“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, "Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner." I don't try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” (Carl Rogers)

Friday, 8 September 2017

Michael Rosen: Statement from Minister for Telling Everyone That ...

Michael Rosen: Statement from Minister for Telling Everyone That ...: As Minister for Telling Everyone That Things Are OK Really, I'd like to repeat that inequality is not really a problem. Apart from anyth...

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Traditional and Person-Centred Education Compared

Traditional education

Rogers describes the major characteristics of “conventional education as we have known it for a long time in the United States”:
  1. The teachers are the possessors of knowledge, the students the expected recipients.
  2. The lecture, or some means of verbal instruction, is the major means of getting knowledge into the recipients. The examination measures the extent to which the students have received it. 
  3. The teachers are the possessors of power, the students the ones who obey (Rogers adds that Administrators are also possessors of power, and both teachers and students are the ones who obey – and that control is always exercised downward).
  4. Rule by authority is the accepted policy in the classroom – the authority-figure – the instructor – is very much the central figure in education.
  5. Trust is at a minimum – the teacher does not trust the students to work well without supervision and constant checking, students distrust the teacher’s motives, honesty, fairness, competence. 
  6. Students are best governed by being kept in a state of fear – not any more physical punishment, perhaps, but fear of being seen as ‘not good enough’ and a constant fear of failure.
  7. Democracy and its values are ignored and scorned in practice – Goals, curricula, manner of working, all are chosen for students, so that “while being taught that freedom and responsibility are the glorious features of ‘our democracy’, the students are experiencing themselves as powerless, as having little freedom, and as having almost no opportunity to exercise choice or carry responsibility.”  
  8. There is no place for whole persons in the educational system, only for their intellects. 

Person-centred education

This is sharply different in its philosophy, its methods and its politics. Given our inherited educational system, it can only exist if one precondition is satisfied: 
A leader or a person who is perceived as an authority figure in the situation is sufficiently secure within herself and in her relationship to others that she experiences an essential trust in the capacity of others to think for themselves, to learn for themselves.
Essentially, she regards human beings as trustworthy organisms. If this precondition exists, then the following aspects become possible, and tend to be implemented: 
  1. The facilitative teacher shares with the others - students and possibly also parents or community members - the responsibility for the learning process. 
  2. The facilitator provides learning resources, from within herself and her own experience, from books or materials or community experiences. 
  3. The student develops her own program of learning, alone or in cooperation with others. 
  4. A facilitative learning climate is provided.
  5. The focus is primarily on fostering the continuous process of learning.
  6. The discipline necessary to reach the student's goal is a self-discipline. 
  7. The evaluation of the extent and significance of the student's learning is made primarily by the learner. 
  8. In this growth-promoting climate, the learning tends to be deeper, proceeds at a more rapid rate, and is more pervasive in the life and behavior of the student than is learning acquired in the traditional classroom. 
from Freedom to Learn "Section III: For the Teacher (part five) – The politics of education"
(Rogers, C. R. (1983). Freedom to learn for the 80's. Ohio, US: Merrill Publishing)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Bridgewater Boulder and the Prostrate Girl

Good God — the eastward position, and all creation groaning!
The quotation is from Jude the Obscure and references two clergymen debating the fatuous positioning of the eastward altar in the midst of human tragedy. Hardy's words echo in this post.

Having just attended a wonderful classical music concert at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, I was very taken by the giant stone shaped sculpture outside the hall, the 'Ishinki Touchstone', created by Japanese sculptor Kan Yasuda. Or rather I was taken by the impromptu addition to the artwork, which is why I took this picture:

Ishinki Touchstone: a form returning to its heart
I thought it was so unexpected, out of context, and so, funny! Others did, too, I enjoyed watching their amused reactions. It was only afterwards, after the concert, looking again at the picture, that I noticed a small huddled figure on the right hand side, just to the right of the bust of conductor John Barbirolli. It's a young girl and she is begging for money from the concert-goers. I didn't see her. If I had, I would have given her money, because she's asking and she wouldn't ask if she didn't need. Especially not in this particular way.

Perhaps because one of the musical pieces was a particularly unnerving religious exposition called 'Offertorium' or 'an offering', on top of recent experience of church services and, in particular, her prostrate position, I got to thinking about organised religion in 21st century society. Major world religions employ prostration as an act of submissiveness (worship) to a supreme being. I don't think she is worshipping, simply indicating that she is submissive, helpless, in need. Prostrate with a plastic cup.

I have had a small tourist-like experience of being in her position, being at ground level during street interactions. I sat with a street girl in Worcester for an hour or so one evening, just to talk to her (I'd had a pint which had loosened my tongue). She was really nice, friendly, glad to be heard, I guess - and was quite routinely verbally abused, mostly by young men. She was kicked once. And old fish and chip papers were thrown at her. One hour, one girl, one City. Nowadays, it is commonplace in UK, which is the fifth richest country in the world (£6.01 trillion in private wealth - honestly, I don't know what a trillion is, but it works out to £115,000 for each and every one of us. Or it would if we shared some...)

Out of respect for this young girl, for this precious human being who has equal dignity and value to all of the rest of us humans on this earth, I have not blown up that portion of the picture in order to show that her posture is prostrate. Nobody asked her to gesture in this way, she is not part, I'm guessing anyway, of any sect, this is a universal act of submission and I find it shocking. I don't find her choice shocking - I think she is perhaps very brave to be there, or just utterly desperate. No, what's shocking is the ubiquity of vulnerable humans with no help and no prospect of help. The stone artist, Yasuda, translated Ishinki as meaning a 'form returning to its heart' and if we think about 'heart' as 'empathy' or 'compassion', and then think about this girl in this place, 'governed' by the Tories (yes, really, fuck them), then the heart we return to really is a heart of stone.

Clearly, the impromtu political message on the boulder is particularly relevant because we are in the midst of an election which is in danger of moving unmaginable power towards a very secretive and wealthy right wing clique. But, here's the point that I wanted to make about organised religion.

The church in this country really means the Church of England, who say this:
Christian life is lived in relationship with God through Jesus Christ and, in common with other Christians, seeking to deepen that relationship and to follow the way that Jesus taught.

Jesus Christ, the revolutionary, would have held this girl close to him. He would see those £££ figures above and say, right, you give her enough money to live on, you have more than enough. And he could point at the Tory government and see quickly that they have allowed this situation to develop where 'the poor' are a permanent feature in our 'fifth richest country'. So, what might the Church of England do about it? They could, very simply, OPPOSE this kind of politics that is deliberately removing the social safety net that was fought for by millions of working people. They could come out of hiding and state their opposition to all that is happening in front of them. They could SUPPORT Jeremy Corbyn and his radical socially progressive policies which will begin to unpick the damage and begin providing help for our fellow humans once more.

Do I think they might do such a thing? No. Why not? Well, to put it in bald terms, the Church of England stands to gain like all other wealthy power groups in our society. The Church holds an estimated £4.3bn (with a return on investment of 19.1% = £821.3 million (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/apr/28/religion.anglicanism). 4.3 billion pounds. 4.3 BILLION! (Jesus! You might well exclaim!). And what do they do with all this wonga (I know)? They are mostly concerned with continuing ceremonies and practices for thin congregations by paid vicars and bishops in its thousands of churches nationwide (which it also pays to maintain). So, the form of the Church of England, its ceremonials, its clergy, its buildings, is what they are concerned with and there seems little chance of this form returning to its heart, to its original principles.

By way of example, in the midst of such social degradation and suffering the Twitter feed of Justin Welby (@JustinWelby), ostensible follower of the path of Jesus Christ and CEO of Church of England Inc. is primarily concerned with those very ceremonials and says this: "The resurrection of Jesus doesn't just change how we look at the world around us - it changes the reality of the world around us." Not for the girl in the picture it doesn't - or the millions whose lives have been reduced to helplessness by the policitics of heartlessness. Two years ago, the Church seemed to be showing some Jesus-like commitment. Now, where are they? I believe they could turn this whole thing around, change the reality of the world around us, by intervening in the same way Jesus would have done.

George Monbiot catches this perfectly:
The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Curious monkeys all connected

I find this quote, from the remarkable Brain Pickings, to be both accurate and optimistic - it's a kindness, really, to remind ourselves that we are not the overlords of the universe, but rather thinking monkeys trying to make sense of all that we are and all that we find at hand:
I consider that we are still monkeys; we just came down from the trees rather recently, and it’s astonishing how well we can do. The fact that we can even write down partial differential equations, let alone solve them, to me is a miracle. The fact that we ourselves at the moment have very limited understanding of things doesn’t surprise me at all.
And then something about what we have called 'God' as our universal connection in growth:
I like to describe [God] as the “world soul” — which was my mother’s phrase — so that we are little bits of the world soul. And so it may well be that we are part of the world’s growth. That’s the kind of world I would like to live in, and as a working hypothesis it seems to me quite reasonable. In detail the world shows no evidence of any sort of conscious design. If there is to be a conscious design, it probably has to be ours.
And more kindness to ourselves, responding to a question about the mystery of life's complexity:
It’s a question that we don’t know the answer to yet. Maybe one day we will. It seems to me a perfectly sensible question. There’s nothing in it that makes it inherently unanswerable. Of course I don’t know the answer. I’m not an expert, but the experts don’t know either. Why should they? After all, we’ve been studying life scientifically only since Aristotle, two thousand years, and that’s a generous estimate. How could you expect us really to understand it in such a short time? It’s amazing how much we have discovered in such a short time. The idea that you should solve these major riddles just at the first try seems to me to be asking much more than is reasonable.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

The animal that therefore I am

Jacques Derrida's book, The animal that therefore I am. Derrida considers the animal as 'other' and the power of naming (we have given ourselves the right and authority to confer names on the living other - on animals). He considers Heidegger's project of world and being and contends that his schema for being-in-the-world is flawed. For Heidegger, stone is without world, animal is poor in world and human is world-forming. However, Derrida challenges Heidegger as being essentially cartesian (shock!) in his assumptions about animal being.

I'd be much more convinced by Derrida if he had the courage of his convictions. In this text that essentially argues for an equality with 'animals' and 'humans' - however, nowhere can I discover if Derrida is vegetarian - which is really the inevitable conclusion from all he says. He says somewhere that he was a 'vegetarian in the soul'. Yeah, right, and in the meantime the crimes against animality of the 'animal' holocaust continues unabated...

Sunday, 18 October 2015

News from Nowhere

Been listening to News from Nowhere by William Morris (from https://librivox.org/news-from-nowhere-by-william-morris/ ) and found myself disappointingly underwhelmed for quite a while... there's a definite lack of narrative tension in this utopia, but then the arguments against private property emerged and I found my view of our world had shifted somewhat. Private property as the cause of our discontent is a persuasive argument indeed and simply abolishing private property creates more authentic existence - property really is theft. About the book from Wikipedia:
News from Nowhere (1890) is a classic work combining utopian socialism and soft science fiction written by the artist, designer and socialist pioneer William Morris. In the book, the narrator, William Guest, falls asleep after returning from a meeting of the Socialist League and awakes to find himself in a future society based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. In this society there is no private property, no big cities, no authority, no monetary system, no divorce, no courts, no prisons, and no class systems. This agrarian society functions simply because the people find pleasure in nature, and therefore they find pleasure in their work.
Pleasure in work! Yes! And oppose those dry as dust fuckers that are determined to suck the joy out of work and life. Here's Leon Rosselson beautifully "Bringing the News from Nowhere":

Friday, 2 October 2015

Martin Heidegger is without doubt the most incomprehensible German philosopher that ever lived... #heidegger

So begins this video, which offers a lovely overview of this strange man and his stranger thinking, such as:
  1. We've forgotten to notice that we're alive (our Dasein, the strangeness and wonder of it all before the claim of das nichts, the nothing, the inescapable end of all of us)
  2. We've forgotten that all being is connected (I found this out on LSD - I'm pretty sure Heidegger wouldn't have done, so I guess his brain was just wired that way...)
  3. We've forgotten to be free and to live for ourselves (we're thrown into this world into a particular time and place - we should rise from this provincialism to a universal perspective and so become authentic and live for ourselves and not follow the chatter of theyselves - by focusing on our death, das nichts). 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Guide to Heidegger's Question Concerning Technology

As a central part of my thesis, Heidegger's essay "The Question Concerning Technology" (Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology, and other essays. Chicago) is not an easy read. It is a strange and worthwhile read, though, so in order to help fellow travellers and to venture further in myself, I have written this guide to the essay, breaking it down into eight steps to make it more manageable. I took this idea from - somewhere! A book! I can't find the reference now, so I'll update this as I stumble across it again!  I'm also using this very helpful guide to the essay and this creative and subtle reading of the essay, although condensing these to make more manageable. I haven't added any page numbers, as I found it helpful to go through the essay and mark the eight steps in the text itself - and you can do likewise! Anyway, here's the eight steps as a graphic (click to make it all big), followed by my summary description of the text.

Step 1: building the path

For Heidegger, "questioning builds a way" - so keep your eye distinctly on the way itself, avoiding smaller distractions to the questioning of technology and "preparing a free relationship to it", to the essence of technology. 

Step 2: the common understanding of technology is correct but not true

We understand technology as (1) a means to an end and (2) a human activity. Both are correct, however this view of technology as something neutral means that we are delivered over to it because this is not the essence of technology, which we become blind to: "everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it". Our relation to technology is one of "the will to mastery" which "becomes all the more urgent the more technology threatens to slip from human control". Thus, "everything depends on our manipulating technology in the proper manner as a means". This instrumental view of technology is correct, but not true. Finding the true, the essence, of technology means asking about the instrumental, which brings Heidegger to causality. 

Step 3: causality

We stray from the path a little here, by way of Greek thought on causality, in order to understand technology as a means, which "discloses itself when we trace instrumentality back to fourfold causality". 'Fourfold causality' is a Greek concept (a frequent point of reference for Heidegger), which is an analytical scheme to explain change or movement, answering the question 'why?'. The four are unified in the ability to create a final product, such as a silver chalice:
  • causa materialis is the material or matter (the silver out of which the chalice is produced)
  • causa formalis is the form or shape the material or matter enters (the shape of the chalice)
  • causa finalis is the end (the function of Christian communion)
  • causa efficiens is the effect that is finished (the silversmith who produces the chalice)
The four causes are unified and belong together. However, we are now accustomed to represent cause as "that which brings something about" - which is the causa efficiens, only one of the four causes, which now "sets the standard for all causality". Therefore, we now miss the gathering of the causes as a unity, and especially the causa finalis, the true end that discloses technology when represented as a means, because it "gives bounds to the thing" (say, as a sacrificial vesssel), but now is not counted as causality. 

Heidegger talks of the unity of the four causes also as "coming into appearance", which is also the four ways of "being responsible" which "bring something into appearance" or "presencing". This "bringing-forth" reaches back to Plato's idea of 'Poïesis' - giving the example from nature of the blooming of the blossom (Wikipedia gives other useful examples : the coming-out of a butterfly from a cocoon, the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt). So, rather than showing mastery over the materials to make the chalice, the silversmith gathers together the other three causes and allows the chalice to come into being. The artist or craftsperson brings-forth as part of the fourfold as a kind of "revealing" whereby "bringing-forth brings out of concealment into unconcealment". And this is how Heidegger has brought us from 'correct' to 'true' because the Greek word for revealing is 'aletheia', translated by the Romans as 'veritas', is our 'truth'.

Step 4: technology is a revealing and its essence is enframing

"Technology is therefore no mere means. It is a way of revealing." By exploring the etymology of 'technology' as the Greek word technikon, that which belongs to techne, which doesn't only describe the activities and skills of a craftsperson, but also for the "arts of the mind", which means that "techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poetic." More importantly, techne is linked with the word episteme
"Both words are terns for knowing in the widest sense. They mean to be entirely at home in something, to understand and be expert in it. Such knowing provides an opening up. As an opening up it is a revealing ... It is as revealing, and not as manufacturing, that techne is a brining-forth."
 But, this "does not fit modern machine-powered technology." which is also a revealing, but one that "does not unfold into a bringing-forth in the sense of poiesis." Rather, "the revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging", which demands that something reveal itself.  Modern technology exploits and exhausts - challenges-forth - natural resources. "Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately on hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering.

Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. We call it the standing-reserve." Our relationship to nature is one of dominance, extracting what is efficient and profitable and this then becomes a mode of thinking, a way of being, so that we are transformed into standing-reserve: "If man is challenged, ordered, to do this,then does not man himself belong even more originally than nature within the standing-reserve?" However, it is humanity that drives technology forward, so we take part in "ordering as a way of revealing", but this unconcealment is "never a human handiwork." This "challenging claim that gathers man with a view to ordering the self-revealing as standing reserve" is enframing (Ge-stell) - this is the essence of modern technology, which "reveals the actual as standing reserve." It is not technology itself that is the problem, rather, in our orientation to technology, we are trapped into a way of revealing that sees everything as there for our use, categorisation, manipulation, control - mastery.

Step 5: science and the essence of technology

Ge-stell is a mode of human existence within which human thought is enframed as standing reserve and this is the essence of technology. Because of this, Heidegger can suggest that modern technology comes before the development of modern physics and shapes its development via the human drive towards precise measurement and control.

Step 6: the enframing of technology is destiny

We are always already enframed - however, we can "bring to light our relationship to [technology's] essence" and gain a "free relationship to technology" (the overall point of the essay). Despite humanity's enframing relationship with the world, which orients us to view world as standing reserve, we nevertheless maintain a much earlier historical relationship and experience the world as the world reveals itself. Thus, enframing is not inevitable, not determined, not our 'fate', rather there is the possibility of freedom "when we once open ourselves expressly to the essence of technology", which is bound up with destining and revealing, expressed by Heidegger in highly poetic language:
"Freedom is that which conceals in a way that opens to light, in whose clearing shimmers the veil that hides the essential occurrence of all truth and lets the veil appear as what veils. Freedom is the realm of the destining that at any given times starts a revealing on its way."

Step 7: the destining of revealing is danger

"The essence of technology lies in its enframing" and this is where the twofold danger lies;
  1. Having reduced ourselves to standing reserve - and thus deluding ourselves that we are "exalted", in control of all existence, "lords of the earth" - we encounter thus only ourselves.
  2. "Enframing blocks the shining-forth and holding sway of truth" - we become blind to the actual, to the world, to the ways in which the world reveals itself.
"The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatuses of technology. The actual threat has already afflicted man in his essence. The rule of enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth."

Step 8: but where danger is, grows the saving power also 

But where danger is, grows
The saving power also.

Heidegger offers these words from the German Romantic poet, Friedrich Hölderlin to point up the paradox that within the danger of enframing in the essence of technology is also the potential of rescue: "in technology's essence roots and thrives the saving power." The saving power makes possible the "highest dignity" of humanity's essence, which is to keep watch over the unconcealment of "all essential unfolding on this earth." And the rising of the saving power, everything, depends upon this:
"...that we ponder this rising and that, recollecting, we watch over it. How can this happen? Above all through our catching sight of the essential unfolding in technology, instead of merely gaping at the technological. So long as we represent technology as an instrument, we remain transfixed on the will to master it."
So, the essence of technology is ambiguous: "enframing challenges forth into the frenziedness of ordering", thus blocking revealing and endangering truth; but, enframing also contains the possibility of humanity's essential role in "the safekeeping of the essence of truth." We must hold "always before our eyes the extreme danger." Heidegger reiterates the danger:
"The essential unfolding of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealment of standing-reserve."
Heidegger's alternative suggestion to this measuring, categorising, controlling orientation to the world is to more fully embrace the realm of the poetic, of art. He points out that the concept of techne included both instrumentality and the fine arts, that is, poiesis. Art is care, it is stewardship of existence, it is connected with Being. The artist does not wish to control the world, to contribute to standing reserve, but to see the world as it is, as it reveals itself in its true form - aletheia, the Greek word for 'truth' literally means 'revealing'. We guard against the danger of enframing by entering into a free relationship with the increasing demands of technology, which means assuming something of the poet's worldview and being always critical. It is with good reason that Heidegger finishes the essay with reference to questioning (his italics):
"The closer we come to the danger, the more brightly do the ways into the saving power begin to shine and the more questioning we become. For questioning is the piety of thought."

Saturday, 19 September 2015


One highlight of the trip to The MayDay Rooms was discovering the Strike! newspaper which is published and distributed there. And it raises an interesting question generally about The MayDay Rooms project, which also publishes pamphlets: in the age of the Internet, why would people be interested in print publishing?

A quick search of said Internet gives me this paragraph about why people still read newspapers:
Two key responses emerged from our latest research. First, people enjoy the medium's portability because they can take it wherever they go, and second, they say the medium contains information they cannot get from another source-information we presume they must deem essential because they often devote precious time to retrieving it. 
I agree completely - having something tangible gives it much more of an identity, in opposition to the amorphous mass of information that comes our way digitally. Somehow, the word 'luxurious' comes to me when I think about both the pamphlets and the Strike! newspaper. Also, I like the curated aspects of Strike! - discovering things that I wouldn't otherwise have found.

Amongst many other things, Strike! report on Action Man Battlefield Casualties, which presents an alternative range of Action Man dolls, as can be seen in the video:

  • PTSD Action Man! (he never feels safe, not even in his own home!)
  • Paralysed Action Man (crippled by constant pain!) 
  • NEW Dead Action Man (bury your dead action man with full military honours!)
This is gallows humour, but with a deadly serious intent:
The UK is one of only nineteen countries worldwide, and the only EU member, that still recruits 16 year olds into its armed forces, (other nations include Iran and North Korea). The vast majority of countries only recruit adults aged 18 and above, but British children, with the consent of their parents, can begin the application process to join the army aged just 15
It is the poorest regions of Britain that supply large numbers of these child recruits.  The army has said that it looks to the youngest recruits to make up shortfalls in the infantry, by far the most dangerous part of the military. The infantry's fatality rate in Afghanistan has been seven times that of the rest of the armed forces.
You can buy individual issues of Strike! or subscribe (as I have) here: http://strikemag.org/

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Who owns UK Newspapers? #corbyn #anthemgate

The childish distraction of 'anthemgate' is a revealing moment - Jeremy Corbyn genuinely seems to have unsettled the establishment, whose shrill trumpeters were clearly seen in all their ingloriousness. And, although patently absurd, it isn't to be taken lightly. Even in the age of alternatives via the internet, these newspapers increasingly manage to set the agenda, so that what they deem to be 'news' in the morning becomes 'news' throughout the day on radio and television, on the 'impartial' BBC, and especially on the so-called 'rolling news' stations, which really struggle to fill airtime, so such content is vital to their existence. And most of the content is about the inevitability of neoliberal economics in all areas, which values everything based on the competitive profit motive and devalues public ownership, cooperation and equality.

Therefore, it's important to ask, who owns the newspapers that give our political debate such strong direction?
Over a quarter (27.3 per cent) of the press is owned by Lord Rothermere and 24.9 per cent by Rupert Murdoch – between them these two men have over 50 per cent of the printed press. 
Over three quarters (77.8 per cent) of the press is owned by a handful of billionaires. There are only 88 billionaires among the 63 million people in the UK and most of the barons do not even live in the UK.
This and more information at http://leftfootforward.org/2013/06/everyone-should-know-who-owns-the-press-for-the-sake-of-our-democracy/ - such as...

Rupert Murdoch owns The Sun & The Sun on Sunday, is a billionaire, lives in the US and is an alleged tax avoider!

'Lord' Rothermere owns The Mail & The Mail on Sunday, is a billionaire, lives in France and is registered as non-domiciled for UK tax!

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