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Learning and Teaching

An excerpt from Justine Johnson’s piece ‘Learning and Teaching’ in the Hard Crackers edition A Tribute to Noel Ignatiev.

“It didn’t take long for the discussion to crumble. I don’t recall the exact details, but at some point, Noel (and Beth) declared Steve and I unprepared to talk about it and he wasn’t going to discuss it with us until we were. Indignantly and reflexively, I put up a defense — of course I had read the whole thing! — but he wasn’t having it. He and Beth departed.

At first I was annoyed. Who did this guy think he was? Although I knew Noel had a strong influence on many of my comrades, I’m never one for hero worship. I didn’t know Noel’s personal and political story, nor his reputation for sometimes acting like a jerk. (“He’s a nice guy,” Geert had said. Ha!) But the more I thought about his criticism – “just reading the text isn’t enough; you need to look up the references if you don’t understand them” (I’m paraphrasing) — the more I realized the truth in his words. As a parent who frequently told my children, “Whenever you come across a word or a concept you don’t know, look it up,” I hadn’t followed my own advice. I had finished reading the text — barely — but I was counting on Noel and Beth to help explain it to us. And I hadn’t done the background research. Damn, he was right.”

The piece beings with a great quote, as well:

“Part of the art of learning any difficult act, like music, is knowing both how to teach yourself and how best to use the teaching of others, how to gain from the greater experience and skill of other people without becoming dependent on them. For few people are likely to become good at music, or anything else, who do not learn how to teach themselves. What we can best learn from good teachers is how to teach ourselves better.” – John Holt, Never Too Late

Good article on Feyerabend and “anything goes”

link to article, by Ian James Kidd

“‘Anything goes’ actually meant something quite different. It doesn’t mean scientists can use any methods they like, or none. It doesn’t mean caprice should replace carefulness. It does not mean scientific practice consists of a constant whirl of creativity and innovation. Scientific practice, across its forms, is often ploddingly procedural — something that Feyerabend, as a trained physicist, knew all too well. ‘Anything goes’ was, he explained, the reaction of a methodological monist to the actual history and practice of the sciences. Methodological monism, the doctrine that there’s a single unified set of fully articulated methodological rules, which don’t change over time and apply to all sciences, whether the topic is supernovae or starfish. Feyerabend objected that if monists will insist on identifying some invariant rule, then the only one they can find across the history of the sciences would be that ‘anything goes’. But there’s a more sensible alternative: one can abandon the limits of monism and embrace a more complex and pluralistic image of science that recognises that its methods and goals vary enormously.”

War is bad, actually.

It is bad when ordinary people are forced to enlist and die on behalf of states and governments. It is a misfortunate that ordinary people do not have any say whatsoever in war or peace except insofar as they are occasionally organized enough to play an autonomous role, in what are otherwise purely the affairs of states. Most people, most of the time, do not want to die – or for their children to die – or for others to die in their place – in order to attack or defend arbitrary strips of land on behalf of nationalist fantasies or the economic ambitions of their peacetime exploiters. It is normal and perfectly acceptable not to want to die so that a territory can belong to one imperialist bloc instead of another, in an era in which there is no longer any such thing as `national sovereignty,’ and has not been for quite some time.

No war between nations, no peace between classes.

I hope this has helped you get to know me a bit more.