Posted in Miscellany

education is not a status symbol

Education is not a prerogative of the fortunate who have been born into comfortably well-to-do socioeconomic families or, if deprived, sponsored by goodwill fairylike patrons for splendidly expensive private higher education. It is not a status symbol to distinguish the fortunate from the melee in ostentations display of their supposedly high intelligence, dazzling scholastic aptitude, and a means to continue such expensive education as a symbol of confidence, competence, and cleverness.

But Joshua Angrist, an Israeli-American Nobel laureate in Economics of the year 2021, doesn’t think that way, not least because those who enter expensive elite schools are already brighter than their ordinary or troubled peers. The Nobel-Prized theory of education in the context of the selective admission process has become a concrete, incorruptible credo for the elite academic institutions and enflamed the already swelled up egos of the diploma holders doing well in their lives. When I read about him from today’s newspaper, I had to re-read his saying that “the reason graduates of those schools tend to do well has more to do with selective admission than education.” I understand his intention to demystify social legend that an Ivy-league diploma will guarantee you lifelong flowery roads to financial security and commensurate social status. However, it has more to do with his defense of continuous selective criteria to muster a pool of academically, and usually economically affluent, prospective students than anything else. What he argues is, “Don’t mess with the elite schools’ admission processing, for they select only the smartest ones!” Therefore, his argument calls for changing social agendas for changing such selective admissions to improve public education.

Angrist himself is a product of privileged education that some people wear like fancy hats on their pointed heads. He went to Oberlin College for BA and Princeton University for MA, Ph D. He teaches at Harvard University, which has become the infallibly supreme Ivory Tower in the States and most East Asian countries. Based upon Angrist’s focus on causality and effects on social impacts, it will be natural for him to defend the selective admission process, and I say go for it.

But it irks me to read from the Nobel laureate that supreme education is not for everybody. Since Angrist prides himself in employing real-world empirical evidence in his theory, does he marginalize those who have ambitions and aspirations to receive such quality education but are disadvantaged of the opportunities to learn the skills apt for demonstrating their minds? What about them, and how can he help them to access such opportunities? He’s not a social worker, which I don’t think he will not be pleased to be associated with even, but as an intellectual, he has a social responsibility to answer such vital issues. And if this unequal distribution of privileged educational opportunities is not worth studying, I wonder if those Nobel Prize panels thought his opuses deserve such international recognition. After all, Economics always comes last in the Nobel Prizes, with its being on the criteria most recently in the late sixties mainly begetting Americans.

Posted in BIBLIO ECRIT

‘Father Goriot’, by Honore de Balzac – reading notes

Balzac’s Paris is no more different from today’s big cities like Los Angeles or New York City. It populates with the good, the bad, and the ugly, but mostly filling the in-betweens by the middling’s – the not-so-wretchedly poor yet decidedly needy with pride and prejudice –. The story about Father Goriot (no, he’s not a priest.) is about the people around him living inside and outside the Maison Vauquer. It is a boarding house in which the characters bring their stories to pay their dues of existence. The reader sees it as a microscopic view of the contemporary Parisian society where the poor, even in post-revolution, remains at the bottom of society—only the cold, indifferent climb up to the upper echelon.

The residents of the widow Madame Vauquer are neither defiantly evil nor angelically good but realistically neutral. The house symbolizes the society of the somebodies who long for social mobility for respect and recognition. Balzac’s passionate narrative endures no sight of injustice and proudly averts the eye from inhumanity, making even egotism and selfishness move to a pity dipped in pathos.

Balzac is a superb writer with detailed descriptions of the state of mind in the art of realism in a classical frame that makes scenes of everyday life a sight of history, banality of ordinary life a profundity of human life. Indeed, any of his famous fellow writers could have done it, but none of them can do it as blatantly well as Balzac does. For he knows how to make a villain sympathetic with an insightful eye looking into the depth of his wounded soul.

Posted in book review, 미분류, Film Review, Miscellany

Not impossible

It is supposed to be about being a woman that binds all women regardless of race and ethnicity across a great divide of time. Forget all others and let us focus on the parallel circumstances and kindred experiences as women. But alas, that seems only a tale told by a romantic fool such as I am. If you think this is hyperbole, then I suggest you read the tweets and comments on the recent news that a black actress plays the role of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry the Eighth and the mother of Elizabeth the First, in the upcoming British periodical drama, which went viral among the learned and the general.  In addition to the vehemently acrid narratives on the racial authenticity of Anne Boleyn – especially from fellow women-, the juxtaposition of the two women’s images, the actress Jodie Turner-Smith and the queen Anne Boleyn itself, belies the popular sentiment as though to mock the actress’s appearance in the fashion of the Tudor period by making parallels with the classical portraiture of the Anne of 1000 days.  It has produced vociferous tweets full of fury from people who regard the role as audacious cultural appropriation faithful to the PC ethos of the time. 

Actress Turner-Smith’s playing the Tudor woman Anne Boleyn is indeed an innovational idea of breaking the typecasting based on the physical distinction for the roles thinkable and conventionally conceivable for the specific attributable characteristics of certain characters. Thus, non-whites playing the roles conceived for whites are seen as usurping the equilibrium of cultural heritage, upending the very foundation of national identity translated into racial identification, a sentiment prevalent even among the professed liberals anti-everything related to Trump, Republicans, and racism. The rejection of the race crossover representation on screen is supposedly due to the difficulty of following the story’s fluid narrative, unable to be absorbed in the story, not least because performers’ distinctive physical attributes mar the harmony of racial fluidity. But do we really?

I have watched a few good dramas (British) in which the races of performers do not pin down them to the racially charged roles. To illustrate, in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein, the wife of Victor Frankenstein was played by a black actress. Besides, his father, M. Frankenstein, is a black actor, a fine ensemble of excellent thespians whose energetic performance brought Mary Shelly’s original Gothic story to a theatrical feast to the eyes and the mind. While watching the drama, I was not distracted by the black performers’ appearances being the father and Genevan Victor Frankenstein’s wife. Instead, the powerfully emotional and assiduously methodological performances resurrected the textual characters to real humans, full of pathos with vigor and wonder. Also, British Asian actress Gemma Chan, who played the role of Elizabeth Hardwick in ‘Mary Queen of Scot’s,’ is known for her versatile roles transcending her racial background. Her recent performance as a cyborg with a touch of humanity named Anita in ‘Humans’ is as naturally harmonious as streams of a river flowing into a great ocean, not highlighting her physical differences.

L-R Laura (Katherine Parkinson), and Mia (Gemma Chan) from ‘Humans’

So why the fuss full of sound and fury of the people who cannot accept the black queen in the Tudor drama when they are boastful of the most advanced mind since the age of Enlightenment? In the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movements, people have become afraid of the wind of changes as a frightful tsunami to subvert social foundations, upending the social orders adverse to their belief systems. Although I don’t eschew their concerns for the wind of changes as I am also conservative, not conventional in belief, the current vehemently acrid opinions about the black woman becoming Anne Boleyn are tokens of latent racialized hostility surfaced by the deluged dissents pouring forth from the socially suppressed sentiments. Indeed, you can’t ignore the differences between the two Anne Boleyns. Still, there are more commonalities than the images seen through your optical sensory input: that they are both women of elegance and confidence who are not afraid of expressing what they can. The actress shows she can pull off the character with what she has, and the queen her the courage to confront the criticism for being the cause of subsequent religious turmoil that changed the face of Christendom in spades. Let not prejudice darken entertainment. 

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Elect Sensibility

The wake of Black Lives Matter and subsequent racial justice movements have upended the fundamental quo of society from education to fine arts with full force and effect amid the Pandemic pandemonium. What was once a work of art is not art any longer if it is suspected of socially inappropriate. The Dawn of Brave New World looms large as the storm of revolution sweeps across schools’ hallways and the galleries of museums. Now the Reckoning Force stops paintings outside their racial principles and social taste in the case of Philip Guston Now.

According to Julia Friedman’s recent essay about the artist’s paintings mentioned above, museums delayed exhibition worldwide until 2024. The woke culture tries to dominate the arts and humanities like Orwellian leviathan censoring the artistic expressions to curtail them into their Brave New World puritanical disciplines, breeding their types of artists conforming to the abstract figurative standards of ideological art. But that is what the directors of the NGA, Boston MFA, Tate Modern, and Huston MFA have done, holding off Guston’s 24 images from the 19060s and early 70s, which evoke imagery of the Ku Klux Klan through buffo depictions of hooded figures. In terms of the newspeak, the subject matter of the paintings in hooded robes implicate that Guston is a racist who exposes the vulnerable, the most eggshell sensitive viewers of non-whites, especially blacks, to “incendiary and toxic racist imagery” regardless of the intention of the artist.

In her essay, Friedman opines that a lack of intellectual vigor on Guston’s subject paintings’ contextualization fails to protect the artistic license, but I differ from her opinion. Art is not for the practical analysis of sensibility, nor a vehement statement of a political campaign or social agenda. Art is an ultimate expression of the individual soul with universal appeal to all human creatures regarding principles of judgment and sentiment common to all humankind. In this sense, shaking the foundations of all social institutions and governing individuals’ Sense and Sensitivity are no less damaging than the dictatorship of minds. Just because you in with the Movement does mean you should conform to what they tell you to think and like. Artists should not hurry their imaginations with public affairs at the moment of creation. Stop patronizing the public what to like and how to think. Let us judge them on our own. Let art be for art’s sake.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Philosophical investigation of education

“I’ll teach you differences,” said King Lear as his motto of philosophical investigations in Shakespeare’s eponymous play. I imagine the ghost of King Lear would utter it again when he deigned to come to our realities of universities in this time. The importance of responsible education to remove the social ills and carbuncles resulting from dissentious political domination has never been more conspicuously called for in our high learning institutions as a recent consequence of the George Floyd incident, and the following the Black Lives Matter movement. However, this doesn’t mean that universities should be a breeding ground for training gladiators equipped with political syllabuses and dogmatic agendas to fight against the public foes. Instead, education should disabuse the ignorance of the unenlightened for our society’s universal betterment.

Professor Benjamin Y. Fong, in his NY Times article “Teaching Racial Justice isn’t Racial Justice,” addressed the issue of education as the fighting tool. It has become fashionable that most American universities have competingly added courses on social injustice to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the idea of education is to provide students opportunities to learn and actively engage with conflicting thoughts and various real-life issues in a place enriched with knowledge linked with the fellow members of the human race from antiquity. In this environment, a university is a place for education that can improve social conditions in the fight against social, political carbuncles, not for the battle itself, training students for social gladiators.

Many universities are focused on the quantitative quota of educational syllabuses aimed for the universities’ reputations as the most liberal and forward-thinking higher-learning institutions for the socially recognized prestige, not the qualitative aspect of the education of the minds. It is not the textual syllabuses filled with political ideologies and social campaigns. Still, the practical teaching of various conservative and progressive considerations enables students to incorporate the learning to their perspectives. Education serves to articulate ideas based on the standard of reason and taste universal in all human creatures regarding the principles of judgment and sentiment common to all humankind.

Suppose we want our higher learning institutions to remedy the existing ills of our social and political realities by implementing more social justice courses. In that case, we must first understand the fact that education itself is not the fight itself. Neither Plato’s academy nor Aristotle’s lyceum was a place for the battle against the absurdities of Man. Or even the beloved, peripatetic Socrates did not use his open universities in Athens as a place for campaigning against the government hostile to his philosophy. Remember that there is no new thing under the sun as long as we as the collective enterprise called Humanity continue to voyage in the Universe.