Monday, April 15, 2013

The Common Core Curriculum: The Royal Lie pt.4

How is the Common Core Curriculum put across with a straight face? Even disconnected as most people are from the doings of their school boards (by the structure of their school boards), you'd think that all of the matters that have been raised in the Common Core related programs (see the preceding posts, here, here and here), would have to raise concerns across the public - this is about our children, after all- how is it all to be accomplished? How can is it gotten away with?

The answer of course is simple.


Which is something else that hasn't changed all that much over the last 2,500 years.

Then as now, in pursuit of power - those who seek or seek to hold onto power - must lie... but for a good cause. For the greater good. Of course. And back then, as now, the plans of the smartest amongst us, always seem to require a few well crafted royal lies, to put them across - because intelligence is so often seen as a tool to enable you to outwit reality - which is certainly the case today, though it is certainly not exclusive to our time.  Plato had Socrates frame, and justify his 'Royal Lie' like this:
"Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good. But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to them in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for the patient or the pupil of a gymnasium not to speak the truth about his own bodily illnesses to the physician or to the trainer, or for a sailor not to tell the captain what is happening about the ship and the rest of the crew, and how things are going with himself or his fellow sailors.

Most true, he said.
If, then, the ruler catches anybody beside himself lying in the State,

Any of the craftsmen, whether he priest or physician or carpenter. he will punish him for introducing a practice which is equally subversive and destructive of ship or State.

Most certainly, he said, if our idea of the State is ever carried out."
Back in the old days, the Royal Lie took the form of a myth that the people were descended from people of Gold, Silver, Bronze or Iron, and only the philosopher kings were capable of determining who was born into which class, and so best fit to serve or enjoy whichever strata of society would benefit most by them. Of course modern society doesn't go in for anything as bizarre as that, right?
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."
Attributed to Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton, to the Federation of High School Teachers.
Uhmmm... really? Surely, if Woodrow Wilson did in fact say that a century ago, that was a long time ago, surely we don't believe such things anymore... right?

Well of course we don't go about weeding and sorting our human capital based upon some mythical heritage of gold, silver, brass or iron - preposterous!

This is the electronic age, after all, and what with the improvements that spin-meisters and word dancers have brought to the art of not saying what you mean, and getting more of what you want, we now know how to put things a bit differently, such as in this somewhat dated sample, four or five years ago, from "Pathways to College Network"....
"Data on student achievement provide critical feedback to community stakeholders, parents, students, and teachers. There is a growing impetus in some schools and districts for creating longitudinal student record data systems as repositories of individual student histories. These data can be used to improve curricular alignment and student transitions throughout the P-16 pipeline by identifying important variables that impact students’ academic progress at key points along the way. Such data systems can also be rich informational tools to aggregate individual records for analysis at national, state, and district levels in order to inform policy, planning, and resource allocation."
Would you like me to translate that? Sure, I'd be happy to:
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."
While it's true we don't go about weeding and sorting our human capital (and if referring to your child as 'human capital' doesn't alarm and piss you off, you are not thinking things through, not one bit) based upon some mythical heritage of gold, silver, brass or iron, we do do the very same damn thing through the equally mythical nonsense of standardized testing, and data gathering systems - beginning at birth.

The stated purpose of the system of standardized testing we've been so busily setting up, is to determine whether you best fit into the new labels for the old categories:
  • Lawyers, Doctors, Professors, etc (Gold.),
  • CEOs Politicians, Engineers, etc.(Silver),
  • Managers, Small Business Owners,Teachers, etc (Bronze) or
  • Workers, Military, Security, and those who need to be supported by everyone else, etc.(Iron),
And that sorting is accomplished today by means of standardized testing and data gathering, designed to grade your ability to swallow those government crafted 'texts', no matter how uninteresting and lacking in depth or value they may be, in service to one politically correct ideal or another... IOW:

Uncle ED wants you!

The rest of you... not so much.

BTW, standardized, for Cubberly didn't simply mean uniform, but LARGER, applying to MORE, encompassing as many people as possible, in the same way and for the same reasons that he always sought to make schools larger and more impersonal, which had the effect of to centralizing power into smaller and more distant locations; with a similar purpose of having the individual disappear into the collective mass - more democratic that way, doncha know.

The Common Core Royal Lie is that these 'standards' have any legitimate claims to being effective standards.

Politely put, that's a crock.

Here's a sampling from the explanation recently given by Diane Ravitch, long time historian of education, researcher and educational policy adviser, for why she could not support the Common Core Standards,
"...I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.

The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.

Maybe the standards will be great. Maybe they will be a disaster. Maybe they will improve achievement. Maybe they will widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots. Maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether. Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?

President Obama and Secretary Duncan often say that the Common Core standards were developed by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. This is not true.

They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.

​In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash...."
The entire system of Race To The Top, Common Core Curriculum Standards, and all the other variations upon the theme, are being created to centralize power politically, financially, culturally, and aspirationaly  reforming the very bricks of the state and social structure (aka: your child) into materials better suited to their vision of an improved society.

These standards are a lie, and they are being pushed in service to what lies always serve - the pursuits of power. It is what they pursue. Our children are simply the means to their ends. That does not mean they are being done for nefarious purposes. Honestly, I'd feel relieved if I could assign it all to deep dark conspiracies of bad people plotting to do things they know they shouldn't do - people that know they are doing what is wrong, and feel bad about it - unfortunately I can't do that. I suspect that each component is, at root, being formed from the well meaning plans of well intentioned and very smart people, driven by vaguely grasped, but poorly understood philosophy, a desire to improve our world, no particular opinions on what is right or wrong and helped along by a failure to have learned that reality doesn't like being fooled.

IOW, what drives the reformers of today, are the same motivations that drove Glaucon & Adeimantus in Plato's Republic, 2,500 years ago:
  • The children were not being considered as values in and of themselves, but simply as means to an end - their ideal state.
  • The essential means to that end without the interference of parents, can only be accomplished (assuming you don't want to go the Pol Pot route) by the state having unlimited control of the education of the inhabitants of the state.
  • With control of the Education of children, not only are the current parents controlled, but you also progressively eliminate the threat of future parent's views which might be unsuited to the ideal state
And what is the thing most threatening to such a state?

Thoughtful people who question the ideals the state depends upon, and who are willing and able to discuss the matter with others. Can't have that.

Fortunately, when you change the purposes of Education from the moral and intellectual development of a virtuous and self governing persons (the form of education which progressive education supplanted), to churning out smart people with useful skills, then thoughtful people who care about what is right and true, progressively become more and more scarce.
You should have a look at the latest euphemisms for just such a state's schools: the concept of "Next Generation Schools".
"...The most profound concept in this graph shows how the next generation school will eliminate representative government. Notice that the new system bypasses the community, governance, and finance. Draw your attention to the blue lines that are most important to this agenda. They are: your child, called human capital, assessment which is testing, technology, and any time and any place. Testing and technology become the most important part of this agenda to create the human capital of the future for the international global workforce. How will abolishing representative government work?..."
Since Jefferson first envisioned the structure of school districts as a necessary means of preserving liberty (his proposal didn't pass, but still served as a model), they've become the most fundamental, if informal, building block of governance in America. The school district is central to how people choose which homes and neighborhoods to seek out, they have extensive ties into the community, businesses, funding, and they form distinctive centers within our neighborhoods. Yet the noble intentions of Jefferson's plan have been transformed into the means of subverting liberty at the most basic political levels, and even more fundamentally, in the hearts and minds of the children who become the parents of the next generation.

Since proRegressive Education won the spin wars and eliminated actual Education as the purpose and goal of schools,  they have been repurposed to inculcate those useful skills which self-styled leaders of industry - from J.D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates - have proclaimed to be the real demands for modern life. Those 'real demands' of modern life, have somehow been the same as what was needed to succeed in the "...19th century!...", the "...20th century!...", the "...21st century!...", so that our nation could beat the "...Germans!...", the "...Russians!...", the "...Japanese!..."... and now the Chinese. Truth be told the needs of 'modern life' have been more realized in what has been left out, than what they added in, but whatever the case, it has been in service to those ends of skillful, rather than thoughtful, graduates, and modern schools have been the bountiful means of producing what was needed to consolidate and centralize power. And it has been through that lever, that the influence of the individual has been diminished and silenced in the face of those who simply know that they are better suited to using that power, sucking it from individuals, decade by decade, regulation by regulation, law by law, with the central government growing in strength, even as the local community and its sense of itself, has been withered by it.

The explanation has always been that we needed more of those skills and habits that smart folk said would be most important to their vision of an 'improved' world, and your children, from back in the time when your grand, and your great grand parents, were the children, down to today, have been seen as little more (and in many ways much less) than the raw material needed for the production of their ideal administrative state. And such a state is a place where everything can, and must be, continually measured, monitored, tested, and adjusted as needed, in order to keep things rolling along - over you when need be - in the most efficient manner possible - and oh, how that is possible today (via Missouri Education Watchdog):
"Data mining techniques can track students’ trajectories of persistence and learning over time, thereby providing actionable feedback to students and teachers." Here is just a sample of what they envision collecting:
  • "functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and physiological indicators offer insight into the biology and neuroscience underlying observed student behaviors.
  • Researchers can examine consistency in participant’s ratings to determine the strength of the belief or skill. Self-report can also be used to measure process constructs; for example, in the Experience Sampling Method (ESM), participants typically carry around a handheld device that “beeps” them at random intervals, prompting self-report of experiences in that moment (e.g., Hektner, Schmidt, & Csikszentmihalyi, 2007). Such data can be used to make inferences about emotions, thoughts,and behaviors within and across specific situations.
  • Sensors (attached to the student) provide constant, parallel streams of data and are used with data mining techniques and self-report measures to examine frustration, motivation/flow, confidence, boredom, and fatigue. [plan for the]... development of systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate aspects of human affect. Emotional or physiological variables can be used to enrich the understanding and usefulness of behavioral indicators. Discrete emotions particularly relevant to reactions to challenge -- such as interest, frustration, anxiety, and boredom -- may be measured through analysis of facial expressions, EEG brain wave patterns, skin conductance, heart rate variability, posture, and eye-tracking.
  • The MIT Media Lab Mood Meter (Hernandez, Hoque, & Picard, n.d.) is a device that can be used to detect emotion (smiles) among groups. The Mood Meter includes a camera and a laptop. The camera captures facial expressions, and software on the laptop extracts geometric properties on faces (like distance between corner lips and eyes) to provide a smile intensity score. While this type of tool may not be necessary in a small class of students, it could be useful for examining emotional responses in informal learning environments for large groups, like museums."It's not a field trip. It's a data gathering session.
Another source of data about students’ perseverance is school records about grades, standardized test scores, attendance, dropping-out, discipline problems, social services used, and so on.

As we have said, the data tracking with Common Core is setting up the infrastructure to facilitate the easy collection of data on our students for someone else's benefit. "The Expanding Evidence report points to important trends in the availability and application of technology-supported institutional-level data for supporting at-risk students (U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, 2013). Data at the institutional level is becoming increasingly streamlined and cross-referenced, improving the capacity to link student data within and across systems."
The Royal Lie is not only about Education, but the fundamental transformation of America.

Tomorrow, working towards the counter reformation of educational reform.
(Cross posted at The Bell News)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Common Core Curriculum: Popular new answers to the same old question pt.3

So over the last two posts (here and here) we've seen that our current Common Core Curriculum efforts share in a 2,500 year history of ideas and events that demonstrate a lesson we desperately need to learn - or else be doomed to repeat once again. That lesson is, at least in part, that when smart people are put into positions of power, and are tacitly allowed, by reason of their smartness, to not feel bound to abide by those laws which they judge to be inadequate or outdated - and who, more importantly, have no internal sense of self-restraint regarding what should (or should not) be done unto others for the benefit of the greater good - then they will do exactly what they feel is the smart thing to do.

One of the conclusions that these would-be social reformers commonly arrive at, just as they have since at least Plato's day, is that they simply must ensure that the youth are taught those habits and ideals that are deemed favorable to the reformed state (and dear to those who will be in power over them), and that they must be the ones to decide what those habits and ideals are to be. But what is often overlooked, is that those in power do not take the steps required to 'educate' the children, without also also taking steps in regards to their parents. After all, if you decide what to do with the children, without also preparing for what to do about their parents... what if they should disagree with the plans you're making for their children?


As such smart people have so clearly seen since the time of Glaucon and Adeimantus, total control over the education of the young, requires the elimination of local control over the education of the young, which brings the question behind this series of posts back into view:
"What to do about the parents?"
It is a question that cannot not be addressed by those who have, or seek to have, the power to transform society. They've got to contain or eliminate the potential threat to their plans which children's parents - living anchors into the past - might conceivably pose to the forward motions of their transformational power.

There are two approaches which can follow from this.

The first approach follows from when you are dealing with people who believe in tangible concepts of Right and Wrong, who believe in the Right of people to live their own lives. In that situation the range of actions and responses which they will find open to them - in their own judgment - will be rather limited, comprising little more than discussion, debate and voting on options which can go only so far, and no farther, without the consent of those the actions are being applied to. The exercise of power in this approach tends to confine the actions of state to things which cannot be done, rather than what must be done, and public discussion and consideration of these ideas are essential to their policies being formed, and successfully carried out.

The second approach however, acknowledges few such restrictions upon its power. When you are dealing with people who consider the greater good - as they see it - to be more important than what IS good, that opens up a whole host of options to them, especially in regards to dealing with potential threats to their plans - which, after all, are being planned for the greater good. Given that criteria, then deciding upon the means to be used - be those exiling the parents, killing them, imprisoning, threatening, restricting their actions, publicly belittling them, intimidating or even lauding and rewarding them - is irrelevant. What is relevant, is whether or not the means selected will enable the most efficient exercise of power towards accomplishing their ends. Their ends are of far more concern, than concerns over the few who might be inconvenienced by their means, for the benefit of the many.

And thanks to an educational system driven by a pragmatic utilitarian philosophy (which almost literally means using the most immediately effective means to bring about the greater good), we have progressively found ourselves moving more and more into the path of the second approach.

To those ends, the various programs of Race To The Top and Common Core Curriculum Standards, have come up with some interesting new answers to our old question, being that if exiling, killing or sequestering the defective and unassimilated parents who still remain, aren't currently among your preferred options... then the next best thing is to exile them from contact with, say so over, or even knowledge of what their children are being taught in school.

Brilliant! Problem solved. Nothing more needs to be said and that's that.

Er... except for... how... exactly, could you possibly accomplish that? The latest answers are to be found in three easy, proRegressive steps, that are being taken today, all across the land.

1) The first answer, which Race To The Top is the century long culmination of, is to proRegressively centralize the information, discussion and debate of actions to be taken upon people (aka: power), further and further away from the involvement of local parents. The gradual centralizing of power away to ever larger and more distant school boards, staffed with increasingly inaccessible or unresponsive experts, headed by ever more highly paid superintendents, themselves all operating under state school boards, serves to insert multiple layers of separation between local parents, and those who have the power to make decisions over them, and in which they cannot in any practical sense, have meaningful involvement in deciding upon the direction and content of their children's schools and education.

Worse still, not only are local community decisions dissolved into larger boards, and those dissolved into the state school boards, but with Race To The Top, even the state boards are to be dissolved into regional school boards comprised of committees drawn from several states, so that the decisions of those living in states such as Missouri, will be attended to and dealt with, by generic committees overseeing several states, with little to no accountability to those very distant and smallish parents, way down there at the local level. And these new committees, whose centralized power is fast approaching maximum density, will be unable to act except as 'is best' for all, and the interests and concerns of individual states, individual districts, to say nothing of individual parents will, must be, dispensed with - for the greater good.

That is not an unfortunate by-product, that is the purpose - and the benefit - of centralizing power. If you are under the naive assumption that all of this is only about improving the education of our youth, you are very much mistaken; it is, and has always been, about the fundamental transformation of America. Barack Obama did not come up with that idea, it's just that he is perhaps the last relay runner in a race begun well over a century ago.

Ultimately, as the holy grail of centralization is to be found in the greatest distance that can be had from local concerns, the quest is to center their power at the Federal level - but not only does CCSI claim to not be a federally controlled program, it would be illegal if it were proven to be - so how can the quest be accomplished? It is pulled off, as any good magic trick is, directing your attention to the hand that can be seen, and performing your sleight of hand with the one that is not seen. They loudly trumpet the fact that the Common Core, in all its forms, are actually initiated and determined by the states. Pay no attention to the fact that their actions are only taken in response to offers of federal dollars (should they meet certain federally determined criteria).

With a flourish of announcements and press releases they state that their standards are defined and controlled by independent consortias, and assume that you will pay no attention to the fact that those consortias are beholden to the Feds. They claim that their curriculum and classes are to be driven not by federal mandates, but by objective testing, and the schools have got to perform well on the tests to remain in good standing - and hope you will pay no attention to the fact that those tests are driven by the Feds. Teachers, they say, are empowered to teach as they see fit, and control their classroom materials - but pay no attention to the fact that if their classes do not score well in their blizzard of tests, they will be seen as failing.

Pay no attention to the money man behind the curtain, all is well, these programs have been initiated by the states, districts, teachers and parental concerns.

One reason why the local schools have to perform well on the federally mandated tests, is that one of the powers that Race To The Top, et all, hands over to the Feds, is the power to declare a school to be failing, and could even be turned over to 'private' Charter Schools. One reason why local teachers must see to it that their students perform well on the incessantly regular testing given to them, is that the Feds will have the power to replace individual teachers should they not measure up to its standards... and, via Missouri Education Watchdog: how are teachers feeling??
"...Tired of being afraid to stand up for what I know is right for our kids and our country because I am afraid of losing my job and being unable to pay my bills.

Tired of my superiors being afraid to stand up for what they know is right for our kids and our country because they, too, are afraid of losing their livelihood.

Tired of wanting to be better, volunteering to do additional work, and watching helplessly as any progress I have made is brushed aside by the newest educational reform acronym.

Tired of being told, “Ohh, sorry, but my hands are tied,” accompanied by a half smile, a shrug of the shoulders.

Tired of spending hours of my life documenting and sorting and filing instead of revising and learning and improving.

Tired of wasting taxpayer money on binders and tabs and computer paper and ink.

Tired of being a taxpayer, watching as my money is spent on binders and tabs and computer paper and ink instead of STUDENTS and STUDENTS and STUDENTS and STUDENTS...."
Yay testing!... right...? And should the Feds require those teachers to be replaced, the replacements are more than likely to come from the Fed's preferred cadre, such as "Teach for America", recent college graduates who more than likely have little or no actual teaching experience, but who do have lots of enthusiasm and willingness to follow orders in order to build their resumes.

That is standardized testing in action, and it is fully in accord with Ellwod P. Cubberly's original goals for testing, made over a century ago - and proRegressively being realized today.

And for those of you banking on private businesses saving the day with Charter schools... there's bad news. If the 'Charter School', has to conform to the standards and curriculum that is defined by the Feds for all the other schools - and they do - then the only meaningful difference you're going to see is in how well the janitorial staff and lunch lines are managed.

Same bad news for Home Schoolers too, I'm afraid - Common Core intends to see to it that your standards are common to their core as well, standards of behavior and 'comprehension' - to which they will put your (oh, excuse me Melissa Harris-Perry, OUR) children to the test. Regularly.

2) The second answer, from Common Core Curriculum, comes through how they will be defining, updating and maintaining the content of the textbooks which schools purchase, teachers teach from, and students are given their views through. Unfortunately the process of defining and choosing textbooks too often cause firestorms of controversy, which proRegressives would prefer to avoid, and so in an effort to avoid political controversy (meaning a situation in which you might have a say), they've begun creating consortias of those who just know best, experts (like Glaucon & Adeimantus? Yep, exactly like them) to whom all delicate decisions can be outsourced to, by forming organizations that are transforming themselves into 501c3 organizations.

These Common Core approved organizations, whether small consortias or larger ones such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, proudly tout the benefits they bring with their financial aid and alleviation of another a cash drain from the public purse. Not so touted, however, is the fact that by removing the power of the purse from those who are being 'served' by them, it has the happy result of completing the removal of you from the process; further distancing local parents from those decisions being made about the education of their children, centralizing power still further away, and not only from local levels, but even seemingly beyond that of federal reach.

The situation being produced is an administrative bureaucrat's wet dream - when no one can claim to be in charge, then those who are in power answer only to their own smart selves.

That in itself, is a fundamental transformation of America.

3) And thirdly, the pièce de résistance, states like Texas, of all places, are leading the way with curriculum management systems such as CSCOPE, which provide the final, and by far the most innovative answer to the old question of ''What to do about the parents'' - it exiles them from having any contact with the curriculum.

How? By copyrighting the curriculum, by forcing teachers to sign non-disclosure statements so that they are forbidden from discussing their lesson plans with their students parents, thereby preventing parents from even seeing the curriculum and discovering what they might wish to complain about.

Complain? To who? There is no local principal or other person in authority that you can speak to about your problem, and who also has the authority to do something about it. That power has been centralized away to faceless committees in distant locations, which if, not already located several states away, needs the approval from still others who are located several states away, from you, their problem. Problem solved.

Now, not only will your children answer 'nuthin'' to your question of 'what did you do in school today?', teachers will also tell you 'nothing' about what they did with your child in school that day.

Nothing more needs to be said and that's that.

Well... except for how to put it over on the little people. And... as usual, my post has grown too long (and you would be amazed by how much I've already left out), but there's still one more topic that must be addressed - the Royal Lie that the system is - before we can look at how to go about attempting to remedy the situation. Tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Common Core Curriculum: Questioning the goals of the questioners pt.2

The Common Core Curriculum has plans, not only for your children, but, as we began looking at yesterday, for you parents out there as well. What are those goals, and how do they plan to arrive at them?

How do they dare to plan to arrive at them?

The short answer is that the Common Core were designed by smart people, and, as smart people commonly do, especially the poorly educated ones, they simply figure that if the idea seems smart - do it!

Socrates made his mark on the world - and found his ticket out of it - by subjecting just such smart people and their smart plans, to some very basic questions, and just as their plans haven't changed all that much in 2,500 years, the best way to expose them hasn't changed all that much either. That Socratic method, both when visibly applied, as in the exchange with Thrasymachus that I mentioned in the last post, or when noticeably absent, as in the brief snippet we looked at there, demonstrates just how 'smart people' actually do think, then as now, about what they need to do about everyone else that they can see are in need of their wisdom.

And it's not all that complicated to undo their plans: simply ask them about their plans. Get them talking about them, ask them about what they mean by what they are saying, and get as many people together as is possible to hear them say it. It can be a very self-correcting problem.

As a case in point, and an excellent example of how they still think those same thoughts today, I included in yesterday's post, a quote and a video promo from MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, where she said in part that,
"... we in America "haven't had a very collective notion that these are our children." "[W]e have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities,..."
Predictably, today Melissa Harris-Perry is playing the kind, well intentioned but maliciously misunderstood victim of meanies card, with the reply that,
"One thing is for sure: I have no intention of apologizing for saying that our children, all of our children, are part of more than our households, they are part of our communities and deserve to have the care, attention, resources, respect and opportunities of those communities."
Notice that this last statement is a very different meaning than that of the first one, that was a prepared, reviewed, directed & and recorded for broadcast statement, which she made as a promotions for her network. Frankly, if she is unable to tell the difference between our having to "break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents", and "they are part of our communities", then her ability to comprehend the English language is even worse than her ability to pronounce it, and she has no business grading other people's school work, she needs to go back to school herself (and you might want to take notice of the fact that she views what 'belongs' to someone, as not being a 'part' of society).

Though, I'd recommend that she chooses a school other than Tulane. As Groucho Marx might have said, "I'd refuse to attend any school that'd have me as a teacher."

I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that her reply was at least partially prepared before the original promo was even filmed, as a one-two attempt at maximizing publicity - scrapping the bottom of the public opinion for ratings is an economic necessity on her network. But seriously, if one of my kids, as even entry level teenagers, had tried to use that sorry bit of equivocation on me as an excuse for something, I'd make them rewrite it until it was at least passable, before grounding them for a week.

And that is about as much consideration that anything Perry has to say is worth.

But how she, and her progressive brethren manage to kid themselves into thinking that such thoughts qualify as thinking... that fits right in with this current set of posts.

The question worth asking here, is what goals are these smart people aiming at, and why do they think these missteps will move them towards them? And don't dismiss their foolish statements, they are succeeding with them. The answer is just as old as the question of "What to do about the parents".

The surface level answer is similar to how Glaucon & Adeimantus were able to recognize that Thrasymachus's claim that "justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger..." was unjust, and yet feel it was entirely reasonable and just to contemplate seizing all children under the age of ten, and exiling their parents and anyone else older than ten. The answer is that a heaping helping of 'self esteem' and a belief that the 'Greater Good' is of more worth than what is Good, enables you to do whatever it is that you think is a smart thing to do - as long as you can convince yourself that it is 'For the greater good!' And it doesn't' take a whole lot of convincing for those who are inclined to believe it.

When you are quite impressed with who you are, or with what your position is, and much less accustomed to questions of what you should do, than with what you'd like to and feel you can do... you tend to do whatever it is that seems like a smart idea at the time.

And ask yourself, those of you who were horrified at her comment to the effect of "All your children are belong to us!" (and why weren't you as startled by Hillary's book of the same theme some years ago "It takes a village"?); if a person has not made a deeply ingrained habit of asking themselves "Should I" questions - such as what ought to be done? Would it be proper to do so? Is it something that I should do? Would it be right for others to have this done to them? - you know, questions that hint at having a conscience - if those aren't second, if not first nature to someone, then why would you expect them to not say such things as she said?

Is there anything in Melissa Harris-Perry and her networks ideals and history, that would possibly lead you to think that they wouldn't think - and hope for - such things coming to pass?

When unhindered by the habit of reasoning beyond what seems to be so obviously and self evidently smart, then those smarty pants, be they Glaucon & Adeimantus, or Harris-Perry, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg... or Bill Ayers & Pol Pot for that matter, they all have a tendency to be satisfied that they already know all they need to know on a subject - and that they most certainly know better than you, what to do about it. So that when they conclude that 'that's that', in their not so humble opinion, that is the end of it, and they feel justified in doing what they see needs to be done, to you, for your own good (and theirs).

But if you were to pick up on that part of the dialog in "The Republic" that Socrates laid down for you - and why not, you're living right smack dab within the very same dialog today - you might find, at the very least, after poking around your noggin for a moment, that there are at least a few questions that are well worth asking of those who are proposing to exercise power over you, such as:
'What gives you the right to decide what anyone else s kids should be taught?
What gives you the Right to do so against their will?
Why should what you think is best, have any more power over my life than what I think is best?'
, or if you want to just stick to more 'practical' considerations,
'What if the parents won't go, or... what if they come back?
What if they come back for their children?
What if they come back and are feeling none to pleased about having had their children taken from them?'
Pol Pot certainly considered those questions, well, the practical ones anyway, and not liking the look of the answers he came up with, devised an incredibly efficient little answer to the ol' question, which was: haul the parents off and kill them.

Which he did. By the millions. Nothing more need be said.

Their Goals
While you and I might think that Pol Pot's solution was more than a bit outrageous, you've got to remember that our thinking, the Western way of thinking which America was formed from, is an ethical way of thinking, having its roots in something deeper and higher than mere popularity, more concerned with "...certain unalienable rights...", than utilitarian expediency. Theirs, on the other hand - the central planners who feel perfectly at ease with making plans for your life for you - do not consider the Rightness or Wrongness of their actions, except perhaps as conversational camouflage. Theirs instead is the motivation of power, of ends and those means that will best serve them, rather than an ethical norm which shapes means and ends through their service to it.

Right and Wrong are not their go-to's (caught and uncaught or what the meaning of IS is, are also not nearly the same). Instead your first concerns are going to be what sounds most practical and whether or not it seems like a smart idea. IOW, is it likely to accomplish at least some of what they want it to, and are they likely to be able to get away with it? If so, then their next question is what would be the most efficient solution, contributing the most to the 'greater good' (as they see it)... in the long run (cue Keynes:"... In the long run we are all dead...").

Why do I say 'they', as if they are separate from, or opposed to the Western way of thinking?

Because they are.

If you doubt me, take a look at this video, narrated by Dana Loesch. Do you think that these are people who see themselves as members of the Western Way of life? These are the people who have plans for your children, and for you. Do you think that Western ideas of Right and Wrong, are going to play a real big part in carrying those plans out?

Now of course I don't mean Western in a geographical sense, but in the philosophical sense, one that no birth certificate will ever prove your membership in (or exclude you from, for that matter); it's a way of thinking that has struggled against those who've opposed it, from within and without, since the time of Homer, and it continues to struggle with them for its survival today - as it always will.

The Western Way is a struggle between those who will further its ideals, the ability of each to pursue truth and happiness under protection of a Just rule of law - and those who prefer easier pursuits, pleasures and powers incompatible with that. From the West's peak political achievement in the era of our Founding Fathers, with the U.S. Constitution, that achievement has served as the focus for its opposition ever since, and the biggest gun directed at it has been education, and it has been firing non stop upon us from the front line of battle almost since the ink dried on the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

The 'smart people' who have been diligently fighting against it, are people like Jeremy Bentham, the father of Utilitarianism, who thought that the Individual Rights of Natural Law which our nation was founded upon, were nothing but "...nonsense upon stilts...", and they (a 'they' which very much includes many supposed defenders of 'liberty', such as J.S. Mill) do not look to ideas of Right and Wrong for guidance, or seek to ensure that their actions conform to such norms; instead they ask only whether it will get them what they want in an efficient manner, will it be effective for the moment, and will it be seen as being the most 'fair' for the greater good (as they conceive it).

For 'smart people' such as these, disdainful of what put the West in Western Civilization, they don't waste time contemplating what is True, Good and Beautiful, or in developing those habits which follow from such a regard, such as habits of:
  • self reflection,
  • self criticism,
  • logic (as opposed to logic chopping),
  • dialog,
  • the value of the individual,
  • respect for the individual choices which are a requirement of both individuality and a healthy society,
  • that Justice requires that all people of all stations to be treated equally before the same laws
  • and the American innovation, that all individuals, through their nature as human beings, have the same Rights which the Law is to uphold and defend
, people who disdain these habits, which are the veritable jewels of western culture, are unhindered by the habit of considering more than one step beyond what is so obviously and self evidently 'the smart thing to do. Such people have a penchant for knowing it all and knowing better than you little people, bitterly clinging to whatever it is you cling to, could ever possibly know. Whether they become actual tyrants like Pol Pot, or more mild public servants like Arne Duncan & Barack Obama, or simply pursuers of the power to 'do good', like Glaucon & Adeimantus, Bill Gates, and so forth, they all just know what the smart thing to do is, and that is the end of it - or rather, those are what they've concluded are the necessary means to their ends - and, in their humble opinions, nothing more need be said about the matter.

If you think it's outrageous for me to put all of those persons into one category, ask yourself which part it is that you think I'm being outrageous over? Their methods? Or their goals? Although there is certainly a relationship between methods and goals that should not be ignored, I'd agree today that it would be outrageous to include Duncan, Obama and Gates, in the same group as Pol Pot - in regards to their methods - but what about their goals?

Those goals - separating the child from the influence of their parent (biological or cultural) - have too often in our own history been judged, in principle, to be not so very outrageous at all, in fact, they have often been the point of state led education.

For instance. The very first compulsory education law in America, "Old Deluder Satan Law of 1647", was a law passed by the Puritans, who were worried that new immigrants (and their lax fellows) weren't puritan enough, in one way, or another, and a new law was needed to correct matters by seeing to it that all children learned to read the Bible.

During our Civil War, the popular answer of the smart set was that the state needed to take a hand in education in order to 'help educate ignorant rebelliousness out of the South', a sentiment which would eventually transform both the North and the South, through the Morrill Land-Grant Act, and the creation of the very first Dept. of Education, in 1863. That also marked the first instance of the Fed Govt offering cash incentives to the states for undertaking policies it approved of, but could not constitutionally put into law itself.

And those same goals didn't seem far fetched at all to the father of modern American education, John Dewey. Dewey stated explicitly that the task of educators was to separate the child from the beliefs of their parents and culture, .
"... it is the business of the school environment to eliminate, so far as possible, the unworthy features of the existing environment from influence upon mental habitudes. It establishes a purified medium of action. Selection aims not only at simplifying but at weeding out what is undesirable. Every society gets encumbered with what is trivial, with dead wood from the past, and with what is positively perverse. The school has the duty of omitting such things from the environment which it supplies, and thereby doing what it can to counteract their influence in the ordinary social environment. By selecting the best for its exclusive use, it strives to reinforce the power of this best. As a society becomes more enlightened, it realizes that it is responsible not to transmit and conserve the whole of its existing achievements, but only such as make for a better future society. The school is its chief agency for the accomplishment of this end."
There are two ways to take this - the Western Way, and the Progressive way. If Dewey's intention was meant to eliminate error or even a tendency to lie, turning us away from ignorance, rudeness, and so forth, that would be one thing, and a good thing. If he meant that, through imparting a clearer understanding of what is true, what is good, as well as a respect for one's self and the rights of your fellows, that would be a good thing as well, but that would imply a metaphysical standard that Dewey not only did not recognize, but was actively opposed to. Seeking to eliminate error and falsehood and instill virtue requires a metaphysical view that larger timeless truths exist, can be discovered, and should guide and refine the understanding of men. That is a view which Dewey most certainly did not believe.

Dewey did not intend the statement above in a metaphysical manner, but in a political and ideological one. He meant that views which did not gibe with his progressive beliefs, should be selectively excluded and subtly denounced, so that more 'progressive' policies could sooner succeed in their place (in your 'educated' mind).

Dewey was a pragmatist and a small 's' socialist, whose views of education ran counter to the traditional western views in general, and to American ideas in particular. He didn't believe that the purpose of education was to teach the student to gain a greater understanding and mastery of themselves so as to become a more virtuous, self governing individual and a worthy addition to society - which was the goal of the traditional form of education, a mostly Aristotelian view, which Dewey's progressive education supplanted. On the contrary, Dewey believed that the purpose and proper goal of education was the socialization of the individual - not that you conformed yourself to what was demonstrably right and true, but that you should conform yourself to what people around you believed, or wanted to believe. This, from his "My Pedagogic Creed", sums it up fairly well:
"I believe that education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction."
Aristotle (Plato's student and Socrates' philosophical grandson) held that indispensable to the pursuit of wisdom (back when Philosophy still meant 'the love of wisdom') was the understanding that it was necessary to discover what is true of reality, in order to deepen your knowledge and benefit from it; or as Bacon put it "Nature to be commanded, must first be understood". And while his views weren't without flaws (some of which were ominously statist in many areas, including education) yet through the next twenty five centuries, his metaphysics, ethics, science and logic (a more methodical refinement of Socrates' dialectic), shaped the development of the West, driving students to correct long held and revered beliefs (as Aristotle said of his teacher, "Plato is dear, but the Truth is dearer"), and formed the philosophical basis for the only real and practical progress the world has ever known.

By providing us with the means of a larger and ever deepening standard of truth to measure our ideas against, we are able to stand outside our preferences and preconceptions, and improve them.

Not so with Dewey.

Dewey's pragmatic philosophy is not guided by a timeless standard or long range goal of comprehending what is real and true, but by the short range desire for 'what works' and can be gotten away with - for the moment. As such, while it can refine its methods, and it can change directions, it can do so only internally; its adherents desires are its standards - it has no way to rise above them, no way to stand outside and judge the Rightness of them... if for some reason they cared to... but why would they? It has no way of saying something such as,
"..."The 'See and Say' method of reading limits a students ability to read, more than it improves it'"
, because it is not a policy driven by a truth that was perhaps poorly understood, but is driven from a position that is held and desired. If the 'See and Say' method becomes unpopular, they can adjust to that, taking a more progressive aim at their goal... but that is hardly the same thing, is it.

For Aristotle, and the Western view, the Truth is an understanding of reality, never complete, but ever deepening, a standard to measure our ideas against, which enables us to stand outside our preferences and preconceptions, and improve them - the Truth contains philosophy, and we are rewarded by struggling to better comprehend it.

For Dewey, the 'truth' is entirely contained by and defined by, his philosophy and the needs of the moment. What people want (or should want) is the standard which his new progressive education steers by, and in that truncated view of reality, the moment is all there is; what is newest is best, and the moment, or the goal to achieve it, is the goal which their methods serve... for the moment.

Given that the concept of something such as Timeless Truths, let alone seeking to live up to them, is unthinkable to the pragmatic progressive, you can imagine the status of Individual Rights or any other timeless truth, under such a philosophy.

Of what is virtuous and moral, Dewey said in Moral Principles in Education:
"... The moral has been conceived in too goody-goody a way. Ultimate moral motives and forces are nothing more or less than social intelligence--the power of observing and comprehending social situations,--and social power--trained capacities of control--at work in the service of social interest and aims."
It is a very small step to take from inculcating social-morals (more on that from a few years ago, here), to indoctrinating children with those 'smart ideas' that are dearest to the interests of the state, be it global warming, Green Tech or America is always right or America is always wrong. To believe that " is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness..." is to believe that children should be, must be, separated from those views of their parents which those who speak for society disapprove of. To believe that, is to say, as Harris-Perry did, " belong to their communities..."

Or to translate into its actual, practical, meaning: "... justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger..."

It matters not whether the stronger is of the one, or the many, it is power, not virtue, that is their focus, and the focus of the educational system that has followed from his influences, that of exalting skills over understanding, has had a far greater influence over your child's education (and your own), than the Founding Fathers of our Republic have had over either of you in well over a century, and a corrosive multiculturalism is the inevitable result of a view point that cannot see, or even acknowledge, the existence of the whole.

And that philosophy is what is guiding the education of our children, today, at this moment.

Dewey's fellow traveler Ellwood P. Cubberley, an early proponent and innovator in standardized testing, and an architect of modern (and by modern he meant ever larger) schools, school systems and the expansive office and role of the school superintendent, enthused that,
"... our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life..."
as well as the the heartwarming view that::
"Each year the child is coming to belong more to the State and less and less to the parent."
In other words, the child is a Product that is produced in the factories of the State, which owns the rights thereto.

That was in 1909 mind you. If you wonder how America has wound up where it is today, you might also find it useful to keep in mind that the father of American education  Dewey, was also seen as the father of the educational system of the USSR.


Those sentiments have not diminished over the last century, but have grown in power and influence over us all.

Our Educationista Leaders today repeatedly show that they have an affinity for quoting such admirable central planners as the mass murdering Chairman Mao (45 million people killed=mass), as can be seen in this recent instance when in the Common Core Curriculum's recommended "Kids' Zone" website.
"Our attitude towards ourselves should be: 'to be satiable in learning' and towards others to be 'tireless in teaching' "
And lest you want to give them a pass on that, with something like "Oh come on, it's just a nice saying", it is no such thing. Read it again, there's nothing quaint about it at all. The quote of the day from Chairman Mao is:
"Our attitude towards ourselves should be: 'to be satiable in learning' and towards others to be 'tireless in teaching' "
, which means, that you should be Satisfied with, unquestioning of, accepting of, what you are taught, seeking no more than what has been determined is best for you, and that you should then be tireless in spreading it to others - IOW, you should be an unthinking vehicle for spreading propaganda.

How very educational.

When those in power believe that their own smart ideas are sufficient justification for their acting on them, then they will do just that, even if the law they supposedly operate under, such as that which formed the Dept of Education forbids it, and especially if they think their reasons, and the greater good, are smarter decisions than what the law allows them. If they think they have the power to get away with it, they will do what they want - power is their purpose and their guide, not considerations of what is Right and Wrong. It's only pragmatic.

The most overlooked aspect of the question of 'What to do about the parents', is that, thanks to the Progressives, that question doesn't just apply to those who are parents today, but tomorrow as well. The Progressives traditionally shy away from sudden revolutionary actions such as those favored by Glaucon & Adeimantus - after all, those scare people - instead the Progressive way of change is to never state your actual goals, but to talk about the most appealing spin that can be put upon them, so as to go slowly, so as to proRegressively erode the memories of standards and ethics until they are replaced by more progressive ideas. In other words, the ultimate answer to 'What to do about the parents', is to manufacture a newer and more improved model of them to take the place of the current and more bothersome line of products... soon to be discontinued (and perhaps recalled...?).

That is just what modern education has done.

There is little outcry from Americans today, because most parents today are that product that has been relentlessly produced in Cubberly's factory schools. Too many Parents, peons, and princes alike - are Cubberly & Dewey's product, and, like the Borg, they are rapidly assimilating the rest of us. People such as Mayor Bloomberg, Cass Sunstein, etc., are intent on doing just that, and being who they are, they will put their smart ideas into practice in your life. They really do believe that once they've come up with a smart idea, then Nothing more needs to be said and that's that... power, efficiency, effectiveness (or the shallow appearance of it) are the goals that drive them, not Justice, Rights and the Rule of Law.

And the ProRegressives are calculating that enough of you have been assimilated, as were your parents and probably theirs as well, that they can now, at long last, make their final grab for power, free from having to worry about any one's parents - today or tomorrow.

I'll leave off this section with just the last few lines (though it is an almost unbearable temptation not to include more - read it!) of Dewey's "My Pedagogic Creed
I believe, finally, that the teacher is engaged, not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life.
I believe that every teacher should realize the dignity of his calling; that he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of proper social order and the securing of the right social growth.
I believe that in this way the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.
Is there anything in that passage that leads you to believe that these undeniably smart people, do not feel quite comfortable in their ability, and responsibility, to live your life for you?

How about this, from his "School and Society. Chapter 1:The School and Social Progress
It is to this, then, that I especially ask your attention: the effort to conceive what roughly may be termed the "New Education" in the light of larger changes in society. Can we connect this "New Education" with the general march of events ? If we can, it will lose its isolated character, and will cease to be an affair which proceeds only from the over-ingenious minds of pedagogues dealing with particular pupils. It will appear as part and parcel of the whole social evolution, and, in its more general features at least, as inevitable.
Do you need a translation of that?
"All your children are belong to us"
Tomorrow, how the Common Core expects to handle the parents, and what you can do about it.
(Cross posted at The Bell News)

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Common Core Curriculum: New answers to a very old question pt.1

There's an interesting core issue which the Common Core Curriculum, CCSSI, Race To The Top, CSCOPE and all the other latest variations upon the theme have in common; they all have a stake in providing new answers to a very old question. Surprisingly, the question is not concerned with the children - they are after all securely in the tender hands of the State. No, the common core question which our bureaucrats are struggling to spin their way around today, is the same one that two young reformers, Glaucon & Adeimantus, came face to face with in Plato's dialog "The Republic", when, as Socrates led them down the dazzling path of central planning 2,500 years ago, they too had to consider the question of:
'What to do about the parents?"
Why? Because the road to Utopia requires that reformers capture (one way or the other) the allegiance of the youth, yet once the best laid plans of bureaucrats and thinkers come together to create the ideal state, then as now, they soon find that while it might be a cinch to get children to trust and believe in the State's 'royal lie' (for the greater good!), how are they going to prevent the children's parents from exposing them to other answers, older ideas, different beliefs and worst of all, lead them to question the Royal Lie? IOW, they must all plan for,
"What if those darn parents go and muck it all up?"
So what's a reformer to do? Well the Common Core crowd has come up with some interesting new answers to this age old question, and they boil down to a three step process:
  1. Centralize power away from local parents to ever more distant authorities
  2. Create consortium's to ease the outsourcing of key decisions to those who just know best.
  3. Safeguard the curriculum from the interference of parents.
Given how old the question is, before going into the details of today's 'smart' answers to our 'Common Core' question - and how to oppose them - it's worth taking a moment to look at some of the other answers, past and present, that powerfully smart people have proposed, and very often put in place - and how they were allowed to.

In "The Republic", over the course of an afternoon walk, Socrates leads his two young social reformers through an extended examination of just what Justice might be, and just what it would take to reform the world into a more just place, a smarter, more efficient, more secure and - in their humble opinion - just a generally superior place to live. What soon becomes glaringly obvious to them, is that establishing such a utopia would require teaching its inhabitants a view of the world that will be friendly to those who have power over it.

Now, if you're not familiar with "The Republic", which is likely the case if you've been educated by people who dread the thoughts which such "old dead white guy"'s words might cause you to think - and especially the questions they'd likely lead you into asking of them - there are some things you should keep in mind, because they are key to keeping these smart people from evicting you from your own mind.

First and foremost, that they arrive at this question after Socrates, with Glaucon & Adeimantus in tow, has walked them through his 'dialectic' (a series of probing questions, imaginative reflections and logic checks) with the patron demon of "Might makes Right!", Thrasymachus, the sophist who had famously asserted:
If you don't realize just how dripping with grave dust old the ideas of our 'Progressives' are, try not to look too closely at Melissa Harris-Perry's latest 'smart idea':
"Narrating a new MSNBC "Lean Forward" spot, the Tulane professor laments that we in America "haven't had a very collective notion that these are our children." "[W]e have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities,..."

Why do I call them ProRegressives? Because the only progress they ever make, is in taking us back to a time when someone else owned your life and lived it for you. It is Barbaric.
"...I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger..."

In replying to him, Socrates quickly exposes, question by question, check by check, with Thrasymachus fuming and spluttering against every word drawn out of him, the deep corruption and utter foolishness, inherent in the idea of allowing those in power (whether the few or the many) to determine that Justice is what those in power think is best for those under their power.

Walk through that brief exchange when you have a chance, and for fun, try telling yourself it has nothing to do with our world today - or the one Melissa Harris-Perry envisions for you.

And so having already covered that ground in principle, Socrates leads his two young smarty pants over what they all should have recognized, through the thin disguise of circumstance, to be the very same ground, which culminates in our common core question. However, in their defense, Socrates has done something to make the ground harder to recognize, and this you should take note of, and you should keep on the lookout for it in your own life and environment. What he did was simple enough, he puffed Glaucon & Adeimantus' heads up with copious amounts of self importance and flattery (see Josef Peiper's excellent "Abuse of language, abuse of power"), (and the video above), and in that state, they quickly came to see themselves in the light of being "the true philosopher kings".

That's some spin. Where just a short time earlier they had easily recognized power lust when it came from a thug like Thrasymachus; they failed, just a short time later, to recognize that same failing in the guise of their own reflections - surely those who looked so fine as they could only be seeking to use power 'for the greater good' - right...? And given that, surely they would be best able to determine the best common core standards for how the state's precious human capital (children) should be invested, and spent (can you spare a dime?), right? And since people such as themselves would be best - shouldn't they use their power to do what they know is best? They are, after all,
"...despising the honours of this present world which they deem mean and worthless, esteeming above all things right and the honour that springs from right, and regarding justice as the greatest and most necessary of all things, whose ministers they are, and whose principles will be exalted by them....."
Through that fun house mirror of the power to do good unto others, their own point of view and interests are transformed into the most distinguishing feature in sight - which is a perspective which central planners secretly, and not so secretly, crave seeing themselves from. So then, securely seated on that highest of high pedestals, Socrates directs their attention down to our question, and being so full of themselves at that point, neither one of them even blinks when the question is placed plainly before them:
" How will they proceed?
They will begin by sending out into the country all the inhabitants of the city who are more than ten years old, and will take possession of their children, who will be unaffected by the habits of their parents; these they will train in their own habits and laws, I mean in the laws which we have given them: and in this way the State and constitution of which we were speaking will soonest and most easily attain happiness, and the nation which has such a constitution will gain most.
Revolutionary do-gooders that they are, asked to consider the idea of 'Suppose we take all of the children and get rid of their parents (for a good cause), sound good?', they don't even blink at the thought; they simply shrug and say :
" Yes, that will be the best way. And I think, Socrates, that you have very well described how, if ever, such a constitution might come into being.
Socrates, with, IMHO, a wink to the reader, leaves it just sitting there for us to think upon,
" Enough then of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its image—there is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe him.
And for Glaucon & Adeimantus, that's apparently not a problem, for without the least hint that they might have just experienced Socrates' famous irony at its most ironic (even if Plato himself might not have), reply:
There is no difficulty, he replied; and I agree with you in thinking that nothing more need be said.”
Nothing more needs to be said and that's that.

I hope you recognize, as Melissa Harris-Perry and Bill Ayers do (?), just how old today's news is.

What more needs to be said when 'Nothing more needs to be said'?
One commenter on that passage noted:
"This is another of the passages in which Plato seems to lend support to revolutionaries. ... But Plato always held that the reformer must have or make a clean slate. ... And he constantly emphasizes the supreme importance of education."
Of course, you'd probably say that it would be monstrous to seize children from their parents, and exile them, or worse, and I'd agree with you, yet that is nevertheless exactly how central planners and reformers, then as now, actually do think. Central planning is always central to planning those ends which justify your means, which is why it is so dangerous to allow them, unchecked, the power to put their thoughts into action.

But to write Plato off that quickly, robs you of the one absolutely critical tool he gives you, that you can use to stop that potentially totalitarian state of do-goodery, in its tracks.

These commentators who like to take such easy shots as these at Plato, and for which he is often called the founder of the totalitarian state, they neglect to point out that if there's anything uncharacteristic of Socrates, as Plato has portrayed him, it is saying that 'Nothing more needs to be said'. It was Plato's own fear of sentiments such as 'nothing more needs to be said' and 'that's that' that caused Plato, a budding playwright, early on in life, to set fire to all of the plays he had written, because he was so frustrated with how the written word tended, in his view, to end active thought in those who read them.

What led Plato back into print was the truly revolutionary idea that instead of writing books or plays which, in his view, embalmed thoughts upon the page, he would write Dialogs. Dialogs were, are, meant to function as active conversations with the reader, and not just a lifeless recording of what had once upon a time been said and written down. Instead, the dialogs he wrote were to demonstrate the Socratic Method of questioning, so that it could be used to expose the deeper meanings of statements which might otherwise be uncritically accepted as "That's that, nothing more need be said" - and that is the key to overturning them.

When we come across such statements in the dialogs, just laying there, unchallenged, they are supposed to, IMHO, be our cue to continue the questioning ourselves, and to do so with a special emphasis on looking at issues in which we ourselves might be seeing the world through that same fun house mirror. When we notice those same statements being put out there in our world, unchallenged, they should serve as our cues to not only take up the dialog, but to take the next step and expand it, bringing in to the dialog those around us, helping each other to recognize that there is much more to be said on the issue.

Listen to the video above from Melissa Harris-Perry, and ask yourself, if you do not do your duty as a thinking person, as a citizen, and ask these 'What if' questions of those who have either been placed in power over you, or who, like her, presume themselves to direct those who are in power over you, what will prevent them from subjecting you to the power of their unchecked perspective? What will prevent their questions of What to do with you, if you cause those in power trouble? , from being the only questions that are asked?

Socrates famously used his dialectic method to tease the meanings of, and the flaws out of, the ideas of the 'Great Men' of his society (which, BTW, is what got him put to death)... and Plato, through his dialogs, has transmitted that method to us so that you & I can learn how to carry them into our time as participants in them (which is perhaps our truest Common Core). So that even if Plato got it wrong, the conversation needn't stop there, instead, it could, and should, gather new life and relevance through your continuation of it. Plato's value is not in what he said - I disagree with the vast majority of the statements and conclusions in his dialogs - but in the questions he raised and more importantly, the method he demonstrated in raising them - questioning, defining, integrating, clarifying, exposing contradictions and questioning still further - which you can and should use in your life today.

Especially in your life today, when so many are attempting to assume the ability to think and to speak for you - assuming that you parents are only tending their children - you need the ability which Socrates' method provides, to not just speak out against them, but to unravel them. Publicly.

Which probably explains why, though his dialogs once had a central role in our education, they are now either mistaught, or go entirely untaught, to our students today. With that in mind, I'll lay this statement out there for all you educational reformers - state, profit or private - ripe for the picking:
  • If a central part of your education did not consist of developing the habit of methodically questioning (through questions, not doubts) what is offered to you as knowledge, and if you have no framework for judging the worthiness of the answers your questions receive - answers capable of withstanding the same and able to integrate with your wider understanding - then no matter how many facts and skills you might be able to muster, or how many degrees you have acquired attesting to them, those skills you have received do not amount to an Education.
Have at it.

And if you cannot find fault with my statement, and yet that method is not central to your method of understanding the world around you, then you might want to consider what you have been given in its place. .. and what our children are being given in its place today.

And best of all, you don't have to go to school to learn what you weren't taught, you only need to read the instruction manuals, such as Plato's, and practice asking questions - ask them and you shall receive the idiocies of the Melissa Harris-Perry's of the world, being exposed, exposed to understanding, to laughter, and to a withering of their power over your life.

Tomorrow: Questioning the goals of the questioners
(Cross posted at The Bell News)