Conditioned assumptions

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Mon, 6 May 1996 10:45:26 -0400

(North?) American culture operates with all sorts of "conditioned assumptions"
(I would call them something like cultural postulates). Here are two:

(1) The importance of the numbers 1 and 3. If there isn't 1 answer, there are 3
answers; 3 strikes and you're out; 3 coins in the fountain; 3 branches of
government; father, son, & holy ghost; Peter, Paul, & Mary; id, ego, superego
(if Freud had been a Kishwa Indian, he probably would have found 2 aspects of
personality). And many of you on this list probably are familiar with the famous
clash of assumptions between an American Indian and Anglo culture, where the
Anglo teachers asked questions 3 times and gave up, while the Indian kids were
waiting for the magic fifth or seventh or whatever (I forget the details of
group and number, but you get the idea).

(2) The folk linking of linguistically/culturally constructed "racial" groupings
(such as "black", "white") with biology. This one is certainly a lot more
dangerous, and has had many more evil consequences, especially when used by
idiots like Arthur Jensen and the authors of "The Bell curve" to "prove" that
differences in scores on IQ tests correlate with genetic differences between the
"groups" being tested. When coupled with the (peculiarly?) US hypodescent rule,
which states that "black" people can produce only "black" children while "white"
people can produce children of virtually any "race" on the planet, this
particular cultural postulate can best be described as mass mental illness.

Hope this is useful.

Ronald Kephart
Dept of Language & Literature
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, FL USA 32224-2645
Phone: (904) 646-2580