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September 15, 2022

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Very interesting, thank you.

Re: the comparison with QE2's funeral...how big was the funeral for Emperor Hirohito?

Stay safe from the typhoon, lj.

Thanks nous, it has passed us without any problems. Fortunately, we live in a place that I don't think has historically ever flooded and the house is concrete construction rather than a traditional style.

An interesting problem here is that there were a number of evacuation warnings and the problem is that a lot of older people tend to follow them regardless, putting a lot of strain on the evacuation centers, even though their home is probably safer, the impulse to follow directions is much stronger than the ability to evaluate their individual situation.

I don't remember the funeral for Emperor Hirohito as such a big affair, a glance at wikipedia confirms it.

An estimated 200,000 people lined the site of the procession – far fewer than the 860,000 that officials had projected...

In total, there were 55 heads of state, 12 heads of government, 19 deputy heads of state, 14 members of royal families, 30 foreign ministers and other officials present, all of which required placing Tokyo under an unprecedented blanket of security.

I don't remember the funeral for Emperor Hirohito as such a big affair,

One of life's constants: nobody, nobody, does pomp and circumstance like the British.

Or flummery and mummery, as some of us prefer to call it.

Or flummery and mummery, as some of us prefer to call it.

Further to which, if I were young it would be my ambition to become Rouge Dragon Pursuivant. The uniform alone would be worth it....

https://twitter.com/burgonsoc/status/1521253527288483843/photo/1

(I'm not sure if this is him, but the uniform is similar or identical. The current incumbent is called Adam Tuck, and is, when not doing heraldry duties, a graphic designer. There was a lot of entertaining stuff on Twitter yesterday about what a Rouge Dragon Pursuivant spends his time doing.)

This also invites a tangent on just what mourning the Queen means. It would be facile, but mistaken I think, to believe that it represents a push towards unity and an opportunity to put aside talk of division in the UK.

I was very interested to read this piece in the Grauniad about the queueing crowd by a Professor of Psychology who specialises in the psychology of crowds. My own experience, even with several absolutely committed lefties and republicans, is that this whole experience (from the death onward) has been (very unexpectedly) quite moving and emotional.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/20/queue-queen-coffin-monarchy

Once drawn to the crowd, another transformation occurred. The shared experience and common goals of those waiting together over long hours led to an emergent sense of shared identity. And that shared identity became the basis for the emergence of community. Strangers became friends. People began to talk, to share stories, to share sandwiches, even to develop intimacies. Such solidarity sustained people through the long march. Whatever the reason people joined the queue, the joy of human connection became a reason to stay in the crowd.

Obviously, I would have thought, nobody in the queue would have been an avowed anti-monarchist. Still, I want to move on from explicit discussion of the Queen, to this concept of shared experience and identity moving toward a sense of shared community. It seems obvious to me, in our variously polarised and fractured societies, that this is something desirable, without the taint of ideology. I wonder how it could be achieved? Any ideas? People always used to say that National Service accustomed people to meeting the kinds of people they would never otherwise meet (classwise, wealthwise, educationwise etc etc), but that ship sailed long ago, and anyway (as far as I know) they never had National Service in the US.

The first (and probably most obvious) thing that occurs to me is something that could happen in schools. But we could make rules about a "national curriculum", whereas I presume the US states system means that could never happen. Maybe Michael Cain (and others) are right, and the states system means partition is inevitable in the States?

Anyway, sorry to ramble on in this vein. And I do understand, with the whole Trump situation still ratcheting up, and the midterms approaching, Americans may be in no mood to discuss a purely theoretical method for bringing warring tribes together. But, still, I do wonder whether (even theoretically) such a thing would be possible

Obviously, I would have thought, nobody in the queue would have been an avowed anti-monarchist.

I'm not actually surprised that some might have been. It's one thing to take a stand on a general principle. Rather another when called upon to act in a specific case, as here.

Also, it may be that some of the avowed anti-monarchists may have discovered here that they were not so set in their beliefs as they had thought.

I do understand, with the whole Trump situation still ratcheting up, and the midterms approaching, Americans may be in no mood to discuss a purely theoretical method for bringing warring tribes together. But, still, I do wonder whether (even theoretically) such a thing would be possible.

It might be possible here. But it would require someone who had dedicated her life to trying to provide a focus for unity. And everybody, pro or con, was clear on that much. Sadly, no such paragon is currently on offer. Although we do have the opposite in abundance.

A little late, thanks for the comments. GftNC, about the idea of shared experience and identity, it seems to me that Japan has this baked into the mix a lot more than other countries. I appreciate it as an outsider, but I'm pretty conscious of where it falls short.

Is it desirable? I think it is, but it only if supported by an honest and truthful understanding of history, but that's a pretty big ask. And unfortunately, history, without an acceptance to be open to new interpretations, makes that shared identity become toxic. Perhaps it is necessary to tear the whole edifice down, but as you are doing that, people will slip in to make their own points and further their own agenda.

As a bit of synchronicity, this post via Eric Loomis at LGM, is quite interesting in that regard.

lj, the piece on Donald Yacovone's book leads me to wonder. I don't remember my textbooks depicting non-whites as he describes. But they did discuss slavery. And included Fredrick Douglass, Booker T Washington, and George Washington Carver together with segments on what they did. (This in the 1950s in California.)

Perhaps my memory is at fault. Then again, perhaps the Harvard collection of textbooks that he used as a source was less comprehensive than he assumed.

I think it is, but it only if supported by an honest and truthful understanding of history, but that's a pretty big ask. And unfortunately, history, without an acceptance to be open to new interpretations, makes that shared identity become toxic.

Agreed. A big problem, and one (possibly) without a solution.

Perhaps my memory is at fault. Then again, perhaps the Harvard collection of textbooks that he used as a source was less comprehensive than he assumed.

I read that excerpt and did not imagine that the cart full of books was the sum of his survey. That excerpt reads to me like the introduction to a more in-depth review of the archive. A lot of monographs start with one of these moments when the problem examined in the book comes into sharp focus for a moment in a very personal way.

I'd also like to add that I am often astounded, when watching popular media from my childhood, just how racist, sexist, and misogynistic it seems to me now. It's a lot like one of those shots in a film where the depth of field for a static shot shifts to obscure the primary figure in the foreground and reveal some detail in the background that had been obscured by the choice of focus. The most powerful tools in rhetoric are the ones that work silently in the background, or that reframe an argument in a way that render the alternative points of view invisible to create a false sense of inevitability.

Anecdote illustrating nous's 12:48 -- a few years ago, going through books in the attic, I found my college freshman calculus text. It was a couple of decades old when my class used it. The introduction is full of "the student HE this" and "the student HE that."

Like most of us here, I lived through the transitional period when people would argue sanctimoniously and dismissively that "he" was just a generic pronoun in English....

No need to elaborate. But reading that intro was sharply offensive to me now, in a way that it wasn't in 1968 because that was what I was conditioned to accept as normal and ordinary back then.

I was in an entering class of 900, 60 of whom were women.... Yale "went co-ed" the following year and took away a couple of our number.

Yes as well to the embedded racism, classism, and misogyny. My third grade geography text was built around a fictional boy "Peter Martin" who went traveling around the world with his businessman father. There were little summaries about each country they visited, one factoid of which, in each, was the # of times a week people in that country could afford to eat meat.

"Marie-France aide sa maman dans la cuisine. Jean-Paul joue dans le jardin avec Bruno le chien."

There were little summaries about each country they visited, one factoid of which, in each, was the # of times a week people in that country could afford to eat meat.

Somehow, my reaction to this is personified by Dennis the Menace saying "Jeepers!"

hsh: I know, right?

Post-WWII American triumphalism at its finest. With a strong thread of Catholicism thrown in, most likely, although I don't remember that as being salient in the geography book. (3rd grade was the first year we had geography as a subject.) Of course, my not remembering it might just be because it was the water I swam in as a child, and therefore unnoticed.

Fourth grade history was state history in WI, and that meant our story started with Jean Nicolet and the fur trade and whitewashed the conquest of the people already living there when Nicolet arrived.

I've only started to reassess my understanding of Great Lakes history recently, prompted in part by my discovery of Nechochwen's Heart of Akamon album - Native American black metal about the death of Tecumseh.

Reading back, one is struck by the ways in which our lessons wallpapered over the messiness and genocide.

One of my Anglo-passing Mexican-American friends has similarly mentioned how he attended two high schools in CA whose mascots were The Conquistadors...

There may have been lots of covert racism, sexism, etc. in my textbooks. But they did discuss the black figures mentioned. Which puts them at odds with his thesis as reported.

they did discuss the black figures mentioned

I'm not trying to bust you here, but when the figures are
Fredrick Douglass, Booker T Washington, and George Washington Carver

Nat Turner might be a stretch, but what about W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Paul Laurence Dunbar? You can see with the selection of Carver (allowing discussion of his science, but not of anything else) or of Washington (who has had a reputation as an accomodationist) that the emphasis is not on any kind of challenge, but as protective cover. It's similar to the way MLK gets trotted out and it gets ignored how radical his message was.

Fourth grade history was state history in WI, and that meant our story started with Jean Nicolet and the fur trade and whitewashed the conquest of the people already living there when Nicolet arrived.

In Iowa it was fifth grade. I had an odd old battleax* for a fifth grade teacher who covered the native genocide in quite some detail. One of the details I remember was that during the American Civil War, the eastern part of Iowa provided more Union Army volunteers per capita than any other state. In the more sparsely settled northwestern part, where I was in grade school, the attitude was "Let the South go, the War is just distracting the Army from its real job of killing the natives."

* Mrs. Helkins believed that every student should have to work for their grade, and for the brightest students she would pile on more and more work. I got through the last three weeks of fifth grade muttering, "She can't break me" under my breath, and occasionally crying quietly at my desk at home.

I imagine that, especially in the time before standardized testing and constant scholastic alarmism, there was a lot of variation in how teachers presented state curricula. I also imagine that a lot depended on local schools' budgets for new textbooks that meet the curricular standards set by the state.

This all gets into the difference between (quotidian) bias and structural bias. What gets taught in a particular classroom depends a lot on the teacher and the local institutional and community cultures. What makes it into the textbooks that are used in those classrooms, though...that's a reflection of the values and ideologies of those in power at whatever level of government has control of the curriculum. In most of Europe that would be the national level. Here it is usually the individual states with the largest and most conservative states having the greatest influence over editorial decisions made by publishers.

* Mrs. Helkins believed that every student should have to work for their grade, and for the brightest students she would pile on more and more work. I got through the last three weeks of fifth grade muttering, "She can't break me" under my breath, and occasionally crying quietly at my desk at home.

So you were smart, but not smart enough to play stupid. ;^)

So you were smart, but not smart enough to play stupid. ;^)

Unfortunately -- or perhaps fortunately in the long run -- by fifth grade I had already decided a good deal of, "This is who I am. This is what I do."

I did manage to work in small moments of rebellion. I think I really pissed her off when everyone was assigned to read a book and do some sort of presentation based on it. I read a book on simple stage magic and did a magic show. I still know what happens when you cut a Mobius strip in half in a couple of different ways, and the patter that went with it.

I'm not trying to bust you here, but when the figures are Fredrick Douglass, Booker T Washington, and George Washington Carver

No offense taken. I'm not saying those were the only black figures discussed. Just that they are the ones who made sufficient impression that I remember them half a century later.

In most of Europe that would be the national level. Here it is usually the individual states with the largest and most conservative states having the greatest influence over editorial decisions made by publishers.

True only if the larger and more liberal states acquiesce. If California and New York demand something, Texas is SOL. But they have to be willing to make the effort.

True only if the larger and more liberal states acquiesce. If California and New York demand something, Texas is SOL. But they have to be willing to make the effort.

You would think that, and if there is a specific unit that CA or NY requires, then there is going to be content to match, but since the textbooks get aimed at the middle of the bell curve for what is going to be taught, the publishers err on the side of caution and figure that the other states will supplement for the added material.

CA and NY get their own stuff, everyone else mostly lives in Texas' safe space.

CA and NY get their own stuff, everyone else mostly lives in Texas' safe space.

Nothing keeps the rest of the country from opting for the less reactionary choice. Once it's available. It's a matter of chivvying the publishers to make it available.

Washington (who has had a reputation as an accomodationist)

Allow me to note that what we have here is a case of "moving the goalposts." The original issue was textbooks not mentioning blacks at all -- that is, ignoring their existance, let alone their contributions. Now we're shifting to arguing about whether the textbooks talked about the right kinds of blacks.

Not to say that this isn't a valid issue. But it's one that doesn't arise without the first being dealt with first. And the question before the house involved the first issue.

I actually should have been a bit more diligent, as I didn't catch where Yacovone said that, I just took your word for it. I just went back to the article and I guess this is what you are referring to

In the 1920s, for instance, if an African American student had asked a teacher why no Black people appeared in their history textbook, the answer would be that African Americans “had done nothing to merit inclusion.”

So I think it is a misreading to claim that Yacovone is asserting that US history textbooks never have African Americans. This next passage fleshs that out a bit

Thomas A. Bailey’s “The American Pageant” became one of the most popular textbooks of the mid-20th century, with at least 13 editions in his lifetime and many more after his death. As he wrote in his autobiography, Bailey had sought to craft a general survey of the nation’s history that would “reveal it as a beacon-light success in democracy.” But behind the animated pages and colorful images lay equally important subtexts that determined what became enshrined as “history” and “democracy.”

Bailey explained that when he wrote his textbook, he focused on “the movers and shakers, not about the stagehands who shifted the scenery or the housewives who cooked the meals of the men who controlled events.” Only because of “public pressure,” he complained, did some textbook authors include “more pictures of prominent black leaders for Negro rights — Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others — and to say something favorable about them.” But no such images ever appeared in his book, and he never even mentioned King. “Descendants of slaves,” he said, did not want to be reminded of slavery’s legacy. (emphasis mine)

lj, thanks for the clarification.

wj - when you say that nothing keeps the rest of the country from adopting the less reactionary choice, you are focusing on the wrong end of the equation. The thing that is constraining the choice is the publishers' risk aversion. The more anodyne and non-controversial they can make a text, the less chance that it will be rejected for having run afoul of a particular board's triggers.

It's exactly like writing an admissions essay for college. The first most important step is to make it through the first pass rejections, which are often capricious. Only when you have made it through that step does the actual content that is left start to matter.

Publishers and authors want wide adoption for their texts, so they do their best to avoid known triggers and differentiate themselves based on what they do with the less risky material.

All the contentious material still gets published, sure, but it gets put into subject specific texts and sells to a much smaller audience and usually has a much smaller print run and less chance of selling a reprint or a new edition.

It's not how I imagine the industry works, it's how the industry actually works.

nous, I understood that. IF the publishers are going to do only one text, they will go with what will be as inoffensive as possible to as much of the market as possible. Hence the outsized influence of Texas's demands.

But my point was, states other than Texas, with equal or larger populations/markets for textbooks, could make other demands. States big enough to be more than niche markets. And, once those demands were met, other states could pick which version they preferred. It's a matter of getting those places (e.g. New York and California) with different views of the world to decide that they care enough to make demands, too.

Because textbooks were selected at the state level, for some decades Texas selected the textbooks that would be used by much of the rest of the country. And there were two husband-and-wife nutjobs who nitpicked the textbooks under consideration. And had a big influence on which books were selected.

But my point was, states other than Texas, with equal or larger populations/markets for textbooks, could make other demands. States big enough to be more than niche markets. And, once those demands were met, other states could pick which version they preferred. It's a matter of getting those places (e.g. New York and California) with different views of the world to decide that they care enough to make demands, too.

I'll say it again; not how it works.

You can continue to theorize about what states could do and how it could work, but it's not going to change actual practice because requirements fluctuate. What authors and publishers produce has to have a core that will make it through those fluctuations and variations. It's too costly to do otherwise both in time and money, and they have to anticipate these shifts because doing small print runs is very expensive. They aim to cover as much as they can in the biggest print run they can cover without undue risk.

Textbooks get adopted for meeting enough of the requirements for a curriculum to make course planning manageable. Textbooks get rejected for containing things that boards find objectionable. The former gets a textbook supplemented with outside material. The latter gets a textbook rejected outright in favor of another textbook, or gets it replaced at great cost when the board changes its position.

I've been a part of these processes for the last decade as an author and a general editor and have worked with several major scholastic publishers in the process. I'd love it if publishing worked the way you suggest it could, but to do that there would require deep institutional change in both publishing and the infrastructure of school administration.

I'll say it again; not how it works.

You can continue to theorize about what states could do and how it could work, but it's not going to change actual practice because requirements fluctuate. What authors and publishers produce has to have a core that will make it through those fluctuations and variations. It's too costly to do otherwise both in time and money, and they have to anticipate these shifts because doing small print runs is very expensive. They aim to cover as much as they can in the biggest print run they can cover without undue risk.

And yet the point that was made above was that textbooks were slanted based on what Texas (specifically 2 people in the Texas state government) would accept. If, as you argue here, publishers will ignore individual state's demands, how did that happen? And keep happening for decades?

And, since it did happen based on one set of demands, no reason it couldn't happen to a different set of demands. Either to offer options, or to just shift the entire printing to the different set. (Leaving Texas no longer in control. Definitely a plus.)

wj- I explained that all above. It's not that hard to understand if you look at it from the position of the authors and the publishers.

If TX decides that no textbook can contain X, then no textbooks get approved in TX that feature that material. If CA decides that every school needs to teach a unit on X, then the conservative districts will adopt the textbooks that frame that material in the most minimal and anodyne way possible, with lots of caveats, or they will seek to get adoption of new textbooks deferred on the grounds of budget difficulties, etc. The mechanisms support the conservatives more than they do those that want more diverse and critical material.

Authors and publishers know that people will come after them on religious objections, but no one is going to sue a district for not taking a firm enough progressive line on religious freedom grounds.

Thus the asymmetry.

And yet the point that was made above was that textbooks were slanted based on what Texas (specifically 2 people in the Texas state government) would accept.

Mel and Norma Gabler weren't in the government but they would show up at the textbook selection hearings with endless objections to the content of the books being considered.

Texas is a big market and a lot of states selected textbooks at the district level and had little say in the content of the textbooks available to them.

Authors and publishers know that people will come after them on religious objections, but no one is going to sue a district for not taking a firm enough progressive line on religious freedom grounds.

Allow me to observe that it would be totally unsurprising if people sued to get positive (or even just objectively accurate) information on homosexuals into the textbooks. To give just one example.

The asymmetries were certainly very real once. And still are to some extent. But less so all the time.

Allow me to observe that it would be totally unsurprising if people sued to get positive (or even just objectively accurate) information on homosexuals into the textbooks. To give just one example.

I don't think that has ever occurred, which should tell us something.

I don't think that has ever occurred, which should tell us something.

At least not in the US.
In Germany many textbooks are offered in a general and a 'localized' edition and it's noted in the imprint which Land (state) has approved its use in its public schools. There are national school textbook commitees where educators, (politcial) public officials, experts, deputees from publishers and 'parents' (i.e.laypersons from he public) discuss, whether to adopt certain textbooks offered by publishers or what guidelines are to be given to publishers. The final decisions are made by the education departnments of each state. There are some general rules that have to apply to all books (including correctness of the information 'sachliche Richtigkeit' plus a requirement for 'diversity'[originally primarily aimed to have more representation of girls in books, now expanded to other groups]).

That part is often a hot button issue for both the left and right (in the broadest sense). In case of Latin school textbooks there is a notorious conflict between more conservative states that want to keep it traditional (based on the old assumption that Latin is educational in favor of conservatism, if presented in the traditional male and military centred way) and 'progressives' that are willing to sacrifice correctness in favor of diversity in order to expand the appeal of the subject. The actual experts are in a real dilemma there and often rather helpless. On the one hand they have to insist that ancient Rome was a highly conservative society with strict limits to e.g. female activity and rather culturally insensitive, on the other hand they (usually) despise and oppose the conservatives that want to represent this as role model for to-day. As a result they are often attacked from both sides and in the end sidelined and can just mitigate the worst excesses. The 'left' side usually wins the fight but publishers have to print modified versions of the books for e.g. Bavaria (and 1 or 2 other states) or have books on offer for those conservative states only that are not approved in others.
Homosexuality as a theme is avoided in all Latin (language learning) textbooks despite at least male homosexuality being a fully accepted part of life in antiquity (as long as social hierarchy was strictly observed) but the same is essentially true for all sexuality. That's something for the advanced courses when actual sources from antiquity are read in the original language. Or teachers have to get plain on their own when e.g. Zeus' rapture of Europa is presented as a love story and not as abduction and rape*.
I think most Latin textbooks now on offer over here are rather wishy-washy trying to avoid controversy as an overreaction to the rather reactionary traditions of the past.
At the school where I currently teach Latin (as 3rd foreign language, while it was my first when I went to school myself) the 'appeal' seems to work. Girls are in a clear majority (last year in my class 3 boys in a group of 19, now 1 boy in a group of 24). The traditional themes (Roman military) are essentially absent in the first 3 quartes of the [4 years] textbook we use, so many kids will never get that far (because they often quit after 3 years).

*in the lesson text Zeus confesses his identity and love to Europa. Then, in the very next sentence, it says that she bore him three children. Nothing in-between, in particular not a single word from her.

I don't think that has ever occurred, which should tell us something.

I think the operative (although omitted) word here is "yet."

The possibility that the political hacks currently driving the Supreme Court could overturn Obergefeld may provide a temporary distraction. i expect the main constraint on getting the textbooks changed will be arriving at some kind of concensus about precisely what should be demanded. But even before then, bet on the suits to start.

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