Friday, November 21, 2014

Ordering Priorities

I've been thinking about the dilemma Siegel and Deven raise about whether justice or truth should be a philosopher's first love (in those at least hypothetical instances where they conflict). It occurs to me that, after all, people do epistemology, whereas epistemology does not do people, and that this fact suggests a lexical ordering. Too flippant by half, of course, but I thought it was kind of clever.

More seriously, the search for truth as such perhaps ought to presume at least baseline decency in human relations. Though we can separate the philosophical power of a Heidegger, for example, from his active participation in the Nazi party, we rightly find some deep inconsiderateness in his having forced us to make the distinction. Since his involvement was not merely that of a person caught in unpleasant circumstances, but active, even enthusiastic participation (as a university administrator he systematically and unapologetically  purged Jews), the task is more than an acknowlegment of human frailty under pressure; it's a real crime against philosophy (even if the content of the philosophy itself bears no Nazi taint).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teaching as Performance?

Here's an interesting, if somewhat light, discussion of the idea of teacher as performer on NPR yesterday:

On Bad Teaching

A good companion piece to the Ravitch article is this review essay. It may be that the author exaggerates the problem somewhat, buying into the crisis mentality unnecessarily, but there's at least a grain of truth to the critique of teacher training:.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Self-fulfilling Failure

The other day I made the point that the difficulty of reaching certain students is a problem for the teacher, even though the students themselves (and various cultural influences) may well be to blame. The argument for this goes beyond a merely idiosyncratic, overdeveloped sense of responsibility. Rather, it runs something like this: to stop trying to find ways to reach students generates a self-fulfilling cycle in which you cannot reach them even in principle. Blaming the student, or social attitudes, etc. may place responsibility where it properly belongs, but it also begs the question against your being able to do anything about it.

So one of the commitments of teaching is constantly to be looking for more effective ideas about how to teach the students with whom you are working. Complacency and despair are equally fatal to your craft.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Confusing Pedagogy

Here's the Chronicle article I mentioned about Derek Muller's research on teaching through confusion. It would probably be worth tracking down his actual research, for those of you working on related issues.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Miseducation of Men

We have been discussing how an educator might shape student's character, and whether it is appropriate to do this. We might consider the matter from the other side -- for we frequently shape character in very unhealthy ways, as illustrated by this Buzz Bissinger article in Sunday's Times Perhaps we can at least learn from this how not to educate our guardians... 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nudges and Autonomy

We spoke earlier in the semester about Thaler and Sunstein's notion of "libertarian paternalism," whereby subtle structural details are manipulated to help people make choices that we think are better for them (my favorite example is an "opt-out" rather than an "opt-in" employee savings plan, which automatically signs you up unless you say otherwise. This produces higher rates of personal retirement savings, which most people say they want, without actually eliminating any options). This idea has many educational applications, and also raises some concerns. Here is a critical discussion by philosopher Jeremy Waldron of Sunstein's latest work:
I'm interested in this kind of thinking because it might give some concrete content to Plato's and Rousseau's notions of civic education, and the way legislative power, at its best, might subtly educate rather than threaten or punish. I'm also interested in the limits of nudging strategies for addressing structural problems.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Evaluating Progress

I'm still intrigued by the notion that, at least in principle, what we ought to be evaluating is not ability but progress. For one thing, it feels more individualized to each student's needs, and it also feels more egalitarian, indifferent to prior advantages. My intuition about this feels pretty strong, but I'm well aware that even my strongest intuitions sometimes turn out to be mistaken. Would someone please give me all the best reasons against evaluating students on their improvement (leaving aside, for now, the practical difficulties such a procedure might present)?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Excellent Sheep

Turning our attention to higher education, Christopher Benfey reviews William Deresiewicz's new book (an expansion of his famous essay in The American Scholar, which you can read here: I don't know if you will be able to read Benfey's review without a subscription, but here's the link: Last I checked, we still carry the New York Review of Books (not to be confused with the New York Times book review) in hard copy in the library.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Character, Politcs, and Education

I've been thinking about how to make Book VIII relevant to our educational focus, and this commentary from Sunday's times gave me an idea (I'm not a huge fan of the author, and the piece is unsatisfying in several ways, but I think there's something to learn here)

Perhaps Plato is on to something with the idea that we start from the limitations of our inborn/parent instilled natures, and that we can do much (but not everything) with this raw material given well-designed learning protocols that help us think for ourselves. But because our innate/formed natures are not infinitely trainable, our characters and the quality of the city can easily decline.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Suggestion for a Blogging Strategy

I normally read the most recent posts and comments on each student's blog at the end of each week. Thus, a good strategy if you find yourself moved to comment on an earlier post is to start a new thread on that topic on your own blog, perhaps with a comment on the original post referring folks to the new thread. The same strategy would also work if you find yourself moved to reply at some length to a current post.


The author of this article seems to read at the dialogic level only, whereas as we have seen at the dramatic level Plato seems to understand very well the playfulness inherent in the process of teaching and learning. Then of course we must struggle at the dialectical level to grasp what Plato really wants us to think, in light of the apparent contradiction. Nonetheless, the article has some useful things to say about the educational importance of play.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Slippery Socrates

There's another example of Socrates' apparent slipperyness at 485c, where (as explained in Bloom's footnote) he evidently expects Glaucon to interpret an ambiguous sentence in one way, while pretty clearly intending the other possible meaning himself. Subtle as this may be, there seems no avoiding the observation that Socrates can be as verbally slippery as any sophist when he chooses -- and he seems so to choose often. Is there, then, such a thing as responsible sophistry, and is that what we should expect of a teacher?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blogging our way to an education

The several discussion threads on the blog this week were pertinent and thoughtful. One could practically build an entire curriculum from the themes broached -- lying and truth-telling, playing devil's advocate, the role of deliberate confusion and error correction in teaching, religious belief and the ability to question, the significance (or not) of age in learning. Some of you will no doubt build on these issues as you research and write the first paper for the course, which we should discuss Tuesday.

The only problem with this incredibly rich and collegial conversation, however, is that only about half of you participated in it. This is a big loss for the non-participants, but (if my theory of learning communities is correct) it's actually an even bigger loss for all of us. I think this course has the potential to be really exciting and informative, but I need you all on board for the ride.

Age and Learning

Here's an article from yesterday's Times that might be relevant to the thread about age and learning.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Educating Glaucon

Mary’s question Thursday about Glaucon’s equating value with effort got me thinking. We have witnessed Socrates gently poking at the Athenian habit of answering a moral question by remembering a line of poetry – e.g. his critical analysis of Simonides in Book I. One reason the Athenian jury was not crazy to condemn Socrates for corrupting the youth is that he radically called into question what most people thought was the right procedure for deliberating about things. Critical thinking did not supplant appeal to (poetic) authority without a fight.

But as we will see, Socrates also challenges the central content of Athenian morality by questioning the signal aspiration of the Homeric ethos: to accomplish something so great as to be worthy of acclaim and commemoration. The Greek term for this is kleos, meaning ‘glory’ and ‘fame,’ but also the song that tells of one’s accomplishments. So someone who has kleos is extraordinary, singably memorable and praisworthy, to a degree sufficient to make him godlike (that is, immortal. Indeed, to be remembered forever for one’s extraordinary accomplishments is the only sort of immortality the Greeks took seriously.). 

Interestingly, Socrates does not completely reject this ethos of the extraordinary, but he redefines it dramatically. Instead of the blustering, self-absorbed heroism of an Achilles or Odysseus, the Socratic hero is a critical thinker. “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being,” Socrates says at his trial, at a moment in the proceedings calculated to give maximum offense to his judges’ deepest sensibilities.

So we might say that one thing Socrates hopes to teach Glaucon is to turn his ambition in a radically different direction – not to challenge the proposition that great accomplishment takes great effort, or even the assumption that he should aspire to greatness, but deeply to problematize the forms of greatness that attract him..

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Levels of Analysis

I attempted in class yesterday, haltingly, to articulate the sense in which Plato is dealing with pedagogical issues simultaneously on several levels. At the least, it seems to me, he is having his characters explicitly discuss matters of teaching and learning, and evaluate arguments for one or another view. We might call this the explicit DIALOGIC level.

It also happens that the characters in the dialogue instantiate in their relationships and interactions a theory or theories of teaching and learning. We could call this the DRAMATIC level.

A third level emerges when we consider the ways the dialogic and dramatic levels interact, sometimes underscoring and sometimes undermining each other, in a complicated and fluid process. We might call this the DIALECTICAL level. (I acknowledge the possible confusion between 'dialogic' and ‘dialectical,’ and would welcome a more felicitous suggestion).

Friday, September 5, 2014

Targeted examples

I indicated various ways in which Socrates' behavior in the opening scene of Republic maps onto Glaucon's response to the circumstances (it is Glaucon, not Socrates, who a) agrees to wait when Polemarchus' slave orders them to, b) concedes that you can't persuade someone who refuses to listen, and c) is intrigued by his brother Adeimantus' description of the spectacle they intend to watch). Keep an eye out for Socrates' responsiveness to the particular concerns of other characters, as when he uses weaponry as an example with Cephalus, then changes the example after the discussion shifts to Polemarchus.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Welcome, Philosophy of Education Bloggers!

I will link your URLs to the left of this post, so you'll have one-stop shopping to see what everyone else is posting.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

(EE) Corporate Ecology?

Here is the opening of an essay in the current New Yorker magazine about enlisting corporate motives and incentives to reign in climate disruption. It nicely limns both the promise and some of the limitations of this approach.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Strong Blogging Finish

This week is the last chance to demonstrate what a thoughtful, imaginative, productive course blogger you can be. Let's sprint through the finishing tape with 150% participation, if only to leave the professor in a gratified state of mind when he has to sit down and calculate scores for the course.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

(WR) Morality Without Religion?

Many people learn basic moral rules in a religious context, so naturally they associate the two. But nonreligious people generally subscribe to moral rules as well, so clearly it is possible to separate them. Here is the outline of a philosophical argument for the independence of morality from religion.

Suppose the God or religious text to which you subscribe has a rule about stealing being wrong. So you think stealing is wrong, and you think God says so. But notice that this is not the same thing as stealing being wrong because God says so.

Setting God aside for a moment, you can probably think of a number of reasons why stealing is generally a bad idea, and some of those reasons are clearly moral in nature (such as that stealing harms the people from whom you steal, or that it undermines the trust that enables a community to nurture its members, etc.). Now suppose for a moment that you re-read your religious text and become convinced that it has long been misinterpreted -- that God actually endorses stealing. You now inevitably confront a crisis of faith, because you know -- that is, you have many compelling, extra-religious reasons to believe -- that stealing is wrong, but God now seems to be commanding you to steal. You might be tempted to go ahead and launch a crime spree, but with luck the cognitive dissonance will drive you to take another look at the text instead.

Ask yourself:  Is stealing wrong because God says so, or does God say so because it is wrong? A little reflection suggests that the first option can't be correct, for if God were to say stealing wasn't wrong, God would be mistaken!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

(WR) Boston Woman Runs Marathon in Hijab

Here's an inspiring story about someone who converted to Islam after last year's marathon bombing, and participated in this year's event. We cannot have too many reminders of the difference between the vast majority of  practicing Muslims and the handful of fanatical bombers. (Likewise, it's important to distinguish between the general run of Christians and a few murderous anti-Semites).

(EE) ... Or Not So Much

This piece on environmental activist Paul Kingsnorth expresses the opposite of Krugman's optimism. It is an odd, rambling bit of journalism, but there are some striking quotations about letting go of hope for the future.

Friday, April 18, 2014

(EE) Grounds for Hope

On today's Times op-ed page, economist Paul Krugman suggests not only that all is not lost, but that addressing carbon emissions may not even cost very much. We can talk in class about the limitations of his analysis; nonetheless it is a nice counterweight to the sense of impending doom we have encountered lately:

Friday, April 11, 2014

(WR) Eighth Century Papyrus mentions Jesus' Wife

Recent studies suggest that a famous fragment of text from the eighth century may be authentic rather than a modern forgery. If it is genuine, it would tell us nothing much about whether the historical Jesus was married (none of the none gospels say anything about that one way or the other), but could say quite a bit about the early controversy over whether Christians should get married at all. Part of this controversy concerned lingering apocalypticism (why have a family if the world is ending?), and part may be about the practicalities of Christian organizing work (we discussed the concept of a "sister wife" as missionary traveling companion earlier).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Competing Worldviews and Global Climate Disruption

I'm more than a little suspicious of sweeping generalizations about the ideology of a particular tradition (especially when people speak of the "Judeo-Christian" worldview -- I get concerned for what will happen next to the Judeos...). But there does seem to be a Dominionist strain in a large swath of Christianity that contributes to ecological degradation -- even embraces it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

(EE) Years of Living Dangerously

If you've got a spare hour for a slick, Hollywood treatment of climate disruption, here's a link to the first episode. It will be interesting to see how and whether this shifts public support for dramatic public changes.

(WR) Muhammad and Re-Sacralization

As you think about the many facets of re-sacralization, it's worth considering that at least some of what Muhammad was attempting to do (e.g.: prostrating in prayer three, then five times a day) was an effort to make everyday life part of a sacred experience. Perhaps he lacks Confucius' caution about mysterious beings, and perhaps also there's something heavy-handed and apparently arbitrary about many of his rules and regulations, especially from the later period in Medina. These can make his program seem somewhat less appealing. But the impulse -- to unify a community in just, mindful relations, and to reconstruct the individual as habitually attentive to principles -- are at least analogous.

(EE) The Cost of Speaking Up

Here is a fairly creepy story about a philosopher who mildly suggested there might be“good reason to consider” that “the funding of climate denial” was morally and criminally negligent. What's creepy, though not terribly surprising, was the reaction he got.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

(EE) More Allies

Global Climate Disruption has many consequences, and one useful way to view it is as a public health threat. This perspective potentially brings many powerful allies to the effort to address the situation:

Friday, March 28, 2014

(EE) Cutting Methane Emissions

Abby  ran across this article on methane emission reduction and thought it would be good for class discussion if we all took a look at it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

(EE) Urban Nature

Recalling our earlier conversation about the potential of cities to be healthy and low-carbon, here's a discussion of "Biophilic Cities" that begins to explain how to do it.

(EE) A Heartening Graph

From the Environmental Defense Fund:

please enable images!

Monday, March 17, 2014

(WR) Religious Insight

I have noticed for some years that I tend to wear out my garden gloves asymmetrically -- one glove wears out almost twice as fast as the other. It occurs to me that one reason for this might be scriptural (specifically Matthew 6:3) -- my left hand just doesn't know what my right hand is doing! Now if only I could buy a bag of new right-handed gloves...

(WR) Everyday Karma

When we read the Bhagavad-Gita, we discussed karma as a cosmic principle -- the idea that moral action functions much like matter and energy in a causal web. This commentary from Sunday's NY Times suggests a quotidian version of such causality with the sociological observation that generosity is often contagious. Thus perhaps, as we earlier discussed, we need not concern ourselves too much with the text's metaphysical claims, but attend rather to its robust practical insights. "If you want to live in a generous community, be more generous" is a useful karmic suggestion. %2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry917%23%2Fpay%2520it%2520forward&_r=0

Sunday, March 16, 2014

(EE) How to Feel about Climate Change

Elizabeth Kolbert makes the point that it matters less whether we care than that we do something about climate change. This is fair; ultimately ethics is about action. But of course the two are not unrelated – ethics is also about relationships, and feeling deeply about something is often a precursor, and a goad, to acting vigorously and effectively. Our actions generally follow our feelings, so learning how to feel is elemental to becoming ethical. Hence this meditation by Zadie Smith, one of the leading essayists working in English today, about how we ought to feel about climate change:

 There is an echo here of what Bill McKibben was trying to do in the first general-audience climate change book published, The End of Nature (1988) -- imagining how we should relate affectively to the planet we now inhabit, utterly and permanently transformed by us. Back then it was a little hard to credit, and some of his critics thought he was simply being idiosyncratically sentimental. Either Zadie Smith says it better, or perhaps now we're more prepared to hear it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

(EE) Time to Divest in Carbon

The great Rebecca Solnit writes beautifully here about the psychology, economics, and politics of a changing climate:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

(EE) Water and Meat

Perfectly timed to follow our conversations last week about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, here's a piece in today's New York Times on water use:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

(WR) How to Make a Myth

The story of the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, supposedly witnessed by 38 people who did nothing to help, turns out to be a durable and influential bit of mythmaking by an overwrought journalist. Even though it was, to put it generously, factually challenged, The story nonetheless did have some useful consequences -- we might say that some aspects of it are true as process though false as event

Monday, March 3, 2014

(EE) Be Careful with the Precautionary Principle!

Here is a short article by Cass Sunstein, professor of jurisprudence at the University of Chicago. Although I don't endorse everything he says here, he gives a useful overview of the conceptual difficulties the PP presents.

(EE) Ethics and Livestock

A fully realized conception of ethics has two irreducible sides: the personal and the public. We have so far discussed a few of the personal ethical implications of meat-eating, but the policy implications of the impact of animal agriculture on climate illustrates the other indispensable ethical pole. Some people are ethical vegetarians on grounds of cruelty, the intrinsic value of life, etc., whereas others choose a meatless (or reduced meat, or entirely plant-based) diet because they want to alter the economics of food production in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions. For our purposes it is important to notice that both of these choices are based solidly on ethical considerations.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

(EE) How Not to Save the Planet

The fantasy that we can bring back headliner extinct species may someday be technically feasible, but the impulse to do so illustrates a profound misunderstanding of the problem of extinction, and the relationship between species and habitat. Check out this story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

(WR) MLK Gospels

In one of the MLK Gospel working groups from the other section, I overheard one student say that King was killed in Washington, DC. This is historically incorrect, as I'm sure most of you know, but it's worth noticing just what a brilliantly telling error it is -- locating King's assassination at the heart of our nation's capital is false as history and at the same time true as process in precisely the way that locating Jesus' birth in Bethlehem is. As you build your own narrative interpretations of King, bear in mind just how important such mistakes and fictions, whether accidents of memory or deliberate literary creations, can be.

(EE) Reviews of Kolbert's Sixth Extinction

Here's a review from the Boston Globe of Elizabeth Kolbert's new book, The Sixth Extinction. The reviewer is properly appreciative of many of the book's qualities, though he strikes an oddly sour note at the end, mistakenly attributing to her a sort of anti-humanism (a preposterous charge, to anyone who has read her other work).

 A far better review essay about the book is by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the current issue of the New York Review of Books. You can't read it online without a subscription, but I'll find a way to get you a copy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

(WR) Demon Exercise

Let's be sure to speak in class about the idea of trance, or alternative states of consciousness, in relation to Jesus' casting out of demons. I'm particularly intrigued by Crossan's speculation that Jesus himself might have performed in a trance state.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

(EE) Shallow and Deep

Much of the material we have been discussing is quite confusing, and this is compounded by our fragmentary course schedule so far. Here's one thing we might usefully take away, however: it's probably not useful to divide those concerned about planetary health into deep and shallow, or non-anthropocentric and anthropocentric.

For example, deep ecologists sneer at proponents of recycling as a cult, which they would be if they thought recycling by itself were sufficient, but most of them don't. The deep ecologists are right that we must do much more than recycle, but do they really want us NOT to do so? This sounds like culting off your nose to spite your face.

Of course we reject the most narrow, selfish anthropocentrism that is not at all concerned with ecology, the idea that only humans matter and that the world is just a heap of raw material for our exploitation. But we have seen not only that a robust environmental ethic can flow from a more expansive anthropocentrism, but that the deep ecologists themselves cannot avoid understanding the world in relation to human values.

So the infighting is not substantive, and needs to stop. We needn't agree about everything to be on the same team, and we need all hands on deck to have any realistic hope.

(WR) Getting Clear on Who Jesus Was

In preparation for Tuesday's class, it will be very useful to articulate for yourself, in your own words, answers to two questions:
1) What does Crossan mean when he describes Jesus' "kingdom of God" as a present, sapiential, peasant eschatology?
2) Fleshing out question 1, what are the key points of Jesus' message (Crossan enumerates them in chapter 3)?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

(EE) Supply Side Ostritch-ism

In this morning's Berkshire Eagle, local conservative commentator Matt Kinnaman manages to applaud the recent rise of domestically sourced carbon fuels without even mentioning the local pollution or downwind (and global) consequences. This is an astonishing accomplishment -- not merely climate-change denial but something perhaps more pervasive -- a glimpse into a very particular, carefully constricted view of the world as revealing as Mitt Romney's "47%" comments during the last presidential election. That was a leaked private comment, however; Kinnaman published this under his own name:

Monday, February 3, 2014

(EE) Sentience and Sensibility

I see from the comments on Sebastian's blog that the position for which I (with David Johnson) argued in S&S is coming in for discussion. I had hoped to avoid this, really, since the thing was written by Silliman 3.1 over a decade ago, and I don't even have an operating system capable of running that program anymore. It would be like trying to read a Windows 95 document on a new Mac OS.

In a nutshell (or just a nut; hold the shell) I was there attempting to develop a perspective from which we could understand ourselves as having obligations toward other living things and ecosystems as robust as Rolston and Naess require, without abandoning the insight and practical usefulness of a sentientist ethical foundation. I honestly have no idea whether I succeeded, either analytically or rhetorically, as I find it pretty painful to read my own publications. But if I become convinced that we really need to have that conversation, perhaps I'll extract something from the appendix of the book to discuss in class.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

(WR) Some thoughts on detachment

It is important to look at what the Gita says, not only about detachment as such, but about what the text calls a spiritually advanced (or illumined) person is like. For instance, there is much talk about love, compassion, and friendship in a sattvic person that we must somehow reconcile with the specific passages about detachment.

But looking at those passages, too, we find some nuance: specifically, Krishna recommends not detachment simpliciter, but specifically detachment from the results of action. It is possible, then, to be deeply immersed in and passionate about your work, for example, to attend to it closely and fully engage with it, while not obsessing about its success, reward, or other extrinsic value. Paradoxically, this would probably fit the text's notion of detachment.

Here's an example: as a teacher, it is easy to fall into despair about whether I am reaching my students. I can get depressed, frustrated, angry, and generally cantankerous if I fixate on outcomes. This is comprehensively unpleasant for all concerned. But if I'm passionate about the material and the learning itself -- as well as connecting with, liking, and respecting the students regardless of whether they seem to be trying or making headway -- I can find joy and satisfaction in the very struggle. I suspect if I stay detached in this way from the (meager) fruits of teaching, I can be much more effective in the long run.
So detachment is not withdrawal and disengagement from others or our work, as you might at first imagine, but rather a way to free ourselves from emotional turmoil so as to think and act clearly and with well-considered purpose.

(EE) Pipeline Politics

Some people treat environmental ethics as distinct from environmental politics, but as Aristotle clearly understood, politics is ethics writ large. Especially now that the human environmental footprint is global, resulting from aggregate and not just individual actions, a crucial sphere of ethical action must be at a governmental and even international scale. Here’s today’s news on the XL pipeline, with a headline that we can only read as either disheartening or provocative:

Friday, January 31, 2014

A blogging suggestion

When commenting on a past rather than the most current post on someone else's blog, it's a good idea just to say "see my blog for a response to this post," and then post your comment on your own blog. Not only is this a good source of ideas for your own posts, in case you're having trouble thinking of something, it also makes it more likely that everyone else in the class will see it.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Summer Internship opportunities

MCLA has received substantial funds (which the college matches) from the Department of Education for internships. The Dean would very much like to spend this money on solid, credit-bearing internships, which must begin before July to qualify. Financial need is not requisite, but students must be Massachusetts residents and willing to fill out some forms. Among available postings are positions on local farms. The subsidies are sufficient to cover the costs of tuition for the credits earned.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

(EE, WR) Blogging Problems

It was naive of me, I suppose, to think I could get full blogging participation simply by making it clear how important it is to the course, and reinforcing that by announcing that minimum blogging every week is a condition of getting a grade for the course. By that standard, even after the first week's fiasco, several of you are now ineligible to receive a grade. If you are in that category, please make an appointment to see me as soon as possible.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

(EE) Ethically Strange Coalitions

Friday's New York Times had a piece on the Coca-Cola company taking climate change seriously:
There are several layers of irony here -- the company's business model involves privatizing water supplies and making billions by selling sugar-water to children -- but when they see climate change affecting the bottom line, they become potential partners in an effort to do something about it.

(WR) Taking Detachment Seriously

One of the key concepts in the Gita is detachment, and it's a notion that is very easy to misunderstand. Without saying too much here, I want to suggest that you think about what it might mean, and don't be too quick to assume that it is obvious.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

(EE) The Population Bet

Here is a review of an interesting book about the population debates of the past half century. I don't know if you can read this link without a subscription; we have the hard copy in the common room at 100 Porter Street if you are interested.

Friday, January 17, 2014

(EE) Global Warming

I don't want to be alarmist, but there are solid, objective reasons to think things may be quite a bit worse than they seem. Here John Atcheson details why they likely are:
 The point is not to foster despair -- in fact, despair might even turn out to be an attitude that an adequate ethic forbids us to indulge in: Rebecca Solnit suggests (in an essay I'll share with you later) that we may have a duty to be actively hopeful -- though it is important not to confuse hope with optimism.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

(WR) Return of Confucius

Nice article in the current New Yorker magazine about a resurgence of interest in Confucius in contemporary China. I'd give you the link, but it's behind a paywall. I think the library still subscribes to the paper edition (and maybe there's even a way into the magazine through the Library site -- haven't tried that), but it's good enough that I might photocopy it for you later in the course. As I said, we're not really here to study contemporary manifestations of the traditions we're reading, but snippets of the present can sometimes help us grasp the past.