Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Epistemology / Sentience & Semiotics /
@ K. 2001 05 21
Mission: to explore the concept of understanding, to challenge unexamined views
Trying to understand
Can There Be a Consensus?
Anyone reading this has probably been in a school environment. So you know: the decision of whether the student understands the math is up to the teacher, not the student or the student’s parents. The test doesn’t go:
Bobby, do you know the sum of two and two?
Yes, Ma’am, I do.
Fine, Bobby. Your word is good enough for me. That’s a pass.
No. It goes
Bobby, show me your calculation for the sum of two and two.
2 + 2 = 4.
Very good, Bobby. That’s correct.
Whether or not Bobby understands arithmetic, the teacher takes that answer as a demonstration that Bobby “knows” at least that formula. note
Now: Is that pattern generally true throughout the society? Not at all. Certainly not in my experience. In our version of kleptocracy it’s the certified “expert” who decides what you understand and also what he understands. The relationship is not symmetrical. The testing is never two way. The sergeant can “make” you understand him; there’s no way for you to make the sergeant understand you. note
My Sunday School teacher [Link to be restored] once asked me what I intended to do with my Christianity in later life. I answered that I planned to study all the religions of the world to prove that they were variations on a theme and not different themes. (My childish thesis I now see was somewhat akin to Noam Chomsky’s hypothesis that humans have a genetically innate grammar.) My Sunday School teacher was very concerned. He told me that I’ve have to make sure that my faith was first unassailable within me, that I would know no matter what I heard (or thought), that I already had the truth. note
Did my Sunday School teacher understand my answer? Was it his responsibility to understand the answer to a question asked? I don’t see that he did. I do see that he didn’t. What I see is that we had totally different and incompatible understandings of religion. His view as revealed in his response now strikes me as roughly translatable as: No amount of experience or thought should clear my early brainwashing. It strikes me that he lacked faith that the truth could stand on its own, could tolerate examination.
The people’s of the earth are islands shouting at each other
over oceans of misunderstanding.
In my autobiographical module on Junior High English I narrate how I chose to do a ninth grade book report on a science fiction novel despite the teacher’s prohibition. Did the teacher know what science fiction was? Obviously not. But she was the appointed expert, the judge. No one cared what my judgment of her was, though I believe I have multiply proved that I did have a good early grasp of that highly disciplined genre (especially since my own first science fiction stories had been penned already two grades earlier). note
When I challenged my math teacher’s recitation of Euclid’s axioms in the tenth grade, did she understand what I had said? Not one whit. But she was the appointed expert. Her understanding was approved in advance.
I placed my original understanding module among the K. … Thinking Tools. I put other modules on the general subject in my Society folder: under both epistemology and under survival. Lots of categories cross. We’ll straddle many, many if we wish to survive.
Sunday School teacher:
It was only in adding that story here this summer of 2001 that I realized that it was meant six years ago to go into my then begun but never completed religious indoctrination narrative. So: I went back there and told it a bit more carefully.
Bobby & Math Teacher:
Neither does the test go, “Bobby, do you know the sum of two and two?” with Bobby’s parents interrupting, “Yes, he does.” Neither would the teacher say, “Oh, thank you Bobby’s father and Bobby’s mother: I’ll take your word for it too.” No: public education assigns ignorance to the parents: the parents’ ignorance no more verified than the teacher’s expertise: or the state’s to judge either.
Make the sergeant understand you:
Unless you carry your own nuclear deterrent: another area where the state monopolies remain unbroken. We now have the concept however thanks to novelist Ken MacLeod.
Two grades earlier:
My first science fiction stories that is, not my first stories. They’d been composed earlier yet.
Everyone has heard that Jesus was around thirty when he began his mission and around thirty-three when he got crucified, no? Everyone also understands, do they not, that those are guesses and also that they are symbolic figures, no? Like “a million dollars,” like “forty days and forty nights”? It means he was an adult. It means he was in the prime of life; neither a kid nor an old man.
Everyone also understands, do they not, that “forty” in the bible meant “a big number.”
“Twelve” of course was a key mystic number: the base of the counting system for Babylonian astrology. (Did the Jews have “twelve” tribes before they were pissed off and malcontent in kleptocratic Babylon?