At the conclusion of his State of the Union Address in January President Clinton issued a remarkable bulletin: "The entire store of human knowledge now doubles every five years." It is not completely clear what exactly he meant.
What counts as knowledge? Every day that Congress meets results in a Congressional Record packed with things to know. Does the ever-expanding record of the thoughts of Al D'Amato count as an increase in the store of human knowledge? How about baseball box scores? And what of self-knowledge, as in "getting in touch with your feelings," as people do a lot of on daytime television? If such things count in the accumulation of knowledge, the reservoir of knowledge must be rising at least as rapidly as the president avers.He spoke of the five-year doubling of knowledge 13 weeks ago, so the world's stock of knowledge has increased 4.89 percent since then. That augmentation of knowledge (remember, this is a 4.89 percent increase in what was already a pretty tall pile of knowledge) probably involves a quantity of the stuff greater than the sum of knowledge possessed by Leonardo da Vinci, or perhaps by all of Florence in his time. Gosh.
And consider the velocity of the multiplication of knowledge under way at California State University at Monterey Bay. It is a new institution trying to be true to the CSU mission of developing students who "understand the relativity of perception and hence the need to develop a sense of self-possession through a respect for self" and who "understand the creative, symbiotic interrelatedness" of humans with the Earth, and "the organic unity of all human cohabitation" with everything. CSUMB says:
"Our system works a little bit like getting your driver's license. To get a driver's license, you need to demonstrate that you know how to drive and that you know the rules of the road. You can learn these things in a variety of ways.. . . When you get your license, you are not accountable for how you learned to drive but rather for demonstrating that you are able to drive."
There are 13 "university learning requirements." You get the tang of the place by noting that one ULR is called "United States Histories." That plural noun signals diversity-worship. CSUMB seems to consider sensitivity to "diversity" (the "English Communication" ULR stresses "empathic" listening and "sensitivity to the audience and occasion") a precondition for "learning in cross-cultural contexts" and for "cross-culturally competent citizenship in a pluralistic and global society." CSUMB says of students "becoming their own historians":
"They will demonstrate an understanding of their own positionality (sic), as well as a basic ability to research and evaluate a spectrum of evidence taken from any of the following areas: Audio (e.g., music, radio); Everyday Life (e.g., clothes, household goods and furniture, tools); Oral (e.g., community storytelling, individual and family histories); Performance and Ritual (e.g., ceremonies, re-enactments, theater); Visual (e.g., advertisements, art, film, graffiti, photographs); Written (e.g., government documents, magazines, newspapers, literature)."
Another ULR, called "Vibrancy," serves "one of the seven academic goals of CSUMB which is: a holistic and creative sense of self." It requires students to "demonstrate an understanding of the factors that contribute to and enhance high level well-being, and an understanding of the interrelationship between intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental, and physical health as it relates to one's own life." In plain English, which does not seem to be a known dialect at CSUMB, this seems to mean eating and exercising sensibly.
There is a "Community Participation" ULR because CSUMB wants to "foster a sense of care and compassion in our students" so they can "participate in service in multicultural community settings." Under the "Creative and Artistic Expression" ULR, "each student must produce a work of art that communicates to a diverse audience." The first course listed under the "Ethics" ULR is "Environment, Culture and Ethics: Water and Humanity." The first course listed under the "Democratic Participation" ULR is "Politics of Everyday Life." Under the "Literature/Popular Culture" ULR, courses designed to help students understand "how race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, disability, age and/or nationality inspire, inform, and influence writers, artists and audiences" include "Literary Analysis Through Global Narratives" and "Auto/biografias."
CSUMB is on a recently closed Army base. Some will see this as a reason to regret the end of the Cold War. Others, perhaps including the president, will see this as beating swords into the knowledge that is expanding so rapidly.