America’s government shutdown: No way to run a country

Pablo Picasso, 1937, Guernica, protest against...
Pablo Picasso, 1937, Guernica, protest against Fascism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I was going to quote a paragraph from this. And then after reading it a while, I decided to quote four paragraphs. And then, I just decided this is just excellent writing and quoting a piece out of it was like slicing up a Picasso.
James Pilant




Dewayne-Net Archives

[Note:  This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis.  DLH]

From: Michael Cheponis <>
Subject: America’s government shutdown: No way to run a country | The Economist
Date: October 4, 2013 4:46:01 PM PDT

No way to run a country
The Land of the Free is starting to look ungovernable. Enough is enough
Oct 5 2013

AS MIDNIGHT on September 30th approached, everybody on Capitol Hill blamed everybody else for the imminent shutdown of America’s government. To a wondering world, the recriminations missed the point. When you are brawling on the edge of a cliff, the big question is not “Who is right?”, but “What the hell are you doing on the edge of a cliff?”

The shutdown itself is tiresome but bearable. The security services will remain on duty, pensioners will still receive their cheques and the astronauts on the International Space Station will still…

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Literature Promotes Insight

I firmly believe that literature is a guide to how other people think, an insight into how other minds differ from yours. I recommend to my business students that they take classes in art, science and literature. Business courses prepare you for business problems. Liberal arts prepare you to live a life of meaning and purpose.


Of course, my students don’t read enough. Oh, they do, if you count their social media and the powerpoints they see in class but real reading is tackling college level text for more than five minutes. That kind of reading develops brain power, and according to the study here referenced, an enhanced ability to empathize and understand others.


James Pilant


Statue, Tomsk. "Anton Pavlovich in Tomsk—...
Statue, Tomsk. “Anton Pavlovich in Tomsk—drunkard’s view, lying in a ditch, who never read Kashtanka” Print issues, Siberia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Jonathan Franzen can help you read people –


Beach reading season is over, so it’s time to plunge into some serious fiction. But if the idea of plowing through a Pynchon feels a bit too much like work, here’s a piece of news that may inspire you: Doing so may help you better discern the beliefs, motivations, and emotions of those around you.That’s the conclusion of a just-published study by two scholars from the New School for Social Research in New York. David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano report that reading literature uniquely boosts “the capacity to identify and understand others’ subjective states.”Literary fiction, they note in the journal Science, “uniquely engages the psychological processes needed to gain access to characters’ subjective experiences.” Unlike most popular fiction, which “tends to portray the world and its characters as internally consistent and predictable,” these works require readers to contend with complex, sometimes contradictory characters.According to Kidd and Castano, this sort of active engagement increases our ability to understand and appreciate the similarly complicated people we come across in real life.The researchers provide evidence for their thesis in the form of five experiments, all of which were conducted online. In the first, the 86 participants read either a short literary work (by Chekhov, Don DeLillo, or …


(Please visit the web site and read the whole article! jp)


via Jonathan Franzen can help you read people –


From around the web.


From the web site, Stephanie’s Wicked Awesome Words.


The great writers of the classics were masters in their craft. They
knew how to write well and effectively, and how to compose pieces that
would continue to instill wisdom centuries into the future. In other
subjects, such as chemistry, calculus, and history, students study those
people who were masters in these fields. They concentrate on gleaning
knowledge from those who were the most accomplished and had the most to
offer. Why should literature study be any different? Although YA
literature is a good device to get children interested in reading, it
should not be the main focus of study in the classroom. In general, YA
literature does not have the universal appeal or level of skill that
classic literature does. That would be equivalent to history teachers
teaching their students only about the lives of ordinary people rather
than those of people like Napoleon, Washington, or King, Jr. That would
be equivalent to chemistry teachers teaching their students only about
experiments conducted in high school labs, and not about scientists and
discoveries that have changed the world. Classic literature has a place
in the classroom, one that should be revered and never substitued with
work that is simply mediocre.


From the web site, Writings by Abhishek.


Tim Gillespie in one of his essays to ‘The English Journal’ says, “We
rightly worry that many youngsters lives are circumscribed by poverty,
discrimination, low expectations, cultural insularity, and other
conditions that may render them unable to see beyond the limits of their
immediate horizons. Literature does offer-inexpensively-a vision of
other lives and other vistas. One of its potential benefits is to
enlarge a reader’s sense about the many possible ways to live. This
enlarged sense seems to me an important part of our traditional national
ethos. Hope for a better world and belief in the possibility of
re-making oneself or improving one’s situation breed optimism and elbow
grease. We have rich testimony of this imaginative function of
literature. ”

The ability of literature to provoke its reader to imagine is
generalized in the above sentences. What I mean to say is that
literature of any kind has a generalized power to make the reader
imagine things. Of course, Tim throws more light on living life in
various ways and imagining situations that one cannot experience but
literature of any kind, whether a science textbook or a novel makes the
reader to imagine. This power of imagination deepens the intellectual
quotient of a person.


“The tale’s the thing, for every generation”


Teaching difficult texts (via

I talk about this a lot myself. My primary gripes are that teachers often teach unimportant things because they are easy to grade. Sometimes, I see meaningless questions asked because they lend themselves well to an easily gradable format. Here’s a disguised version of one I saw –

The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in ….
A. 1935
B. 1936
C. 1937
or D. 1928.

If your career and life depend on knowing the year that social security passed in the format of a Jeopardy question, that would be a good question. In every other way it is useless.

How should the questions be phrased? Like this –

The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in …
A. The first few years of the Roosevelt Administration.
B. The last years of the Hoover Administration.
C. As one of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the mid-sixties.
or D. With the founding of the Constitution.

This places the Social Security Act in historical perspective, and it allows reasoning to be used. You can use what you learned in a variety of venues to determine if the act would have been something that the founding fathers or Herbert Hoover would have done.

I believe in teaching difficult subjects. I believe my students can handle difficult material. And I believe that teaching is an art whose highest practitioners can rise to meet the challenges of complexity and ambiguity.

James Pilant

Just a short post that got me thinking about this. In our Inquiry Education class, we read Wintergirls, a novel about a young girl, Lia, who has anorexia. It takes place in the days, weeks and months after her "best friend," Cassie, who had bulimia, died. It's an intense book with a lot of touchy and sometimes controversial events. In a nutshell, it's the book you want kids to open up and read but you don't want to teach it because of the subject … Read More


How Kansas City Honors Lincoln!

Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad

The sculpture was the result of a community-wide effort lead by Orville W. Anderson, a retired insurance salesman, civic volunteer, and political activist, who raised almost $140,000 to commission the sculpture. The Orville W. Anderson Committee for a Lincoln Memorial solicited funds from trusts, foundations, corporations, and individuals. Included in the erection of the memorial was an endowment for maintenance. IAS files include articles from the Kansas City Times, May 27, 1985 and Sept. 16, 1983, the Kansas City Star, Feb. 10, 1986; and a resolution dated July 28, 1983 by the Kansas City City Council to authorize installation of the monument. (from the Smithsonian Web Site) 

I don’t know about you but I think this is beautiful.

James Pilant

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower. #College #Unschooling #Education (via uberlearner)

The adjunct professor here tells us what happens when he flunks a majority of his students. –

What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.

I share some of these concerns. My persistent gripes about the “necessity” of policemen and firemen having to master college algebra is probably well known locally. A college education is appropriate in many fields but surely we can find a variety of mechanisms(of which a college education is a major choice but not the only choice) by which policemen and other municipal employees can be promoted.

James Pilant

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower. #College #Unschooling #Education The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why.By Professor XJune 2008 Atlantic Magazine     I work part-time in the evenings as an adjunct instructor of English. I teach two courses, Introduction to College Writing (English 101) and Introduction to College Literature (English 102), at a small private college and at a community college. The … Read More

via uberlearner

Lost in the Stacks 4: Writers and Readers (via The Labyrinth Library)

Public Domain

Some days, I do not want to write. I want to do anything but write. My mind says, “Please James, let’s watch a movie, go shopping, have a nap, anything that isn’t typing into that machine.”

I still drag myself to that online beast and write once again. You cannot not post. Your readers will leave, not all of them, but some. And I prize every reader I have. They are like gold coins to a miser. I remember all too well getting 35 hits for the entire month I began posting.

My readers are supportive and kind. Their comments enrich my thought and change how and what I write about.

I am greedy for more readers but I don’t want as much encouragement as the picture and caption indicate!

James Pilant

Lost in the Stacks 4: Writers and Readers With the debut of HBO’s “A Game of Thrones” miniseries and a new article in The New Yorker, the strange story of George R. R. Martin and his fans has been on my mind. So, in this episode of Lost in the Stacks, we examine the weird, often dangerously codependent relationship between the Writer and the Readers. What does the writer owe to his or her readers, if anything? What can the readers honestly expect of their writer? What promises, implicit … Read More

via The Labyrinth Library

What Mendel tells us about thinking (via The Hannibal Blog)

My students are bombarded with my lectures on good decision-making. They suffer through seemingly endless talk about why reason is better than opinion, how the facts are better than speculation. All this because I believe that critical thinking is at the heart of an effective education.

I believe in thinking. We live in a time where people can say, “I go with my gut,” and people treat them as if they had leadership ability when the intelligent response is to say, “That’s nice.” and ease them away from any position of authority.

The American Experience is a brief piece of history but its significance has been huge. It is an attempt at allowing a free people to make the critical choices in their lives. America is based on Enlightenment philosophy. This philosophy teaches that humans are capable of improvement and that with the tools of human reason they can free themselves from superstition and false beliefs. These ideas are embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Not only that but our educational system, our laws and every idea of improvement espoused by any self-help book are all based on those beliefs.

Give some attention to the Hannibal Blog and what he has to say about thinking.

James Pilant

What Mendel tells us about thinking Find quietude. Observe whatever is around you. If it seems banal, discover it to be fascinating and mysterious. Ignore distractions, otherwise known as ‘everybody else’. Ask simple questions that puzzle you. Be patient in pondering them. That is how I imagine Gregor Mendel might answer us today if we asked him: How  — I mean how! — did you achieve your stunning intellectual breakthroughs, on which we today base our understanding of biology? Put … Read More

via The Hannibal Blog

Reading is Critical to Ethics

This is a quote from an interview with Mary Gordon about her new book, Reading Jesus.

One of the things that I wanted to explore in this project is what kind of reading scripture demands. In one sense, it’s reading, just like reading the instructions for your DVD player, or King Lear, or a graphic novel. But that verb isn’t adequate for all these different experiences. This is a text that you may have thought—as I once did—was the Word of God, literally containing your salvation or damnation. It has a whole overlay of your personal history, your anguish, and the culture of the West. It has your coloring book and it has Bellini. It has the horrible ranting of anti-Semites and of people who hate the body, but it also has Oscar Romero and George Herbert. The Gospels carry so much in them, so the reading can never be simple. It is a uniquely complicated experience.

Simple reading is a simple matter of understanding a sentence and perhaps another sentence. Real reading means that you can understand the parts in terms of the whole and the whole in terms of the parts; that is, you can see how sentences fit into the total concept, i.e., how they develop and cast light on it. The New Testament is a very different document read as a whole. As a collection of sentences virtually any belief can be justified, the prosperity gospel being one bizarre example.

Ethics is almost always bound up with understanding. Poor readers will never have the insight and maturity of those that can understand difficult texts and ideas.

We are in danger of becoming a nation where reading becomes a curiosity. Oh, we’ll be able to read captions under photographs, see how much medicine to take, etc. But the ability to read in the light of our experience, to read in coordination with other reading, other sources, is an art that requires practice and application.

There is today a strange worship of the commonplace, of gut feelings and a casual disdain for the learned. It calls into question the continued development and survival of this civilization.

Of course, if this civilization is nothing more than an acquistive impulse tempered by occasional reservations, reading and thought are of no importance.

But I will continue to believe that there is a civilization here and that it is worth defending.

James Pilant