Thursday, April 1, 2021

SALT: Suggestive Accelerative Learning & Teaching

Photo: "Classroom" by Robert Baxter, used under Creative Commons License

Presented to the Club by Robert M. Henderson on Monday evening, January 30, 1984

Plain old table salt, our most common and most used seasoning. Salt, sodium chloride, or the other well-known salts such as potassium or magnesium chloride, have extensive use in industrial, commercial and food usage.

We have salt water in the great majority of the waters found her on planet Earth, salt lakes by the dozen, Salt Lake City, Salt, the fifth of the six cities of Judea. And then we get down to some of the esoteric uses of the word.

To salt a mine, for example, is to artificially enrich, more often than not to do so in a fraudulent manner.

“Old Salt” – immediately we think of the one seaman or skipper.

“Pour salt into the wound” – if done, literally, hurts like the dickens, and if figuratively, means making a bad situation worse.

“A salty remark – with the number of such remarks passed around in this illustrious group over the years, I need not say more.

And then there are Salt I and Salt II, the never fully implemented arms control agreements that certainly deserve some attention on our part today.

Such statements as “You’re the salt of the earth” reminds us that salt was rare and valued. Our word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salaria” — salt, which was used as compensation at one time. 

However, the S A L T that I wish to discuss with you tonight is Suggestive Accelerative Learning and Teaching. SALT. I believe that this SALT may become as valued as seasoning salt has been throughout the course of history.

Suggestive Accelerative Learning and Teaching is a technique that increases the rate of learning by a factor of somewhere between three and ten times normal. My initial interest in this matter was highly selfish. If we could teach our children three times as fast as we now do, we could teach the same amount of learning with one-third the number of teachers, one-third the number of facilities. In essence, the amount of expense I would need to pay for education, my own, my family’s, and my share of the taxes dedicated to schools and education, could be reduced by two-thirds or more. Just as a matter of reference, my out of pocket expenses for educating five children up through their Bachelor Degrees is in the neighborhood of $200,000. I roughly calculated that my taxes due to education expenses were well over $70,000 over the past 20 years. Together, these amount to $270,000. If I could have the same amount of learning for one-third that amount, I would have some $180,000 in my pocket. These numbers certainly are of sufficient magnitude to be of interest. We can only speculate what would happen if we did not reduce our education expense, but got children that were three times or ten times smarter for the same money. I, for one, do not particularly begrudge spending all those dollars for education, but, let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind, I would be greatly pleased if I had three times the results or, even better, ten times the results.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Centennials: The Transcontinental Railway and the Monday Evening Club

The ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869; completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right). Photo by Andrew J. Russell.

Delivered to the Club in November, 1969 by Roger Linscott, at the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Club

The year 1869 was notable for at least two historic evens — the driving of a golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah, to complete the first transcontinental railway system across the United States, and the establishment, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, of the Monday Evening Club. Contemplating these two great happenings — the one so freighted with significance for the development of the American West, the other so freighted with significance for, if not the nation, at least that small part of it which gathered here tonight — it occurred to me the other day how delightful it would be if one could find some common link to bind them together and thus fashion the basis for a centennial paper to fit the title which Joe Nugent [Club secretary] had fed to his hungry printing press a week earlier. A common bond between Promontory Point and Pittsfield seemed highly unlikely; but in desperation one tries anything, so off I went to the Lenox Library Saturday to find out what its archives might be able to provide.

The quest — to my happy surprise — proved fruitful. It developed that a leading, if somewhat accidental, figure in the dramatic ceremonies that marked the meeting of East and West at Promontory Point on May 10, 1869, was the Reverend Dr. John Todd, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Pittsfield. And Dr. Todd, I discovered from a parenthetical sentence in a letter which he wrote to a friend shortly after his return from that historic occasion, was a charter member of the Monday Evening Club.

But more about Dr. Todd later. First let us look at the background of the events that earned Dr. Todd of the Monday Evening Club his footnote in history. For they were dramatic events, and historically momentous ones. Indeed, May 10, 1869, is a commonly described by historians as the most significant single date in the record of the American West.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Darwin's theory: Hard to swallow, then and now

Presented to the Club by Roger Linscott, about 1981

A century and a half ago, in the year 1831, a young divinity student of 22 set sail from England on a voyage to South America. Twenty-eight years later, after prolonged study and soul-searching, he wrote a book based upon his observations there. The world – certainly the world of science – has never been the same since.

The young man, of course, was Charles Darwin, and the book was The Origin of the Species. When he embarked on his historic voyage, he had already abandoned a proposed career in medicine, after fleeing in horror from a surgical theater in which an operation was being performed on an unanesthetized child, and was a rather reluctant candidate for the clergy, a career deemed suitable for the younger son of an English gentleman. An indifferent student, Darwin was an ardent hunter and horseman, a collector of beetles, mollusks and shells, and an amateur botanist and geologist. When the captain of the surveying ship H.M.S. Beagle, himself only three years older than Darwin, offered passage to any young man who would volunteer to go without pay as a naturalist, Darwin eagerly seized the opportunity to escape from Cambridge. Five years later, he returned to an inherited fortune, an estate in the English countryside, and a lifetime of independent study that radically changed mankind’s view of life and of our place in the living world.

To understand the extraordinary genius of Darwin’s theory of evolution, it is useful to look briefly at the intellectual climate in which it was formulated. Aristotle, the world’s first great biologist, believed that all living things could be arranged in a hierarchy – a ladder of nature in which the simplest creatures had a humble position on the bottommost rung, mankind occupied the top, and all other organisms had their proper places in between. Until the end of the century, most biologists believed in such a natural hierarchy; but whereas Aristotle thought that living organisms had always existed, the later biologists believed, in harmony with the teachings of the Old Testament, that all living things were the product of a divine creation. They believed, moreover, that most were created for the service or pleasure of mankind. Indeed, it was pointed out, even the lengths of day and night were planned to coincide with the human need for sleep.