mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
I apologize in advance if the following comes across as too abstract and incoherent.

It's no secret that the strength of group thinking, a.k.a. herd (hive?) mentality, is not in the actual rational nature of the thesis that it defends (whatever the thesis), but in the confidence it injects into the individual (member of said herd) as he becomes aware of the large mass of people who back his or her opinion. So at its core, the conviction which ideologically drives the individual is mainly based on emotion rather than objective fact.

The very use of the term 'conviction' is a semantic wonder of its own. Let's have a look at the following two assertions:

1. "I'm convinced he'll be elected".
2. "He's going to be elected".

It seems that in its essence, the latter assertion reflects our actual 'firm conviction' that said candidate would be elected, while in the former, the very use of the phrase "I'm convinced" implies some lack of categorism, i.e. it creates the impression that the conviction is not 100% complete. But if we look a bit closer, objectivity demands that we acknowledge that in both cases, our conviction is subjective, as the real fact of the guy getting elected is still non-existent, and reality does not give a damn about our convictions, beliefs and gut feelings.

So what's my point, actually )

x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
This is the 4/4 part of the essay on faith.


Why Do We Believe?

In most cases, the reason for faith is that a person feels much more comfortable when having faith in an assertion which he accepts as fact in defiance of all logic. Here I will not dig too much into the reasons for believing in love, friendship and justice (a generalized classification of the types of faith was made in the previous part). The above faith is not essentially faith as such, but a phraseological unit which rather declares a hope/wish for a world dominated by love, friendship and justice. Similar, let us call them 'poetical' constructs, have no pretence beyond just expressing a personal attitude of the believer on a given issue, which in most cases is associated to a certain emotional state, or an appeal, rather than true faith. Some of the specific reasons for which a person devotes himself to religious faith will be examined below. These are associated to the type of faith which implies not only an appeal for a certain moral (the world would have been a much better place if religion was doing only this), but also a firm conviction that a set of unproven assertions are actually an absolute truth.

Similarly to an insane person who in most cases is unable to realize his own insanity, the religious believer could not recognize on his own the reasons for which he has been tricked into believing in absurd declarations, accepting them as ultimate truth. An external and objectively and rationally thinking person is needed for that, someone who could analyze the act of faith, as the insane person would need a psychiatrist.

Throughout many of my conversations on this topic, I have reached the following rational reasons for which a person could devote himself to the religious faith.

Why Do We Believe? )

(Of course, a large part of my own blog will be dedicated to the comedy which starts when the above-mentioned ignorant people suddenly turn into knowleable authority in cosmology, physics, biochemistry, evolution, paleontology, geology... and meanwhile, they start supporting their theses with scientific evidence).

The above list of reasons for believing is certainly far from being exhaustive, so I may continue adding more examples here.
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Continuing the topic of faith, here's the third part of my 4-part essay, which I've just translated.


The Diversity of Faith

In order to answer the question "why do we believe?", we should make a distinction between the various nuances of the act of believing. Of course, being reasonable people, who acknowledge the groundlessness of faith as a source of knowledge, the question actually is: "why do believers believe?" From the point of view of the thinking individual, believers could be generally put into two groups:

1. Those who believe in irrational assertions but do not have the pretense that their attitude to these assertions is necessarily a source of knowledge about the world. This group includes those individuals who often use phrases such as "I believe in friendship", "I believe in love", "I believe in good"... even "I believe in destiny". In fact, these phrases express hope in the respective subject, and when such an individual says "I believe in justice", they actually express their wish to live in a world predominantly ruled by justice. There is nothing abnormal in such a construct, it is just that "faith" here has a completely different meaning from that in the next group.

2. Group two includes those who accept unproven and/or unprovable assertions as truth, and who have the pretense that these assertions are part of the objective reality. Such assertions could be for example "the elementary particles are strings", "extra-terrestrials exist", "there is a small tea-pot currently orbiting around the Sun, just between Mars and Jupiter", or "Jesus Christ was born to a virgin and after we die he will decide whether our souls deserve to go to Hell or Heaven", and so on.

The Diversity of Faith )

The present essay (which is part of a series of essays) primarily examines the religious belief in stable self-sufficient and self-defined doctrines such as the latter, which however have only a remote relation to reality, no matter how much they have been promoted as absolutely veracious. It is the reasons for the emergence of this type of faith that will be discussed in the next part.
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Continuing with the topic of Faith now, I've translated the second essay from that folder.


Faith in Scientific Hypotheses

Has it happened to you that during a debate with a deeply religious person, you would at some point reach a moment when you are being served a ratiocination of the sort: "It is not true that faith is irrational; just look for example at the way scientists believe in unreal hypothetical theories!" Using such kind of pseudo-argumentation, the believer usually attempts to defend himself from the accusation that his conviction that the surrealistic fabrications which he has tricked himself into believing are hardly bordering on objective reality in any way, and moreover it is absurd; he would give for example the sientists (who are supposedly smart and reasonable people), who also seem to believe in unproven theories.

The shorter response to such an 'argument' would in most cases have been polite laughter and then, further ignoration. The longer response is here to follow...

Faith in Scientific Hypotheses )

mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Prompted by a recent post on [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics, I recalled that I still keep a folder with my essays from high school. Most of them were written 3-6 years ago, some were newer, most for the Philosophy classes. All of them are written on paper and in handwriting, in Dutch. But the issue made me dig through them and select several essays which IMO are very relevant to the topic of faith and reason. So I took some time to translate the first of them, with a few little touches here and there. I might continue with the rest of them (3-4 I think) if it's interesting to the readers.

So the first one is entitled...

Knowledge And Faith )
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Constructing a research agenda

Bush et al. (2006) say that their thematic review of the literature provides a starting point for the construction of a research agenda on school leadership and management in South Africa. The papers examined include many commentaries and literature reviews that help in constructing research questions but do not make a direct contribution to the body of research in this emerging field. The main research needs identified in the review are:

• Decision-making processes in schools, including the extent and nature of teacher participation and ‘distributed leadership’
• The extent and nature of ‘instructional’ leadership in schools
• The management of budgeting, fee-setting, and real resources
• Human resource management, especially redeployment, and teacher morale and reliability
• School choice, ‘transformation’ and the management of learner admissions
• Managing relationships with parents
• The impact of leadership and management training and development on the performance of principals
• The management of learner discipline.

Bush et al. (2006:47) assert that most of the literature reviewed does not connect empirical research with theory to produce insights into school policy and practice. In particular, there are few references to the changing culture of schools following the partial transformation and partial desegregation of schools. Culture may be regarded as the most useful concept for interpreting school management in the new South Africa.

Conclusion )


mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
The South African Standard for School Leadership

The National Department of Education has responded to this evident need for leadership preparation by developing a package of measures linked to the South African Standard for School Leadership (SASSL). The Department has acknowledged that:
Existing management and leadership training has not been cost effective or efficient in building management and leadership capacity, skills and competencies for the transformation process or in enabling policies to impact significantly on the majority of schools’ (DoE, October 2004).

To attempt to address this it has rooted the new professional development initiatives for principals and aspiring principals in its Policy Framework for Education Leadership and Management Development (DoE, October 2004). The Department has linked that policy framework to the South African Standard for School Leadership (SASSL) (DoE, August 2005), which clarifies exactly what the education system now expects of its principals. These documents are explicit in stating that school management and leadership are primarily about making sure that the teaching and learning process, as the main purpose of the school, is managed competently and effectively for the benefit of all learners. The Standard identifies six key areas of principalship:

• Leading and Managing the Learning School;
• Shaping the Direction and Development of the School;
• Assuring Quality and Securing Accountability;
• Developing and Empowering Self and Others;
• Managing the School as an Organisation;
• Working with and for the Community.

Part 5 - The new development strategy )

 

mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Financial management

Financial management is one of the most important responsibilities facing school principals since the implementation of the South African Schools Act 1996. Along with the principals, school governing bodies have wide-ranging financial responsibilities, including school-level budgeting, managing devolved funding from provincial departments, setting school fees (subject to parental agreement), and raising additional funds to augment school budgets. A largescale survey of principals in Gauteng province (Bush & Heystek, 2006) consistently demonstrated their anxiety about carrying out this function and their need for additional training to do so effectively.

Tikly and Mataboge (1997:160) examined the impact of reform on the former white schools and point to some of the financial implications of this process:

• The transfer of costs to parents and communities
• The linkage between learner enrolments and the allocation of real resources, notably teachers
• The decentralisation of financial management to school level
• The trend for wealthier schools to hire additional teachers paid for through the setting of higher fees by the school governing body (SGB).
Although legislation prevents the use of school fees to discriminate between learners, the learner profiles of certain schools seem to indicate that they are being used to limit access. This prompted research into equal access to education by Maile (2004) and Fleisch and Woolman (2004).

Part 4 - Human resource management )

To be continued...

 
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Managing teaching and learning

There is limited material on the management of teaching and learning but there is a developing awareness of its significance for South African schools. Christie (2005), for example, asserts that learning is the central purpose of schooling and notes that it has four dimensions: student learning; teacher learning; organisational learning; and the principal as the ‘lead learner’. She concludes that “leading learning is very complex and challenging”.

Recent theoretical work on ‘learning schools’ has emphasised the importance of understanding that different definitions, models, and theories underpinning organisational learning exist and that none is widely accepted (Coetsee, 2003:6; Mitki, Shani & Meiri; 1997; Easterby-Smith, 1990; Fenwik, 1996; Garvin, 1999; Bierema & Berdish, 1996). The following three perspectives on ‘learning schools’ are of particular interest in the South African context.

Part 3 - Managing teaching and learning )

To be continued...
 

mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Overview of education leadership and management initiatives

I examine three main issues, which are directly linked to school management developments in South Africa since 1994:

1. School leadership and management;
2. Professionalisation of principalship through the South African Standard for School Leadership (SASSL); and
3. Leading and managing the learning school.

In exploring these issues I draw mainly on a systematic and comprehensive literature review of school leadership, management, and governance (Bush et al., 2006), commissioned by the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance (MGSLG). The aim of the desk research was to establish ‘what is known’ and ‘what still needs to be known’ about educational leadership,management, and governance in South Africa.

Part 2 - School leadership and management )

To be continued...
 

mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
I'll put it in parts because it's a bit lengthy. I presented this last month at my university. It caused lots of discussions.


An overview of education management in South Africa

I examine three main issues, wh ich are d irectly linked to school management developments in South A frica since 1994: school leadership and management; professionalisation of principalship through the South African Standard for School Leadership (SASSL); and leading and managing the learning school. In exploring these issues I draw mainly on a systematic and comprehensive literature review of school leadership, management, and governance, commissioned by the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance (MGSLG). The
aim of the desk research was to establish ‘what is known’ and ‘what still needs to be known’ about education al leadership, managem en t, and gove rnance in South Africa. I also draw upon the work of the Education Managem ent Task Team (EMTT), commissioned by the Directorate of Education Management and Governance Development in the Na tional Dep artment of Education. The ir work drew upon the South A frican Schools Act (SASA) and, specifically, the recommendations of the Ministerial Task Team on Educational Management. The
EMTT brief was to develop a policy framework for school leadership and management development, training and implementation, and to devise a South African Standard for School Leadership which would inform professional educational leadership programmes, leading to a National Professional Qualification for Principalship (SANPQP). The SASSL would provide a clear role description for principals, set out what is required of principals, and identify key areas of p rincipalship.


Keywords: learning schools; principalship; professionalisation, school leadership

Part 1 - History and context )

To be continued...
 

mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Part four in my four part series on the ANC and religion follows below. The sections of the series are:

1. Introduction
2. The ANC and Religion
3. Thabo Mbeki and the Truth
4. Jacob Zuma and God




THE ONE TRUE CHURCH


Jacob Zuma and God 

Divine Right: the very phrase would seem odd, as denoting a deity’s disposition of rights to mortal man or woman to rule a portion of earth, if belief in it were not an historical reality. It is surprising that those who invoked the notion did not see that it rested on nothing more elaborate than the primitive notion that might is right, for it is the deity’s vast and inexorable power to punish and dispose that enforces the ‘right’ of a king to rule by supposed dictate of what that deity wills.” [1] [AC Grayling]

Full text )
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Today I'll bring you the 3rd part of my essay on the ANC and religion. Having set the scene in parts 1 and 2, I'll now look at how religion manifests in - and is a helpful tool to explain - the politics of Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. We start with Mbeki. Again, just as a reminder, the four sections of this series follow below and, ultimately, they should all be read together.

1. Introduction
2. The ANC and Religion
3. Thabo Mbeki and the Truth
4. Jacob Zuma and God

The section on Jacob Zuma will follow next week.



THE ONE TRUE CHURCH


Thabo Mbeki and the truth


“Truth does indeed have immense power; yet it remains extremely elusive. No single person, no body of opinion, no political or religious doctrine, no political party or government can claim to have a monopoly on truth. For that reason truth can be arrived at only through the untrammelled contest between and among competing opinions, in which as many viewpoints as possible are given a fair and equal hearing. It has therefore always been our contention that laws, mores, practices and prejudices that place constraints on freedom of expression are a disservice to society. Indeed these are the devices employed by falsehood to lend it strength in its unequal contest with truth.” [1] [Nelson Mandela]

“…for those among us who see themselves as agents of progressive change, complete and accurate knowledge, representing accurate understanding of objective reality, liberated from prejudice, false assumptions and propaganda, becomes an imperative and inalienable condition for the untrammelled but responsible exercise of the hard-won right to self-determination. We have the possibility and latitude and the necessity to speak thus because we live during our own age of revolution. Exactly because it is such an age, all of us face the demand to understand objective reality accurately and objectively, to enable the revolution to decide on the correct strategy, tactics and operations…Opponents of change see it as their obligatory task to falsify reality, in their interest.” [2] [Thabo Mbeki]

Full text )

 
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Today I bring you the 2nd installment from an essay on the ANC and religion.

The five instalments are:

1. Introduction
2. The ANC and Religion
3. Thabo Mbeki and the Truth
4. Jacob Zuma and God

Next week I'll bring you the third section, entitled Thabo Mbeki and the truth.


THE ONE TRUE CHURCH

An essay on the ANC, religion, and the politics of Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma



The ANC and religion

“Those who say the ANC is atheist are simply wrong. Practicing their different rituals, clad in different clothes, citing separate songs and scriptures, ANC supporters may seem divided, but in our struggle for liberation and transformation they share a belief in God and support a common political platform. Through their calls upon Jehovah, Jesus, Thixo, Allah, Umvelinqangi, Krishna, Modimo, or the teaching of the Buddha, Bahula, or Marx, similar themes emerge. We are all spiritual people, even though we are not all religious. We recognise a supreme driving force of goodness, success, and hope in the heart of the human community which does liberate and does transform. We have seen it happen. The ANC believes that Faith and Politics go hand in hand, two sides of the same coin. We believe that the African world view of religion as an inclusive factor of life is accurate: ubuntu is a holistic view of life in the whole community. It is spiritual politics.” [1] [ANC Today]

“Transformation extends spiritual understanding from the religious world to the whole secular creation. It recognises that spiritual strength lies in human communities as such, and not necessarily in religious institutions. The RDP of the Soul which moves us from the Liberation to the Transformation of our society is a secular activity of the spirit of ordinary people, not reserved as a religious activity for saints. Its proclamation and practice by some transformed experienced progressive religious and theological people is a huge bonus.” [2] [The RDP of the Soul]


Full text )

 
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
I'll write several posts that will, together, comprise a single essay on the ANC and religion. The central thesis of the essay is that religion is a helpful metaphor for understanding the ANC’s political ideology and, in particular, for better understanding the politics of Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. These several different posts - each one of which constitutes a different section of the full essay - are as follows:

1. Introduction
2. The ANC and Religion
3. Thabo Mbeki and the truth
4. Jacob Zuma and God

Thus, today, we start with the INTRODUCTION, which sets out the argument in broad terms, on which I will elaborate in each of the next posts.


THE ONE TRUE CHURCH

An essay on the ANC, religion, and the politics of Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma


“There cannot be a clearer mark of the progress of liberty of thought than the contrast between the world views of science and religion, nor of the hard-won nature of that progress than the struggle to liberate the former from the latter. Liberty of thought is the essence of enquiry, and free enquiry produces a conception of the universe totally different from any that thinks the world was created as a theatre for the moral and spiritual destiny of humankind by anthropocentric gods. The story of science is also the story of the struggle by religious orthodoxy to retain control over how the universe is to be seen, and where the limits of legitimate enquiry lie. To make science possible, religion’s claim to hegemony over the mind had to be broken.” [1] [J. Youlton]

Full text )
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)

This video examines the last 200 years of British colonialism; particularly in relation to Africa, Israel and Iraq. Don't mind the music, it's a bit melodramatic. Also, please be warned that this video contains images of deceased persons...

Courtesy of an article by Junaid Khan, here's some of the dialogue (more or less paraphrased) from the video:

Some thoughts )
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Keep one question in mind: what good would've it done to the world if Idi Amin had saved a drowning African child??

Full rant )
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