Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Funny thing about Education - the best lessons are often not (intentionally) taught

It's no news that listening to the news can ruin your day, but even though most of what news-makers find worth talking about, isn't worth talking about, there's still that occasional golden comment that can bring you some valuable free lessons and laughter - if you don't mind that laughter being highly acidic, a tad dry, and with a smile that bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the Joker's that is.

For instance, this comment, which we see in one form or another, all the time,

"How could they do this?! Why would they do this?!"

, coming as it usually does, with some relation to schooling - teachers and students - it never fails to stir a slightly deranged giggle, but still, a laugh's a laugh and laughter's the best medicine, or so they say ("Why so serious?"), and there are millions of laughs to be found in listening to people talking about the news.

And they're not too difficult to find either. Just look back over some recent news, jog the cycle back just a few clicks, and you'll find loads of 'how could they do this, why would they do this?!' stories running the gamut from college rape culture (college kids raping, or watching, or lying about, raping each other), as well as the ever popular instances of teachers having sex with students (so many that HuffPo keeps a running link to group them under as they happen), and if that's become too tame, there are teachers exhorting people to burn down pizzerias. And of course there's also College athletes & coaches playing at education, and their rioting - winning or losing team - fans, and let's not forget the latest popular craze of rioting and burning down our cities - there's lots of occasions for the punchline to be delivered.

However horrifying the particular news story might be, it's almost always accompanied by that unintentionally golden punchline comment, which, if you don't mind the punch to the gut, it makes the medicinal laughter go down. Even when you can see it coming from a mile away, it still works, usually with a comically rubber faced delivery, of:

"How could they do this?! Why would they do this?!"

Comedy gold. Hmmm? What's so funny about that? Well, of course it's not the situations themselves that are so funny, but people's reactions to them.

You're not laughing? Maybe I can give a hint or two more that won't ruin the joke with an explanation.... Here, try this fairly recent example, from a local humor talk show, when the host, Dave Glover, made a passing comment about how our MO senator McCaskil caused a twitter storm, when she had made a rude comment about rude students and then she made an even ruder apology for it, over something about disliking how Duke's basketball coach has too many students who were 'one and done' - played one year and left for the NBA. Well the gist of Glover's comment (from memory here) amounted to:
"I don't know what she's talking about - you go to college to make a good living, if the NBA offered you gobs of money to play after one year of college, why on earth would you pass that up? Even if you were injured, you'd have quite a pile of money to sit on and the time to go back to school if you wanted to!"
Well, one very offended edu-enthusiast called in and berated him for it, railing on to the effect of:
"These kids need their education! They don't know how to handle their money or go into business, and when they wash out of the NBA they beat their wives and kill people!"
Now that's funny! Happily the host got at least part of the joke, chuckling that
"I don't know what you think those last one to three years of college is going to teach them, but I don't think it's going to turn their entire lives around - if you're a douche a year into college, you're still going to be a douche after graduating."
Now please, the least interesting part is what they were disagreeing about - how much college a student needs. That's just rehashing the convoluted heart of the one sided debate on education that we've been pleasuring ourselves with for over a century, which might be summed up as:
"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, knowledge is power, so get an education to get the knowledge needed get a job and make lots of money, and never forget that Having lots of money is bad, and pay attention in school so you can earn more of it."
Seriously. Think about it. Very (Joker) funny. What the interesting or amusing part of their exchange is, to me anyway, is what they both not only agreed upon, but didn't even think to question - that we send kids to school to get a 'good education', which both understood to mean getting the skills needed to get 'a good job' or IOW learning to 'do this to get that' - or as the caller said, 'learning how to manage their money so they don't beat their wives'. Now goddammit, that's funny!

You're... still not laughing? Oh come on, you're not even trying here! Look, think of all that the 'Do this to get that' mindset both implies and excludes from the minds of those 'educated' by it; think about how often people are asking, usually in stunned amazement, of those who've studiously learned one skill or another - managing money, or managing people or engineering this or that - and so after learning nothing more, and even much less, than some such set of useful skills, with very little, if any, time 'wasted' on reflections of what they ought, or ought not do (except maybe to say "it's insensitive to think about what is right or wrong"), after subjecting students to 12, 16, 18 years or more of that, they then, then, then think to ask in the wake of the latest demonstration of bad behavior:
"How could they do this?! Why would they do this?!"
What do they think their behavior demonstrates, besides the uber-satisfied skill of having learned to 'do this to get that'? Oh my. That's when I find myself trying my damnedest to not be so serious, shaking my head to swerve instead into the laughter, however caustic, venting to myself or to their faces or to the radio, saying:
'You're asking the wrong damn question, ask instead: Why wouldn't they do exactly what they are doing?'
Which is worth a good laugh, or at least it is, if like me, you've got enough experience with them to know that their reply is going to be - an almost Three Stooges-ish I-can-see-the-joke-coming-from-a-mile-away slapstick humor as they indignantly reply:
"Why wouldn't they?! Because it's ruining their lives; their businesses; our country; the world!"
ROFL. It's hard to suppress the urge to shout back: "No, no, no, you're missing the point, you're asking the wrong question!" But you know they weren't going to get either the joke or the point, no matter how obvious you make it. Even so, I've got to ask: 'Why wouldn't they do those outrageous things that you're so shocked 'shocked I say!' over their having done?!'

If  you too are still coming up giggleless, maybe you can strike comedy gold by digging a bit in the mine of the idiot Misosophers - a Philosopher is one who loves wisdom, a Misosopher is one who hates wisdom - this recent one's handy, a fellow aptly named Swift, who comes closest to getting the point of the joke (though probably still without cracking a smile), as he says:
"‘The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,’ he says. "
You can tell that the roots of the Joker's joke lie here, and that the jokes sadly on us all, because the very next thing the reporter says is:
"This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion—that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted...."
Now it's true that Philosophy, the Love of Wisdom, did find its beginning in Plato's Socratic dialogues, including Socrates' seeming (if taken un-ironically) proposal, from The Republic, to do away with the biological parents (funny how they never seem to ask 'What to do about the parents?') in favor of the supposedly higher ideal of raising children communally. But it's only as Philosophy has descended into Misosophy, where you find their practitioners reluctantly, truly reluctantly, admitting that such ideals could have 'issues' on being put into practice. Still though, they say:
"‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips Swift."
Note that his primary interest is not in attempting to raise as many people as possible up, which would be the wise, kind, thing to do, but in desiring to impose a leveling 'equality' upon all, i.e. cutting all the poppies down to the same size - does that seem either wise or kind or interested in either? As usual, education is seen as the tool for such (malicious, IMHO) social engineering.

Of course they have no intention of confining the leveling of such valuable stories to bedtime alone, but to educational curriculum as well, where they've been at it since 1800 (do yourself a favor and read Terrence O. Moore's "The Story Killers"), and have now moved to the point of gutting even the pretense of teaching historically important stories in college History classes as well.

It should come as no surprise that like minded educational professionals have decided that a state required history qualification can be met, with history which leaves out some of the most important history of the last century, as one irate professor of History notes:
All of my colleagues among the historians at Sacramento State believe the subject matter of the new introductory “history” course fails to give students an adequate grasp of the significant events and personalities that have shaped U.S. history over the past 100 years, and violates the spirit of a California Code (Title 5, 40404), which establishes American history as a G.E. priority for CSU students.

The new introductory “history” course leaves out, among other things, the Progressive Era, World War I, women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, FDR, the New Deal, World War II, McCarthyism, the Cold War, the Korean War, the nuclear arms race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the JFK assassination, Freedom Summer, the United Farm Workers Union, the Vietnam War, Stonewall, Watergate, Second Wave Feminism, the Iranian hostage crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, globalization, the 9/11 attacks, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Swapping an anthropology course for American history will leave our freshmen and sophomores little understanding of how American institutions have changed through time; how events such as World War I and II transmuted those institutions; and how the historical context altered the balance of power between the branches of the federal government and contributed to the rise of the United States as a global superpower.
And that brings us back to my earlier point:
'You're asking the wrong question, ask instead: Why wouldn't they do exactly what they are doing?'
Lovers of Irony should appreciate the humor that lies in the fact that both the haters of history and the haters of wisdom are the ones that actually come closest to grasping the truth of the matter - they'd like to deprive everyone of worthwhile stories, because they know them to have a real, positive, affect - as the Misosopher reported, story time can have a positive affect that is:
"... bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t"
, remember? And having had the 'privilege' of being filled with stories that made the thoughts which lead to detestable actions, if not unheard of, at least unwelcome and unfavorable ground for them. The child raised, night after night, day after day, with good, engaging, inspiring, stories, told to them, not to be tested for a grade, but with love and affection for their enjoyment and benefit, drive the more naturally barbaric narratives to the twilight fringes of the mind.

And the only response the ProRegressive misosophist has is "How unfair! Stop that virtuous cycle now!"

The Pro-Regressive demonstrates time and again, that they know that the answer to the question of 'why wouldn't they do that [outrage]?', is that those who are raised on the best stories told to them by those who care most for them, are far less likely to behave like savages, than those who are not, because possessing those stories deep within you, makes barbaric actions repellent to such a person.

And the barbarism isn't repellent because they're called crimes or come with penalties, but because if those stories live within them, then they'll have little or no inclination towards such base and dark thoughts in the first place, and would feel revulsion and shame on even recognizing such endarkened thoughts on their own mental home turf.

Swift demonstrates without a doubt that they know this! Yet callously, spitefully, their first impulse is to deprive, or at least dampen, those who do benefit from them, over attempting to spread them to those who tragically lack them - they don't want to improve the lot of as many as they can, but to make everyone equally bad off. They don't want to increase wisdom, but to make it more rare, and those are not the actions of people who love wisdom, but who hate and resent it.

So what of those students who were raised to be tested on skills almost exclusively directed towards managing money or engineering machines and improving performance and power and to the strains of 'knowledge is Power!'? Getting only timely messages and nudges instead of timeless stories, they have no time or interest in those stories that an ever diminishing few are being blessed with having had the privilege to be raised upon, and without those stories living within them, why wouldn't they behave like barbarians (keeping in mind that for the ancient Greeks who coined the term, 'barbarians' had to do, not with race, but with what a people were encultured, read - or didn't), because it would get them charged with a crime? Seriously?

Crime Fighting Stories
Come on now, if you want decent answers, you're going to have to up your game on the questions you bother asking.

Why would the potential criminal care or be concerned about, committing a crime? What do they mean by crime? What do YOU mean by crime? Breaking the 'law'? Meaning... some rule that carries a penalty?! Look at how full our prisons are, is there some reason to think that those who do things that land them in prison, think about the consequences of their actions?

Ask yourself again, what do they understand, what do they know, what do they believe, what do they care about to the depths of their soph-esteem, that would make them at the very least, uncomfortable, about doing those [insert outrage here] things? If they're thinking about whether or not they'll get caught, they're already lost to you, for if the penalty is what you're counting on dissuading them from committing a crime, you're a day late and a dollar short and you might as well call the cops 'cause it's a police matter now.

What do they understand, what have they learned, what have they been taught, what is it that in the way that they are in the habit of actively seeing their daily lives, that would make them even wonder about what another person, nameless or known, would feel, on having a crime committed against them? What would cause them to even wonder about what might cause that other person pain? Why on earth would such higher thoughts, one of the few true fruits of real Progress, ever even enter their minds?

Unless they are taught to think ABOVE 'doing this to get that', then their first thoughts will be of 'what to do to get what they want', instead of first going up through 'what would be best', and only then, what they 'should be doing to get that'. Which thoughts do you think entered the minds of the college students raping their fellow college student on the beach in the middle of a party? Those which first went Up through what they should do, or first went out towards what they desired to do? Without learning to first go upwards, they will first seek outward, 'practical' considerations, 'can I do this to get that...' and maybe, maybe, if they're parents are real lucky, they might momentarily wonder '... can I get away with it?'

The first thoughts of 'What do I want', rather than 'what should every person consider', are - no matter how smart, or how many degrees they might possess, or what team might have picked them up - the thoughts of an idiot. And I'm not being unnecessarily harsh, that is the root definition of an Idiot, looking no further than your own desires and council, ignorant of wiser actions or the ramifications of your actions.used derisively in ancient Athens to refer to one who declined to take part in public life. And, not too coincidentally, that is how criminals tend to think. Out, not Up.

You deter people from committing crimes by elevating them to the habit of seeing other people as being people, people with lives, thoughts, feelings, rights, which, even when radically different from yours, are important to them, and which violating would be an act of a horrific beast, certainly nothing that a decent, kind, caring, responsible person, would ever consider doing.

That is what a decent Education should accomplish, instilling the habit of looking Up, before looking Out - which is what is eliminated by reducing the concept to training students with a set of useful skills for 'doing this, to get that'.

And... what in our society, what in our culture, what in our schools, what in what you practice and exhibit towards others, would help ingrain such habits of thought in another person? Go on, I'll just sit here while you think of which sarcastic sitcom, cartoon, movie, which 'heroes', demonstrate those qualities? Which comedians it is you listen to that make you think that good people are better and smarter than rude and cynical people? Which politician is it that you promote which puts their constituents upon a pedestal? Which sports star it is you cheer for who plays the game as a means to skillfully reveal their character? Which Sports hero demonstrates in his on field and off field behavior and demeanor, that a winning score isn't everything? Which Sport encourages that? Which... you're getting the picture, right?

So when someone asks you 'Why would they...', I suggest asking them 'Why wouldn't they do, exactly what they are doing?' What about such people (and for you looking for 'code words', 'such people' refers to nearly the entire damn population of the planet), what they believe and admire and emulate, would prevent them from doing exactly what it is that you are so 'shocked, shocked I say!' about?

Were they raised on nursery tales that led them to value doing the right and decent thing? To empathize with others? Were they raised to see anyone working at a job as worthy of respect (or are some jobs what you go to school so you won't have to do)? Victims? Leaders? Weaker fellows? Were they raised on tales of admiration? Achievement?

Were they encouraged to wonder? To question? To value the Truth above all else, and to pursue answers because they're true (rather than counting towards their GPA)?

Were they raised on tales that admired what is worthy of admiration, and stirred revulsion for what is not? Did they distinguish between Heroes and Villains... or did they go out of their way to point out how the lines between the to could become blurred?

Were their daily lessons geared towards teaching them how to manage their awareness and attention? How patience and practice result in skills and abilities from numerical calculations, to musical scales, and recreating beautiful drawings (and the relation between all three)?

Did their daily lives and lessons teach them to revere what is Good, Beautiful and True in the world and people around them, and urge them to live lives of the same quality? No?

What did they learn at school and from what they put in their heads? To get good grades so they can get a good (meaning high paying) job, manage their money so they don't beat their wives, and laugh along with snide, sarcastic 'comedians' who belittle any and all who don't tow the politically correct line?

Learning to 'do this, to get that', is a valuable skill to have, but as a means of choosing what to accomplish or what is worthy of accomplishing, it is a skill that leads inevitably to results that prompt baffled onlookers to ask 'how could they do this, why would they do this?!'.

So again, I ask you, why wouldn't they have done exactly what they did do?

The Once and Future Kings
And why have you not been wondering about that? Take a look at your own 'credentials' - diplomas, degrees, certifications, permits - and ask yourself just who it was that taught you to not think, about what they aren't thinking about, either?

There you go.

Questions?

And if you'd like some answers, or better yet some better questions, you might take a gander at what the curriculum of Columbia University ("King's College" at the time) was in 1763. "As you look through this list, keep in mind that the average age of the first-year student was fifteen!"

And no, it's not just a 'meme', this is how it was, at Columbia, and it was also very much representative of the other schools who formed the Education of the Founder's era. And, no, in case you're wondering, the point of an education, then, wasn't 'to get a good job', it was to learn to be a more aware, capable, worthy person, capable of living a life worth living.

Oh, and incidentally, that sort of person is quite capable of 'earning a good living' in any field, and under any circumstances - even if it means starting a revolution and creating a new nation to do it. Which is one lesson that is usually not intentionally taught to day. But that doesn't mean you can't learn it for yourself.

But then, where's the humor in that, right? Why so serious...?

First Year
Sallust, Historia
Caesar, Commentaries
Ovid, Metamorphoses
Virgil, Eclogues
Aesop, Fables
Lucian, Dialogues
​New Testament
Grotius, De Veritate
Latin Grammar
Greek Grammar
English & Latin Themes
Cornelius Nepos
Second Year
Cicero, De Officiis
Quintus Curtius
Terenece
Ovid, Epistles
Virgil, Georgics
New Testament
Epictetus
Xenophon, Institutio Cyri and Anabasis
Farnaby, Epigrams
Greek Grammar
Latin Grammar
Wallisius, Logic
Sanderson, Compendium
Johnson, Noetica
Rhetoric
Latin & English Themes and Verse
Third Year
Cicero, Orations and De Oratore
Quintilian
Pliny the Younger
Catullus
Tibullus
​Propertius
Horace
Aristotle, Ethics & Poetics
Plato, Dialogues
Xenophon, Memorabilia
Theocritus
​Homer
Compendium Ethicae
​Metaphysics
Syllogistic Disputations
Latin & English Themes
Latin & English Verses
Fourth Year
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations
Livy
​Tacitus​, Histories
Lucan
Juvenal
Persius
Plautus
Homer, Odyssey
Sophocles
Euripedes
Aeschylus
Thucydides
Herodotus
​Longinus
Demosthenes
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Isocrates
Hebrew Grammar
Biblical Hebrew
Grotius
Pufendorf
Hutcheson
Moral Philosophy
Latin Themes
Declamations
Latin & English Verses
Disputations

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day - Remembering those of our Military who did not learn not to

Memorial Day - Remembering those of our Military who did not learn not to
My friend Jimi posted a video of a video portion of President Reagan's First Inaugural Address that's highly fitting for Memorial Day, and while I'd heard it before, somehow I'd missed that part of what he was reading, the most moving part, was from an inscription that a soldier who died in WWI, Private Martin A. Treptow, had made in his journal. Treptow wasn't a philosopher or a teacher or any sort of 'intellectual', he was a person who worked in a barber shop who simply understood that what he valued was worth, and required, defending.

What has become known as 'Treptow's Pledge', comes from the flyleaf of his diary:
"My Pledge: America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone."
Remarkable. However what might be most remarkable of all, is that in our world today, such a pledge seems remarkable to us, whereas for Treptow, a barber from a century ago, he considered it to be a simple matter of course, a simple truth that was worth reflecting upon in his diary, so that he could get on with carrying it out.

Remember today those who put their lives on the line for this nation, and in the course of doing so, lost them.

Reflect on what it is about America that could, and should, inspire such ideals, and on the Consitution which those we memorialize on this day, swore their lives to defend.

Consider also why it might be that such pledges might seem unusual to us today. As in a different context, a person being interviewed for his heroic actions replied to the question of how a person learns to willingly risk their life for another, the puzzled hero replied:
"How does he learn not to?"
Remember today, and give a moment's thanks, to those of our United States Military who lost their lives in service to their nation, because they did not learn not to.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Sorry Charlie - Those who "Stand with Charlie!" in Paris FR, "Run from Pamela!" in Garland, TX

If you 'Stand with Charlie', are you part of the problem? I ask because those who were so quick to "Stand with Charlie!", have been even faster to run away from Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders and Garland Tx, and have even blamed them for daring to do what Charlie Hebdo did, even though her event conducted itself in a far more respectable manner than Hebdo ever did (Geller's being explicitly about freedom of speech, rather than Hebdo's explicit butt-sex).

I can see a problem there, can't you?

For instance, a local CBS news outfit was quick to carp that Muhammad Art Exhibit Organizer’s Ads Ousted From Philly Buses noting that the "provocative ads" which Pamella Geller's American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) had won a court battle to have displayed, were being removed from Philadelphia buses after a month-long contract expired (as in expired, not pulled), but they were a bit slower to call the terrorists who tried to attack Pamella Geller's AFDI event, terrorists, almost passively noting that bad things happened to them while trying to get inside a building:
"Nadir Soofi and Elton Simpson were killed after firing on officers outside Geller’s event Sunday. A guard was wounded. Soofi and Simpson originally attempted to get inside the building."
While the Washington Post 'reported' what the discreditable leftist hate group, Southern Poverty Law Center had to say:
"Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s watchdog division, told CNN on Monday that although Geller’s activities may fall within the bounds of the First Amendment, they are considered “cruel and unfair” because “she doesn’t make distinctions” between mainstream Islam and militant factions."
As did NBC
"The event was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and attended by its president and co-founder, Pamela Geller — who is also president of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA). Both are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
, NBC News also wondered,
Why cartoons?
It was not immediately clear if the gunmen were specifically targeting the event. However, the publication of cartoons of Muhammad has triggered violence in the past. Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's publication of a series of Muhammad drawings in September 2005 led to the burning of the Danish flag and attacks on Danish embassies around the Middle East. Cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was attacked at his home in 2010 by a Somali Muslim carrying an ax and a knife.
Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, which repeatedly published Muhammad cartoons, was attacked on Jan. 7 by armed gunmen who killed 12 people."
"Why cartoons"?!! Really? And who the hell didn't immediately know that these terrorists were specifically targeting their event?! Our media, that's who didn't. Look at this one, from the Washington Post, via MSN
"Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas
Pamela Geller, the woman behind the Texas cartoon contest attacked by two gunmen late Sunday, knew what she was doing when she staged the controversial event featuring irreverent depictions of the prophet Muhammad in Garland, Tex."
And this level of misdirection and obfuscation is coming from the same people who gushed outpourings of sentiment and outrage following the islamist's murderous assault upon the 'satirical' paper, Charlie Hebdo, the same hordes who filled not only the streets of Paris with countless supporters (minus one POTUS), but around the world as well, all stood in solidarity with "Charlie", but those same people are not only turning away from Pamela Geller's cartoonists in Texas, but demanding apologies from her, as well as accusing her of provoking the attack.

What is the charge? Cruel and unusual cartooning? The mind boggles.

Could it be that the Garland, TX event just lacked the emotionally sympathetic impact that the Paris event had? Perhaps, after all, unlike in Texas, the French police were unarmed and unable to prevent numerous people from being slaughtered before the terrorists were... so sure, a sympathetic 'Je suis Charlie', "I stand with Charlie" - was a natural response to unarmed people being unjustly attacked and murdered.

But what is not natural, is that those same people the world over, didn't let loose with a "Yippee ki yay M*F'er!" when the attempted attack upon a cartoon art show in Texas was immediately stopped on the terrorists being shot dead by an armed a 30 yr veteran Texas policeman (don't mess with Texas).

Apparently "Standing with Charlie!" means just exactly that and no more - standing with Charlie. And mayyybe under special circumstances, with Bruce. But Pamela Geller? Iraqi Christians? Jews? Nope, the response is: 'Sorry folks, we're just "Standing with Charlie!" here, just putting out some sympathy, not looking to offend anyone; you understand.'

I sure do. The problem is, as with most natural responses, there is much more that needs to be gotten, but once you do get it, you should begin to realize that mindlessly following such natural responses... can quickly put you on the wrong side of the issue.

Where to stand?
If you do bother giving the matter more consideration than sympathy, there are two very basic questions to begin with asking, What, and Why.
  1. What does it mean to 'Stand with...', and
  2. Why should you stand, or do, anything at all?
1) The What, is what you probably notice first - what is the nature of the saying itself: "I stand with Charlie!"... stand with... what does that mean? And before going further, have you looked at what you'd be standing with, with 'Charlie Hebdo'? Have you ever seen Charlie Hebdo's cartoons? From the little that I have seen, they were worthless, trite, shallow, and crude - not nearly humorous enough to compensate for its juvenile scrawlings, which succeed mostly in making South Park seem positively high-brow by comparison.

Do you want to stand with that? I sure as heck don't. And yet such attacks cannot be tolerated... so there must be something more important involved here than what was being drawn or said, and who by, Right?

And how many of these events are you supposed to stand around with? Remember, it's islamists who've been behind these events, so you know that the roll call is long and getting longer every day - are you really going to recall, and stand with, every single one of them? How many can you recall, and what would it accomplish if you could recall them all?

It seems a plain fact that if you expect any productive resolution to the wrongs that have been done, simply by empathizing with the numerous victims and by commemorating these numerous events, you're not only in error, but you are enabling and emboldening those who commit such wrongs. It is apologists such as these who are the ones that are provoking further offenses, not those who are standing up for their reasonable rights, for weakness in defense of what is of great value - or irritation - is provocative to those who act by way of force, rather than reason.

Maybe we can learn something useful by leaving today's headlines behind for the moment and thinking back over the incidents of our own history. From 9/11 and on back to Pearl Harbor, and on back before that to the Lusitania, and back even further to the Alamo; leaving aside the particulars of the moment, the responses to those events were all shaped with a similar goal in mind. We didn't say "I stand with the Alamo!", we said
"Remember the Alamo!"
What was it we wanted to remember it for? To empathize with the slaughtered? To commemorate the tragedy of the date? No, we wanted to remember the outrage that had been done to us, we wanted to remember the vileness of it, we wanted to keep the utter unacceptability of it in the forefront of our minds, in order to focus our attentions upon it so that we'd be sure to decisively respond to that attack ASAP. Not simply to avenge the slaughter (another natural, though counter productive, reaction), but to respond to it in such a way as to ensure that the perpetrators would never attempt any such thing, ever again. That is, after all, the idea behind: 'Never Again!'.

Unfortunately while that historic response was once second-nature to Americans in particular, and to the West in general, it is becoming harder and harder to find in the world today.

2) And that leads us to the second basic question to be asked: Why are these attacks worthy of a response? Were they simply acts of violence in the workplace? Why were these people attacked?

Because of cartoons? Come on, you're going to have to do better than an 'informational text' level of reading these events, and even going down to the STEM level is too shallow as well; if you want to get to the roots of the matter, you're going to have to engage your mind and reason the matter through. Because what the islamists actually attacked is in all of these cases something that we as Westerners all have a vital share in, which is another reason why standing 'with' some particular set of victims, entirely misses and distracts us from the importance of what these barbarians actually attacked - it wasn't individuals or their actions, but a higher and more central concept, without which there would be no West in general, and certainly no America (hint hint).

The key to 'Why', is the phrase which most of the supporters and talking heads have been mouthing their support of in regards to Charlie Hebdo, and reluctantly, even dismissively, in regards to Pamella Geller's event, and that is of course:
Freedom of Speech!
Freedom? Free from who? Free from what? Speech for what?

Pursue such questions with a degree of intellectual honesty and integrity, and you can't help but begin to see what is so deeply offensive about those who turn away from those standing up for the concept of Freedom of Speech. Pursue that line of thought, and you'll soon discover what our united response should, and must be - if you want to remain free to speak as you choose, and speak to who you choose to, that is. For if you cannot express your opinions, then you surely make thinking upon them pointless, and if you can't think or speak your mind, then you couldn't possibly associate with who you choose to either, for those associations represent your thoughts and words in action every bit as much as writing an op-ed or drawing a cartoon do, and much more so. And if history offers up any lessons worth learning, it is that if you retreat from thinking, speaking and associating as you choose, then those empowered by your withdrawal, will do their best to gather the power to themselves to forbid you from reclaiming that ability for yourself.

Freedom of Speech and the liberty to live your own life, are inseparable, and those who expect apologies for defending it, owe all of humanity an apology, and much more.

But as those questions are rarely pursued, certainly not in school, and rarely in popular culture, the resulting weakness has incited remarks by everyone from the press, to academics, to the Pope himself, saying of those who spoke their minds,
"They should have expected it."
Ya know what? With irony firmly in cheek, to those saying 'they should have known better' or demanding an apology for speaking freely, I'd really like to pop 'em one in the nose.

Here we have a bunch of people, sheltered in the safety of the West, who have apparently not given much thought to what those words Freedom of Speech mean and entail. They may say the words at the drop of a hat, but they show no sign of having thought about what is meant by them, or what must be required of those who wish to freely say them. Could they have given even a moments thought to what it means on the face of it? Glance around this post, it doesn't take much to consider it, and yet they show no sign of ever having considered 'Free from___?'! Surely everyone else who has pursued those questions to even an inches worth of depth, will have good reason to be offended by these Vichy-westerners retreat and capitulation.

How dare they elevate the deliberate schemes of barbarians, to the rarefied level of a response which civilized people should have expected!

We do not need to stand with Charlie, or even with Pamella for that matter, instead we need to stand up for, and defend against any such attack, upon anybody, because all of the numerous particulars point to a vital principle which every aspect of Western Civilization depends upon being vigorously defended, and that is far more important than the particular wrongs that have been done in Garland TX, Paris, FR, or any where else in the world. What we should clearly see, now, especially after these latest events, is that it needs to be made very clear, that standing 'with' Charlie, is something that should not be done, instead we must all stand united against those who would silence any amongst us, and especially against those who would excuse their doing it!

Standing with those who were killed, rather than against those who killed them, is less than worthless, it is counter-productive. If you understand that a wrong was committed which must be addressed, and if you understand the nature of what that wrong was, then the civilized response, and the responsibility of a civil society, is first and foremost to eliminate the ability of the perpetrators to commit such barbaric acts towards your people, it means to take the words never again to heart.

The notion that there could be some reasonable 'cause' for the attacks, which the victims should have expected, is, technically speaking: Bullshit.

'The motive hunting of motiveless malignancy'
The English poet and critic Coleridge had a handy phrase for describing the villain Iago, of Shakespeare's play Othello. Iago had a grievance for every occasion, he swore multiple motivations for his villainous actions, motives which as with our our islamists today, changed with who it was he was busily justifying his actions to at the moment. Coleridge perfectly described these 'causes' as:
'the motive hunting of motiveless malignancy'
The motive is even less than a pretext, not even an excuse, it is more like a passive aggressive attack for being caught while knowingly engaging in purposefully bad behavior. Is it surprising that a barbarian plots to kill you because of the offense he so artfully cultivates towards you? No, no more so than it surprises me that an as yet unmannerd child will seek to snatch away another child's shiny new present, or will even begin throwing a tantrum if he's displeased with having to brush his teeth. But under no circumstances would I ever consider that the child's outbursts were caused by a parent giving the other child that gift or by telling their child to brush their teeth - indeed, saying or intimating such a thing would make it very difficult for that child to ever grow up.

Is that a fair comparison?

No, it's not, because a child, unlike the islamist, has the excuse and innocence of being a child; the child hasn't yet had the experience or opportunity or obligation to learn any more civilized behavior than that of a child, but the child is at least in the process of learning it, and their reaching maturity will be marked by having learned it.

The islamists who have no such excuse, are doing no such thing.

They have no intention of learning that the first response to an immature provocation is holding your temper, not excusing it; they have no intention of learning that that is what you Should do,and they have no intention of learning that that is the civil, and civilized, thing to do. Or put more pointedly and accurately, learning and habituating that lesson into your character is the mannered, polite, decent, charitable - Greco/Roman-Judeo/Christian thing to do, and that is the heart and soul of what they attack why they attack it.

So here's a question for everyone from the press to the Pope, why are you trying to excuse the islamists from having to learn something which we still , even in the age of honey boo-boo, consider to be a  basic expectation of a decent and well behaved child? And why on earth do you consider islamists incapable of such fundamentals as are expected of even a child in the West? Who is really insulting who here?

Or more to the point, why are you trying to punish us for those virtues which the Islamists lack?

For the benefit of those who have learned their manners, and still find themselves having doubts, proper doubts, realize that it isn't sufficient to simply be troubled by them, it is your responsibility to consider the matter, to question, examine and question again, both what it is that is being said and what goes hushed and unsaid, question your assumptions, and question it all again, until those doubts are faced up to and satisfied.

If you still have doubts, then maybe you need to ask some questions about what others seem so sure about.

What do you get when you mix together 'Cannot' and 'Should Not', manners, ethics, social acceptability and law? Chaos, of course.
Even worse than those who 'Stand with Charlie' yet 'Run from Pamela', are those who have accused both of provoking the attacks upon them. Typical of these sentiments were those that were made by the Pope after the Charlie Hebdo attack, which has required entire PR flak teams to explain and clarify his statements (and most others he makes). Take a look and ask yourself how well could he have considered the meaning of what he was so dramatically and confidently saying:
'If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,' Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way.

'It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.'

... But the Pope said there was a limit to free speech when it concerned offending someone's religious beliefs. He said: 'There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.'
This...coming as it does from the moral leader of the most philosophic church in Christendom, especially following the stature of the two preceding popes, is embarrassingly amateurish, and reveals his inclination towards making inept, confused and, IMHO, disingenuous attempts at seeming 'more real':

  • 'If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,' Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way.
We don't even need to touch on the easy 'turn the other cheek' material, for while the law does recognize 'the heat of the moment' as a mitigating factor in an altercation, it does so only when it is done in the actual heat of the moment - that moment of emotionally overwhelming physical reaction when your response is immediate to the heat of the provocation, with no time for reflection and 'getting a grip'. But if you walk away and come back, you pass beyond the instance of physical reaction and into the space for conscious decision and as such you are no longer able to make the claim that you couldn't control yourself. Why? Because you so obviously are controlling yourself, you've passed from the control of your passions and regained your Reason, and then chose to use it unreasonably.

If I got in your face and insulted you or your mother, your heated response would be understandable, but barring my using actual 'fighting words', unless I actually threatened, punched or swung at you, then your response, even in the heat of the moment, would be limited to words as well - IOW you would not be lawfully justified in punching me in the nose for what came out of my mouth. Sure, any reasonable person would have understood your reaction, but in civil society we do still expect you to rise above that.

Impossible you say? Well, you might reconsider that, as you look at this assault upon a statue of the Virgin Mary:
"A man was kneeling in prayer before the statue of the revered Madonna, with the photograph of a loved one in hand, in the small chapel of St. Barnabas in Perugia (Italy), when he was attacked by five “immigrants.”

The first thing they did was rip the photo from his hands.

Next they unleashed their hatred against the image of the Virgin Mary. They broke the statue to pieces and then urinated on it.

Don Scarda, pastor of St. Barnabas, said the event was led by five “foreigners.” By the time police arrived at the chapel, the unidentified attackers had already fled."
That was an actual case of deliberate, verbal and physical provocation (and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that was very likely committed by islamists - though militant atheists wouldn't be out of the question), which nevertheless was not 'responded' to with assault or murder, even though the person attempting to pray no doubt felt quite enough passion to do so in the heat of the actual moment.

He, an obviously religious person, restrained himself. As he should have done.

Coldly cartoonish behavior
In the case of a cartoon of your prophet, or your mother, printed in a paper and at a distance in time and place, your immediate response may very well be to become incensed, even enraged over it, but as the cartoonist is not there pushing it in your face, knocking you down or urinating upon you, even though it may well be crude, insensitive and rude, they are not there, deliberately, physically, provoking you with it. And as moments, minutes, hours, days, months or even years pass, to say nothing of distance, the legitimacy of the 'heat of the moment' defense, as well as any appeal to it for understanding of any unreasonable violence, passes with it as well.

But when, at a cold remove in time and place, having made the decision to waive reason and stoke your passions, consuming the time and distance necessary to coldly plot, finance, schedule and execute an assault 'in response' to it, there is not only no heat of the moment there, there is no conceivable basis for calling it a 'response', rather than a conspiratorial plot. It is not something which any rational, civilized person, should ever have to concern themselves over 'expecting', and especially not for having expressed their opinion about something, be it prophets, mothers or anything else.
  • 'It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.'
Who is he speaking as, a Pope or a Prince? Why is he speaking as if there were no distinction to be made between 'cannot' and 'should not'? When the Pope thoughtlessly says that a violent physical response to words is 'normal', it is appallingly wrong - and whether intentionally or negligently, in confusing moral right for legal right or for what is socially acceptable, or worse, combining them all into one hash, he risks losing all such distinctions between them in the process. In his attempts to bring clarity with this statement, as with so many others, he only personalizes a perceived offense, equivocates upon it, and reaches a conclusion that common sense would otherwise forbid, which, again, keeps the Vatican PR team busily employed.

For while insulting the faith of others might be something which a person in a polite social context should not do, it is something which they have an absolute individual right to do, and the law exists to uphold and defend their legal right to express their opinion freely, without fear of physical reprisals. Indeed, attempting to limit a persons ability to criticize another's faith would not simply create a slippery slope, but a landslide rushing towards the elimination of freedom of expression and of liberty itself.

The Pope, more than anyone else, should realize that there can be no moral choice to do what is Right, without also having the liberty to choose as you see fit! There can be no morality without choice, and indeed there would and could be no Christianity without the choice to choose it. And even if you tried to enforce inoffensiveness, how would you regulate it? The islamist sees wearing a crucifix as an insult to islam - if you give any credence to this, you cannot discount his claim. If the Pope actually believed his own words, or gave a moment's thought to what they must mean, and so acted upon them, then he would have to accede to the islamists demands that he eliminate his clothing, eliminate his followers crucifixes, and indeed eliminate the Catholic Church and his position within it! He did say "you cannot provoke", right? Or did he not really mean anything by his words?

It may be normal to find offense in what you seek to find offense in, but to retaliate against the expression of ideas as if actually and physically provoked, with calculated violence, is no more sympathetic than cold blooded murder, and it should not be portrayed as if it were understandable or sympathetic or in anyway equivalent to an actual, in the heat of the moment, provocation. To portray what is,as what is not, is an attempt to erase what is real and true, which leaves you at that place the last several posts have been seeking to define, the limbo point where all progress is measured from, and which moving towards can be nothing other than regress.

When we equivocate between what a person, ideally, should not do, and what they cannot be allowed to do, we create an opening, an intellectual and spiritual vacuum, which threatens to suck all that is truly good and holy down with it. Where you retreat from your Right, Power will surge in and take control of that which your rights once held claim to. When we use words, or when we allow our leaders to use words, not for what they in reality mean, but for appeasing and rearranging our feelings about our shared reality, we lose that much more of our ability to control our lives without resorting to force, for Reason can gain no traction when the words it relies upon have been willfully separated from reality, and in that resulting landscape, only power will decide, or rather force, the issues.

And that gets to the Zero-Point of Power, where force prevails over reason, where desires dominate rights, you've arrived back at that point from which all civilized progress is measured by a culture's distance from it. And key to that is facing up to an uncomfortable fact: The Truth doesn't cause violence, but the rejection of it does. And whether you had the best of intentions, or not, makes no difference at all. Regressing towards that Zero-Point, no matter what level of progress you may once have realized, if you move in that direction, you are heading backwards and downwards, and if you are advocating for such movement, you are quite literally Pro-Regressive

When that Pro-Regressive impulse gains popular power, your ability to live in Reality is diminished, which makes it very easy for others to impose their will upon you. When you allow your good intentions to overrule your real perceptions, then you are not operating in, with, or in accordance with, Reality... and where do you suppose that will leave you - a happy place?!

For a people's good intentions to be compatible with wise action, it requires a strong commitment to the truth. American's weakness today is that we'd prefer our good intentions to be free of that itsy-bitsy requirement, and indeed given a good story, especially one which makes claims to helping others, and ourselves, well hey, if you can do that without-even-having-to-do-anything-yourself, we'll seemingly buy that for a vote.

Where do you suppose that will leave us?

When we retreat from the requirements of reality into what we wish it would be, when we allow our good intentions to override our real perceptions, then reality recedes to low tide, making it the simplest of things for those in power to impose their very real preferences for your life, upon you. Unjust Power depends upon our conceding what is Just, it depends upon our disconnection from reality, it relies upon your willingness to accept a virtual reality in place of the reality you would otherwise be aware of, if you were willing to acknowledge and inhabit it, that is. But when your intellectual links to the world around you, are rooted in a more preferable set of self flattering and useful lies, those lies become the means of manipulating your actual sense of reality, from within and from without, aiding and abetting your blindness to it, for without Truth you have no ability to bring logic to bear, your mind is left spinning its wheels without the traction to escape from the intentions of those with Power over you.

And when you willfully take a fall like that, unlike in a cartoon, you don't get to simply dust yourself off and move on to the next scene.

Beep-beep!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Report upon the Italian city state republics, and a lesson in self governance for today

As I mentioned in the previous post, at the close of our previous MO HB1490 History 6-12 Curriculum work group, we had a disagreement over whether or not the Italian city state republics should be included in the list of governments to be studied at the close of the medieval period, apprx 600-1450 a.d. I was very much for including them, adamant even, while those with class time experience, thought it best to leave republics out, concentrating on monarchies, oligarchies, dynasties and theocracies.

I hasten to point out that this was not a 'democracy' vs 'republic' issue, but about what would be the best use of class time, for the closing of a semester. I do not, in any way, think that those opposed to my view had any hidden agenda in their selections, and I'm confident that were only thinking about what would enable teachers to cover the most material best, in the little time available to them.

At any rate, at the close of the previous session I was asked to prepare a report on why republics should be considered in that time period, so that the work group could consider the matter better and decide at the next meeting.

The following is what I reported to our work group (and it is, BTW, very relevant to what is happening in our nation today), and I'll note how the vote turned out, at the close below:


 ********************************************


Some of the reasons mentioned for not including 'Republic' while comparing and contrasting governing styles at the end of the middle ages, were that the Italian city states were in fact operating as oligarchies, without the vote, and that they were... Republics In Name Only (ahem). It was also mentioned that since it is common today to drop the term, we should too, as it would also simplify the course aims and ends.

I'll try to make three points about why both Republic and Oligarchy should be included:
  1. The Italian city states have always been referred to as Republics, while well aware that they were at one and the same time Oligarchies and Republics, terms which are not mutually exclusive
  2. Republic does not require public enfranchisement of voting, or even that votes be cast by individuals
  3. Choosing Oligarchy to the exclusion of Republic, means staying silent upon what might be the most important lesson students can learn about government from, and from this period almost more than any other in history
The Italian City States have been, from their own time, up through ours, have been knowingly referred to as republics by everyone from Machiavelli (who we'll hear from below) to Sismondi, taking pride at their having overthrown external princely rule, and had become self governing. From "History of the Italian republics in the middle ages" by Sismondi, J.-C.-L. Simonde de (Jean-Charles-Léonard Simonde), 1773-1842:
"The spirit of freedom had penetrated to the Papal See, and schism enabled the Romans to revolt and complete the municipal enfranchisement of Italy. From the Alps to the confines of the Northern Kingdom every little city rejoiced in its own republican government, and exhibited a narrow, and too often a selfish, local patriotism. "
Having taken their government into their own hands, they experienced an explosion of wealth, prosperity and power, and yet soon succumbed and ceased being, in even their own eyes, self ruling. Why, is a question very much worth asking.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Old Fashioned News: The fashionability of suicidal political fashions

Old Fashioned News: The fashionability of suicidal political fashions

I made the mistake this morning of turning on the radio - local talk radio & NPR, and I couldn't help noticing - and really, I couldn't help it, I tried not to, but I couldn't help noticing, how much today's 'news', reminded me of what I was just reading last week when researching a report for our History 6-12 HB1490 curriculum workgroup. For that report (I'll post it later, maybe [Here it is]), I was re-reading John Adams' "Defense of the Constitutions" vol II, where he's commenting, mostly, upon Machiavelli's "The Florentine History"

If your first thought is "How could NPR possibly remind you of something so old and outdated?", well, my ahistorical virtual friend, even with names and cities you don't recognize, you'd be surprised (though sadly, I won't, as I'll have to endure your repeating the lessons you never learned from history) you needn't let those trifles worry you, after all, who it is that the names are actually naming are of little or no importance, you could even substitute at random names you are somewhat familiar with, like Clinton, Bush, Kerry, Nixon, Buckley, Democrats, Republicans, 99%, 1%, Blacks and Gays, Bakeries, Ferguson and Baltimore, and still be that much more the wiser, as I assure you, it will retain the utmost relevance to your daily news.

For those of you who can't be bothered to steel yourselves to sit still long enough to read more than a paragraph, run along and be damned. For those of you who can... it certainly won't cheer you up, so... maybe you ought to run along as well.

After all, this is the cheery portion. Pick it back up at the last link, and you'll find the more fashionable death & destruction waiting for us in tomorrow's 'news'.

And with that, I'll turn it over to the voice of two centuries ago, reporting live from the grave, on today and tomorrow's Headline News, from
: John Adams, A DEFENCE OF THE CONSTITUTIONS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Volume II
CHAPTER FIRST.: ITALIAN REPUBLICS OF THE MIDDLE AGE. FLORENCE. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 5

[Adams in standard font, the works he's quoting from in italic]
************************************************************************ "...The factions between the nobility and the commons, which ended in the utter ruin of the former, have been already related; but peace was not obtained. All authority was in one centre, the commons; and there were other orders of citizens who were not satisfied; the same contest therefore continued under a new form and new names. They now happened between the commons and plebeians, which were only new names in reality for a new nobility and commons; the commons now took the place of the nobility, and the plebeians that of the commons. Machiavel is as clear and full for a mixed government as any writer; but the noble invention of the negative of an executive upon a legislature in two branches, which is the only remedy in contests between nobles and commons, seems never to have entered his thoughts; and nothing is more entertaining than that mist which is perpetually before eyes so piercing, so capable of looking far through the hearts and deeds of men as his, for want of that thought.

“There seemed to be no seeds of future dissensions left in Florence.”
No seeds! Not one seed had been eradicated; all the seeds that ever existed remained in full vigor. The seeds were in the human heart, and were as ready to shoot in commons and plebeians as they had been in nobles.
“But the evil destiny of our city and want of good conduct occasioned a new emulation between the families of the Albizzi and the Ricci,* which produced as fatal divisions as those between the Edition: current; Page: [45] Buondelmonti and Uberti, and the other between the Cerchi and Donati had done before.”

It was no evil destiny peculiar to Florence; it is common to every city, nation, village, and club. The evil destiny is in human nature. And if the plebeians had prevailed over the commons as these had done over the nobility, some two plebeian families would have appeared upon the stage with all the emulation of the Albizzi and Ricci, to occasion divisions and dissensions, seditions and rebellions, confiscations and banishments, assassinations, conflagrations, and massacres, and all other such good things as appear forever to recommend a simple government in every form.1 When it is found in experience, and appears probable in theory, that so simple an invention as a separate executive, with power to defend itself, is a full remedy against the fatal effects of dissensions between nobles and commons, why should we still finally hope that simple governments, or mixtures of two ingredients only, will produce effects which they never did and we know never can? Why should the people be still deceived with insinuations that those evils arose from the destiny of a particular city, when we know that destiny is common to all mankind?
************************************************************************
Let me interrupt Mr. Adams here with an even more relevant quote from Mr. Adams about us today, rather than us then,
"...But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays [229] in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
And with that I'll return you to our regularly scheduled breaking old news, still in progress:

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

DESE: Are correct answers discarded if they are perceived to be Right?

I meant to address this issue last week (MO Education Watchdog has more details) but I let it slip my mind and now it's the last day for you and me to do so. If you agree with this post, please send an email with the subject:
"Principles expressed in the documents shaping the Republican Form of government of the United States.", to DESE's Sharon Helwig, to: Sharon.Helwig@dese.mo.gov

This is what I sent today:
A year or two ago, I was asked to provide some research assistance in addressing an error in the MO Social Studies documents, regarding some anachronistic references to our form of government being a "constitutional democracy", when it is properly referred to, as per our government's defining document, as a Republic. See Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution for reference :

"Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."
It would be legitimate to expand upon that, such as referring to 'Constitutional Republics', or 'Constitutional Representative Republics', but it is not legitimate to formally refer to our form of government, especially in Educational materials, as a 'Democracy'.

It is true that in our founding era, the terms 'Democracy' and 'Republic' were often used almost interchangeably when referring informally to the general spirit of self governance, but when making more formal references, especially when proposing actual measures for government, the term 'Republic' was the term usually used. Obviously, as this was long before the creation of either of our current two political parties, there was no party politics behind the choice (nor should there be today), they made that choice because the actual meanings and failures of each form of government were well understood. It's a simple fact of record.

Even DESE seemed to acknowledge the fact, though perhaps a bit petulantly, as I've found that a number of our social studies curricular documents were in fact updated, though apparently none too carefully, by means of a mass 'Find & Replace', from 'Constitutional Democracy', to 'Republic'. The result of that change was that in our standards, educational standards mind you, our form of government is often currently referred to, ungrammatically, as 'Principles of Republic', or still as 'Constitutional Democracy'.

State Sen. Emery recently took the concern over the misuse of these terms a step further than we had, in a letter to DESE, insisting, properly, that,

"The term "constitutional democracy" is a flagrant misrepresentation of the principles of the constitutional republic in which we live."

He went on to note that:

"The differences between the structures of government are clear. In a constitutional democracy, the majority has complete control through democratic elections without any protection for the minority. Conversely, a constitutional republic consists of the people electing representatives to serve on their behalf ruled by law with checks and balances established to protect the rights of the minority.
In order to provide clarity for educators that teach Missouri children and to ensure Missouri students are taught the proper governmental structure of the United States - a governmental structure that has made our nation exceptional - we urge you to correct this error in the Show-Me Standards."

DESE's response has been to propose making the change like this (the text within the brackets to be replaced by the bold text hat follows them):
"1. Principles expressed in the documents shaping [constitutional democracy in] the
government of the United States
;"
So... while they acknowledge that they had made an error, they want to correct that error in reference to a very specific form of govt, by changing it, from 'constitutional democracy', to -'government'.

From Democracy, to government.

This feels a bit like it might if after pointing out to a printer that they'd made an error in listing your address as, say, "#1 Riverbend Drive", when you actually live on "#1 Riverview Drive", and after pointing that out, they offered to make the following correction:
"Oh, we see our mistake, tell you what, we'll correct your address to show that: "you live in a house".
What would you say to that? 

What sort of correction is this? It is difficult to see this correction as anything other than a rather blatant evasion. Republic is the correct word, please use it.

I had no problem accepting that an error had been made in using 'Democracy', though a careless (and probably ideological) error - it's still a mistake, understandable and forgivable. The fact that some efforts to correct it have been made shows that it has been recognized as an error. But to refuse to correct that error by naming it as it correctly, demonstrably, legally, is, a Republic (if you can keep it), is appalling.

To refer to the government of the United States as 'the government of the United States', as if that adds some educational clarity, is ridiculous. Democracy is the wrong term, Republic is the correct term, please, in the name of Education, use the correct term.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You built that RFRA - and I object!

I object to Indiana's RFRA! Yep, that's right, but hold on, because whether you are for it, or against it, it's highly likely that I'm strongly objecting to what you don't object to.

You see, I don't object to Indiana wanting to protect the religious liberties of it's business people - at the very least I applaud the sentiment; and I don't object to it because numerous twitter-heads say it permits the persecution of homosexuals - and if that's not stupid enough of an idea on the face of it, it's unlikely that reading it will help you realize how deeply stupid the assertion is ( but it couldn't hurt) - but I do object to RFRA 's continuing the process of devaluing everyone else's liberties in the process - and by 'everyone' that should be understood to include those who are homosexual, straight, native born or immigrant, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist or [please insert your neglected grievance group of record here] - in order to do so.

In short, I object to Indiana's RFRA law, for the same reason that Chuck Schumer and Bill Clinton supported the original Federal RFRA law of 1993 which Indiana's law was derived from - because it implicitly presumes that you lack the right and power to make your own decisions unless you have 'legitimate', approved, 'longstanding religious reasons' for doing so, despite what the the 1st Amendment, and the 9th Amendment, and the 10th Amendment and the Contract clause of Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1, have to say on the matter.

How can people not see the real issue here? Maybe it'll help if you take a look at what a virtual friend of mine had to say when he said this about that:
"In my opinion, a business has a right to refuse service to homosexuals if the particular service they perform (wedding photography or wedding cake makers) would seem to tacitly support an activity that goes against their "legitimate" religious or moral beliefs."
Now, except for the scary scare quotes around "legitimate", that almost seems sensible; the problem is that the sentence before that said:
"It should be patently illegal to refuse service to homosexuals simply because they are homosexual. For example not serving a gay couple at a restaurant. "
, which amounts to holding the primary hostage to the secondary, putting First Principles in the back seat to circumstances and incidentals. Note that this has nothing to do with homosexuals and everything to do with the Individual Rights of every one of us. If that's not clear, maybe another example will help:
"Amendment I - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
"Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
Amendment X - "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
"Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1 - No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility."
Suppose you own a printing store, and someone comes in expecting you to print flyers and handouts which you find to be hateful, racist and disgusting. Do you have the right to refuse them? What if they are black? What if they are homosexual? What if they are Muslim? What if they are Nazis? What if they are black, homosexual Muslim Nazis?

Which of those incidentals gives, or withdraws from you, the right to make your own decision about whether or not to serve them?

Walter E. Williams, H/T Stacy on the Right

IOW, by proposing the various RFRA's, you concede that you don't have the liberty to make your own decisions in your own businesses, UNLESS your decisions can claim the backing of what govt considers to be 'legitimate' religious or moral beliefs!

This turns the 1st Amendment on its head, putting freedom of speech, association and religious practices, at the peril of what legislators and judges consider to be 'legitimate' practices. And just how easily even high caliber judges can rationalize away your right to do what they personally disapprove of, can be seen in the earlier SCOTUS case of Reynolds vs U.S. (1878), when a Mormon's fervently held religious belief in polygamy, was struck down by the Judges distaste for it - and the situation is little different today, they just need to show a compelling interest for doing so, as they most surely felt that they had done back then.

And for those of you foolish enough to trust in the wisdom of legislators and judges to look out for a greater good that includes you, rather than them, you need look no further than Senator Chuckie Schumer's position on the law today is - you see, he was not only for it before he was against it... he sponsored the original RFRA twenty two years ago! - and his vehement opposition to it now, is due to his gauging of the politically correct winds of today. Do you get that? Laws like this don't put THE LAW behind your 'liberty' (religious or otherwise), it uses THE LAW to undermine your Liberty - all of it - with one big crocodile tear of a bill that plays to the sympathies of the day.

Where did the power for govt to tell you what you should do for the greater good? The 1st Amendment already tells congress that it "...shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;", why on earth do we now need yet another law to prohibit what that already prohibits? Especially one that says "... well congress can pass laws that prohibit the free exercise thereof... but they have to think it's reallllyyyy important first..."?

What the hell is going on here?

Iliberty
The only reason we have a RFRA in the first place, was to quiet a populace that was figuring out (perhaps a few decades too soon?), that something the govt was doing for the greater good, was leaving our liberty in a precarious state. And the precarious state of affairs that we find ourselves in today, is one where the govt has taken upon itself the power to disregard your Individual Right to make your own decisions for your own life and property, so long as they feel that their reasoning comports with either the politically correct reasoning of the day, or some other interest the govt has in disregarding your rights. Which of course ultimately means that We The People have no right to make our own decisions for ourselves, but only the power to exercise approved ones.

What do you suppose could have seemed so important and necessary to Americans, thirty or more years ago, as to make them think that it would the greater good for them to give up the substance of their Individual Right to live their own lives?

Yes... I can see that uncomfortable look in your eye from here, yes, this does mean that I'm not only venturing into that territory that Sen. Rand Paul stuck his toe into and then ran from, but unlike Sen. Liberty, I'm jumping in with both feet: Yes, the Civil Rights Acts which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, was detrimental to all of our liberty - both the bigots and the rest of us. While I certainly understand the emotional appeal to put such fools in their places, and to an extent revel in it myself, I must point out that it is by making intellectual decisions on the basis of emotional appeals, that good crisis' are prevented from going to waste.

So long as you don't violate another person's Individual Rights, you have the Individual Right to make your own decisions for your own life and for your own property, which includes your own business - or else you no longer have that Individual Right, or any other, you left only with having the permission of those in power to do what they approve of.

The law, properly, defines the boundaries of our actions, it does not - and it should not - define whether or not our actions are morally acceptable - that is the very meaning of the 1st Amendment! When we err and violate that hard rule 'for the greater good', we then put govt in the position of defining the morality which we then all Must adhere to - which has the affect of eliminating the moral quality from it. Worse, because we've given Govt the Power to make that choice,having made it, it can then, ala Sen. Chuckie Schumer, change its mind as it sees "legitimately" fit, with the spin of the next elections, or more likely, by appointments and regulations.

It's also worth pointing out that in this day of shifting demographics, ensuring that all are equal before the law, is the only sure defense for every demographic, no matter what their numbers might be yesterday, today or tomorrow.

Understand, I'm not denying anyone the right to determine what they consider to be legitimate religious or moral beliefs, I'm denying that govt can or should be in a position to determine what religious or moral beliefs are "Legitimate". The 1st Amendment wasn't written to make you smile and nod politely to your neighbor - that was the province of a decent upbringing and community outrage - the 1st Amendment was to prevent Govt from interfering - 'make NO law - abridging your right to speak your mind, associate with who you chose - or chose NOT to - and to forbid govt from making any laws that might favor - legitimate or otherwise - any one religion over another.

Morals, particularly in the Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian tradition, are what you choose to do, and if that choice somehow ceases to be a choice, then it ceases to be a moral decision. Do you really want to put Govt, or more pointedly, do you really want those people who manage to be elected to political office, to be in charge of what is to be considered a moral 'choice'?

The Rule of Law does not, and cannot, relieve you of the necessity and responsibility of being a decent human being - that's on you!

Freedom is so easy, even a cave man can do it. How so? Freedom means that you have the power to do, what you can get away with doing. It also means that those who have the power to stop you from doing it, can, and that their power gives them the freedom to stop you or take anything they'd like from you - freedom is so easy, that that's what democracy looks like!

Liberty, on the other hand, is Hard. Liberty takes thought, Liberty takes consideration of consequences over the long term. Liberty is the rarest thing in human history because it requires of you that you respect the Individual Rights of other people whom you may despise, to do what they think is best, no matter what you might think of it. And it also requires that you think long and hard about what you believe, and that you speak out for it, and that you stand up to those who'd violate it, even if you detest everything else about them.

For those on the Right (or left) who argue that laws which forbid businesses from refusing service on the basis of race, religion or gender bending, are necessary and good, but then want to also claim that govt cannot tell businesses who they can refuse to bake cakes for, are not simply guilty of not connecting the dots, they have somehow managed to forget that the dots ever existed at all. Egregious violations of our Individual Rights under law, have come about only after imposing 'necessary!' and acceptable violations of our Individual Rights under law, for the 'greater good'.

The plain truth is that Govt mandated health care, with all of its violations of our Individual Rights, property and religious freedoms, could not have come to pass, had govt not been enabled to take the first step against our Individual Rights, by forbidding businesses to deny services based upon race, religion, gender, etc.

Govt has expanded through our seeking to shirk our own individual responsibilities as thinking, moral, individuals. The fact is that rather than actually facing up to our friends, neighbors and relatives and telling them, arguing with them and convincing them that such bigotry, racial or otherwise, was ignorant, stupid and harmful to us all, we took the easy way out and got govt to use its power to force them to act as if they had listened and understood that.

But did they? No, they didn't. Look around you, and no, that sort of stupidity isn't limited to skin color. And what that has cost us, has been the substance of all of our rights, and the 'permission' to shirk our responsibilities to say and do what we know to be right. Such a deal, eh? Our seeking to offload our own moral and reasonable responsibilities, to govt, has put us firmly upon the pro-regressive road to losing our ability to make our own moral and reasonable decisions ourselves. From Marriage laws (WTH is Govt involved in those at all for?!), to Education, to Prohibition, to Civil Rights and Health Care - we have sought to rid ourselves of the burdens of making our own decisions for our own lives, and have consequently lost the ability to make our own decisions for our own lives.

I for one am not surprised in the least that we are where we are today. Look around you. It's all ours. Own it. Or do you now really agree with Elizabeth Warren and President Obama, when they say:
"You didn't build that."
Hmmm?