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robertogreco : visionaries   4

Ursula K Le Guin's speech at National Book Awards: 'Books aren't just commodities' | Books | The Guardian
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et9Nf-rsALk ]

"To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for 50 years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this – letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.

I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom."
ursulaleguin  2014  invention  sciencefiction  fiction  speculativefiction  future  creativity  whywewrite  writing  imagination  capitalism  economics  publishing  genre  visionaries  freedom  alternatives  books  fear  diversity  hope  optimism  paradigmshifts  transcontextextualism 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Be Nelson Mandela | Easily Distracted
"So he was a strategist. This, too, is a commonplace thing to say about Mandela. More than a few of the well-prepared obituaries that have been circulating since yesterday afternoon have repeated Ahmed Kathrada’s oft-told tale of a three-day chess game that Mandela played against a new detainee on Robben Island, until his opponent surrendered. But this too isn’t quite right, if it’s meant to confer superhuman acuity on Mandela. As he himself was quick to say for much of his life, he made a great many mistakes as both leader and man. The ANC’s approach to the political struggle in South Africa, whether under the active leadership of Mandela and his circle or not, has been full of bone-headed moves. Mandela’s commitment to the armed struggle was a strategic necessity and a political masterstroke, but the actual activities of MK were mostly a sideshow to the real revolution fought in the townships after 1976. It’s not as if Mandela sat down and said, “Ok, so now I go into jail for 27 years and come out a statesman”. His life as both revolutionary and president was, as any political life is, a series of improvisations and accidents.

His improvisations were far more gifted than most, in part because of his disciplined approach to political selfhood. That’s the thing that made Mandela’s strategy and his adaptations stand out. All of his selves and words and decisions were an enactment of the enduring nation he meant to live in some day. I think that is the difference between him and many of his nationalist contemporaries who ascended to power in newly independent African states between 1960 and 1990. (This, too, needs remembering today: Mandela came to nationalism in the same historical moment as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda, and so on.) The difference is that Mandela was always looking through the struggle to its ultimate ends, whereas most of the nationalists could see little further than the retreat of the colonial powers from the continent and the defeat of any local political rivals. Perhaps that was because Mandela and his closest allies, even during the Youth League’s insurgency against the old ANC leadership, could see that the endgame of apartheid could never be as simple as making a colonizer go back home. Perhaps it is just that he was a better person, a bigger man, a greater leader than most of them.

Or indeed, most of all the leaders of his time in this respect: to keep a long view of the world he ultimately thought his people, all people, should live in. He is the head of his class on a global scale, standing tall not just above his African contemporaries but above most other nationalists and certainly above the neoliberal West, whose leaders seem almost embarrassed to have ever thought about politics as the art of shaping a better future for all."



"When you say, “He was a great statesman”, credit what that means. It means that he looked ahead, kept his eyes on the prize, and tried to do what needed doing, whether that meant taking up arms, or playing chess, or making a friendly connection with a potentially friendly jailer. If you’re going to say it, then credit first that there might be great leaders (and great movements) where you right now see only terrorism or revolution or disorder. That so many people were wrong about Mandela should at least allow for that much.

Don’t forget that it wasn’t just the Cold War leadership of the West that was wrong. Other African nationalists were wrong: many forget that for a time, the PAC had a serious chance of being taken as the legitimate representative of the aspirations of South Africans. Of course, some of them were perfectly right about Mandela and that’s why they hated him both early and late, because he had a far-sightedness and a realistic vision of a world that could be that they lacked. For someone like Robert Mugabe, the most unforgiveable thing about Mandela is that having power, he gave it up. And those on the left who just want to remember Mandela the revolutionary have to remember that Mandela the neoliberal was largely the same man, with the same political vision.

So of course it sticks in the craw to hear those who would have condemned Mandela (and those who did condemn him through word and deed) now speak of his greatness. But again, the point is not to say, “You were wrong this once, because this man”. It is to say, “You are often wrong, and not just because your judgement of individual greatness is wrong.” You are wrong when you can’t be bothered to hear from people who would have been, who were, your friends when they come to testify about how your drones killed their families, wrong when you spy on anyone going into a mosque in New York City, wrong when you let some mid-rank bureaucrat or think-tank enfant play the role of policy-wonk Iago who whispers to you which friends to murder or neglect. You are wrong when you pretend that from Washington or London you can sort and sift through who ought to be allowed to win desperate struggles for freedom and justice and who should not, and wrong when you arm and forgive and advise the same kind of grifters who take your money and laugh all the way to the torture chambers.

You were wrong then and now because you won’t let yourself see a Mandela. But also because you think that the privilege of making a Mandela belongs to the empire. This in the end is his final legacy: that he, and his closest colleagues, and the people in the streets of Soweto, and maybe even a bit (though not nearly so much as they themselves would like to think) the global allies of the anti-apartheid struggle, all of that made Mandela. Mandela made himself, much as he in his humility would always insist that he was made by the people and was their servant."



"What no one really wants to see is Mandela the builder, because nowhere in that sight can we find our own reflection.

That’s why he seems like such a lonely giant, mourned by all, imitated by none. Because who now can boast of a long-term view of the future? Who is looking past the inadequacies of the moment to a better dispensation? Who really works to see and imagine a place, a nation, a world in which we might all want to live and then plots the distance between here and there? Some of us know what we despise, we know the shape of the boot on our neck or the weight on our shoulders. Some of us know what we fear: the shadow of a plane falling on a skyscraper, the cough of a bomb exploding, the loss of an ease in the world. We know how to feel a hundred daily outrages at a stupid or bad thing said, how to gesture at the empty spaces where a vision once resided, how to sneer at our splitters and wankers, how to invest endless energies in demanding symbolic triumphs that lead nowhere and build nothing. Our political leaders (and South Africa’s, too) have no vision beyond the next re-election and their retinues of pundits and experts and appointees are happy to compliment and flatter the vast expanses of their nakedness in return for a share of the spoils.

Mourn the statesman and the revolutionary and the terrorist and the neoliberal and the ethicist and the pragmatist and the saint and don’t you dare try to discard or remove any part of that whole. Celebrate him? Sure, but then make sure you’re willing to consider emulating him."
nelsonmandela  timothyburke  2013  vision  forethought  longterm  longtermthinking  visionaries  politics  africa  southafrica  history  strategy  power  leadership 
december 2013 by robertogreco
"Envisioning a Sustainable World" by Donella H. Meadows [.pdf]
"Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great progress. Yet vision is not only missing almost entirely from policy discussions; it is missing from our whole culture. We talk about our fears, frustrations, and doubts endlessly, but we talk only rarely and with embarrassment about our dreams. Environmentalists have been especially ineffective in creating any shared vision of the world they are working toward -- a sustainable world in which people live within nature in a way that meets human needs while not degrading natural systems. Hardly anyone can imagine that world, especially not as a world they’d actively like to live in. The process of building a responsible vision of a sustainable world is not a rational one. It comes from values, not logic. Envisioning is a skill that can be developed, like any other human skill. This paper indicates how."



"Beyond that we could occasionally take the social risk of displaying not our skepticism but our deepest desires. We could declare ourselves in favor of a sustainable, just, secure, efficient, sufficient world (and you can add any other "value word" you like to that list), even at the expense of being called idealistic. We could describe that world, as far as we can see it, and ask others to develop the description further. We could give as much credit to the times when we exceed our expectations as to the times when we fall short. We could let disappointments be learning experiences, rather than fuel for pessimism."



"Why is it that we can share our cynicism, complaints, and frustrations without hesitation with perfect strangers, but we can't share our dreams? How did we arrive at a culture that constantly, almost automatically, ridicules visionaries? Whose idea of reality forces us to "be realistic?" When were we taught, and by whom, to suppress our visions?"



"Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great progress. Yet vision is not only missing almost entirely from policy discussions; it is missing from our whole culture."

[via Nicole: https://readmill.com/nicoleslaw/reads/envisioning-a-sustainable-world ]

[video: https://vimeo.com/30752926 ]
vision  donellameadows  sustainability  1994  change  pessimism  skepticism  cynicism  culture  society  optimism  tcsnmy  visionaries  policy  process  idealism  pragmatism  naïvité 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Maverick Colleges: Ten Noble Experiments in American Undergraduate Education (1993)
[Second edition (1996) of the book with some additional schools here in PDF: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/experimental-study-group/es-291-learning-seminar-experiments-in-education-spring-2003/readings/MITES_291S03_maverick.pdf ]

[Wayback:
http://web.archive.org/web/20130730023648/http://www.mit.edu/~jrising/webres/maverick.txt
https://web.archive.org/web/19961105162647/http://www.gse.utah.edu/EdAdm/Galvin/Maverick.html ]

"This book is a product of a University of Utah graduate seminar conducted in the spring of 1991: "Notable Experiments in American Higher Education" (Educational Administration 728). The contributing authors are professor of educational administration L. Jackson Newell and seminar students, each of whom selected an innovative, or "experimental," college for research and reporting."

"Common Themes:

As seminar participants exchanged findings about the ten selected colleges, several prominent themes emerged that had not been predetermined by selection criteria but appeared to indicate common postures among experimental colleges. These include:

• Ideals spawning ideas. In most cases, the ten colleges appeared to start with the ideals of visionary founders. For some, the ideal concerned the citizens who would emerge from the learning experience …

• Emphasis on teaching; retreat from research. The vast majority of experimental colleges are liberal education colleges where the art of teaching and the development of students are values of high esteem. …

• Organization without specialization. Not unexpectedly, these experimental colleges also tended to turn away from the disciplinary organization of scholarship that had sprung from the German research university model. …

• Administrative innovations. Freedom from traditional higher education bureaucracy and hierarchy have been common pursuits of the colleges studied. …

Divergent Approaches:

Just as common themes instruct us about the aims and aspirations of various experimental colleges, so too do their divergent approaches. Two notable areas of difference among the colleges focus on who should attend and how their learning might best be organized during the college years."

[Bits from the section on Black Mountain College:]

"Its educational commitment--to democratic underpinnings for learning that comes from "human contact, through a fusion of mind and emotion" (Du Plessix-Gray 1952:10)-- was reflective of a larger liberal environment that managed a brief appearance before the 1950s ushered in fear of Communism and love of television."



"Rice and his colleagues had stronger convictions about how a college should operate than about how and what students might learn. Democracy would be paramount in the administration of the college, and structure would be loose. Students and faculty joined in marathon, long-winded decision-making meetings with decisions ranging from a faculty termination to a library acquisition.

Particularly prominent, and vital to the democratic underpinnings envisioned by Rice, was the absence of any outside governing body. Rice had determined that control exerted by boards of trustees and college presidents rendered faculty participation meaningless, limiting faculty to debate, "with pitiable passion, the questions of hours, credits, cuts. . . . They bring the full force of their manhood to bear on trivialities. They know within themselves that they can roam at will only among minutiae of no importance" (Adamic, 1938:624).

The faculty did establish a three-member "Board of Fellows," elected from among them and charged with running the business affairs of the College. Within a year, a student member was added to the Board."



"The 23-year history of Black Mountain College was one of few constants and much conflict. Three forceful leaders marked three distinct periods during the 23 years: the John Rice years, the Josef Albers decade, and the Charles Olson era.

During the first 5 years of the College, a solidarity of philosophy and community gradually took shape. It revolved largely around John Rice's outgoing personality (much intelligence and much laughter mark most reports from colleagues and students) and forceful opinions about education. He was determined, for example, that every student should have some experience in the arts.

This translated as at least an elementary course in music, dramatics and/or drawing, because:
There is something of the artist in everyone, and the development of this talent, however small, carrying with it a severe discipline of its own, results in the student's becoming more and more sensitive to order in the world and within himself than he can ever possibly become through intellectual effort alone. (Adamic 1938:626)

Although he cautioned against the possible tyranny of the community, Rice eventually decided that some group activity would,
…help the individual be complete, aware of his relation to others. Wood chopping, road-mending, rolling the tennis courts, serving tea in the afternoon, and other tasks around the place help rub off individualistic corners and give people training in assuming responsibility. (Ibid, 1938:627)



"Rice soon discovered what he would later call the "three Alberses"--the teacher, the social being and the Prussian. The Prussian Albers decried the seeming lack of real leadership at the College and the free-wheeling, agenda-less, community-wide meetings. Rice noted later, "You can't talk to a German about liberty. You just waste your breath. They don't know what the hell you mean" (Duberman 1972:69)."



"The war years ushered in a different kind of Black Mountain; one where students, and at least some faculty members, started lobbying for more structure in learning, but yet more freedom outside the classroom. Lectures and recitations were starting to occur within the classroom, while cut-off blue jeans and nude sun bathing appeared outside. Influential faculty member Eric Bentley insisted to his colleagues: "I can't teach history if they're not prepared to do some grinding, memorizing, getting to know facts and dates and so on…" (Duberman 1972:198). Needless to say, with Albers and many of the original faculty still on board, faculty meetings were decisive and volatile.

Overshadowing this dissent, however, was a new program that was to highlight at least the public notion of a historical "saga" for the College, the summer institutes. Like much at Black Mountain, the summer institutes started more by chance than choice."



"The summer institutes grew throughout the 1940s to include notable talents in art, architecture, music and literature. And it is probably these institutes and the renown of the individuals in attendance that contributed most to Black Mountain's reputation as an art school."



The excitement and publicity generated by the summer sessions, in addition to a general higher education population explosion spurred by the G.I. Bill, put the Black Mountain College of the late 1940s on its healthiest economic footing yet.

Still, Black Mountain managed to avoid financial stability. Student turnover negated some of the volume gains. Faculty salaries rose substantially, but grants and endowments did not. Stephen Forbes, for example, who had always been counted on to supply money to the College in tough times, refused a request in 1949 because he was disenchanted with the new emphasis on arts education at the expense of general education. The ability to manage what money it had also did not increase at Black Mountain, although Josef Albers proposed a reorganization that would include administrators and an outside board of overseers. In the wake of arguments and recriminations about the financial situation and how to solve it, a majority (by one vote) of the faculty called for the resignation of Ted Dreier, the last remaining faculty member from the founding group. In protest, four other faculty members resigned--including Josef and Anni Albers. By selling off some of the campus acreage, the remaining faculty managed to save the College and retain its original mindset of freedom from outside boards and administrators, while setting the stage for yet another era in its history [Charles Olson].



"What Albers lacked in administrative ability, he compensated for in tenacity and focus. What Rice lacked in administrative ability, he balanced with action and ideas. However, when Olson couldn't manage the administrative function, he simply retreated. His idea about turning the successful summer institutes into a similar series of year-long institutes fell on deaf faculty ears. So he gave up trying to strengthen the regular program."



"The vast majority of former Black Mountain students can point to clear instances of lasting influence on the rest of their lives. Mostly, this seems to have occurred through association: with one or two faculty members who made a difference, with a "community" of fellow individuals who were essential resources to one another, or with a new area of endeavor such as painting or writing or farming. Black Mountain, apparently, was a place where association was encouraged. Perhaps this occurred through the relatively small number of people shouldered into an isolated valley, perhaps by a common dedication to the unconventional, or perhaps to the existence of ideals about learning and teaching. At any rate, the encouragement of association with people and with ideas was not the norm in higher education then, nor is it now. Clearly, it is possible to graduate from most colleges and universities today with little, if any, significant association with faculty, students or ideas.

But at Black Mountain, as at other experimental colleges, association could hardly be avoided. Engagement with people and ideas was paramount; activity was rampant. It was social, and it was educational. As Eric Bentley would remark:

Where, as at Black Mountain, there is a teacher to every three students the advantage is evident. . .a means to … [more]
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may 2013 by robertogreco

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