Later On

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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Artistic nudity in 6th-grade classrooms

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David by Michelangelo – Florence Galleria dell’Accademia

A kerfuffle erupted in Florida when parents were not notified in advance that their sixth-grade child would be in a class where Michelangelo’s David would be displayed as part of the art curriculum. Some parents objected because of the genitals displayed on the statue.

Kevin Drum has an excellent discussion of the matter on his blog. He quotes the report in the Washington Post:

We don’t have any problem showing David. You have to tell the parents ahead of time, and they can decide whether it is appropriate for their child to see it….No one has a problem with David. It’s not about David.

I pointed out Drum’s post on Mastodon and got some pushback from someone who said that the parents who objected were “oversensitive” (meaning, I think, that they were more sensitive than he, who has the right amount of sensitivity). 

This conflict of opinions is exactly what I talked about in an earlier post, and so I thought I’d use the resolution I suggested there: submit it to — not to settle the matter, but just curious of what the AI would conclude.

I submitted this proposition: “Schools should be allowed to show art with nudity to sixth-grade students without notifying parents in advance.”

You can read the full debate. The Moderator concluded:

Discussions surrounding art with nudity in schools are always difficult due to the possible implications at stake hence, kudos to both debators for handling such an issue. However, Debator B presented strong arguments regarding the right of parents to choose, and the importance of an appropriate school environment for young children. As such, I declare Debator B the winner of this debate.

I note that the AI in Opinionate is not so intelligent as to know how to spell “debater,” but the overall argument is interesting. Debater A gave another indication of a lack of intelligence by remarking a couple of times that parents could opt out, apparently overlooking the part of the proposition that parents would not be notified in advance (and thus would have no opportunity to opt out, the very problem the principal created). 

Parents in general want what is best for their children, but they do not always agree on what that is. Some will take the view that their own idea of what is best should apply to all parents. I don’t think that position is defensible in any honest way.


Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2023 at 2:28 pm

The Six Steps to Cosmic Consciousness: A Pioneering Theory of Transcendence by the 19th-Century Psychiatrist and Adventurer Maurice Bucke

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Photograph from the late 19th century of Maurice Bucke when he was elderly with a full and flowing white beard and moustache. It is a three-quarter view of his face, and he is gazing intently to the right.

Maria Popova writes in The Marginalian:

“Our normal waking consciousness,” William James wrote in 1902, “is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different… No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.”

A year earlier, the Canadian psychiatrist and adventurer Maurice Bucke (March 18, 1837–February 19, 1902) published a stunning personal account and psychological study of a dazzling form of consciousness that lies just on the other side of that filmiest of screens, accessible to all. Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (public library) went on to influence generations of thinkers as diverse as Albert Einstein, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Alan Watts, and Steve Jobs.

By his own account, Bucke was “born of good middle class English stock,” but grew up almost entirely without education, working tirelessly on his parents’ farm in the backwoods of Canada — tending cattle, horses, sheep, and pigs, working in the hay field, driving oxen and horses, and running various errands from the earliest age. He learned to read when he was still a small child and soon began devouring novels and poetry. He remembers that, like Emily Dickinson, he “never, even as a child, accepted the doctrines of the Christian church” — a disposition utterly countercultural in that era of extreme religiosity.

Although his mother died when he was very young and his father shortly thereafter, Bucke recalls being often overcome by “a sort of ecstasy of curiosity and hope.” (What a lovely phrase.) At sixteen, he left the farm “to live or die as might happen,” trekking from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, from Ohio to San Francisco, working on farms and railroads and steamboats, narrowly escaping death by illness, starvation, and battle on several occasions. In his twentieth year, he heard of the first major discovery of silver ore in America and joined a mining party, of which he was the only survivor, and barely: On his way to California, while crossing the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, he suffered frostbite so severe that one foot and a few toes on the remaining foot had to be amputated.

When he finally made it to the Pacific Coast, Bucke used a moderate inheritance from his mother to give himself a proper college education. He devoured ideas from books as wide-ranging as On the Origin of Species and Shelley’s poems. After graduating, he taught himself French so that he could read Auguste Comte and German so that he could read Goethe. At thirty, he discovered and became instantly besotted with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which he felt contained vaster truth and richer meaning than any book he had previously encountered. It was Whitman who catalyzed Bucke’s transcendent experience.

More than a century before Michael Pollan insisted in his masterly inquiry into the science of psychedelics that “the Beyond, whatever it consists of, might not be nearly as far away or inaccessible as we think,” Bucke suggests that it might be just a poem away. Writing in the third person, as was customary for “the writer” in the nineteenth century, he recounts his transformative illumination:

It was in the early spring, at the beginning of his thirty-sixth year. He and two friends had spent the evening reading Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Browning, and especially Whitman. They parted at midnight, and he had a long drive in a hansom (it was in an English city). His mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images and emotions called up by the reading and talk of the evening, was calm and peaceful. He was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment. All at once, without warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around as it were by a flame-colored cloud. For an instant he thought of fire, some sudden conflagration in the great city; the next, he knew that the light was within himself. Directly afterwards came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmic Splendor which has ever since lightened his life; upon his heart fell one drop of Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of heaven. Among other things he did not come to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of every one is in the long run absolutely certain.

Although the illumination only lasted a moment, Burke felt that he learned more in those few seconds than in all his years of study, more even than what could ever possibly be taught by the standard modes of scholarship. (“The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you land there,” Patti Smith would write a century later.) In that instant, as “the secret of Whitman’s transcendent greatness was revealed,” he experienced something he could never forget, which he called “cosmic consciousness” — a term he borrowed from the English philosopher and poet Edward Carpenter, who was among the first Western thinkers to popularize the ancient teachings of the Eastern philosophical and spiritual traditions.

Continue reading.

A color illustration of a naked man standing on the shore of a calm sea, his back to the viewer, and his arms open with his hands resting on his head, facing a brilliant sun on the horizon.
Art by Margaret C. Cook from a rare 1913 edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (Available as a print.)

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2023 at 6:42 pm

Oklahoma Republicans Stop Bill That Would’ve Banned Hitting Disabled Kids at School

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The Republican party doesn’t hide what it is. Prem Thakker writes in The New Reublic:

A just society would not allow teachers to hit disabled kids at school. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Well, Oklahoma Republicans disagree.

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma House, in which Republicans have a supermajority, voted against House Bill 1028, which would have outlawed school district personnel from “using corporal punishment on any student identified with a disability in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

After lawmakers read Bible verses and talked about the need for physical discipline, the measure failed to proceed by a vote of 45–43 (though a narrow majority, the bill needed 51 votes to pass).

Current Oklahoma law only prohibits “deliberate infliction of physical pain” to discipline students with “the most significant cognitive disabilities.” Even then, schools can obtain permission from parents or guardians to supersede the ban.

“The rod and reproof give wisdom. But a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame,” said Republican Representative Jim Olsen. “So that would seem to endorse the use of corporal punishment. So, how would you reconcile this bill with scripture’s counsel on this matter?” he asked Representative John Talley, a proponent for the bill.

Olsen then asked, “On what basis would we automatically conclude a special needs child should not get corporal punishment?” as if there’s some dangerous risk in allowing children not to be hit by their teachers.

Olsen proceeded to nonblushingly cite a constituent call he apparently received from someone who said their “special needs” child “did not respond to positive motivation but that she responded very well to corporal punishment.”

According to his biography, Olsen himself serves as a Sunday school teacher.

Another Republican representative, Randy Randleman, actually wanted to get into the minutiae of the bill to make sure parents could still freely hit their kids.

“A child could have dyslexia, and then you couldn’t spank him, correct?” he said. “I would never spank an emotional problem, I would never spank a neurological problem,” he continued, in curious syntactical manner. “But if a parent has the choice, and they know that it can stop a misbehavior for behavioral problem, is this bill stopping that?”

Again, the bill’s bare-minimum ambition was just to outlaw school staff (not even all people) from being able to hit disabled children (not even all children).

“‘You can’t  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2023 at 8:27 pm

Time to Get Woke About Woke

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Gil Duran and George Lakoff have an important and interesting article at Frame Lab. It begins:

“Woke” has quickly become the most ubiquitous weapon word in American politics. Republicans use the term as a pejorative term to describe Democratic or progressive policies in general. Increasingly, everything Republicans don’t like gets described as woke, and wokeness has become the scapegoat for any bad news, including the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Some non-Republicans also use the term, mostly to describe a certain type of militant progressive activism.

Despite the rapid adoption of woke as a major frame in American political discourse, it lacks a set definition. This presents some tricky problems. For example, if the word lacks a universal meaning, why are so many people using it? Also: If Republicans see attacking “wokeness” as a key to political victory, why are so many people accepting the frame and playing along?

In this edition of the FrameLab newsletter, we examine how the Republicans have used woke — a term stolen from African American vernacular — to control the political discourse. Woke provides a great example of how the framing wars usually play out in American politics. Republicans frame an issue, choosing specific words or language. Then everyone else falls into the trap by accepting the frame without giving much thought to the underlying strategy.

The strategy nearly always works to further Republican political interests by framing political arguments to suit a conservative version of morality.

An undefined word

Recently, we asked FrameLab readers to define woke. Our unscientific poll elicited hundreds of thoughtful responses with varied definitions. Despite the negative definition of the word when it’s used by conservatives, many readers shared positive definitions of the term.

These definitions were rooted in the basic metaphor of woke, which derives from the state of being awake, aware or conscious. (A new Ipsos poll released last week revealed that 56% of Americans have a positive definition of woke. A majority defined woke as being “informed, educated on and aware of social injustice. Only 39% agreed with the Republican definition of woke as “to be overly politically correct and police others’ words.”)

After all, there’s nothing inherently bad about being awake or conscious when it comes to social injustice or political issues. Awareness is a positive trait. The opposite metaphor of being awake — to be asleep or unconscious — is generally used as a negative. For example, to call someone “asleep at the wheel” is to accuse them of not paying attention to their responsibilities. But conservatives have reframed the metaphor of consciousness and awareness as a negative, transforming woke into a smear.

Despite understanding the positive connotation of the metaphor, many readers also understood the negative meaning of the word, which denotes a “holier than thou” form of radical politics.

“Though the term originated in the Black community, woke now lacks a standard definition, and is sometimes used as a catchall label for a group of only loosely related ideas,” wrote Olga Khazan in The Atlantic in 2021. “People often use the term to describe neologisms that are more popular among progressives, such as pregnant people, as well as policy choices advocated for by some on the left, such as defunding the police.”

A poll conducted by The Atlantic and the polling firm Leger found little support for some of the radical ideas apparently associated with the word. For example, only 10% of people polled agreed with the idea of using the term “pregnant people” instead of “women” and only 14% agreed with the idea of referring to Hispanic or Latino people as “Latinx.” Only 18% expressed support for defunding police departments.

Woke, as defined by The Atlantic, entails the adoption of unquestionably radical ideas or language with which most Democrats disagree. Of course, the fact that Democrats mostly disagree with these ideas does not prevent Republicans from labeling them as woke.

Conformity, sensitivity, radicalism

For the most part, woke appears to be little more than a single-syllable replacement for “politically correct,” a word that was used in a similar way in the 1990s. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “politically correct” as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.” Oxford Languages defines the term as “conforming to prevailing liberal or radical opinion, in particular by carefully avoiding forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

Let’s break down these definitions, because they also tell us something about the true meaning of woke. The first element in both definitions is the idea of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2023 at 4:09 pm

15 pairs of words that seem etymologically related but are not

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Arika Okrent writes in The Week:

A crayfish is not a fish, an outrage is not a rage, and there’s no bomb in bombast. Words suggest one thing, but their histories tell us another.


Pencil originally referred to a paintbrush with a fine, tapered end, and can be traced back to the Latin penicillus, for paintbrush. Pen, on the other hand, goes back to Latin penna, for feather, which is what the original pens were.


Where male goes back to Latin masculusfemale comes through French femelle from Latin femella. The eventual overlap in pronunciation was accidental.


In Middle English . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2023 at 12:59 pm

Dig, Don’t Dunk: Avoid the temptation of cheap intellectual thrills

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George Dillard has an interesting article on Medium:

The New Yorker recently published a piece on a problem that is close to my heart: the decline of the humanities in American higher education.

Nathan Heller’s article “The End of the English Major,” though by no means perfect (it will surprise absolutely nobody that a New Yorker author writing about college spent half of his time talking about Harvard and casually mentioned that he went there), is worth reading. The piece looks at a lot of the reasons why the humanities are “in crisis” and why STEM has conquered modern American education.

One little snippet of the story stuck with me:

Some scholars observe that, in classrooms today, the initial gesture of criticism can seem to carry more prestige than the long pursuit of understanding. One literature professor and critic at Harvard — not old or white or male — noticed that it had become more publicly rewarding for students to critique something as “problematic” than to grapple with what the problems might be; they seemed to have found that merely naming concerns had more value, in today’s cultural marketplace, than curiosity about what underlay them.

This immediately rang true. I’ve taught history for over two decades, and it seems that my students are quicker than ever to declare historical figures or works of literature “bad.” When students find someone or something offensive, racist, retrograde, or otherwise problematic, they tend to want to dismiss it entirely as having no value. As Heller notes, they’re not terribly curious about exploring the nuances of the problematic thing. They want to dunk on it and move on.

This isn’t really a problem with Kids Today, though. The world around them has taught them to dunk when they should dig. That’s not good.

Let me define my terms before I get too far into this.

  • The dunk is a ubiquitous phenomenon in our internet discourse. To dunk on someone means to interpret someone or something in the least generous way possible, respond to them in the most aggressive terms possible, and rack up those sweet, sweet likes. Dunking is easy, it’s fun, and it signals that the dunker is good because they’ve identified that the other guys are bad. As a little treat, the dunker gets a nice squirt of dopamine.
  • Digging deep is the opposite of dunking. To dig means to read the whole thing rather than seeing an out-of-context quote and making a bold pronouncement. It means to take a breath and try to understand people on their own terms before passing judgment on them. Digging is hard and often unsatisfying. Sometimes, you may find yourself more uncertain than you were before you started digging.

Sadly, the dunk has become a default of our discourse.

Young people who grow up dunking rather than digging are learning the wrong lessons. They’re learning that it’s best to approach the world with arrogant self-righteousness, that they should chase cheap thrills rather than more difficult pleasures, and that they should armor up rather than open up.

Dunking is an act of hubris; digging is an act of humility

It takes a lot of self-assuredness to dismiss people, movements, works of art, or even historical eras as worthless. Dunkers might confidently declare — often based on very little evidence — that a historical figure isn’t worth listening to because they held an ideological position that now seems retrograde. The dunk often means that a person’s worst views or actions represent their entire selves.

Would you like to be judged by your worst thoughts on your worst days? Would you want your value to be determined by the thing you said or wrote in your younger years that you’re most embarrassed about? Would you want your hypocrisies — and we all have them — to define you?

Plus, as Amanda Hess of the New York Times writes, dunking makes you vulnerable to being dunked upon yourself:

The most successful ownage finds hubristic targets, people who think they know more than they do. But ownage is itself a hubristic act — it turns knowledge into a tool for exploiting another person’s lack thereof. Owning someone sets you up to be owned yourself, sometimes in the same breath. The self-own — and a related concept, “You played yourself,” the refrain of the motivational Snapchat user DJ Khaled — is a double entendre. In the self-own, you let yourself down by being so nakedly yourself. You fail, in the end, by being you.

Digging into a subject rather than dismissing it is an acknowledgment that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2023 at 5:28 pm

Tennessee was the state that prosecuted a teacher for teaching the theory of evolution

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Tennessee is famous for prosecuting John Scopes for teaching the theory of evolution, now accepted as the bedrock foundation of biology. But — perhaps as one might expect, given its nature — Tennessee has learned nothing.

A pair of images with the caption "Tennessee just outlawed drag queens beccause they are too sexual for our children!" The image on top show five drag queens dressed in elaborate gowns. The image at the bottom shows a line of cheerleaders in halter tops, bare midriffs, and shorts the size of panties, waving their arms overhead in a highly sexualized routine.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2023 at 3:35 pm

Anti-transgender rules, rhetoric and legislation are a shameful stain on America’s soul

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Rex Huppke writes in USA Today:

To the politicians, people and pundits who’ve decided that the best use of their time, platforms and power is to make life more difficult for transgender people, particularly children, I have a question: What the hell is wrong with you?

I know leading with that question will put you on the defensive. That’s OK. I want you on the defensive. I want you to search your soul, or whatever inhabits the space where your soul once resided, and defend the decision to aggressively attack an already vulnerable group of people for … for what? For political gain? For clicks? So you don’t have to expend the small amount of intellectual energy it takes to understand an issue that, for whatever reason, makes you uncomfortable?

In statehouses and school boards across the country, powerful people are contorting all sense of decency to push legislation and rules that strip away the rights of transgender children and adults, that limit access to medically necessary gender-affirming care and to ban books about and discussions of gender identity.

Banning pronouns and gender-affirming care helps no one

Last month, Utah banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth, and at least 10 other states are considering similar legislation.

Speak up:Good prevails when good people refuse to be silent. When we represent, my mom would say.

One bill filed in the Indiana Senate would prohibit discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through high school. Another would ban the use of pronouns that don’t align with the gender listed on a student’s birth certificate.

Former President Donald Trump, front-runner for the next GOP presidential nomination, said in a recent video statement: “I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age.” He snarled, “The left-wing gender insanity being pushed at our children is an act of child abuse.”

Major medical associations voice full-throated support for gender-affirming care

That is ghoulish, fearmongering nonsense. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists and other national health and child welfare organizations fully support gender-affirming care, writing in a 2021 letter:

“As organizations committed to serving the best interests of all youth, we are deeply alarmed at the torrent of bills introduced in state legislatures around the country this year that would directly harm transgender people, and particularly transgender youth. These appalling proposals would compromise the safety and well-­being of the young people we all have the duty and obligation to support and protect.”

Before attacking transgender people, maybe try to understand the issues

And yet, the bills keep coming. And nobody involved seems willing to learn that gender-affirming care – a highly individualized and carefully monitored psychological and medical treatment – saves lives. Heck, even using a young person’s preferred pronouns and acknowledging that they exist can save lives.

Consider these facts: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2023 at 1:09 pm

College Board’s craven self-censorship: Fear of the Right

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Heather Cox Richardson:

Today in the Washington Post, Nick Anderson showed how the Advanced Placement course on African American studies changed between February 2022, when its prototype first appeared, and February 2023, when the official version was released. One word, in particular, had vanished: the word “systemic.” In February 2022, “systemic” appeared before “marginalization; in April 2022, “systemic” came before “discrimination, oppression, inequality, disempowerment and racism.”

By February 2023, that word was gone. While the College Board, which produces the AP courses, says it did not change the course in response to its rejection by Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who said it contributed to a “political agenda,” its spokespeople have acknowledged that they were aware of how the right wing would react to that word.

The far right opposes the idea that the United States has ever practiced systemic racism. Shortly before former president Trump left office, his hand-picked President’s Advisory 1776 Commission produced its report to stand against the 1619 Project that rooted the United States in the year enslaved Africans first set foot in the English colonies on the Chesapeake, and went on to claim that systemic racism had shaped the eventual American nation.

Trump’s 1776 commission rejected the conclusions of the 1619 Project’s authors and instead declared that “the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice.” While “the American story has its share of missteps, errors, contradictions, and wrongs,” it asserted, “[t]hese wrongs have always met resistance from the clear principles of the nation, and therefore our history is far more one of self-sacrifice, courage, and nobility.”

Since Trump left office, far-right activists have passed laws prohibiting teachers from talking about patterns of racism and have worked to remove from classrooms and school libraries books whose subjects must overcome systemic discrimination.

Today is the anniversary of the day in 1942, during World War II, that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 enabling military authorities to designate military areas from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” That order also permitted the secretary of war to provide transportation, food, and shelter “to accomplish the purpose of this order.”

Four days later, a Japanese submarine off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, shelled the Ellwood Oil Field, and the Office of Naval Intelligence warned that the Japanese would attack California in the next ten hours. On February 25 a meteorological balloon near Los Angeles set off a panic, and troops fired 1,400 rounds of antiaircraft ammunition at supposed Japanese attackers.

On March 2, 1942, General John DeWitt put Executive Order 9066 into effect. He signed Public Proclamation No. 1, dividing the country into military zones and, “as a matter of military necessity,” excluding from certain of those zones “[a]ny Japanese, German, or Italian alien, or any person of Japanese Ancestry.” Under DeWitt’s orders, about 125,000 children, women, and men of Japanese ancestry were forced out of their homes and held in camps around the country. Two thirds of those incarcerated were U.S. citizens.

DeWitt’s order did not come from nowhere. After almost a century of shaping laws to discriminate against Asian newcomers, West Coast inhabitants and lawmakers were primed to see their Japanese and Japanese-American neighbors as dangerous.

Those laws reached back to the arrival of Chinese miners to California in 1849, and reached forward into the twentieth century. Indeed, on another February 19—that of 1923—the Supreme Court decided the case of United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind. It said that Thind, an Indian Sikh man who identified himself as Indo-European, could not become a U.S. citizen. Thind claimed the right to United States citizenship under the terms of the Naturalization Act of 1906, which had put the federal government instead of states in charge of who got to be a citizen and had very specific requirements for citizenship that he believed he had met.

But, the court said, Thind was not a “white person” under U.S. law, and only “free white persons” could become citizens.

What were they talking about? In the Thind decision, the Supreme Court reached back to the case of  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2023 at 11:37 am

Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps

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Or: When a Defense Lawyer Hears a Rap Song. Caleb Mason has an interesting article in the Saint Louis University Law Journal. It begins:


This is a line-by-line analysis of the second verse of 99 Problems by Jay-Z, from the perspective of a criminal procedure professor. It’s intended as a resource for law students and teachers, and for anyone who’s interested in what pop culture gets right about criminal justice, and what it gets wrong.


99 Problems is a song by Jay-Z.1 It’s a good song. It was a big hit in 2004.2 I’m writing about it now because it’s time we added it to the canon of criminal procedure pedagogy. In one compact, teachable verse (Verse 2), the song forces us to think about traffic stops, vehicle searches, drug smuggling, probable cause, and racial profiling, and it beautifully tees up my favorite pedagogical heuristic: life lessons for cops and robbers. And as it turns out, I’m not late to the game after all: Jay-Z recently published a well-received volume of criticism and commentary that includes his own marginal notes on Verse 2 of 99 Problems. 3 When I teach the Fourth Amendment, I ask my students what the doctrines tell us about, on the one hand, how to catch bad guys and not risk suppression, and on the other, how to avoid capture or at least beat the rap if not the ride.4 I’m always happy to tell my own stories, but the song struck me as the perfect teaching tool. All the students know it, and importantly for pedagogical purposes, it gets some things right—and some things very wrong.

It turns out that, while some other law professors have noticed 99 Problems, no one has yet provided a detailed, accurate analysis of the Fourth Amendment issues Verse 2 raises.5 In this Essay, I remedy that deficiency in the literature. This is, after all, one of the most popular songs of the last decade,6 and we should seize the opportunity to use it in our teaching. My audience, accordingly, is primarily teachers and students of criminal procedure, but I hope that my comments may be of some interest to cops and perps as well.


1. The year is ‘94 and in my trunk is raw
2. In my rearview mirror is the motherfucking law
3. I got two choices y’all, pull over the car or
4. Bounce on the double put the pedal to the floor
5. Now I ain’t trying to see no highway chase with jake
6. Plus I got a few dollars I can fight the case
7. So I . . . pull over to the side of the road
8. And I Heard “Son do you know what I’m stopping you for?”
9. “Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low?
10. Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know
11. Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo?”
12. “Well you was doing fifty-five in a fifty-four
13. License and registration and step out of the car
14. Are you carrying a weapon on you, I know a lot of you are”
15. “I ain’t stepping out of shit all my papers legit” 1
6. “Do you mind if I look around the car a little bit?”
17. “Well, my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk and the back,
18. And I know my rights so you go’n need a warrant for that”
19. “Aren’t you sharp as a tack, some type of lawyer or something
20. Or somebody important or something?”
21. “Nah I ain’t pass the bar but I know a little bit
22. Enough that you won’t illegally search my shit”
23. “We’ll see how smart you are when the K-9s come”
24. I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one


A. Line 1

The year is ‘94, and in my trunk is raw . . . Jay-Z was transporting drugs in his car, like many of the protagonists who populate the core cases of Fourth Amendment law.8 Unlike most of them, he gets away with it. Jay-Z says that the story in 99 Problems describes a real incident. In 1994, Jay-Z was dealing crack in New York City and was expanding to other markets.9 As he puts it, “New York guys had better connects and opened up drug markets down the I95 corridor.”10 Drug prices increase with distance from importation zones, and New York was a key transshipment hub, so presumably he was able to offer better product and prices to smaller regional markets.11

For several reasons, the transportation of illegal drugs has produced a veritable cornucopia of Fourth Amendment case law.12

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2023 at 1:51 pm

College Board scrubs website to cover up deceptions about AP African-American Studies course

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Judd Legum reports in Popular Informationi:

The College Board, the organization that produces Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students, recently deleted a statement defending its revisions to the new AP African American Studies course from its website. The statement, which was posted to the College Board website to combat a flurry of criticism, contained numerous false and misleading statements. The College Board has subsequently changed its narrative but is still defending the revisions, which appear to be politically motivated.

On February 1, the College Board released a revised version of the AP African American Studies course. The new curriculum excised lessons on Black queer studies, Black feminism, mass incarceration, reparations, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Also missing were important Black writers that had been included in the pilot version of the curriculum, including Kimberlé Crenshaw and bell hooks.

The revisions tracked concerns expressed weeks earlier by the Florida Department of Education. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said the pilot version of the course was “political” and “lack[ed] educational value.” The College Board faced critical media coverage reporting that it had caved to political pressure and watered down the course.

Later on February 1, the College Board released a statement rejecting this criticism, taking aim specifically at an article in the New York Times. The College Board asserted that the revisions could not have been “made in response to Florida” because “the core revisions were substantially complete… by December 22, weeks before Florida’s objections were shared.” It asserted that it had “time-stamped records of revisions from December 22, 2022” that substantiated its defense.

The statement was deleted from the College Board website sometime after February 9. (A cached version remains available at It turns out that the College Board’s primary defense was a lie.

On February 7, the Florida Department of Education released a letter documenting a series of written correspondence and meetings, beginning in July 2022, where the Florida Department of Education expressed its objections to the course. On September 23, 2022, for example, the Florida Department of Education “issued a Memo to [the] College Board stating the AP African American Studies course could not be added to the Course Code Directory without revisions.”

On February 8, the College Board responded with a public letter to the Florida Department of Education. It dropped the claim that it made the changes before Florida objected to the course. Instead, the College Board now claimed that it “never received written feedback from the Florida Department of Education specifying how the course violates Florida law.”

But the College Board’s revised claim is also misleading. Florida objected to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2023 at 1:30 pm

An observation on discussions

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One type of argument I’ve repeatedly observed is to state assertions as proof — that is, a conclusion is stated as though merely stating the conclusion proves it.

I find it difficult to believe that this is done in good faith. The technique seems rather a bad-faith effort to push one’s views into the discussion as already established, which is inappropriate in a discussion in which the participants are in a partnership to find the truth.

I perhaps am sensitive to this because the college I attended, St. John’s College in Annapolis MD, view dialectic as an ideal, dialectic being exactly a discussion in which people cooperate in trying to determine the truth. It was exemplified in the Platonic dialogues we read in freshman seminar, and then followed in the tutorials and seminar discussions for all four years. The seminar was the core of the program: an evening discussion that began at 8:00pm on Mondays and Thursdays and lasted a little over two hours.

The discussion focused on understanding a difficult text — one of the so-called Great Books or a part of one. Led by two tutors — whose role was mainly to ask questions and keep the discussion on track — 18-22 students around a large table would try to understand what the author said and what that implied and how that fit with our experience. We had to back up our statements with sound reasons and passages from the text. And part of understanding a text is figuring out how the author reach the conclusions in the book — and many authors were careful to explain the evidence they considered and how they reasoned from that. (This was particularly evident in the math tutorials — 12 or so students and one tutor — where we studied math texts, and in the lab, where we replicated critical experiments.)

A couple of posts back, I posted Anthony Mostrom’s review of Imperium, and that book provides a crystal-clear example of an author who simply states conclusions in the hope/expectation that the reader will accept them:

A moment’s reflection shows that Liberalism is entirely negative. It is not a formative force, but always and only a disintegrating force. […] Liberalism is, in one word, weakness. […] Liberalism is an escape from hardness into softness, from masculinity into femininity, from History to herd-grazing, from reality into herbivorous dreams.

Every one of those statements is a conclusion, but the evidence and argument are missing. This is not a statement of someone wanting to participate in an effort to find the truth, but rather an effort by someone who wants to force his views on you and (presumably for good reasons) does not want to show how he reached the conclusions he presents as settled.

There’s a lot of that going around. Beware people who don’t want you (or they) to look at how they reached their conclusions.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2023 at 12:23 pm

Tuning Into Brainwave Rhythms Dramatically Accelerates Learning in Adults

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University of Cambridge has an interesting note in Sci-Tech Daily:

  • First study to show that delivering information at the natural tempo of our neural pulses accelerates our ability to learn.
  • Participants who received a simple 1.5-second visual cue at their personal brainwave frequency were at least three times faster when it came to improving at a cognitive task.
  • When participants were tested again the next day, those who had improved faster were still just as good – the learning stuck.
  • Priming brains for optimal rhythms could help us remain quick learners throughout life, help people with learning difficulties, and give professionals an edge in training simulations, according to neuroscientists.

Scientists have shown for the first time that briefly tuning into a person’s individual brainwave cycle before they perform a learning task dramatically boosts the speed at which cognitive skills improve.

Calibrating rates of information delivery to match the natural tempo of our brains increases our capacity to absorb and adapt to new information, according to the team behind the study.

University of Cambridge researchers say that these techniques could help us retain “neuroplasticity” much later in life and advance lifelong learning.

“Each brain has its own natural rhythm, generated by the oscillation of neurons working together,” said Prof Zoe Kourtzi, senior author of the study from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology. “We simulated these fluctuations so the brain is in tune with itself – and in the best state to flourish.”

“Our brain’s plasticity is the ability to restructure and learn new things, continually building on previous patterns of neuronal interactions. By harnessing brainwave rhythms, it may be possible to enhance flexible learning across the lifespan, from infancy to older adulthood,” Kourtzi said.

The findings, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, will be explored as . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2023 at 2:17 pm

Let Teenagers Sleep

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Society often inexplicably and perversely seems to ignore well-established facts that would help it in favor of provably wrong ideas that harm it — Covid vaccines, face masks, and climate change are well-known examples, but the degree to which adolescents need sleep — and need to sleep late — is another. Anyone who has a teenager at home knows their need to sleep late, but that fact is routinely and resolutely ignored in setting school schedules.

The Editors of the Scientific American write:

Teenagers are some of the most sleep-deprived people in the U.S. On average, teens do not get enough sleep, and more important, they do not get enough quality sleep, researchers say. We could blame cell phones and other light-emitting technologies for keeping kids up at night, but late nights are just part of the equation. In addition to technology, one fairly indisputable factor contributes to this collective sleepiness: school start times.

Over decades researchers have amassed evidence showing that pushing back the first bell of middle and high school would benefit the physical, mental and emotional health of older children, not to mention their academic performance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with several medical societies, has endorsed later start times. Some school districts, as well as the state of California, have already shown respect for that evidence with new start times.

Yet far too many school districts are reluctant to make the change, whether for logistical, financial or cultural reasons. This is unfair to teens. A generation of students is playing catchup from COVID, and we need to prioritize their health and wellness by pushing back the start of the school day. Honoring their biological and social needs will create more resilient adults who can thrive in a world filled with current complexities and future ones we can’t begin to predict.

Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep a night—but they get closer to seven. And around puberty, their circadian clocks shift by a couple of hours, meaning they get tired later at night than before and wake up later in the morning than they used to. This shift reverses at adulthood. The biological nature of this daily rhythm means that sending a teenager to bed earlier won’t necessarily mean they fall asleep earlier.

Experts tell us that teens are missing out on both restorative sleep and REM sleep, especially the cycles that normally happen just before a person wakes up. Restorative sleep helps to repair the body after a hard day, and it may improve immune function and other biological processes. REM sleep solidifies events and learning into memories [see more about sleep cycles in “When Dreams Foreshadow Brain Disease]. So when a 10th grader who naturally goes to bed around 11 P.M. has to wake up at 6 A.M. for school, that teen is losing not only hours of sleep but hours of quality sleep. And even if they sleep in on the weekends, they won’t fully catch up.

Continue reading. There’s more, including a chart that shows how the rate of teenage suicide increases during the school year.

The children pay a high price for the obstinacy of ignorant adults.

Update: A relevant news report: “Pandemic youth mental health toll unprecedented, data show.”

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2023 at 10:38 am

Is everything Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)?

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Anne Helen Petersen has an interesting article at Culture Study:

A few years ago, the New York Times published a sprawling investigation into the spread of CorePower Yoga. The piece detailed how CorePower’s business model is contingent upon enrolling thousands in expensive “teacher training” courses, even though there’s already a surfeit of teachers out there. The company makes money from the teacher training, and teachers’ own labor becomes devalued, as they’re encouraged to teach for less or teach for donations (appealing to yogic principles of service and selflessness as a means of excusing it).

The first time I was told I should do teacher training, it was 2010, and I’d been going to the same hot yoga (not Bikram) studio for two years. You’re not supposed to be competitive at yoga, and I wasn’t competitive with others so much as with myself. It became natural to go every day, to pull “doubles” (when you attend two classes in a row) on weekends. There’s a cultishness to yoga — a natural outgrowth, I think, of intense physical and spiritual experiences — and it’s fair to say that I was addicted. I didn’t know my teachers in any capacity other than the 90 minutes of interaction, but I felt strongly about them, venerated them, craved their approval.

So when one of them casually said I should think about teacher training, I bashfully shook my head and averred, but I was secretly thrilled. I knew it would never happen — I was bad at handstands! I was a grad student and absolutely did not have thousands of dollars!— but I’d turn the idea over in my mind every day, when I was feeling dissatisfied or aimless or insecure in the rest of my life. I could be a yoga teacher! I could spend my life in stretchy fabrics, with great arms, eating açai bowls and friending students on Facebook!

My studio wasn’t a CorePower studio, but it was clear even then that the teacher trainings — along with the retreats, located everywhere from the Texas Hill Country to Bali — were the real money makers for the teachers leading them. If I hadn’t been a grad student, already scraping to pay the monthly student rate, I would’ve been so susceptible to my own teachers’ appeals: to my ego, but also to my desire to cultivate a side hustle I was “passionate about.”

I know a lot of people go to teacher training knowing full well that it’s basically Advanced Placement (AP) Yoga, not a direct conduit to actually becoming a teacher. But certainly not all — and they’re the ones still struggling to pay off the cost of the training, taking whatever classes they can at the local 24 Fitness. (Not that there’s anything wrong with 24 Fitness — it’s just not what most yoga practitioners imagine when they imagine themselves teaching).

The yoga teacher recruitment model is strikingly similar to an MLM (Multi Level Marketing scheme; think Avon and Amway, but also think LuLaRoe and Herbalife and Lipsense and DoTerra, and absolutely read Meg Conley on what got left out of the LuLaRoe documentary). MLMs are called pyramid schemes because the person at the top — the very first recruiter — is the one who reaps the benefits of every other recruit. But I find the metaphor of the pyramid useful in terms of structure: the integrity of the whole is contingent upon the retainment of each individual part; at the same time, growth can only through continual expansion of the base.

When I tweeted about the CorePower piece, an academic responded:

“This sounds….familiar: ‘CorePower churns out thousands more “certified” teachers than the company offers to employ.’”

She was referring to what’s known as the “overproduction” of PhDs: too many people come to grad school with the intent of finding employment within academia, and far too few sustainable academic jobs there at the end. As anyone in any field understands, when there’s way more qualified applicants than jobs, the existing jobs can demand more of applicants (more qualifications, less money) while applicants lower their own expectations (for compensation, for benefits, for job security, for course load and service, for location).

So why don’t academic departments just decrease the number of PhD students they accept? Because those students have become an integral cog in the contemporary university. All the way back in 2000, the National Research Council’s report on “Addressing the Nation’s Changing Needs for Biomedical and Behavioral Scientists” found that the number of new PhDs awarded every year “is well above that needed to keep pace with growth in the U.S. economy and to replace those leaving the workforce as a result of retirement and death.” The report suggested that there should be no increase in the number of PhDs, but does not call for a decrease: “to change suddenly the numbers of people could be very disruptive to the research that’s going on at the present time.”

Put differently, those PhD students are providing (bargain) labor in labs; to decrease the flow of incoming students would necessitate a dramatic rethinking of the funding/viability of various labs. The Humanities don’t have labs, but they do have massive numbers of undergraduate courses that need teaching. In English programs, it’s some version of “comp,” or composition; in foreign language programs, it’s intro language classes; in communications, it’s public speaking. Many of these courses are mandated “core” in some capacity, ensuring an unwavering stream of students, and an unwavering demand for graduate student labor to serve them. To decrease the number of graduate students, again, would be to decrease the supply of labor. To rectify the loss, you’d either have to hire adjuncts or more professors (both more expensive than graduate students, although in many cases adjuncts may cost less but are more “complicated”) or decrease the number of admitted students (a significant loss to the university). So the system remains.

Some schools start PhD programs — even though they know that their institution is not prestigious enough to place its graduates in “good” jobs, unless they are truly stellar — as a sort of labor generator: lure students with the promise of tuition remission, and you’ve got at least four years of their labor. Some MA programs also provide tuition remission in exchange for TA’ing; others are Master’s Traps with no opportunity to TA, just the opportunity for 10-40 students to pay full tuition, even if the chances of moving on to a PhD program (or full-time employment in their field) is small. (You can read the Culture Study series on Master’s Traps herehere, and here).

We talk a lot about how “for-profit” colleges (Cappella, Phoenix, dozens of others) exploit students’ internalized belief that the only way to pull themselves and their families up through the capitalist system is a degree — no matter if they have to take out massive amounts of debt to do it, no matter if they’re steered towards degree programs (massage therapy) in which there’s little chance to find employment that will even cover a student loan payment, let alone allow the student to pull themselves up the class ladder. (Of course, a degree can provide that route — but usually it can be obtained for much, much less at the local community college.) . . .

Continue reading. And do continue. The argument gets stronger and stronger.

Scams abound everywhere.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2023 at 4:38 pm

An Abolitionist Is Fired for Upholding the Values of Social Work

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Adam Dettlaff writes in Texas Observer:

In December 2022, I was removed from my role as dean of the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston. The termination of my dean role was the result of my abolitionist views and my efforts to move the college toward incorporating an abolitionist perspective in social work since the summer of 2020.

The irony is that I was let go precisely for hewing to the ethos of my profession. Social work has been called to challenge injustice and fight oppression since its earliest origins in the late 19th century. This commitment was strengthened in 2021, when revisions to the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics added new language: “Social workers must take action against oppression, racism, discrimination, and inequities.” It is the only phrase in the code that uses the word must. If this is meant to be more than rhetoric, this call must include taking action against the systems and structures that perpetuate racism, discrimination, and inequality—among them policing, prisons, and child welfare.

I began to identify as an abolitionist in the summer of 2020, though I had been deeply engaged in abolitionist inquiry for several years. My background is in the child welfare system; prior to entering academia I worked for several years as a child protective services caseworker and investigated allegations of child maltreatment. I witnessed the tremendous harm the system causes Black children and families, which led me to understand that the only solution was to completely eliminate family separation and foster care. I began studying the deep body of abolitionist theory and in 2020 worked with colleagues to launch the upEND movement, a collaborative effort dedicated to abolishing the child welfare system and building alternatives that focus on healing and liberation.

Too often, the idea of abolition is wrongly simplified to focus on “dismantling” an institution or system while its deeper meaning is erased. While abolition intends to end harmful, racist systems, its focus is on building a new, liberated society—a society free from violence and oppression where all members are truly equal. In applying this vision to policing and prisons, abolitionists seek to build a society where individuals have everything they need to thrive, where divesting from the police will not only reduce police violence, but will allow us to reinvest in the things that truly keep us safe—housing, jobs, well-funded public schools, access to mental health services, and other resources that families and communities need. Similarly, the movement to abolish the child welfare system seeks to build a society where all children and families have everything they need to experience safety in their homes and their communities, free from violence and harm and free of the societal conditions that create them. In this way, abolition is not simply about ending harmful, racist systems; it is about building a society where the need for harmful, racist systems is obsolete.

Concurrent to launching the upEND movement in 2020, the “defund the police” movement was rapidly gaining attention, and social work was thrust into the middle of these conversations. Seemingly overnight, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2023 at 2:36 pm

Thousands of kids are missing from school. Where did they go?

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Bianca Vázquez Toness and Sharon Lurye report for AP:

She’d be a senior right now, preparing for graduation in a few months, probably leading her school’s modern dance troupe and taking art classes.

Instead, Kailani Taylor-Cribb hasn’t taken a single class in what used to be her high school since the height of the coronavirus pandemic. She vanished from Cambridge, Massachusetts’ public school roll in 2021 and has been, from an administrative standpoint, unaccounted for since then.

She is among hundreds of thousands of students around the country who disappeared from public schools during the pandemic and didn’t resume their studies elsewhere.

An analysis by The Associated Press, Stanford University’s Big Local News project and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee found an estimated 240,000 students in 21 states whose absences could not be accounted for. These students didn’t move out of state, and they didn’t sign up for private school or home-school, according to publicly available data.

In short, they’re missing.

“Missing” students received crisis-level attention in 2020 after the pandemic closed schools nationwide. In the years since, they have become largely a budgeting problem. School leaders and some state officials worried aloud about the fiscal challenges their districts faced if these students didn’t come back. Each student represents money from the city, state and federal governments.

Gone is the urgency to find the students who left — those eligible for free public education but who are not receiving any schooling at all. Early in the pandemic, school staff went door-to-door to reach and reengage kids. Most such efforts have ended.

“Everyone is talking about declining enrollment, but no one is talking about who’s leaving the system and why,” said Tom Sheppard, a New York City parent and representative on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy.

“No one,” he said, “is forthcoming.”


The missing kids identified by AP and Stanford represent far more than a number. The analysis highlights thousands of students who may have dropped out of school or missed out on the basics of reading and school routines in kindergarten and first grade.

That’s thousands of students who matter to someone. Thousands of students who need help re-entering school, work, and everyday life.

“That’s the stuff that no one wants to talk about,” said Sonja Santelises, the chief executive officer of Baltimore’s public schools, speaking about her fellow superintendents. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2023 at 3:36 pm

On dry spells and unconscious work

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Timothy Wilson’s book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious helped me better understand some of the processes that make up “me,” and how great a role unconscious processes — of which, of course, we have no awareness (though occasional glimpses) — play in that.

It came up recently in an exchange on Mastodon, when someone wrote about how a protracted dry spell is often a secretly fertile time when unconscious processes are working out what will drive us forward.

During the dry spell, we are not aware of the unconscious processes at work, so the time feels fallow even though our unconscious is busily at work, constructing new connections and new channels. 

During these dry spells, we don’t feel calm and relaxed but almost tense with an effort to make something happen, to break through. It occurred to me that perhaps what we feel is spillover from the unconscious activity — we feel the effort, but we don’t see what is causing it or what it is accomplishing. We’re bystanders on the conscious side of a semi-permeable wall and what comes through is not what’s being done by the emotional component of the work. And because we don’t see what is happening — all that must be done to connect things and make new channels — we are impatient. We feel as though we (our conscious selves) are making the effort and nothing is happening. I think that we are, rather, feeling the effort and don’t know enough to be patient and wait for the result to be achieved. The prototypical example is the adult starting to learn to play the piano. He wants to play easily at first and he feels the effort as the unconscious works to sort out the new skill, but he thinks the effort is in his conscious mind driving his fingers over the keys. He must do that, but that’s not the real effort (which is giving the unconscious the practice it needs to learn) and the sense of effort is, I think, what leaks through from the unconscious’s struggle to integrate this skill.

This sort of spillover from our unconscious work is more evident when someone first starts learning the game of Go/Baduk — something I recommend (see this site). Go depends heavily on pattern recognition, and that unconscious facility — the pattern-recognition subroutine, as it were — is employed in many spheres, such as learning a language, learning to play music, learning dance or sports — and learning Go.

In Go, a stone or a group of stones is captured (and removed from the board) when it (or they) are not connected to any vacant intersections — when they are smothered, as it were. A single stone on the board — not on an edge — is connected to 4 vacant intersections: one above and one below, and one to either side. When three of these are occupied, the stone can be taken on the next move.

Early in the process of learning Go, people suddenly start feeling that in real-life contexts. If they are in a group with someone on either side and they’re talking to someone in front of them, they will suddenly feel the danger that if someone comes up behind them, they will be captured. It’s a feeling, not a conscious thought, and it’s distinct.

Or in driving on a multilane highway, if they have a car on either side and they come closer to a car in front, they will feel that a car behind them will capture them.

I think these feelings are spillovers from the unconscious at work — and specifically that unconscious pattern-recognition subroutine. It’s working so hard to integrate these new patterns into its library that they spill over into the conscious mind. If you have ever learned a foreign language, you will have noticed the same feelings of effort and the occasional lifting of a veil when a string of gibberish switches into a clear thought.

Freud thought that the unconscious would slip through when the conscious mind was distracted — the famous Freudian slip, when one blurts out something that they may not consciously have thought to say. The usual explanation is that the error was because one was tired or distracted, but as Freud pointed out, that is like attributing a robbery on a dark and isolated street to the darkness and isolation. Those are not what robbed the person; they just provided the conditions for a robbery. The robber took advantage of the darkness and isolation to strike, just as the unconscious takes advantage of the conscious self’s being tired or distracted to come into the open.

Nowadays, I don’t consider this view so valid as I once did. It strikes me as giving the conscious self more power and autonomy than it actually possesses. The conscious self seems more like the passenger in a howdah on an elephant. The elephant — the unconscious — goes and does what it wants, and the passenger makes up reasons why he wanted to go there and do that. (This is particularly evident in stage acts in which hypnotized people are given post-hypnotic suggestions to someone to, say, squawk like a chicken when they hear the word “book.” When “book” is said and the person squawks, if you ask them why they did that, they will come up with various reasons — the conscious mind is a rationalizing engine. This is familiar to people who attempt to rely on willpower to diet: their conscious mind can come up with lots of reasons to eat what they want.)

Wilson’s book, mentioned above, is in the list of books I find myself repeatedly recommending, and another book in that list is relevant to this topic: Daniel Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. That book discusses how the unconscious pulls the wool over the eyes of the conscious — and why it does that. It’s a book well worth reading since it can help you spot some instances when your own unconscious spills over into the open. Initially, that can be hard to recognize, because we have somehow trained ourselves not to see it, not to be aware of it. But with practice, you can see it at work.

Here’s another book very much on that topic, in which Marion Milner describes her own journey of discovery to see what her own unconscious mind was up to. The encounters are interesting and in some cases have quite practical application. This book, too, is found on that booklist. It is A Life of One’s Own.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2023 at 11:46 am

Walter Mosley Thinks America Is Getting Less Educated

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The NY Times seems to be getting sloppy. The original headline said that Mosley thinks America is “getting dumber,” but if the headline writer had bothered to read the interview, s/he would have known that Mosley made no comment about a decrease in intelligence, but was talking instead about the increasingly poor quality of education (which is going to get worse, with school libraries being shut down and teachers’ pay being inadequate). The headline writer does not know the difference between being ignorant and being stupid. Does that make them stupid? (I presume they would say, “Yes.”)

Still, headline aside, it’s an interesting interview, though the interviewer, David Marchese, struck me as semi-hostile. See what you think. (no paywall)

Walter Mosley is best known as one of contemporary literature’s pre-eminent crime novelists, but he’s actually four or five different writers rolled into one. Famous for his Easy Rawlins series of novels, Mosley has also written sci-fi (“Blue Light”), existential erotica (“Killing Johnny Fry”), parables about race (“Fortunate Son”), political monographs (“Life Out of Context”) and writing guides (“This Year You Write Your Novel”), to cite just a few of the 50 or so books he has published. He’s an altogether thornier, more idiosyncratic writer than readers may know, an inveterate investigator and chronicler of his own heart, mind and soul. “Art itself, like psychoanalysis, comes from deep inside you, somewhere where all of these things are roiling around, coming together, falling apart,” says the 71-year-old Mosley, whose new novel, “Every Man a King,” the second to feature his ex-N.Y.P.D.-investigator-turned-private-eye protagonist, Joe King Oliver, will be published on Feb. 21. “I write seven days a week, usually three hours a day, and when I’m writing, things come up. I say, here’s something! I like finding out what I’m about.”

When I was reading old articles about you, especially from around the time of  “Devil in a Blue Dress,” [This 1990 novel, which introduced the Easy Rawlins character and was later adapted into a film starring Denzel Washington, was Mosley’s first published novel. Easy has been featured in 14 subsequent books] a lot of them talked about how your work brought a new kind of representation to the detective genre. All these years later, are there any ways in which you see the publishing world’s idea of “representation” as also carrying any limiting expectations?

Here’s the thing: When I first got published, there weren’t a lot of Black people being published. The amount of work that you had to do to be out there in the world was amazing. That’s no longer true. But publishing has remained incredibly white. Because it’s been so white, and because it’s the kind of business where you hire your friends, you also hire people who tell stories that you’re interested in. It’s not like, “I don’t want to hire that Black person.” It’s more like, “I don’t know what he’s talking about, and he’s not my friend.” So that’s one thing. But the reason publishers started publishing more books by Black people is that Black people buy books in which they see themselves. There are a lot of books out there that do represent who Black people are and what we think about. It’s not that only white people read the books, and so we have to create books that white people will feel somehow satisfied by.

So representation doesn’t present any potential pitfalls? 

Explain what you mean.

I’ll try by analogy. If Jewish American novelists could only get work published that was still responding to the mid-20th-century pressures of assimilation or was all written in the shadow of mainstream successes like Saul Bellow or Philip Roth, that, to me, would be a limiting kind of representation. Similarly, I wonder if the mainstream publishing industry is still mostly interested in a narrow slice of Black experience. Does that make any sense? 

I just want to say, before we get into answering that question, that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby [two of Marvel Comics’ key creative figures.] are Jewish, and they weren’t writing about being Jewish. They were writing stories. When you talk about Saul Bellow and Roth, there’s a certain really small group of people who think that they’re really important in their lives. I’m not one of those people. There’s some good writing in there, but if you write what is essentially memoir, you have to be writing about a period of time, not about yourself. Once you start talking about the girls you banged and the people who mistreated you, then it’s like, man, this is not interesting; it should be a Wikipedia page. But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, I’ve been reading them since I was a kid, and there’s nothing Jewish in it at all. Stan and Jack said: “This is fun! We can express ourselves and make money and have an audience.” And they did. I think there are a lot of so-called white people who don’t feel represented in literature. If you’re in the South, how many people are writing about the problems of your life? Bellow and Roth, they’re writing a very particular kind of story, but they don’t represent America. The only people who write about them are people who have degrees in literature. . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

6 February 2023 at 1:23 pm

The College Board takes its educational direction from Ron DeSantis and White nationalists

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The institutions that have presented themselves as guardians and foundations of American excellence are falling over themselves to kowtow to the rising fascist Ron DeSantis. Example: this headline from the NY Times: “DeSantis Takes On the Education Establishment, and Builds His Brand” (no paywall). That report casts an illegal and aggressive attempt to control speech and what students are given the chance to learn. And with his threats, school teachers have in many cases removed all their books for fear of felony prosecution. And the NY Times sees this as a good way to build his brand.

And now the College Board has redrawn their curriculum to meet the requirements of an outright racist and supporter of White nationalism.  Anemona Hartocollis and Eliza Fawcett report in the NY Times (no paywall):

After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.

The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism. It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum.

And it added something new: “Black conservatism” is now offered as an idea for a research project.

When it announced the A.P. course in August, the College Board clearly believed it was providing a class whose time had come, and it was celebrated by eminent scholars like Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard as an affirmation of the importance of African American studies. But the course, which is meant to be for all students of diverse backgrounds, quickly ran into a political buzz saw after an early draft leaked to conservative publications like The Florida Standard and National Review.

In January, Governor DeSantis of Florida, who is expected to run for president, announced he would ban the curriculum, citing the draft version. State education officials said it was not historically accurate and violated state law that regulates how race-related issues are taught in public schools.

The attack on the A.P. course turned out to be the prelude to a much larger agenda. On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis unveiled a proposal to overhaul higher education that would eliminate what he called “ideological conformity” by among other things, mandating courses in Western civilization.

In another red flag, the College Board faced the possibility of other opposition: more than two dozen states have adopted some sort of measure against critical race theory, according to a tracking project by the University of California, Los Angeles, law school.

David Coleman, the head of the College Board, said in an interview that the changes were all made for pedagogical reasons, not to bow to political pressure. [This is quite clearly a baldfaced lie. – LG] “At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders,” he said. The changes, he said, came from “the input of professors” and “longstanding A.P. principles.” . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

I think the US may be drawing to a close.

Written by Leisureguy

1 February 2023 at 8:52 am

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