Sunday, December 16, 2018

Einstein’s Moral Imperative on “The Common Language of Science”

Albert Einstein, 1921, by Ferdinand Schmutzer via Wikimedia Commons

Einstein’s Moral Imperative on “The Common Language of Science”
By Max Eternity

The more I learn about Albert Einstein, the more I see how terribly represented he has been throughout history.  The general impression I’ve been given about Einstein, whether in the classroom or casual conversation, usually falls into two camps: that he was an intellectual genius living in a cold, uncompromising world of super-elite academia, or that he was an absent-minded weird scientist who just happened to stumble across a few incredibly brilliant ideas.

In either scenario, it seems I was taught over and over again, that Einstein was nothing like me or anyone I might know.

This began changed about 15 years ago when I began to learn about the history of Black Mountain College (BMC).  Among other things, I found out that Einstein was on the BMC Board of Directors, and that he was one of the many distinguished guest lecturers appearing there.

My interest in pedagogy began 30 years ago when I first recall being introduced to the Bauhaus.  Growing up I had the good fortune of going to well-funded public schools, and even though my test scores were high, school did not excite me. 

Year after year I became less challenged and less interested.  By the 9th grade I felt the majority of what I was learning was a waste of my time and public funds, and by the 12th grade I was so depressed and unhappy that I was barely able to graduate.

I’ve since learned that independent critical thinking is vital to my developmental experience, as is unhinged creative exploration.  While learning, I must perceive tangible applications for my intellectual and artistic gains.  And for someone who comes from a people who have been historically dispossessed, the ability to use my learning toward socioeconomic justice adds greater appeal.

All of this was very much a part of the Bauhaus and BMC pedagogic experience, which is why both schools hold such great interest for me, and why it came as no great surprise to me when I learned that many of the people at the Bauhaus in Germany emigrated to the US and taught at BMC.

As far as I know, Einstein was not directly involved in any aspect of the Bauhaus, but like many Jews in the arts and sciences, he did migrate to the US in the 1930’s, and his interactions at BMC did put him in direct contact with like-minded alumni of the Bauhaus.

The Bauhaus, which was considered a school of degenerates, was closed by the Nazi Party in 1933, the same year that Einstein came to America.  And once in the US, his activities went far beyond the walls of academia.  He became a civil rights activist and a champion of education and economic justice.  His intellectual approach to life became interdisciplinary, and he often spoke about cultural relationships, morality and the interconnectedness of all things.

What follows is a recording of a 1941 essay called "The Common Language of Science." Einstein made this recording as a radio presentation to the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  A good written critique of this essay can be found at the Open Culture website.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Proposed Project for Berlin Prize

In addition to a "Summer Stipend" grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities, I'm also applying this year for a "Berlin Prize," which is administered by The American Academy in Berlin, Germany.  Information about my "Summer Stipend" proposed project can be found in the post just preceding this one.

The narrative for my "Berlin Prize" project proposal totals 7 pages, and what follows are the first 2 pages:

Proposed Project

20th Century Perspectives: Radical Renaissance and Social Change in the Age of Global War

My proposed project is a request for support toward the greater research of 2 parallel book projects, whose titles are From Bauhaus |To Black Mountain: A Transcontinental Renaissance in the Age of Global War, and The Agency of Art: War, Pedagogy and Social Change in the Western World – 1915 to 1965.  Both books deal with historic aspects of the Weimar Republic, and Staatliches Bauhaus (1919 – 1933), a school founded by Walter Gropius that begin in Weimar, moved to Dessau and closed in Berlin.  Both books also examine the impact of some Bauhaus alumnae who migrated to the United States (US) to continue their pioneering social and artistic lives at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina.

By investigating one of the most enduring spans of the 20th century—from 1919 to 1933 and directly thereafter 1933 to 1957—representing the respective years of operation for Staatliches Bauhaus (the Bauhaus) in Germany and Black Mountain College (BMC) in the United States—my proposed book project goes beyond existing tropes and conversations on the subject to provide a captivating narrative on the transatlantic art and education interactions at the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College (BMC); two schools that ultimately produced many of the 20th century’s leading artists, architects, designers and bleeding-edge dramatists.

What began at the Bauhaus—a small, radical, German art school which greatly transformed European thought on visual art and architecture, urban planning, interior aesthetics and design—continued across the Atlantic Ocean to inspire the foundational DNA for yet another small, radical school with a heavy focus on the arts, yet thousands of miles away.  In From Bauhaus |To Black Mountain: A Transcontinental Renaissance in the Age of Global War, there are 9 areas of study – asking and answering:

·         What was the manifesto and core principles supporting the Bauhaus?

·         How were these core principles implemented – what did they look like in practice?

·         In addition to Walter Gropius, who were some of the Bauhaus’ key players?

·         Throughout its changes in leadership and various relocations, how did the Bauhaus remain cohesive?

·         At its end in 1933, how had the Bauhaus impacted the culture-at-large?

·         In 1933 BMC came into being as a result of what culminations?

·         Who were some of the key Bauhaus alumnae that were also at BMC?

·         BMC was similar to and different from the Bauhaus in what ways?

·         By its closure in 1957, how had BMC impacted the culture-at-large?

An expanded historical survey of the mid-20th century is examined in The Agency of Art: War, Pedagogy and Social Change in the Western World – 1915 to 1965, where a total of 5 radical art and liberal arts schools of the 20th century, including the 2 aforementioned, take center stage to speak more directly to the impact of the Two World Wars and the Great Depression, inclusive to the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt, specifically as it relates to the creation of the Works Project Administration (WPA), and as well to how women’s liberation and the emergence of America’s 1950’s and 60’s civil rights movement shaped and colored theses schools, which then shaped and colored the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Agency of Art Submitted for NEH Summer Stipend Grant

It's been a few months since I updated this site, which is due in part to a major computer crash that occurred in May.  I've also been doing a lot of research work for the ongoing 2 book projects I'm working on in tandem with this one, and this does not include my other art, design and writing projects.  With that said, I've just submitted an application to The National Endowment for the Humanities for a Summer Stipend.  And during the process of putting the application together, I realized that regardless of the outcome of the grant it was instrumental to the book project for me to organize my ideas so as to create the 3-page "Narrative."

What follows is the first page of the "Narrative" and next year should I receive a Summer Stipend award I'll probably publish the entire document:


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that education absent mindful-inclusion will lead to elitism and insularity, enabling the higher educated to “trample over the masses.”  However, as my proposed research seeks to show, with mindful-inclusion at the fore of higher learning, five 20th century schools in different regions of the Western world— Harlem Renaissance (School), Staatliches Bauhaus, The New School, North Carolina State – School of Design, and Black Mountain College (BMC)—became the chief form givers for art and culture in the modernist age by crafting new manifestos, moral codes, philosophies and pedagogies espoused respectively by John Dewey, Martin Luther King Jr., Walter Gropius, Henry L. Kamphoefner, Alain Locke, Albert Einstein, James Baldwin and W.E.B Du Bois.  Others, including many women, like Eleanor Roosevelt and Zora Neale Hurston, for instance, also made notable contributions. 

Each had their own unique perspective, literary and oratory style, yet all were quite similar in their egalitarian approach to affirming individual liberty and social advancement through creative collaborative activity; often artistic in nature, and always through the humanities.  Some, as in the case of Gropius, who declared in his 1919 manifesto “Art and Technology: A New Unity,” were directly involved in more than one school, and in the case of Dr. King, though he was not directly involved with any of the schools, he is nevertheless the most renown figure of social change in the 20th century, and the consequence of his moral and educational presence, however nebulous at times, plays an important role.

The organic and amorphous nature of catalytic social change through the arts and humanities does not always manifest in the embodiment of a brick and mortar institution.  The Harlem Renaissance (School) had no walls, and is instead identified to a greater or lesser degree by artwork, letters, activism, poetry and publications, as well as organized and impromptu rap sessions in the homes, private art studios or informal gatherings on the street corners of New York City’s Harlem Neighborhood—forums and spaces acting as plein air classrooms—reflecting a key aspect of education through the cultural vernacular of African-Americans prior to the formal abolition of de jure segregation.

While examining the pedagogic and moralist impact these individuals had on said schools, the research simultaneously looks at the impact and interplay of the Two World Wars, all of which converged in facilitating cultural reform and renaissance. Through a deliberate cultivation of interdisciplinary practices, a new gestalt for cultural arbiters and public intellectuals was created with enduring global implications. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dr. King was not a Black Santa Claus

Today, as the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s is re-examined on the 50th anniversary of his death by sniper fire, it is tempting to buy into the lukewarm Santa Claus version of who Dr. King was, promoted by big-money politicians and corporate TV.

Dr. King was a radical…in every sense of the word, and was often unpopular during his lifetime.

From Dr. Cornel West, quotes from an article out today at the Guardian, entitled “Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy”:

His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

One of the last and true friends of King, the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prophetically said: “The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr King.” When King was murdered something died in many of us. The bullets sucked some of the free and democratic spirit out of the US experiment. The next day over 100 American cities and towns were in flames – the fire this time had arrived again!

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!

Love is a radical thing, and so is justice – both of which can be difficult to maintain in troubling time of scarcity and suffering.  But glossing over is not the cure for the horrors of human suffering, described by Dr. King as racism, materialism and militarism.

From an essay by John Whitehead of the RutherfordInstitute on Dr. King’s radical and often unpopular vision:

Despite having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, graced countless magazine covers, and consorted with movers and shakers throughout the country, King was not a popular man by the time of his death. In fact, a Gallup poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans disapproved of King.

Fifty years later, the image of the hard-talking, charismatic leader, voice of authority, and militant, nonviolent activist minister/peace warrior who staged sit-ins, boycotts and marches and lived through police attack dogs, water cannons and jail cells has been so watered down that younger generations recognize his face but know very little about his message.

There’s a reason for that.

This revisionist history—a silent censorship of sorts—has proven to be a far more effective means of neutralizing radicals such as Martin Luther King Jr. than anything the NSA, CIA or FBI could dream up.

This was a man who went to jail over racial segregation laws, encouraged young children to face down police dogs and water hoses, and who urged people to turn their anger loose on the government through civil disobedience.  King called for Americans to rise up against a government that was not only treating blacks unfairly but was also killing innocent civilians, impoverishing millions, and prioritizing the profits of war over human rights and dignity.

King actually insisted that people have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

And speaking to the healing power of love, Robert F. Kennedy, whose brother, President John F. Kennedy had already been assassinated, and who would himself be assassinated not long after Dr. King, spoke thesewords on the eve of Dr. King’s death, challenging the world to embrace healing and empowering radical change:

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.

In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black--considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible--you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization--black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thy Shalt Not Vote: Modern US Colonization via Coups and Regime Change

Today at Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales speak with Stephen Kinzer about his latest book, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, who says the US likes democracy so long as the US preferred candidate wins in other countries.  Among the many things discussed in the podcast below, is that "the United States has interfered in more than 80 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. And that doesn’t count U.S.-backed coups and invasions."

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Swastikas in Chicago" and the northern resistance to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Earlier this month the nation paused to celebrate the legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), who in his lifetime became a symbol of great hope and change as the world's foremost civil rights leader.  But in the last years of his life, as MLK turned his attentions to issues of poverty, ending the Vietnam War and racism in northern cities, like Chicago, his popularity waned and he became more and more isolated.

In the book I'm writing, The Agency of Art, I look at a 50-year span between 1915 and 1965, in which the Western World was pulled from the brink of mass destruction and perhaps even annihilation, and was instead given new a new path and direction - aspirations, hope and vision - by artists, educators and moralists, like Walter Gropius and John Dewey, MLK and others.

MLK is mostly remembered for his spiritual leadership and civil rights work, but he was also, like John Dewey, an advocate for the arts and a proponent of education reform, going all the way back to his college days where he wrote an essay while attending Morehouse College, entitled "The Purpose of Education."

Warning students and teachers that education must have noble objectives, MLK writes in the essay:

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living. 
If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, "brethren!" Be careful, teachers!

Most of MLK's work was focused on lifting African-Americans up from oppression in the Southeast.  However, after many long campaigns that ended with legislative victories, especially the Voting Rights Act of 1965, MLK turned his attentions North, where he quickly found he was not welcome.

In Chicago, White women went out into the streets to beat Black protesters with their purses, and White men with swastika (Nazi) armbands threw bricks, says Taylor Branch, author of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years.

According to Branch, MLK said "We have to show America that there's a race problem in the North, because you'd be surprised how many millions of people think that there is no more race problem."

In a podcast at Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman talks with Branch and the film’s director Peter Kunhardt and writer Trey Ellis, about their new documentary entitled “King in the Wilderness.”  .

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Black Mountain College: A Thumbnail Sketch by Monty Diamond

In 1989 independent filmmaker, Monty Diamond, made a documentary short on Black Mountain College, which contextualizes the emergence of the school within the global context of rapidly shifting political and educational trends in of the early 1930's, and illustrates how in some ways history is repeating itself today.  The film provides dispassionate information about the school's mission, organization, key players and work product.  The film also provides a critique of how crisis in education and politics can serve as opportunity for education and artistic enlightenment, and a new social cohesion.   

Einstein’s Moral Imperative on “The Common Language of Science”

Albert Einstein, 1921, by Ferdinand Schmutzer via Wikimedia Commons Einstein’s Moral Imperative on “The Common Language of Science...