Category Archives: Quotes

Weekend reading…

Are you letting the fear of being wrong rob you of being confidence?

  • SA’s Child Gauge 2012 – Suffer the Little Children (Daily Maverick article) – the lived experience of too many South African children is simply unacceptable. But life goes on.
  • Servaas van der Berg (my supervisor) takes on Adcorp “Adcorp’s employment and unemployment figures are not taken seriously by researchers – yet they can do much harm” and see Loane Sharp’s reply here (and Wittenberg and Kerr repeat the most important reasons why we shouldn’t take Adcorp’s figures seriously – see here)
  • Trevor Manuel and Lindiwe Sisulu crack down (at least on paper) on incompetent and corrupt bureaucrats.
  • When Churches act like businesses they shouldn’t be surprised when they get consumers (see here).
  • The ABSOLUTELY shocking state of infrastructure in Limpopo schools – pictures tell a thousand words
  • Interesting newsletter from “Governing Body Foundation” discussing ANA results and some advice for schools (citing our interview with M&G)
  • Bill Easterly brilliant as usual – discussing “The Ideology of Development” from which I draw the quote of the day:
    • The ideology of Development is not only about having experts design your free market for you; it is about having the experts design a comprehensive, technical plan to solve all the problems of the poor. These experts see poverty as a purely technological problem, to be solved by engineering and the natural sciences, ignoring messy social sciences such as economics, politics, and sociology”

Thought police…

Think

This is such a great picture that deserves a blog post all its own about the virtues of critical thinking and the need for freedom of speech. Until then here are some articles I’ve read recently and really enjoyed:

  • The power of introverts – Susan Cain. Great TED talk about why our obsession with extroversion is bad for introverts, bad for extroverts, and bad for society.
  • Prof Sean Archer writes an informed and intelligent M&G article about why the private sector needs to be paid more attention as far as job-creation in South Africa goes.
  • The Eastern Cape’s textbook crisis may be worse than Limpopo’s (depressing) – article here
  • Quote of the day “There is a way to critique intelligently and respectfully, without eroding the validity of your disagreement. It boils down to manners“. – Albert Einstein (from Brainpickings).

Links I liked…

this is not my life forever

  • Angela Duckworth on Grit (TED) – great talk about why some people succeed and others fail, and that we should be refocusing the discussion away from genius and towards the qualities that lead to “realized genius”
  • Jonathan Jansen on “The Mathematics of Democracy” – Helen Suzman Memorial lecture
  • Quote of the day: “Researchers have a duty to provide more than negative messages and evidence of complexity. There needs to be a meeting point between researchers’ recognition of complexity and practitioners’ hunger for guidance” From here 

Reading to some purpose…

America Disability Association: Stairs

Articles I’ve read and really enjoyed:

  • Chapter 2 “Economist & Educator” of Beeby’s classic book “The Quality of Education in Developing Countries” – a lovely read for those bridging the two worlds of education and economics.”
  • Why three is the magic number” – Financial Times article about the importance of the 0-3 years phase in a child’s life. Found lots of parallels between this article and the one I wrote on preschool (here)
  • Better Vision for Education: Making eyeglasses available to primary school students in rural China substantially increased test scores – JPAL research brief 
  • And the quote of the dayAnd I submit that this is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.” – David Foster Wallace from here)

Abolition of Slavery: morality > economy ?

“A deep stain on Christian history is the African slave trade. Since Christianity was dominant in the nations that bought and sold slaves during that time, the churches must bear responsibility along with their societies for what happened. Even though slavery in some form was virtually universal in every human culture over the centuries, it was Christians who first came to the conclusion that it was wrong. The social historian Rodney Stark writes:

“Although it has been fashionable to deny it, anti-slavery doctrines began to appear in Christian theology soon after the decline of Rome and were accompanied by the eventual disappearance of slavery in all but the fringes of Christian Europe. When Europeans subsequently instituted slavery in the New World, they did so over strenuous papal opposition, a fact that was conveniently ‘lost’ from history until recently. Finally, the abolition of New World slavery was initiated and achieved by Christian activists.”

Christians began to work for abolition not because of some general understanding of human rights, but because they saw it as violating the will of God. Older forms of indentured servanthood and the bond-service of biblical times had often been harsh, but Christian abolitionists concluded that race-based, life-long chattel slavery, established through kidnapping, could not be squared with biblical teaching in either the Old Testament or the New. Christian activists such as William Wilberforce in Great Britain, John Woolman in America, and many, many others devoted their entire lives, in the name of Christ, to ending slavery. The slave trade was so tremendously lucrative that there was enormous incentive within the church to justify it. Many church leaders defended the institution. The battle for self-correction was titanic.

When the abolitionists finally had British society poised to abolish slavery in their empire, planters in the colonies foretold that emancipation would cost investors enormous sums and the prices of commodities would skyrocket catastrophically. This did not deter the abolitionists in the House of Commons. They agreed to compensate the planters for all freed slaves, an astounding sum up to half the British government’s annual budget. The Act of Emancipation was pased in 1833, and the costs were so high to the British people that one historian called the British abolition of slavery ‘voluntary econocide.’

Rodney Stark notes how historians have been desperately trying to figure out why the abolitionists were willing to sacrifice so much to end slavery. He quote the historian Howard Temperley, who says that the history of abolition is puzzling because most historians believe all political behaviour is self-interested. Yet despite the fact that hundreds of scholars over the last fifty years have looked for ways to explain it, Temperley says, ‘no one has succeeded in showing who campaigned for the end of the slave trade…stood to gain in any tangible way…or that these measures were other than economically costly to the country‘. Slavery was abolished because it was wrong, and the Christians were the leaders in saying so. Christianity’s self-correcting apparatus, its critique of religiously supported acts of injustice, had asserted itself.”

From Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God

Creative destruction?

“In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed – they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and  the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce…? The cuckoo clock.”

-Orson Welles

Makes you think…

Seeing through a glass dimly

“The vision of Christ that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy:
Thine has a great hook nose like thine,
Mine has a snub nose like to mine….
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white”
-William Blake
Phillip Yancey quotes this poem in his book “The Jesus I Never Knew” which I’m reading at the moment. It strikes at something that is so blatant, and yet I forget it all the time: we do not see things as they are, but as we are (cf Anais Nin). We walk around with lenses on our eyes and filters on our ears. We may hear the same words as each other but interpret them differently, or better yet, remember them differently (on that note, see this TED talk by Daniel Kahneman). This is surely what David meant when he said:26“To the faithful you show yourself faithful,to the blameless you show yourself blameless,

27to the pure you show yourself pure,

but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

Is God different to different people? Or do we see the same God differently? I think we do not see God, or the Bible, or each other objectively. Since we are a product of all that we have experienced, we see and interact with everything in light of that fact. You are the product of the people you meet, the books you read, the movies you watch, the courses you study – like a traveler learning new phrases and acquiring new mannerisms, we are far less ‘individual’ than we think we are.

Importantly, this is not just an interesting fact – a little thought experiment to brighten a dreary day, it really is of utmost importance. If I read the Bible differently to you, if I hear the same words of God differently to you, this is a problem. I’m not talking about the legitimate variety of expressions and ways we respond to God, I’m talking about deciding who God is, what his priorities are, and thus what ours should be. These should not be open to wide interpretation. Either God is something or He is not.

I wonder to what extent the Gospel writers were influenced by their own experiences? Their Jewishness, or their medicalness, or simply their personality type. Perhaps some degree of variation is actually what God wants, after all it was Him who chose 4 gospels and not one.