July 18th, 2016

Religious Literacy

I recently came across an interesting book entitled Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn’t, written by religion professor Stephen Prothero. The subject matter is the lack of education in the US about religious history worldwide, and what effect that ignorance has had on the public:

While it is plausible to claim that religion no longer counts for much in [some western European countries] religious beliefs and practices continue to have undeniable impacts on social, economic, and political life in virtually every other country in the world…

You wouldn’t know any of this by reading high school world history textbooks, however…[S]tudents are led to believe that religion somehow belongs to the past; the present (and presumably, the future) belongs to secularity. As philosopher Warren Nord has observed, in the case of Islam, the typical textbook teaches students a bit about Islam’s origins in the seventh century only to see the tradition disappear for more than a millennium before popping up, quite unexpectedly, in the form of the Iranian hostage crisis of the 1970s.

Interesting and almost certainly the case. If we know nothing or next to nothing about these things, how can we understand the religiously-inspired events occurring all around the globe? Here’s more from Prothero:

Schoolbooks tell us what we need to know and what we ought to value. They tell us what matters and what can be ignored, what is worth dying for and what (or who) is to be shunned. They tell us what America is, both as an ideal and as a reality,and they interpret the wider world—the beaker in which the American experiment is forever bubbling up. This is no small power: telling children what to think about themselves, their country, and the world—telling them as well what to think of Islam and Christianity and Judaism or whether to think of religion at all. At least for the time being the gospel that these ministries are peddling is that religion is moribund…

Things were not always so.

Much of his book is a study of the history of religion in this country, and in particular of the history of the teaching of facts about religious history in US schools. Whatever a person’s beliefs or lack thereof, he maintains (and I agree) that knowledge of religion is key.

And here’s what he writes in the introduction of his personal experience of teaching about religions (he is not a minister and is not trying to inculcate any particular religious belief, by the way):

When I first began teaching in the early 1990s I was a follower of Dewey and the Progressives. In high school I had come to the subject of history as nothing more than the mindless accumulation of names and dates, and I vowed upon entering college in the late 1970s that I would study every subject except history. Happily, I came across a professor who taught me that the vocatiion of history in not about memorizing names and dates but about forming judgments and contributing to debates about what happened in the past. So when I finished graduate school and became a professor myself, I told students that I didn’t care about facts. I cared about having challenging conversations, and I offered my quiz-free classrooms as places to do just that. I soon found, however, that the challenging conversations I coveted were not possible without some common knowledge—common knowledge my students plainly lacked. And so, quite against my prior inclinations, I began testing them on simple terms. In my world religions classes I told my students that before we could discuss in any detail the great religious traditions of the world, we would need to have some shared vocabulary in each, some basic religious literacy. In this I became…a traditionalist about content, not because I had come to see facts as the end of education but because I had come to see them as necessary means to understanding.

It’s hard to believe that such an intelligent man once believed that students could intelligently discuss a subject without knowing much about it. And yet theories of education can often lead people in such directions.

55 Responses to “Religious Literacy

  1. F Says:

    A good place to increase awareness of the role of religion in history, and especially in the history of our nation, would be when elected officials speak to their constituencies. I have heard several of these meetings, and have watched many more on TV. Almost no mention of the role of religion in our national life. Especially from the President himself. How could we expect any different, after he listened to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, or Al Sharpton for the past seven years?

  2. Nick Says:

    I’m not sure that he thought you can talk about a subject without knowing much about it. He probably thought that everyone knows more than they do by the time they get to college. That’s why he’s so surprised about history textbooks.

    His observations strike me as dead-on. Religion is such a touchy subject that we try to teach history without mentioning it – or mentioning any other motivation for all those old people running around doing things. No wonder students aren’t interested in history. If students are taught anything, it’s the progressive model of secularization probably best depicted in Star Trek.

    A good teacher will present names and dates and context. Students will always complain about the names and dates.

  3. Big Maq Says:

    Actually, there is a deep lack of knowledge in the populace on many, many topics. It is not for lack of teaching, though that is true too in many cases. Knowledge in sciences, economics (incl personal finance), political/economic systems and history, constitution/amendment/bill of rights, etc. even current events, are all lacking.

    Even current events… How many can name the VP and their Governor, find Turkey on a map unprompted, identify the largest 10 to 20 countries by political/economic system, etc.?

    Heck, some struggle to get through basic math. That is not because a given student lacks intelligence, but much of the time it is on their parents.

    Even some well to do parents I know put great emphasis on sports over academics, sending their kids to private school for half days for part of a week. They say the opposite, but their discussions and emphasis says different.

    So, should grade school graduates know about religious history? Yes, but, unfortunately, that is hardly the only topic lacking.

  4. Oldflyer Says:

    I may have noted this previously in a different context; but, my granddaughter took a freshman “Comparative Religion” course at her fairly expensive private university.

    I asked her what religions were emphasized, and was told that they mostly studied Vodou and Rastafari. The Professor had a Caribbean connection, and that is what interested him. When I expressed shock, she assured me that they had spent some time on other religions; maybe even such obscure ones as Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity. Who knows?

    Such is the state of education.

  5. Nick Says:

    Big Maq – What do you mean by “grade school”? I’m most familiar with the term referring to 1st through 6th grades. It’s been a long time since I was in those grades, but I don’t remember us having History class, per se. We had Social Studies, which included geography, civics, history, and the like.

    I bring this up because, from what I’ve read, the US system tends to fail kids in upper grades. We stay even with other countries through grade school, but fall behind in junior high and HS. I don’t know why, although my hunch is it relates to discipline problems.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Nick,

    Common Core specifically seeks to dumb down and indoctrinate grade school students. Arithmetic as taught in common core is unfathomable. History and social studies pure leftist indoctrination.

  7. J.J. Says:

    Studying geology in college was a great eye opener for me. Although I had successfully completed many geology classes and had been hired by an oil company, I was acutely aware that my actual knowledge of geology was quite limited. Everyday that I worked as a geologist I learned new information, but still felt inadequate. Then, when I found myself, quite by accident, in aviation, I once again found myself realizing how little I knew. I recognized then that my formal schooling of memorizing and learning to use facts as springboards to other new information was really the foundation for a lifetime of learning. And it was.

    Why professor Prothero didn’t understand that from his extensive formal education is interesting. We are all different and tend to see ourselves and the world in different ways. Thus, our many disagreements.

    Religious history is certainly a key to understanding how Western Civilization developed. I have recently been re-reading “How the Scots Invented the Modern World.” (Many might disagree with that presumption, but Scottish intellectuals in the 17 and 1800s are well though of today.) In those days all universities were essentially seminaries. Men went there to study to be ministers. What happened was that many of these men had inquiring minds and they branched out from theology into other studies. In due time the universities evolved to studies of every subject thought necessary for a civilized society. As time passed religion was no longer considered the primary education necessary for learned men. The evolution has continued to the point we find ourselves at today where religion and its position in our history is actively excluded from education. And we are the poorer for it.

  8. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Without context, historical dates and names are useless and, it is in the context wherein the left’s indoctrination lies. Absent an examination of a religion’s theological tenets, religious literacy is impossible. But, in the aggregate, a religion’s historical behavior can reveal what they are truly are about.

    Big Maq,

    Intellectual laziness is at pandemic levels among the populace.

    Oldflyer,

    In many schools today, there is a concerted effort being made (school books) to include positive teachings about Islam.

  9. Oldflyer Says:

    GB, I am sure there is. What appalled me was that in a course that purported to be “comparative”, there was little attention to the major religions i.e., those that are practiced by a preponderance of the world population, and that have most influenced history.

    An honest comparison of the history and tenets of Islam compared to those of Judaism and Christianity, for instance, should prove enlightening to young minds.

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    In her public affidavit, among other things, Mrs./Dr. Bella V. Dodd stated:
    “In the late 1920’s and 1930’s, directives were sent from Moscow to all Communist Party organizations. In order to destroy the [Roman] Catholic Church from within, party members were to be planted in seminaries and within diocesan organizations… I, myself, put some 1,200 men in [Roman] Catholic seminaries”.

    one person placed 1200, and there are hundreds of people…

    Mrs. Leininger has also said that she herself knows some Roman Catholic priests who were “sleepers” – an espionage term for individuals or groups who refrain from any subversive, espionage, and/or infiltrator functions until they become “active”.

    so even the influence of religion is not just the religions, but others who place people, use people, and more..

    [look up kiril and the world federation of churches and their work communizing the church to control people]

    Interesting and almost certainly the case. If we know nothing or next to nothing about these things, how can we understand the religiously-inspired events occurring all around the globe?

    i say the same thing as to the influence of the various agencies in communist states vs the west.

    More Russian spies are trying to gather intelligence in Britain now than at the height of the Cold War, warns former GCHQ official
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3694826/More-Russian-spies-trying-gather-intelligence-Britain-height-Cold-War-warns-former-GCHQ-official.html

    He said there are approximately six Russian intelligence officers for every British intelligence officer in the world.

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

    Unlike the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the SVR is responsible for intelligence and espionage activities outside the Russian Federation. It works in cooperation with the Russian Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye (GRU, Main Intelligence Directorate), which reportedly deployed six times as many spies in foreign countries as the SVR in 1997

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

    and this does not include the people from China, korea, and even friendly states like the UK, germany, israel, etc

    ALL screwing around with your history, head, and society to help their countries ends… (we do too)

    while the KGB now FSB is for home..
    the SVR and GRU are the people who work from the foregn intelligence services..

    SVR RF is the official foreign-operations successor to many prior Soviet-era foreign intelligence agencies, ranging from the original ‘foreign department’ of the Cheka under Vladimir Lenin, to the OGPU and NKVD of the Stalinist era, followed by the First Chief Directorate of the KGB.

    Officially, the SVR RF dates its own beginnings to the founding of the Special Section of the Cheka on 20 December 1920

    they have been pumping out people and sending them to influence things as we ignore them, for almost 100 years.

    Just remember next year is the 100th anniversary, and they LOVE to do things on dates, so if things are going to go to the mattresses, well, it will be next year… which is the weakest we will be until next election…

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    Geoffrey Britain, I would suggest reading the works of Iserbyt
    [The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail Book by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt]

    and John Taylor Gatto
    The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher
    Why Schools Don’t Educate – The Natural Child Project

    there are enough predictions and information i posted that i no longer have to write, i can refer to what i said before.

    see neoneocon/artfldgr May 21st, 2012 at 1:46 pm
    North Carolina teacher joins the Thought Police

    they are both posted there with a lot more information…
    but that was over 4 years ago… glad we all rememer and have read…

    from
    Why Schools Don’t Educate

    The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very hard, the institution is psychopathic – it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to different cell where he must memorize that man and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.

    Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted – sometimes with guns – by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880’s when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.

    Now here is a curious idea to ponder. Senator Ted Kennedy’s office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was 98% and after it the figure never again reached above 91% where it stands in 1990. I hope that interests you.

    they have both been writing and telling us whats going on since ronald reagan… anyone other than me read them? [honest question… as i have no idea if people do, as the information you would learn is never reflected in discussion, so its eather learned and forgotten, learned and ignored, or never seen post recomendation]

    i have passed it on and despite their being part of this and like defectors changing sides and witleblowers, we just ignore it.

    then again, to read them, the defectors and others with the history that goes with it and is known, is to be in a world even scarier than you ever thought given that

  12. Big Maq Says:

    @Nick – see your point. Started to say “graduates” but meant to distinguish them from college grads. Probably better to say HS Graduates.

  13. Glen H Says:

    In at least a partial defense of history textbooks, Islam gets little mention beyond the 7th century primarily because it hasn’t accomplished anything since the 7th century.

  14. Nick Says:

    Oldflyer – I had a class in Religions of India in college. The teacher sounds like the one your granddaughter had – only interested in Hinduism and Buddhism. Good class, though, but at least we came out of it knowing that we’d only studied two of the world’s religions.

    I wish more colleges had a Great Books or Great Ideas requirement. My college had distribution of studies requirements, which made everyone take classes in different fields, but there was no requirement to study the core of Western Civilization. Even if our high schools were teaching it, and teaching it well, there’s still a place for a college-level study of Shakespeare, Madison, Locke, Mozart…the big dogs. I’d rather hire a programmer who’d had Intro to Aristotle on his transcript than Intro to Physics. And not everything’s about hireability, anyway.

  15. Gringo Says:

    I took an AP Humanities course my senior year in high school which devoted a lot of time to comparative religion. One of our textbooks was Huston Smith’s The Religions of Man. I liked the comparative religion approach. I wonder if the comparative religion approach could be done today.

    The teachers were a mixed bag of 3 excellent and one poor. The Art teacher for the course had made his own mandalas. The Literature teacher had informative, well-organized lectures on the various world religions in addition to lectures on literature. His lecture on Chinese was enhanced by his being a translator for the Army during the Korean War. Having figured out that he was no dummy, the Army sent him to school to learn Chinese. The teacher for the Music part of the course was listed in Leonard Feather’s Jazz Encyclopedia. He had played for the Dorsey brothers, and after retiring from teaching went back to the traveling musician life. He was an example of those who can, often can teach very well. Unfortunately, the History teacher was grossly unqualified to teach the course, and was unwilling to spend the late hours to bring himself up to speed. [It is not uncommon that high school teachers are assigned a course outside their specialty. OJT, as they say.] Oh well. Which is why the course got cancelled the following year- not enough juniors signed up for it, having heard bad news from their elders.

  16. Steve S Says:

    Off and on one comes across questioning why colleges have English Studies requirements. Sometimes it’s little more than grousing about being compelled to take what can easily be difficult studies (depending on the instructor); other times it is complaining about the model of all these ‘dead white guys’. No matter, though, the complaints usually include the claim that ‘anyone can buy and read the books’.

    True enough (as if they will!). But it misses the objective that for someone to pick up major literary studies on their own, they also need to either discover or invent an entire body of scholarly critique on their own, too. Overlooking that part of it is what leads to

    …believ[ing] that students could intelligently discuss a subject without knowing much about it.

  17. Tim P Says:

    Neo,

    You are so correct in saying, “It’s hard to believe that such an intelligent man once believed that students could intelligently discuss a subject without knowing much about it. And yet theories of education can often lead people in such directions.”

    And it’s not just regarding religion as Big Maq(1:16pm) noted, “Actually, there is a deep lack of knowledge in the populace on many, many topics. It is not for lack of teaching, though that is true too in many cases. Knowledge in sciences, economics (incl personal finance), political/economic systems and history, constitution/amendment/bill of rights, etc. even current events, are all lacking.”

    This has been on-going for some time now. I noticed in the engineering/construction/business realm that the ‘Harvard Theory of Management’ which was popularized after WWII, and which assumes that using core management principles anyone can manage anything without necessarily being an expert in the field. This thinking is exactly in line with the ideas on religion expressed in this post and echoed in the comments.

    This has led to many problems. (My opinion, your mileage may vary) I attribute this type of thinking to much of the problems that have beset industry over the last several decades. Instead of men and women who have extensive experience in the particular relevant field, in actual management, and God forbid leadership, they have been replaced by ‘managers’ who try to make everything conform to a one size fits all theory and along with that a creeping ‘credential-ism’ that is not based on knowledge, experience, and achievement, but on collecting required paper to get one’s ticket punched. As they are increasingly replaced with those who do not possess deep knowledge of a field, much of the ‘institutional knowledge’ also disappears.

    The disappearance of knowledge has led to ever more rules and regulations to make up for that experience and good sense. Not all regulations have been bad, personal safety has come to the fore unlike decades ago. However imagine trying to duplicate the effort to get a man to the moon as NASA did in the 60’s with today’s top heavy management and over protective work rules. The original trans-Alaska Pipeline was built in three years. In today’s environment it would take over a decade.

    Additionally, management has, in the name of short term profit, destroyed apprenticeship programs for skilled trades and technical fields. Where are the future skilled workers supposed to come from?

    I think that this mode of shallow thinking without working through the ramifications is all a major problem all across the board.

  18. Tim P Says:

    Oops. I meant to conclude that…

    I think that this mode of shallow thinking without working through the ramifications is a major problem all across the board.

    Sorry about that.

  19. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Art,

    I’m skeptical of the claims of massive Soviet infiltration into the Catholic church. As, it begs the question; to what purpose? What hoped for result would such a massive infusion of resources hope to gain?

    The great barrier to the Soviet’s agenda was America and the Catholic Church has arguably, never weilded enough influence in America to validate that much investment in human resources.

    On the other hand, the Marxist investment in academia makes perfect sense and has clearly yielded results commensurate with the investment.

  20. Oldflyer Says:

    Interesting observation, Tim P. Had a conversation this past week with a man who had managed a small chemical plant for 30 years; very profitable. Sold to an investment company which brought in its own team of “professional managers” and purged all of those who had built the company and who really knew the business. Drove the company into oblivion within a decade. I had more than a few courses in scientific management techniques, and remain a wee bit skeptical..

    Well, drifting off topic. But, it is interesting to ponder the appropriate relationship between formal education and life experience–and to what extent one may impact the other in various scenarios.

  21. J.J. Says:

    Excellent observation, Tim P. Having spent 25 years in the airline industry, I saw exactly how that management philosophy affected the airlines. Well trained, highly responsible employees became like nuts and bolts – all replaceable at the whim of management. The looming pilot shortage is going to put the lie to that philosophy.

  22. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Tim P’s observations brought to mind another observation about corporate management that is entitled “the Peter Principle” named after the man who formulated the observation that in large organizations, many people are eventually promoted into a position of incompetence.

    That prompted me to wonder, if something similar might be happening in Western civilization. Might we have promoted ourselves, i.e. devolved… into incompetence? We know that all prior human societies have ended. Many of us, with good reason blame the Left but what led the West to accept ‘philosophies’ so devoid of common sense and so obviously flawed?

  23. JK Brown Says:

    This no doubt explains the new emphasis on recent books in supposed English literature classes. You cannot comprehend most of Western literature without at least a secular knowledge of Christianity. Nor can you comprehend the development of European civilization in the Common Era (CE) nee Anno Domini (AD).

    And just recently, professor Deirdre McCloskey attributed the change in attitude in NW Europe that she attributes to the main cause of the rise of innovation, the industrial revolution and, really, the modern world to the Reformation which brought about the idea of the individual acting directly and not through a king or Pope.

    The passionate endeavors to eliminate the classical studies from the curriculum of the liberal education and thus virtually to destroy its very character were one of the major manifestations of the revival of the servile ideology.

    Mises, Ludwig von, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, 1956

    Many have never really gotten over that so many escaped the servile ideology of the past.

  24. Nick Says:

    And the tech industries are booming, the ones that don’t hire any expert managers.

  25. David Foster Says:

    OldFlyer and JJ….a couple posts that may be of interest, both with excerpts from Peter Drucker:

    Management Mentalities
    http://photoncourier.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_archive.html#108835321560249258

    Prof Drucker and the Business Schools
    http://photoncourier.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_archive.html#113492389059084664

  26. David Foster Says:

    Also, ‘Management Education and the Role of Technique’

    http://photoncourier.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_archive.html#113122847088263291

  27. blert Says:

    Glen H Says:
    July 18th, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    In at least a partial defense of history textbooks, Islam gets little mention beyond the 7th century primarily because it hasn’t accomplished anything since the 7th century.

    %%%%%

    Good grief, man !!!

    “The Battle of Tours (often called the Battle of Poitiers, but not to be confused with the Battle of Poitiers, 1356) was fought on October 10, 732 between forces under the Frankish leader Charles Martel and a massive invading Islamic army led by Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi Abd al Rahman, near the city of Tours, France.

    “The Siege of Vienna in 1529 was the first attempt by the Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, to capture the city of Vienna, Austria. The siege signalled the pinnacle of the Ottoman Empire’s power and the maximum extent of Ottoman expansion in central Europe.

    “The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement taking place on 7 October 1571 in which a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of European Catholic maritime states arranged by Pope Pius V, led by Spanish admiral Don Juan of Austria and mostly financed by Spain, decisively defeated the fleet of the Ottoman Empire.

    The above battle was the first time that galleyasses were decisive. (Virtually invented for the battle.) These evolved into warship galleons. ( as contrasted with galleons that had no war fighting potential )

    “The Reconquista is a period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula, spanning approximately 770 years, between the initial Islamic conquest of the peninsula in the 710s and the fall of the Emirate of Granada, the last Islamic state on the peninsula, to expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.

    “The Reconquista ended immediately before the European re-discovery of the Americas—the “New World”—which ushered in the era of the Portuguese and Spanish colonial empires.

    “Historians traditionally mark the beginning of the Reconquista with the Battle of Covadonga (718 or 722), in which a small Christian army, led by the nobleman Pelagius, defeated an army of the Umayyad Caliphate in the mountains of northern Iberia and established a Christian principality in Asturias.

    The Muslim Empire locked the West away from India and in so doing provided the impetus for Henry the Navigator to swing around Africa — and begin the Modern Age of Discovery.

    Prior to that the Muslims DESTROYED the legacy of Greece and Egyptians — to the extent possible — by burning down countless churches, monasteries and libraries.

    Mohammed put the DARK in the Dark Ages.

    Sheesh.

  28. blert Says:

    There were 500 MAJOR battles fought by the Muslims to enslave the West.

    MANY more to enslave India and points east.

    Hence the fantastic population of Muslims in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malasia — plus Thailand, Burma, even Red China.

    All of this bloodshed occurred after the Seventh-Century.

  29. David Foster Says:

    I increasingly hear the assertion made that all religions are equally good or (more commonly) equally bad. This is usually stated as if it were a tautology.

    Set aside the metaphysical claims of various religions and focus only on their guidelines for earthly behavior, and it should be obvious that the assertion is nonsense. But there are quite a few people who I personally know to have high IQ and to be quite successful who appear to actually believe this.

  30. blert Says:

    Geoffrey Britain Says:
    July 18th, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Tim P’s observations brought to mind another observation about corporate management that is entitled “the Peter Principle” named after the man who formulated the observation that in large organizations, many people are eventually promoted into a position of incompetence.

    That prompted me to wonder, if something similar might be happening in Western civilization. Might we have promoted ourselves, i.e. devolved… into incompetence? We know that all prior human societies have ended. Many of us, with good reason blame the Left but what led the West to accept ‘philosophies’ so devoid of common sense and so obviously flawed?

    %%%%%

    That’s some spike you’ve nailed, GB.

  31. AesopFan Says:

    One of Harry Kemelman’s books about the Jewish detective Rabbi David Small makes the same observation. When the Rabbi is persuaded to take over a class (I don’t remember the details), the students are aghast that he expects them to learn some facts before engaging in discussion about their own opinions. To paraphrase somewhat, he asks, “How can your opinions have any value if they are not based on facts?”

    That made an impact on me that has lasted over 40 years, and I always try to see what facts underlie the opinions that are now so widely broadcast over the internet.
    Of course, Reagan noted the same sort of thing in an oblique way, when he said, “The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”
    (Lots of examples in today’s world: start with #BLM’s false memes and go from there.)

  32. AesopFan Says:

    Scott Adams’ post today is somewhat related to the fact-opinion divide, where he notes that people who think they are rational are just word-thinkers (putting people in categories), and the world is really run by persuaders.
    No one’s opinions are actually based on facts.

    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/147595892021/how-persuaders-see-the-world

  33. Gringo Says:

    Geoffrey Britain
    Art,I’m skeptical of the claims of massive Soviet infiltration into the Catholic church.

    You might be interested in reading my comment about the book Murder in the Vatican: The CIA and the Bolshevik Pontiff. Granted, this is speculation. My comment also has a link to Bella Dodd’s memoir.

  34. parker Says:

    I was at the local library and found a new shelf of books that was placarded as the staff’s worse picks. Among the books displayed was Thomas Hardy’s Great Expectations. I took the book to the desk and asked the 3 librarians if they had read any Hardy novels. The eldest said she loved Hardy the 40 something and the 20 something both said something to the effect that no, but it was the cover (the cover!) that looked boring.

    Next I asked if anyone of them had attended a Shakespeare play or read Shakespeare. The replies were similar. The eldest was reasonably familiar with the bard. The 40 something knew a little, and the 20 something was totally ignorant. No wonder we are circling the drain.

  35. Gringo Says:

    blert
    “Historians traditionally mark the beginning of the Reconquista with the Battle of Covadonga (718 or 722), in which a small Christian army, led by the nobleman Pelagius, defeated an army of the Umayyad Caliphate in the mountains of northern Iberia and established a Christian principality in Asturias.

    In my work in Latin America, I once met a Spaniard from Asturias who within several minutes of meeting me informed that Asturias was one place that the Muslims had never conquered. Bagpipes are common in traditional music in Asturias and Galicia, both places the Muslims didn’t conquer. Must be those ornery Celts.

  36. blert Says:

    David Foster Says:
    July 18th, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    I increasingly hear the assertion made that all religions are equally good or (more commonly) equally bad. This is usually stated as if it were a tautology.

    Set aside the metaphysical claims of various religions and focus only on their guidelines for earthly behavior, and it should be obvious that the assertion is nonsense. But there are quite a few people who I personally know to have high IQ and to be quite successful who appear to actually believe this.

    %%

    The smart fellas need even more emotional balm.

    Anything to avoid staring at Islam.

  37. miklos000rosza Says:

    Interesting material here and there in this thread.

  38. Eric Says:

    I agree with Prothero that both modes are important – the base of knowledge and the mentality to enliven that knowledge as tools.

    The model he should look at, if he hasn’t done so already, is the Army. Soldiers are trained, crash-course rote style, with much technical knowledge, which they’re then expected to incorporate and adapt creatively in a variety of situations – including unexpected, unplanned situations – not contained within their training.

  39. DNW Says:

    “In my work in Latin America, I once met a Spaniard from Asturias who within several minutes of meeting me informed that Asturias was one place that the Muslims had never conquered.”

    Asturias! He said “Asturias”

    The Parkening or Bream versions are more perfect – maybe. But the old man has some real feeling still.

  40. fiona Says:

    Without an understanding of the Bible, Judeo Christian religion and some history, enjoyment of literature, classical music and great art is impossible. It maddens me that art/music appreciation courses must start with an explanation of the religious points important to the creator and assumes that educated people will need the explanation. So stand in the middle of a Baroque church listening to Bach and think “Pretty”? Teaching history is more than names and dates – doesn’t anyone try to get imagination engaged to present how people lived and thought? It is this failure of imagination that leads the poorly educated to think that all those stupid people of the past who built the civilization we now enjoy should have realized how wonderful all the lazy buggers of the present are, even if they can’t even write their name in cursive…

  41. Nick Says:

    AesopFan – I’ve got a real problem with Adams’ article. There’s this idea that just because we can be persuaded by tricks of emotions and words that we necessarily are immune to reason. I don’t buy it.

    There are no three groups. We’re all struggling, trying to reconcile our gut feelings with facts and the opinions of people we respect. They’re all contradictory – our feelings conflict with each other, the facts could have multiple explanations, and the people we listen to don’t agree. We move through the mess slowly, and there’s no guarantee that we make progress.

    None of us are fully rational, none of us are fully controlled, none of us are fully controlling. We’re all participants making choices with imperfect information. That’s not as cute as Adams’ model, but it does recognize that we can use facts and reason.

  42. Big Maq Says:

    “the US system tends to fail kids in upper grades. We stay even with other countries through grade school, but fall behind in junior high and HS. I don’t know why, although my hunch is it relates to discipline problems.” – Nick

    Two aspects to this:

    1) It depends on the district. It is no accident that the poorest performing schools by and large tend to be in the poorest areas.

    It is not all about lack of funding, as the left likes to claim – per pupil expenditures comparison quickly belies that claim. Those areas are also, coincidentally, higher in crime and in broken families. Could there be something to that?

    Even in “good” school districts, there are areas affordable for lower income folks that puts their kids on track to the higher rated MSs and HSs.

    2) Regardless of district ratings, there is a higher correlation between academic performance of a student and parental interest and involvement.

    We know several parents who are considered “well off”. Their kids are allowed to stay up to all hours every day, smartphone used with no time limit as a babysitter, very little help in planning/organizing homework time, failure to address behavioral problems or proactively anticipate such problems, letting kids decide things that are rightly the parent’s decision, etc., to name but a few issues.

    Of course they are “blind” to it all, but it doesn’t bode well for when their kids reach HS – a lot of potential likely wasted. If these kids even make it to college (and they are certainly smart enough), it will be out of their own drive, and it will be their chance then to “catch up”.

    We can blame the school system all we want (it rightly deserves part of the blame), but it really does come back to the choices / behaviors that we each individually make / exhibit that brings the results we see.

  43. Ymarsakar Says:

    Schoolbooks tell us what we need to know and what we ought to value.

    Hence home teaching is becoming more popular.

  44. Big Maq Says:

    “None of us are fully rational, none of us are fully controlled, none of us are fully controlling. We’re all participants making choices with imperfect information. That’s not as cute as Adams’ model, but it does recognize that we can use facts and reason.” – Nick

    Nice summary.

    Two of Adams’ three types of people already add up to 100% of the population… what about his first category – rational people? The man cannot even do basic math / logic right.

    Adams insults his audience, as he describes humans as largely “meat puppets”, and trump as a Master Persuader (he is a verbal masterxxxer, imho)

    Ironically, Adams logically must exclude himself from the “meat puppet” category, and be part of his imaginary, 0%, “rational people” as he somehow has the power to objectively observe all this and explain it to us.

    Adams’ theories have a close affinity with conspiracy type theories. It is a cynical view I don’t subscribe to.

    It also fits on the other coin side of leftist theories… That there has to be some organizing force, some cabal, that is directing everything. It is unfathomable to them that our complex world might be self organizing, made by billions of individual choices. Someone needs to be in charge to make sure everyone is making the “correct” choices!

  45. Nick Says:

    I’m sure that Adams made the rational people 0% on purpose. I also suspect that he considers himself a persuader. He does have a national audience for his opinions, after all. And there is some merit to his observation that some people have more influence over others, but it’s hardly a shocking piece of insight.

    Hey, I just thought of something funny. Other sites will tell you that the Jews are behind everything. We should have our own conspiracy theory on this site: there’s a Jew behind the apple!

  46. Junius Says:

    To highlight religion in the beginnings and founding of America would highlight the Protestant, male, Anglo-centric foundation of the United States.

  47. Ymarsakar Says:

    In at least a partial defense of history textbooks, Islam gets little mention beyond the 7th century primarily because it hasn’t accomplished anything since the 7th century.

    That’s like thinking the Roman Republic didn’t accomplish anything past 200 BC.

    The fact that they grew into an empire spawning much of the known world, was something.

  48. Ymarsakar Says:

    Nick Says:
    July 19th, 2016 at 10:48 am
    I’ve got a real problem with Adams’ article. There’s this idea that just because we can be persuaded by tricks of emotions and words that we necessarily are immune to reason. I don’t buy it.

    In reply to that, I would state that humans are jack of all trades, potentially. We can learn to use reason as true scientists and engineers. We can learn to self deceive and self delude, which many people have a talent for irregardless of formal training. And people can also be magicians and propagandists, by teaching themselves tricks of the trade.

    To categorize humans as being only one thing but not another, is primitive on par with Margaret Sanger. Humans may be average or below average, like the masses, but that does not predetermine their talent or lack of it.

  49. DNW Says:

    Speaking of unfathomable ignorance … I went looking for a copy of this book: “The Justice of the Greeks” by “Bertram Raphael Izod Sealey”

    Many of you will know who he is. Apart from outrageous prices on new old stock hardcovers, there are “fine” to “good” condition used copies generally available for 50 to 60 bucks. [found one cheaper too]

    But here is the deal, they are library books. This work was only published in 1994 by the Uni Mich press.

    What the hell are libraries doing cycling this out already? Is there so much superior classical scholarship already supplanting it?

    I’ve noticed the same thing with any number of significant historical or philosophical works.

    Well, maybe they were just extra copies.

  50. DNW Says:

    parker Says:
    July 18th, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    I was at the local library and found a new shelf of books that was placarded as the staff’s worse picks. Among the books displayed was Thomas Hardy’s Great Expectations. I took the book to the desk and asked the 3 librarians if they had read any Hardy novels. The eldest said she loved Hardy the 40 something and the 20 something both said something to the effect that no, but it was the cover (the cover!) that looked boring.”

    LOL

    I was at either a restaurant having lunch, or a furniture store buying something for a kid sister, can’t remember which, when I looked at the decorative bookshelves and noticed huge numbers of what one would think were useful older books. One especially pristine one got my attention.

    I asked one of the employees where they got them all, and she said at auctions – they bought them by the case or the pound or something from suppliers whose business it was to do just that.

    I said to her, “You have a copy of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae sitting there as decoration. It’s not an annotated scholars’ edition [just Adler’s] so it’s not valuable. Ask your boss if I can buy it for say 20 bucks. ”

    A short while later the manager came up to me and handed it to me; saying it was mine no charge.

    Went to a wedding at Graylyn a couple years back and the suites we were provided all had shelves of 1930’s and 40’s and early 1950s books. My father’s room looked like a study. Travel books and narratives; novels by then prominent authors such as Hemingway, Dos Passos, Faulkner … ; biographies … literate light reading; all just sitting there as decoration.

    I never have discovered where those by the pound booksellers were located.

  51. DNW Says:

    Hey!

    http://www.booksbythefoot.com/shop/pc/About-Us-d2.htm

  52. Cathy Says:

    To take religion out of history would erase the most accurate evidence that we have to understand God’s reality. We could debate rights, look to nature, or meditate on oneness, but we would probably get someone who is just sort of god.

  53. Ann Says:

    “parker Says:
    July 18th, 2016 at 11:51 pm
    I was at the local library and found a new shelf of books that was placarded as the staff’s worse picks. Among the books displayed was Thomas Hardy’s Great Expectations.”

    You refer, I assume, to Dicken’s Great Expectations?

  54. Ymarsakar Says:

    I never have discovered where those by the pound booksellers were located.

    They’re probably the same as Amazon, with warehouses. In fact, I know for a fact that there are resellers of books at Half, part of Ebay. Amazon also presumably has lists of corporations that do the same.

  55. Melampus Says:

    All things in their proper time. The history of America involves Christianity mostly, and Islam a bit (see the Barbary ambassador’s reply to Benjamin Franklin).

    The history of the West is of Christianity mostly, and Islam in good measure (the culminating point at the Siege of Vienna).

    It’s wrong to interpose a lens of world religions on history. The peoples of the past didn’t subscribe to a notion of world religions. The world religions concept is very new. There isn’t even a word for religion in most cultures earlier than the lat middle ages. The word we use ‘religion’ meant ritual or ceremony not at all what we moderns mean by it.

    Overall the danger I see is the Whig temptation to rewrite history in terms of the present rather than to try to understand the past on its own terms. For most of human history, religions (as we use the term) were not conceptually or pragmatically separate from a civilization. In most cases, it defined a civilization. To be Western was to be Christian.

    Books:

    Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept. Brent Nongbri.

    Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion . Alain De Botton.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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