Philosophy for Children

In quoting Emerson, about poetry saying “more with less” the latter day New England Transcendentalist, Buckminster Fuller (great nephew of Margaret Fuller, Dial editor and international correspondent) circles what we might call the “child’s eye view”; less cluelessly naive, or uninformed, than penetrating, to the point.

Children see through a lot of adult obfuscations sometimes. Unpoetic language comes caked in cruft.

“To be poetic is to have both a child’s eye and gift for self expression” would be the thesis here. Fuller set up this identification while adding resistance to “creative” as in “to be poetic is to be creative”.

“Bucky” — as he liked to be called (“RBF” in some literature) — did not see humans as performing an additive function vis-a-vis Creation i.e. they’re not, contrary to some of the hype, “little creators”. Rather, the poet is good at synthesizing, in a succinct and memorable fashion, that resonates for people.

Philosophy for Children is the name of an actual program or mission, espoused by some universities, notably Montclair University in New Jersey. What ought to be the exact content of such a curriculum is of course debatable, or we could say: many experiments have been running in parallel.

Not all of these experimental programs revisit elementary school mathematics under the heading of “spooky Greek metaphysics” after all. Ours does though.

We question language games around “dimension” for example, by inventing and playing with alternatives. Take Fuller’s meaning of “4D” for example, neither Einstein’s nor Coxeter’s meaning (even as these two differ from one another, see Regular Polytopes page 117, Dover edition). Combine that with Quadrays in Wikipedia, in the context of ray tracing and using computer languages, and you’re flying parallel to the dominant paradigm, all about mapping “3D” space with XYZ coordinates.

Philosophy is also a lot about history, intellectual history especially, and here our curriculum turns to the essential task of helping each student build and internalize a timeline. Not everyone needs the same timeline, however the concept itself transfers easily.

We want to know who could have read whom, whereas others may seem to foreshadow or profess foreknowledge (prophesie) regarding what will come after them. Emerson could not read Nietzsche, as the latter came later. Nietzsche, on the other hand, could use Emerson’s writings as raw material in his Thus Spake Zarathustra.

That Nietzsche would find Emerson somewhat congenial is not that surprising, considering how Germanic philosophy, forms of Idealism in particular, was flooding into New England via what was called High Criticism back in that day, with Harvard a hotbed of same.

Does Hegel give support to the idea of a Holy Ghost? Let’s do a reading. Trinitarianism versus Unitarianism was another red hot theme of Emersonian times, and the German language, the scholarship therein, was reputedly the treasure chest in which New Englanders would find new answers. Their best and brightest could read Hegel in the original, but not just him.

On our timeline, let’s write the symbol for “two way street” in the time of Emerson, near Harvard Square. Timelines mix with geography as we’re always thinking in terms of spacetime, hardly ever in terms of “time alone” or “space alone” (two relatively meaningless extremes).

Circle universities in German speaking parts of the world that helped Harvard professors get up to speed on this new way of understanding the Bible (also according to timelines and with attention to networks, directed graphs, of who was reading whom).

Leaping forward in time, until after the war between the states of the newly forming Federation, much of it still territories, we encounter periods of strong anti-German sentiment, among Yankee Anglos and others. Portrayals of Germanic culture as inimical, undermining, counter to the best interests of the nation, would prove a major theme through two World Wars.

At this point we like to turn to the mathematics curriculum in public schools, elementary through high school. To what extent did anti-German sentiments help shape the content of 1900s high school math textbooks?

Our purpose in focusing on curriculum design is to heighten student self awareness and to inculcate a sense of malleability that should connote future freedoms. We have the freedom to continue shaping the curriculum, as we have always done, consciously or less consciously, in response to current demands and requirements.

For example, these days we think in terms of whole planets: Earth, exoplanets, Mars, Pluto & Charon (more of a double planet)… with much thanks to science fiction, televised and book form. We need Google Earth type tools and coordinate systems. School in the 21st Century has become a lot more like reading National Geographic.

As students of my School of Tomorrow curriculum well know, we start following the Expo and World’s Fair timeline, emerging from all the early 1900s exhibitions, especially the one in Chicago wherein electricity really made its debut. The Youtube channel Defunctland has proved invaluable.

Given how we started in Transcendentalism, with Bucky Fuller, we round it out with a deep dive into the latter’s 4D philosophy, an alternative to “spooky Greek metaphysics” that seems quite alien in K-12, and hence our moniker: Martian Math.

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