ If Lapham’s ever publishes its usual free links to random extracts, I will attempt an addendum.
Such is HOMEWORK, the third section.
The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.