Des O’Malley on Ireland as a republic, 1985 Dáil debate

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From the Dáil debate on Family Planning (Amendment) Bill, 1985, and worth reading in full… but here’s an excerpt:

“Republican” is perhaps the most abused word in Ireland today. In practice what does it mean? The newspapers do not have to explain it because there is an immediate preconceived notion of what it is. It consists principally of anglophobia. Mentally, at least, it is an aggressive attitude towards those who do not agree with our views on what the future of this island should be. It consists of turning a blind eye to violence, seeing no immorality, often, in the most awful violence, seeing immorality only in one area, the area with which this Bill deals. Often it is displayed by letting off steam in the 15 minutes before closing time with some rousing ballad that makes one vaguely feel good and gets one clapped on the back by people who are stupid enough to think that sort of flag waving is the way to make progress in this island — to go back into your own trenches rather than try to reach out to people whom we need to reach. Continue reading

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Quote: Rankings, reputation, and soft power

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“Plentiful information leads to scarcity of attention. When people are overwhelmed with the volume of information confronting them, they have difficulty knowing what to focus on. Attention, rather than information, becomes the scarce resource, and those who can distinguish valuable information from background clutter gain power. Cue-givers become more in demand, and this is a source of power for those who can tell us where to focus our attention.
Among editors and cue-givers, credibility is the crucial resource and an important source of soft power. Reputation becomes even more important than in the past, and political struggles occur over the creation and destruction of credibility.”

Joseph Nye, The Future of Power, pp. 103-4

Quote: Technology, education, and the difference

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Where in the stories were telling about the future of education are we seeing salvation? Why would we locate that in technology and not in humans, for example? Why would we locate that in markets and not in communities? What happens when we embrace a narrative about the end-times — about education crisis and education apocalypse? Who’s poised to take advantage of this crisis narrative? Why would we believe a gospel according to artificial intelligence, or according to Harvard Business School, or according to Techcrunch, or according to David Brooks or Thomas Friedman? What is sacred when it comes to the stories we tell about teaching and learning? And what — despite being presented to us as holy and unassailable — might actually be quite profane?

From an excellent post, “The Education Apocalypse” by Audrey Watters over at Hack Education.

Quote: “MOOCs, in short, have become all things to all people…”

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“MOOCs, in short, have become all things to all people. For the naive techies of the world, they will end inequality. To investors in Udacity and Coursera, they will hopefully make enough to aggravate it. To superprofessors, they will bring quality learning to the masses. To the retired physics professors of the world who take every MOOC in sight, they’re more of an opportunity for entertainment that beats whatever is on television. All of this is a product of the fact that MOOC providers have absolutely no idea what their market even is. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have better luck bringing Elvis back from the dead than they will satisfying all these constituencies at once.”

From “The MOOCs are in Joan Rivers but they’re trying to get out” by Jonathan Rees over at More or Less Bunk.

Quote: Quantum logic…

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Because when I look at the quantum computer, I see a logic that, directed carefully, could do more for us than crunch bigger numbers. It is an information processor with an associative imagination, an operating system whose modus operandi is delicate quirks and unpredictability, a machine that performs its best secrets away from the prying eyes of experts. Most structures in our lives don’t like to admit the efficacy of ambivalence or ambiguity. And yet there they both are, fueling what could be our most promising new machine: ambivalence and ambiguity, animated by a sense of purpose, an acute epistemological power, and the willingness to abide by practical rules. Ambivalence and ambiguity that are, furthermore, smart collaborators – that not only share their uncertainty, but sharpen it into a precise mode of communication.

I want to know what our lives would look like, reorganized by that logic. If we built work cultures that dispensed with bullet points, celebrated missed deadlines, and distrusted tidy bottom lines. Or wrote school curricula that combined frog dissection, gym class, and musical theater into one huge embodied biology. Or formulated linguistic theories which accounted for the communicative powers of raised eyebrows, weeks-long absences, and the things we ate for dinner last night. And enacted those theories through deliberate programs of winks and pregnant pauses. With a sigh of relief at the death of tight-knuckled directness and all that exhausting linearity.

Miranda Trimmier, “Quantum Drift”.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction – Ursula Le Guin quote

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If you haven’t got something to put it in, food will escape you–even something as uncombative and unresourceful as an oat. You put as many as you can into your stomach while they are handy, that being the primary container; but what about tomorrow morning when you wake up and it’s cold and raining and wouldn’t it be good to have just a few handfuls of oats to chew on and give little Oom to make her shut up, but how do you get more than one stomachful and one handful home? So you get up and go to the damned soggy oat patch in the rain, and wouldn’t it be a good thing if you had something to put Baby Oo Oo in so that you could pick the oats with both hands? A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.

The first cultural device was probably a recipient. . . . Many theorizers feel that the earliest cultural inventions must have been a container to hold gathered products and some kind of sling or net carrier.

So says Elizabeth Fisher in Women’s Creation (McGraw-Hill, 1975). But no, this cannot be. Where is that wonderful, big, long, hard thing, a bone, I believe, that the Ape Man first bashed somebody with in the movie and then, grunting with ecstasy at having achieved the first proper murder, flung up into the sky, and whirling there it became a space ship thrusting its way into the cosmos to fertilize it and produce at the end of the movie a lovely fetus, a boy of course, drifting around the Milky Way without (oddly enough) any womb, any matrix at all? I don’t know. I don’t even care. I’m not telling that story. We’ve heard it, we’ve all heard all about all the sticks and spears and swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things, but we have not heard about the thing to put things in, the container for the thing contained. That is a new story. That is news.

And yet old. Before–once you think about it, surely long before–the weapon, a late, luxurious, superfluous tool; long before the useful knife and ax; right along with the indispensable whacker, grinder, and digger–for what’s the rise of digging up a lot of potatoes if you have nothing to lug the ones you can’t eat home in–with or before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home. It makes sense to me. I am an adherent of what Fisher calls the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution.

Ursula Le Guin, “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” in Dancing At The Edge of the World.

Available as webpage here and as a pdf here.