Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Nation of Immigrants vs A Nation of Laws?

The problem we find coming from the immigration situation is not from immigration itself, but from the related corruptions to our fed & state gov't's which feed it. Thomas Sowell or Frederich Bastiat or Walter E. Williams, and more, have given reams of examples and information on how one 'isolated' instance of tampering with the free market, ripples disruptions outward, which prompt compensatory actions which themselves cause more compensatory ripples to spread chaos even further.

To lift a few instances out of the mix at random, minimum wage law, health care rules, public schooling, social services... and on and on. These cause enough problems and conflicts within the regular citizenry, market & gov't interplay all of it's own. But worse, they also cause what should be a highly valued result of America being America - immigration, to be twisted into a visible focal point for each of these corruptions of our political structure to be displayed for us in harsh flashing neon.

There is nothing more valuable than people (the "Ultimate Resource") - qualified as people who do understand the value of liberty and freedom, seeking to come here and practice it in their lives. A non nanny state gov't, such as America predominantly was prior to the 20th century, was it's own immune system, drawing in only those willing to take a risk on their own skills and abilities to earn a livelihood and better the lives of their families. On the whole, immigration, on the melting pot plan - learn the language, learn the founders political philosophy, adopt the culture, work hard & get ahead - this was America's secret weapon from the founders time on, and on the basic principles, even from the 1600's and Jamestown, on.

All of the Nanny state, regulatory, gov't mandated policies and services that have been implemented, to mark a fuzzy line, from Teddy Roosevelt, from that time on, and amplified with the Warren Court decisions, have served to undermine and corrupt that lifeblood little by little, until now what should still be a supreme value for us, is a raging infection.

My personal view on immigration, in an uncorrupted gov't, would be to open the doors and welcome them in, only being sure to take their names, make sure they are not spreading disease, are not felon's, track and ensure that they are becoming good Americans, and on to the next issue. 911 modifies that to put a tighter, more in depth focus on the taking of names, background and tracking, finger printing, reporting in, etc, but the rest still holds.

It even holds for those from Mexico or Canada who want to come temporarily to earn some money and return home, again, with emphasis on the tracking and law abiding parts. There is only benefit for us and them - as long as the qualifiers are in place.

Anyone who flouts our laws should be unceremoniously given the boot, and never allowed back in. Period.

The difficulty we have now, is separating those coming here to take a risk on their own skills and abilities to earn a livelihood and better the lives of their families and so on, from those coming to take advantage of public schools, 'public' health care, welfare, etc.

The problem isn't immigration, that is only where the real problem is too visible to turn away from. The problem is that we have allowed progressive, socialist, postmodern, multiculturist 'ideas' to corrupt our system, and ourselves - until they are taken care of, neither the immigration or other problems are going to be taken care of.

Until we again have a free market, and a gov't governing within its proper bounds, we will not have an uncorrupted populace. To dream otherwise, is but to dream.

For the moment, I think that all we can hope for (probably vainly given the mushiness of our congress on the issue) is an effective background checking, identification and tracking system for immigrants. An insistence that they show proficiency in the language within x number of months, and that law abiding behavior be absolutely required, violation of which results in permanent expulsion. And as strict a monitoring of the borders as is feasible, and with unquestioned shoot to kill force being authorized for those patrolling it feel is necessary to their own protection, and jobs.


In short, if we see the issue with immigration being in conflict with our laws; when we are at root A Nation of Immigrants, and A Nation of Laws, then we need to look at the rippling set of laws that have prompted that split. If you do, I think you'll find that a great deal of the laws which were passed in the 20th century, are laws that must be passed away. Soon.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Can Vice be Taught?

Socrates was concerned with the question of whether or not Virtue can be taught. Another good question that should be asked, is whether Vice can be taught? I think the answer is Yes. And taught far easier, at that.

Why? Because Vice is usually more directly connected to physical responses of immediate gratification. It doesn’t need to be mediated with thought and consideration, it taps directly into the reward center endorphins just act like food pellets with lab rats, but laced with designer drugs. That being so, thoughts can be, are, dangerous things. It seems to me, that one of the thoughts that should and MUST be taught, is that some thoughts, some ideas, some desires, are not to be approached - especially by an ill equipped mind.

Just as a student pugilist doesn't walk into a ring with Mike Tyson (or whoever the hell is considered tough nowadays), a youth, a student, should not 'get into the ring' with evil – full blown or one of it’s many henchmen - pornography, intoxicants, marxist & postmodernist thoughts. It is too dangerous.

This has always been the case, the biggest difference with us ‘moderns’, is that we’ve forgotten how to deal with dangerous thoughts. Does this mean that if thoughts are dangerous, that they should be regulated? Monitored?

Thank you Mr. Leftie Answer-Man (and not a few of you Rightie ones as well), but no. No it doesn’t mean that at all. What it does mean, is that way back when, when the wise wanted to keep dangerous thoughts out of the hands of those who weren’t ready to handle them, they did the only sensible thing that can be done with potentially dangerous medicines – they hid them away from the grasp of immature and otherwise unprepared minds. They put warning labels on them. They also made sure to show the evil (the term may be controversial for pomofo’s but not for sensible educated peoples) to be clearly baaad. The easy will always be available as an option – unless it’s already too late. There is no avoiding the possibility – your only hope is of making it seem a less desireable choice to make.

How? Well, before answering that, let’s first lets conduct a little houskeeping concerning a few common prejudices many of us moderns have against those who lived way back when.

First off, that those who lived way back when dressed in a fashion we consider to be goofy doesn’t mean they were incredulous, naïve or otherwise stupid. For those of you not so sure (probably those in their twenties (mentally and or chronogically) or less), wait until you get a load of your fashion… ten or twenty years from now. Fashion doesn't necessarily imply foolishness.

Next, think of what you mean when you refer to someone as being Wise. Would such a person be likely to believe in fairy tales, the tooth fairy, talking animals, etc.? No? What makes you think that a wise person living two or three thousand years ago would have either?

And technology. It's fine and all to have it, I rather like the internet, but it doesn't make you any wiser. Would they think You wise because you could turn on a light switch? Wisdom is not deepened with stuff – extended perhaps, but not deepened.

They weren't, they didn't and they wouldn’t. Something else, tamper proof caps and child resistant packaging were not invented after the Tylenol scare, they were invented long before that, way back when, with “A long time ago, in a land (or galaxy) far, far away….”

Here it is that we approach the deep well, the knotty packaging of Myth. Intended and innate to Myths, at their central core, is Truth with a capital “T”. There are deeper mines of meaning in our folk tales, our Myths, our Religions, than are visible upon the surface of their narratives. And something truly magical about them, is that there not only may be, but almost certainly does exist, more Truth within them, than those who wrote them down were aware of at the time of their writing them.

The remarkable thing about Truth, is that it integrates into and throughout all of what is True. Truth is Whole, it is One. There is no – and I do mean NO truth, that exists separate and isolated, from all else that is true. Lies and falsehood can be random, contradictory and completely unrelated to each other, but Truth is a different species altogether.

The truth of a tale told, contains that truth intended by the authors, but it also contains others perhaps unplanned, unforeseen, by the authors, but because of the nature of Truth, all others are unavoidably there all the same. In Myth, in story, the tale reveals only so much meaning as the reader is willing and able to comprehend, and so long as they are restrained from going off half cocked in applying it in some literal fashion (again, that's where teachers and parents come in), they are given only that amount of knowledge that they are ready to receive. But the levels of Truth contained in even one True Tale, go down to unforseeable depths – and expand outwards in concentric circles & spheres to the very boundaries of the universe.

Consider Adam and Eve. For those viewing the story on the 1st level, there is of course the near literal interpretation of the Serpent tempting Eve, and she of Adam – essentially if you listen to the devil, you’d better be prepared to pay the consequences. Loss of paradise, poor clothing and fratricidal children are only some of the obvious payback sure to follow.

(BTW, If you believe that a literal snake spoke to, and tempted Eve... well consult the previous houskeeping measures concerning the Wise. But also don't be fooled into thinking that it doesn't have true meaning to it. Thinking is required, at whatever depth and speed as you can manage. The tales will patiently wait for you to catch up. )

By looking just a little deeper, there can be found more to the tale than just talking sssnake stories. For one thing, I don't think it takes a lot of thought, really just a little consultation with your friendly neighborhood teenager, to figure out that the fruit lately translated as 'apple' might be referring to… something else.

Pomegranates have been floated, sure, strawberries, berries, however, not to be vulgar, but try consider perhaps another red morsel, one that doesn't necessarily grow upon a tree would be more to this point – the Cherry. Not the cherry which grows on the tree in the garden, but the cherry that springs from the tree of life. Ask you're friendly neighborhood teenage boy, if the word 'Cherry', spoken in relation to girls, doesn't bring up some ideas - and fears, and rules. Rules not to be broken, lest you be pushed from your safe and secure home, suddenly a father burdened with responsibilities, a responsible bread-winner, no longer a child, and soon to be blessed with children of his own who must be carefully raised and taught right from wrong, or evil is sure to follow.

Even so – you can be pretty much guaranteed that evil will be sure to follow. Not because of an apple bitten into, but because of the nature of the human mind, of intelligence, of freewill – freewill to have meaning, must include the possibility of making errors. And errors unrecognized, or unheeded, will lead to many black thoughts and deeds.

That aspect of Myth brings to mind very relevant admonitions about maturing adolescents. There are other such ‘Myth’s’ as well; Pandora's box was originally Pandora's urn or goblet, another standin or allusion to the womb, and the release of 'evils', responsibilities that can overcome the unprepared. Persephone, carried off to Hades, couldn't be released by Zeuss scott free, because she had eaten a pomegranate. She had eaten of the fruit of earthly desire and pleasure, and was tied to it, no longer the innocent and free child, but one bound to the soil.

Are these inferences anachronistic? Modern concerns that perhaps didn't exist, or in the same way 400 or 500 b.c.? Certainly. Did they derive other lessons from them then? Of course. That's the point. A story, a myth, because it distills a Truth in action, a psychological and philosophical truth, it is able to refract truth, no matter the quality or intensity of light shone into it. That is one of the ways you know that you are dealing with eternal and transcendent truth.

Perhaps the root meaning, original in the Judaic and the Greek myths, was that in a very definite sense, that bringing forth children, the responsibilities it incurs, the temptations it can foster - the urges to provide for them, posture for them, that from the womb can issue immortality through the father son line of the Tree of Life, but evil can follow as well.

And that is but one level deeper than the narrative. There are many levels beyond that, such as where the snake, his crafty speech, so wriggling manner of moving, so close to the ground, to things, to the physical, horizontal reality, can seduce you away from what is good and proper, with a simple "what can it hurt to try? It's tasssty!" Gagdad Bob has done several excellent explorations of what the Serpent in the garden represents. The twisting manner, the slickly smooth hissing of the snakes words as Intelligence shorn of Wisdom – “Spin” perhaps captures it ."Eat of the apple, and you will know of eternal life"

With women, Eve (or Pandora, or...) representing your worldly desires, dreams, values, can easily sway you - not even by her direct actions, but merely by her existence, into seeking shortcuts to God-like abilities. And before you realize it, you are grabbing for knowledge over wisdom, nudging you into the valuing of quantity over quality, horizontal over vertical, death over life. In an instant, with a word, a temptation, you are banished by your own actions, from the cool garden of wisdom, barred from returning to it by the sharp blade of your own burning desires, forced by your own choices and decisions (de-cision, to cut away from), to endure the sense of nakedness inherent in knowing that there is a schism between what you affirm, and how you act. You are guilty of falling.

There is much to that interpretation. There is much that can be argued. There are thoughts to be thought, and wisdom to be found in the process – and very little of it will be able to be found in memorization, or bubble tests, only in exploration and contemplation. And most likely that will only happen, under the tutelage of a teacher, one wiser than yourself, one who has a grasp of what he'd like to show you of the Good, the Beautiful and the True.

Myths and story also have another beneficial feature. They reflect the Good, the Beautiful and the True at each and every layer of their existence. Whether it be through wonder or adventure or heart ache or even horror – they are enjoyable to be with, to read and to tell. They are open to be explored deeper, and deeper, and deeper. ‘Tests’ can even be exciting in the hands of a skilled teacher, asking if the student is able to see more within aspects of the story that seem to be puzzling, and they will often be initiated by the student;

Student“Didn’t people ever wonder what Atlas was supposed to be standing upon when he held the world upon his shoulders?”,

Teacher “Perhaps some did, as did you, but the clever ones knew that those were clues to deeper meaning, do you suppose it might mean something more?” perhaps even posing it as a riddle to be solved.

Not so with a textbook. And more still, there is a value in story, in engaging with the story, in drawing the story into you with imagination, that leaves some portion of its value behind within you. As C.S. Lewis says in his Narnia books “Once a King or Queen of Narnia, Always a King or Queen of Narnia”. The valorous deeds and truths discovered and defended, create mental integrations – thin perhaps, on their own, but reinforced through other tales, and lessons of manners, they are potentially powerful and deep. Never discount the power of engaging illustrations of a life worthy of emulation; it can prompt the student to choose to try to emulate them. And in that choice, there resides true power.

The problem is, you are most unlikely to be taught anything of the sort in school, or even college. If you are taught to look deeper, it will be in Literature, in imaginative fiction, and there it will be taught as 'what else could the author mean?', not 'what deeper Truth may be revealed here?'. Which is closely related to the other problem with Lit Professors, and Philosophy Professors as well, is that they tend to present anything that is 'well crafted' as being worthy of consideration and discussion. Proust is well crafted, 'deep', many allusions, 'what is he thinking about his mother?... the other child visitor?' What is he thinking that is worth considering, might be a better first question.

As I mentioned at the top, this may be especially needed, because error, vice, and flat out Evil are inherently easier to teach or convey - unintentionally or intentionally, than is Wisdom and Goodness. The Good, the Beautiful and the True, require a focus of spiritual effort upon the Vertical. A sort of spiritual calisthenics is involved in looking at a painting of St. George slaying the dragon, and grasping the balance of layout, the grace of action, the composure of his features, the virtue of the maiden - that takes some effort to See.

On the other hand, it is exceedingly easy to thrill to the action of killing the dragon and carrying off the maiden for purposes her features make obvious. The Crude and Evil come with direct electrified input to satisfied, short term, perceptual - horizontal and flat, desires, thrills, valued for themselves directly and exclusively. Virtue, Goodness, Beauty, only get in the way and impede the physical rewards of the senses.

So how do you approach an Education, that for one thing provides education on an understanding worth having, and two, does so in a way that is least likely to mis-educate? There is no guarantee - the most you can do is show that evil is bad, but in the end it is the student who will choose.

Should the people be protected from dangerous thoughts? Many have concluded so, but only because they didn't first consider what is necessary for any attempt at education to be successful - the student’s exercise of their freewill. No matter how dangerous a foul thought, the attempt to force it either upon, or away, from it's target - is far worse. Worse because that action prevents the mind from operating, processes begun are not only not completed, but are barred from completion, and that leaves a gnawing, festering gap in the mind, a plot for weeds of desire and fear to sprout and spread. Not only for the one 'protected' from it, but for those doing the protecting as well.

The lure of securing a desired end without the proper and necessary natural processes and productions - for the easy satisfaction of desire - for the appearance of the satisfaction of desire... that is the whissspering of the sssnake in the garden. As Gandalf says in LOTR "Don't tempt me! I dare not touch that Ring!"

The Lure of having the Power to satisfy your desires, even your good and proper desires, at the expense of unnatural means - that is the Ring of Power that corrupts all that would be good, to the blackest evil. But the thought needn't be so huge as what we might imagine to be Saurons Ring of Power; uncorrected mistaken impressions are fertile ground in themselves.

Letting a corrupt thought into your mind, unawares of it's hunting patterns, it's trick contortions and convolutions, it's final hidden ends, the always present something-for-nothing lure of easy gain, is to let some shade of evil in at the controls of your brain, your habits, your directional desires, your character, and your soul. It is foolish and destructive.

And here's a note that seems to be needed - When you are thinking 'bad' thoughts, it won't be in an accent! It won't be accompanied by a narrator warning you "These are bad thoughts!" It'll be you, in your voice, and unless you take care to evaluate and shun wrong headed thoughts, they will become you, and you will become them.

It is for those reasons, and more, that thoughts, deep and wide ranging, which require much consideration and application to be understood, let alone applied, and so easily misapplied if not understood - should also not be taught to those un-ready for them - not forcibly withdrawn, just put where to have become learned enough to find them, would also have made you wise enough to manage them.

The process of becoming learned enought to find them, should be arranged similarly to a fighter is brought up to the skills needed to proceed up the ranks from feather-weight to heavy-weight. What maybe we need instead, or at least in addition to the standard lot of Professors, is a good old fashioned 'Defense Against the Dark Arts' professor.

A professor who will say,

Prof: "What must you be sure to do when approaching dark thoughts?"
Class: "Keep in touch with reality"
Prof:"How is that done?"
Class:"Don't venture past terms you don't understand"
Prof:"How else... Mr. Wease-ly?"
Prof:"Mr. Pot-ter!"
Potter:"Beware equivocations"
Professor rounding on Potter:"What does that mean Mr.

Potter:"Using the same or similar words which have different meanings... or, uh... in different contexts..."
Prof:"Such as...!"
Potter - silence
Prof rising and turning away in disgust:"yesss ... miss Granger..."
Miss Granger:"Answering a question about what the mind perceives in reality, with a description of the process the mind allegedly uses to filter reality, there by giving the mistaken impression that we don't really perceive reality, but only our process of perceiving it. This drives a wedge between what we know, and how we know it by substituting the How of knowing, for the What of knowin-"
Prof:"That is enough Misss Granger! I asked for an answer Not a lecture!"

Well... Professors will be Professors....

What of Education?

A once-been, broken up, has-been, trying to getbacktogether again and beee somebody again band, "Rage Against the Machine" prompted an article in the San Jose Mercury News. It is pretty much a throw away article full of exhibitions of pathetic attention seeking Bush Derangement Syndrome, but arresting to me because of the response of one of the fans quoted in it.

Rafael Ramon, 25, a History Teacher, History mind you, has an interesting quote in the article. Interesting, in the way that the contents of Jeffrey Dahmers refrigerator would be interesting.

"They changed my life. They made me a liberal," said sweat-drenched history teacher Rafael Ramon, 25, who had waited in a crowd packed shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the stage all day."
They changed my life. They made me a liberal.

This from a History Teacher, presumably teaching the youth of San Jose, about the important points of history, and the importance of ideas to their lives, the importance of good sound ideas and principles - and how history shows the effects of those ideas being applied, or misapplied to make - history.

"Stomping, shouting into his microphone, grabbing his curly hair and inciting the audience to "keep fighting," de la Rocha powered through songs… He also railed against the war in Iraq and likened Bush administration officials to Nazi war criminals. "This current administration is no exception. They should be tried and hung and shot," he said”
The 'music' and the ideas contained in them, of these intellectual pissants, were somehow able to cause a college graduate, and teacher of History to say "They changed my life. They made me a liberal."

What in the hell is that about?

This 'Teacher' went to a college of some sort, presumably graduated, and was hired for the fruits of his education. Just what in the hell did that education consist of, and how is it that such an education left one of it's educated open to having his political philosophy influenced, well... forget influenced - flat out Determined by a cheesy rock band? Or by any band, for that matter whether from the A, B or C list.

What was it that was passed off as an education to this kid? And how did those balls-of-brass con men turned Deans and Administrators, manage to pass it off as an education and collect $20,000 to $50,000 - or more, much more - for it? And remain not only free and clear, but not even pursued?

No matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum, how does that not raise your hackles? How do you defend that? What is this thing, 'Education', and how can it be so worthless as to not even be able to stand up to the 'work' of a rock band? Or worse yet, find no conflict between it's 'work', and the bands 'work'?

At this point though, one question should be clanging through your head, what is an Education? What is this product so easily packaged and sold by packaging and price alone? What do parents think they are buying their children? Putting into their children?

Is it for Skills? 'Go to college, learn a skill'? 'Go to college and get ahead'?

I wonder if any of them are aware of what Aristotle said about those that are skilled? He said that those who merely operate by way of others instructions and ideas for their motivation and actions, are fit only for slaves. Did Rafael Ramon's parents know this? Do you? Are you in the least bit interested in whether he had a point in saying that? Do they, or their educated children, or you, even know of Aristotle?

Now, knowing what Aristotle said upon one point or another, is of no value in and of itself except as impressive cocktail party blather, but Understanding his point, is of inestimable value to your very mortal soul. It is in that way, that knowing Aristotle is of value. It is in that way that Prof. Robinson was familiar with him. He described that sense of familiarity as "a friend of his that he went to school with, who died in 322 b.c., by the name of Aristotle", I doubt Ramon ever knew him in this way. I suspect he would have had a different process for determining his political philosophy, if he had.

But still, what is it? I've heard the process of educating described as taking a Whole from where it exists within one person, a teacher, and transmitting it into the mind of another, a student, piece by piece, and helping them to reassemble the parts within themselves - I kind of like that description (from Leonard Piekoff) - but that is not Education itself, but only transmitting, teaching, some part of it.

I suppose the easy answer, which will have to do for the moment, is that of Liberal Education, of imparting that knowledge which is essential for making you a free man. It's limited, but we'll try to flesh it out over the next few posts.

I think I can say with confidence that whatever an education is, education is not that which enables a random rock band to influence the course of your life, views and deepest beliefs about self and society. If what you bought as an education for your children leaves them open for that to happen, I suggest you seek police assistance. If their education gives them no deeper foundation than for their 'ideas' to change under the sway of bar band music, their mental structure is in peril of the first storm to come along.

Is It Just Learning?
As John Cardinal Henry Newman pointed out long ago, in 'What Is a University?', that any competent person, reading a decent selection of books, will be able to discover the fundamental Core principles governing any subject, but it is only through a knowledgeable guide, a true Teacher, of sound and wide education himself, pointing to the wider applications and implications of a subject and it's principles, that he will be able to make that learning run wide and deep within the student fortunate enough to have such a Teacher.

Unfortunately, most people such as myself, who having received a public education can personally attest to having experienced the absence of such a teacher, and can say that I miss having had such a teacher very much - but in their absence, we do what we can.

But even so, it is those core principles, unfleshed out though they may be, which are the key to that education which contains and builds upon them. Its value stands or falls with their support. It doesn't so much matter if they are adorned with fine looking and sounding elaborations, derivations or decorations, if the core principles are false, rotten, corrupt - the add-ons are but lipstick on a pig. One hundred fine sounding things... if placed upon one principle which undercuts them, which gives a deeper contradictory meaning to their spin, or if any clear honest application of it plainly will counter those 'finer' aspects - it is worthless. In fact, it is worse than worthless, it is worth-corrosive. It will not only not add to your knowledge, it will actually degrade what other legitimate knowledge you might still have, setting you against that which is valid.

Kant said many fine sounding things. But he also said, or implied, many substantial, unfine things - things which sew the soil of your fertile mind with salt and lye. That is the nature of principles - they either support and build up, or disintegrate and tear down. He is not however, and I think by design, someone who can be summarized briefly - yet, if the motivation of true learning and education can be said to be the love of truth and the pursuit of wisdom, what does it say of a philosopher and of his philosophy, when he has stated his guiding light to have been "I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith" (from his preface to "Critique of Pure Reason").


Rousseau, Kant's muse, dwelled upon perversion, degradation, and horrid thoughts towards his fellows. Of his five children, with his illiterate mistress, he sent them all away to a foundling hospital, something less than an 'orphanage', who's record indicated they would not live beyond a few years, and they didn't. Reportedly, not a one. One after another. They were born, they were sent (over the protests of their mother), and they died. Such was his love for children and their vaunted innocence.

Is this the type of person you want to consult as to a fruitful education? As a guide for living and realizing a Good Life? Do you realize that he is the root influence of all of modern education? If Virtue can be taught, is it likely to be taught from the likes of this?

Can Virtue be taught?
Can Virtue be taught? This was Socrates’ burning question, and he (and Plato) thought that his dialectic could discover Truth & Virtue, and having once discovered the Good, a mind wouldn't turn away from it and do what was not Good - but for all of his dialogs questioning, I don't think even he was satisfied with his answers. Aristotle thought that Virtue was the result of an habituation towards virtuous actions, and could not directly be taught, only guided towards developing those habituations.

But in a related area, that of an audience viewing a play, a Tragedy, he also thought that Tragedy imparted a beneficial cathartic effect upon the audience - and just what that cathartic effect was, has had people puzzled for 2,500 years. What was the cathartic effect, and was it useful for more than purging the audience of pent up emotions?

Personally, I think these questions are closely related. As I've mentioned before, I think our brains are integrating machines, driven by our minds in order to discover truth, and rewarded with variously charged 'Aha!' experiences along the way. When we learn, integrate new information, we get a little 'aha!', bigger ones with conclusions, larger still with larger issues - we even get that charge, like a lab rat getting it's cheese for completing the maze, when we experience laughter - the unexpected integration of ideas and events, logical only in light of an unusual situation. The more unexpected, the broader and more sudden the integration of the punch line, the more our bellies roll or ache with the LAHA!ughter.

When we see a tragedy, a drama, a comedy, a neighbor conduct himself towards some end - positive or negative, our minds operate similarly, and though perhaps not with pleasant results, we get the cheese (stinky brie possibly) all the same. We see, record, connect and integrate the details good or bad, registering their completion with laughter, satisfaction or pain.

A play affords us the opportunity to see in an immediately graspable span of time, how one thing, one action, one thought can lead to others and spawn events, leading to success or devastation - and we are able to conclude, to tie together those, with a sensation similar to answering a riddle - a completion, a finishing integration, that is both pleasurable, and educative. The more principles they touch upon, the more significant they are, the deeper the connections made or reinforced.

But such spectatorship reaches only so deep, and is only wound so tight.

The lesson, the integration experienced at a distance, is only surface deep. It takes applying that lesson, in as many of it's many shades as possible, to other areas of your life, takes putting it into action in words, discussion, and physical deeds, to reach deeper, and wind them together wider and tighter.

Repetition being key. An habituation towards virtuous actions, in thought, manner and deed.

Do Textbooks accomplish any of this? Does anyone think they do? Bubble tests? Consciousness raising lab projects?

Can Virtue be taught? I think that the recognition of Virtue can be taught. An intellectual understanding of Virtue can be taught. A real world map of Virtue super imposed upon the landscape of life can be taught and passed to a student - but for it to be of Value, of difference to the life of that student, it must be applied, followed in fact - on foot, not just by tracing the path upon paper - it must be lived, and lived consciously in manners and chores, in deeds done together with thought, in order to be sufficiently Learned.

Students like the hapless Rafael Ramon, might have had a better chance, if they were told that the facts and figures they were learning weren't the purpose of learning them, but only a useful means towards learning larger lessons. Skills resulting from self development - not end goals in themselves. Of course that might be more likely to happen, if their teachers understood it. What Virtue applies to 2+2=4? A Good Teacher (a Marva Collins, perhaps), would teach that Virtues, such as dilligence, fortitude, temperance and their benefits, derived from working to develop an understanding of mathematics, or of Grammar, or Football - they are means to an end, because the End cannot CAN NOT be realized, except through the actions of worthy means. These are the lessons that should be emphasized while teaching the stadard lessons to those kids - that the work that they are doing is producing Virtue in them, then and there - the mathematics or other course is a process for that, if they but grasp it.

If the teachers but grasped it. If the teacher grasped it, and made the student aware of it, and the student chose to accept, give weight to, and seek to apply these lessons in and to their lives. If... if they chose one way and not another, the beneficial road, not the easy road... if...if they knew the importance of choosing.

And in the end, it does always come down to freewill - and the choice to exercise it - or not.

Can Vice be Taught?
I think Yes. And easier still. And worse, it can be learned. But more of this later.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Things to Think Upon

Time to think has been sparse lately... I've a couple of posts in mind, but haven't found the time to sit and write them out.

In the meantime, and somewhat related to what I intend to post on, I found an online lecture that I strongly recommend "Higher Education: What Makes it 'Higher'?" by Daniel Robinson, at Lectures at ISI, and it is available in Video (streaming) or audio MP3(downloadable).

An absolute delight. Not just the typical railing against the state of Higher Education from someone who is within it, Robinson manages to impart a bit of the Higher Education he's discussing, in the process.

Daniel Robinson is my favorite Prof at the Teaching Company(Daniel Robinson's bio at the Teaching Co.), I have all his lectures sets and highly recommend them (you might want to get them when on sale though), not just for their content, though that too, but for the perspective they give and as direction for pursuing points in more depth on your own.

A Flavorful quote from the lecture, he's talking about responding to his 13 year old grand daughter's email:
"Dear Poppa, we're doing the theory of Evolution, do you believe in Design?"

My dear, dear, dear girl, what a good question, do I believe in design. I said a friend of mine with whom I went to school, who died in 322 B.C., Aristotle by name, once wrote this, 'If the art of shipbuilding were in the wood, we would have ships by Nature'. Yes, of course I believe in design, but you want to know, my dearest girl, whether I believe in a designer.

I do. love Poppa.

A couple links to items discussed in the lecture, and which I also strongly recommend reading and thinking upon What Is a University? by John Henry Newman

Literature and Science by Matthew Arnold (1882) which was the reply to an address by one of the better agitators for our now flattened world - I'm sure Huxley didn't see it coming (difficult to see beyond the horizon while looking at the ground with a microscope) "Science And Culture," by Thomas Henry Huxley

Sigh - late for work, back soon.