Summer 2024

Section 8316 of HUMAN5
World Humanities: Arts, Ideas, Values -- : Jun 17 - Jul 28 2024
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No office hours

Associate of Arts Degree: College of San Mateo, 1958
Bachelor of Science: University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1962
Masters in Humanities: San Francisco State, 1970

Academic Experience


I am interested in process, not whether students are "right" or "wrong." I encourage students to use mind, heart, and experience to express--based on a close reading of the materials--their discoveries of the subject matter.

Tools: My purpose in teaching is to encourage students to develop tools that help place their lives and thoughts within a cultural context. And skills that enhance their abilities in college classes. (An incomplete sentence, a complete commitment on my part).

I bring an historical and experiential perspective to any class I teach and strive to balance the arts with cultural theory. I want the student to enjoy the richness of literature, painting, architecture and film in particular.

When teaching Humanities 5 (Travels along the Silk Roads, World Cultures) I emphasize the connectiveness and importance of each culture to the other.


Professional Background: Full-time Humanities instructor at SRJC form 1970s until retirement; since retirement adjunct instructor during summer sessions. Prior to teaching I served in the military for two years, was a police/city hall journalist for a Washington State daily for several years, worked in Spanish Harlem, NYC, for a year, and hitch-hiked extensively in the United States, Europe, and parts of the Near East. During my teaching career instrumented a film festival at SRJC, was active in Arts and Lectures, gave a number of papers at professional organizations, and had a few publications, and won three National Humanities grants. PLEASE SEE "ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE" FOR APPROACH TO TEACHING AND STUDENTS.

Professional Areas of Interest

Now that I am retired, teaching has become a hobby in which I am continually renewed by fellow seekers who are taking a course from me. I split my time between the United States and Germany where I have a wonderful wife and two lively children. In the U.S. we like to go camping, in Germany we like to explore castles and museums along the Rhine. Hiking, reading, conversation, a bit of writing: those are also favorite hobbies.

On Humanities 5:

We focus on three cultural areas: Islam, the West, and China. We look at tradition in each of these areas and the contemporary context. This is really an introduction to an introduction, what six summer weeks allow, but hopefully enough to give you the foundation to explore further. All of these cultures are connected to each other and have been for hundreds of years; and they exist within the global context of which some themes are identified below:

Watch for World Themes:

1. Water and Global Warming: Almost all scientists agree there is global warming intensified by man activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. Weather patterns more erratic increased frequency and velocity of hurricanes and tornadoes and also the shift of rainfall patterns contribute to political (including economic, social, cultural) changes. In Africa due to drought, areas once shared without dispute between herdsmen and farmers cannot support them both and this leads to murderous tribal conflicts.

The melting of the ice cap and the subsequent rise of sea level threatens island nations and coastal areas. As for water, rapidly growing urban areas, such as China, have the problem of supplying water to their populations: as the aquiver (underground sources of water) are depleted, the land sinks, threatening structures and infrastructures. (Shanghai in the Yangtze River delta has dropped 2.6 meters [8 feet, six-plus inches] since 1921).

The point is: Global warming and urban growth triggers deep cultural and political changes.

2. Women: One-half of the world's population are women (duh), but their (our) position in the world is one of continuing transformation and threat to traditional societies. And this includes the Muslim world where women are redefining themselves just as they have been doing in the West. This self-redefinition tends to be seen as a threat by fundamentalist religious leaders. The more liberated Muslim women tend not to see the Quran as holding them back, but the interpretation of the Quran by the more repressive males in authority as doing so. Self-questioning leads those around the self-questioner to self-question themselves or to attempt to repress such questions. (Self-questioning threatens false views of one's identity). In developing countries where factories are set up to export to the West, women tend to be the worker-bees at subsistence pay and under poor conditions. AND they also replace men who become under-employed.

In certain societies men are considered more valuable than women (India, China) and in India, for example, male babies outnumber female babies, indicating some unusual deaths among female babies. Also, with modern pre-natal methods the sex of the child can be determined and female embryos aborted. Five thousand women are killed for honor per year, according to the U.N. even though no religion including Islam sanctions such murders. (Honor killings of a woman occurs when she is thought to jeopardize the family reputation). Throughout the world there are forced marriages. And there is the problem of prostitution and slavery of women and children, especially as an aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. If you know a young woman from another culture, especially one that is rural and traditional, I hope that you are aware and sympathetic as she navigates between the U.S. and the culture of her or her parent's origin. The is one of the themes "Desert Flower" by Dirie, the first assigned reading.

The point is: As an American woman involved rightly in your own life, be aware of your sisters in other cultures. And for men and women, beware of the world-wide connections between you and your age group: Young people started and fed the Arab Spring of 2011; young people are dying in Syria for the kind of world we take for granted. And do be aware of the worldwide immensity of the slave trade as it affects women and children.

3. The War between Cultures: Some scholars and popularizers emphasize an irresolvable conflict between cultures, but those with a long view question this opinion. Trade and trade routes between Africa, Europe, and Asia have been mostly continuous since before Christ: Romans loved Chinese silks, for example. Trade routes convey not just goods but ideas, inventions, and cultural transformations. At times conquest leads to the fusion of cultures. For example, Alexander the Great (4th century B.C.) swept from Greece all the way to India: the Buddha sculpture present in India, China, Japan, Southeast Asia began as Greek figurative sculpture. Eastern religions influenced the Hebraic that in turn combined with Greek philosophy to shape what is current day Christianity.

The Roman conquest is the basis of civilization in Western Europe and the base from which Christianity later spread. In the early Western Renaissance the Chinese empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean through present day Iran, almost to the shores of the Mediterranean. Before anyone else the Chinese invented the printing press, gunpowder, and ship navigation equipment, all inventions that the West used as tools in the Western colonial conquests of the world. Conversely, the Muslim and Asian worlds were drawn to the West's artistic ideas (easel painting, architecture, engineering) and political ideas (democracy, communism, and, briefly in the Muslim world, fascism). The Muslims gave the West the concept of zero and the numbering system employed everywhere today, and the manufacturing of paper. Africa gave us the ancient civilization of Egypt that inspired the Greeks as they laid the basis for what became Western civilization.

The point is: With the exception of the New World prior to 1492, worldwide CONTINUAL INTERCHANGE enlightens and overpowers the war between cultures.

4. The interdependent world and shifting political-cultural power: The world economy has been aggressively global since the 19th century period of industrialization and colonization. Karl Marx was the first to thoroughly describe the phenomenon (I don_Фё─т╚t ask you to agree with his prescription, but his description is incisive). Since World War II, political and economic hegemony is shifting from Western dominance to shared power centers. The BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) contain half the world_Фё─т╚s population and one-fifth of the world_Фё─т╚s economic output and have monetary and trade interests that challenge the world order as defined by the U.S.-dominated U.N. Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. U.S. economic well being is dependent upon loans from China (and Japan) and Chinese development is dependent upon trade with its largest market, the U.S. Among the BRIC nations is Brazil, the second most powerful nation in the Americas with an economy larger than Britain_Фё─т╚s and an ocean_Фё─т╚s worth of oil, with massive growth going hand-in-hand with reduced inequality: Expect Brazil to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Americas.

Also, the hidden story is the _Фё─__balance_Фё─ё¤ between poor nations (usually in the Southern Hemisphere) and the wealthier, industrialized ones (usually in the Northern Hemisphere), and the attendant problems of labor, food distribution, exploitation of nature, and wealth distribution.

The point is: we live in an interconnected SHIFTING WORLD increasingly independent of U.S. control. But there is one area the U.S. remains dominant throughout most of the world: popular culture including music, film, and dress, and freedom of communication as brought by the internet. And I add, food chains: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Subway. These chains bring with them the American fast-food menu and taste, and an attitude toward eating. The chains have a tremendous cultural impact especially upon the world_Фё─т╚s teenagers. And Levi, 19th century San Francisco manufacturer, bestowed upon the world the omnipresent Blue Jeans. (And T.V. was invented in San Francisco, too, and most of the world's servers are down the S.F. Peninsula).

5. Education, the Middle Class, Democracy: The backbone of democracy is an educated middle class. A middle class does not_Фё─__and cannot_Фё─__rely on inheritance but on its own abilities and expertise, which are made possible and enhanced by education. The desire for education, democracy, and middle-class status is a driving force throughout the cultures we study. Depriving or limiting access to education erodes the middle class and the middle class_Фё─т╚s political instrument: democracy. California, one of the eight top economies in the world, is a state that could easily provide free, accessible, or very low cost education to its citizens, if taxed appropriately as it has done in the past. In the U.S. and in California, people in their fifties are still trying to pay off student loans. Today many students need to divide their time between work and school/study hours to the detriment of their grades and their understanding of what education is. The financial difficulty placed before American students in the form of loans, etc., make the U.S. labor force less competitive with European countries, especially Germany which offers a free university education for those who pass the tests.

Of the top industrial nations in the world, the U.S. ranks as having the second greatest gap between rich and poor. By contrast, let_Фё─т╚s look at _Фё─__socialist_Фё─ё¤ Germany which has the second to smallest gap between rich and poor. Germany has a stronger and more comprehensive middle class than the U.S. AND greater social mobility. Despite its horrible authoritarian past, today Germany is one of the most secure democracies in the world, and next to China, the world_Фё─т╚s second largest exporter of goods, having a strong manufacturing base. What happens in Germany? I think it comes down to education. University education is free to all who pass the initial tests. And for the non-University oriented, there are extensive training programs and technical schools, including apprenticeship programs that end up in a guarantied job.

Look behind the movements in the Muslim and the Asian Worlds as we study them: What is the place of the desire for education, middle class status, and democracy (which entails a free and uncensored exchange of ideas)? How are women redefining their role and participating in change?

I leave it to you to figure out the point of this section. I do think that the junior college system, where I got my start, is one of the finest institutions in the world. It pains me that there is now limited access to it. Pains me? It pains the economy and democracy and the wellbeing of our citizens. What is happening is not happening to you alone.

I have identified some of the themes beneath _Фё─__news_Фё─ё¤ accounts and politicians_Фё─т╚ speeches, and/or world themes often ignored by those sources. I welcome your further suggestions.

And a bit of cultural advice: No culture is uniform. People and the cultures they create are diverse and complex. Please question generalizations, including mine.