Link to What's New This Week. Issue for Week of August 18, 2003

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Dear Habermas
A Journal of Postmodern and Critical Thought
Devoted to Academic Discourse on Peace and Justice

Current Issue:
Volume 17, No. 10, Week of August 18, 2003

jeanne's schedule - Susan's schedule NEW
Pat's schedule - About Us - Academic Resources
Previous Issue: Volume 17, No. 9, Week of August 11, 2003
Mirror Sites: CSUDH - Habermas - UWP
KIDS, Etc. - ARCHIVES - Daily Site Additions
Class Preparations - What Is Dear Habermas? -


California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan, Transcend Art and Peace
Latest Update: August 16, 2003

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jeannes first version of Beginning Stat Student

Er, would you believe the dog ate it?

Topic of the Week: Numbers as Scapegoats
Saturday, August 16, 2003: I can't begin to tell you how much fun it was to start in seriously putting up the statistics preparations and lectures. It's been two years since I taught it, and I had forgotten how much I love teaching it. But the heat wave is unbearable, and I'm having to go slow. This morning when I tackled it again, I thought of all you who were so panicked at the very thought of statistics, and I thought about our theme this semester of answerability and its importance to community. The painting I put up is my imaginary of what it would feel like to take statistics without Bakhtin's aesthetic process of answerability in place. I'd do a second version with answerability in place, but it hasn't come to me yet. Besides, now I really do have to get back to the preparatations. This may be a short issue, as I try to get all the syllabi and preps up before school.

Our topic this week suggests how prejudice works. You're caught in a class where math is hard, for your teacher as well as you. The teacher has status and privilege to preserve based on her knowledge of the subject, so she can't let you know that the numbers scare her, too. And whenever we worry about having to go beyond what we're sure we know, we puff up like academcic bullfrogs, so people won't notice we're scared. Academic bullfrogs don't tolerate answerability. They speak only in monologic non-answerable utterances or croaks that hide safely behind their titles of authority.

Then stimulus response theory comes into play. Remember B.F. Skinner and his cats and rats? If every time you go to stat class you panic, and it doesn't feel good at all, you identify the panic and the pain with statistics - for which most of you have long experience with numbers and math, period. So very, very soon, someone says "Statistics . . . " and you say "Oh, I hate it . . . I can't do it." Not so. That's a spurious conclusion. What you can't do is learn about numbers from someone else who is scared of the numbers, too. Jerome Bruner: If a teacher knows her material well enough, she can teach it to fourth graders. After which he proceeded to teach Anthropology to fourth graders at Harvard.

A spurious conclusion, since it's part of statistics anyway, is one in which we draw a false connection between variables because they seem to be connected, and we don't explore deeply enough to discover that something else is going on beyond the obvious. There's an old joke about it:

Drank gin and water. Got drunk.
Drank vodka and water. Got drunk.
Drank scotch and water. Got drunk.
Drank bourbon and water. Got drunk.

Gee, drinking water makes you drunk. Well, it is the only variable that occured in all four instances in which he got drunk.

But now, if we go further. Beyond the numbers into the effectiveness of the measurement, we could say:

Drank alcohol in gin. Added water. Got drunk.
Drank alcohol in vodka. Added water. Got drunk.
Drank alcohol in scotch. Added water. Got drunk.
Drank alcohol in bourbon. Added water. Got drunk.

And now we have two variables present in all four instances in which he got drunk.

But just in case we have any doubts left, we could try another version, leaving out the water:

Drank gin which has alcohol in it. Got drunk.
Drank vodka which has alcohol in it. Got drunk.
Drank scotch which has alcohol in it. Got drunk.
Drank bourbon which has alcohol in it. Got drunk.

Gee, it looks like alcohol makes you drunk, no matter what drink it's in, and no matter whether you drink water with it.

Numbers, math, statistics, get the same bum rap in school that water gets in the joke above. Misery and unsuccessful tests or homework or whatever happened to you when numbers were involved. So you concluded spuriously that numbers were the culprit. Now, it's time to go back and reinterpret those earlier experiences. You have to. Otherwise, it's numberism. And discrimination is a no-no in classes on peace and social justice.

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A Range of Sources on Global Events

Left/Right Perspectives - Cursor - New York Times
Arts and Letters Daily - The Economist - The Guardian
Wall Street Journal -The Weekly Standard - The Nation
Los Angeles Times - Chicago Tribune - The Washington Post
Cursor's Al Jazeera Archive - Ha'aretz - Palestine Monitor

Indymedia - BBC News - New Profile - Progressive Sociologists Network


    Saturday, August 16, 2003: Mother is still fussing, and I'm still having too much fun to finish this all any faster. Sorry, Mother.

    I never got last week's NEW file up, and I may not again this week. I've simply GOT to finish up what we so badly need on the site, and the lectures you'll need in a few weeks. I can hear my mother on my shoulder saying "Jean Rae, if you'd just stop enjoying it so much you could get it finished." I know, Mother, but I'd rather enjoy it.

    Please bear with the mistakes. I'm flying with this stuff. Just e-mail me the corrections. The E-mail is finally working again, after that "impossible to occur" problem. Do you suppose that maybe all these things that keep happening around me are happening at least in part because of my own utterances and actions? I reckon Bakhtin would say yes. By the way, I've been mis-spelling his name all week. David Nasatir, pace, at this speed I might mis-spell my own.

Using Academic Language Effectively:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

Dictionary of Critical Sociology
Maintained by Robert E. Mazur, Associate Professor, Iowa State University, Sociology.

Words of Art: Front Page
Wonderful Fine Arts dictionary at Okanagan University College in Canada.
Will cover many of the terms social theory shares with literary theory.

Today's Word: From the Word.A.Day Site

Social Theory across Disciplines:

Peace and Social Justice
Essays, Comments, and Discussion Questions

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2003. Hadith of the Week: The Prophet (SAW) said: “When three of you are together two of you must not talk privately ignoring the other till you are in among a number of people, so as not to grieve him.” [Imam Bukhari]

    Came in weekly e-mail from the Amana Site:

    Do you know what a hadith is?

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

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Lived Experience:

Emancipatory Narratives

Kids, Etc.: Stuff to Share with Others

  • Update for Young People I'll catch up with these when our Fall class stuff is done. jeanne
  • Update on Health
  • Update for Seniors

  • Sunday, August 17, 2003. Travel through China and Thailand, with lots of photos: Diary: China and Thailand with a special section on Guelin. Maintained by Bryan Ischo. With lots of photos of Guelin, including the Camel at Seven Star Park, where our tour guide told us we must absolutely not go, where these lions are, and where we obviously went. Hmmm? Maybe there's something about Guelin guides and taxi drivers?? Bryan and Nancy did such great job on this diary (blog?) that I found myself going through the entire site, with all memories it brought back of China and Thailand from last year. Careful. You could spend a couple of hours that way, but you'd have lots of fun. jeanne

Art Shenanigans

Academic Assessment

UWP and CSUDH Classes Linked through Dear Habermas in Fall 2003