Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Rethinking WalMart Patronage

Apr 16, 2007

I am not a religious man. That statement offends some, dismays others, and confounds even more, as they wonder how I can advance a philosophy of education and technology as profoundly rooted in morality as in science. But, as I once commented to one of my friends in the faith, my morality and my beliefs come from my science. And not, importantly, the reverse.

The sun sets over Boston last week. More Boston photos.

This statement is to introduce two items. The first is an item in Science that has gotten a lot of discussion, on the topic of framing science (the article is behind a subscription wall - more discussion here, with follow-ups here and here and here). I personally do not care whether people believe in evolution or creation. I do care when one type of enquiry - science - is confused with another type of enquiry - faith. Because if you can do this - simply cross categories like this - then you can do things like substitute one type of belief - morality, say - with another - greed. And when I look at the rise of creationism, what I am seeing is not actually religion seeking to replace science, but rather personal greed and ambition seeking to replace religion.

The second item is a post by Wesley Fryer titled Rethinking WalMart Patronage documenting his reaction to a film on the corporate giant. he makes the right turns, to my mind, in this discussion, ending at the point where faith and reason merge: "ALL human beings deserve and have the right to be treated as ENDS, not merely means. (I share that view with Immanuel Kant as well as Jesus Christ, among many others.) The ongoing development and cultivation of literacy skills is an essential need for all people... Educators truly perform holy work each day, and this movie made me realize the vital importance of that work more than ever."

When I'm uncomfortable at corporate e-learning conferences, it's not because I'm afraid they won't understand PLEs. It's because they don't understand this, and that they are so frequently in the process of substituting one thing for another. The new green, to mention just the latest. Just the latest.


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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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