Thursday, October 10, 2013

how new religions are made

religiondispatches | What inspired you to write Chosen People? What sparked your interest?
When I was in college I was interested in the similarities between Jewish and Black nationalisms, and began to learn Jewish and African American histories at Stanford University with Clayborne Carson, George Fredrickson, Sylvia Wynter, Mark Mancall, Arnie Eisen, and Tudor Parfitt.

A chance encounter led me to visit the Original Hebrew Israelites of Dimona, Israel, and the experience was so powerful that I set out to study the antecedents of Black Israelite movements. At that time, Shlomo Levy, a Columbia University graduate student who was himself the son of one of the leading figures of the New York Israelite community, had begun to work with the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library to collect papers from a dozen or so Black Israelite synagogues. I wrote an honors thesis on a small part of that collection, and then returned in graduate school to use the rest.

Working towards my doctorate at UCLA I was fortunate enough to study Black Atlantic religions with Donald Cosentino, and African American and West Indian histories with Brenda Stevenson, Gary Nash, and Bobby Hill. I was also inspired by seminars I took with Carlo Ginzburg, Peg Jacob, Lynn Hunt, Henry Yu, and others. I wanted to thickly describe African American Judaism from microhistorical, Black Atlantic, and African American Studies perspectives.

The question of "authenticity" that had dominated the accounts of so many white Jews was of little interest to me. What had gone missing in the limited literature on the topics was an attempt to tell the story of Black Israelites as an instance of African American history (in the hemispheric sense, including the West Indies), and an attempt to write Black Israelites into the larger stories of American religion and of Black Atlantic religions.

You describe a variety of fascinating (and largely unknown) figures in American religious history. Which one of them fascinated you the most?
Prophet William Saunders Crowdy stars in two chapters and is a largely unknown but remarkable figure who deserves to be on a postage stamp for the impact he had on U.S. religion and culture. But without a doubt, I was most fascinated by Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew. That is because I had access to sources at the Schomburg and in newspapers over half a century that allowed me to clearly see Rabbi Matthew's religious evolution, and his polycultural bricolage of his own Israelite tradition combining Holiness-based Israelite churches, Judaism, conjuring, West Indian festivals, Central European occult practices, and freemasonry. Although Matthew tried his best to hide this religious bricolage, his papers offer a rare opportunity to see how new religions are made.

Is there anything you had to leave out?
Tons. I came to see Black Israelites as being very closely related to Black Muslims. Not only was there overlap between the groups' memberships, but it was not uncommon for groups to blend elements of both Judaism and Islam in the 1920s, as in the 1970s.

I think African American adoption of both religions are variants of Black thought about "the East," and deserve to be thought of as Black forms of Orientalism—not in a pejorative sense, but in an affirmative and romantic sense. So at one point the book was at least twice as long, before I decided that the Islam/Orientalism piece needed to be a book of its own.

Even then, the Black Israelites book continued for five more chapters concerning interactions and race relations between white and Black Jews during the Civil Rights and Black Power eras. Thankfully, Oxford University Press' readers reined me in, and I was left with the much more compact, and much more readable text as it stands today, which focuses on the period from the nineteenth century to the 1930s.

about those europeans who invaded and currently occupy palestine...,

physorg | Professor Martin Richards, of the Archaeogenetics Research Group at the University of Huddersfield, has published a paper uncovering new information about how Ashkenazi Jewish men moved into Europe from the Middle East, and their marriage practices with European women. 

The origins of Ashkenazi Jews – that is, Jews with recent in central and Eastern Europe – is a long-standing controversy. It is usually assumed that their ancestors migrated into Europe from Palestine in the first century AD, after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, with some intermarriage with Europeans later on. But some have argued that they have a mainly European ancestry, and arose by conversion to Judaism of indigenous Europeans, especially in Italy. Others have even argued that they were largely assimilated in the North Caucasus during the time of the Khazar Empire, whose rulers turned to Judaism around of the tenth century AD. 

Archaeogenetics can help to resolve this dispute. Y-chromosome studies have shown that the male line of descent does indeed seem to trace back to the Middle East. But the female line, which can be illuminated by studies of mitochondrial DNA has until now proved more difficult to interpret. This would be especially intriguing because Judaism has been inherited maternally for about 2000 years.
We have settled this issue by looking at large numbers of whole mitochondrial genomes – sequencing the full 16,568 bases of the molecule – in many people from across Europe, the Caucasus and the Middle East. We have found that, in the vast majority of cases, Ashkenazi lineages are most closely related to southern and western European lineages – and that these lineages have been present in Europe for many thousands of years.

This means that, even though Jewish men may indeed have migrated into Europe from Palestine around 2000 years ago, they brought few or no wives with them. They seem to have married with European women, firstly along the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, and later (but probably to a lesser extent) in western and central Europe. This suggests that, in the early years of the Diaspora, Judaism took in many converts from amongst the European population, but they were mainly recruited from amongst women. Thus, on the female line of descent, the Ashkenazim primarily trace their ancestry neither to Palestine nor to Khazaria, but to southern and western Europe.

More information: You can read more about the work of the Archeogenetics Research group at: www.hud.ac.uk/research/researchcentres/targ/

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN)


TechnologyReview | On a beautiful April morning, chemist Paul Weiss is darting across the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, in red-framed Wayfarer sunglasses and a suit. He’s on his way to make himself an espresso, but even with a caffeine deficit he’s tough to keep up with. Weiss put the coffee machine in his students’ office instead of his own, to create more opportunities to check in with them and run into colleagues.

Weiss, who heads the California Nanosystems Institute, a state-sponsored research hub for all things nano, is a specialist in developing new ways of probing single molecules like neurotransmitters and those that make up the active layer in solar panels. However, with caffeine in his system, what he wants to talk about is not chemistry but community. For Weiss, 53, chemistry is a social science. "It’s about making a connection," he says. To be able to do something useful, he says, you have to connect to other people within and outside your field, know what problems other fields like neuroscience or energy will be facing in 10 years, and start building the necessary tools today.

As far as he’s concerned, one of the most important goals for the next decade is to understand the human brain. To meet that challenge, biologists need help from chemists, physicists, engineers, and other toolmakers like him, he says. The brain has nearly 100 billion neurons networked together by an estimated 100 trillion electrical and chemical connections. How all these interactions combine to enable us to walk, talk, learn, form memories, create—and how things go wrong in diseases like Parkinson’s—is pretty much a mystery. Weiss hopes to create new tools for probing the nanoscale chemical and electrical activity of thousands to millions of neurons at once. "If we want to understand what a memory is, how we learn—this is where we think the sweet spot is," he says.

For years, Weiss has been recruiting researchers from apparently distant fields to work on the problem—helping organize meetings of scientists to talk about it, trying to bridge the gap between neuroscientists and physical scientists. This organizing work has now borne fruit. In April, President Obama requested $100 million in federal funding for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Private research institutions are also chipping in. The Kavli Foundation, a nonprofit in Oxnard, California, has pledged $40 million over the next 10 years. "His profound understanding of the whole field of nanotechnology made a huge difference," says the Kavli Foundation’s vice president of science programs, Miyoung Chun, who helped coördinate the project that became the BRAIN Initiative.

Researchers working in relative isolation have already made progress on developing tools for studying the brain, including arrays of nanoscale electrodes for probing neurons and computer programs for analyzing the onslaught of data these kinds of measurements are expected to generate. By working together, Weiss believes, researchers from different fields can now accelerate advances by developing common, widely available tools.

behavioral genetics is pseudo-science

ScientificAmerican | Last spring, I kicked up a kerfuffle by proposing that research on race and intelligence, given its potential for exacerbating discrimination, should be banned. Now Nature has expanded this debate with “Taboo Genetics.” The article “looks at four controversial areas of behavioral genetics”—intelligence, race, violence and sexuality—”to find out why each field has been a flashpoint, and whether there are sound scientific reasons for pursuing such studies.”

The essay provides a solid overview, including input from both defenders of behavioral genetics and critics. The author, Erika Check Hayden, quotes me saying that research on race and intelligence too often bolsters “racist ideas about the inferiority of certain groups, which plays into racist policies.”
I only wish that Hayden had repeated my broader complaint against behavioral genetics, which attempts to explain human behavior in genetic terms. The field, which I’ve been following since the late 1980s, has a horrendous track record. My concerns about the potential for abuse of behavioral genetics are directly related to its history of widely publicized, erroneous claims.

I like to call behavioral genetics “gene whiz science,” because “advances” so often conform to the same pattern. Researchers, or gene-whizzers, announce: There’s a gene that makes you gay! That makes you super-smart! That makes you believe in God! That makes you vote for Barney Frank! The media and the public collectively exclaim, “Gee whiz!”

Follow-up studies that fail to corroborate the initial claim receive little or no attention, leaving the public with the mistaken impression that the initial report was accurate—and, more broadly, that genes determine who we are.

Over the past 25 years or so, gene-whizzers have discovered “genes for” high IQ, gambling, attention-deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, dyslexia, alcoholism, heroin addiction, extroversion, introversion, anxiety, anorexia nervosa, seasonal affective disorder, violent aggression—and so on. So far, not one of these claims has been consistently confirmed by follow-up studies.

These failures should not be surprising, because all these complex traits and disorders are almost certainly caused by many different genes interacting with many different environmental factors. Moreover, the methodology of behavioral geneticists is highly susceptible to false positives. Researchers select a group of people who share a trait and then start searching for a gene that occurs not universally and exclusively but simply more often in this group than in a control group. If you look at enough genes, you will almost inevitably find one that meets these criteria simply through chance. Those who insist that these random correlations are significant have succumbed to the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy.

To get a sense of just how shoddy behavioral genetics is, check out my posts on the “liberal gene,” “gay gene” and God gene” (the latter two “discovered” by Dean Hamer, whose record as a gene-whizzer is especially abysmal); and on the MAOA-L gene, also known as the “warrior gene.” Also see this post, where I challenge defenders of behavioral genetics to cite a single example of a solid, replicated finding.

Ever since I first hammered behavioral genetics in my 1993 Scientific American article “Eugenics Revisited,” critics have faulted me for treating the field so harshly. But over the last 20 years, the field has performed even more poorly than I expected. At this point, I don’t know why anyone takes gene-whiz science seriously.

taboo "genetics"


Nature | Growing up in the college town of Ames, Iowa, during the 1970s, Stephen Hsu was surrounded by the precocious sons and daughters of professors. Around 2010, after years of work as a theoretical physicist at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Hsu thought that DNA-sequencing technology might finally have advanced enough to help to explain what made those kids so smart. He was hardly the first to consider the genetics of intelligence, but with the help of the Chinese sequencing powerhouse BGI in Shenzhen, he planned one of the largest studies of its kind, aiming to sequence DNA from 2,000 people, most of whom had IQs of more than 150.

He hadn't really considered how negative the public reaction might be until one of the study's participants, New York University psychologist Geoffrey Miller, made some inflammatory remarks to the press. Miller predicted that once the project turned up intelligence genes, the Chinese might begin testing embryos to find the most desirable ones. One article painted the venture as a state-endorsed experiment, selecting for genius kids, and Hsu and his colleagues soon found that their project, which had barely begun, was the target of fierce criticism.

There were scientific qualms over the value of Hsu's work (see Nature 497, 297299; 2013). As with other controversial fields of behavioural genetics, the influence of heredity on intelligence probably acts through myriad genes that each exert only a tiny effect, and these are difficult to find in small studies. But that was only part of the reason for the outrage. For decades, scientists have trodden carefully in certain areas of genetic study for social or political reasons.

At the root of this caution is the widespread but antiquated idea that genetics is destiny — that someone's genes can accurately predict complex behaviours and traits regardless of their environment. The public and many scientists have continued to misinterpret modern findings on the basis of this — fearing that the work will lead to a new age of eugenics, preemptive imprisonment and discrimination against already marginalized groups.

“People can take science and assume it is far more determinative than it is — and, by making that assumption, make choices that we will come to regret as a society,” says Nita Farahany, a philosopher and lawyer at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina.

But trying to forestall such poor choices by drawing red lines around certain areas subverts science, says Christopher Chabris of Union College in Schenectady, New York. Funding for research in some areas dries up and researchers are dissuaded from entering promising fields. “Any time there's a taboo or norm against studying something for anything other than good scientific reasons, it distorts researchers' priorities and can harm the understanding of related topics,” he says. “It's not just that we've ripped this page out of the book of science; it causes mistakes and distortions to appear in other areas as well.”

Here, Nature looks at four controversial areas of behavioural genetics to find out why each field has been a flashpoint, and whether there are sound scientific reasons for pursuing such studies.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

narcissism of minor differences: profound behavioral reinforcement for status-seeking?

NYTimes | Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.

These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.

A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.

Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.

Of course, in any society, social power is relative; any of us may be higher or lower in a given interaction, and the research shows the effect still prevails. Though the more powerful pay less attention to us than we do to them, in other situations we are relatively higher on the totem pole of status — and we, too, tend to pay less attention to those a rung or two down.

A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain. In 2008, social psychologists from the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley, studied pairs of strangers telling one another about difficulties they had been through, like a divorce or death of a loved one. The researchers found that the differential expressed itself in the playing down of suffering. The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, and Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have done much of the research on social power and the attention deficit.

Mr. Keltner suggests that, in general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.

In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.

shake and bake baby!!!


HuffPo | The multimillion-dollar superlab of "Breaking Bad" may be gone, but thousands of meth labs around the country remain. The midwestern states tend to see the most incidents involving meth labs, and Missouri outranks all others with 1,825 busts and seizures in 2012, according to a Government Accountability Office analysis of Drug Enforcement Administration data.

Moreover, an increasingly popular crude cooking method known as "shake and bake" has put meth production in addicts' hands, eliminating the need for an RV or even chemistry know-how.

It takes about 15 minutes to "shake and bake" a batch of meth in a plastic bottle using ingredients you may already have lying around the house. Sometimes the bottle explodes, badly burning the often uninsured meth cook and anyone else in the line of fire.

Meth use cost the U.S. economy around $23.4 billion in 2005, according to a RAND Corporation study. While incidents involving meth labs have tapered somewhat in recent years, thanks to the rise of "shake and bake" hospitals have noticed an uptick in meth burn cases. It costs around $230,000 to treat a meth lab burn victim, Mother Jones reported. The most common age of these victims: under 4 years old. 

Oregon and Mississippi have figured out how to curb these accidents by making the key meth ingredient pseudoephedrine prescription-only. Other states keep the common cold medicine behind the counter under a 2006 federal law, but when Oregon and Mississippi implemented prescription legislation, meth lab incidents immediately plummeted. Dozens of other states have tried to follow their lead, but the pharmaceutical industry isn't having it

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wanted to make Oregon's success story a national reality, announcing legislation in 2010 for federal prescription regulation of pseudoephedrine. But according to Mother Jones, he never introduced the bill in Congress, in part because of "heavy industry spending."  Fist tap Dale.

Monday, October 07, 2013

near fukushima, a human crisis quietly unfolds...,


NYTimes | Every month, Hiroko Watabe, 74, returns for a few hours to her abandoned house near the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant to engage in her own small act of defiance against fate. She dons a surgical mask, hangs two radiation-measuring devices around her neck and crouches down to pull weeds. 

She is desperate to keep her small yard clean to prove she has not given up on her home, which she and her family evacuated two years ago after a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami devastated the plant five miles away. Not all her neighbors are willing to take the risk; chest-high weeds now block the doorways of their once-tidy homes. 

“In my heart, I know we can never live here again,” said Ms. Watabe, who drove here with her husband from Koriyama, the city an hour away where they have lived since the disaster. “But doing this gives us a purpose. We are saying that this is still our home.” 

While the continuing environmental disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has grabbed world headlines — with hundreds of tons of contaminated water flowing into the Pacific Ocean daily — a human crisis has been quietly unfolding. Two and a half years after the plant belched plumes of radioactive materials over northeast Japan, the almost 83,000 nuclear refugees evacuated from the worst-hit areas are still unable to go home. Some have moved on, reluctantly, but tens of thousands remain in a legal and emotional limbo while the government holds out hope that they can one day return. 

As they wait, many are growing bitter. Most have supported the official goal of decontaminating the towns so that people can return to homes that some families inhabited for generations. Now they suspect the government knows that the unprecedented cleanup will take years, if not decades longer than promised, as a growing chorus of independent experts have warned, but will not admit it for fear of dooming plans to restart Japan’s other nuclear plants. 

That has left the people of Namie and many of the 10 other evacuated towns with few good choices. They can continue to live in cramped temporary housing and collect relatively meager monthly compensation from the government. Or they can try to build a new life elsewhere, a near impossibility for many unless the government admits defeat and fully compensates them for their lost homes and livelihoods. 

“The national government orders us to go back, but then orders us to just wait and wait,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of this town of 20,000 people that was hastily evacuated when explosions began to rock the plant. “The bureaucrats want to avoid taking responsibility for everything that has happened, and we commoners pay the price.”

led to the logic gates of slaughter in pursuit of the latest version of happiness...,

led to the logic gates of slaughter in pursuit of the latest version of happiness...,

Sunday, October 06, 2013

peer-to-peer science and fukushima's century-long challenge to humanity


fpip | More than two years after an earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc on a Japanese power plant, the Fukushima nuclear disaster is one of the most serious threats to public health in the Asia-Pacific, and the worst case of nuclear contamination the world has ever seen. Radiation continues to leak from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi site into groundwater, threatening to contaminate the entire Pacific Ocean. The cleanup will require an unprecedented global effort.
Initially, the leaked radioactive materials consisted of cesium-137 and 134, and to a lesser degree iodine-131. Of these, the real long-term threat comes from cesium-137, which is easily absorbed into bodily tissue—and its half-life of 30 years means it will be a threat for decades to come. Recent measurements indicate that escaping water also has increasing levels of strontium-90, a far more dangerous radioactive material than cesium. Strontium-90 mimics calcium and is readily absorbed into the bones of humans and animals.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) recently announced that it lacks the expertise to effectively control the flow of radiation into groundwater and seawater and is seeking help from the Japanese government. TEPCO has proposed setting up a subterranean barrier around the plant by freezing the ground, thereby preventing radioactive water from eventually leaking into the ocean—an approach that has never before been attempted in a case of massive radiation leakage. TEPCO has also proposed erecting additional walls now that the existing wall has been overwhelmed by the approximately 400 tons per day of water flowing into the power plant.

But even if these proposals were to succeed, they would not constitute a long-term solution.

A New Space Race
Solving the Fukushima Daiichi crisis needs to be considered a challenge akin to putting a person on the moon in the 1960s. This complex technological feat will require focused attention and the concentration of tremendous resources over decades. But this time the effort must be international, as the situation potentially puts the health of hundreds of millions at risk. The long-term solution to this crisis deserves at least as much attention from government and industry as do nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the economy, and crime.

To solve the Fukushima Daiichi problem will require enlisting the best and the brightest to come up with a long-term plan to be implemented over the next century. Experts from around the world need to contribute their insights and ideas. They should come from diverse fields—engineering, biology, demographics, agriculture, philosophy, history, art, urban design, and more. They will need to work together at multiple levels to develop a comprehensive assessment of how to rebuild communities, resettle people, control the leakage of radiation, dispose safely of the contaminated water and soil, and contain the radiation. They will also need to find ways to completely dismantle the damaged reactor, although that challenge may require technologies not available until decades from now.
Such a plan will require the development of unprecedented technologies, such as robots that can function in highly radioactive environments. This project might capture the imagination of innovators in the robotics world and give a civilian application to existing military technology. Improved robot technology would prevent the tragic scenes of old people and others volunteering to enter into the reactors at the risk of their own wellbeing.

The Fukushima disaster is a crisis for all of humanity, but it is a crisis that can serve as an opportunity to construct global networks for unprecedented collaboration. Groups or teams aided by sophisticated computer technology can start to break down into workable pieces the immense problems resulting from the ongoing spillage. Then experts can come back with the best recommendations and a concrete plan for action. The effort can draw on the precedents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but it must go far further.

In his book Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science, Michael Nielsen describes principles of networked science that can be applied on an unprecedented scale. The breakthroughs that come from this effort can also be used for other long-term programs such as the cleanup of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the global response to climate change. The collaborative research regarding Fukushima should take place on a very large scale, larger than the sequencing of the human genome or the maintenance of the Large Hadron Collider.

Finally, there is an opportunity to entirely reinvent the field of public diplomacy in response to this crisis. Public diplomacy can move from a somewhat ambiguous effort by national governments to repackage their messaging to a serious forum for debate and action on international issues. As public diplomacy matures through the experience of Fukushima, we can devise new strategies for bringing together hundreds of thousands of people around the world to respond to mutual threats. Taking a clue from networked science, public diplomacy could serve as a platform for serious, long-term international collaboration on critical topics such as poverty, renewable energy, and pollution control.

how hunter gatherers maintained their egalitarian ways...,

psychologytoday | I'm taking a little break from my series on "The Human Nature of Teaching" in order to respond to questions about hunter-gatherer life in general, which were raised by my last post. As regular readers of this blog know, I have in previous posts commented on hunter-gatherers' playfulness; their playful religious practices; their playful approach toward productive work; their non-directive childrearing methods; and their children's playful ways of educating themselves. In all of those posts I emphasized the egalitarian, non-hierarchical nature of hunter-gatherer society. In today's post I present three theories as to how hunter-gatherers maintained the egalitarian ethos for which they are justly famous. I think all three of the theories are correct. They are complementary theories, not competing ones; and they are all theories about culture, not about genes.

First, before I get to the three theories, I must address this question: Is it true that hunter-gatherers were peaceful egalitarians? The answer is yes.
During the twentieth century, anthropologists discovered and studied dozens of different hunter-gatherer societies, in various remote parts of the world, who had been nearly untouched by modern influences. Wherever they were found--in Africa, Asia, South America, or elsewhere; in deserts or in jungles--these societies had many characteristics in common. The people lived in small bands, of about 20 to 50 persons (including children) per band, who moved from camp to camp within a relatively circumscribed area to follow the available game and edible vegetation. The people had friends and relatives in neighboring bands and maintained peaceful relationships with neighboring bands. Warfare was unknown to most of these societies, and where it was known it was the result of interactions with warlike groups of people who were not hunter-gatherers. In each of these societies, the dominant cultural ethos was one that emphasized individual autonomy, non-directive childrearing methods, nonviolence, sharing, cooperation, and consensual decision-making. Their core value, which underlay all of the rest, was that of the equality of individuals.

We citizens of a modern democracy claim to believe in equality, but our sense of equality is not even close that of hunter-gatherers. The hunter-gatherer version of equality meant that each person was equally entitled to food, regardless of his or her ability to find or capture it; so food was shared. It meant that nobody had more wealth than anyone else; so all material goods were shared. It meant that nobody had the right to tell others what to do; so each person made his or her own decisions. It meant that even parents didn't have the right to order their children around; hence the non-directive childrearing methods that I have discussed in previous posts. It meant that group decisions had to be made by consensus; hence no boss, "big man," or chief. Fist tap Ken.

civilization is created by the "others"


uio | What does it mean to be a civilized person? A civilized nation? How are these notions changing over time? And from one country to another? In the recently concluded project Civility, Virtue and Emotions in Europe and Asia, researchers from several different countries and disciplines have studied these questions. One of the initiators is Professor Helge Jordheim, Academic Director for the inter-faculty research programme KULTRANS.

Jordheim and his colleagues have studied what was considered to be civilized behaviour in Europe and Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

– Western identity and mores were formed by the encounter with non-Western cultures, Jordheim states.

The period studied by the researchers was one characterized by imperialism. In light of this, the relationship between “the West and the rest” is particularly interesting, Jordheim claims.

– In Western Europe, the prevailing notion was “civilization, that’s us”. Even in Asia, the idea that standards were defined by the West tended to prevail. Implicitly, the objective was: how can we catch up with the West?

A boost in self-confidence 
At the same time, there was a clear perception in Asia about not just mimicking the West, Jordheim emphasizes. The Asian countries were concerned with “finding their own path”.

– A challenge for the entire project has consisted in avoiding the pitfall of thinking that all influence emanated from Western Europe. It’s not as simple as that. For example, we can see that there was a widespread exchange of ideas between the Ottoman Empire and the Arabic and Persian cultures, which also had an impact on the Urdu-speaking population of India. Thus, the influence appears to be far less homogenous than we have previously assumed, Jordheim says.

He believes that the Russo-Japanese War in the early 20th century was a key event for the Asian civilizing process.

– This was the first time that Asia defeated the West. It resulted in a real boost in self-confidence, and had an impact on the kinds of ideas that were nurtured, Jordheim says.

Similarly, the researchers have been interested in how the civilizing influence to some extent ran in the opposite direction – from East to West.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

about that westgate shopping mall psyop....,


globalresearch | Beyond the twin objectives of countering Iran and controlling African petroleum output, Israeli policymakers harbor a third ambition of a visionary nature: to establish a Hamitic-controlled region stretching from the Horn at Somalia across Ethiopia and agriculture-rich Uganda and into the mineral resources of Central Africa.

No nation on Earth is today more race-conscious than Israel , which seeks to establish an alliance of so-called Lost Tribes and descendants of Ham, the country cousins of the Semitic people. Whenever an expansionist power conjures up ancient ancestral memories, it is a sure-fire formula for aggression and massacres. Africa , be warned.

The Old Testament myth of Noah’s sons – Seth, founder of the Semites; Ham, of related peoples in Africa; and Japhet in Asia – is being used as a mirror image of the Aryan beliefs of another modern racial-obsessed cult. DNA studies of questionable authenticity are being used by Israeli geneticists to justify political footholds in Judeo-Christian Ethiopia and to churn out propaganda support for the “superior” herding Tutsi versus the “inferior” peasant Hutu in Rwanda and Eastern Africa. By stressing a common heritage, intelligence agents assigned to Jewish-funded charities for Somali, Iraqi and Afghan refugees in, say, Minnesota , London or Marseilles can selectively recruit naïve young Muslim immigrants for penetrating Islamist movements.

Just months before the Kenyan mall attack, according to a Guardian report by Simon Tisdall, a hardline faction led by Ahmed Abdi Godane assassinated the founders of Al Shabaab known by the noms de guerre Al-Afghani and Burhan. By design and certainly not accident, all Israelis inside the Westgate Mall were allowed to leave unharmed – while even Kenyans of Muslim faith were butchered. In the Syrian conflict, too, the more brutal foreign fighters are closely cooperating with the Israeli Defense Force against moderate rivals.

The Westgate Mall hostage crisis was a overblown spectacle in the vein of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or a Quentin Tarantino blood-fest. The so-called White Widow, so reminiscent of Patty Hearst, is a clone of the vengeful female assassins from “Kill Bill” and “Inglorious Bastards”. The initial 30 assailants are now whittled down to eight suspects, with the remainder mysteriously gone as in “Ocean’s Eleven” or “Mission Impossible”. The smokescreen caused by bombs that collapsed the parking garage, and the gallons of red liquid on the floors were Hollywood special effects, as if blood never coagulates nor change color. Every detail from the siege demands forensic reexamination for slip-ups in fakery. Westgate was not West End . Nairobi was a bad show, poorly scripted, sloppily directed and clumsily acted. A much more convincing performance should be expected from the CIA and Mossad. It would be a slapstick comedy if not for the fact that so many innocent bit actors were murdered in cold blood by the intelligence services.

A Hard Road to Peace
On the road to development and cooperation, the weak link has been the lack of a security arrangement between the African Union and Asia ’s regional groupings, including SAARC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and ASEAN. Western military advisory groups and intelligence agencies, which create more terrorism and conflict than they can ever suppress, must be uprooted from every inch of Africa . In their stead, competent and professional law enforcement and security forces should be financed and trained under a cross-continent program to protect the resources of Africa for the benefit of African people and to carry forth the worldwide struggle against the systemic deprivation that causes impoverishment and injustice.

Today the only viable path ahead, against the incessant wars, horrendous crimes and dirty tricks perpetrated by the Western neocolonialists and their Zionist allies, is to remain faithful to the spirit of the 1955 Bandung Conference, as reaffirmed at 2005 Bandung 2 with the drafting of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP). Those past promises must be transformed from mere words on paper into real deeds on the soil, seas and skies of Mother Africa.

glenn greenwald demolishes some gubmint proxies on bbc newsnight..,



Friday, October 04, 2013

grown folks talking - high-status context that opens a "poor" scientist's nostrils wide?



mansfieldfdn | The U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group is an independent, bi-national group of experts that has been convened to examine the broader strategic implications of the Fukushima accident. As reflected in the group’s diverse makeup and sponsorship, the group as a whole neither discourages nor advocates for nuclear energy. Nor does the group seek to duplicate the many high quality studies of the causes and immediate lessons of the Fukushima accident. Rather, the group seeks to understand, articulate, and advocate for the broader, bilaterally shared strategic interests that stand to be impacted, positively or negatively, through changes to Japan’s nuclear energy paradigm. The U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group Program is the product of a partnership between the Mansfield Foundation, the Federation of American Scientists, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

To develop a fuller understanding of the circumstances and implications of Japan’s fast-evolving energy policy situation, the U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group has held discussions with opinion leaders and policymakers in Japan, the United States, and the global nuclear governance community in Vienna, Austria. Over the course of four meetings, the group has met individuals including members of Japan’s cabinet and ministries, editorial writers for Japan’s major newspapers, leaders in Japan’s anti-nuclear movement, Japanese nuclear industry officials, Japan’s mission to UN agencies in Vienna, American diplomats in Japan and Vienna, prominent individuals in the Washington, D.C. and Vienna foreign policy, nonproliferation, and disarmament communities, and key staff at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including the director general. 

Reflecting its discussions over the past twelve months, in April 2013, the U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group released a report of its findings and recommendations entitled: Statement on Shared Strategic Priorities in the Aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident

In May 2013 the group will discuss its report with members of the Washington, D.C. policy community.  The following autumn, members of the group will engage in a similar outreach effort with Japan’s policy community. The group will also engage the Japanese public through public seminars in Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima, with details for the event made available on the main page of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation website in the preceding weeks.

The group’s activities have been made possible primarily through the support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, the Federation of American Scientists, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation. Generous in-kind support was provided by All Nippon Airways, and supplementary, unrestricted grants were received from Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi and the Chubu Electric Power Company. Several of the group’s members have funded their own participation.

social influence bias


sciencemag | Our society is increasingly relying on the digitized, aggregated opinions of others to make decisions. We therefore designed and analyzed a large-scale randomized experiment on a social news aggregation Web site to investigate whether knowledge of such aggregates distorts decision-making. Prior ratings created significant bias in individual rating behavior, and positive and negative social influences created asymmetric herding effects. Whereas negative social influence inspired users to correct manipulated ratings, positive social influence increased the likelihood of positive ratings by 32% and created accumulating positive herding that increased final ratings by 25% on average. This positive herding was topic-dependent and affected by whether individuals were viewing the opinions of friends or enemies. A mixture of changing opinion and greater turnout under both manipulations together with a natural tendency to up-vote on the site combined to create the herding effects. Such findings will help interpret collective judgment accurately and avoid social influence bias in collective intelligence in the future. Fist tap Dale.

is not like the other one..., (somebody lyin!!!)


huffpo | Recent disclosures of tons of radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima reactors spilling into the ocean are just the latest evidence of the continuing incompetence of the Japanese utility, TEPCO. The announcement that the Japanese government will step in is also not reassuring since it was the Japanese government that failed to regulate the utility for decades. But, bad as it is, the current contamination of the ocean should be the least of our worries. The radioactive poisons are expected to form a plume that will be carried by currents to coast of North America. But the effects will be small, adding an unfortunate bit to our background radiation. Fish swimming through the plume will be affected, but we can avoid eating them. 

Much more serious is the danger that the spent fuel rod pool at the top of the nuclear plant number four will collapse in a storm or an earthquake, or in a failed attempt to carefully remove each of the 1,535 rods and safely transport them to the common storage pool 50 meters away. Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.

Fukushima is just the latest episode in a dangerous dance with radiation that has been going on for 68 years. Since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 we have repeatedly let loose plutonium and other radioactive substances on our planet, and authorities have repeatedly denied or trivialized their dangers. The authorities include national governments (the U.S., Japan, the Soviet Union/ Russia, England, France and Germany); the worldwide nuclear power industry; and some scientists both in and outside of these governments and the nuclear power industry. Denials and trivialization have continued with Fukushima. (Documentation of the following observations can be found in my piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, upon which this article is based.) (Perrow 2013) 

In 1945, shortly after the bombing of two Japanese cities, the New York Times headline read: "Survey Rules Out Nagasaki Dangers"; soon after the 2011 Fukushima disaster it read "Experts Foresee No Detectable Health Impact from Fukushima Radiation." In between these two we had experts reassuring us about the nuclear bomb tests, plutonium plant disasters at Windscale in northern England and Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains, and the nuclear power plant accidents at Three Mile Island in the United States and Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine, as well as the normal operation of nuclear power plants.

one of these things..., (somebody lyin!!!!)


thebulletin | Tepco and the Japanese government have done a good job of containing most of the highly contaminated water, which poses the highest risk to the public. They are, however, having great difficulty in managing the overall contaminated-water situation, especially from a public-confidence perspective. The engineering challenge—control of a complex, ad hoc system of more than 1,000 temporary radioactive water tanks and tens of miles of pipes and hoses throughout the severely damaged plant—is truly a herculean task. Explaining what is going on and what has to be done to an emotional, traumatized, and mistrusting public is an even larger challenge.

Approximately 340,000 tons (90 million gallons) of radioactive water is now stored in large tanks at the site. A variety of water-processing systems have been built fairly rapidly under very difficult circumstances. To minimize the increases in water inventory growth, all cooling water now being injected into the damaged reactor cores is recycled.  It is initially pumped from the building basements and processed through new systems that remove most of the gamma emitting cesium 137 and cesium 134, oils, and salt contaminates, so that the water can be pumped back into the three reactor cores to keep them cool. Because the cores are mostly melted debris, the injected water picks up more radionuclides and flows back into the basements. The water-processing systems now in use are not capable of removing strontium 90, which is only a beta emitter and not a major radiological hazard to trained workers who wear protective clothing. But strontium 90 is an environmental concern and will need to be removed from water before it can be returned to the environment.

The reactor and turbine buildings are not watertight up to the surface; the basements are below the present groundwater elevation, and relatively clean groundwater seeps into the buildings. Tepco is maintaining the water levels in the basements slightly below the groundwater elevation to prevent the leakage of highly contaminated water from the basements into the general environment. But this in-leakage—estimated to be approximately 400 tons (105,000 gallons) per day—mixes with the water already in the basements, also becoming highly contaminated. So each day, despite Tepco’s water-recycling efforts, the volume of contaminated water at the plant increases; this is why 340,000 tons of water are currently stored on site.

This building-basement water is the highest-risk water associated with the Fukushima situation. That water is being handled reasonably well at present, but because of the constant in-leakage of groundwater, some ultimate disposition will eventually be necessary. To further clean this huge and increasing volume of medium-level radioactive water, the Tepco team has built a major new water processing system called the Advanced Liquid Waste Processing System. Built by Toshiba, this state-of-the-art system is based on technology from a major US waste management company, EnergySolutions.

Although this system is in a testing phase, with startup design and operational issues being resolved, it aims to remove more than 99.999 percent of radioactive contamination for most radioisotopes. The radioactivity levels in the effluent of the Advanced Liquid Waste Processing System are expected to be very low and to meet international and Japanese discharge standards for the important isotopes of cesium and strontium. This means that, from a radiological risk point of view, the risk from water treated by this system and released to the sea will be extremely low—a small fraction of the natural variations in the environment’s background radiation. In fact, I am writing this article while sitting on an airplane, and I am receiving more ionizing radiation from cosmic rays at this higher altitude than I would receive from drinking effluent water from the Advanced Liquid Waste Processing System.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

democracy and civilization depend on intellectuals resisting conformity and power...,


guardian | It's as clear and chilling a statement of intent as you're likely to read. Scientists should be "the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena". Vladimir Putin? Kim Jong-un? No, Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at the UK's Department for Environment.

Boyd's doctrine is a neat distillation of government policy in Britain, Canada and Australia. These governments have suppressed or misrepresented inconvenient findings on climate change, pollution, pesticides, fisheries and wildlife. They have shut down programmes that produce unwelcome findings and sought to muzzle scientists. This is a modern version of Soviet Lysenkoism: crushing academic dissent on behalf of bad science and corporate power.

Writing in an online journal, Boyd argued that if scientists speak freely, they create conflict between themselves and policymakers, leading to a "chronically deep-seated mistrust of scientists that can undermine the delicate foundation upon which science builds relevance". This, in turn, "could set back the cause of science in government". So they should avoid "suggesting that policies are either right or wrong". If they must speak out, they should do so through "embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena".

Shut up, speak through me, don't dissent – or your behaviour will ensure that science becomes irrelevant. Note that the conflicts between science and policy are caused by scientists, rather than by politicians ignoring or abusing the evidence. Or by chief scientific advisers.

To be reasonable, when a government is manipulating and misrepresenting scientific findings, is to dissent. To be reasonable, when it is helping to destroy human life and the natural world, is to dissent. As Julien Benda argued in La Trahison des Clercs, democracy and civilisation depend on intellectuals resisting conformity and power.

A world in which scientists speak only through minders and in which dissent is considered the antithesis of reason is a world shorn of meaningful democratic choices. You can judge a government by its treatment of inconvenient facts and the people who expose them. This one does not emerge well.

that's not autism, it's simply a brainy, introverted boy


salon | I have followed William in my therapy practice for close to a decade. His story is a prime example of the type of brainy, mentally gifted, single-minded, willful boys who often are falsely diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when they are assessed as young children. This unfortunate occurrence is partly due to defining autism as a “spectrum disorder,” incorporating mild and severe cases of problematic social communication and interaction, as well as restricted interests and behavior. In its milder form, especially among preschool- and kindergarten-age boys, it is tough to distinguish between early signs of autism spectrum disorder and indications that we have on our hands a young boy who is a budding intellectual, is more interested in studying objects than hanging out with friends, overvalues logic, is socially awkward unless interacting with others who share identical interests or is in a leadership role, learns best when obsessed with a topic, and is overly businesslike and serious in how he socializes. The picture gets even more complicated during the toddler years, when normal, crude assertions of willfulness, tantrums, and lapses in verbal mastery when highly emotional are in full swing. As we shall see, boys like William, who embody a combination of emerging masculine braininess and a difficult toddlerhood, can be fair game for a mild diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, when it does not apply.

Jacqueline, William’s mother, realized that he was a quirky baby within weeks of his birth. When she held him in her arms, he seemed more fascinated by objects in his field of vision than by faces. The whir and motion of a fan, the tick-tock of a clock, or the drip-drip of a coffeemaker grabbed William’s attention even more than smiling faces, melodic voices, or welcoming eyes. His odd body movements concerned Jacqueline. William often contorted his body and arched his back upwards. He appeared utterly beguiled by the sensory world around him. He labored to prop himself up, as if desperately needing to witness it firsthand.

Some normal developmental milestones did not apply to William. He bypassed a true crawling stage and walked upright by ten and a half months. He babbled as an infant and spoke his first words at twelve months; however, by age two, he was routinely using full sentences and speaking like a little adult.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

war, space and the evolution of complex societies...,


pnas | How did human societies evolve from small groups, integrated by face-to-face cooperation, to huge anonymous societies of today, typically organized as states? Why is there so much variation in the ability of different human populations to construct viable states? Existing theories are usually formulated as verbal models and, as a result, do not yield sharply defined, quantitative predictions that could be unambiguously tested with data. Here we develop a cultural evolutionary model that predicts where and when the largest-scale complex societies arose in human history. The central premise of the model, which we test, is that costly institutions that enabled large human groups to function without splitting up evolved as a result of intense competition between societies—primarily warfare. Warfare intensity, in turn, depended on the spread of historically attested military technologies (e.g., chariots and cavalry) and on geographic factors (e.g., rugged landscape). The model was simulated within a realistic landscape of the Afroeurasian landmass and its predictions were tested against a large dataset documenting the spatiotemporal distribution of historical large-scale societies in Afroeurasia between 1,500 BCE and 1,500 CE. The model-predicted pattern of spread of large-scale societies was very similar to the observed one. Overall, the model explained 65% of variance in the data. An alternative model, omitting the effect of diffusing military technologies, explained only 16% of variance. Our results support theories that emphasize the role of institutions in state-building and suggest a possible explanation why a long history of statehood is positively correlated with political stability, institutional quality, and income per capita. Fist tap Dale.

are we hardwired for war?

NYTimes | WAR is in the air. Sad to say, there’s nothing new about this. Nor is there anything new about the claim that war has always been with us, and always will be. 

What is new, it seems, is the degree to which this claim is wrapped in the apparent acquiescence of science, especially the findings of evolutionary biology with respect to a war-prone “human nature.” 

This year, an article in The National Interest titled “What Our Primate Relatives Say About War” answered the question “Why war?” with “Because we are human.” In recent years, a piece in New Scientist asserted that warfare has “played an integral part in our evolution” and an article in the journal Science claimed that “death in warfare is so common in hunter-gatherer societies that it was an important evolutionary pressure on early Homo sapiens.” 

The emerging popular consensus about our biological predisposition to warfare is troubling. It is not just scientifically weak; it is also morally unfortunate, as it fosters an unjustifiably limited vision of human potential. 

Although there is considerable reason to think that at least some of our hominin ancestors engaged in warlike activities, there is also comparable evidence that others did not. While it is plausible that Homo sapiens owed much of its rapid brain evolution to natural selection’s favoring individuals that were smart enough to defeat their human rivals in violent competition, it is also plausible that we became highly intelligent because selection favored those of our ancestors who were especially adroit at communicating and cooperating. 

Conflict avoidance, reconciliation and cooperative problem solving could also have been altogether “biological” and positively selected for. 

Chimpanzees, we now know, engage in something distressingly akin to human warfare, but bonobos, whose evolutionary lineage makes them no more distant from us than chimps, are justly renowned for making love instead. For many anthropologists, “man the hunter” remains a potent trope, yet at the same time, other anthropologists embrace “woman the gatherer,” not to mention the cooperator, peacemaker and child rearer.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

children are suffering a severe deficit of play...,


aeonmagazine | When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gather education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark. We played all weekend and all summer long. We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us. What I learnt in my hunter-gatherer education has been far more valuable to my adult life than what I learnt in school, and I think others in my age group would say the same if they took time to think about it.

For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play, and the same is true in many other countries. In his book Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff refers to the first half of the 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of children’s free play. By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time. But then, beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework. Adult-directed sports for children began to replace ‘pickup’ games; adult-directed classes out of school began to replace hobbies; and parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised. There are lots of reasons for these changes but the effect, over the decades, has been a continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways.

Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing. It’s not just that we’re seeing disorders that we overlooked before. Clinical questionnaires aimed at assessing anxiety and depression, for example, have been given in unchanged form to normative groups of schoolchildren in the US ever since the 1950s. Analyses of the results reveal a continuous, essentially linear, increase in anxiety and depression in young people over the decades, such that the rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalised anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Over the same period, the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.

The decline in opportunity to play has also been accompanied by a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism, both of which have been assessed since the late 1970s with standard questionnaires given to normative samples of college students. Empathy refers to the ability and tendency to see from another person’s point of view and experience what that person experiences. Narcissism refers to inflated self-regard, coupled with a lack of concern for others and an inability to connect emotionally with others. A decline of empathy and a rise in narcissism are exactly what we would expect to see in children who have little opportunity to play socially. Children can’t learn these social skills and values in school, because school is an authoritarian, not a democratic setting. School fosters competition, not co-operation; and children there are not free to quit when others fail to respect their needs and wishes. Fist tap Dale.

we need schools not factories...,


HuffPo | From Plato to Aurobindo, from Vygotsky to Montessori, centuries of educational thinking have vigorously debated a central pedagogical question: How do we spark creativity, curiosity, and wonder in children? But those who philosophized pre-Google were prevented from wondering just how the Internet might influence the contemporary answer to this age-old question. Today, we can and must; a generation that has not known a world without vast global and online connectivity demands it of us.

But first, a bit of history: to keep the world's military-industrial machine running at the zenith of the British Empire, Victorians assembled an education system to mass-produce workers with identical skills. Plucked from the classroom and plugged instantly into the system, citizens were churned through an educational factory engineered for maximum productivity.

Like most things designed by the Victorians, it was a robust system. It worked. Schools, in a sense, manufactured generations of workers for an industrial age.

But what got us here, won't get us there. Schools today are the product of an expired age; standardized curricula, outdated pedagogy, and cookie cutter assessments are relics of an earlier time. Schools still operate as if all knowledge is contained in books, and as if the salient points in books must be stored in each human brain -- to be used when needed. The political and financial powers controlling schools decide what these salient points are. Schools ensure their storage and retrieval. Students are rewarded for memorization, not imagination or resourcefulness.

school is a prison...,


salon | Parents send their children to school with the best of intentions, believing that’s what they need to become productive and happy adults. Many have qualms about how well schools are performing, but the conventional wisdom is that these issues can be resolved with more money, better teachers, more challenging curricula and/or more rigorous tests.

But what if the real problem is school itself? The unfortunate fact is that one of our most cherished institutions is, by its very nature, failing our children and our society.

School is a place where children are compelled to be, and where their freedom is greatly restricted — far more restricted than most adults would tolerate in their workplaces. In recent decades, we have been compelling our children to spend ever more time in this kind of setting, and there is strong evidence (summarized in my recent book) that this is causing serious psychological damage to many of them. Moreover, the more scientists have learned about how children naturally learn, the more we have come to realize that children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school.

Compulsory schooling has been a fixture of our culture now for several generations. It’s hard today for most people to even imagine how children would learn what they must for success in our culture without it. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are so enamored with schooling that they want even longer school days and school years. Most people assume that the basic design of schools, as we know them today, emerged from scientific evidence about how children learn best. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Schools as we know them today are a product of history, not of research into how children learn. The blueprint still used for today’s schools was developed during the Protestant Reformation, when schools were created to teach children to read the Bible, to believe scripture without questioning it, and to obey authority figures without questioning them. The early founders of schools were quite clear about this in their writings. The idea that schools might be places for nurturing critical thought, creativity, self-initiative or ability to learn on one’s own — the kinds of skills most needed for success in today’s economy — was the furthest thing from their minds. To them, willfulness was sinfulness, to be drilled or beaten out of children, not encouraged. Fist tap Dale.