I just received a mass emailing from Julia’s high school, in the name of the principal. Routine business. At the end of the missive was this quote:

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

What does this quote mean to you? If you don’t know its context, you may be in for a surprise.

i-4197b5d0d28c2f1d2aaea2fae1e29524-teacher_affectrs_eternity_shirt.jpg


You see this quote all the time on K-12 educational material as a header, footer, slogan, logo, inspirational message, and so on. It obviously means something good about teachers. Maybe something good about education. The quote is by Henry Adams and comes from his book “The Education of Henry Adams” which sounds an awful lot like a title for a porn movie. Since this is a book, first circulated in 1907, about education it must be the case that this quote refers to the positive power of educators back then, and presumably, now. Right? Certainly that is the meaning that is usually attributed to it.

A Google search of

“A teacher affects eternity”

… yields 272 thousand hits, many of which are examples of the term’s use as an inspirational maxim in one or another dialog about education. So clearly people are in tune with the positive message of Henry Adam’s sentence.

A Google search of

“A teacher affects eternity” -adams

… (thus leaving off a direct reference to Henry with the minus sign in front of ‘adams’) yields about 59 thousand hits and I’ll wager almost every one represents the use of the quote as a positive maxim in the dialog about education. One teacher uses the phrase as the title for a web site on teaching. Via Google I find the phrase tweeted on Twitter, and checking directly with Twitter, we find forty recent instances over the last 10 days (older tweets are not available). In fact, it does not matter when you check Twitter. If you search for this phrase, there will be about forty instances over the most recent ten hours or so. Four times an hour someone tweets “A teacher affects eternity” and sometimes gives the rest of the quote, sometimes mentions it’s Henry Adams’. But they always seem to mean it to be a nice thing to say about teachers and about how important they are.

You can buy note cards or posters with the phrase, and since I live in a teacher’s house, I can attest that people tend to embroider the phrase or a version of it on pillows and print it in shadow boxes and on little signs held by teddy bears. Which they give to the teacher as a way of saying that they like teachers.

The Education of Henry Adams (the book not the porn film) is a complex work that I will not try to characterize, but at least in part I take it as a literary act of cynicism. Adams speaks of himself in third person and by the time we get to the quote in question he is discussing Henry’s first nine months as an Assistant Professor in History at Harvard.

For the next nine months the Assistant Professor had no time to waste on comforts or amusements. He exhausted all his strength in trying to keep one day ahead of his duties. Often the stint ran on, till night and sleep ran short. He could not stop to think whether he were doing the work rightly. He could not get it done to please him, rightly or wrongly, for he never could satisfy himself what to do.

Henry thinks of himself as inadequate, not up to the job, apparently.

But part of the problem was with Harvard itself, and its inattention to quality education.

The fault he had found with Harvard College as an undergraduate must have been more or less just, for the college was making a great effort to meet these self-criticisms, and had elected President Eliot in 1869 to carry out its reforms. Professor Gurney was one of the leading reformers, and had tried his hand on his own department of History. The two full Professors of History — Torrey and Gurney, charming men both — could not cover the ground. Between Gurney’s classical courses and Torrey’s modern ones, lay a gap of a thousand years, which Adams was expected to fill. The students had already elected courses numbered 1, 2, and 3, without knowing what was to be taught or who was to teach. If their new professor had asked what idea was in their minds, they must have replied that nothing at all was in their minds, since their professor had nothing in his, and down to the moment he took his chair and looked his scholars in the face, he had given, as far as he could remember, an hour, more or less, to the Middle Ages.

In other words, the History Department at Harvard was a mess, a chain of rusty links of which Henry himself was the weakest. Henry Adams does not think the teachers at Harvard were doing what needed to be done, the system of education was not doing what was required, and the students were probably being damaged more than assisted by participating in this system. And this worried him.

Not that his ignorance troubled him! He knew enough to be ignorant. His course had led him through oceans of ignorance; he had tumbled from one ocean into another till he had learned to swim; but even to him education was a serious thing. A parent gives life, but as parent, gives no more. A murderer takes life, but his deed stops there.

In other words, all those important people in your life: Your mom, a person who kills you, and so on, have only limited effects on you as a person. But, according to Henry Adams,

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

OMG. That sounds like bad news. The system of education sucks, the professors suck, the students are getting the shaft, and this will affect the students for their whole lives, and through them society in general, and the course of history itself. Bad teaching, Henry Adams is telling us, ruinz everything for everybody!

But this is not what people think is happening, is it?

A teacher is expected to teach truth, and may perhaps flatter himself that he does so, if he stops with the alphabet or the multiplication table, as a mother teaches truth by making her child eat with a spoon; but morals are quite another truth and philosophy is more complex still. A teacher must either treat history as a catalogue, a record, a romance, or as an evolution; and whether he affirms or denies evolution, he falls into all the burning faggots of the pit. He makes of his scholars either priests or atheists, plutocrats or socialists, judges or anarchists, almost in spite of himself. In essence incoherent and immoral, history had either to be taught as such — or falsified.

From here Adams goes on to an interesting discussion that misunderstands (modern) evolution, and very rightly laments the thorn that the Middle Ages is in the side of western civilization. And in that discussion he reiterates that while all this is interesting stuff, it is not what is taught to the students. Because the teachers, really, don’t have a clue as to how to interpret the material they are responsible to cover or how to convey it to their pupils.

Here is Henry Adam’s famous quote translated into modern parlance:

Be careful. The system of education is inadequate, and a half baked attempt to educate is dangerous. A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell how badly fucked up everything will be when he is done with it.

I had always seen the quote as what most people seem to see to as: The nice phrase you embroider on the pillow and give to your favorite teacher. My friend Josh Borowicz, who happens to be an historian and a Henry Adams scholar, pointed this interesting irony out to me, several months ago. I vowed at that time to blog about it. And now I have.

You can read the full text of The Education of Henry Adams here.

Comments

  1. #1 JayK
    October 27, 2009

    So you can take Adams’ quote at the value you’ve added to it, that teachers do more harm than good to the subjects that they are teaching, and you can attempt to move from there. What if they didn’t teach? What if there were no teachers? The amount of information that exists approaches infinity, but if we touch that information we damage it? The Schroedinger’s Cat experiment of information and or teaching?

    This sounds more like the frustration of one man to define the goals of teaching that he desires most, and so he laments more that he can’t define those goals than he does about what he has or has not done.

    Is it worth reading more of his book?

  2. #2 Elvira Von Snark
    October 27, 2009

    DELETED

  3. #3 JRo
    October 27, 2009

    In my mind this is not about whether or not teachers are useful, but about misusing the quote. I think the point is that since teachers can affect “eternity”, they better be aware of the impact they have on their students. They also should be wary of teaching the many lies that are currently taught. cough… Texas public schools. …cough

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2009

    JayK: It is worth reading the whole book (it’s short, anyway). The thing is, this is the writing of a man with his first college teaching job at a college that had not been doing a very good job at teaching in a century where teaching the gentry was not considered too necessary. The book itself came out 100 years ago, and he was writing about experiences from much earlier. Like so many other 19th century writings, the right wing and libertarian movements have taken TEOHA as a source of criticism of modern schools (K-12 mainly) even though this is grades and decades and paradigms away along various dimensions.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2009

    JRo: word.

  6. #6 H.H.
    October 27, 2009

    Eh, I think don’t think they’re taking the quote out of context, since it serves both as an encouragement and to remind teachers of their awesome responsibility. It’s like how the phrase “first do no harm” is associated with doctors. I’d like to think most teachers are aware that they can affect “eternity” for good or ill, depending on how well they do their jobs. I think that meaning is contained within the quote itself even without further context.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2009

    HH: That may well be. Which means, when the school principal uses it on her email stationary, I can take is a threat…..

    (And appropriately so.)

    But .. I’m pretty sure most people who give each other t-shirts like the above are not thinking what you suggest they are thinking. It is easy to tell by both the iconography and the context. But then, every teacher at several points probably does think about it the way you suggest, and I would imagine, wonders if the parent of the kid s/he helped so much two years back who gave the gift of an embroidered pillow was thinking of the phrase the same way as the teacher does in those darker moments…

  8. #8 becca
    October 27, 2009

    JayK- have you read A People’s History of the United States or Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong?
    Yeah, teachers all struggle with curriculum decisions. But this strikes me as going beyond that, and I think any history teacher who has never worried about the implications of ‘history is told by the winners’ isn’t a good one.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2009

    At some point every semester that my daughter is in History class, I try to contrive it so that she is walking around with A People’s History long enough for the teacher to see it… or for her to quote from it, or something.

  10. #10 Hal
    October 27, 2009

    @2: Greg’s use of “its” is correct. It is the possessive form which is called for in the context. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” which would make no sense in the context.

  11. #11 bug_girl
    October 27, 2009

    This was a very cool read–thanks! I had no idea of the history behind this.

  12. #12 Jason Thibeault
    October 27, 2009

    Elvira von Snark @2 must be a master of her craft to have created such an epic bit of snark that backfired so spectacularly. It must have been a slow day, because that was my laugh of the day.

  13. #13 frog
    October 27, 2009

    I love the home-schooling tag! Now, that’s snark.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    October 28, 2009

    Bug-girl, I have no idea why your comments are always moderated.

  15. #15 JayK
    October 28, 2009

    Thanks Becca, I actually hadn’t read “Lies my teacher..” yet. It’s on its way.

  16. #16 Elaine
    October 28, 2009

    I suspect the reason for the home schooling tag is that this text (“The education…”) is part and parcel of the pro-homing schooling literature.

  17. #17 Lynn
    October 28, 2009

    Yes, the quote is “part and parcel” of pro-homeschooling literature – although the ones most likely to embroider it on a cutesy t-shirt would probably capitalize the “e”: “A teacher affects Eternity.” Personally, I’d like to see the “First, do no harm” homeschool t-shirt catch on.

  18. #18 Avent
    October 31, 2009

    The comments on this blog post suggest that who Henry Adams was, including who he was when he became that young history teacher at Harvard, is a bit unknown. A simple Wikipedia search fills in most of the biographical picture, and would only (I think) reaffirm Greg Laden’s point: In The Education Adams warns that the prime lesson of historical studies is chaos (a word Adams finds useful in The Education), although he qualifies this chaos in two ways.

    First, while the big mass of historical data can’t sustain itself as a big picture of history, because narrative fails in the face of the mysteries of cause-and-effect, we can however discover a lot about human nature, including the natures of particular players in history — men and women exercise their characters in life, and to degrees we can puzzle those lives out of the murk of context.

    Second — and here’s where Adams, to me at any rate, survives as a theorist of history — we can across time see how mankind variously reacts to the mysteries of history, and draw out some principles on the same. What we get instead of history-as-narrative, then, is history-as-psychology, more or less. His point about history, in The Education, is that mankind forever has bet his dollar on that notion of How Things Are that is most likely to satisfy his desires for power, victory, comfort, whatever. And as religions or theories or ideologies or whatever, of How Things Are, shift or evolve or change, mankind’s narratives of history change, too. Explanations change, and resift the data; the data resists, the explanations fail or fade, and other forms of explanation struggle to fill the void. From the first shadows of cultures emergent from pre-history to Marxism and beyond.

    Void, or lack of explanation, or lack of a Rhyme and Reason, is the historian’s real lesson, but it is also a lesson that cannot be taught because it is destructive to the preservation of social optimism, of forward momentum, of a young person’s, a young student’s, hope for a normal life, including therein a fecund life.

    He was, by the time he wrote The Education, deeply impressed by what we can recognize as the modern sciences, which from evolutionary biology to cosmology to atomic physics, all hammered home the fact, rich with implication, that nothing in the universe responds to our desires, that the chronicle of our species is insignificant and fantastically abbreviated, and that, as evolutionary animals, the real cause-effect that rules us — our real history — is the random-ness that measures out the “history” of life.

    In very certain ways, in The Education he worries over the shocks to the human imagination, including to human morale (the fighting esprit, if you will, of human culture[s]), when historical narrative is declared a dead letter. The past, he knows, contains evidences of the great beauty, the great moral energy, the heroism, and so on, that mankind is capable of, when, that is, mankind is motivated by historical purpose, when mankind lives inside a story that promises meaningfulness of some relevant kind.

    The Education of Henry Adams, by the way, is NOT short. It is cynical, but also quite witty, and deeply emotional in ways both large and small — not an easy combination to pull off.

  19. #19 Sir Donald
    November 22, 2009

    I beg to differ gentlemen but aren’t you missing the obvious? Adams urged keeping one foot in the real world as well as research for the very reason that it may not be led astray.

    “when mankind lives inside a story that promises meaningfulness of some relevant kind” – Avent

    What is that story of purpose for Adams? He’s actually very clear what it was and, though politically incorrect today, it may be even more relevant to us for the next 100 years in many similar ways. It was the expansion of the Anglo-American empire to bring order out of the chaos. He revels in the triumphs of close friends John Hay and Henry Cabot Lodge who jointly contolled American foreign policy during Teddy Roosevelt’s administration as S of S and the chairman of the Senate Forign Relations Committee.

    Lodge was his student and eventually co-editor at Harvard and obviously had a direct hand in changing critical world events. That puts a damper on the theory that a teacher cannot have massive influence on world events through the pupil and may in fact be one of education’s greatest examples of it.

    He also marvels that his own family had been so influential for 150 years in the outcome of that world changing partnership of great powers. Ironic as it is that he trashes Anglo-American culture at nearly every occasion he can see that the rapid progression of technology will only give rise to more treacherous empires if not checked, namely Russia, Germany, and eventually Japan and China.

    He could not foresee that the terrorist bombings he dreaded in Paris would wreak havoc on his own country 100 years later. An Islamo-fascist invasion of sorts on America’s shores was inconcievable in an era before the successful “airship” his friend Samuel Langley had failed to invent could skip across continents like his 30 mph Mercedes Benz on the first smooth roads of France.

    He learned that history was chaos but that occasionally a great power could arise and improve the lot of many when he studied his model’s (Gibbon) “Rise” and though he wept upon the steps of the Ara Coeli in Rome at the thought of the evolution of man receding backwards into the oblivion from whence it came, his greatest fears were proven unfounded as the new Anglo-American empire emerged triumphant after WW I.

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    November 22, 2009

    “I beg to differ gentlemen”…”Anglo-American empire”…Sir Donald? All right, who ordered the time capsule?

    Donald, whose improved lot did you have in mind, and how much of their industry has gone toward providing the English and Americans their current disposable culture?

  21. #21 Sir Donald
    November 23, 2009

    I’m terribly sorry I thought this thread was about the lessons of history not the folly of political correctness. Adams would have applauded your criticism of the weaknesses of American culture but they have so far proven to be the lesser of many evils that stalk the survival of the world, unless of course you believe in human-caused global warming or other pseudo-scientific apocalyptic propaganda.

    See the defeat of Nazi Germany, imperialist Japan, the Soviet Union, and eventually Islamo-fascism. Follow that with studying the undeniable spread of democracy across the globe and a rising standard of living in developing countries and only the hopelessly biased, or maybe the leader of communist China, would dismiss the contribution of the Anglo-American empire the Adams family worked so hard to build. That is the central story of purpose in western history. The rest is chaos fit for the asylum.

    It may be on the decline, as all empires similarly suffered, but if something better does not supplant it and carry on its principles then the lessons of history will have been lost upon the stupefied masses of the world once again. Don’t hold your breath for a new world order anytime soon. Once China and its sycophants implode under the weight of their unsustainable totalitarian political system the basic principles of democratic capitalism will shine forth ever brighter.

  22. #22 Sir Donald
    November 23, 2009

    Please also see Adams undying support for women’s rights beginning with the franchise long before it was fashionable and the Anglo-American empire championed them across the four winds. He regularly thumbed his blue blood nose at many of the political stances of his own priveleged class.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2009

    That puts a damper on the theory that a teacher cannot have massive influence on world events through the pupil and may in fact be one of education’s greatest examples of it.

    Good thing I didn’t say that, good thing this was not the point of the post, or we’d be all wet.

    if something better does not supplant it and carry on its principles then the lessons of history will have been lost upon the stupefied

    Here here.

  24. #24 Samantha Vimes
    November 23, 2009

    Seems on par with “First thing we do, is kill all the lawyers.”

    Which is quoted as a good idea, when it comes as words from a scoundrel’s mouth.

  25. #25 Sir Donald
    November 23, 2009

    Then allow me to be more direct about your point since you’ve not understood mine. Your entire thesis here is sopping wet and swimming in oceans of misinterpreted cynicism. You said Adams meant:

    “Be careful. The system of education is inadequate, and a half baked attempt to educate is dangerous. A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell how badly fucked up everything will be when he is done with it.” – Greg

    Interesting that he would actually mean that since his star pupil at Harvard became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his best friend was Secretary of State who he was chief advisor to, and their frequent dinner companion, President Theodore Roosevelt, had a favorite book written by his little brother Brooks (America’s Economic Supremacy), who he had similarly massive influence on as teacher.

    When Lodge, the Senator, wrote his own memoirs he said Professor Adams somehow managed to make history come alive to him at Harvard and that from then on he thoroughly enjoyed studying for the first time in his life and threw himself into the subject with great vigor. So, in fact, the influence of the teacher has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether his knowledge of the subject is half baked or otherwise completed or mastered as Adams admitted.

    It lies chiefly in his or her ability to create enthusiasm for learning and instilling in the pupil and a few tools that they can use in their new found love along the way. Lodge in particular said he loved Adams use of controversy in the classroom by encouraging vigorous debate from all sides. He had never experienced that before in a classroom and no doubt that came in quite handy later in life as he battled with American isolationists in the Senate who could or would not see America’s destiny as the greatest world power the world has ever known when combined with the remains of the British Empire.

    Here in fact is what Adams clearly meant in context:

    “Be careful. The system of education is inadequate, and a half baked attempt to educate is dangerous so there is no sense bullshitting your pupils that you’ve mastered anything. A teacher affects eternity because he can never tell who it is who is sitting in front of him. Could be a key Senator or maybe a Barack Obama. Be sure to instill in them a love of learning and a few very usefull tools they can use once that intellectual fire is ignited. It only takes one such triumph to make your career worthwhile and you never know when it will happen so treat everyone as that opportunity.”

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2009

    I have no doubt that Henry Adams was a great teacher. And I’m sure this comes from his introspection, and not from your name dropping, which I find utterly enigmatic.

    But I do intend to submit the following the the Global Contest for The Greatest non sequitur:

    THIS:”Be careful. The system of education is inadequate, and a half baked attempt to educate is dangerous. A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell how badly fucked up everything will be when he is done with it.” – Greg

    FOLLOWED BY THIS: Interesting that he would actually mean that since his star pupil at Harvard became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his best friend was Secretary of State who he was chief advisor to, and their frequent dinner companion, President Theodore Roosevelt, had a favorite book written by his little brother Brooks (America’s Economic Supremacy), who he had similarly massive influence on as teacher.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2009

    Your last paragraph does capture part of what Adams clearly meant, and overlaps with what I clearly meant.

    But, for some reason you arrived at this blog with a presumption about me and what I’d day, and you played that out.

  28. #28 Stephanie Z
    November 23, 2009

    Donald, I don’t care a bit about your political correctness. It’s your factual correctness I have issues with.

    Attributing the defeat of Hitler and Japan to the Americans and British is either outright ignorant or breathtakingly disingenuous. Your friends, Soviet Russia and China, both played very large roles in WWII.

    The Soviet Union fell under the weight of its own rigidity and internal power struggles. Had the U.S. not made such a lovely, unifying bogeyman for all those decades, Soviet communism probably would have died a much earlier death. China, being on much better terms with the U.S., is seeing more gradual change in their government. They’re not about to implode any time soon.

    When it comes to spreading democracy, we’ve got an incredibly lousy track record. Well, we do if the assumption is that we want more democracy in the world. History says otherwise. This is, of course, due to a combination of the understanding that it’s to our corporations’ advantage to do business with regimes that are stable over decades and owe us something for their existence and that lovely attitude that E. Y. Harburg skewered so well in “On That Great Civilized Morning”:

    Are the Africans in Africa
    Prepared for independence?
    Do they have enough delinquents
    Among their juvenile descendants?
    Can they fill the air with smog enough?
    Their rivers with pollutions?
    Are their citizens involved enough
    For mental institutions?
    Are they smart enough to know enough
    To regulate their taxes,
    So the poor can pay the rich
    To keep the poor flat on their axes?
    Do they know how to destroy
    What they produce for their enjoyment?
    Or employ enough machines
    To keep employees from employment?
    Have the natives the intelligence,
    Native wisdom or dexterity,
    To establish atom bases
    As the base of their prosperity?
    In essence, have we morally
    The right to even plan
    To let the backward nations
    Join the Brotherhood of Man?

    And your Islamo-fascism owes much to these policies on our part. Ruling families run amuck in much of the Muslim world, supported by the U.S., have gobbled up the profits from their countries’ resources. The resulting poverty and lack of opportunity in the general populace is breaking out in Islamic fundamentalism, just as the same problems are breeding Christo-fascism in pockets of the U.S.

    Those are the lessons of history we’re in danger of forgetting, and you’re part of the problem. If only you really were as sorry as you claim to be.

  29. #29 Sir Donald
    November 23, 2009

    I’ve made no presumptions other than you would understand what I said which you clearly don’t. Non-sequitur? Name dropping? Surely you jest.

    Adams was not just a great teacher he was perhaps the wisest advisor and educator of the administration that launched the Anglo-American empire following the Spanish American War. It was not pre-ordained and many resisted and attempted to sabotage its emergence both in America and England. The future of the modern world hung in the balance as a spider dangled over an ocean of chaos. He had little idea just how right he was about its future.

    Roosevelt, Lodge, Hay, Root, Mahan and the Adams brothers were key leaders and advisors behind the effort. Two were clearly his pupils as young men and at least one or two in adulthood. All were his friends and sat at his table across from the White House many times debating the future of the world before the actually changed it forever.

    While he took upon himself the tattered mantle of a failure in his major literary efforts late in life he clearly succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in educating those that could make a difference in the world. He suffered a stroke and couldn’t complete his Education the way he wanted but it has still been voted the greatest work of non-fiction by an American. I believe it and its author have been greatly underrated.

    How is that failure as an educator? How is that illogical as a counterpoint to your misinterpretation of what he meant? I’ll leave it there for you and I’ve enjoyed this topic immensely.

  30. #30 Sir Donald
    November 23, 2009

    Stephanie, a rudimentary understanding of history would serve your polemnical demagoguery well. The defeat of Japan was not directly due to American actions? The cold war didn’t directly contribute to the collapse of the Soviet Union? Seriously?

    Two of several of your sweeping errors breathtaking in their obvious biases against empire. Try taking the opposite point of view. Can empire be a good thing? Adams urged that as well at every opportunity.

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2009

    Sir Donald, I have not suggested that H.A. was a failure as an educator. I’ve said nothing like it.

    You do make me laugh, though.

  32. #32 Stephanie Z
    November 23, 2009

    Donald, you’re the one claiming that your Anglo-American empire is all that, and you’re the one cherry-picking your data. Show me that your empire was sufficient to keep WWII going long enough for the atom bomb to be developed and dropped, or laud China and the Soviets as well.

    Show me how the cold war was decisive and necessary against a disordered government that couldn’t produce and transport the food needed to keep its own people from starving. Find a good historian with access to Soviet records who thinks it made the difference, not just a preening politician looking at reelection or legacy.

    (While we’re talking about preening, you do understand that a rudimentary understanding of grammar and punctuation keeps the pointlessly long words from being as openly laughable, right?)

    Can empire be a good thing? For whom? Are you willing to sort through its effects on everyone to try to determine its effect in balance, or do you merely want to play cheerleader? Empire is an excellent thing for the merchant classes, making trade simpler and cheaper, opening new markets and creating new products. It’s a good thing for a ruling class trying to distract a populace from domestic problems.

    It’s a lousy thing in terms of invasion/conquest, long-term local political destabilization, long-term local economic destabilization, inequitable exploitation of resources, codification of xenophobia, etc. Empire is complex and costly, and it isn’t undertaken for altruistic reasons.

    Seriously.

  33. #33 elvira von snark
    November 23, 2009

    DELETED

  34. #34 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2009

    Elvira: I corrected my post, yes. I do that. Sometimes silently, sometimes loudly. In this case, if I recall correctly, I came across your post subsequent to seeing and fixing the error.

    I do not recall receiving an email from you. When did you send it?

    I have not re-written anything you wrote.

    But you are an ass, you are annoying, and you will not be commenting here any longer unless you can prove to me that you have some sort of redeeming qualities.

    No, scratch that. You’re outta here.

    Your use of the ISP in Berlin and Kansas for spoofing your address has been reported.

  35. #35 sir donald
    November 23, 2009

    Touche Greg. I’ll take the laughs in lieu of an exchange of meaningful ideas.

    (While we’re talking about preening, you do understand that a rudimentary understanding of grammar and punctuation keeps the pointlessly long words from being as openly laughable, right?) – Stephanie

    I’ll have you justify that last comma madam, and that “Seriously” is a complete sentence. Factual correctness? Please, the end of the world beckons! “There is nothing more annoying than a superannuated pedagogue.” – HA

    (It’s a lousy thing in terms of invasion/conquest, long-term local political destabilization, long-term local economic destabilization, inequitable exploitation of resources, codification of xenophobia, etc. Empire is complex and costly, and it isn’t undertaken for altruistic reasons.) – Stephanie

    There you have it. All empires are bad according to Stephanie. Chaos is of course much better. George Kennan and the Truman Doctrine anyone? Unfortunately history is truly complex and you are too brilliant to accept such a naive generalization without examining it to your own exacting standards you can only fail to impose on me. I’ll leave such exactitude to academics to quibble over like questionable grammar and punctuation on a message board.

    What never ceases to amaze me is how overconfident people are in their own understanding of history without actually reading it. Have you read the Education? Have you read the History? I sincerely doubt it. Seriously.

    Do yourself a gigantic favor and take the plunge into a perspective opposite your own for a awhile and read them thoroughly. As Adams would say “you have yet to enter such a city full of the play of thought” and sound much more like those preening politicians you so despise.

  36. #36 Stephanie Z
    November 23, 2009

    Donald, it never ceases to amaze me how many people conflate political pronouncements with the actual events that happened. You’ve done it consistently through this comment thread (on a blog, by the way, not a message board). No, I haven’t read the Education (you’ll have to be more specific about “the History”), but I don’t subscribe to the idea that there is a single authoritative source for historical fact. I read widely.

    Nor have you, for all you embrace Adams as though he were writing gospel, made any persuasive argument from your single source of knowledge. You’ve only made claims that you attempt to back by selectively ignoring history.

    Chaos is not the only alternative to empire. It is, however, quite common for people who don’t understand the complexities of a system to label it chaos in their ignorance.

    As for that comma, I’ll happily justify it once you figure out whom I was mocking by using “Seriously” as its own sentence. Hint: mine was the answer to a question.

  37. #37 sir donald
    November 24, 2009

    The History? Single source of knowledge? Those comments have already made my day Stephanie. The History doesn’t require further description to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the subject. It is merely the greatest work on the development of America and the empires it supplanted ever written.

    I’ll leave your superannuated pedagogy to your ilk who, refusing to place one foot in the real world, lead others onto the path of irrelevance they have so willingly thrown themselves upon. Though in your arrogance you have learned nothing here you have served a very useful purpose to anyone annoyed enough to follow your superannuated diatribes. This thread actually proves Greg’s point that the greatest dangers in education are the educators. A little humility may serve you well.

  38. #38 Paul D.
    November 24, 2009

    The History doesn’t require further description to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the subject. It is merely the greatest work on the development of America and the empires it supplanted ever written

    Herodotus did not write about the United States.

    This thread actually proves Greg’s point that the greatest dangers in education are the educators.

    I did not realize Stephanie is an educator.

    A little humility may serve you well.

    Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot.

    I taught history for 29 years at a small college in New England. There is no book called routinely called “The History” other than Herodotus. I would like to know, Sir Don, to what book you refer. Please provide the answer, if you know it, in exact and not vague terms.

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    November 24, 2009

    Paul’s got it right. I’m not an educator. I work for one of those big, capitalist corporations out in the “real world”.

    I’m not exactly superannuated, either. The idea of asking anyone other than the rulers of empire how empire affects them is a relatively new one, and all comments here were written specifically for this thread. Well, there’s the Harburg quote, but it’s certainly more contemporary than Adams. Donald, you might want to look up a few of these long words you’re using.

  40. #40 becca
    November 24, 2009

    Education is not the filling of a pail OR the lighting of a fire. It is an inevitable product of the human condition- the fire is already lit.

    Schooling, OTOH, ought to be simply an avoidance at smothering the fire out of it’s oxygen.

    I’m reasonably sure that any analysis, with the teacher as having a wonderful ability to shape the future to his liking, or a frightful responsibility to prevent passing on falsehoods of history, ignores how an autodidact like Adams himself would have actually viewed it. ‘Learning is not the product of teaching’ (why must people ignore Holt?)

    I also find it amusing that on a Science Blog, people are arguing over history in the context of a conversation about what we can learn from Henry Adams.

    “The Soviet Union fell under the weight of its own rigidity and internal power struggles.”
    Well yes. That, and they fell victim to one of the classic blunders. When are we going to get out of Afganistan again?

  41. #41 Stephanie Z
    November 24, 2009

    Becca, I will have you note (because someone should) that I carefully avoided another of the classic quotes in my previous comments.

  42. #42 becca
    November 24, 2009

    Stephanie- LOL duly noted (it took me way too long to catch it)

  43. #43 sir donald
    November 24, 2009

    Paul, it’s called The History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Anyone who knows much about the author just says “The History”. It pioneered much of what we now call great history research and writing. You will love every inch of it if you love American history.

    On the other chaotic ramblings on this thread I’ll take another page from Adams and note that it is like a council of conservative christian anarchists. Where did I say Stephanie was an educator? I said she practiced superannuated pedagogy. Read one who is obsolete or irrelevant because they don’t actually think while instructing in their own special pedantically dogmatic way. She’s too busy pounding her chest and dancing a jig after finding a typo.

    The worst teachers are of the same ilk. The only real on topic thought she came up with in her polemics was “Gee, chaos isn’t the only alternative to empire.” Hey at least we agree on something. I suppose next she might come up with another gem like “Hmmmm, maybe a totalitiarian dictatorship would have been worse than the Anglo-American empire in western europe, Japan, or…….maybe even China.” You know, that country virtually saved by John Hay’s Open Door policy and enforced by American might under TR lest it be carved to pieces long before the Japanese actually attempted it before WW II. Welcome to the City of Thought!!

    And Steph, if you think working in a big corporation is the real world then I fear for your sanity. You’re completely lost while you lecture others on the harsh realities of global war and diplomacy from the comfort of your cubicle.

    Why talk about Adams on a science blog? Try the fact that he was the first and strongest proponent of turning history into a science while dedicating his life to the study of it. If you had actually read the book you would know that but hey, it’s only a masterful fusion of the two topics. Why bother? Did he succeed? I shudder….

  44. #44 Greg Laden
    November 24, 2009

    Then you mean the History, not “The History.” That’s probably the source of the confusion. For folks just tuning in, this is History of the US… by Henry Adams.

  45. #45 sir donald
    November 24, 2009

    I’ll take that without the italics kind sir. It’s very common among historians to refer to his best works as the History and the Education. His letters are perhaps the best of his era from 1858-1918.

  46. #46 Stephanie Z
    November 25, 2009

    Aaaand we reach the point in the argument in which Donnie diminishes my name because he can’t diminish my argument. I always love that point. It’s a bit sweeter, though, when it comes from someone who understands that referring to my “ilk” in the first sentence of a paragraph and “educators” later in that same paragraph requires some clarification if he doesn’t want everyone to think they refer to the same people.

    Or perhaps Donald is merely vying for the privilege of being as misunderstood as Adams. I admit that suggesting I don’t understand Soviet-era history because I haven’t read a particular set of volumes on American history written in the prior century a will go a long way in that regard. As will being an American who calls himself “Sir” while telling me I don’t live in the real world.

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    November 25, 2009

    Anyone who knows much about the author just says “The History”.

    vs

    It’s very common among historians to refer to his best works as the History and the Education.

    Upper case “T” … lower case ‘t’ …. You are obviously an impostor!

    being an American who calls himself “Sir” while telling me I don’t live in the real world.

    Interesting point.

  48. #48 sir donald
    November 25, 2009

    More jaunty polemics and pedantic dogmatism….even less thought. Here’s one for the road for the rest of you. From Adams we learn nothing if not how to understand how force and the economy/efficiency of force operate in the modern world. Its economy is maybe even more important as we have learned from quantum physics, information theory, and the genome.

    He marveled in Hammerfest, Norway that the city at the darkest edge of the world was so well lit and that the news of Pres. McKinley’s death reached him at such lightening speed through an undersea telegraph line. He then said it seemed as though man were correcting the flaws of the world and the problem of the ecliptic. He also marveled that Russia was doomed due to its inability to change its own inertia long before the Soviet Era BEGAN. One hundred plus years later we find ourselves in the same quest. Can we survive? That is the greatest question of them all.

  49. #49 sir donald
    November 25, 2009

    More jaunty polemics and pedantic dogmatism….even less thought. Here’s one for the road for the rest of you. From Adams we learn nothing if not how to understand how force and the economy/efficiency of force operate in the modern world. Its economy is maybe even more important as we have learned from quantum physics, information theory, and the genome.

    He marveled in Hammerfest, Norway that the city at the darkest edge of the world was so well lit and that the news of Pres. McKinley’s death reached him at such lightening speed through an undersea telegraph line. He then said it seemed as though man were correcting the flaws of the world and the problem of the ecliptic. He also marveled that Russia was doomed due to its inability to change its own inertia long before the Soviet Era BEGAN. One hundred plus years later we find ourselves in the same quest and trapped by similar inertia. Can we survive? That is the greatest question of them all.

  50. #50 Jason Thibeault
    November 25, 2009

    polemics

    You keep using that word. I do no’ think it means wha’ you think it means.

  51. #51 sir donald
    November 25, 2009

    I rest my case. Incredible.

  52. #52 Stephanie Z
    November 25, 2009

    Donald, you have to make a case before you can rest it. Well, you do if you want to have a chance of persuading the judge or jury.

    You’ve made several assertions in this comment thread. They’ve been challenged with historical fact. You haven’t responded to the challenges except to distort what’s been said and insult the people challenging them. The fact that you’ve done it with long words doesn’t change that, doesn’t turn your insults into argument. It just teams up with the fact that you can’t even keep track of your own assertions (“All empires are bad according to Stephanie. Chaos is of course much better.” “‘Gee, chaos isn’t the only alternative to empire.’ Hey at least we agree on something.) and that you really don’t seem to understand the long words you’re using to make you look like a pompous windbag saying, “Pay no attention to the temper tantrum behind the curtain.”

    None of it changes the fact that our country has talked a much better game of democracy than it’s played. None of it changes the fact that we’ve had a very large hand in creating today’s global problems. None of it changes the fact that empire is generally good for a very few people and has, on balance, a negative effect on the rest. None of it changes the fact that empire capitalism as practiced by Britain and the U.S. requires racism to justify its exploitation. None of it even changes the fact that your idol was a nasty little racist piece of work himself.

  53. #53 sir donald
    November 29, 2009

    Facts? Please. I think I’d rather go stick my arm in a wood chipper than continue this assault on critical thinking.

  54. #54 Greg Laden
    November 29, 2009

    HEY! Watch the Minnesota Jokes, eh?

  55. #55 Stephanie Z
    November 29, 2009

    And yet you keep coming back, Donald, despite not having anything to say.

  56. #56 Sean Holland
    Japan
    November 4, 2013

    I came across your blog in an attempt to vet this quote. I came across in “Telecollaboration 2.0: Language, literacies and intercultural learning in the 21st century.” It was used by Dooly (2010) to conclude her chapter titled “Teacher 2.0″ which examined the role of teachers who attempt to employ Web 2.0 technologies in a language learning classroom. This quote is powerful, and I can easily see how it is bandied about as a sort of trite paean to the teaching profession. But even upon my first reading, I interpreted it partially as a warning to teachers, as a sort of reality check regarding the potentially weighty consequences of their choices in the classroom, since they have no way of seeing their long term effects. So yes, for good or for bad, teachers do effect eternity – if this quote is used to encourage everyone to view the job of teachers in a more serious light, then I think that’s a good thing.

Current ye@r *