Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 102 - Early Settlement of North America

Christopher Columbus reached the Americas in 1492 and then followed up his initial trip with three further voyages. The colony of La Isabela was established on Hispaniola in 1492 and this was followed by the first permanent European settlement at Santo Domingo in 1496.

The Italian John Cabot, working on behalf of the English crown, discovered Newfoundland in 1497.Later expeditions reached Venezuela, Brazil (Cabral), Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, the Cayman Islands, Florida (Ponce de Leon), the Yucatan (de Cordoba), Mexico (Cortes), New York Bay and South Carolina.

A Frenchman Jacques Cartier explored Quebec while Hernando de Soto ventured into the interior of Florida going as far as Arkansas (where he mapped the Mississippi River). An English settlement failed to take root on Roanoke Island (the Lost Colony associated with Walter Raleigh) but in 1607 another English settlement was established at Jamestown.
The 17th saw settlements established throughout the East Coast of North America by English, French, Dutch and Swedish colonists. Spanish settlements blossomed in California and the North American South West. Over time the English would come to dominate the Dutch and Swedish colonies in New Amsterdam (soon to become New York City) and New Sweden (Delaware Valley).

Britain’s original thirteen colonies (whose foundation goes back to the reign of King James I) were divided into three groups – the New England Colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut), the Middle Colonies (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware) and the Southern Colonies (Maryland, Dominion of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia).

Pilgrim Puritan settlers set sail for North America in 1620 on the Mayflower. They harboured a deep resentment of the corrupt Church of England and bound themselves together by the influential document known as the Mayflower Compact. They set up the early Plymouth colony. A larger group who favoured reforming, rather than separating themselves from the Church of England, set up a colony at Massachusetts Bay while Puritans preferring a separation of Church and state set up the Rhode Island colony (led by Roger Williams).

Colonial population in North America in 1625 stood at less than two thousand. By 1700 this number had increased one hundred fold with the population of colonial North America reaching a value of just under two and a half million in 1775.

Three forms of colonial governments dominated in English North America:

·         provincial - directly controlled by the king as crown colonies they included New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, the Carolinas, New York and New Jersey;
·         proprietary - similar to provincials but with more localized control and greater civil and religious liberties they included the Southern colonies (except for the Carolina crown colonies) plus  Pennsylvania and Delaware;
·         charter  - these colonies were created by letter patent to provide more independently run political corporations. Many of the puritan colonies are grouped in this category.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

An Alternative History of the Future - Entry XIV

Radical judicial reform
Norway abolished imprisonment for all offenses, except murder, and introduced a drug therapy called Psycho-Pharmacological Redirection (PPR). Drugs administered to suppress deviant urges, allowed the criminal’s safe return to society. Recidivism was reduced significantly, though some criminals proved entirely immune to PPR. Accordingly, Norway’s initial policy was revised, to allow the return of non-responsive criminals to correctional facilities. PPR was soon implemented by many other nations.

Failed coup d’état in Russia; Emergence of the Sporzakov regime
With the world’s attention still focused on the USA and China, a coup d’état masterminded by an alliance of Neo-Bolshevik and Populare groups, was quickly crushed by Russia’s democratic government. In one week, ten thousand people died in street fighting between government and rebel forces. Russian President Yuri Sporzakov, seized the opportunity to implement martial law, spawning the rebirth of totalitarian autocracy in Russia after eighty years of relatively stable democracy.
Sporzakov administered his country ruthlessly, proceeding to abolish the national parliament and sending secret police to arrest thousands of citizens deemed enemies of the state. Sporzakov began rebuilding the Russian military and increasing Moscow’s involvement in the political and economic affairs of the former republics of twentieth-century USSR.
After decades of dismissing Russia as a limited world power, this turn of events caught virtually all political watchers by surprise, creating considerable consternation in the EU bloc and the USA.

The fuel race
Indian-based energy corporation Maraj Chemicals, introduced dodaz, a generic name for a family of porginine-based fuels. Dodaz was used widely for short-distance commercial travel.
Ten years later, the Australian company Bolton Fusion generated another porginine-based fuel, hydrofus, whose later refinements replaced porginine gamma[27] as the principal fuel for interplanetary travel. In 2095, ships powered by hydrofus were able to reach speeds equal to ten percent of light.

Birth of the Biotron
During the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries, the Biotron became the principal unit for mass urban settlement on both Earth and the newly colonized extraterrestrial worlds. Adapting several hydrocolony technologies,[28] the first Biotron was built in Mumbai in 2074. Each Biotron housed thousands of people in a healthy, ecologically adjusted environment, for indefinite time periods.
On Earth, the Alpha Biotron accommodated fifty thousand people, while the larger Beta model housed over three hundred thousand individuals. A typical Alpha model covered a base area of 0.7 square kilometres, extending three hundred storeys up and one hundred storeys underground. Individuals were assigned a cubicle and cubicles were arranged in groups of eight to form an Octraun. Members of an Octraun shared central kitchen, living and washroom facilities. In the developing regions of Earth, and later on new worlds, these living arrangements were relatively luxurious.
An environmental process, dubbed “Octraun node control optimization,” linked each Octraun to the Central Computer Terminus, for efficient distribution of heat, air, water and electricity throughout the Biotron.
Every two hundred Octrauns formed a political and administrative unit, known as a Dodectraun. The residents of each Dodectraun elected a governing Council and participated in referenda via an electronic voting system run by the Biotron’s Central Computer Terminus.
Externally, the Biotron was linked by monorail and subway to the outside world and eventually, to other Biotrons. Later Biotron models, especially those designed for extraterrestrial worlds, contained offices, industries, food production centres, retail stores, recreational and greenery sites and other necessities, allowing the unit to maintain a near-complete level of self-sufficiency. In theory, a Biotron resident could live from birth to death in such an environment.
By 2100, there were over four thousand Biotrons on Earth; by 2125 there were one hundred thousand.

Peace agreement ends conflict in North Africa
Egypt and Sudan signed the North African Peace Initiative in Khartoum. The treaty ended over twenty years of hostility and also laid the groundwork for more efficient use of shared resources, most notably the Nile River and the mineral wealth of the Nubian Desert.

Treaty of Versailles (1919) - Key Points summarized

Treaty signed between German and the Allied Powers. End product of six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. 

The Key drivers of the Treaty were the Big Four - Woodrow Wilson (US), Georges Clemenceau (France), David Lloyd George (UK) and Vittorio Orlando (Italy)

The Key points from the Treaty are summarized below:

1. Germany had to accept Blame for the War - Clause 231.
2. A total payment of 6.6 Billion Pounds of Reparations was to be paid by Germany
3. Germany was not allowed to have an air force and a submarine fleet.
4. German navy could only have six Battleships. Her Army could only have 100,000 men.
5. German troops were forbidden from the Rhineland
6. North Schleswig was handed over to Denmark
7. Eupen and Malmedy was given to Belgium.
8. Germany's International colonies were taken away from her.
9. Saar coalfields given to France for 15 years.
9. Anschluss (Unification ) with Austria forbidden.
10. Posen given to Poland
11. Poland given a corridor to the Baltic Sea cutting off East Prussia.
12. Danzig would be an International City
13. Alsace and Lorraine handed over to the French
14. Treaty had 440 clauses. The first 28 dealt with the formation of the League of Nations.
​15. Germany could not join the League of Nations.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 101 - English Civil War

The evolution of England into a powerful agent of liberalism (albeit in the form of constitutional monarchy) owes much to the English Civil War that engulfed the island between 1642 and 1651. The war erupted between the various Parliaments and the Royalist forces (backing King Charles I). At stake was the future direction that the governance of England would follow. The final victory by the Parliamentary forces represented the death knell for absolute monarchy in England.

Historians divide the war into three stages – the first (1642-1646), the second (1648-1649) and the third (1649-1651). In the first two stages the Royalists (Cavaliers) stood in opposition against the Long Parliament while in the third war the monarchy was challenged by the Rump Parliament.

What follows is an outline of some of the key events in the lead up to the war.

1625 – Charles I marries the catholic Henrietta Maria, the daughter of Henry IV of France. This was not viewed as a popular move in England.
1626 – Charles needs money to finance continental wars. He recalls Parliament.
1628 – Charles re-issues Thirty Nine Articles into Church of England. This was seen as a favourable move towards Rome and was scorned by Protestants.
1628 – Parliament issues grievance petition to Charles. At the center is war taxation issues.
1629 – Parliament takes a strong stance against Charles over religion and taxation. Issues the Three Resolutions. Charles dismisses Parliament. Several Members of Parliament will be arrested.
1630-1640 – Charles faces opposition in Scotland over his common prayer book. The taxation issue still dominates the discourse and Charles is forced to recall Parliament after an eleven year period of tyranny. Short Parliament meets for three weeks in 1640. Charles dismisses it.
1640 – Oliver Cromwell is elected to Parliament for a second time. He leads the voices pitted against Charles. Cromwell attacks Charles on both the taxation and church corruption issue. Charles battles the Scots. Long Parliament meets. Charles needs Parliament to grant him his money to fight the Scots.
1641 – Triennial Act is passed. It allows the Parliament to be summoned without royal approval. Revolts break out in Ireland. Grand Remonstrance is issued by Parliament. This outlines Parliament’s grievances with the king.
1642 – Charles clamps down on Parliament (arrests several MPs). Country moves towards civil war. Parliament takes control of the Militia. Civil War standard is raised on the 22nd August 1642.
The Royalists had some early victories in the war ( Ripple Field, Tewkesbury, Chewton Mendip, Chalgrove Field, Landsdowne Hill, Bristol, Yorkshire, Adwalton Moor and Roundaway Down). However fortunes turned with Parliamentary (Roundhead) victories at Newbury, Marston Moor and Naseby. The New Model Army of Parliament proved to be a very capable force. Charles was captured in 1646 (he surrendered to the Scots), escaped and then recaptured. The Rump Parliament was called in 1649, it gave Parliament the right to make new law without the king. Charles was put on trial and then executed in 1649. The final Roundhead victory was secured at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

The English Civil War resulted in a Republican Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. The monarchy would be restored under Charles II in 1660 but by that stage political power had greatly shifted to favour Parliament. The Glorious Revolution would legally seal Parliamentary power in 1688.

                                                                     Oliver Cromwell

                                                                            Charles I

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 100 - Prominence of the Age of Reason

The Age of Reason in the 17th century can be viewed as the forerunner to the Enlightenment of the 18th century. It was a time in the history of philosophy when thinkers strived to unify epistemology, ethics, metaphysics and logic into an integrated framework. Rationalists championed the primacy of mathematics as their framework for knowledge while empiricists voiced support for the physical sciences. The former was represented by Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Bacon and Leibniz. The latter was outlined in the writings of Locke, Berkley and Hume.

Political philosophy took center stage with Thomas Hobbes’ great work the Leviathan and John Locke’s Two Treatise of Government. Hobbes saw strong government and the rule of law as central to a functioning society. Locke sought to balance this with his emphasis on liberty, private ownership of property and the sovereignty of the individual. Taken together both philosophies would serve to underpin the future development of a western democratic society.

One can also look at the Age of Reason as a triumph of modernist thought over earlier medieval scholasticism. It was at its base level cautious however it did inspire a stronger radicalism that would become more prominent in the continental philosophies of the later Enlightenment period.

John Locke

Monday, October 15, 2018

Cognitive Barrier Theory (COBAT)

This is an education theory I developed some time ago.

Piagetian Cognitive Analysis[i] largely focuses on the various stages that a child passes through in developing an intellectual platform for knowledge acquisition. Its vision is linear and incremental with a directive favoring an idealized outcome. In Cognitive Barrier Theory (aka COBAT) I look at Piagetian Development on a micro-level with an emphasis on the self-imposed barriers that I suspect delay the rate of progression of the regular learning process. My theory is based on an adopted version of a mini-grief cycle model and borrows freely from the arguments of Lev Vygotsky[ii] and Jerome Bruner[iii]. Its scope of functionality is broad and I envision the theory having applications beyond the pedagogic realm into the mechanism driving the moral and emotional development of the adolescent.

The Kübler -Ross Grief Cycle (KRGC)

In her 1969 book On Death and Dying[iv], Swiss Psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross outlined the differential stages of the Grief Cycle that now bares her name. According to Kübler-Ross, after hearing bad news a person’s emotional state cycles through seven different stages viz. Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing and Acceptance. At first, in shock the person is paralyzed by hearing the bad news. Denial sets in as one tries to avoid an inevitable, but this eventually spills over into anger caused by frustration. Bargaining is then sought as a way of escaping the problem but this too fails, leading to the eventual realization of being trapped in the new fate, a state that can lead to depression. Positive progress can only occur with the testing of realistic solutions and an acceptance of a new status quo. However the transitioning between stages can be complex and it is possible that movement from one stage to another may be significantly delayed or even worse, a person may be forced into a seemingly endless recycling of the seven stages with no hope of escape from the looping process. If psychological help is not sought the long term prognosis for the sufferer can become serious.

What Constitutes Bad News?

The key trigger for the KRGC is bad news - a vague term but certainly one that can be deconstructed. I see bad news as a negative shattering of normality that forces one to rethink and adjust one’s framework of comfort in a non-desirable manner. Clearly the extent of such a shattering can be extreme such as the death of a spouse or child, a context from which the initial ideas leading to the KRGC were developed. However bad news is a relativistic concept that is best understood through the eyes of a recipient. A consequence of which is the possible extension of the KRGC into a broader realm. In formatting COBAT I have extended the grief cycle to the ‘shattering’ that occurs when paradigms of knowledge comfort are destroyed.

An Explanation of the Mechanism behind COBAT

Take a simple paradigm shattering phenomenon – in science/math there are many of them – for convenience I will choose the concepts of integers that nullified the earlier idea of positive-only numbers that one learns in grade school. Integers represent a critical change in our thinking of the world of mathematics but without their presence any real future progress in algebra, trigonometry and vectors would be stifled. So we are forced in a sense to conform to their existence. For many this is not a serious hurdle but for others this is clearly not the case.
Adapting our brains to work through such a radical shift involves the unbundling of old ideas, the possible loss of a comfort region and a feeling of a new and often undesirable beginning. The brain can choose to resist (or cope) by jump starting a mini-version of the KRGC in an attempt to maintain the status (a type of intellectual ‘flight’ or ‘fright’ response). I have seen aspects of this in students that I have taught especially when the concept under review appears to be ‘overwhelming’ in level of difficulty. Some students break the cycle quickly others don’t. If a student falls into the latter category, this can become problematic especially if the looping is not terminated prior to the introduction of yet another new concept. What then may occur is the buildup of loops of irresolution that overlay one another creating a sense of powerlessness and eventually lowered self-esteem. In concept rich courses such as Math this may provide for the mechanistic pathology behind the condition of mathematics phobia[v] - a hypothesis worth investigating further.

Breaking the Loop and Overcoming the Mini-Grief Cycle Inspired Cognitive Barrier

The informed teacher or tutor is best equipped to assist the student in overcoming the cognitive barrier. However since the barrier is to a large extent self-imposed the student needs to possess the will to snap the cycle. In severe cases, which can evolve if a situation is left to continuously worsen, an educational psychologist may be required to facilitate the process as well. Vygotskian pedagogy, that uses a process of scaffolding[vi] to close zones of proximal development, may be useful but in a sense it too has to be modified and perhaps customized as the cycles of irresolution that are setup in the students mind may possess a unique physiology.
A flexibility of approach that speaks to the multiple intelligences[vii] may be utilized but what is perhaps just as important is the emotional energy and support that the teacher is capable of supplying. One may be tempted to see this as an exaggeration of a circumstance, but once cognitive barriers have created emotional walls the task of re-adjustment can be very difficult and requiring of a more holistic approach.

What other aspects of personal development may be influenced by the COBAT?

It is impossible in personal development to take the finest scalpel and separate one factor from all the others. Cognitive, emotional and moral progression are linked in a way that social scientists are only just beginning to understand. Consequently, if cognitive barriers are set up it is natural to expect an overflow into other realms. A falling self esteem arising from a feeling of being inadequate is an obvious outcrop but I believe that cognitive barriers may skew or alter moral development as well. A sophisticated moral outlook can often (but not always) be cultivated by broadening one’s perspective, questioning assumptions and understanding the need for an extended sense of self. This is or should be an underlying principle behind most pedagogy but such a platform may be compromised in an individual if cognitive barriers have frozen intellectual development into an immature framework that blocks such critical abstraction.

Additional Factors to consider

The mini-grief cycle approach to cognitive barriers rests within the psychopathology of the Transactional Model[viii]. It is very much environmentally dependent and must be viewed as such. It also takes on more of a discontinuous[ix] approach to cognitive development which is an inherent simplification that later versions may address. A further avenue of research that flows naturally from the theory is a possible investigation of the sensitive or critical period[x] nature of unresolved mini-grief cycles.


The COBAT provides a possible model for understanding how students, through an emotion driven process, build and augment hurdles toward learning. The process is worsened by an aggregation of mini-grief cycles of irresolution that can impact both the emotional and intellectual development of the learner. Fortunately early pedagogic assessment and an active teacher response are potentially available as stop gaps to prevent such situations from spiraling out of control.

[i] Piaget, J. (1972). Intellectual evolution from adolescence to adulthood. Human Development, 15, 1-12.
[ii] Vygotsky, L.S. (1962). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[iii] Bruner, J. (1983) Child's Talk: Learning to Use Language, New York: Norton.
[iv] Kübler -Ross, E .(1969) - Collier Books, New York, NY.
[v] For more on mathematics phobia go to
[vi] Mok W.Y. and DiGiuseppe M (2006) CMYR Course Notes, MST Program, York University.
[vii] Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
[viii] Ennis, L (2006) Adolescence Course Notes, MST Program., York University.
[ix] Ennis, L (2006) Adolescence Course Notes, MST Program., York University.
[x] Ennis, L (2006) Adolescence Course Notes, MST Program., York Universit

Napoleon - The Coming of Empire

Key Milestones 

1799 - Napoleon returns to France and find the Republic bankrupt. The Directory is also unpopular with the people. Forms an alliance with Joseph Sieyès, Roger Ducos (Speaker of the Lower House - Council of Five Hundred), Lucien (his brother), Joseph Fouché (a director) and the Diplomat,/Political Chameleon Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and seizes power in the 18th Brumaire coup d"tat.

1799 -  A New constitution is confirmed - Constitution of Year VIII - that makes Napoleon First Consul for ten years . Although there are two lesser Consuls the Republic has effectively transitioned into a dictatorship. Era of Plebiscites begins. Consulate will only last five years.

1802 - Napoleon becomes First Consul for Life through a plebiscite. Reformation of French education system.

1804 - Introduction of the Code Napoleon Legal System (Civil Code).

1804 - In the presence of the Pope Napoleon crowns himself Emperor. He was earlier on proclaimed Emperor by the Senate.