Citizen Philosophers


Did you know Brazilians are required to study philosophy?

In Ribeiro’s neighborhood, children play football or do capoeira, pray in Pentecostal Churches or worship African gods. Many are involved with drugs; “every year we lose students to crack,” she tells me. And they study philosophy two hours each week because of a 2008 law that mandates philosophy instruction in all Brazilian high schools. Nine million teenagers now take philosophy classes for three years.

. . .

That’s not surprising, considering that the 2008 law is above all a political project. In 1971 the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 eliminated philosophy from high schools. Teachers, professors in departments of education, and political activists championed its return, while most academic philosophers were either indifferent or suspicious. The dictatorship seems to have understood philosophy’s potential to create engaged citizens; it replaced philosophy with a course on Moral and Civic Education and one on Brazil’s Social and Political Organization (“to inculcate good manners and patriotic values and to justify the political order of the generals,” one UFBA colleague recalls from his high school days).

The official rationale for the 2008 law is that philosophy “is necessary for the exercise of citizenship.” The law—the world’s largest-scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere—thus represents an experiment in democracy. Among teachers at least, many share Ribeiro’s hope that philosophy will provide a path to greater civic participation and equality. Can it do even more? Can it teach students to question and challenge the foundations of society itself?

Boston Review

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

The Once-Common Practice of Communal Sleeping


image

Would you be comfortable sleeping on the same bed with a stranger? Communal sleeping sounds such a weird idea today. But, today’s needull discusses how communal sleeping used to be a common practice till very recently.

It was not uncommon for strangers and traveling companions to share a bed while on the road. Etiquette dictated that to ensure relative tranquility when sharing a bed with strangers, a bedmate was to lie still, not hog the blankets, and generally keep to one’s self. But that didn’t always work. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams spent a night sharing a bed at a New Jersey inn which was largely passed bickering over whether to keep the window open or closed.

The complete article

Adee Braun — Atlas Obscura

Image source

The Fate of the Critic in the Age of Clickbait


Do Twitter and Facebook spell the end of the critic?

Criticism of any kind is increasingly unwelcome at the digital-age paper. Consider a controversy that flared up in Canada last year. Arthur Kaptainis, who had long been the critic of the Montreal Gazette and more recently had been writing freelance for the National Post, reviewed a Canadian Opera Company production of Rossini’s “Maometto II.” The Canadian Opera asked for a couple of corrections, whereupon the Post took the bizarre step of removing the review from its Web site. Amid the resulting hubbub, a Post arts editor was quoted in an e-mail: “I really hate running reviews for performing arts. They simply get no attention online, and almost always end up as our poorest performing pieces of digital content.” The same mantra is heard at culture sections across America. Reviews don’t catch eyeballs. They don’t “move the needle.”

The logic seems irrefutable. Why publish articles that almost nobody wants? On closer examination, some shaky assumptions underlie these hard-nosed generalizations. First, digital data, in the form of counting clicks and hits, give an incomplete picture of reading habits. Those who subscribe to the print edition are discounted—and they tend to be older people, who are also more likely to follow the performing arts. A colleague wrote to me, “The four thousand people reading your theatre critics might be extremely loyal subscribers who press the paper on others. People in power often speak of ‘engagement’ and ‘valued readers,’ yet they still remain in thrall of the big click numbers—because of advertising, mostly.”

The New Yorker

Image: Painting by Brianna Keeper

The Threat


internetsurveillance

Ross Anderson discusses the threat of intrusive surveillance on the web.

Twenty years ago, I could find everything about you that was on the World Wide Web, and you could do the same to me, so there was mutuality. Now, if you’re prepared to pay the money and buy into the advertising networks, you can buy all sorts of stuff about my clickstream, and find out where I’ve been staying, and what I’ve been spending my money on, and so on. If you’re within the tent of the intelligence agencies, as Snowden taught us, then there is very much more still. There’s my location history, browsing history, there’s just about everything.

This is the threat. This was a threat before Mr. Trump got elected president. Now that Mr. Trump has been elected, it must be clear to all that government having very intrusive powers of surveillance is not something that necessarily sits well with a healthy democratic sustainable society.

The complete article

Ross Anderson — Edge

Image source

Full-time is full enough


1331558366953_6717947

This is yet another needull on how long you should spend at the workplace. This article specifically talks about the world of academia. While corporate people think life in academia is relatively easy, most likely it is a case of grass being greener on the other side.

Wenkel warns lab members that long hours can actually hamper their work. “Efficiency has a bell-shaped curve,” he says. “Once you’ve reached that maximum, things can start to fail because you aren’t as focused.” He says that he has sent clearly fatigued lab members home to rest. Duffy says that she’s personally experienced the phenomenon of diminishing returns. “At some point, you make enough errors that you would be better off not working,” she says.

The complete article

Chris Woolston — Nature

Image source

Love Is Never a Given


final-radical-e1493242798417

A needull for your weekend. What does it take to make your relationship last? “The secret to creating happy and lasting relationships, Miller concludes, is simple: just love your partner or leave.”

Would it be fair to say that you’re applying the thinking behind arranged marriages — such as Sanjay’s parents’ relationship — to love marriages?

Yes. In the Western world, too many relationships have become disposable. As soon as a romantic relationship becomes difficult — and it always does — too many people want to leave or blame the other person, rather than work through the problems. The US divorce rate of nearly 45 percent bears this out. In arranged marriages, escape isn’t typically an option, and we know that many of them actually develop more love than non-arranged marriages, based on fascinating research conducted by Harvard Professor Dr. Robert Epstein. Most of them figure out how to make it work. They work hard at it. They learn to love each other. They learn to create love.

The complete interview

Skye C. Cleary interviews Andrea Miller

Image source

Trans and the contradictions of gender


bathroom-sign

Today’s needull looks at debates around transgender and tries to understand the issue better. Questions like “who counts as a ‘real’ woman?” is looked at.

The term transgender can be used to replace the earlier term ‘transsexual’, but can also cover a much wider set of phenomena including those who choose to inhabit an ambiguous gender position or who reject the gender binary altogether. As used by most trans activists a trans woman is anyone who was labeled as male at birth, but has come to identify as a woman regardless of whether they have been through a medical reassignment process. The term gender, in sociological usage, originally emerged in contradistinction to ‘sex’ – as defined through external anatomical characteristics, hormones and chromosomes. Gender refers to the cultural and social aspects of being male and female as well as to the distinction between them – the, so-called, binary divide.

The complete article

Stevi Jackson & Sue Scott — Discover Society

Image source