Books, Question, Dumb Stuff, Writing

Books: On John C. Wright’s general recommendation, got Writing the Breakout Novel, which I’m now reading. It is being helpful so far.

Also got Mike Flynn’s Captive Dreams. Been meaning to for a while. Now to find time to read it.

Also also, got Recovering a Catholic Philosophy of Elementary Education for when I get back on the education reading wagon.

Question: I use the Google news feed as “the news”, meaning if it appears there I consider it to have made the news, and if not, I don’t see it. Well? Does this seem fair? Prudent? I’m working under the assumption that Google is no more or less biased on the whole than any other means I could come up with to determine what is “in the news” at any given time.

Dumb Stuff: Speaking of which, a couple weeks back, I noticed in the news – the Google news feed, that is – that the markets, after pretty much uninterrupted gains since Trump’s election, had a few down days. Did the headlines say, as the often do, “Markets Pull Back as Investors Take Profits” or something like that? Is the Pope unambiguous? Headlines read, instead, that the honeymoon was over! Investor confidence in Trump had petered out. Sigh. Markets go up and down. If you knew why (beyond it being merely the mechanical result of people buying and selling stock), then you’d be rich – and not writing headlines. Ya know?

So now, the markets have resumed their irrational exuberance or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. Do the headline writers give Trump credit? Like saying -“Oops! We Were Wrong About the Honeymoon Being Over” or in any way acknowledge that what they’d said a mere week or two ago was patent nonsense? Trump still appalls me, but not nearly as much as the out of control frothing attacks on him. Here’s a pro tip: Wait a bit, and Trump will do something objectively bad that you can clobber him for – every other president has. (He probably already has, but how is one to spot it among all the ravings and spittle?) Then you (the headline writers) won’t look so stupid to anyone with eyes to see.

Dumber still, I read and was writing an analysis of an essay by some Chicago reporter that was an attack on those with the temerity to point out that, wow, despite (?) a solid century or more of Progressive leadership, including lots of gun control, people in Chicago sure do seem to murder each other at a much higher rate than in other cities. We are assured the reasons for the 59% year over year increase in murder rate are complicated, and in any event invisible unless you happen to have lived you whole life in Chicago – I’m boiling it down a bit, but that’s what the residue lining the pot looks like when the boiling is done. And if you insist on pushing the question, you are by that fact alone acting with bad intent.

It was getting out of hand – there was so much misdirection (1) that I was getting pages into my analysis and was still digging yet more craziness up. So I stopped. Unless we can deal first with the facts instead of immediately playing the ‘it’s complicated, you can’t understand’ card, there is no discussion.

It seems, then, there is no discussion.

jan-austen
You get the idea. 

Writing: Finally, as mentioned above, I’m reading that Writing the Breakout Novel book, which is eating into my writing time, but I figure it will help in the long run. The first takeaway is not made explicitly, but reminds me of my callow youth, when I used to compose music. I discovered that – you’ll be shocked – coming up with nice tunes and pretty snippets of music was easy. Keeping fixed in mind where the whole composition was going proved much more difficult. Unless you want to write very short pieces, you have to know, on some level, where you are going before you start.(3)

Same with writing novels. I had all these cool tech and plot ideas. But where is the story going? How does it move from A to B to C? This may seem crazy, but I grabbed Jane Austen’s Emma to read, since I hear it has exactly what I’m most missing: complicated characters acting out of a variety of interest and talents toward different and conflicting goals. And it is otherwise completely different from what I’m working on.

Bottom line: I am not (yet) frustrated with the slow writing. I want to wrap up these explorations of technique ASAP, then just refuse to do any more until the book is done.

Hey, it’s a plan.

  1. e.g., in one linked article, the claim was made that more deadly weapons were now being used – I suppose they mean higher caliber? In one year? A commentator noted that Al Capone and his fellow solid Chicago citizens preferred .45 calibre Thompson sub machineguns that, at the time, were available for purchase at hardware stores. Yet, even counting the people Capone offed, there were still only 50 murders per year in Chicago, so blaming the increased deadliness on more powerful weapons seems a reach. For making this point, the commentator was called all sorts of names. Go figure.
  2. e.g., that, while Chicago’s murder rate keeps going up, cities like Houston have a flat murder count (despite a growing population) even though they have about the same racial & ethnic mix as Chicago and are about the same size.
  3. I love improve – probably what I’m best at – but those off the cuff compositions tend to meander, stick to very simple forms, or both. Or end up formless goo.

 

Update, Upcoming Book Reviews

Home from work today with a Martian Death Cold or something. If my head clears up enough to think for a while, plan to finally review a book or two – Forbidden Thoughts, maybe Souldancer (although I should really reread that last one). Also got the rest of the Moth & Cobweb series out so far, as well as the Rachel Griffin books. Need to find that sweet spot between too sick to go to work (man, we modern sissies!) yet clear-headed enough to write reviews. And let’s not talk about the education history stuff, OK?

Speaking of education history, never finished Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed  because AAAGH! MY EYES! I mean, because it follows a traditional Marxist analysis while at the same time remaining abstract to the point of meaninglessness – but I repeat myself – and my stomach for such nonsense is not as sturdy as it might be. Am trying to plow through now.

Image result for dolly parton body
“It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” – Dolly Parton (1)

It takes a lot of brains, sometimes, to be this stupid. Not that Freire is all that sharp – he’s learned to apply the Marxist/Hegelian template, which, if I am not mistaken, studies have shown lungfish can be trained to do.

The key is to stay way up in the clouds. Don’t drag the real world (except under the guise of ‘concrete reality’, whatever that might mean) into it until you’ve softened up the target established the intellectual underpinnings, as it were.

Here’s a more-or-less random chunk, for your edification and amusement:

While the problem of humanization has always, from an axiological point of view, been humankind’s central problem, it now takes on the character of an inescapable concern.[1] Concern for humanization leads at once to the recognition of dehumanization, not only as an ontological possibility but as an historical reality And as an individual perceives the extent of dehumanization, he or she may ask if humanization is a viable possibility. Within history in concrete, objective contexts, both humanization and dehumanization are possibilities for a person as an uncompleted being conscious of their incompletion.

It’s not so much that it is incoherent per se (by Marxist standards it’s practically Hemingway), it’s just that in education departments all over America this book is assigned to teenagers and twenty-somethings who, it can be safely assumed, have no philosophical or historical background, no practice deciphering jargon-laden pseudo-philosophy – and no instruction or background in clearing Marxist weeds so that the thoughts – when you get down to it, childish revenge fantasies packaged for people with daddy issues – can be seen for what they are.  In fact, they are encouraged to see this as the height of trenchant analysis and compassion. You know, the kind of compassion that gets 100 million defenseless people murdered.

And that, sadly, is the trick: whereas a liberal education, traditionally, was intended to provide the student with the intellectual, philosophical, logical and aesthetic background needed to do battle with these dragons of incoherence and despair, modern training (not education in any meaningful sense!) lines the kids up and marches them into the gaping maw.

They never know what hit them, and go on through life never laughing at Marx, which, in the abstract, is the correct response.

  1. Story: have a major client in Nashville, and so have taken people out to dinner quite often there in nicer restaurants. Thus, I once ate dinner inside of 10′ from Dolly Parton. Nobody bugged her – I certainly didn’t. That’s the whole thing about country: the stars remain accessible – and the fans give them a little space. Very cool.

 

Short Education History in Bullet Form – Part I

Let’s wrap up 2016 with a bullet-point summary of the history of education in America over the last 200+ years. We will start with the roots of the compulsory graded classroom model as invented and first put into practice by the late 18th and early 19th century Prussians.

Image result for old school house
“The old Limestone Schoolhouse, shown around 1910. One-room schoolhouses were in use from the early 1700s here. A dozen were functioning in the mid-1800s. In 1915, many closed when the new Benjamin Franklin Grammar School opened on East Ridge (it’s now the core of the “old high school” building). Others closed in 1925 and the last, in 1939.”

Preface: 2 points to always keep in mind.

  1. While I may be more trustworthy than most, insofar as I am mortified by and correct any untruths I may pass along, nevertheless: don’t believe me, or rather perhaps, don’t believe *me*. Do your own research. This story lays out the issues with trusting sources, and neatly lays out the mentality that has gotten us into our present predicament. (Note especially that the story is told of a small boy, in school, expecting praise. He is Everyboy, and Everygirl. Of whatever age.)
  2. It is common to label any account that contradicts accepted wisdom as a conspiracy theory. Thus, as I lay out the history of education with publically-available sources, using direct quotations when possible, and show that the ideas presented represent the central philosophy and are not just some fringe character having a melt down, it is labeled a conspiracy theory. It is as if those who take the time to understand, say, the Federalist Papers or algebra are *conspiring* against those who do not. The Fichte=>Humboldt=>Harvard and Fichte=>Humboldt=>Horace Mann=> Massachusetts Dept of Ed. path to compulsory graded classroom education in America is simple historical fact, as is their constant purpose in doing so. I’ll try to be clear when I’m speculating versus when I’m just laying stuff out.

First set of bullet points:

  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation (1808/9) were profoundly influential to the development of the modern research university and modern compulsory graded classroom schooling. For example, from the The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Though these lectures later obtained a place of dubious honor as founding documents in the history of German nationalism, they are mainly concerned with the issue of national identity (and particularly with the relationship between language and nationality) and the question of national education (which is the main topic of the work) (emphasis mine)—both of which are understood by Fichte as means toward a larger, cosmopolitan end.

Fichte had always had a lively interest in pedagogical issues and assumed a leading role in planning the new Prussian university to be established in Berlin (though his own detailed plans for the same were eventually rejected in favor of those put forward by Wilhelm von Humboldt). When the new university finally opened in 1810, Fichte was the first head of the philosophical faculty as well as the first elected rector of the university.

  • The new University of Berlin was the model for all modern research universities. Fichte was given a central role there by Humboldt, because the purpose of the University was to bring to completion the project the lower schools were instituted to achieve: the creation of “a new type of citizen who had to be capable of proving themselves responsible.” Whatever that means.

Students, in his (Humboldt’s) view, had to learn to think autonomously and work in a scientific way by taking part in research. The foundation of Berlin University served as a model. It was opened in 1810 and the great men of the era taught there – Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the physician Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, the historian Barthold Georg Niebuhr and the jurist Friedrich Carl von Savigny.[113]

  • Fichte took an ancient Christian idea, that true freedom is only obtained when we choose to follow the will of God, and stood it on its head: true freedom is obtained when we are unable to think other than what our school masters tell us to think.

Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished.

  • All school masters in Fichte’s utopia are trained and employed by the government. School masters are the chosen instruments of the government. In the above quotation, school masters take the place of God.
  • In Fichte’s view, the major driver of a child’s behavior is a desire for the approval of his father. In his view, this desire can be easily refocused on the school master, whose approval shall be doled out based on how well the child conforms to the wishes of the state.
  • In order to facilitate this transfer and replace the child’s father with the state, Fichte wanted all school-age children completely removed from their families and homes for the duration of their educations. (1)
  • Education is not about reading and writing. Pestalozzi, a contemporary of Fichte and a prominent education reformer, was, in Fichte’s view, overly concerned with reading and writing:

Undoubtedly it was solely the desire to release from school as soon as possible the very poorest children for bread-winning, and yet to provide them with a means of making up for the interrupted instruction, that gave rise in Pestalozzi’s loving heart to the over-estimation of reading and writing, to the setting up of these as almost the aim and climax of popular education, and to his simple belief in the testimony of past centuries, that this is the best aid to instruction. For otherwise he would have found that reading and writing have been hitherto just the very instruments for enveloping men in mist and shadow and for making them conceited.(2)

Addresses, sec 136

Summary, part I (we’re into the opinion section now): From at least the time of Luther up into the mid-20th century, education reform as a means of inculcating morality into a nation has been a hot topic among leading Germans. Before Fichte, the Prussian kings had already instituted reforms with that in mind, although they hadn’t gotten very far.

By 1810, Fichte and Humboldt stood in the middle of a confluence and an opportunity: France had destroyed the Prussian armies, and with it a good bit of the Prussian hubris. Fichte delivered his Addresses while Berlin was still occupied by Napoleon’s troops. The combination of Fichte’s soaring nationalistic rhetoric, Prussian humiliation, institutional disruption caused by the war, the early blossoming of the industrial revolution in Prussia, and Humboldt’s political power came together in such a way that the educational reforms contemplated by the Prussian leadership for a couple hundred years got put into practice.

This practice is everything an American should hate: the unstated assumption is that the wisdom of a nation resides in its princes, the rich, and other leaders, who then have the right and duty to impose that wisdom on the people. Americans believe, or at least believed when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were held sacred, that the wisdom of a nation resides in its *people* who then get to tell the leaders what they want.

We won the war, but surrendered to King George, and worse than King George, anyway. Our schools are the tool and price of that surrender.

Image result for john taylor gatto
“You see, like a great magician he had shifted that commonplace school lesson we would have forgotten by the next morning into a formidable challenge to the entire contents of our private minds, raising the important question, Who can we believe? At the age of eight, while public school children were reading stories about talking animals, we had been escorted to the eggshell-thin foundation upon which authoritarian vanity rests and asked to inspect it.There are many reasons to lie to children, the Jesuit said, and these seem to be good reasons to older men. Some truth you will know by divine intuition, he told us, but for the rest you must learn what tests to apply. Even then be cautious. It is not hard to fool human intelligence.”

Notes:

  1. That the physical removal of all children from their families has not proved practical so far does not mean it does not remain the ideal in the view of the educational establishment.
  2. Fichte is saying this to a people who for the previous 250 years have been told that any plowboy who can read can find the truth of Scripture on his own.

Where are the casualties?

Please read The Real War on Science by John Tierney, of whom I knew nothing before reading the article linked (name was vaguely familiar). Writer for the NYT, which is supposed to confer non-fake status (non-fake if one has forgotten Walter Duranty, among others. I haven’t.)  However, since he says a lot of what I’m trying to say, in my own humble way, on this blog, we’ll set that aside for now.  

He begins thus:

My liberal friends sometimes ask me why I don’t devote more of my science journalism to the sins of the Right. It’s fine to expose pseudoscience on the left, they say, but why aren’t you an equal-opportunity debunker? Why not write about conservatives’ threat to science?

My friends don’t like my answer: because there isn’t much to write about. Conservatives just don’t have that much impact on science. I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.

All three are in his first chapter, during Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation. Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience. Each of these abuses is far more significant than anything done by conservatives, and there are plenty of others. The only successful war on science is the one waged by the Left. (emphasis mine)

Mostly good stuff, but with a few important gaps/omissions/dissemblings. From the first paragraph, check out:

Conservatives just don’t have that much impact on science.

Now, in context, a generous person would read that to say: When it comes to pseudoscience disrupting real science, Conservatives don’t have much of an effect. But that’s not what it says. What it says is rather more – dismissive?

This little bit of editorial oversight might seem like nit-picking, but I think not. Further on, he opines:

The danger from the Left does not arise from stupidity or dishonesty; those failings are bipartisan. Some surveys show that Republicans, particularly libertarians, are more scientifically literate than Democrats, but there’s plenty of ignorance all around. Both sides cherry-pick research and misrepresent evidence to support their agendas. Whoever’s in power, the White House plays politics in appointing advisory commissions and editing the executive summaries of their reports. Scientists of all ideologies exaggerate the importance of their own research and seek results that will bring them more attention and funding.

This, I think, is the flat moral universe I rail about just peeking out from behind the curtains. Those who do no damage to science despite their ideological opposition to some of science’s findings are just the same, morally, as those who, as the rest of the essay makes clear, foment ideologically-driven hysteria that results in real people really suffering harm and, in the case of Africans dying of malaria and Chinese women undergoing forced abortions, dying. Only where one accepts a weirdly flat world, where the difference between Stalin and Buffalo Bill(1) is *this* tiny can the difference between hurting people’s feeling and killing them be insignificant enough to casually dismiss.

Thus, the Left and the Right are equally guilty – except, as the essay clearly lays out, in the real world, anti-science is a distracting and ineffective hobby when engaged in by the Right, but a central structural element of the Left. How else to understand the wild disparity in academia? Only someone chugging cool-aide could believe that college faculty in all fields where reality doesn’t trump theory are overwhelmingly leftists as a result of some sort of meritocracy.

Scientists try to avoid confirmation bias by exposing their work to peer review by critics with different views, but it’s increasingly difficult for liberals to find such critics. Academics have traditionally leaned left politically, and many fields have essentially become monocultures, especially in the social sciences, where Democrats now outnumber Republicans by at least 8 to 1. (In sociology, where the ratio is 44 to 1, a student is much likelier to be taught by a Marxist than by a Republican.) The lopsided ratio has led to another well-documented phenomenon: people’s beliefs become more extreme when they’re surrounded by like-minded colleagues. They come to assume that their opinions are not only the norm but also the truth.

Some sage said that tradition is the solution to problems we’ve forgotten. So, academics ‘traditionally’ lean left? For some mysterious reasons that might have to do with the modern research university (the Prussian Model university) being designed from the ground up as a tool for reshaping society and culture to better suit those in charge (2), almost all the faculty are leftists. This fact might *be* the problem itself; everything else under discussion in the essay is just the fallout from this one fact.

The narrative that Republicans are antiscience has been fed by well-publicized studies reporting that conservatives are more close-minded and dogmatic than liberals are. But these conclusions have been based on questions asking people how strongly they cling to traditional morality and religion—dogmas that matter a lot more to conservatives than to liberals. A few other studies—not well-publicized—have shown that liberals can be just as close-minded when their own beliefs, such as their feelings about the environment or Barack Obama, are challenged.

It means something different to a leftist than to a normal person to say science should not be political – a normal person can conceive of science outside both left and right pieties, while a leftists thinks his pieties ARE where science lives. That’s the whole religious aspect to Marxism and Progressivism in general, why we are asked ad nauseam  to pronounce ‘Shibboleth’ – to say if we *believe* in science or progress or evolution or global warming or some such. Science can only be discussed using the language of faith. This religious aspect is both blindingly obvious and completely denied and ignored.

Anyway, read the essay. The points raised good, even if Mr Tierney writes as if he hopes to continue getting published by the NYT – a hope certain to be dashed if he displayed any more honesty than he displayed here.

  1. Buffalo Bill was a scout during the Indian Wars, so, oppressor.
  2. From the Oracle Wikipedia: “For the reformers, the reform of the Prussian education system (Bildung) was a key reform. All the other reforms relied on creating a new type of citizen who had to be capable of proving themselves responsible and the reformers were convinced that the nation had to be educated and made to grow up. …In place of a wide variety of religious, private, municipal and corporative educational institutions, he (Humboldt) suggested setting up a school system divided into Volksschule (people’s schools), Gymnasiums and universities.” He ‘suggested’ in such a way that school-age kids were marched off into the new state schools at bayonet point. In case the goal here is not clear, Humboldt appointed Fichte head of the new University of Berlin – the Fichte who said: “Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished.” See how that works? The only competition, then, is in deciding who will be the school masters otherwise than which properly schooled children cannot think.

Post Election Schooling Rant

Winston S. Churchill(Should I wait a full week? Nah.)

“My education was interrupted only by my schooling.” – Churchill

It doesn’t have to be this way. Plato and Aristotle didn’t go to graded classroom schools for 16 years; Hypatia and Hildegard of Bingen didn’t sit in desks with 50 kids the same age getting lectured. Even today, on the off chance you find truly educated adults, there’s no chance they got that way via a standard k-12 education. Like Churchill above, at best, they got that way despite it.

Based on the available evidence, the typical department head at our major universities isn’t nearly as well educated as, say, David Farragut or Abigail Adams, a couple of American heroes who, as we might put it today, were educated via some combination of homeschooling, independent study and tutoring. Back then, pretty much everybody who was educated was educated in such a manner. Based, again, on the available evidence, there was a far larger percentage of truly well-educated people back then than there is today.(1)  This predates the insane herd-everybody-together-by-age model imposed on us by our self-appointed betters over the last 150 years.

Throughout all of history down to this day, no well-educated people got that way by sitting in a desk and learning to regurgitate answers from a textbook. The very idea is only 200 years old; it wasn’t tried in America until well into the 19th century, and didn’t come to completely dominate education here until about 75 years ago. Up until maybe 40 years ago, one could even come across teachers who, whatever the designs of the system, were intent on educating their charges, and sometimes even succeeded. Now? Such an one will have the entire weight of established practice brought to bear on him, to bring him in line.

Image result for school of athens
Plato and Aristotle walk and talk as friends. Not a desk in sight.

So, what is it that we are supposed to learn, that we had to throw out thousands of years of educational experience and success and replace it with a rigid, insulting and compulsory model?

The questions are at the end of the chapter. The answers are in the teacher’s book. 

In a way, that’s it. That’s all there is to it. Materials are presented; the allowed or insisted upon questions are asked; the correct answers are given. Rinse. Repeat.

For 12 to 16 years.

You think it’s about reading? If it were, the first day of school children would be asked to show how well or not they can read, and then those that could already read would be excused while those who needed (and wanted?) some help would get it. Is that what happens? Why not?  Math? People who want their kids to learn math send them to the Russian School of Mathematics or Khan academy or use some other non-school approach. If your goal was to make kids loath math, on the other hand, you could hardly do better than the current practices found in our schools.

And so on. A successful school kid’s ignorance of reading and math, not to mention science, history, literature, ‘civics’ and so on is profound, such that around half of the super-elite students who attend the University of California – the kids with 4.0+ GPAs, numerous Advanced Placement classes, and high SAT scores – have to take remedial classes in math and writing in order to succeed in college-level classes. This, by the way, after decades during which college has been dumbed down.

So, what exactly did they *do* K-12? Less time and effort devoted to ‘education’ in the past resulted in a good number of multi-lingual (Greek and Latin) kids who could do calculus, play musical instruments, draw convincingly, knew their history, geography, how our government was supposed to work, and so on. Now? What is the time spent doing?

Have you witnessed, inside school or out, the ritual whereby the authority figure asks some version of “Who can tell me X?” with the expectation that kids (of all ages) will raise their hands and shout out answers? The telling part is that no matter how much the question is couched in ‘there is no wrong answer’ or ‘there is more than one right answer’ or ‘I want to know your opinion’ language, the authority figure is just asking in order to receive *one* answer – his answer.

We know he has received his right answer when he moves on to his next point. (2)  He asks the question not out of interest in hearing what the people think, but rather to test how well they can regurgitate what it is they have been told or how quickly they can get in line with the group behind the right answer. (3) He may think he’s asking in order to get their attention – that’s the usual thought, mixing it up a bit so that it’s not just the speaker droning on and on – but he could get it by asking a legitimate question where he does not know the answer. That virtually never happens.

This lie – it is a lie to claim to be asking for opinions or views when in fact you are hunting for one ‘correct’ answer(4) – has been practiced on us so often and from such a young age that we’ve incorporated it into our intellectual and social background. This is a fancy way of saying we’ve been inured to how outrageous, petty and manipulative it is.

I mention this as a relatively trivial example of what we’ve become as a nation. We are a nation of parrots, of perpetual children.

Of slaves.

Elections have become a giant game of ‘who can tell me the answer I want to hear?’.  Over that decade and a half of intense (and getting more intense) training, we are made to identify with what the schools tell us we are. We are the smart kids, we got the grades – that’s who we are! We name the resulting group-think ‘critical thinking’ – an Orwellian phrase for an activity that involves neither criticism nor thought.

Weepy hysteria results when other people refuse to give the right answer, the answer all right-thinking people insist on – because the wrong answer flies in the face of all that training, all those gold stars and pats on the head and acceptance letters to colleges and good grades and degrees, all the material and especially psychological goodies one gets for telling the teacher the answers the teacher wants to hear, class after class, day after day, year after year, for a decade and a half.  This is not about losing an election – it is about having a world view crushed. We got a buffoon instead of a felonious traitor. This result requires burning the cars of strangers?

This observation is not, at its roots, partisan, although in the just passed elections it played out that way, more or less. Both parties support the schools, arguing, rather, just over how many and in what pattern the deck chairs should be rearranged. No iceberg is ever sighted. The problem for me, even as I take some comfort in watching so many of the correct heads explode, is that the enemy is playing the long game, and has been for a century or more. We can already see how many young people, deluded into thinking they are the brightest, best educated and most moral people the world has ever known (thus being immunized against self-reflection and ever learning anything) are convinced that this election was a DISASTER! And it was, for the regurgitate on demand world of schooling. But unless these kids can break this illusion, realize that they are just as ignorant, stupid and prone to immoral acts as anyone else now or ever, they will, with righteous zeal, be right back at it like the perfect little clone army they have trained to be.

  1. Chesterton, on the advantages of being educated as the Puritans were educated versus modern education: “Nobody could read the Bible without gaining a glorious mass of information about fighting, about faith, about religions true and false, about mystical or magical or mysterious beings such as hover round man in all the legends and literature of the world. The little boys who grew up in the dark Calvinistic houses of our great-grandfathers did, in actual fact, grow up with their heads full of a noble noise of conflict and crisis; valiant and vigorous action described in the grandest English that our national history has known; the noise of the captains and the shouting; the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof; and he that drew a bow at a venture and smote the king between the joints of the harness; and he whose driving was known from afar off, for he drove furiously. That, under all its other disadvantages, is what I call being educated; certainly it is being much better educated than a miserable little prig who must not be told that Joan of Arc carried a battle-banner, but must be assured that she only carried an umbrella.” On the New Prudery, 1935
  2. Who has not experienced the hilarity of watching some teacher or speaker play this game, yet having the audience not promptly supply the right answer? How they will sputter and plead and shame. This is the sign of an amatuer. Pros recognize that this game is a variation on the rule of Sun Tzu (or maybe it’s Machiavelli? Both?): never give an order you are not sure will be obeyed.
  3. A side benefit: courtiers and sycophants sometimes find themselves in situations where they have not been given specific instructions on what responses and behaviors their lords and masters expect. Here we practice the only logical process required of such followers: inferring from what is known to what must be – in their god’s head. That this also provides an opportunity for delightful torture of said courtiers and sycophants is a bonus – for the lords and masters. Handy for picking out who’s not fully with the program and making examples of people. It’s a superset including the “Don’t be the first one to stop clapping” thing. (pp 69-70) 
  4. Even when it’s clear that the speaker is asking for the one correct answer, the public nature of the interaction – someone will be praised, others risk being shamed – makes this a dubious practice at best. It is using group pressure to make people get in line with whatever the group seems to think.

 

What Creeping Totalitarianism Looks Like in Practice

This has happened before and will happen increasingly in the future: parents, acting in their role as the people primarily responsible for the education of their children, take them out of the state schools and put them in schools of their own choosing. Nobody is making them do this – these parents want something different for their kids, and so exercise their God-given right (1) to do what they deem best for their own kids.

The state finds this simply intolerable. In this case, the state is Bavaria. In the recent past, it’s been Australia. In America, at least one school had to form its own religion in order to get a religious school exemption – in other words, the state recognized no right of parents to educate their own children as they see fit, but, for the time being, didn’t think it could get away with infringing freedom of religion (2).

Note that there is, objectively, no such thing as ‘grade level’. The idea that all, say, 8 year olds should ‘perform to grade level’ is an act of violence inflicted upon children to enforce a level of uniformity on them that is not there by nature – kids, like everybody else, learn different things at different times, soar in some things and crawl in others and never learn others at all.(3)  This used to be called ‘being human’. The idea of grade level is meant to crush kids, at best, into a uniform mediocrity: There is little reward in excelling at those few arbitrary things performing at grade level requires, no reward (and no free time allowed) to excel at the millions of worthy things not included regardless of the personal interest and talents of the child, and grim is the fate of those who fail, a group whose members serve their purpose within the system by providing` the poster children for why yet more school, more funding, more teachers, more hours, is needed.

Anyway, it seems that some parents in Bavaria are guilty of trying to educate their children outside the fences set up by the Bavarian government (4). Below is the English version of a note that went out:

Call for a show of solidarity

The Sudbury School Ammersee, EUDEC (European Democratic Education Community), and the ‘Netzwerk für selbstbestimmte Bildung’ are joining forces for

a day of international solidarity with the Sudbury School Ammersee
on 
10 November!

After two years of successful work, the Sudbury School Ammersee has been summarily closed by the ‘responsible‘ authority, the regional government of Upper Bavaria, allegedly because ‘not enough was being learned there’. Renowned social scientists, experts, large numbers of visitors and the entire school community declare: This is a drastically wrong decision at the expense of the children and many other people involved. All these people from very different walks of life have been able to witness, directly, how pupils of the school have flourished and, each in their own individual way, learned huge amounts.

Therefore we see no reasonable alternative and demand:

That the Sudbury School Ammersee immediately be given approval
to continue operations, that democratic values and justice be upheld!

To this end, we want to make a clear statement with a

global action on 10 November, 3 pm (15:00h CET).

We would like to ask all of you – schools, associations, private persons, friends and supporters in Germany and all over the world – please make your solidarity with the Sudbury School Ammersee visible in some way.

Think up small or big actions calling for the reopening of the school. Light a candle, organize a party or a firework display or a demonstration, send a selfie, roll out the banners, meditate, take photographs, shoot videos, call the newsroom, call the President ☺, …
And pass on this call to action to others, mobilize your networks: the more people who participate, the clearer the message:

CHILDRENS’ RIGHTS MATTER!

If you would like to take part, please:
Let us know beforehand what you plan to do so we can tell our local media what to expect – all the things that are going to happen right across the globe! Every action helps, never mind how small!

And afterwards, please send us short texts, photos or clips of the actions themselves: together@sudbury-schule-ammersee.de
To all supporters in the Munich region:
On the action day, 10 November, the Sudbury School Ammersee community will gather in front of the Ministry of Education building, Salvatorplatz, Munich, at 3 pm / 15:00h CET to demonstrate and show on an open stage how colourful and multi-faceted learning can be. You’re warmly welcome: come and support us, come and join us with your talents on the stage, but mainly, please come!

Demonstration

  1. Catholic tradition notes that rights are the mirror images of duties: if you have a duty to see to the education of your children (and parents do), then you have to have a right to educate them.
  2. This making up a religion to get around the law reminds me of the concept of a’scofflaw’ that arose during Prohibition: while it is understandable that citizens would scoff at a law as stupid and unjust as Prohibition, the concept of law in general suffers from such scoffing. Religion is cheapened when it becomes nothing more than a work-around for other stupid and unjust laws.
  3. I, for example, am completely ignorant of Sanskrit, even though I hear it’s a wonderful language well worth learning. I can do Euclid inside and out. Well? Is Euclid worthy and Sanskrit unworthy? What horrible chaos would result if we just people figure that out on their own? If all you want are “the basics” then you’d start around age 12, more or less, do a couple hours of school per week for a year, maybe, and be done with it. That’s all it takes. And let kids test out.
  4. German compulsory education laws prohibit homeschooling and any private schools that do not conform to the state model. This is usually defended by saying that the state has a legitimate interest in preventing the rise of fascism, and so must make sure kids don’t get educated by the fascists hiding under every bed pining for the good old days. Two problems with this: ironically, German compulsory  school laws in their current form date from the 1930s – enacted under Hitler; and these laws are used largely against Christians who want to educate their kids outside the iron secularism that has gripped all of Europe, and schools like the Sudbury school above, which is about as far from fascist as can be imagined. Wonder how these laws are being applied to Muslim immigrants?

Update From Kansas: A Data Point on Education

(Another post salvaged from the Drafts folder. This is from 3 months back. And I found 1 to throw away – down to 69!)

On the road in Atchison, where we visited the Amelia Earhart home of birth and ate at local restaurants – and attended the graduation of our lovely and beloved and good Daughter #1 of Renown and Honor. Education data point, and, yes, I am bragging: we have been told that we ‘ruined’ our daughter and her siblings by not making them go to a real school – we sent them to a school where they were free to hang out, play video games, watch movies, sleep – whatever they wanted that didn’t interfere with what others wanted or risk the wrath of the Law. After 10 years of this horrible, ruinous schooling, this daughter went to college. To repeat: she took no classes in reading, writing or math in grade school or high school. She was assigned no homework. She wrote no papers. No one watched over her or directed her educational activities in any way, until she decided to go to college.

Yesterday, she graduated magna cum laude from Benedictine College with a double major in music and theater.  She will be attending an acting program in LA for the next two years, and then plans to pursue a master’s, either in theology or classics/Great Books. Anybody want to bet against her?

The point here: K-12  is a waste of time at best, a tool designed by our self-appointed betters to make our kids stupid and easily managed. It works great. Just don’t do it! You will be reviled and threatened by family, friends and state, but just say NO! Your kids will be happier, smarter and saner for it. As a side benefit, our family life was free of arguments over homework or grades, and free of parent-teacher conferences and all other busywork and insults to our intelligence.

Is my daughter a genius? Yes – but as John Taylor Gatto said after decades of teaching in public school, often in impoverished areas, genius is a common as dirt. It is the opportunity to develop and use it that is denied most people.

It doesn’t matter if your child learns to read at 4 or 14 – It. Doesn’t. Matter. It doesn’t matter if they learn algebra when they’re 15, or 6, or – gasp – never. They can always learn it when they need it, if they have learned that they can learn. The whole idea of ‘grade level’ is a tool used to keep kids – and their parents – in line. Grade level is a evil fantasy that didn’t exist until our betters decided people needed to be graded like so many eggs or so much lumber. How about we help people learn what they want to learn when they need to learn it? You don’t need graded classrooms for that – even the greatest scholars did without them until 200 years ago – and, I’d wager, the greatest scholars today found them more hindrance than help.

Our next two children, raised and educated in exactly the same negligent and ruinous manner, have joined us in Atchison from Thomas Aquinas College and Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, where they each just now successfully completed their freshman year – Latin, Euclid, heavy reading and writing loads. Both ‘A’ students. Both never took any reading, writing or math classes in grade school or high school.

So, who here is crazy? Me, who claims all that compulsory graded classroom education crap is as stupid and harmful as any objective analysis reveals it to be? Or the millions of parents who have been cajoled and threatened – and patted on the head and given gold stars – to make them think they needed to send their kids to school or they would be ruined? Ruined, I say!