The annual Carl Deppe Lecture in Classics at UCSC will be this Friday April 12 at 4pm at the Cowell Provost House, by Professor Simon Goldhill: First words, dying moments: starting and ending in Sophocles and Euripides. Reception to follow.
SB520 is a senate bill purporting to “solve” the bottlenecks created in gateway courses in California public universities and community colleges by requiring these institutions to grant full automatic credit to courses completed via online private platforms. This development has nothing to do with the proper development of online tools that enhance education. Massive Open Online Courses (“MOOC”) are presently free but do cost a lot of money to edit, maintain, and renew, as did previous iterations, namely correspondence courses (130 years old!) and educational TV. MOOC companies have a business plan, including legislative manhandling. How long will the freebie last? A guess: as long as SB520 hasn’t become law! See Robert Meister’s argument.
So, here is a partial recap of US 1973–2013 history as I experienced it:
- taxation levels have been dropping in California since the seventies;
- economic and social polarization increases at an ever more rapid space since the eighties. Salaries of lower and middle class people have effectively decreased in real value, while labor productivity increased for many years at a rate of 2-3% (1% something recently). The wealth created went to: enormous bulges in financial industry, health industry (17% of GDP), war, capitalization of global ventures looking for cheaper, educated labor forces worldwide (note: these mostly publically educated labor forces cost zero to US companies).
- California state support for public universities is still dropping;
- state elected officials, including the governor, channeling the “culture” of their friends the golden entrepreneurs, see online education as relieving them of an annoying moral contract, namely the duty since the fifties to support a world-class public education, including a three-tiered system that provided opportunities to many;
- by creating the conditions for private companies to charge for a desirable product (transferable credits), the cost of education is effectively transferred to those who can least afford the cost of it and its (putative) low quality;
- This in turn speeds up economic and social polarization when we need this tension least of all. We need very well educated young people without debts, without this deepening enslavement.
What Moses will get us out of this new pharaonic Egypt?
Many UC faculty are opposed to SB 520, which purports to allow automatic transfer of MOOC credit units to UC, CSU, and CCC. The automaticity is a problem. And the fact that universities that deliver the courses do not accept transfer credit to their own programs. See the wiki on Massive open online courses, which like old-style correspondence courses require a very high degree of motivation. Nothing really new under the sun, pace Thomas Friedman and other thurifers. We are seeing an accelerating transfer of money from public education (especially undergraduate) to private education companies interested in…. what? money, power, and further breakdown of public and associative interests? you must be joking.
Please sign the petition (indicate in the comments what your position is) and circulate as widely as possible. Here is the text of the petition:
Dear Senator Steinberg,
We, the undersigned faculty of the University of California, write to express our many, deep concerns about SB 520, as recently amended. We believe that this bill will lower academic standards (particularly in key skills such as writing, math, and basic analysis), augment the educational divide along socio-economic lines, and diminish the ability for underrepresented minorities to excel in higher education. In other words, we predict that SB 520 would worsen precisely the situation it claims to resolve.
The research on MOOCs demonstrates that on line courses suffer from high dropout rates, poor outcomes for students struggling with basic skills, and high cheating rates (see Di Xu and Shanna Smith Jaggars, “Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas.” Community College Research Center, Teachers College Columbia University, February 2013). This research also indicates that MOOCs produce the worst outcomes for exactly those students they would most likely serve — students from less wealthy families. None of these unfortunate realities square with your hope for high-quality, wide-access education.
The best way for the California legislature to ensure that college students can take the courses they need to graduate on time (a goal we endorse whole-heartedly) would be to increase funding to its universities and colleges to ensure there are enough seats in classes students need. SB 520 funnels public money into the hands of private corporations – some of whom are currently under federal investigation.
This bill fails to address the complex challenge of ensuring that credit will be given only for courses that meet the high standards of California’s many institutions of higher education. The UC campuses already have timely mechanisms in place to ensure transfer credits from a variety of sources. Your bill will undermine essential quality controls that ensure appropriate preparation for college-level work. Without these, students will fail to succeed in their majors or to thrive academically after they transfer into to a CSU or UC campus from the community colleges.
In short, SB 520 is deeply flawed. We believe it will worsen the conditions you say you hope it will ameliorate. We urge you to consult with UC, CSU, and CCC faculty and other experts to enlist their help in devising a well-designed piece of legislation that will truly help students, while protecting the quality of the education they have the right to expect – and that we, as University of California faculty, have the duty to provide them.
Les pruniers rabougris de la cour à Cowell
sont en fleur. Résurrection, anastas-iement
depuis la Californie jusqu’au Michigan…
Sur la table couverte de rose et d’oranges,
ma moissonneuse d’images et mots engrange
un petit fils d’homme surgi après Noël.
Genesis 1.2 has “a wind from God sweeping over the face of the waters,” while in 2.7 the “Lord God [....] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Does the ruaḥ in the first verse have anything to do with the nishmat ḥayyim (breath of life) in the second? Are divine wind and breath related? Can one build an ontology or a theology on these reeds? Of course!
The root for neshamah is the verb nasham which means to pant, puff, breathe. Neshamah means 1) movement of air 2) breath, breathing of life as in nishmat ḥayyim, breathing of god, 3) living being. When used as metaphor, it seems narrower or more practically focused on human life, characterized of course by its breathing, as much as by movement or the flow of blood.
The broader metaphor is that of breeze and wind, ruaḥ. The root verb for ruaḥ (a noun that is usually feminine but not always) is almost certainly the notion of spaciousnes, extension, spread, relief, relaxation. Ruaḥ means 1) breeze and wind (even storm) 2) breath and spirit (our word spirit is embedded in respiration) 3) also closely related to meaning 2 above, are further meanings of sense, mind, frame of mind.
The terms are not interchangeable. The second one is the more frequent one in the Hebrew Bible, by far (387 times acc. to my Koehler-Baumgartner, recent edition).
The way to allow the ontological or theological hares to show themselves is to refrain from rushing after them and instead start examining patiently the materiality of wind and breath. Poetry—perhaps in all languages—sees wind and breathing as two intimately connected dimensions. The root of these two mixed metaphors is to be sought in the characteristics of the phenomena:
- the invisibility of wind (of breeze, or even of breath except in the winter), our (usual) ignorance as to its origins (four corners of the world), and so its unpredictability, its soupleness, its softness, its carrying of needed rain-bearing clouds, but also its destructive power (storms), and most of all its universal quality of being ceaselessly all around us (trees’ foliage almost never at rest and birds using air portents). I find it uplifting to examine this kind of metaphor with Bachelard in Air and dreams: an essay on the imagination of movement. In brief: wind is incarnate movement of air at every moment of life around us. Everything in nature moves—plants, animals, etc.—but stops occasionally, goes to sleep, or proceeds so slowly we don’t perceive or feel it. Air never or rarely goes still.
- the extraordinary nature of animal and human breathing, so natural to us that we almost never stop to consider it except at critical moments (birth, death, and illness) or in thoughtful exercises, religious or not. Six or seven minutes (I may be wrong on the length of time) without breathing, that is, without this movement of invisible air, without this participation in the movement outside I mentioned above, and one would become immobile. We think of food, drink, sleep—which we can do without for appreciable amounts of time—but air? It can be communicated to others, it is scented, its rhythm and pressure can communicate feelings, and its articulation and compression provide the basic material of spoken languages.
The materialities of wind and breath explain their ubiquity and power in poetry. That said, it becomes difficult to extract an essence from them, or try to add to them by metaphorizing them as divine: what do they surreptitiously carry or bear that is not already fully in themselves? Yet, let their depths be turned into divine attributes as in the Hebrew Bible and become the topic of ontological inquiries. Let the regret that metaphors build in us bring us back to the depth and width of things.
In Mishnah Sanhedrin 4.5, presumably from the second century of our era, the basic oneness of human nature is contrasted with the extraordinary variety of people:
|לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי,ללמדך, שכל המאבד נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב, כאלו אבד עולם מלא; וכל המקים נפש אחת מישראל מעלה עליו הכתוב, כאלו קיים עולם מלא. …. ולהגיד גדלתו שלהקדוש ברוך הוא: שאדם טובע כמה מטבעות בחותם אחד, וכלן דומים זה לזה; ומלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא טבע כל האדם בחותמו שלאדם הראשון, ואין אחד מהן דומה לחברו.||For that reason, a single human being was created, to teach that whoever destroys one soul in Israel, scripture counts it as if a complete world was destroyed, and whoever sustains one soul in Israel, scripture counts it as if a whole world was sustained. [….] Again [but a single human was created] to proclaim the greatness of the holy one, blessed be he; for man strikes a number of coins with one die, and they all resemble each other. But the king of kings of kings, the divine one blessed be he, strikes each human being with the die of the first human being, yet none resembles the other.|
The die or seal used for the “first person” produces a different image each and every time, yet there was but one die, used an infinite number of times. Furthermore, the “original” behind the biblical pronouncement in Genesis 1.27 (So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.) is inaccessible. In contrast, ancient mints needed to change their dies frequently because they wore out quickly and had to be replaced. And yet the coins were very similar. In fact, the evenness and authority of this stamp mattered more than the coin’s metal value. The similarity of the coins and all kinds of fiduciary money, in turn, made and makes the task of governing and controlling people that much easier. In contrast to this attitude, the unrepresentable divine agent is said to be more willing to relinquish control of representation and have images of self which can be very different from each other, and have value in and of themselves.
In Mark 12.17, the same elements are at play: a divine agent, earthly kings, a coin, and the business of images. Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem, confronted by Pharisees and Herodians, the government critics and government representatives of the time. They flatter him for making no differences between people (however different they are: οὐ γὰρ βλέπεις εἰς πρόσωπον ἀνθρώπων; cf. Deuteronomy 10.17, Leviticus 19.5, etc.), as the torah demands. They have arranged to ask him a trick question: “Is it lawful to pay the census to Caesar or not?” In response, he requests a silver coin, which he lacks, because of poverty or religious piety which required that no money (and certainly no images) be used in or even near the sacred precinct (it is precisely this renunciation to the ease of transactions that made it sacred). He then asks whose image and inscription the coin bears: Τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή. When he is told they belong to Caesar (without being given any of the disturbing details the inscription would bear, like “son of divinized Augustus”), he answers: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” a famous answer often used in the past to support various degrees of separation of church and state. The immediate point of the answer, however, is that there are limits even to the powers of a Caesar. His apparatus of coercion could have his name and picture printed on only so many thousands of metal coins or stone statues, whereas the divine imprint could be detected everywhere, beyond the great variety of nature and human beings. Two different types of claims on people and their labor.
We live in a world where the power to print or coin images on matter, and claim and appropriate the product for oneself, is more extensive than ever before, reaching even into the plant, animal and human domains. We live in a world not so different from that of antiquity, in that this wondrous power is being abused, just as it was in ancient times. It is not intellectual exploration itself that is at fault, but how it is controlled and used. Modern institutions and corporations are putting their own image and brand even on the stuff of life, which one would have thought could never be owned again. We are buying these images. So, as a result, one can imagine oneself working as hard as ever, one’s whole life, and paying a large part of one’s salary for health, genetically engineered and patented foods, software, energy, education. How are we going to respond to this situation?
A new book on the discovery and debates surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls is out: John J. Collins, The Dead Sea Scrolls; a biography (Princeton UP, 2012). John Collins has long been interested in messianism and apocalyptics and can be heard talking about these topics inter alia on NPR.
Bolletino N. 0089–11.02.2013
Non solum propter tres canonizationes ad hoc Consistorium vos convocavi, sed etiam ut vobis decisionem magni momenti pro Ecclesiae vitae [vita] communicem. Conscientia mea iterum atque iterum coram Deo explorata ad cognitionem certam perveni vires meas ingravescente aetate non iam aptas esse ad munus Petrinum aeque administrandum. Bene conscius sum hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exsequi debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando. Attamen in mundo nostri temporis rapidis mutationibus subiecto et quaestionibus magni ponderis pro vita fidei perturbato ad navem Sancti Petri gubernandam et ad annuntiandum Evangelium etiam vigor quidam corporis et animae necessarius est, qui ultimis mensibus in me modo tali minuitur, ut incapacitatem meam ad ministerium mihi commissum bene administrandum agnoscere debeam.
Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commissum [commisso] renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora vicesima, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse [sit].
Fratres carissimi, ex toto corde gratias ago vobis pro omni amore et labore, quo mecum pondus ministerii mei portastis et veniam peto pro omnibus defectibus meis. Nunc autem Sanctam Dei Ecclesiam curae Summi eius Pastoris, Domini nostri Iesu Christi confidimus sanctamque eius Matrem Mariam imploramus, ut patribus Cardinalibus in eligendo novo Summo Pontifice materna sua bonitate assistat. Quod ad me attinet etiam in futuro vita orationi dedicata Sanctae Ecclesiae Dei toto ex corde servire velim.
Ex Aedibus Vaticanis, die 10 mensis februarii MMXIII
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
The inchoate discussion this morning on the “son of man” (UCSC class on gospel of Mark) leads me to post a well-known poem by Dan Pagis who uses this expression in full awareness of the burden it bears, from Ezekiel and Daniel to modern Hebrew usage, via the gospels. It is from Points of Departure. There is an English translation by Stephen Mitchell (Ibid., p. 23). I give a slightly different one and add a Breton version. My changes: railcar instead of Railway-Car, transport instead of carload, i eve instead of i am eve, older son instead of other son, and i am instead of i (last word). The poem needs to be read at least a couple times to get the grammar right and be rolling. It gives pause to the century-old Christian discussion of the expression.
כָּתוּב בְּעִפָּרוֹן בַּקָּרון הֶחָתוּם
כָּאן בַּמִּשְׁלוֹחַ הַזֶּה
Written in pencil in the sealed railcar
here in this transport
Hag e brezhoneg:
Skrivet gant kreïon er vagon stouvet
amañ er transport-se
gant abel va mab
ma welit va mab henañ
cain mab den
lavarit dezhañ emaon
John Rick from Stanford University will be at UCSC on February 13th (Wednesday, February 13th, 12:30 pm, Soc Sci 1 − Rm 110) for a talk entitled:
When Religion Was Radical: The Very Formative Site of Chavin de Huantar, Peru.
Abstract: The Formative Period (1800-200 B.C.) in the Central Andes was a time of major socio-political reorganization, and although there is some evidence of economic and subsistence change, the major differences are based in the activity of the major ceremonial centers scattered throughout the region. At Chavin de Huantar, the World Heritage ‘type site’ for much of this period, long-recognized, dramatic and enigmatic features are now making new sense. After 20 years of investigation using methods capable of revealing some of the planning, innovation, and ritual activity that developed there, the radical nature of these religious systems becomes very apparent, hinting at both a highly strategized manipulative ideology, and perhaps more than a bit of historical consciousness. [from Cameron Monroe, Anthropology, UCSC]