Carnival barking

August 3, 2006

Step right up!  Just one click of the mouse!

New Carnival of Education at This Week in Education — #78.

New, 40th Skeptics’ Circle, with a gracious pointer to a post here, at Daylight Atheism.


1984: History of technology

August 3, 2006

A nicely-written blog, “I Had an Idea This Morning,” had a piece by Anne from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York in the past week about just how far off the mark was George Orwell’s novel 1984 in its portrayal of the use of information devices, “1984 vs. the Blog: Orwell’s Big Blooper.” Instead of the government having a monopoly on the publication of news to be used to suppress the people, the people have fractured such distribution especially with the use of the internet. I find especially thought-provoking the last two paragraphs of Anne’s piece:

Looking back, it almost seems like the totalitarian regimes in Germany and the Soviet Union were the fruit of a never-to-be-repeated phase in the evolution of communications technology. For a brief, horrific period, governments had total control over powerful tools—television and radio—that they could use to communicate with their citizens. The internet, by design, makes such centralized control impossible.

But does that make us safe from groups of super evil mean crazy people? It’s been widely observed that new technologies—from gunpowder to nuclear fusion—have historically been harnessed to serve malevolent ends. Why should communications technology be any different? While mass communication technology helped enable the rise of totalitarian regimes that laid down the law, the internet is pretty good at empowering destructive entities that work outside the law—terrorists, for one. Just as the new technology has given us a billion little blogs and news sites and tv channels and video streams, it’s also giving us thousands of new, super organized hate-based groups to worry about.

The actual year 1984 is a generation gone, and we don’t see exactly the evils that Orwell wrote about. Read the rest of this entry »

Madison on education

August 3, 2006

August 4 is the 184th anniversary of Madison’s letter to William T. Barry, with a discussion of the value of education to a free, democratic republic. Parts of the letter are among the most popular of Madison quotations.

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison, letter to William T. Barry, August 4, 1822

Madison Building inscription

Photo of inscription to the left (north) of the main entrance on Independence Ave., of the James Madison Building, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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