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Learning from sure start: working with young children and their families: Working with Young Children and their Families Paperback – 1 Jul 2005
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About the Author
Edited by Jo Weinberger, Caroline Pickstone and Peter Hannon Jo Weinberger is a Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield University and has worked on research and evaluation in the Foxhill & Parson Cross Sure Start initiative for over two years. She has previously worked as a lecturer, researcher, nursery teacher and community worker focusing on home school reading development. Her book on early literacy in a home and community context, Literacy Goes to School, was published in 1996. Caroline Pickstone is a Research Fellow and Honorary Clinical Lecturer in the University of Sheffield and has worked with Foxhill & Parson Cross Sure Start on a research study since 2000. She is an experienced Speech & Language Therapist and manager and has been involved with the development of new working models for children services. She has published research articles in Child Care Health and Development and Child Language Teaching and Therapy as well as within professional journals. Peter Hannon is Professor of Education, University of Sheffield. His work is principally in early childhood education and literacy. He is responsible, with the programme manager, for the coordination of research and evaluation into the Foxhill and Parson Cross Sure Start programme. He is the author of numerous research publications on young children and their families including two books: Literacy, Home and School (1995) and Reflecting on Literacy in Education (2000). Contributors * Sue Battersby * Robin Carlisle * Deborah Crofts * Margaret Drake * Fiona Ford * Jan Forde * Linda Fox * Imogen Hale * Peter Hannon * Helen Lomas * Jackie Marsh * Anne Morgan * Simon Martinez * Caroline Pickstone * Ann Rowe * Jo Weinberger
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THE BEST 5 BIOGRAPHIES ARE (in order of publication date)
Edmund S. Morgan's Benjamin Franklin (Yale Nota Bene S.)
H. W. Brands's The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Gordon S. Wood's The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin
Jerry Weinberger's Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, and Political Thought (American Political Thought)
The first 4 of these biographies are presented as in the typical historically (and chronologically) biographical approach. There are 24 pictures in Morgan's book, no pictures in Brands's book, 32 pictures in Isaacson's book, 25 pictures in Wood's book, and no pictures in Weinberger's book.
I am not going to write about how great Franklin was or what he did (he was great and he did so much). I want to write primarily about how each of these authors portrays Franklin's character differently by highlighting different aspects of his life.
In London (1725) Franklin wrote "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain," which seemed to show that Franklin was a young radical Deist. In the pamphlet, he denied free will, denied the existence of vice and virtue and merit, and rejected particular providence. Later, when the pamphlet was reprinted in Boston, Franklin became a social outcast of sorts and he wrote that he was "inclined to leave Boston" because people were calling him "an infidel or atheist." When Franklin fled Boston he was 17 years old. He later wrote about that pamphlet that Ï began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful."
Later, after becoming rich from his printing presses, writings, and scientific discoveries, Franklin became a statesman, diplomat, Founding Father, and icon.
At the end of his life he wrote his "Autobiography," where Franklin said that he "never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity, that he made the world, and governed it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service to God was the doing of good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter; these I esteemed the essentials of every religion".
If you've read Leo Strauss's "Persecution and the Art of Writing" then you'll be familiar with Weinberger's hermeneutic. Weinberger sees a contradiction: Franklin seriously doubted as a young man what he says to have never doubted as an old man (compare the 1725 pamphlet to the aforementioned quote from the "Autobiography"). Weinberger notes, "...to my knowledge, this flat contradiction has remained unnoticed by everyone who has written..." on Franklin (pg. 49). According to Weinberger, Franklin's treatment in Boston and his belief that George Whitfield should not have written anything that would leave him open to attack, created a Franklin who wrote subtly for those who take the time to peal back the shades of meaning in his own texts. Indicators are contradictions and contradictions are dissolvable when we find something deeper which ties things together.
Franklin is a "radical skeptic" according to Weinberger. The philosophical Franklin is hidden behind his humor (often debauched). Weinberger's Franklin is a true anomaly among the other historians. He attacks Isaacson's pragmatist-Franklin as "always look[ing] on the bright side of things because they are not really pragmatists" (pg. 289; my brackets). He attacks Wood in a 2 and ½ page footnote, where Wood's presentation of an "angry Franklin" is (somehow) incompatible with Franklin's proposed skepticism (pg. 314-317). Weinberger says that as a philosopher Franklin could not have sustained anger as a part of his political motivations because the skeptical Franklin would be "able to reflect philosophically on the perfect irrationality of anger as the wellspring of moral and political commitments" (pg. 223, see also pg. 288). In fact, Brands might agree, he said that Franklin was a skeptic by temperament (Brands, pg. 94). However, Weinberger sees Franklin's skepticism as "even more radical and more thoughtfully grounded..." (pg. xiii). Because Franklin is supposedly a skeptic he could not agree with Spinoza and Hobbes who appear as dogmatic as the religious leaders (begin with materialist assumptions and end with their conclusions and visa versa for spiritualists...see pg. 75-59 and 277). However, Franklin does follow Hobbes insofar as Hobbes was the protégé of Francis Bacon. Weinberger calls Franklin's politics "political Baconianism: the view that politics is an artful game aimed at getting things to work right and not a matter of setting things `right' in the sense of justice" (pg. 234-235). Hobbes "outlined the most powerful version of political Baconianism" (pg. 235). Yet Franklin could not follow Hobbes all the way because Hobbes became a materialist-dogmatist and Franklin remained a skeptic. Franklin, in a sense, tried to take on Socratic Ignorance, Franklin was "first the careful, dialectical philosopher..." (pg. 290). The historians, on the other hand, who follow loosely Morgan's notion that "charity" was the "guiding principle of Franklin's life" (Morgan, pg. 24) continue along with Wood who says Franklin "came to realize that science and philosophy could never take the place of service in government" (Wood, pg. 66).
One of Weinberger's best summaries of Franklin's quasi-political machinations may be that "for all his real efforts to foster his minimalist `creed' that would not `shock the professors of any religion,' he always included divine punishment in that creed and was quite willing both to shock believers and to side with enthusiasts, whichever prudence required. Franklin's concrete religious politics could be well described as inclined towards `managed enthusiasm'" (pg. 279).
Second, Weinberger has taken Franklin more seriously than anyone else to date and lays bare the real intent behind his though. The review by "Dave" here completely misses the point of the book. Franklin mocked everything and everyone, including himself, so one has to look beyond the words written to the true meaning, which is revealed by Weinberger to lie in numerous contradictions, confusing language and re-worded poems. For example, the "contradiction" that "Dave" fails to see is that Franklin at one point in his Autobiography mentions that he never stopped believing in god; something that completely contradicts an earlier claim by Franklin that he did indeed stop believing, only to return to religion later in life. As Weinberger mentions, is it believable or possible that a religious person could forget that he once did not believe, or forget the very moment at which he became a believer? Hardly. Weinberger's task is to unravel this mystery...and he does so masterfully.
If you want to know Benjamin Franklin beyond what is presented in the biographies (and I have read those by Brands and Isaacson) to see the true depth and power of his thoughts, Weinberger's book is excellent!!!