To satisfy possible curiosity about my background: I was born in the US in the 1930s during the Great Depression, just after the end of National Prohibition there — and shortly before the onset of World War II in Europe.
I was raised in an American suburban village in western New York State, by parents who had not graduated from high school, and who had recently resumed church-going. At that time our village had one Roman Catholic church (with a parochial school), several much smaller Protestant churches, and no Jewish or Islamic congregations. And I don’t now recall any persons of color living there.
Dad and Mom became active in a conservative/evangelical Protestant church whose congregation helped support missionaries abroad. I recall a chorus we kids sang in those days about Jesus’s love for all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white . . . . And as a kid I was impressed by Native American Chief White Feather who, in Native American regalia, spoke and sang there in the 1940s, having sung earlier in Washington, D.C., at the White House.
We enjoyed frequent visits on weekends with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, several of whom lived within an hour or so. Two or three Sunday visits were undertaken to help close ones who, apparently, had alcohol problems.
Often, relatives – mainly on Mom’s side — recounted appealing stories of the extended family’s happy pre-war fishing vacations on the Bruce Peninsula at Red Bay, Ontario — woodstove-fired, kerosene-lamp-lit, with outdoor “plumbing.” Of course there are black and white photos “developed” via the drugstore. Sadly, I was too young to go out fishing with “the big guys.” The war and gas rationing put an end to those fishing vacations, and made me a frustrated fisher-kid.
But — war or no war — we loved, trained, learned from, and enjoyed our friendly pets; usually it was a cocker spaniel (Tyke, then Red, then Copper). And we enjoyed climbing in, and harvesting, our full size fruit trees in the backyard.
Dad, who had emigrated as a very young child with his large family from England to the province of Ontario, Canada, would play on the awarded Welland Beavers baseball team, enjoyed golf, later played on his church softball team, and followed big-league baseball closely via the daily newspaper. He was employed in banking throughout his working life, played on the bank’s ball team, and served as a white-helmeted air-raid warden during the war. Gifted with an outstanding tenor voice, he sang in quartets and in church choirs, having begun in childhood. At the bank he was promoted repeatedly, in no small measure because of his persistent independent study at home that included use of his set of 1930 books: Modern Business, Alexander Hamilton Institute.
Dad told me that early in the Great Depression the bank had reduced men’s salaries by 10%, and laid off most of the women employees.
Dad was a Republican, and I recall his having expressed some disapproval of labor unions, and his saying that it was World War II – not President Roosevelt’s New Deal actions to employ the millions of jobless workers — that brought the US out of the Great Depression.
As a kid I thought that – whatever their faults — unions had probably come to exist because there was a need for them, and I definitely questioned his downplaying of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs like the CCC and WPA that created vital, socially beneficial jobs for large numbers of jobless, virtually penniless Americans.
Mother enjoyed being a homemaker, and was an accomplished cook. During the war she worked nights helping build C-46 cargo transport planes, and she volunteered as a Red Cross “Gray Lady,” and still found time to grow vegetables in our “victory garden,” and to “can” them. Mom’s flower gardens flourished, and she took great delight in hosting gatherings of relatives and of church friends at our place.
Various radio programs were important to us as individuals; our family did not acquire a TV until after 1950.
Like Dad, my older brother and I enjoyed playing the piano by ear. I too graduated from the local public school, having accepted his advice to take all the math, science, and foreign languages I could. And like him, with very strong encouragement from our parents, I pursued a higher education.
At the conservative Christian college I attended in the mid-western US with a view to entering the Christian ministry, I accepted advice to major in Philosophy. That subject was rarely – if ever — taught in American high schools then. I found those new studies with philosophers who were Christians very interesting, and, thanks to summer and weekend jobs as a bank teller, and to financial help from family, I continued them at Northwestern University.
As a newly-married graduate student, interested in seeing more of the world, I spent the 1961-62 academic year enrolled as a guest student at Germany’s Tubingen University. Of course I was pleased that it was cheaper to live and to finish a master’s thesis in Germany than it would be in the US.
During a generously subsidized one-week student bus trip to Berlin – after we crossed on foot into East Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie — I was immediately aware of the dramatic contrast between West Berlin’s glittering free-world prosperity and East Berlin’s obvious poverty amidst huge piles of 17-year-old war rubble. Berlin had just been divided by a militarized wall built by the communist government to prevent refugees from escaping impoverished, USSR-controlled, East Germany to West Berlin.
My program at Northwestern prepared me for further research and teaching in the history of Philosophy, and several of Philosophy’s subdivisions, including Philosophy of Education. After receiving the doctorate from Northwestern, for decades I taught as a member of the then-new Philosophy Department of what became a highly regarded four-year college of arts and science of the State University of New York.
A faculty colleague there introduced me to delicious table wine he had made from fine European wine grapes. Finally, after three centuries of failed attempts everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains to grow those finest cool-climate Vinifera grapes commercially in the US, they were just beginning to be grown commercially in our cool-climate Finger Lakes region.
That led me to plant and tend a substantial, 150-vine home vineyard – hence the “GrampaGrape” website name (and the nickname my grandkids have used.) Remarkably successful home winemaking became a strong interest for this guy who had had no difficulty keeping his pledge to abstain from all alcoholic beverages throughout his years at that conservative Christian college. Well aware of the troubles of alcohol addiction, my wife and I each enjoyed one glass of our own table wine with the evening meal.
The abundance of wine we grew enabled us to rent vines to church friends, who enjoyed grape harvesting and inter-generational grape-stomping at our place in the autumn. Their rental fees secured for them a few bottles from the previous harvest. Those rental fees were contributed to our congregation’s mission commission, which put them to good use – in some cases providing vetted $100 micro-finance loans enabling low-income recipients – usually women, in less-developed economies — to start their own businesses, repay the loans, and thus continue the benefits there.
I’m now long-retired from college teaching, but I’ll be drawing on three-plus decades of study and teaching Western Humanities, mainly Philosophy. Although I was not a student of Asian Philosophy or Asian Religion, my teaching did include substantial portions of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures as well as ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, some modern English Literature, and several subdivisions of modern Philosophy, including Ethical Theory, several applied Ethics courses, and – unusual for a member of any Philosophy department — Philosophy of Education.
Philosophers have addressed questions that many folks have wondered about, including questions as to the ultimate origins of things, and human destiny. The approach I’ll be taking does not build on any all-encompassing theory about “Everything” – about our ultimate, cosmic context.
In what follows I won’t be either championing or arguing against the existence of a personal Creator of all other things (Theism). And I won’t be arguing for or arguing against a personal life (or lives) for people after their death. In what follows, I won’t be addressing those humanly fascinating and intellectually challenging topics.
What I am offering in the main section of this website is a normative Philosophy of Education: I’m recommending — and making a substantial case for — highly promising educational aims for us all (not just Americans), and for some crucial educational ways and means, with some analytic attention to crucial concepts.