Quote of the moment: Jefferson on public education (again), “Preach . . . a crusade against ignorance”

November 26, 2010

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Anaheim, California, circa 1940

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Anaheim, California, circa 1940; image from the Anaheim Public Library, via the California Digital Library, University of California

Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people.  Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests, & nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.

To George Wythe, from Paris, August 13, 1786

Excerpted here from The Quotable  Jefferson, collected and edited by John Kaminski, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 84

Quote query: Where did Boorstin write this?

August 17, 2009

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, Information Bulletin January 2003

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, Information Bulletin January 2003

According to several sources, Daniel Boorstin, the late historian and former Librarian of Congress, wrote:

I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.

Does anyone know in what book or essay, or speech, he wrote or said that, and when?

Allowable political satire, or attack on the President?

December 20, 2007

So, is this allowable parody, political satire, in the nature of a political cartoon?
Mug shotsOr, is this an untoward attack on the President?

Will children be confused if they find these photos in a display of political art at the New York Public Library?

Is it not acceptable satire?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Gallery of the Absurd.

Internet search tips from Google, on posters

June 6, 2007

Have you tried out Google for Educators?

Google is a powerful search tool that is way under-utilized by most of us. Working with students, I constantly find they have difficulty using Google or any other search engine to cut out worthless material and focus on specific items they need for their research.

Google for Educators has several posters offering tips on searching to help out.  Click here for .pdf version of Book Search, from GoogleBook Search poster, from Google for Educators

You can download the posters as .pdf files in a format suited to 8.5 X 11 inch pages, or for 17 X 22 inch pages. The larger size can be printed on the color “blueprint” printers your school’s drafting classes have (This is a good opportunity to go make friends with the drafting instructor — you can use those machines for great maps, too.).  If your school lacks such printers, you’ll find commercial copy centers will reproduce them (we have Kinko’s here) — though my experience is it can sometimes be cheaper to have them treated as photos and processed at a local photo center (Ritz/Wolf’s/Inkley’s, etc.)

I particularly like the “Better Searches, Better Results” poster.

The Texas teacher evaluation forms encourage evaluation on stuff hanging on the walls fo the classroom — if you lack stuff to hang, especially stuff that helps students in times of need, Google offers several posters.  Make the most of it.

[Has anyone else noticed that, as important as visual displays are supposed to be, very few schools make arrangements for easy display of materials?]

Searching for origins of life in Yellowstone’s hot springs

April 17, 2007

A few hours ago I posted a notice on satellite studies of the uplifting of a part of the Yellowstone Caldera, and I suggested some (weak) links to how to use it in the classroom. In passing I noted that the volcanic rock site southwest of Yellowstone, the Craters of the Moon National Monument, had been used to show astronauts what the Moon would be like when they landed Apollo missions there.

Yellowstone and especially its volcanic features also provided dramatic insights to the origins of life on Earth, especially the rise of life in hot water. These findings advanced the science we now call astrobiology, or the search for life on other planets.

This evening I stumbled across an interesting feature: A full text of a classic 1978 book on thermophilic life in Yellowstone, explaining in greater detail the research conducted there and its significance in astrobiology and evolution. Thomas D. Brock’s book, Thermophilic microorganisms and life at high temperatures (Springer-Verlag, New York, 1978; 465 pages) is just sitting there, online, for anyone to read. Thermophilic microorganisms, book cover
In this book there is more real science to this one tiny facet of the study of the evolution of life than there is in the entirety of the intelligent design political movement.

I wonder what other gems there may be in that digital collection at the University of Wisconsin.

Below the fold: The frontispiece. Read the rest of this entry »

We can honor Jefferson better than this

April 14, 2007

Jefferson, Paul Jennewein bas relief in U.S. House chamber

Jefferson, Paul Jennewein bas relief in U.S. House chamber

Jefferson’s birthday sneaked up on me this year. There is the constant tension between doing the Things that Keep the Wolf from the Door and following all the things we should follow; wolves have been on my mind more lately (notice the drop off in posts).

So all I had was a warning post last week, and the post yesterday wishing Tom a happy natal anniversary day. Hey it’s not my job.

But what about the rest of you? What about the president, Congress, public officials, educators and others everywhere?

Here is what I found of celebrations of Jefferson’s birthday:

Architectural Record reported that the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture was won by Zaha Hadid.

The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Virginia, Jefferson’s home town, reported that Alan Greenspan won the first Thomas Jefferson Medal in Citizen Leadership.

In the last paragraph of the story about Greenspan, The Daily Progress also noted that the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law was awarded to Anne-Marie Slaughter.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression issued 16 “Jefferson Muzzle” awards to people who damaged free expression. The story I found was from the UPI wire, UPI now being owned by the Unification Church and probably sort of a muzzle itself. The story listed only one of 16 awardees.

In Washington, D.C., Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez noted the 200th anniversary of the science agencies that became the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in a speech at the Jefferson Memorial. Jefferson had created the first science agency, the Survey of the Coast, during his presidency, in 1807.

President Bush declared April 13 “Thomas Jefferson Day,” on April 11. If any news agency picked up that press release, I’ve not been able to find it.

That’s about it for celebration. That’s not a lot. It’s not enough.

We can and should do better than that. In The Philadelphia Inquirer, education scholar Peter Gibbon of Boston University suggests we can and should honor Jefferson more overtly, despite Jefferson’s own refusal of letting the citizens of Boston make his birthday a holiday:

Jefferson was more than an eloquent espouser of democratic ideology, more than a patient and realistic secretary of state, and more than a president who doubled the size of America with the Louisiana Purchase. He was a scientist who analyzed climate change, studied mastodon bones, and championed small-pox inoculation; a farmer who invented a moldboard plough and brought fruit trees and upland rice to America; a lawyer who helped make Virginia laws more humane; and an architect who designed Monticello and the University of Virginia.

Only education, Jefferson believed, could end tyranny and preserve democratic values. Thus, he advocated universal primary education, colleges open to merit, and curriculum separate from theology. His thousands of books eventually became the beginning of the Library of Congress. Devoted to reason, he loved beauty, playing his violin, and marveling at the flowers and fruits of the Virginia countryside. In love with knowledge, he placed a higher priority on virtue.

Jefferson cultivated friends, treasured his wife (who died after only 10 years of marriage), and watched after his children. In 1804, Maria, his 26-year-old daughter, died. Against a background of war, political combat, and personal suffering, Jefferson struggled to retain his optimism.

Our celebration of Jefferson’s birthday today is more complicated than the adoration of Boston citizens in 1803. Now, we acknowledge a guilty, conflicted slaveholder who did not transcend his time, a tough politician who orchestrated attacks on his opponents and carefully shaped his reputation for posterity. We see a second presidential term marred by a misconceived embargo that backfired and caused an economic crisis. Still, we might also see a sweet-tempered, affectionate human being – a diplomat, architect, and idealist who believed in religious tolerance, rebuked tyrants, promoted civil rights, and wrote the words that justify the creation of America.

Some Americans are unhappy with Jefferson’s legacy. As with all real humans who achieve some level of hero-worship, some people are unhappy to discover that others who do heroic things are not heroic in all aspects of their lives. They need to get over it.

We should do more to celebrate Thomas Jefferson and his legacy. April 13 is a good day for such celebrations.

This is not a call for a hero cult, nor especially a religious-style cult. Honoring Jefferson honors his better nature, his calls for freedom for everyone, his calls for ending slavery (even if he did not free his own slaves), his call for universal education in order to make a republic work well and righteously, his calls for intellectual freedom, his celebration of the Common Man as an ideal, his work for libraries and learning, his work for good and beautiful architecture, his love of science, etc., etc., etc.

Honoring Jefferson honors America, and calls us to do better ourselves in working for a higher good. We should do that.

Olio/Olla podrida/Mulligan stew/Stone soup

March 26, 2007

Here are some of the posts I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of days:

Iraq and VietnamWritings by Hudson has been reading about LBJ and Vietnam.  Santayana’s ghost appreciates the exercise.

Camels in the Outback, camels in the dogfood:  Would you believe a million camels are feral in the Australian Outback?  And now, with a drought, it’s a problem.  The Coffee House alerts us.

What if everybody in your organization came to you for help? The Drawing Room tells us why you’d be wise to work for such a thing.

U.S. soldiers protest the warNo, not the current war — African American soldiers protest the Filipino conflict.  Forgotten soldiers, forgotten war — you’d do well to reacquaint yourself with this chapter of U.S. history at Vox ex Machina.

Leaks about the incident that got us into the warNo, not yet the Iraq war (see how you jump to conclusions?).  POTUS reflects on LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and the leaks and lack of intelligence that may have gotten us into a quagmire.

Earthquakes in Tornado Alley:  Tennessee Guy points to an article that wonders about the New Madrid Fault, and whether it is tensing up for “the Big One” to shake West Tennessee (and the rest of the Midwest), or it is going to sleep for a millennium.

Science and racismA collection of Darwin’s writings that touch on race and slavery, for your bookmark file.

Cool school librariesWe’re not talking about air conditioning.

Evolution Sunday, and history, and reason

February 11, 2007

Today is Evolution Sunday. It’s a day when thinking Christians make a modest stand for reason, it’s a day when caring Christians make a stand for facts and truth, versus calumny and voodoo science and voodoo history.

Debunking hoaxes — finding the truth about who put the first plumbed bathtub in the White House, repeating the debunking of the “Lady Hope hoax” that claimed Darwin recanted his life’s work on his deathbed, holding a spotlight on the facts of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the events in the Gulf of Tonkin, highlighting the bravery of Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher and the crew of the Pueblo, noting that there never was a family of chainsaw murderers in Travis County, Texas — is difficult work. One wag I used to see posting on an internet bulletin board had a tagline, “Fighting ignorance since 1974 1973– it’s taking longer than I thought.”*

So, if you’re in church today, light a candle against the darkness, as Carl Sagan would say. Candles show us where demons are not, and where it is safe for humans to go. The more candles against ignorance, the greater the realm for human reason.

As Einstein almost certainly did not say, the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. And as Frank Zappa probably did say, hydrogen is not the most abundant thing in the universe — ignorance is. Light some candles against ignorance today, in church or out of it. Reason gives us hope, and there is precious little of both today.

Be grateful for those things that keep us free, for those things that keep us seeking and acquiring knowledge, and for those people (like P. Z. Myers) who prod us — righteously — to stand up for the truth.

Death of books, and history on video

December 3, 2006

In the Eisenhower administration some wise person noted that through history, libraries have been essential to civilization. In that wisdom-tinged era, the federal government started a program to establish in every county in the U.S. a library which would contain practical information on farming, industry, health care, and government and philosophy, so that in the event a nuclear exchange wiped out great libraries in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Los Angeles, among other places, the knowledge and wisdom needed to rebuild America would be available to people easily, locally.

It was a good idea, I think, but chiefly because of the side effect of putting good information close to people, even without nuclear destruction. I wonder whether we have strayed.

Today, libraries abandon books in favor of electronic media, film and on-line applications at a prodigious rate. Million-book libraries, once the hallmark of a good university, now represent dated data and a backwater center of scholarship, to many.

Libraries missed the first video wave. Thinking they were about books and not television presentation of information, libraries missed the opportunity to attract customers for videos. Instead, here in the U.S. a company named Blockbuster did badly (by my estimation) the promulgation and protection of culture, for profit, that libraries should have done for free. Determined not to miss the next evolution or revolution in media, libraries now plan to adopt new media when possible, and store information in new electronic formats.

In the U.S., college libraries turn to coffee bars and advanced internet access to attract students to . . . where the stacks used to be. (audio story from NPR’s Saturday Edition)

In the Netherlands, libraries plan to archive local video productions and photographs, and to digitize the data to make it more widely available. Plans are to spend 173 million euro (more than $230 million U.S. at today’s exchange rate), to archive 285,000 hours of film, video and radio recordings, and nearly 3 million photos.

Will civilization survive?

Tip of the old scrub brush to If:book, from the Institute for the Future of the Book.

Free “classics” books for school libraries, from NEH

November 26, 2006

The National Endowment for the Humanities is prepared to give away collections of classic books to school libraries.

Here is the NEH press release, unedited by me:

National Endowment for the Humanities Offers Free Classic Books to Libraries Through the We The People Bookshelf Program

WASHINGTON (Sept. 18, 2006)–The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced the fourth annual We the People Bookshelf, a program that offers sets of classic books to 2,000 community and school libraries throughout the United States. Recipients of the NEH awards program will receive a collection of 15 classics which were selected to illustrate this year’s theme, “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

The We the People Bookshelf is part of NEH’s We the People program designed to strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. Again this year, NEH has partnered with the American Library Association (ALA) to distribute a set of books, posters, and educational CDs to 2,000 selected libraries that offer the best programs for young readers using the awarded materials.

“These classic books are rich in stories about individuals who embrace the ‘unalienable’ right of free people–the pursuit of happiness, a phrase written indelibly in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson,” said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. “Young readers will find in these books the spirit of hope that has contributed to the growth and strength of our great nation and its citizens for more than two hundred years.”

The We the People Bookshelf on “The Pursuit of Happiness” features the following books for 2007:

  • Grades K-3: Aesop’s Fables by Aesop; Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost; Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (also in Spanish).
  • Grades 4-6: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt; The Great Migration by Jacob Lawrence; These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder; and Journal of Wong Ming-Chung (donated by Scholastic, Inc.) by Laurence Yep.
  • Grades 7-8: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; Esperanza Rising (donated by Scholastic, Inc.) by Pam Munoz Ryan, (also in Spanish); and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham.
  • Grades 9-12: Kindred by Octavia Butler; O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (also in Spanish); The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman; and Common Sense by Thomas Paine.

As a bonus, each library receiving a We the People Bookshelf set will receive a music CD, Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Libraries wishing to participate in the We the People Bookshelf program can find more information and application instructions online at www.neh.gov. Applications can be submitted from Sept. 19, 2006, through Jan. 31, 2007.

Media Contact: Michele Soulé at 202-606-8454

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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