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Current Issue: Volume 23, No. 16, Week of May 8, 2005

The trouble with certainty in politics, in jusrisprudence, in life - collage by jeanne, featuring a Basquiat head that knows . . .

The Trouble with Certainty in Politics, in Jusrisprudence, in Life
Basquiat's Head Knows . . .

(Basquiat's head collaged and extended from piece shown last week.
The head is very typical of his work.)

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University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: May 6, 2005
Latest Update: May 9, 2005

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Topic of the Week:

The Trouble with Certainty in Politics, in Jusrisprudence, in Life

Certainty requires consensus or someone must be wrong. Once there is a right and a wrong we exclude someone, those who are wrong. And exclusion leads to colonization in that the stronger enforce their right over the weaker's wrong. Hierarchy and certainty suck.They lead to colonialism, and Jean-Michel Basquiat represents the anti-colonial position as expressed by Fanon. For me the Basquiat head offers one interpretation of the "one who knows, and thus enslaves and/or exploits the one who is wrong."

This is being said every day on the pages of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. It is being said about racism and all the other isms. It is being said about the exclusion of workers, about the outsourcing of jobs to the cheapest labor force. It is being said about the need for government to police the greed and fraud of private corporations and agents and representatives of government. It is being said about religious fundamentalism, about sexuality and the practice of sex, about judicial activism and judge-made policy, about the practice of war as "justified." It is being said so loud and so clearly that it scares me. It scares me that so many of us are so caught up in our own little worlds that we are not hearing in good faith the message about safety nets and control through "knowingness."

Yes, those who "have" will accomplish more and profit more if they pay no heed to those "who do not have" and move on to progress and expand and consume more as quickly as they can. Thomas Friedman's new book, suggests that the threat posed by India and China wrenching power from the U.S. through their greater ability to produce cheap commodities and to struggle to achieve is justifiable as the strongest strive to gain power over the weaker.

Terrorism remains a threat, and we will all continue to be fascinated by upheavals in Lebanon, events in Iran and reforms in Egypt. But ultimately these trends are unlikely to shape the world's future. The countries of the Middle East have been losers in the age of globalization, out of step in an age of free markets, free trade and democratic politics. The world's future -- the big picture -- is more likely to be shaped by the winners of this era. And if the United States thought it was difficult to deal with the losers, the winners present an even thornier set of challenges. This is the implication of the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman's excellent new book, ''The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.''

'The World Is Flat': The Wealth of Yet More Nations By Fareed Zakaria, New York Times. Published: May 1, 2005.

It hasn't happened yet. It isn't even "about" to happen. But to the extent that Americans ignore disciplined education, ignore the sciences in favor of "belief," and ignore the answerability of the Other, in both East/West and North/South relationships, it is one alternative implicit in some of the willingness to exploit, to hierarchize, to commodify in the present global context. If Americans go to war while Indians and Chinese study and practice technology, somewhere along the line the production and control of technology is going to shift.

On p.A 14 of the New York Times today, Kansas legislators attack science in favor of religious belief. In Kansas, Darwinism Goes on Trial Once More. By Jodi Wilgoren. Published: May 6, 2005. "'These people are going to obfuscate about these definitions,' complained Jack Krebs, vice president of the pro-evolution Kansas Citizens for Science, whose members filled many of the 180 auditorium seats not taken by journalists, who came from as far away as France. 'They have created a straw man. They are trying to make science stand for atheism, so they can fight atheism.' "

The Los Angeles Times on P. A1, blazoned: Evolution Isn't a Natural Selection Here, by P.J. Huffstutter. "Kansas looks again at whether teachers should be allowed to present non-scientific theories." Kathy Martin is described as a School Board member whose family built on their farm "a white cross [that] dominates the landscape."

"The cross is a proud expression of Martin's faith. And as hearings challenging the role of evolution in the state's school science curriculum began Thursday, that cross left little doubt about where she stood in the debate. " 'Evolution is a great theory, but it is flawed,' said Martin, 59, a retired science and elementary school teacher who is presiding over the hearings. 'There are alternatives. Children need to hear them…. We can't ignore that our nation is based on Christianity — not science.' "

Our nation is based on the concept that all men [sic] are created free. We have freedom of speech, and important rights to privacy. We have the right to practice science as well as religion, without being forced to agree with anyone. We are a secualrist state. Freedom requires that. We have interfered with the religious need to control a state in the Middle East. How dare we practice such control in our own homeland?

When a gay student asked Justice Scalia at an NYU talk whether he sodomized his wife, he wasn't insulting the Justice. He was making clear by his very question just how private and personal human interrelationships are. If we are offended by the question, how much more should we be offended by the NYU Dean's confusion of the question with polite conversation. The question was an intense and intentional reference to the privacy destroyed by our actions on whether or not two consenting adults choose to engage in a given sexual practice. Those two consenting adults would never tolerate the intrusion as human and partner of the opposite sex. Yet that is fundamentally the question we ask of two consenting adults of the same sex. Do we have the moral right to so intrude on the basis of our private religious beliefs? The Bible is not the only religious authority. By what right do we make it the controlling authority, and by what authority is ours a "nation based on Christianity" when there are other religions, protected by our Constitution along with Christianity? If there are Christians, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians, who have a problem with pornography, what makes us think there are none who have a problem with gender choice in sexuality?

This is not about sex. This is not about evolution. This is not about how much government. It is about freedom. I thought that's why we fought the Iraq war. For freedom.


NEWS, Announcements, and

Current Discussion Topics:

  • Learning Records for Spring 2005 Not yet back to putting up grade information. Still trying to get files and e-mail straight. Sorry for delay. This will take a while, but if you'll send me your messages numbers, it will help me get it up faster. Please be patient with me. I'm retired this semester.

  • Learning Records with Grades for Spring 2005 A record sheet that will let you know that I have adequate material on learning records to justify your grade. If I put up a B that may just mean I need more material, not that there was something wrong with what you submitted. I'm including brief comments. If you've got a message on transform_dom that would you would like me to use for grade evidence, just send me the message no. at jeanne. Otherwise, I'll just keep going through the transform_dom discussions in reverse chronological order. jeanne

  • Instructions page for joining transform_dom and transspan

    Famous People and Concepts We Should Have Heard Of, But Often Haven't.


    • Frantz Fanon - More up soon, especially as relates to Jean-Michel Basquiat.


    • safety nets - Up soon.

    • answerability - the right to voice one's feelings and validity claims in good faith governance discourse

    • late capitalism - Up soon.

    • commodificatiion - Turning a given object or social construct into something to be sold for profit-making. For example, water. We think of the rainwater as free and belonging to all. Not so in third world countries we have colonized. Our corporations charge for clean water, including their capture of rainfall.

    Jeanne's Lectures for Spring 2005

    • Fall 2004 Lectures in Chronological Order
    • Winter Break 2005 Lectures in Chronological Order
    • Spring 2005 Lectures in Chronological Order

    • The Social Context of Learning: My World on May 9, 2005 Consider the two examples given in the article in terms of their lifespace impact. The rich are taught to rule. The poor are taught to work or perform. Backup. I'll include a discussion of this tomorrow in my blog. jeanne
    • So Easy to Remain Unaware: My World on May 8, 2005 The fast track, supermom phenomenon affects us all. We have do much to do there is little discretionary time in which to think deeply about the extent to which we are observing our own value system. On religion. On gender.
    • When Power Silences the Other: My World on May 7, 2005 The Pope continues with his plans and fires a liberal Jesuit priest who objected to the church's insistence upon the "supremacy of Catholicism." Another issue in contemporary humanity.
    • The Trouble with Certainty in Politics, in Jusrisprudence, in Life: My World on May 6, 2005. On answerability and freedom and knowingness.
    • Issues in Contemporary Humanity: My World on April 26, 2005. On Love 1A, and how most of us need to learn it.
    • Issues in Contemporary Christianity: My World on April 25, 2005 On the Pope and colonization and exploitation and women's roles and social justice in face of orthodoxy and obedience.
    • Issues in Contemporary Islam: My World on April 20, 2005 On PBS' presentation of Death of a Princess.

      Blogs as Sources

    • Crooked Timber A blog by academicians. Includes a student blog. Name from: "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can ever be made." Immanuel Kant [1784] .
      [Crooked timber is a g]roup current affairs blog which doesn't have an About page for reference but is varied and intelligent. One of the comments on John Peel's death quotes Auden:

      As the poets have mournfully sung, Death takes the innocent young, The rolling-in-money, The screamingly-funny, And those who are very well hung.

      The number of blogs linked to and a feature on a feature on the Technorati top blogs raises the question of how voices get lost or found in the throng? Shouldn't a successful blog be one of clear interests, whether by single or multiple author? Crooked Timber appears to be a sounding-off journal by academics. Or is it? And yet it is highly ranked by Technorati. What is unusual is the frequency of entries.

      William H. Auden is one of my favorite poets and one of my heroes, so I couldn't resist quoting this. I'll locate the student blog. But Yahoo transform_dom is providing us with one. By the way, Auden was gay. Just in case someone wants to enter a discussion about the secular or religious prerogative to deny homosexuality. It's not about sex. It's about humanity. jeanne

    • The Village Gate "(formerly The Right Christians): where religious progressives gather." I discovered this site by following a link on Judge Janice Rogers Brown. I'll post more on it soon. jeanne

      Present Social Issues on Appointments of Federal Judges

    • On Judge Janice Rogers Brown Opposed to nomination.
    • California Supreme Court Justices: Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown. Note that she worked with and was appointed by Governor Pete Wilson.
    • The worldview of Judge Janice Rogers Brown... Information on Judge Janice Rogers Brown. Backup
    • Janice Rogers Brown Revisited Posted by Kieran Healy on The Crooked Timber site. Healy is a sociologist at the University of Arizona. Backup
    • Judge doesn't deserve the Dixiecrat treatment Article by Harold Johnson, Timothy Sandefur in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 2005. Backup.

      Issues of Right and Wrong and Religious Morality on Pornography, Sexuality and Belief

    • Reaction Formations, a Continuing Saga Details here (from a conservative Christian magazine); an excerpt: Leiter Reports. Speculates on why born again Christians continue to frequent porn sites on the Internet. I'll post more on this soon. But I need you to be aware of these issues. jeanne
    • Porn Again Article on which Reaction Formations (supra is based. Backup
    • Backup of A statement from the student (who asked Scalia if he sodomized his wife) Facing sexuality. What does it mean to remove privacy significance from acts engaged in by both heterosexuals and homosexuals? How will you know the crime has been committed? How far may the law go in entering the privacy of our bedrooms? Backup
    • I wasn't a Christian Post of May 6, 2005 on Crooked Timber by Ted Barlow. On the moral right of torturing someone different, in this case, a homosexual. I think we'll want to consider this extensively in Love 1A next Fall. jeanne Backup
    • Group Details Air Force Academy Religious Bias "A report warns of costly litigation if intolerance at the campus is allowed to continue. It describes required prayers and proselytizing." by David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2005. At p. A16. Backup.
    • The Blue Angels? The U.S. Air Force Academy is targeted by secularists. by Hugh Hewitt. May 5, 2005. In the Weekly Standard, a right perspective news source. Backup.

      Beginning to Look at How Issues of Difference Fit Morally into Education

    • Social Conscience, Junior Division Backup of New York Times article Backup that illustrates deep differences in how the rich and the others are prepared by their education for later life. See "Justice as Fairness, Deep Down: My World and Welcome to It on May 9, 2005
    • 'Great Crime' at Abu Ghraib Enrages and Inspires an Artist by Juan Ferero in the New York Times, at p. A 8, May 8, 2005. Backup. The artist is Fernando Botero, one of the most famous of Latin American contemporary artists.

      Sri Lankan Maids Pay Dearly for Perilous Jobs Overseas NY Times, May 9, 2005, At p. A1. Backup.

    • Rethinking Liberal Education: Choice, Discovery and Judgment. Paper in Progress on site of Harry Brighouse.
      "Although it predominates in the discipline of political philosophy, egalitarian liberalism has been neglected by educationists. In this paper I want to address a particular objection to John Rawls’s version of egalitarian liberalism that has great currency in theoretical educational circles: that liberalism presupposes a conception of the self that is radically disassociated from its historical and social situation. According to this objection, the liberal focus on personal autonomy is misleading, because it is based on a false view of what selves consist in. This objection is important for educationists: if true, it either casts doubt on liberalism as a normative theory or casts doubt on its usefulness for guiding pedagogy and policy, since educators (and designers of education policy) have to be attentive to the actual situations of the children they teach. In particular, if the objection holds, educators are wrong to promote, or facilitate, the children’s autonomy: instead they should be guide children to learn about their embedded selves, and the place of those selves in their social situations.

      I shall argue that the objection fails. But I shall also argue that the alternative view of the self posed by theorists moved by this objection is deeply unsatisfactory, because it can give no account of moral responsibility, and because it supports a certain kind of moral complacency. I shall then try to articulate some of the pedagogical and policy implications of understanding the liberal view of the self in the right way."

      This brief and perhaps tentative introduction situates the concerns of the paper with respect to Rawl's theory of justice. It further delineates the concerns as between the collective and the individual. We will be addressing those very same issues in Love 1A this Fall. I suggest that you look at Prof. Brighouse's ideas. jeanne

    Visual Sociology

    • Images are everywhere. Use them for collages or for ideas to modify your own.

      Change the colors:

      Change colors and elements:

      I used the pouring tool on Windows paint to change whole background areas at once. You could also print one out, trace the lines, and create a coloring sheet. Play. Find one you like? Put it up on the refrigerator. The kids will share. They may even be inspired to create their own. Take one you like, of yours or theirs, to Kinko's or some such place and make a heavy photo print of it. Frame it. You've got art work. If you use something done by someone else, as I used Basquiat's head, be sure you identify that as Basquiat's work. If you display it at home, a little note on the back will do. But you can't sell other people's work!!!!

    Academic Support

    Using Academic Language Effectively

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

    and Careers

    • Resumes:

    • Letters of Recommendation:

      • Letters of Recommendation: How to get me to respond to your request. Many of you need letters. If you will follow this format, I can do them quickly and make them good.
      • Dog Letters If you do not give me adequate information, but do manage to get my attention, you may end up with a dog letter. That is a letter that says that you work well with people, that you are enthusiastic, that you persist at getting things done, and that everyone likes you. Of course, my dog gets along well with people, brings his ball to them, is enthusiastic, and persists at getting them to take his ball. Everyone likes my dog. That's a dog letter. It's so general it could be about my dog. jeanne

    • Career Options You Might Not Have Considered

      • visual media and their interdependence with other means of knowing to understand that we are not totally rational creatures deciding things apart from our feelings and values. Wolfowitz (new President of the World Bank to aid developing countries AND principle advocate of the Iraq War) might feel very differently when he is exposed to visual and aural images of the poor developing countries that have not before been his primary concern. So we want to know how best to present those developing countries visually. And we might find that we can have a career doing that sort of thing, so it does reflect on us as individuals. Added April 2, 2005.

    That Was Fun! Sneaky Strokes and Flying Good Dogs

    Flying Dog is also a painting by Zhang Kai. Best I've every come across to illustrate our site with magic numbers and unicorns and whipped cream cats and now, flying dogs:

    Flying Good Dogs: Whenever something happens in class that works out well, that inspires you, that helps in studying, whatever, take a few minutes to send us an e-mail. We'll post it where all of us can learn from it, including other teachers.

    You can also send an email to the Who to Take Site: