Tag Archives: Columbia

Harvey M. Bricker and the Passing of the Great Race’s Memory of Facts: the Culture of Traditional Education

Memories of Memorization, Traditional Education, and the Old Archaeology that came from WASPY Old “Traditional” Harvard.  Education of a kind that almost no one has anymore, from an Educator without fair modern parallels, because of my Memories of a serious man with a wry and dry sense of humor who wore bow-ties and proudly (if somewhat ironically and daringly) sported a Hitler-style “toothbrush” mustache….

Word has come to me second-hand via HSC from the desk of my old honors’ thesis advisor E. Wyllys Andrews V that Professor Harvey M. Bricker of Tulane University passed on, joining his professors and other “Dead White Men” of Academic History in the the Great Symposium in the Sky last Sunday January 15, 2017.  I rarely have occasion to write  or even think about my undergraduate college professors in the 1970s, but Harvey without any doubt was one of my two top favorites out of a faculty of Archaeology and Historical Anthropology that I simply loved, really idolized, and almost worshipped as a younger than average teenager in New Orleans.

It is hard to believe that he must have been 76 or 77 when he died.  Harvey and his wife Victoria R. were among the young generation of professors who totally remade Tulane as a modern university in the 1970s.  (Vicky Bricker was, in fact, my very first professor of Anthropology, and the reason I switched from Political Science to Anthropology as my freshman declaration of major).  

Harvey was an uncompromising traditionalist, an “Old Archaeologist” of the Hallam L. Movius (Harvard) and Francois Bordes/Bordeaux French Palaeoloithic School of careful excavation and stone tool typologies.  Harvey made no attempt to conceal his contempt for the “New Archaeology” of the “Processualists” and for that I absolutely loved him.

He was a great classroom professor, although I’m sad to say I apparently only managed to take two classes from him, namely “Man in the Pleistocene” and “Rise of Civilization”, then catalog numbered Anthropology 625-626.

Today, I am most grateful to him for emphasizing a much maligned feature of learning: memorization.  “Memorization of Facts” is denigrated in the modern world as almost beneath contempt.  “Give me Big Problems; Teach me how to think outside the box; don’t try to lock me in” whine the modern millennial students.

I have always wondered how you ever think outside of the box if you don’t know what’s IN the box.  It’s a serious question.  I firmly believe that thought unanchored in knowledge of all that came before is pretty much worthless.  But that is the way and the story of the modern world: “let’s forget everything that the Dead White Men thought day before yesterday” and “let’s just think whatever we want to think and do whatever we want to do”—that’s a surefire strategy for disaster, and it’s what the cultural marxists are doing with modern education at all levels. 

Harvey Bricker awarded high grades ONLY for recitation of facts.  “Facts are low level observations” which do not require much in the way of comparative thought, while “Theories are Higher Level, synthetic observations.”  Or so I learned another (much  more “Processual”, “New”) Archaeologist, Columbia’s Barbara J. Price, who herself died in New York City, February 18, 2016, at the age of 75.  

To look at the forest or the trees, that is the question.  Except it is really no kind of question: if you don’t look up very close, you won’t, you can’t possibly, know what kind of trees are in the forest, what is the mix of species.  And to really study forest ecology you need a pretty exact census of each tree, vine, and bush in your study area, together with the contents and depths of the soil, the worm and insect population, not to mention the birds and mammals.

So Harvey M. Bricker taught like they did back in my grandparents’ days, back in the time of Madison Grant (the one who wrote of “The Passing of the Great Race”), and Harvey expected students to learn the names of local site phases and radio-carbon dates and the typological contents of tool assemblages.

I was fortunate because my grandparents had required me to memorize lists since I was a kid, and to recite them and test my memory was our family’s version of fun and game time.  My grandfather’s practical point was simple: “Memorization is the key to any kind of business success. I have companies (H.B. Meyer & Son’s, Al Meyer Company, Bell Chemical Company) that depend on sales to very sophisticated corporate and government customers who have “procurement departments” whose employees do nothing but look at the available products’ cost benefits all day long.  If my salesmen can’t remember every single product we have without consulting a catalog, they won’t be able to push the right product to the right customer.  If they can’t remember every chemical component of every product, when it was patented, by us or someone else, and how it was used, they won’t be effective in presenting the substance of what we offer. So these are the same games we play at the office: who can remember the most detail. You’ll never regret learning how to memorize.”

So the attack on memorization of facts is part of the modern “dumbing down” of people to serve computers.  Computers are based on memory, but can a computer really sell a product, or an idea, as effectively, or with as much flare and enthusiasm, as a personal conversation can do?

Academics, of course, both creates and consists of (at least theoretically, ideally) the great marketplace of ideas.  Harvey Miller Bricker belonged to this old school that an archaeologist needed to be (in essence) as good a salesman for his ideas as anyone on my grandfather’s well-disciplined sales team.  In the modern world of “safe spaces” and “trigger words” and political correctness gone mad, well, forcing people to memorize facts is tantamount to forcing them to work, and to accept the world as it is.

But if we haven’t studied the world as it REALLY is, how can we even know for sure that we don’t like it?

I remember my big bulging blue spiral ring notebooks with gold embossed “Tulane University” on the covers, chocked with page after page of notes in my fair-to-awful handwriting and internal manila “pocket” containers stuffed with class handouts, quizzes, and graded tests and papers.

For Anthro 625, “Man in the Pleistocene” (a survey of Old Stone Age/Palaeolithic Archaeology) from the first choppers below the bottom of the earliest floors at Olduvai Gorge to the final end of the ice age and dawn of the Mesolithic, Harvey’s lectures were filled with facts, and I basically couldn’t write down the facts he gave in those speeches fast enough.  I wrote my paper for that course, “Comment Vivaient les Rennes a l’Age de l’homme Préhistorique” hypothesizing that the Later Magdalenian people of Upper Palaeolithic France had domesticated the reindeer, at least to the same degree that the Lapp of Finland have done so in modern times.  (It was at least two years before the release of the Christmas kids’ song, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”… but “L’Age du Rennes” or “the Reindeer Age” is an old-fashioned French expression naming the Upper Palaeolithic.  Harvey made me rewrite it about four times.  It was a great experience.  I remember reading and criticizing the work of an English archaeologist named D.A. Sturdy, and Harvey told me (wrote on one version of my paper) I shouldn’t be so hard on him, that Sturdy wasn’t necessarily “that stupid.”  I was only 17 but Harvey spent a great deal of time with me.

For “Rise of Civilization”, Harvey required us to memorize the local sequence of Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age in each sector of Europe, including the infamous “Reinecke” series.  Thanks to Harvey, names like “Starčevo-Körös-Cris”, Vinča, Vinitsa,  Lepenski-Vir, Dolni Vestonice, Dunaújváros, were fixed in my mind and remained ready to resuscitate talking to archaeologists in 1989-90 when my former Greek wife and I toured Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe during and after the fall of the Iron Curtain while I had a Volkswagenwerk Fellowship at the University of Bonn….  In essence, Harvey  in New Orleans had taught us about local sequences as well as and as thoroughly  as locally specialized archaeologists learn about their own backyards in (the former) Czechoslovakia, Hungary, (the former) Yugoslavia, Romania and Bulgaria.

I never got to go on a dig with Harvey at the Châtelperronian site of Les Tambourets in the Pyrenees in southern France or ever even to see him in action, except in the classroom, but I heard so much from him, and found him so inspiring, that I feel like I did.  

http://www.worldcat.org/title/chatelperronian-of-les-tambourets-haute-garonne-france/oclc/907679210

http://www.paleoanthro.org/media/dissertations/Scandiuzzi2008-abstract.pdf

I don’t know how it is now, but in those days the Anthropology Professors at Tulane all ate at the University Cafeteria with the students, and so we got to spend lots of time with them out of class.  Harvey at a table with students was always funny in his stern dry way, twitching his mustache  meaningfully in ways that the Führer himself could never have matched.  He and Vicky had their share of the Anthro Department parties, including the annual Ritual of the Passing of the Golden Bough, at their home on Cherokee Street.  I miss those days…. they were so carefree and fine and fun…. and so very interesting.

The passing of a great old fashioned professor like Harvey is a very sad moment.  He and Vicky, starting 42-40 years in the past, so long ago, played a major role in shaping my life, my mind and intellect, such as it is….and they definitely formed a large part of how I look at the world…. through their very conservative lenses of cultural evolution and archaeological prehistory, the evolution of civilization and the development of cultures.  I did not know them when they were focused on Maya astronomy and all that has remained pretty much beyond my grasp until the present day anyhow…. I am ashamed that I do not even own their magnum opus as of today, although I plan on buying it immediately:

https://www.amazon.com/Astronomy-Codices-Memoirs-American-Philosophical/dp/0871692651

But above all I remember them walking across the Tulane campus together looking so dedicated, so serious, and determined.

America in general, Tulane in particular, was different back then.  But if we remember and rebuild, mixing memory and desire, as T.S. Eliot wrote in the Wasteland, perhaps it could be that way again.  Perhaps students will rediscover the joys of memorization and building knowledge carefully and slowly, one brick, one stone tool, one Palaeolithic burin or type of clay at a time…. and both our theories and the world may be better for this.

SEE ALSO:

http://obits.nola.com/obituaries/nola/obituary.aspx?n=Harvey-Miller-Bricker&pid=183715426

http://www.legacy.com/memorial-sites/tulane-university/

Who’s real? Who’s fake? What’s real? What’s fake? Barack Obama vs. his Birth Certificates

Obama’s Birth Certificate from the District of Mombasa, Coastal Province, Kenya?

Barnett (and Keyes and O’Neil, etc.) v. Barack Obama, Motion for Letters Rogatory

I’m writing from LAX.  If I don’t fall asleep and miss my flight I’ll be back ad Cantabridgia in Republica Massachusettensium with 12-hours to a year…. LAX is not a fun place to spend the night.  I look forward to getting back to the routine of fighting mortgage foreclosures and trying to suggest reforms in the financial system.  Political/Constitutional litigation with Dr. Orly Taitz is really too taxing physically and emotionally, and way depressingly non-remunerative, but it surely is interesting.  When I was 13 James D. St. Clair, one of Richard M. Nixon’s top attorneys during Watergate, came to my high school to give a lecture and have a brunch.  I told him I was interested in being a Constitutional Lawyer, and that I supported the President.  He smiled and said that there weren’t many opportunities like that one to test separation of powers and Presidential immunity.  As peculiar as Watergate was, I’m now involved in a much more peculiar situation, the case of Barack Hussein Obama.  The United States’ first African-American President may well turn out to be merely an African President who came to America (and yes, this scenario does sound kind of like a movie that came out several years ago).   I would have preferred Jesse Jackson, honestly, to Barack Obama because I think Jesse never lied about his intentions or sucked up to big money the way this Columbia- Harvard-Chicago guy does.  He’s a half-black man wearing the white shoes associated with the highest and snobbiest level of the legal elite.

July 10, 2009—Today in History—Bahamas Independent

Thought for Today: “A concept is stronger than a fact.” — Charlotte Perkins Gilman, American economist and feminist (1860-1935).

It’s a fascinating question, isn’t it: what IS a fact?  A colleague of mine, from my archaeology days, Dr. Barbara Price, once described a fact as a rather “low level observation” when compared to a paradigm or a theory, clearly a more abstract or “higher” level observation.  If a fact is something which can be seen then why is it that some of the most widely seen events are so controversial?  Few murders are ever captured on film or seen by thousands, but the murder of John F. Kennedy was both captured on film and witnessed by thousands.  Still, a large percentage of the population (a percentage to which I belong in fact) do not believe the “official story” of the Warren Report.  Politically speaking, the Warren Report is quite simply incredible.  Similarly, the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, seen by millions as it happened on TV, is very poorly explained.  So what is a fact?  In an Anglo-American Court of Law, a “fact” is often whatever answers to a carefully drawn questionnaire are selected by a tired and often “sequestered” jury of 6-12 individuals (depending on whether you are in State or Federal Court or in which State).

Was the Defendant Negligent?  Yes_____ No_____  Was the Defendant Grossly Negligent?  Yes____ No_____ Was the Plaintiff Negligent? Yes____ No____  Did the Plaintiff’s Negligence Contribute to the severity of the accident?  Yes____ No____.   Did the Plaintiff suffer actual injury as a direct and proximate result of the accident? Yes____ No_____ If you answered “yes” to the last question assess in an exact dollar amount the Plaintiff’s actual damages: ___________.

Are any of these answers now established facts?  What if the Judge enters Judgment Notwithstanding the Jury Verdict (Judicium Non Obstante Veredicto-JNOV)?

When Galileo Galilei was tried for heresy, did it make the Sun revolve around the earth?  If Galileo discovered Neptune 213 years before other astronomers recognized this planet’s existence, was Neptune up there even before that?

Was Barack Hussein Obama born in the United States or Kenya?  If born in Kenya, should he be removed from office because he is not a natural born citizen of the United States, as required by law, or should he be impeached because he lied to the people and obtained his office by deceit, fraud, and lies?  If Barack Hussein Obama was born in the State of Hawaii, should he be impeached because he is installing socialism in the United States?

Thirty-six years ago on this day, the Bahamas was awarded its independence from Great Britain.  So was that a good thing or a bad thing?  Is Independence a fact or a concept? What exactly does it mean for a country like the Bahamas to be free?  It is not independent of tourism in any sense—but utterly dependent on it.  The modern Bahamas could not sustain itself based on its own production of food or anything else—it is in essence a service country—a tourist service country.  Is that a fact or a concept?  The Bahamas is close to Florida and Cuba, but is much more dependent on Florida-based tourism than on anything coming out of Cuba.

In the year of 1492, when Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue, he arrived on one of the smaller Bahamas’ islands (San Salvador or “Watling” Island) and believed he had reached China—yet still we consider him one of the greatest geniuses of all times, naming one of the major universities in New York City, one of the major rivers in the Pacific Northwest, one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada, and one of the key countries at the edge of Central and South America after him.  When Columbus arrived in Cuba after leaving the Bahamas, he sent envoys looking for the Emperor of China (they never found him).  For a very long time in the 19th century, the United States assumed that it would eventually annex Cuba, but when U.S. Troops finally did occupy Cuba after the Spanish American War of 1898, the U.S. in essence converted Cuba into a “tourist service country” much as I just described the Bahamas.  That all ended in 1959 when Fidel Castro Ruz took charge, and now it seems that the only salvation of Cuba and the Cuban economy will be to reopen the country to tourism to begin to repair the damage done by fifty years of communism.  Is that damage a fact or a concept?

If Barack Hussein Obama is perfecting the installation of socialism in the United States by his policies, will the United States end up a fossilized wreck like Cuba in 50 years?  Is this a factual or conceptual question?

Today in History — Friday, July 10

The Associated Press

Today is Friday, July 10, the 191st day of 2009. There are 174 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

Five hundred years ago, on July 10, 1509, French theologian John Calvin, a key figure of the Protestant Reformation, was born Jean Cauvin in Noyon, Picardy, France.

On this date:

In 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state.

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson personally delivered the Treaty of Versailles to the Senate, and urged its ratification. (However, the Senate rejected it.)

In 1929, American paper currency was reduced in size as the government began issuing bills that were approximately 25 percent smaller.

In 1940, during World War II, the Battle of Britain began as Nazi forces began attacking southern England by air. (The Royal Air Force was ultimately victorious.)

In 1951, armistice talks aimed at ending the Korean War began at Kaesong.

In 1962, the Telstar 1 communications satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In 1973, the Bahamas became fully independent after three centuries of British colonial rule.

In 1979, conductor Arthur Fiedler, who had led the Boston Pops orchestra for a half-century, died in Brookline, Mass., at age 84.

In 1989, Mel Blanc, the “man of a thousand voices,” including such cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, died in Los Angeles at age 81.

In 1991, Boris N. Yeltsin took the oath of office as the first elected president of the Russian republic.

Ten years ago: The United States women’s soccer team won the World Cup, beating China 5-4 on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Five years ago: President George W. Bush said in his weekly radio address that legalizing gay marriage would redefine the most fundamental institution of civilization, and that a constitutional amendment was needed to protect traditional marriage.

One year ago: President George W. Bush signed a bill overhauling rules about government eavesdropping and granting immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the U.S. spy on Americans in suspected terrorism cases. The Senate handily confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the top commander in the Middle East. Former White House adviser Karl Rove defied a congressional subpoena, refusing to testify about allegations of political pressure at the Justice Department.

Today’s Birthdays: Eunice Kennedy Shriver is 88. Former boxer Jake LaMotta is 88. Writer-producer Earl Hamner Jr. is 86. Former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins is 82. Actor William Smithers is 82.

Broadway composer Jerry Herman is 78. Director Ivan Passer is 76. Actor Lawrence Pressman is 70. Singer Mavis Staples is 70.

Actor Mills Watson is 69. Actor Robert Pine is 68. Rock musician Jerry Miller (Moby Grape) is 66. Tennis player Virginia Wade is 64. Actor Ron Glass (played “Shepard Book” in Joss Whedon’s Serenity and Firefly) is 64. Actress Sue Lyon is 63. Folk singer Arlo Guthrie is 62. Rock musician Dave Smalley is 60.

Country-folk singer-songwriter Cheryl Wheeler is 58. Rock singer Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) is 55. Banjo player Bela Fleck is 51.

Country musician Shaw Wilson (BR549) is 49. Country singer-songwriter Ken Mellons is 44. Rock musician Peter DiStefano (Porno for Pyros) is 44.

Country singer Gary LeVox (Rascal Flatts) is 39. Actress Sofia Vergara is 37. Actor Adrian Grenier is 33.

Actor Thomas Ian Nicholas is 29. Singer-actress Jessica Simpson is 29. Rock musician John Spiker is 28.