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Thursday, February 08, 2007

On this day in:

1878 Martin Buber was born.

1910 The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated.

1915 D.W. Griffith's silent movie epic about the Civil War, ''The Birth of a Nation,'' premiered in Los Angeles.

1922 President Warren G. Harding had a radio installed in the White House.

Buber's concept of I and Thou was formed during the growth of mass movements such as the Boy Scouts and the growth of mass media. Here is a comment on a NYT article on Positive Psychology that seems to be a practical approach to breaking through this clutter:


44.January 8th, 2007
10:53 am I teach cultural and social criticism at a small universiy. My courses in sociological issues present a particular problem because we examine difficult, often disturbing, issues such as violence, environmemental concerns, principles of governance, law and interpersonal relationships.

In these classes, I feel the responsibility to help students, most in there early to late twenties, come to terms personally with the very difficult problems facing them as young persons at a very difficult point in human history. I have attemped to do this in two ways. I begin each course with two lecture/discussions on the nature of our class as community. We consider what it is that motivates each of them and me to be in this particular class and in university.

At every opportunity, I stress that we are not simply responsible for our own learning, but for the learning of every member of the class. As a result, we are responsible to be prepared for class, contribute actively to class discussions, and to attend all classes. My argument is that the very nature of a classroom is one of community and if we refuse to engage with one another or the material, we are wasting everyone’s time and actually compromising that experience; thus cheating ourselves and one another of a very prescious opportunity.

I ask that in their writing, they approach each topic from a subjective annecdotal perspective - finding some connection between the issue and their own experience. A very large percentage of the papers are remarkably insighful and creative. Rather than simply correcting grammar and grading them, I work very hard at entering into their discussion on a positive, personal and annecdotal level. The comments I make on there papers often fuel further discussion in class or elicit email responses that still, after forty years of teaching, move and amaze me at their depth and intelligence.

My point here is not to promote my particular methodology, though I strongly believe that we need to have a very serious look at the motivations and efficacy of current pedagogical practices which stress objectivity and measurement. Within the current contexts of society, school and happiness, there are far too few opportunities for young people to formally examine their subjective experience and responses with one another and an older, supportive and informed perspective.

In this society, we remove our young people from the actual events that effect their lives either through schooling, institutions or the media. Schools, with their focus on purposeful achievement defer a productive life and happiness, making them conditional upon academic and economic success. As academics, we too often confuse form and content with the human significance of the content. Have we forgotten that direct engagement with life is a very powerful, and perhaps the essentially effective, means for achieving a purposeful and happy life?

During and long after our classes, my students often email or comment on how they feel more consciously instrumental in their own lives and in the world. They all make the point that almost nowhere in there school experience have they had the opportunity to think, express and challenge their own thoughts and to contextualize academic insights into their own lives. I believe this to be fundamental to acheiving any lasting state of personal and societal happiness.

— Posted by Richard Mueller

Comment on Happiness 101 by D.T. MAX, published January 7, 2007 in the New York Times. Can classes in positive psychology teach students not just to feel good but also to do good?

I tried to find Mueller on google, what he is doing sounds a lot like the ideal Franklin Circle.




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From today's New York Times www.nyt.com

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