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A Counterculture with Content (Or: One Cheer for the Sixties)
Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation, responded quite positively to the final point of my appreciative comments on his book. I said liberal education is always countercultural. Mark wisely understood that many conservative readers wouldn't get what I meant, thinking I was endorsing the self-proclaimed countercultural revolt of the 1960s.
Mark explains that we conservatives or we defenders of traditional educational excellence have become countercultural because the Sixties' counterculturalists have become dominant in our educational institutions. Anyone who defends "real culture" today opposes what has become the mainstream educational culture shaped by the tenured radicals who have used their power to deconstruct liberal education.
There's a lot of truth in what Mark says. Still, I'm not completely against the spirit of the Sixties. The distinguished public intellectual Irving Kristol once gave "two cheers" to capitalism, meaning, of course, that capitalism isn't completely good. He also meant that taking capitalism—or the logic of the market—too seriously as an explanation for everything threatens what makes life worth living. Kristol distinguished himself from radical libertarians and (Ayn) Randians by withholding a cheer from capitalism.
Things have changed some, especially when it comes to education, in recent years. That's why I distribute my three cheers as follows: One for capitalism, one for liberal education (or treating the soul as an "independent variable"), and one for the Sixties.
In my original post (below), I explained that to be countercultural today is to be rather anti-technological. So I actually share the concern of some leftists that American education is being too influenced by corporate techno-giants from Koch to Gates to Walton, as well as by the general spirit of Silicon Valley. I could add here the "disrupting" influences of Harvard Business School, McKinsey and other consulting conglomerates, and so forth. This kind of influence is neither Democratic nor Republican, but exhibits a kind of techno-obsession with productivity (an inconsistent kind of libertarianism that too readily partners with government to achieve its despotic goals) that increasingly permeates both parties. You see it, for example, in the Obama administration's nationalization of the Common Core and its attempt to "play favorites" in higher education. But you also see it in the various public policy foundations in Republican states. Who can deny that those "public policy" guys have "disrupted" the educational agendas of leading Republican governors? Those governors may be on firm ground when they say taxpayers shouldn't fund women studies, but they don't hesitate to add: And philosophy too. I won't repeat what I've said before on their ridiculous obsession with MOOCs.
Here's what's good about the Sixties: There was a rebellion against the technocratic multiversity of behalf of "the art of living." Theorists such as Herbert Marcuse (who was, admittedly, a self-indulgent jerk in many ways) were right that such techno-education had the objective of flattening out the human imagination and human eros. After all, the Tory Bohemian conservative Russell Kirk made the same point on behalf of bohemianism, by which he meant enjoying the unbought gift of life. And the allegedly conservative Allan Bloom said something quite similar a couple of decades later in his The Closing of the American Mind. Leftists with brains acknowledged, after all, that there was something to Bloom's critique, if not in his analyses of causes or his proposals for reform.
So from the point of view of liberal education, there's something good about the Sixties' hostility to careerism, the Organization Man, and the dismissal of life's big questions on behalf of the trivial, high specialized pursuits that scholarship had increasingly become. There was even something to the claim that the university was too readily subordinating its mission to "the military-industrial complex" (which today might be the cyber-informational complex).
Here's what's bad about the Sixties: The failure to find any "real content" that corresponded to the legitimate countercultural impulse. That's because, on behalf of the undirected freedom of "Do you own thing," the Sixties' impulse mistook all discipline for repression, from the discipline of becoming "a cog in a machine" to the disciplined devotion to truth required for any form of higher education. So the thinkers of the Sixties ended up empowering further the technocrats they opposed, by contributing to the emptying out and so the discrediting of liberal education. Our public policy guys say, after all, that it's the Sixties-inspired "suicide of the humanities" that justifies their efforts to purge them from the list of competencies required to certify a college graduate.
So here's my effort at branding: My college, like many others, is trying to recover "the liberal arts advantage." Here it is: A counterculture with content!
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.