Saturday, October 31, 2009

* The 4T's: Ignoring Yale Presidents and Savaging American Childhood

Two great Yale presidents, A. Whitney Griswold and A. Bartlett Giamatti, made prescient presidential pronouncements about the course of "education" in America
(see below).

Both of them were ignored.

Now Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will institutionalize the very
flaws which Griswold and Giamatti foresaw, by turning American Schools into a "Race to the Top", the ultimate "Athletization of Life" (Giamatti) and a grotesque instance of believing there is a recipe to "teach teachers how to teach" (Griswold).

The result? American schools will abandon the
3R's and replace them with the 4T's: Teaching To The Test.

This is nothing less than a not-so-surreptitious drive toward a national curriculum.

Let's turn childhood into a rigid recipe for success. Let's drain it of every chaotically creative moment of joy which Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer epitomized.

Soon we can outfit all students in uniforms with boots whose heels will click in unison on command.

Parents should shudder with shame if they allow American childhood to be so savaged by the Servants of Standardization.

(Secretary of Education Arne Duncan)

From "Winning isn't Everything",

a speech delivered as President of Yale University, BBBC
(Before Becoming Baseball Commissioner):

“Many of the abuses, including the abuse of drugs or alcohol or steroids among some college athletes or some professional athletes,stem from the complete athletization of life, the displacement of all social rules by the rules of the game’s culture. Totally absorbed, some feel invulnerable, invincible, completely exempt from conventional expectations … the inevitable result, particularly among some former professional athletes well into their thirties (although I have seen it among college athletes and, in a few cases, with gifted high s chool athletes, whose ‘careers’ stopped at about 19), is that there is no place in the general culture for them when they no longer fit in the cult. They have prepared no skill or trade, have eschewed all other interests, have made no plan or expressed any desire for a plan, because no one told them or they refused to believe that there comes an end to running, an end to the cheers, an end to the life lived on the cuff, to the endless pleasuring of themselves. … Such people are as if newborn when it is over, accustomed to packing a suitcase but not to carrying it, unaccustomed to few if any of the hundreds of daily activities that require one to negotiate for oneself.”
- A. Bartlett Giamatti

Letter: Liberal arts not meant to be useful

Published Friday, April 3, 2009
Letter to the Editor
Yale Daily News

What an unpleasantly utilitarian odor the April 1 technology column (“Tech. requirement would enhance Yale education”) has — suggesting for the second time in a month in the News that the liberal arts are “utilitarian,” i.e. “useful.”

The liberal arts are designed to help people think — not to train them for “useful careers.”

John Ciardi, the late great Dante scholar, defines an intellectual as “someone capable of being excited by ideas.” Yeats said, “Education is about catching fire.”

Put the two together and you have the kindling for a liberal arts education.

Remember, it was a 1940's Yale president, A. Whitney Griswold, who in a single, dramatic stroke of thinking abolished Yale’s graduate department of education, saying, “It is not necessary to teach teachers how to teach.”

Had the country followed suit 50 years ago, America would not have developed the treadmill of information delivery systems called public education which suffocates thinking today. Instead, our classrooms would have been conducted by exponents of the liberal arts.

Down with utilitarianism.

Set fires.

Paul Keane

White River Junction, VT
The writer is a 1980 graduate of the Yale Divinity School.
Read Comments (23)

Friday, October 30, 2009

* Reply to "Hieronymus" and "Yale 2008": Killing Mindless Zeal

I am a bit embarrassed at having allowed myself to be drawn into a spat with anonymous commenters, Hieronymus and Yale 2008, in the Yale Daily News's digital comment section 10/28/09 about Harvard Divinity School professor Mark D. Jordan's seeking a new term for "gay" in the Bible (see previous post).

I'm sure Hieronymus and Yale 2008 are young idealists who are impatient with the seeming irrelevance of divinity studies,an occupation which the poster named Yale 2008 believes is "a joke" (along with this blog).

A very serious joke.

Please recall that manipulation of this "sacred" text called the Bible has inflicted untold suffering on human-kind, especially in America. Passages from this sacred text were quoted from pulpits for over a century as proof-texts for the Divine's approval of slavery. Further, they were used with equal fervor to punish homosexuals and lesbians and makes their acts of physical love illegal in all 50 states until the mid-1970's under sodomy laws.

I'd want to know every detail about the origin of such a "sacred" text if it could inflict such pain and suffering on human beings, just to be sure I wasn't the next to be a target, for believing that women should be treated equally to men.

Analyzing this text and its origins is what great ACADEMIC divinity schools like Yale are all about (as opposed to other divinity schools which require belief in a creed or even a specific god). In my four years of study at Yale Divinity School I was never coerced in even the most subtle way to assume that this text called the Bible was written by non-human, divine hands.

In fact the human authorship of books of the Bible was routinely outted in my classes, with the result that the hypothesis of Divine authorship became less and less likely.

At least one book of the Bible is attributed to a woman author. And since most of the authors of the Old and New Testament came from what we now call the Middle East, we can reasonably assume that they had brown skin---the same brown skin that made U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney assert "negroes" were property and not human beings in his infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857. (This is the same brown skin that covered a now-famous Palestinian Carpenter who some worship as a god.)

It was the late Yale professor John Boswell who analyzed every text on homosexuality in the Bible and argued that they referred not to sexual acts, but to rituals of hospitality, in his groundbreaking volume Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality.

It was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the daughter of America's most influential preacher (and the wife of another influential New England preacher) who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in which she openly challenged the legitimacy of every pulpit in the country which was citing biblical texts to justify slavery. That book sold more copies than any other book of its time, second only to the Bible itself, and is seen as the galvanizing force of the Abolition movement and ,some say, one of the five causes of the Civil War which ended slavery.

Liberation Theology has unpacked the Genesis story to show how male theologians in coupling female typology with Original Sin (from Eve to Mae West) have used that text to oppress women and keep them subservient for a thousand years.

So, dear young idealistic commenters at Yale Daily News's email edition, do not be so quick to trivialize the work being done at Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School.

In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1838 Address to the Harvard Divinity Students is the opening salvo in his quarrel with traditional biblical scholarship, making Harvard the unoffical seat of Unitarianism, the anti-trinitarian heresy.

Demystifying sacred texts with scholarly investigation has a real--if perhaps unintended --purpose in the world: It kills mindless zeal.

And it is here that we arrive at Hieronymus' perplexing comment in his post l0/28/09:"Weirdly, I respect most Muslims more than I do most (avowed) Christians--at least they believe in their book!"

Isn't Hieronymus valorizing "mindless zeal" in this quote? To hell with textual analysis for errors in translation. To hell (or sheol) with questions of authorship or cultural norms. Just BELIEVE IN THE WORDS. JUST BELIEVE!

This is New Criticism at its purest and at its worst. It is aborting the life of the unborn mind. The role of the Academy is to bring the mind to term --- and usher it forth into the world of ideas where it can be nurtured --- not to abort it.

Hear these words from the late Roland H. Bainton, first a student and then Reformation scholar, at Yale for 70 years until his death at 89 in 1984. (He published 34 books during that time and his biography of Luther, Here I Stand, is Abingdon Press's all-time best selling work).

Here is what Roland Bainton told me at the Divinity School in 1977: "Proof texts? You can prove anything you want from the Bible. There's even a text justifying genocide in Deuteronomy: "And God said 'Go and kill the Hittites and Canaanites, every single one of them.' "

(20:16 As for the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is going to give you as an inheritance, you must not allow a single living thing to survive. Instead you must utterly annihilate them – the Hittites, Amorites,Canaanites,Perizzites,Hivites, and Jebusites – just as the LORD your God has commanded you,so that they cannot teach you all the abhorrent ways they worship their gods, causing you to sin against the LORD your God.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

* An Unlikely Defender of Yale Divinity School

Here is some back and forth to the 10/28/09 article in the Yale Daily News entitled:
Harvard professor seeks ‘gay’ term in Bible

#9 By Yale 2008 11:07a.m. on October 28, 2009


Do you want to take a shot at this, or should I go first?
Yale Div School strikes again.

#11 By Hieronymus 12:03p.m. on October 28, 2009

Well, I did like this sentence best:

"What we need is the positive equivalent of the sodomite," he said, referring to the residents of the Biblical city Sodom who engaged in homosexual and heterosexual acts depicted as perverse.

I like how, all in one sentence, we get a sense of the lecturer's stance (that the term "sodomite" carries pejorative connotations--and that this need not be so) and the YDN's stance ("depicted as perverse" versus objectively perverse).

Also, I can just picture the sort of bobble-headed faux confusion by the interviewees ("Sodomy? Bad? Um... I'm confused your assertion..."). It is that sort of affectation of innocence/ignorance that keeps from most pews.

Weirdly, I respect most Muslims more than I do most (avowed) Christians--at least they believe in their book!

#12 By 12:14p.m. on October 28, 2009

#9 There is something unpleasant in your tone here---like a schoolyard bully making fun of a weakling. If you think of the divines as worthy of scorn isn't it sadistic to indulge your impulse to torment them? I am the last person to quash legitimate criticism but taking the pleasure one gets from a skeet shoot seems a bit much. And then, to egg on Hieronymus to join your fun?

Paul Keane

#13 By Yale 2008 1:13p.m. on October 28, 2009

Paul Keane,
Yale Div School is a joke. Just like your blog.

#16 By
5:25p.m. on October 28, 2009

# 13 Yale 2008

In the last 50 years, Yale Divinity School has produced William Sloane Coffin, one of the driving forces behind ending the Viet Nam War and considered to be one of the three great speakers of our time (Fulton J. Sheen and Norman Vincent Peale are the other two);and, Senators John Danforth and Gary Hartt, neither of whom is an intellectual light-weight.

In 1976 the Divinity School's students hosted a talk by Quentin Crisp, then starring in his one act-show at the Long Wharf Theatre entitled The Naked Civil Servant, about his life as Britain's most famous transvestite.

At that talk, faculty from the University's Psychology Department invited Mr. Crisp to participate in interviews about what it is to be a trans-gendered person (he accepted), blazing the way for Yale's entire sexual liberation movement in the late 70's to the present, 2009.

Try as you might, to trivialize the Divinity School as a "joke" is a limp effort, even if one confines its contribution to society to the few examples mentioned above, ignoring its two, no, three century history in the new world.

Add to those recent examples H. Richard Niebuhr's own struggles with depression and the fact that he pioneered the presence of divinity student volunteers in mental hospitals 50 years ago, a presence which has brought untold hope to thousands of suffering humans, and Yale Divinity School becomes a very serious and potent force for social change and for alleviation of suffering in our world.

Indeed, even though I was a gadfly on their sacred hide during my years there as publisher, editor, and writer of Holy Smoke,(and for the thirty years since)they amazed me by awarding me the Charles S. Mersick Prize at my 1980 graduation "For effective public address, especially in preaching."

One cannot with puerile barbs discount such a potent force for freedom of expression and pursuit of the truth as is Yale Divinity School.

As for my blog

(one of twelve blogs): It stands on its own merits or demerits, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable I hope, including the privileged undergraduates who throw verbal darts while shielding themselves behind the anonymity of digital posts.

Paul Keane

NB: For an insider's view of the Divinity School read "Sam Todd: Fugitive from God, Country and Yale?" at

* The flesh was made Word: Harvard's Richard R. Niebuhr Professor

Richard Reinhold Niebuhr,
Harvard Divinity School

Reinhold Niebuhr,
Union Theological Seminary

H. Richard Niebuhr,
Yale Divinity School

What the Richard R. Niebuhr Professor from Harvard Divinity School, Mr. Mark Jordan, is tacitly acknowledging in his lecture at Yale Divinity School outlining his search for a new label from the Bible to describe same gender sexuality, is that we have become the fractured faces of Picasso's paintings.

We but "slenderly" know our selves.

In fact we have no selves. We are in search of our lost selves, to recoin Proust.

September entry on "Transgender dorms at Yale...")

Nobody refers to parents as "my heterosexual parents" or the man and woman who created me "heterosexually". Why should anybody say "She's queer" or "He's gay" Or "They're the people who perform lesbian acts in bed?"

Just as it is antiquated for a male to achieve manhood through the ritual of deflowering a woman (Carve another knotch in yer holster pardner.), so too is it antiquated to attribute personhood to another on the basis of the twitches and impulses of one square foot of their body, from navel to knee, and whether or not they transform those impulses into sexual acts.

Is not such a personhood in fact exactly what the Niebuhr lecturer seeks to squeeze from biblical texts?

Has anyone ever considered how foolish all this sexuality nonsense is?

People are people. They make different choices. Sometimes they make declarations about those choices and discover decades later that those declarations weren't true to their ongoing interior monologues.

This goes for people who do different and contrary things with that highly provocative one-square-foot of their bodies.

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh" is being transformed by Mercantilia into "In the beginning was the flesh and the flesh was made Word" (or "Label").

My, what fools these mortals be.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

* 25th Anniversary: Yale Uncovers Heterosexual Connection to AIDS

Move bar to 4 minutes 41 seconds to begin this video story.

(Move bar to 4 minutes 41 seconds.)

The Miami Herald - Feb 28, 1984

THE REGION; Escapee Gives Up* - Feb 28, 1984

This story has not previously been told.

It was 25 years ago, February 1984, that 60 Minutes revealed the story of a New Haven prostitute and heroin addict whose baby was born with AIDS and never left Yale-New Haven Hospital, living his entire, nearly three year, life in quarantine.

At first 60 Minutes refused to do the story after coming to New Haven to discuss it because, they told me, it was not a microcosm of something univeral (the criterion for all their reports) since AIDS was transmitted exclusively by gay males.

Their producer returned to New York after our discussion and the matter was over, I thought.

Two weeks later he called me and said he had been checking around and discovered that in Africa 90% of the AIDS cases were transmitted heterosexually and that he would return to New Haven to film the story.

Recall that in 1984 HIV had not yet been discovered, so there was no test to determine one had AIDS. The only conclusive symptom was the collapse of the immune system in the final stage of the illness. Further, the disease had come to be taboo since it was associated primarily with gay males.

One Yale professor stood up in a public meeting, pointed his finger at me, and told the audience "Shun this man" for bringing 60 Minutes to town to persecute this woman."*

He was afraid the attention would result in her being quarantined, and by later extension, the quarantine of all who had AIDS, especially gay men.

I disagreed.

In a state which had seen the Planned Parenthood victory Griswold v. Connecticut, I argued there would be no persecution. Indeed, once heterosexual transmission was known to be a possibility, the "gay disease" superstition would evaporate.

So it has.

Besides, how could I be silent knowing my silence would send others to horrible, and at that time, certain death?

Officials at Yale - New Haven Hospital and elsewhere criticized me for revealing confidential information.

So be it.

Paul D.Keane

M.A., M.Ed.

*It is worth noting here that when this woman was arrested after it was revealed that she had AIDS, I arranged for the best Civil Liberties lawyer in Connecticut, John Williams, to be her attorney at no cost to her. It is further worth noting, that I refused to cooperate with 60 Minutes unless they agreed not to use this woman's real name. "Helen" is the pseudonym they agreed on.