11.0164 mediology, enthusiasms and school-wirings

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 14 Jul 1997 11:23:18 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 164.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Hartmut Krech <kr538@zfn.uni-bremen.de> (34)
Subject: mediology

[2] From: Jascha Kessler <jkessler@ucla.edu> (45)
Subject: Re: 11.0145 mindless enthusiasms

[3] From: Judith Altreuter <altreuter@smtpgwy.mla.org> (27)
Subject: Re: wiring the schools

[4] From: "James W. Johnston" <johnston@wordcruncher.com> (12)
Subject: Re: 11.0162 wiring the schools

Date: Fri, 11 Jul 1997 08:58:59 +0200
From: Hartmut Krech <kr538@zfn.uni-bremen.de>

Thank you to Willard McCarty for making excerpts from Re/gis Debray's
TLS review of Dan Sperber's "Explaining Culture" available to us.
Whoever once had to move his or her private library, documentation,
and whatever accumulates around a serious scholar over time knows my
current trouble. Nevertheless I would like to share a quote from a
brief text that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote exactly 300 years ago,
as a thanks to Willard McCarty and a bow of reverence to the TLS.

"What is called a culture is the survival of a past in the present,"
Re/gis Debray writes in summary of Dan Sperber's argumentation.
Isn't that quite an outdated understanding that can well be situated
in the 19th century (Tylor), but is inappropriate in the third
millenium and quite surprisingly stands in contrast to the first
origins of the term ? Read what Leibniz had to say in 1696:

"Though many substances may have reached great perfection, those
parts that still rest asleep in the abysses of things -- because
of the infinite divisibility of the continuum -- need to be
awakened and led to something greater and better, in one word:
to a better culture. As a consequence, progress will never reach
an end." (Translated from Herbert Herring's German translation
of the original Latin text without access to my English dictionaries).

This is a memorable statement by the founder of the Academy of Sciences
of a country that today boasts of 650 000 unemployed academics. Funny
also to read such a statement when you are leaving town because your kids
do not receive adequate teaching at school, because the teachers do
not consider it necessary to invest any effort into teaching once they
have won a secure lifetime employment as "civil servants." Wiring up
schools won't help; moving places is still the solution ?

Kind regards

Dr. Hartmut Krech NEW ADDRESS:
Postfach 1430 Postfach
D-27734 Delmenhorst D-28215 Bremen
Ph/Fx ++49-4221-538 36 Ph/Fx ++49-421-355 755
eMail kr538@zfn.uni-bremen.de eMail kr538@zfn.uni-bremen.de

Date: Fri, 11 Jul 1997 22:00:21 -0700
From: Jascha Kessler <jkessler@ucla.edu>
Subject: Re: 11.0145 mindless enthusiasms

If one may make some mild observations about this matter...? It seems to
me that people are inclined to view and judge serious matters about values
and their support in an either/or manner. I have always myself plumped for
both/and. [If I recall the first time I read of such a discussion it was J
C Powys' work on RABELAIS, and I was a junion in college, aged 18+, in
1948-49. He also used the term "multiverse" to describe the world of
Rabelais' imagination.]
What happens is that people fail to see that we are terribly rich in the
West, but somehow money for the greater glory of culture and civilization
is always lacking. Well, the bulk of taxes is paid by most people who
cannot afford to support books, say, and wouldnt wish to, for any number of
reasons, serious and trivial, fatigue, ignorance, television and
ill-education. But then, c & c are made by elites, and high civilization
is not what our resentful demos respect or wish. IN this century all the
icons and statutes and gods are pulled down. Le petit ressentiment des
petites. I say this as the son of workingclass people, raised in the Great
Depression. But if we look about, we can hear all of Caliban redux: you
gave me words (books, reading) and my profit on't is to curse. So
literacy, the great goal of mass education from the High Victorians on,
means one can read the comics, etc. All this should be obvious to all of
us "serious" minded folks. Then, there is the specialization of fragmented
cultures, something CP Snow mentioned an eon ago. Then, there is the
an-estheticization of reading as something other, or more than utilitarian.
Matthew Arnold wanted as did Huxley, all things to be read and available
from the lowest to the highest. But my own Theory is that we are watching
what I call the Greshaming of Culture and Civilization. The hallmark of it
is also noticed in the way those who will not, not those who can not, hate
those who will and can. See what has happened to music and ears and
listening, concomitantly with the vast archival availability of treasuries
of music from every where and every time easily to be had. The question is
large. ONe wonders how it is that literary and culture works of whatever
kind are printed in such teeny numbers in the UK, as one hears, and the
libraries do not buy and cannot supply, or will not, all needs. And yet
the UK is not as p;oor as it was 15 years ago! One could go on and on.
But as Falstaff, the Old Fart [sic] remarked when he saw the new puritanism
aiming in his direction, They hate us youth! Who are the "they" in our
situation? Mass society? Too simplistic, but there. And then, why should
there be more than the 60,000 "real readers" that Philip Roth remarked last
year left in the USA. Is 60,000 too small a number in a population of 275
millions? Perhaps. How many "real readers" were they ever at one time?
60,000 is perhaps too small a number to support him properly, may be what
he also meant. Tant pis Pour lui, pour nous.
Jascha Kessler

Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: (310) 393-4648

Date: Fri, 11 Jul 97 15:21:54 EST
From: Judith Altreuter <altreuter@smtpgwy.mla.org>
Subject: Re: wiring the schools

I can reply to this thread on wiring schools as a parent: I have a 7-year-old
entering 2nd grade.

Three years ago I did a lot of research on New York City elementary schools
(public and private) in my area and one of the things I looked for was how they
used computers. Most schools had them, some had them in the classrooms, some had
computer labs. Most schools emphasized that in the younger grades social
interaction is much more important than computer skills. The school I chose uses
computers in the classroom, but in a very limited way in the lower grades.

When I toured this school I was impressed with their use of computers with the
4th graders: they used the internet to be "penpals" with a school in Maine. The
kids were able to talk to each other about banal features of their schools. One
day the kids in Maine had a moose in their playground. The kids in here in New
York City amazed the Mainers when they described their playground on the roof of
the school. It seems to me that this kind of spontaneous interchange is a great
use of computers for kids.

In kindergarten there was one low-grade computer that was rarely used. In 1st
grade some children used it for writing stories that they "published," they
would make graphs in math and play games on them (3 Macs) before school started.
Many children find writing on a computer much easier than handwriting them, so
that the opportunity to use a computer helps them learn to write and read.

While some schools are obsessed with how many computers they have, most parents
I know are not and value the teachers more than the equipment. I believe wiring
schools is a useful goal, as long as the uses for those wires are thought
through carefully.

Judith Altreuter
Production Director, MLA

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 1997 19:38:07 -0600
From: "James W. Johnston" <johnston@wordcruncher.com>
Subject: Re: 11.0162 wiring the schools

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I am not sure where Mr. Haradda lives, but we have a somewhat different
situation where I live. In Utah, every High School has a T1 connection to
the Internet. In the Alpine School District, there are a total of
approximately 2,500 computers in the high schools alone (with an additional
5,400 in Jr. High and Elementary) -- 90% are networked.

James Johnston
WordCruncher Publishing Technologies, Inc.