Summer reading

I want to read these books this summer:
Daniel Deronda
Our Mutual Friend
Jane Eyre*
Northanger Abbey*

(* will be re-reads)

That’s a lot of reading. And those are just the main books. There are many little ones I want to get around to as well. Bussssy.

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Simple Things That Thrill

I always like to find books online as etexts, so I was greatly interested in this collection of links to online books from a religiously Christian perspective.

My delight turned to thrill when I saw this book.

Years ago I read The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? I was astonished at how well documented the NT is compared to books like, say, Homer or the Iliad. This week Equuschick was looking for our copy, but it seems to be among those three thousand books that are still in boxes, pending a house with more than 1200 square feet.

Yoo-hooo!! Equuschick!! Come see, come see!!

Twenty years later I can still remember the explosive impact passages like this had for me:

The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which noone dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians. Somehow or other, there are people who regard a ‘sacred book’ as ipso facto under suspicion, and demand much more corroborative evidence for such a work than they would for an ordinary secular or pagan writing. From the viewpoint of the historian, the same standards must be applied to both. But we do not quarrel with those who want more evidence for the New Testament than for other writings; firstly, because the universal claims which the New Testament makes upon mankind are so absolute, and the character and works of its chief Figure so unparalleled, that we want to be as sure of its truth as we possibly can; and secondly, because in point of fact there is much more evidence for the New Testament than for other ancient writings of comparable date.

There are in existence about 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part. The best and most important of these go back to somewhere about AD 350, the two most important being the Codex Vaticanus, the chief treasure of the Vatican Library in Rome, and the wellknown Codex Sinaiticus, which the British Government purchased from the Soviet Government for £100,000 on Christmas Day, 1933, and which is now the chief treasure of the British Museum. Two other important early MSS in this country are the Codex Alexandrinus, also in the British Museum, written in the fifth century, and the Codex Bezae:, in Cambridge University Library, written in the fifth or sixth century, and containing the Gospels and Acts in both Greek and Latin.

Perhaps we can appreciate how wealthy the New Testament is in manuscript attestation if we compare the textual material for other ancient historical works. For Caesar’s Gallic War (composed between 58 and 50 BC) there are several extant MSS, but only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some g00 [note: this online text has many typos. I think this is supposed to be 900] years later than Caesar’s day. Of the 142 books of the Roman History of Livy (59 BC-AD 17) only thirty five survive; these are known to us from not more than twenty MSS of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing fragments of Books iii-vi, is as old as the fourth century. Of the fourteen books of the Histories of Tacitus (c. AD 100) only four and a half survive; of the sixteen books of his Annals, ten survive in full and two in part. The text of these extant portions of has two great historical works depends entirely on two MSS, one of the ninth century and one of the eleventh. The extant MSS of his minor works (Dialogue dc Oratoribus, Agricola, Gcrmania) all descend from a codex of the tenth century The History of Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) is known to us from eight MSS, the earliest belonging to c. AD 900, and a few papyrus scraps, belonging to about the beginning of the Christian era The same is true of the History of Herodotus (c. 488-428 BC). Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.

Wonderful reading. Bookmark it. Go back often.

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Polyester Tires, Woven Skyscrapers

ARticle here. See the slideshow, as well. Bonnet-tip to Evangelical Outpost

Textiles are no longer just the stuff of clothing, carpets and furniture covering. Made of high-tech threads, they can also be found in lifesaving medical devices and the bodies of racing cars. One architect is proposing building a skyscraper out of carbon fibers.

“I think there’s more areas that are using textiles than there were before,” said Matilda McQuaid, head of the textiles department at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, where 150 items showing the advances of materials science are on display in a show called “Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance.”

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Home Schoolers are the Real Education Reformers

In an article titled Homeschooling Alone- Why corporate reformers are ignoring the real revolution in education, Greg Beato writes:

Despite homeschooling’s increasing popularity—a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education estimates that approximately 1.1 million students are now being homeschooled in the United States—neither corporate altruists nor philanthropic foundations have shown much interest in it.

Instead, would-be reformers continue to give generously to a public school system they routinely condemn as inefficient, dysfunctional, and hopelessly obsolete. To fix such a system, they say, it will take fresh thinking, radical change, a completely new approach. So instead of dumping billions each year into the public school system, as the federal government does, today’s private-sector benefactors forge an entirely different path, dumping only hundreds of millions each year into the public school system. They promote charter schools (which boast a nationwide enrollment of around 500,000). They champion school vouchers (which are currently used by fewer than 20,000 students nationwide).

Back in 1983 a federal report titled A Nation at Risk looked at American public education and stated “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Was this one of the salvos in the war?

Beato says:

While corporate reformers often talk as if every public school failure can be blamed on the inevitable inefficiencies of public-sector monopolists, the truth is that private forces have been helping to shape America’s public education system since its inception. In the 19th century, for example, wealthy philanthropists popularized the idea that tormenting children with fractions and vowels required specialized training and certification; the teaching colleges they helped create ushered in the era of the professional instructor. In more recent years, as education historian David Tyack has pointed out, it wasn’t just fuzzy-minded progressives who sabotaged our schools with holistic curricula like metal shop and driver’s ed. For those innovations, we also have the National Association of Manufacturers, car dealers, and insurance companies to thank.

Since that 1983 report, local, state, and federal governments have poured funds into the public school system, and corporations have made donations amounting to about one billion dollars. There really hasn’t been much improvement.

According to the American Society for Training and Development, a workplace-learning trade group based in Alexandria, Virginia, a survey of Fortune 500 companies found that teaching employees “basic skills” accounted for 17 percent of their training costs in 2002. Similarly, in a 2001 survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers, 32 percent of the companies responding reported that their workers had poor reading and writing skills; 26.2 percent said their workers’ math skills were inadequate. By 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts, America will face a shortage of 12 million qualified workers in the job market’s fastest-growing sectors.

One reason why these efforts are not more successful might be that they really aren’t seeking systemic change, just more of the same thing:

To participate in IBM’s Reinventing Education program, schools must agree to work overtime, “extending the length of the school day and school year.” Charter schools, another favorite of education reformers, can be havens of Holtism, but they also often display a penchant for uniforms and discipline codes. In today’s enlightened corporations, casual Fridays and flex-time rule, but yesterday’s workplace lives on in the schools of tomorrow.

But if something already isn’t working, why would you want more of it?

Corporate reformers, says Beato, essentially just want to homogenize education. Homeschoolers tend to be more successful than their public educated counterparts, and one reason just might be that “Homeschooling… is essentially an attempt to diversify education.”

Beato thinks that education reformers and philanthropists should consider funding homeschoolers:

But in today’s education landscape, where even the most generous donors can’t hope to sustain a system that burns through $500 billion a year, philanthropists ultimately function as venture capitalists: They support good ideas with seed money and hope the best ones eventually find a market. Extending this metaphor, imagine if, in the mid-’90s, high tech’s flushest angels decided to snub Internet trailblazers like eBay and Amazon and put all their money into the proposition that Montgomery Ward would pioneer online commerce. Essentially, this is the strategy of today’s corporate philanthropists when it comes to education reform.

What makes such lack of interest especially baffling is that, theoretically at least, homeschooling seems tailor-made to the values and needs of business. It’s a private, union-free institution in which the government plays only a minor role. It’s an endlessly customizable approach to education that offers an alternative to the one-size-fits-all limitations of public school. It produces self-directed individuals who have learned how to acquire new skills without constant supervision or coercion.

The downside? It may be a little harder to mass-market Doritos, Nikes, and other articles of trade in a Southern Baptist’s living room than it is in a public school. But in an era when the phrase school choice has become the mantra of so many education reformers and philanthropists, homeschooling, a choice that millions of parents and children have already enthusiastically embraced, remains the most unleveraged asset in the education universe.

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Broad Band Obstructionism

Media Citizen writes:

We have Big Media to thank for saving Americans from themselves. Just as the notion of affordable broadband for all was beginning to take hold in towns and cities across the country, the patriots at Verizon, Qwest, Comcast, Bell South and SBC Communications have created legislation that will stop the “red menace” of community internet before it invades our homes.

Telecommunications giants have mobilized a well-funded army of coin-operated think tanks, pliant legislators and lazy journalists to protect their Internet fiefdoms from these municipal internet initiatives, painting them as an affront to American innovation and free enterprise.

Their weapon of choice is industry-crafted legislation that restricts local governments from offering public service Internet access at reasonable rates. Laws are already on the books in a dozen states. This year alone, 10 states are considering similar bills to block public broadband or to strengthen existing restrictions.Spinning broadband as theirs alone to provide, ISPs have chalked up some early victories—including a draconian law now on the books in Pennsylvania, which strips local governments of the right to choose their own homegrown broadband solutions without the prior approval of a monopoly phone company. In late 2004, Verizon dictated the law word-for-word to local legislators, who then quietly slipped it into the middle of a 72-page bill that appeared to call for improved communications infrastructure for all Pennsylvanians.

It will have the opposite effect.

Forcing public broadband networks to ask permission from Verizon before offering service is akin to forcing public libraries to ask permission from Borders before checking out books.

Interesting article full of links to other thought provoking and informative articles. Read it all.

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