Well Merl the Perl, and Xlbrl, made a few interesting comments in the previous post, and the last ones I just couldn't contain within a single reply, and since they bear on where I'm headed in the next posts, touching as they do on the problems of pragmatism and that tricky thing called 'common sense', I figured I'd make a post of my replies.
" I try to deal with things based on practical considerations, rather than theoretical ones..."
Hint: If a theory isn't practical, it isn't a theory, it's a pretense. Further hint: If someone is asking you to have a sentimental regard for a theory, to support it in conversation and for the unity of the group, party, nation... but then says "Well... it's fine in theory... but it often requires us to break with theory in order to make things work in the real world"... then either the 'theory' is false (any variant of socialism), or the theory is true but isn't being followed (Bush's "I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system") which is a principle method for undermining theories and principles - 'import fundamental contradictions into your practices, and attribute all resulting problems to the actual theory or principle, rather than the undermining actions themselves. We have not even approached Free Market Capitalism since the end of the 19th century, but have instead been under a mixed economy of some free market characteristics, mixed with (ever increasing) govt controls... and all problems are routinely blamed on either the free market, or on not having enough govt controls (excellent quick example of this is the 1920 depression).
Btw.... both these approaches are the result of... wait for it...
Pragmatism.The belief that reality isn't really knowable, principles are fantasies, and acting is more important than anything else. If you'd like a preview of where this type of thinking leads when it becomes unhampered by any principles or customs, inevitably, see Fascism, where there are no 'hard and fast' rules, laws, customs, but everything is subject to those actions The Leader says must be done... even if it's the opposite of what he said would work yesterday. Fascism, and especially the Nazi variety, are examples of a society being run according to the 'principles' of hyper pragmatism.
"True pragmatism is self-serving."
No, in fact true pragmatism is ultimately self dis-integrating, as it must be. A proper Human life, is one that is lived and foreseen over an extended perspective, lived long range, where your actions today contribute towards your success in the pursuit of Happiness decades down the line. Marylin Monroe, Elvis Pressley, John Belushi... these are examples of lives lived pragmatically, moment to moment. With Pragmatism, there is NO central self, NO central purpose, NO central morality, ALL is done on the basis of increasingly short term perspectives, for shorter term 'gains' and life becomes more and more fragmented and chaotic.
"But don’t worry, ethical principles seem to be hard-wired in me... So I’ll revise that to “I am a principled pragmatic”. "
Now what you are probably doing, is based on your experience and knowledge, you probably do what you can see is best... and I'll bet you do so because you feel it is the best thing to do over the long run... and ethically, because you feel it is the proper thing to do - both of which are highly UNpragmatic things to do. More than likely, you've bought into an 'ideal' which looks good and generous, but cannot be practiced consistently, and so you let those aspects of it which appeal to you sort of roughly guide your actions, but when 'theory' comes into conflict with Reality... you choose reality and do what you can see is sensible. Similar to, but an inverse of, the Mixed Economy, what you are doing is a result of a mixed-philosophy, where the actual though unnamed reality based principles you follow get you through, but the flawed 'theory' of pragmatism, gets the credit for your successes.
It is a very common mindset, the dominant one since the beginning of the 20th century... and a very dangerous one to live by.
"educating kids to not bully may be much less effective than teaching kids how to fight back and making it easier to use other legal options."
Yep. I don't remember who it was, but I once heard a fellow talking about manners... he grew up poor in the Appalachian's, and he was appalled when he came to New York at the rudeness of people and he said something to the effect of "People didn't dare talk or behave that way to another where I came from, they'd have been knocked flat by any and every passersby who overheard them."
Bottom up standards of behavior held by the society, supported by clear and immediate consequences, are the best way to keep such things such as that sort of bullying from happening, and it is precisely the Top Down 'codes of conduct' and counseling sessions held in schools, which every kid knows full well is B.S., and which every kid knows for sure that any proper retaliation against the bully will be punished MORE than the bullying, which ensures the unraveling, the dis-integrating, of standards of behavior and behavior itself.
"Wasn’t Stalin just a bank robber who saw the opportunity to steal an entire country, and then got to drive it around as the ultimate play toy? Being more intellectually sophisticated than a toddler (but emotionally, a toddler), he was expert at conning the people who mattered (to him) into believing he was doing it all for them."
That was certainly the effect, but no, I don't believe that of Stalin. He wouldn't have done the things he did, the forced starvation of millions, if all he really wanted was to rob them... he would have just robbed (taxed) them more heavily and kept them all working towards filling his coffers. No, he WAS a believer, and Communism (and any of the other isms) can be practiced in no other way, than he did - the more consistently you attempt to 'live' by a false philosophy, the more savage and destructive will be the consequences. Reality will not be swindled, and the more you war against it, the more you will be broken upon it. False ideals require pragmatic behavior, in order to smuggle in the results of reality based actions, in order to prop up the false ideal.
No other option.
"I don’t envy your quest for a better educational style. The best the Gates Foundation seems to have come up with is trying for better ways to evaluate the teachers. And the self esteem thing isn’t easy - what betters the few can poison the many."
Oh my... the Gates Foundation seems to think they can substitute PowerPoint slides for sound educational principles, and make current educationistas philosophy a success. The problem isn't in paper based homework assignments, lack of textbooks or blackboards, the problem is in the philosophy of modern education which finds its initial ideals in Rousseau and it's modern form through John Dewey's pragmatic (sensing a theme here?) policies and curriculum. I've hit this in numerous posts, but here's an overview in "Spreading the flames", and an overview of the destruction of Education in America in "What never was and never will be". If you're up to reading a well written examination of what Education has become, and why, it's pretty tough to top Richard Mitchell's "The Graves of Academe"... and the price is pretty good too... free online.
"Back to the original question - the tea parties are obviously American. But is there a power vacuum waiting to be filled? To what degree does it become un-american if say, GOP, corporate, or other organizational operatives take over leadership positions?"
Well... first you've got to define American... does being 'American' mean a passionate attachment to baseball, hometown and apple pie? Having a long string of ancestors born here? Waving the flag? Fighting to give everyone 'equality'? Supporting the U.S. Govt, troops and laws? IMHO, having any of those as the basis for being "American" is itself Un-American, and will soon lead to becoming Anti-American.
America, being an American, is understanding and supporting the ideas this nation was fashioned from, and although this is a key part of the series of posts I'm in the midst of on Justice, the core are Natural Rights as evoked in the Declaration of Independence,
"... We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...."
, and the understanding that vital to any political rights whatsoever, is the protection and defense of Property Rights. All of which has been under assault by the progressive left since the early 1800's, and brought out as explicit targets by creatures such as John Dewey, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson under the guise of more pragmatic and progressive mindedness. Calvin Coolidge gave the last best response by a President to this in his "The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence" from 1926, in part with,
"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."
Which is why I refer to the 'Progressives' as Proregressives. No matter the ideals they proclaim, they are doing nothing but taking us back to tyranny and slavery... and whether they are speaking from the left or the right or the middle, they and their ideas are, in the full and proper meaning of the term, Anti-American. No matter the party or movement, Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or Libertarian, if they propose as a central principle or policy, an opposition to Property Rights, then whether they know it or not, the propose the overthrow of all Individual Rights and any proper conception and practice of Justice, and in that case, they must be opposed... loudly and visibly.
"And you really get into this stuff, don’t you? I’m judging by the title of the blog that you’re not in the educational field. What inspired you to learn all this stuff?"
Heh... yes I do! And nooo... I'm not in the 'educational field', but what got me into it was becoming a Parent and discovering what was in store for my kids in the 'educational field'. It's sick, it's disgusting... and fortunately it is easily discombobulated through talking with your kids and, discussing what they are being taught, what they are not being taught, and why.
The truth of the matter is that today, MOST kids realize that their schooling, their 'texts' and their 'teachers' are laughable fools.
This is both a good thing, and a very dangerous thing. The danger, is that if unanswered by Parents or others who do know better and who explain the basis for why what they know better IS better, it will rapidly corrode into cynicism. It can also lead to a reliance on "Common Sense" and a dismissal of the need to know anything other than what common sense makes readily apparent to be a necessity.
To the extent that that ever elusive 'Common Sense' is brought to bear on what they themselves can see to be true and have a proven basis for knowing to be true (Parenting is a basic example of this... most reasonably aware parent will soon discard their 'Better Parenting' books for the ignorant stupidity that they are... they have first hand knowledge of reality contradicting ever word of them, and if they are in the habit of deriving their knowledge from reality, and not the opposite, their own 'common sense' will reject the screeds as folly), then their common sense is sensible, and this is natural and a good thing.
But... Common Sense can only be counted on in those areas where you do have direct evidence and understanding.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to not know what you don't know, and to form ideas based on that absence of knowledge, which may seem very common sensical - in the absence of important knowledge... but which is actually the very opposite, such as a very common common sense view,
"What? People aren't buying things because Interest rates are too high? Well, then just force interest rates to be cut! Make high interest rates illegal! Simple common sense!" and economic ruin will follow shortly afterwards.
Which is one reason I take zero comfort from the new catch phrase making the rounds "Common Sense Conservativism"... if rooted in sound principles... great. But if not... well... Teddy Roosevelt was a 'common sense' progressive conservative... and he implemented or at least proposed and legitimized every statist policy of the 20th century: Income Tax, Federal Alphabet Agencies, govt control of the economy, govt Health Care, baseless entangling alliances (see "Imperial Cruise"), Govt and Coroporate interactive partnerships... he paved the way for everything Wilson, FDR and the rest did.
I'm no fan of "Common Sense Conservativism" that is not firmly rooted in the ideas which our Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution was developed from.
Xlbrl asked "Can we examine the phrase "common sense conservatism"? I heard Palin as she first uttered it, and it was clearly a political motto, which it's repetition confirmed.
The founders did not primarily employ common sense on their way to greatness, but rather were brilliantly counter-intuitive. Common sense will get you another turn at bat in your enemies game. Counter-intuition will remove a game which never should have been played."
And by the way it's being picked up by others, I'm afraid we're in for a long couple years of hearing it. Ugh.
What I was trying to show in my previous post, was that having sound people of Common Sense and virtue... is not enough, the Athenians leading up to Pericles day, and America leading up to our time... had those traits in common, and they also had abundant common sense in common, but soon after reaching their height - they fell.
Our Founders had those traits as well, but they also had something more, they had a solid education... not degree's, but actual Education, a training of the mind to be aware of and in control of its own thoughts and passions and fit for self governance, and they had a sound knowledge of how previous generations met and failed the tests. Sam Adams's Master's Thesis at Harvard (!) at the then typical age of 21, was arguing the affirmative of "Whether it be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the common wealth can not be otherwise preserved?".
The answer is Yes. And it is Common Sense ONLY if you understand the core ideas of what it means to be an American, and can be acted on properly, only if you have more than common sense to proceed from.
But I'm getting ahead of myself again... and am late for the Dentist (sorry... no time to double check & spell check...). More later.