Entries Tagged 'AA Human Nature' ↓

Why teach history?

I am reading Howard Fineman’s The Thirteen American Arguments (2009). His introduction points out that arguing (and arguments) rarely get a favorable review from authors like himself. Therefore, the purpose of his book is to explain that arguing has always been a vehicle for moving America toward its ideals; and that continues today.   

His first chapter describes the American argument about “Who is a person?” Reading about the answers to that question throughout American history prompted me to think about a different question. This one is related to my arguments in The Six Virtues of the Educated Person (2009).  

Whether or not you agree that Understanding, Imagination, Strength of Character, Courage, Humility and Generosity are the six virtues of the educated person, I want to know your answer to this question: From your reading of history, what conclusions do you draw about human nature? 

For example, reading the arguments over “Who is a person?” would prompt thoughtful readers to draw conclusions about human nature within the context of societies that have addressed that question. By learning how a society grants personhood, we learn about human nature more than we do about the distinctions in that society, although those may be points of interest. 

In Fineman’s chapter on American arguments about faith, he writes this about the founding fathers:

The focus of their intellectual, political and moral ambition was the world, history as it was lived, and the Enlightenment spirit of inquiry and science. (p. 64)

Evidently, our country was founded by men who drew conclusions about human nature from their study of history.

Fineman also writes:

Mixing faith and politics—souls and voting—can be uplifting, but it can be toxic, too. In the South, religion was a bulwark of slaveholding society, with elders interpreting the Old Testament view of chattel, including human chattel, literally. (pp. 65-66)

Can anybody understand that description of a historical period and not draw conclusions about human nature? This is just one example. Are social studies/history teachers asking students to draw conclusions about human nature? If not, why do we teach history?

Should we orient our lives toward happiness or goodness?

I recently read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, where he argued that a fundamental human goal/purpose is the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, it was interesting to read David Brooks’ take on human purpose in “Some People Turn Suffering Into Wisdom,” (NYT, 4/21/2022):

Suffering is evil, but it can serve as a bridge to others in pain. After loss, many people make a moral leap: I may never understand what happened, but I can be more understanding toward others. When people see themselves behaving more compassionately, orienting their lives toward goodness instead of happiness, they revise their self-image and regain a sense of meaning.

Although “orienting our lives toward goodness instead of happiness” conflicts with Aristotle’s happiness goal, he would probably agree with Brooks because he also wrote about the pursuit of virtue. 

Republicans Described (Maybe)

Thomas Edsall, (New York Times, March 30, 2022,) quoted Heather L. Ondercin, a political scientist at Appalachian State University who has written extensively on gender and voting issues: 

Regardless of identification as a man or a woman, more stereotypically “masculine” individuals (male and female) — aggressive, assertive, defends beliefs, dominant, forceful, leadership ability, independent, strong personality, willing to take a stand, and willing to take risks — tend to identify with the Republican Party. Individuals (men and women) who are more stereotypically “feminine” — affectionate, compassionate, eager to soothe hurt feelings, gentle, loves children, sensitive to the needs of others, sympathetic, tender, understanding, and warm — tend to identify with the Democratic Party.

Does anyone else read the description of the stereotypically “masculine” voter and see a person who is aggressive and deeply insecure about his/her assertiveness, beliefs, dominance, forcefulness, leadership ability, independence, strength of personality, willingness to take stands, and willingness to take risks?  Maybe I have taken too many psychology courses.

Hate and the 1st Amendment

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

Yesterday tech company executives were once again grilled by members of Congress. Evidently, we can no longer find the line between yelling fire in a crowded theater and protecting free speech. The internet has changed everything.

Today’s NYT had an article about Google podcasts promoting violence and spewing misinformation and hate (https://nyti.ms/3ffm4Fi). As I read, I thought, “We should just let podcasters have their say. It is only ignorant, unimaginative, weak, truth-fearing, proud and selfish people, who would listen to them. Everybody else knows those programs damage our lives. So, why would anybody listen?”

Then I thought, “Oh–I forgot. Thirty years ago, public schools started focusing on improving test scores. Now we have a whole bunch of adults who are ignorant, unimaginative, weak, truth-fearing, proud and selfish.”

You gotta love those annual school goals of having students correctly answer two more multiple choice questions. Way to go, educators. I know–you were just doing what politicians told you to do. If you had an alternative definition of the educated person, however, you could have argued against the stupidest idea that ever became the goal of education.

Capitalism at work

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

Headline:

Florida company accused of steering vaccines to rich donors

No surprise here. Unchecked capitalism at work–donations put them in the front of the line, don’t they?

Remember–that $30,000 gift. When do I get vaccinated?

So what if a few front line nurses have to wait a few more weeks? What do they contribute to our economy? Some of them are probably socialists, anyway—trying to make life better for others, instead of themselves.   

Update:

Let’s play Whataboutism:

Headline:

Workers at Elite Medical Centers Are Vaccinated Out of Turn

Why the six virtues?

Headline

Slur, Surfacing on Old Video, Alters Young Lives and a Town

Story

Read this NYT story https://nyti.ms/3rxt184 (12/27/2020), then think about what the principal should have done, instead of nothing.

Mr. Galligan (a mixed-race student) showed the clip (of the student using the N word) to the school principal, who declined to take action, citing free speech and the fact that the offensive behavior took place outside school.

If the school had defined the educated person as one who demonstrates the six virtues, the principal would have been expected to educate the girl, who posted the slur, about the importance of being understanding, imaginative, humble, and generous. (The first amendment does not say public schools cannot teach the six virtues of the educated person.)

Instead,

the district in August released a plan to combat systemic racism. The move was followed by a formal apology in September for the district’s history of segregation.

Ironically, the school district’s failure to adopt a virtue definition of the educated person was costly to both the girl who posted the slur (and was therefore denied admission to UT-Knoxville) and to Mr. Galligan, who was subjected to years of discrimination in the school district.

Education policy makers go to great lengths to avoid defining the educated person as one who develops the virtues we want in all citizens. How is that other definition working — the one about getting correct answers on standardized tests?

Update

If you want to know why the district’s “plan to combat systemic racism” is unlikely to be educational, read this editorial by David Brooks:

https://nyti.ms/3mW1WrS

Once again, the failure of educators to adopt an inspiring, useful definition of the educated person means we fail to educate. How could it be otherwise?

Jesus demonstrated the 6 virtues

https://nyti.ms/3nOwA7A

This column in today’s NYT discusses our uneducated nature and our educated nature (represented by Jesus). Was this idea part of your moral/religious education?

BTW–I wrote about this in the AC-T back in 2004.

https://sixvirtues.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/kcrucifixion.htm

Mitch knows best

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

I hope Progressives don’t try to de-fund the police. Mitch McConnell is already doing that as he turns down a bill that includes recession relief for state and city governments.

Mitch objects to the bill because it does not include immunity from prosecution for businesses and industries whose employees were treated unfairly or injured during the pandemic. Evidently, Mitch has no faith in our legal system. Either that, or he knows corrupt lawyers will bring nuisance suits to the courts.

You gotta love how Republicans get conflicted as they try to find what is most in their self-interest. Is it business and industry? lawyers? or police? Evidently, the most campaign funds come from business and industry.

All you need are the headlines

Today’s Asheville Citizen-Times front page headline:

The Big Thanksgiving Day paper

Above that:

Your complete Black Friday shopping resource!

Our local paper nailed America in two headlines–the quintessential American holiday and the quintessential American obsession. (I had to go back to put the exclamation point after the shopping resource! headline.)

We are watching

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

Trump tweet:

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.”

NYT report ((10/8/2020):

Compounding the political risk (of that tweet), Mr. Trump said the halt in stimulus negotiations would give Republicans time to focus on quickly confirming his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a move that polls have shown is unpopular with voters. By contrast, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of another stimulus bill.

Note to Amy Coney Barrett:

Being of such high intelligence and moral standing, I am sure you see that the narcissist president is using you as a tool to defend him against being convicted of crimes. We all know the president cares only about himself. He wants you on the court to rule in his favor so he won’t go to jail or have to pay fines and back taxes.

You will be asked about this in your confirmation hearing. I assume you will inform the American people that you will recuse yourself from cases involving Trump’s election. Your intelligence and morality will be in full view because Americans know what it means to have a narcissistic president. We assume you do, too–being of such high intelligence and moral standing.

Or maybe you are not intelligent and morally upstanding. Maybe you, too, care about your personal causes more than you care about the American people. Just maybe–we will see.

Update

Mario Nicolais, a USA Opinion contributor, argued the same thing on 10/12/20202. He did not include the “we are watching” idea. But, of course, we are watching.