Preserving society’s valuable knowledge

“Suppose that we had calculated that … our civilisation was soon to be obliterated by a titanic geological cataclysm … … Of course there would at first be much panic and despair. Nevertheless – if there were sufficient advance warning – steps would be taken to ensure that there would be some survivors, and that some of what was most valuable in our high scientific knowledge would be preserved for the benefit of future generations.

Strangely enough, the Jewish historian Josephus … attributes precisely this behaviour to the clever and prosperous inhabitants of the antediluvian world who lived before the Flood …

‘They also were the inventors of the peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order. And that their inventions might not be lost – upon Adam’s prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water – they made two pillars (and) inscribed their discoveries upon them both … ‘

Likewise, when the Oxford astronomer John Greaves visited Egypt in the seventeenth century he collected ancient local traditions which attributed the construction of the three Giza pyramids to a mythical antediluvian king.

‘The occasion of this was because he saw in his sleep that the whole earth was turned over, with the inhabitants of it lying upon their faces and the stars falling down and striking one another with a terrible noise … and he commanded … to build the Pyramids … he engraved in these Pyramids all things that were told by wise men, as also all profound sciences … All this may be interpreted by him that knowes their characters and language … ‘

Taken at face value, the message of both these myths seems crystal clear: certain mysterious structures scattered around the world were built to preserve and transmit the knowledge of an advanced civilisation of remote antiquity which was destroyed by a terrifying upheaval..”

These are extracts from ‘Fingerprints of the gods: the quest continues’ by Graham Hancock.


A play on words – Part 3

.. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

.. The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

.. He had a photographic memory which was never fully developed.

.. When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

.. Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

… Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in
the end.

A play on words – Part 2

.. A will is a dead giveaway

.. With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

.. A boiled egg is hard to beat.

.. When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

.. Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

.. Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

They are clever, aren’t they?

A play on words – Part 1

.. You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish

.. When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

.. A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

.. When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

.. The batteries were given out free of charge.

.. A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

Managerial languages vs. a clear message

More from Don Watson (‘Word warrior’) – refer preceding posts:

“ … this random sample from the base material of management language: ‘… the degree of formality evidenced across universities, regarding the documentation of risk strategy and risk appetite, processes to identify and manage risk, and reporting on new and emerging risks suggests that rigour in risk management is a key enabler in improving organisational performance.’ … “

“All public language inclines to pomposity and deceit, but modern public language inclines these ways acutely and nails it to the inclination. It is evasive and dishonest in its essence; abstract, devoid of useful information and concrete example, remote from human reality, filled not with detail but with hogwash.

The most famous passage in Churchill’s historically most telling speech could not have been plainer or more grounded in the lives of ordinary Britons. ‘We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’

No mention of a strategy. No action plan and nothing to be actioned. No enablers. No risk management. No accountability. No outcomes to be ‘passionate’ about.”

Wow! This guy has not lost his touch. And his is a timely warning about damaging a most expressive language.

The above extracts are from an edited extract from ‘Worst words: a compendium of contemporary cant, gibberish and jargon’ by Don Watson, published in ‘The Weekend Australian Magazine’ of Oct 31-Nov.1 .

Killing a language

‘Going forward, the bottom line is we’re killing a language’ by Don Watson (refer previous post) is an edited extract from ‘Worst words: a compendium of contemporary cant, gibberish and jargon’ (Vintage, Australia). Read the article in ‘The Weekend Australian Magazine of 31 Oct.-1 Nov. 2015.

I have long felt that the education of my children and grandchildren did not adequately emphasise the expressiveness of the English language (now a universal language). Language is not only a carrier of meaning; it also conveys the values of a culture.

How could Britain’s education of colonial students offer a lexicon of so much more subtlety in meaning than the vocabulary of modern-day Australia?

One’s reading naturally influences one’s use of words – whether spoken or written. Were the reading lists chosen by teachers, as well by young readers, the limiting factor?

When I spoke to my writing group (which included 2 retired school teachers) about the value of classical British writers, I was told they were passé! Dumbing-down seems to be in fashion.

A meaningful message?

“‘In the recent evaluation by the Australian Council for Educational Research, school and community members reported that Direct Instruction was having a positive impact on student outcomes, but the researchers were not yet able to say whether or not the initiative has had an impact on student learning.’

Read it five times and you will not find a sensible meaning.”

“We come to ignore what has no meaning and stop wondering if an example such as this is an unwitting idiocy or something sinister.”

These extracts have been taken from an article by Don Watson, a well-respected wordsmith and speech writer, in the ‘Weekend Australian Magazine’ of 31 Oct – 1 Nov. 2015.

Information is everywhere and everywhere we are ignorant

“Are we staring a giant paradox in the face? Visionaries tell us that we now live in an information age, indeed an age of info-glut. Yet the students living in the world’s most powerful and lethal country do not have much of a clue about the world out there.

The US invaded Iraq (and other Middle East places too). Not many Americans know where Iraq is, let alone that their government used to support Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. And they have little idea about what their government is actually up to on the geo-political scene as it desperately seeks to remain the hegemonic, exceptional nation, in a multi-polar world.

Celebrating uncritically the information age tells us very little about whether we as citizens and ordinary people are, in fact, becoming more knowledgeable and skilled in the managing of our personal and collective affairs. In his prescient essay, “Science as vocation,” Max Weber wrote of the “process of intellectualization” that had been grinding onward for thousands of years.

In his view, the “increasing intellectualization” did not “indicate an increased and general knowledge of the conditions under which we live our lives. It means something else, namely the knowledge or belief that, if one but wished, one could learn at any time. Hence, it means that principally there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather that one can, in principle, master all things by calculation.” The Stone Age savage knew more, tacitly and explicitly, about the ground of their being than we do in our deracinated world.”

These are further extracts from Michael Welton’s article, titled as above. Is it not a sad commentary about those who know not what they are doing or what is happening – ‘the ground of their being’?

Any evidence of advanced cultures in pre-history?

“Over the past two centuries, researchers have found bones and artefacts showing that people like ourselves existed on Earth millions of years ago. But the scientific establishment has suppressed, ignored or forgotten these remarkable facts. Why? Because they contradict the now predominant view of humans origins, which holds that humans like ourselves evolved within the past 100,000 years from more apelike ancestors.”

So say the publishers of a book ‘The Hidden History of the Human Race” by Cremo and Thompson. What comes to my mind is that child who will not look under his bed in case he finds the hobgoblin that he suspects has set up home there.

In a wide-ranging book, the authors have described ‘Evidence for advanced culture in distant ages,’ which include ‘only a sample of the published material available’ to them. The authors also say that ‘some of the objects described do give hints of unexpected accomplishments’; and that the ‘reports of this extraordinary evidence emanate, with some exceptions, from non-scientific sources.’

Here are some of the finds:

• Coins, handles or hammers, and other tools or fragments of tools, and a broken board used by masons and quarrymen, at a depth of 40 to 50 feet.
• A marble block with letter-like shapes cut into it, at 50 to 60 feet below.
• A nail firmly embedded in a block of sandstone – about 360 to 408 million years old.
• Gold thread embedded in stone (about 320 to 360 million years old) at a depth of 8 feet.
• A metallic vase, in 2 parts, with chasing, carving, and inlaying in silver, of flowers, at a depth of 15 feet.
• A round ‘chalk ball,’ 246 feet below the surface. If humans made the ball, it would be 45 to 35 million years ago.
• A coin-like object, of uniform thickness, at 125 feet below the surface.
• A large copper ring (or ferrule), an iron spear-shaped hatchet, and stone pipes and pottery, from 50 to 120 feet below the surface.
• A clay image of a female figure, from a 300-foot well, about 2 million years ago.
• A small gold chain, 10 inches long, 8-carat gold, of ‘antique and quaint workmanship.’

And so on. Read Chapter 6 of the book. Then there are the anomalous skeletal remains.

Perhaps it is wiser not to look under one’s bed!

How is it that ignorance prevails?

An article titled ‘Ignorance is everywhere and everywhere we are ignorant’ by Michael Welton (dated Nov 13 2015) was sent to me by a close friend. He knows that I was closely involved with matters educational, and how critical I am about what is taught and how it is taught (at least in Australia). I will allow a few extracts to speak for themselves.

“The US National Geographic Society published a survey of geographic literacy. This international survey of young people in the US and either other countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and Britain—asked 56 questions about geography and current events. The organization’s survey discovered that about 87% of Americans, aged 18 to 24, the prime age for military service, could not place Iraq on the map. Americans could find on average only seven of the 16 countries in the quiz. Only 71% of the surveyed Americans could locate the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water…. This survey occurred over 10 years ago.”

“John Farley, president of the National Geographic Society, thought that these results reflect something deeper than lack of geographic knowledge. He referred to the ‘apparent retreat of young people from a global society in an era that does not allow such luxury.’ … Fahey said that this ‘generation is highly skilled in what they want to block out and what they want to know.’ ‘Unfortunately, the things they block out seems to include knowledge of the world we all live in.’ One can also assume that the inability to locate Iraq on a world map means that these students know next to nothing about Middle Eastern culture and politics or anything much about Islam.”

Think about all those young Americans killed, maimed, and PTSD’d while seeking to save the Afghans from themselves; and breaking up Iraq into 3 ethno-geographical enclaves to enable the West to control Iraqi territory. Pity that some unidentified Arab nation(s) have spoilt that strategy.

Is it also preferable for young soldiers to be ignorant about the people they are sent to fight?

( Dr. Michael Welton is a professor at the University of Athabasca. He is the author of Designing the Just Learning Society: a Critical Inquiry.)