On Sacrificing Children to Educational Abstractions

One view I run across from time to time holds that all parents are morally obliged to send their children to public schools for the greater good. Googling produces:

If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person (From Slate, you’ll be stunned to learn)

There’s a Simple Solution to the Public Schools Crisis ban private schools! (Gawker – likewise shocking.)

Why not ban private schools? From some education blog doing its part to normalize the concept. Warren Buffet is a fan, bringing to mind a quotation from the otherwise forgettable I Robot movie:

Let’s complete our sources with the Huffington Post:  Warren Buffett Is Right: It’s Time to Ban Private Schools Well, that should about settle it. When such luminous examples of enlightenment and right thinking come thundering together like a herd of cliff-bound buffalo, what is a mere mortal to do but agree?

A smarter dumb person might refer such thinkers to the 1925 Supreme Court case  Pierce v. Society of Sisters, in which the Court stated that

Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska,262 U.S. 390, we think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control: as often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the State. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

(Aside: interesting to note how the Wikipedia essay and a few other sources I looked at – they possibly all came from some one common source – ignored, or all but ignored, the passage above and its implications, but focused instead on how the court determined this law unconstitutionally put legitimate businesses – schools – out of business without cause or compensation. So, let’s talk money instead of the rights of parents and children? Hmmm.)

But we only like legal precedent when it backs up what we already favor – it is only to be ignored when it doesn’t. So I suppose this is unconvincing, and we must now rehash the ancient, ancient history of 90 years ago, when people were much less sophisticated and enlightened than they are now.

All this came to mind while reading a rather preposterous essay at something called the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal which, to be fair, seems to have its heart in the right place. The essay, A Letter to Conservatives: You Need College and College Definitely Needs You, applies roughly the same logic the above thinkers cooked up for k-12 public schools to public colleges and universities.

You can read it, if that floats your boat. Lots to talk about. Here, I’ll confine myself to just one little thing, something that often infects postmodern popular thinking when its pretending to be fair and is the unspoken crux of this pro state colleges and universities argument:(1) that, simply because the positions can and have been separated along a pre-existing political conservative/liberal axis, they must each be treated as equals, having equal weight and deserving of equal respect.

The thing is, state colleges and universities are not the voting booth, where we have an opportunity free from coercion to express our political beliefs by picking candidates and laws we like. Even more important, we spend maybe a few hours of our lives each year on voting, and even then only if we want to. Colleges and universities, especially if you don’t live at home, are all but 24/7 with comparatively rare and temporary escapes, for as long as you attend them. You won’t merely be harangued for a few minutes while you gut your way through the opposite side’s arguments in the voter’s pamphlet. Nope – teachers will harangue you in class, pester you with homework, grade you on how well you can regurgitate their views and otherwise force-feed you their positions.

And the college student is typically 18 to 22 or so, which is by no stretch a mature adult. These days, at least.

What if, say, one side is happy to argue with and make space for the other, while the other side attempts to exclude and silence their opponents? Forget the political associations for a moment. This isn’t traditional Republicans and Democrats here, who have (had?) some incentive to work together at least some of the time. This is between ideologues who believe their end is so wonderful as to justify any means, that the individual is nothing and the collective everything, who believe rights accrue to people only insofar as they are true believers, and even then only so long as those rights don’t interfere with the goal – and people who reject all those claims. The latter position welcomes argument; the former sees rational discussion as something dangerous to be shouted down, and those who insist on it to be vilified.

So, pretending like subjecting your kid to Marxists is just another learning experience, like a field trip to the sea shore, and at any rate is comparable to subjecting them to classical liberal education is mind-blowingly clueless, at best.

For example:

What about indoctrination by leftist professors? The lack of viewpoint diversity in the academy is definitely a problem. It frustrates me to see how ideologically-biased the social sciences and humanities in particular have become. Academia has long leaned left, but, as has been revealed in a number of recent surveys, this is increasingly the case. In some disciplines, it is easier to find a Marxist than a Republican. Classical liberalism is giving way to left-wing fundamentalism.

As a result, you feel like the college campus is not a welcoming place for your kind. But do you like the safe space movement on many college campuses you keep hearing about? Well, conservatives don’t need safe spaces either.

Your sons and daughters should go to college and take the full range of classes, even ones from Marxist sociologists. They will learn something. In fact, if your children share your conservative views, they will receive a better education than the progressive students who are getting their beliefs reinforced, not challenged. Your children’s thinking on important issues will become more nuanced and sophisticated.

Education is about expanding knowledge and being exposed to new ideas, not affirming existing beliefs. Plus, many college courses have little or nothing to do with political or social ideology.

Note how little concern is shown for the intellectual (or moral) fate of the already liberal kids being indoctrinated by Marxists – and learning not to argue and to condemn as hopelessly benighted any who are so unenlightened as to disagree. That’s presumed to be just dandy, except insofar as they won’t get quite as good an education as those conservative kids who take those same classes and – it is presumed – are immune to all the social and psychological pressure to conform such classes bring to bear. Mom and dad are presumed to have never taken such classes or heard of Stockholm Syndrome.

Anyway: a parent’s first loyalty and duty are to his kids, not the public schools nor the state control such schools represent. The Supreme Court has made that the law of the land! You’re not letting anyone down, and certainly not your kid, by refusing to send them to a public school, or state college or university.

(My kids were told they could go to any college they wanted, but if they wanted my financial help, it needed to be on the Newman List.)

  1. In the articles linked above, there is no pretense at withholding judgement: those who disagree – conservatives and other on the Wrong Side of History, one can safely conclude from who the publishers are – are dismissed with a sneer. Only the last essay, which is attempting to reason with conservatives, doesn’t do that – but it doesn’t sneer at the Liberal position, either.
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Science! Time Spent with Children

I think this qualifies as Science! because lots of people will decide it’s true and look at you funny (at best) if you disagree:

Parents now spend twice as much time with their children as 50 years ago. Except in France. From the Economist.

There are pretty charts showing time spent with children by mothers and fathers across decades and cultures, from 1965 to 2012. Also work University education into the mix. Nice smooth curves, too – that’s the way progress works, after all, it just smoothly moves us into a better future without any hiccups.

OK, let’s count the ways this is nonsense:

1. What does time spent with their children mean? Does it mean the same thing in France in 1965 as in the US in 1992 as in Japan in 2012? From family to family? How would you know this? Am I spending time with my children if the family sits down together for dinner? What if the TV is on at the same time? Does an hour at dinner with wine, conversation and manners count the same as an hour during which people come and go, watch TV or work on homework at the same time? And on and on. This issue alone renders the entire exercise meaningless.

2. What does University educated mean? Same thing in the US in 1965 as in Italy in 2012? How would we know? Is it self reported? Barber college count?

3. Methodology consistent across time and space? Double-blind observation on thousands of subjects validated against clearly defined categories?  (Not likely.) Or a variety of surveys relying on self-reporting by self-selected (those willing to take the survey) subjects? Or what? Because if you measure one group one way and another another way, all bets are off.

4. Self reporting biases: Are they dealt with somehow? Because I’d bet they’re in there. Do French parent feel like spending too much time with their kids makes them old-fashioned or otherwise looked down on by their peers? Did Danes come to some sudden realization after 1965 that the parenting methods of Lief Erikson lead to lopping off heads and slaughtering monks, which had lamentably gone out of fashion, so they switched it up? Or what?

And then you combine these issues, and you get more problems. Dads in the US, for example, have certainly been shamed into spending time with kids in traditional motherly ways since 1965. Having kids hang around while you chop wood or fix the Chevy – does that count? As much as changing their diapers or fixing them dinner?

I, for one, will be very skeptical of claims that modern moms and dads find more time to be with their kids than people in the bad old days. Getting horribly cynical here: They’re clearly taking time out from looking for husband #3 or drinking in the hookup bars with their buddies to arrange their days around custody schedules. Or maybe custody schedules are the sole drivers, here? I spend more net time with the kids and step kids because I’m stuck with one set while my spouse is visiting the other set? Does time spent in court or with lawyers count?

Seriously: nothing can or should be made of fluff like this. Therefore, one should expect to be accused of being anti-science if one rejects it.

Another David Warren Thought Bomb

Mr. Warren here discusses the phenomenon of Islam to Christian conversion.

There is a large and growing defection, worldwide, of Muslims to the Christian religion. This we know from many sources; I’ve been aware of the phenomenon for more than twenty years. It does not make the news because it is not “newsworthy.” That is to say, it does not fit with anyone’s agenda in the West, and is anyway a dangerous story to cover, for subjects and journalists alike. Oddly enough, it gets most play in Islamic media, where “we are losing the battle of conversions” has become almost an obsession. By “worldwide” I mean in Europe and the Americas, in Asia and in Africa, and also throughout the Dar al-Islam. It is of great historical significance, for it has been practically a truism that Muslims don’t convert. “Death for apostasy” is only the beginning of the disincentives, built into any society in the process of Islamicization.

Our brave journalists, whose normal levels of prudence disincline them to reporting too much on Islam as it really is, would be much more easily forgivable for this lapse if they didn’t typically tip-toe around the lacuna while reporting heavily on Islam and Christianity as they would like to imagine they are.

But issues of cowardice, bravery, prudence and wishful thinking are not the news. In a cosmic sense, there is no news here, nothing new under the sun. Our Lady is acting to pull in her most downtrodden and desperate children, as she has done for centuries, whenever events have made the direct path to her Son too obscure and treacherous. She pulls them out of despair and into the arms of her Son. I would not be surprised if, soon, one or more Islamic Guadalupanas put in an appearance. It would be just the Blessed Mother’s style.

Western missionary attempts to convert Muslims were a multi-generational, abject failure. They worked against the seed of the Christian religion within the Muslim world itself, associating it with something foreign and “imperialist.” While the missionary enterprise in sub-Saharan Africa was more successful, little was achieved there, either. It was when Africans themselves took up the cause, that the Christian religion began to spread like wildfire: from less than a million to hundreds of millions in a few brief generations. And as Muslim loyalists decry, this wave keeps pushing northwards.

I make this comparison because it explains so much. Muslims, as immigrant Africans in Europe and America, are unimpressed with Western religious and family life. How could they have any respect for us? We have mostly abandoned both. Yet those of spiritual calling are drawn to the very Christian religion that we have rejected. It provides answers to questions that are still asked; it replies to the very objections that Islamic propagandists circulate. The chief passage is through Our Lady, “Mariam,” who points not to the later Prophet of the Hejaz, but to her own divine Son.

Just as Our Lady pulled in 10s of millions of Americans just as 10s of millions of Northern Europeans fell away, we may pray that she rescues hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa as Europe and the US secularize with a vengeance.

The future of Christianity is not European. We have perhaps forgotten that Christ did not rise in the West, but in the East; or for geographical punctilio, at the interchange of the three vast continents of the Old World. Arabs, as all Africans and Asians, are capable of noticing this.

Moreover, the future of Christianity, within “The West,” is also not European.

It will prove too “traditional” for that. For the appeal of a lukewarm, compromised, corrupted, “progressive” and “secularized” Christianity — to sincere Christian converts — is zero.

Please read the whole thing, it’s excellent (as always) and even encouraging.

Home Improvement Oops

I learned to measure things at my dad’s sheet metal shop. Two things about working with sheet metal and my dad: metal doesn’t change dimensions much with humidity; and a 10th of an inch is close enough but hardly fussy.

Ever since I started working with wood, I’ve had problems: wood, at least along 2 out of 3 axes, does change dimensions with humidity, and a 10th of an inch is way less than the amount the width and thickness of wood change as it dries and absorbs moisture. I keep telling myself not to cut things so tight, and I keep cutting it too close anyway.

Current case in point: this oak door I made for the brick oven:

IMG_4538

Weeeell, I was shooting for about 3/8″ of clearance on the sides, which I more or less achieved – during the heat and dry of summer. Should have shot for 1/2″ at least. One problem is that the old, recycled bricks that form the arch into which the door fits are hardly consistent and smooth. They have uneven surfaces even apart from any inconsistency in my brick work. My 3/8th” theoretical clearance was not achieved in practice.

So: While it rained maybe a week before, had a few nice days over Thanksgiving and the almost 22 year old son was in town only a couple days before his birthday, and so was thinking about firing the oven up. The door, while maybe a bit snug this summer, at the time still fit without too much falderal.

When we last used the oven, we left the door in. On Friday, it had swollen to the point of complete immobility. I yanked. I pushed. I wiggled. Nothing – stuck so that any more force seemed likely to break it.

Found a little fan, ran it for a day straight – nothing. I’m considering seeing if I can whack it from the inside with a sledge stuck down the chimney (kind of doubt it). Seriously getting worried it may destroy the brickwork if it swells any more.

If I ever get it out of there, will trim the sides a bit – and store it somewhere dry for the winter.

A Triad & A Ponder

Here are two not-quite-complete yet compelling to me thoughts that haunt the windswept hallways of my head. Or something like that. When I consider history, especially the history of philosophy, it seems that certain ideas fall into stages: somebody forcefully, if not particularly logically, takes a position that sticks it to a particular concept of The Man. Then, thinkers come along who like the earlier forceful statement or its consequences, and they back-fill and scaffold it so that it can claim some respectability. Finally, the respectable-ish philosophical positions get reduced to slogans or New Think or something like that. Sets like this – old, forceful idea; philosophical back-fill; slogan – occur to me regularly. Of course, now that I sit down to type, I can only recall this one Triad. More later as events warrant.

I think that, for the people who believe them, these thoughts occupy the same strange emotional landscape, even if the logical connections are hidden (they’re there, but hidden).

Lot of drivel for a 3/4 baked idea. Anyway:

Triad. 

Post-Modern: You don’t understand because you aren’t woke.

Hegelian: The Spirit is not constrained by the rules of traditional logic.

Luther: Reason is a whore.

Ponder.  There really is a subset of people who get things done – leaders, we often call them – whose defining intellectual and emotional trait is defining and fixing on a goal, and then backing into the steps needed to achieve it. You see this, if it is the sort of thing you notice, at every level of life: the business and political worlds, certainly, but also the school meeting and church cleanup committee, and everywhere in between.

Many people, most people, it seems, rarely if ever notice what leaders are doing, but rather just notice who it is they’re following. They hear a heavily abstracted version of a goal – affordable health care, a great America (again) – and that’s all. Only a minority ask how, in detail, we are to achieve the goal, or even for a clear definition of what the goal is. All they do is decide which heavily abstracted vision they will accept.  It has taken me, a very small ‘l’ leader, a lifetime to understand this, and has caused me a lifetime of frustration – I want to explain, people don’t want an explanation. But they will follow.

Weird. I wouldn’t and don’t follow in that sense. Odd duck, me.

The constant regurgitation of Hillary’s popular vote ‘victory’ by her, I suppose, shell-shocked supporters is getting almost as pitiful as it is telling. They just don’t understand how Trump & his team would do what they obviously did: simply back into what steps were needed to win according to the rules in place at the time, and then execute the hell out of them. So, for a fraction of the money Hillary spent, they won. And Trump’s claim that, had the rules called for a popular vote victory instead, he’d have won that, too, ring true in light of the evidence at hand.

This state of things is, I think, simply inconceivable to a large number of people. They want to believe, and therefore do believe, there are essentially magical forces at work, forces that reward Right Thinking on the Right Side of History. These are the mental processes needed to be a socialist True Believer – the concepts break down at every step once you consider the real world so the true believer never considers the real world. Every failure is the fault of some other factor – not True Socialism; every success, however problematic upon examination, is conclusive. Sweden must be a paradise; Venezuela  is not Real Socialism.

What to do about the resistance of the real world to beautiful theory? We’ll just make New Soviet Men to replace the recalcitrant and unwieldy people we actually have, and everything will be wonderful! This seems practical and doable to certain people.

That such thinking is common would be even more panic-inducing if it weren’t for the mitigating grace that such thinkers don’t lead. On the flip side, it is terrifying to realize the people who do lead in this direction don’t think this way – they merely want power, which includes the power to eliminate those persistently recalcitrant and unwieldy people.

 

Prayers, Thanks & Updates

1. Start it off with GKC:

The Americans have established a Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers reached America. The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day; to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England.

Chesterton had a pure and white hot hatred of Puritanism. He granted that at least the old Puritanism encouraged reading the Bible, thereby populating young heads with heroes and warriors, feminine woman and masculine men – something new improved Puritanism has eliminated.

2. 5 years ago, our son Andrew’s death was a means of grace for a conversion. Here is Nadia Mitchell, convert from evangelicalism, being interviewed on the Journey Home:

3. Just yesterday, Mrs Yard Sale of the Mind and I were talking about Pat Bravo, a childhood friend of hers with whom she’d stayed in touch since they’d graduated high school and went their separate ways. She had not heard from Pat in months, even though Pat is the sort of friend to remember every birthday and holiday and unfailingly send cards at the very least.

Anne-Martine had left messages on the phone and had not gotten a call back. Finally, yesterday after our discussion, she tracked down Pat’s father’s number, and left him a message. He called back this morning.

Pat suffered a massive brain aneurysm on August 18th and died the next day. She had had brain cancer many years ago, went into remission after treatment, then had a recurrence, went into remission again, but I guess it finally caught up with her. She was 55, I think. She also had a rough personal life, with a husband who left her and strained relations with her family. She had moved a couple hours away, to Orville, where she’d bought an old house and spent her time fixing it up.

Now Anne-Martine is beating herself up for not having gone to see her this summer. This summer was super-busy around here, and the last conversations she and Pat had were looking at calendars and not being able to work something out.

Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Pat’s death is the third among the small cohort of my wife’s friends from high school or before. Historically, I know having lost a large percentage of childhood friends by your early 50s isn’t all that odd. But it sure seems like a lot.

4. From the profound to the ridiculous: the cat, who spent 10 days in a vet hospital after having eaten a bunch of Nerf darts (stupid cat!) is now sleeping on my bed as I type. He smells like shampoo, which, given his condition and the laxatives they were treating it with, is a huge improvement. Huge. Improvement.

It’s almost like cats know what to do to reestablish bonds with their humans – humans who, in this case, are more than a little grossed out and lighter in the wallet as a result of said cat’s decision to eat toys. He’s been wanting to be carried around or lie on laps purring since he got back.

It’s working. Stupid humans. Remaining issue: he was in no condition to groom himself and neither were we there to brush his super-fine and long hair. So now he has mats, several in locations where brushing (or cutting – don’t tell the vet!) them out will be difficult. We’ll see how tolerant he is of people tugging on his fur in awkward ways and places. Did I mention he’s a very large cat with serious claws and a high 0 to shred them! time? Sigh.

5. Grateful for my family, faith and health. Grateful God has seen fit to make us not poor by any stretch – learning magnanimity sounds like a better draw than learning poverty. Grateful I live in a beautiful place in a time of peace and plenty. It would be small of me to regret having to share it with those Californians who give us the reputation we, unfortunately, deserve. Right? Give me a second to unclench my jaws. There, much better. The weather is really, really, nice – about 70 and sunny today, for example.

6. Heading off to Uncle John’s for family Thanksgiving in a couple hours. 3 out of 4 extant children are here. Anna-Kate, the younger daughter attending school in New Hampshire, is staying with her Uncle Patrick in Massachusetts with other family. She baked them pies – she’s very, very good at baking pies, or, indeed, baking pretty much anything. Lucky them.

However, Mrs. Yard Sale of the Mind, from whom Anna Kate learned to bake, is baking *us* pies. Lucky us!

Have a happy and holy Thanksgiving!

Pre-Thanksgiving Southern Instance

Most years for the last decade, we Northern Moores have headed south the weekend before Thanksgiving to visit my little brothers and their families. Turns out, it’s generally cheaper – and a lot more fun – to rent a Newport Beach beach house at off-season rates than to put 6-7 people up in a Motel.

So, this year, we had 3 of the 4 extant children, grandma and a houseguest friend in a house at the north end of the beach one block off the sand. It’s been fun. Had the brothers ( and our elder daughter’s boyfriend – a first ‘family meets the boyfriend moment! He is a very nice young man) over for dinner yesterday.

Right now, the 5 of us left went to the Balboa Fun Zone for ice cream, then took the ferry over to Balboa Island from which we watched the sunset: 



Catching the return ferry back to the van, then to the house where there’s chicken to barbecue. Head home tomorrow.

Life is good.