Proposed changes to the SAT show that the Left is gaming the system to bring egalitarianism to the inegalitarian world of higher education

standardized-testing-400x2651Here’s a story that’s familiar to many of my older readers, but one that may be surprising to my younger ones. Once upon a time, you’d sign up for the SAT a few weeks before you were to take it. Then, the night before the SAT, you’d go to bed a little earlier than usual. And that was it. That was SAT test prep — an early bedtime.

Nowadays, SAT test prep is a huge business. Here in affluent Marin, every teen I know has taken, is taking, or will take an SAT (or ACT) prep test. The good classes do two things: they tutor kids in the fundamentals of math and English that one needs for the test and they teach test taking techniques. These last are probably the most useful, since they show the kids the tricks of the test, and give them a way to translate test language into the academic language they already know, both in math and English. Most prep programs promise that, if the student gets with the program, he can expect to raise his test score by 200-400 points.

Today’s Most Emailed New York Times article announced that the SAT is about to undertake a big change:

Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional.

Some might call it a “dumbing down” change.  Others, however, could say that the SAT is changing simply to align itself with the realities of modern youth: thanks to bad teaching and the decline in reading anything but text messages (“r u thr? BRB.  K.  TTYL”), modern youth cannot write and has no vocabulary. That being the case, the realist would say, we may as well stop pretending when it comes to the standardized test.  (Me?  I think anything that encourages a good vocabulary should be preserved.  As Orwell knew, the fewer words you have, the fewer thoughts you have.)

Those are academic arguments.  What we’re really seeing here is another step in the road to a purely egalitarian approach to higher education.  In the old days, fewer students went to college. The rising numbers don’t come about just because the US population has grown every decade since forever. They also reflect the fact that, back in the day, a smaller percentage of the population went to college. The nation agreed that an educated citizenry was a good thing, but the societal agreement before the GI Bill was that a high school education was good enough for everyone except the “educated classes,” which meant the wealthy and upper middle classes.

The GI Bill changed that classist approach to education.  I’m not quibbling with the GI Bill’s effects.  The change was a wonderful thing, because it opened higher education to people who had the ability but, in the past, couldn’t meet the class and cost requirements.  College was still for the “educated class,” but we’d expanded the economic definition of an “educated class.”  With more young men able to go to college and get into higher payer jobs, the economy and the middle class boomed.

Of late, though, the Left has made it clear that it considers college today to be the high school of yesteryear: everyone should go, whether they have aptitude, interest, or money. It’s that last that’s especially important. Public schools may be lousy, but they’re an integral part of America’s economic infrastructure. They run on budgets set by state or local communities, and society as a whole has long agreed to pay for them (whether individual taxpayers have children or not), because they’re viewed as necessary institutions in a republican democracy.

Colleges, though, are expensive and getting more so. Much of this expense has nothing to do with education and everything to do with political correctness. Taxpayers have no say at all in how most colleges are run. They’re footing the bill in terms of taxpayer funding to public institutions, and grants and student loans to all institutions, but they’re shut out of management and oversight.  Additionally, contrary to the promise under the GI Bill and for many decades afterwards, college is no longer a gateway to well-paying jobs.  This can be traced to lots of things:  a lousy economy; more college grads depressing the market for said grads; the dramatic instability brought about by a changing internet economy (new jobs, new educators, new skills, etc.); and the lousy education too many college grads get, making them good at arguing Leftist PC polemics, but of little use otherwise.

Despite the expense, the lack of oversight, and the declining return on time and money invested, the Left insists more stridently than ever that, just as high school was once a necessity for all citizens, now college is — and it’s even better if we fund it for illegal residents too.

Where the Left runs into a problems is with the fact that, unlike public schools, which have to accept all students (legal or illegal) within the school district, colleges don’t. Despite the massive amount of public funding that comes their way, colleges get to pick and choose who will enter. How un-egalitarian . . . and how galling it is when the main comers are white and Asian middle class kids, rather than the huddled masses yearning to break free of America’s Democrat run ghettos.

Which loops me back to my starting point, which is prep classes for standardized tests. Those prep classes give the same white and Asian middle class kids yet another edge over the poor kids stuck in failing, union-run public schools in heavily Democrat districts. David Coleman, who is president of the College Board, which creates an administers the SAT, is done with that kind of inequality. He’s going to make the test easier. (Call it the Harrison Bergeron approach to test revisions.) His explicitly stated goal is to put those elitist test prep services out of business:

“It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country,” Mr. Coleman said Wednesday. “It may not be our fault, but it is our problem.”

David Coleman is an idiot. (Come on, Bookworm!  Tell us what you really think.)  First, I strongly disagree with his Leftist drive to put small business out of business. Second, does Coleman actually think that the test prep businesses will just go away and that middle class parents will say, “Thank God our children don’t have to strive anymore”? Only an academic could be so dumb. What will actually happen is that the businesses will change their model and teach to the revised test. Indeed, some spokespeople in the industry have already announced that they intended to do precisely that:

While test-preparation companies said the SAT was moving in the right direction, with more openness and more free online test preparation, the changes were unlikely to diminish the demand for their services. “People will always want an edge,” said Seppy Basili, a vice president of Kaplan Test Prep. “And test changes always spur demand.”

None of the above means that it isn’t time to change the standardized tests. No one argues that they’re not as helpful in determining student performance as grades are.  But here’s the dirty little secret:  they never will be as good as grades — or, at least, grades from a good school. High performing students from high performing schools will do well in college. Sadly, high performing students from union and Democrat-run inner city schools do not do well. They are not ready for college. Or, to be more accurate, they’re not ready for the Ivy Leagues that hurl affirmative action admissions at their heads. Two years at a decent junior college or four years at a decent four-year college would suit them better. They might not get the corner office on Wall Street, but they’ll get out of the ghetto, which means that their children might get to Wall Street. Too bad that incrementalism — meaning a generational ascendance in America’s class structure — is anathema to the Left.

The bottom line is that, no matter how the test is re-jiggered, it will remain what it always was — an inaccurate tool to admissions offices smooth out slightly differences between the thousands of high schools scattered throughout America.

But back to the SAT. (By the way, this serpentine post is as close as you’ll ever get to having a conversation with me. I tend to stay near topic, but to wander around it a lot, bringing in varying threads and ideas that seem to me to be relevant and helpful.)

The fundamental problem isn’t the SAT and it isn’t test preps. Instead, it’s that our governing class has decided to make college as mandatory as high school. It’s doing it without a consensus or a plan, it’s paying for it on the back of the middle class, and it’s gaming the system to try to create an egalitarian outcome for decidedly inegalitarian institutions.

New Zealand experiment proves that fewer rules mean better behavior — at least in the playground

schoolyardAll of us have bemoaned the fact that the Nanny school is denying children the opportunity to learn skills that are essential to getting through life.  The teachers should supervise to make sure that things don’t get too much out of control, but otherwise, they need to leave the kids alone.  Kids need to get hurt to learn how to deal with pain (because life will toss lots of pain their way); they need to get dirty to teach their immune systems how to defend the body against invaders; and they need to fight, because they need to learn how to make up.

Most importantly, they need to play competitive games, and there are a lot of reasons for that.  They need to learn how to become gracious winners . . . and gracious losers.  They need to learn that they can draw on inner depths within themselves if they really want to win.  They need to learn that the world isn’t always fair.  They need to learn that those who try harder usually do better . . . and if they don’t do better, they still earn their peers’ respect.

Additionally — and kids intuitively know this — is that competition makes things more fun.  Every weekend, I usually have a pack of teens over at my house playing highly competitive games, everything from charades to Resistance. Woe betide the misguided adult who tries to make the games more fair (i.e., “everybody wins”). In that case, the kids simply leave because the fun is gone.

With this concept in mind, yesterday’s news brought stories out of England and New Zealand, offering two different approaches to child’s play. The English approach is to reject the playing fields of Eton entirely and, instead, to go the full Harrison Bergeron.  Thus, the British Rugby Football Union is changing the rules for the under 11 crowd to make sure that all players are equal — or else!

The key components are that tournaments will no longer have a winner, they will be round-robin only. Coaches must meet before each match to try to pick evenly matched teams and if any matches are proving too “one-sided” then coaches will be forced to “adjust” their teams at halftime to make them closer. Teams will no longer be streamed on ability but will play all matches with mixed ability groups.Teams who fail to follow the new guidelines will see all their club’s age-group sides thrown out of the tournament and face further disciplinary action.

Showing that a few in England still have some backbone, the article notes that parents first thought the new rules were a spoof and that many of them are objecting. Not all of them, mind you. Indeed, I bet that quite a few Marin parents would think this is a lovely idea. I should note that, when my children have come home over the years desperately unhappy about losing, it didn’t occur to them to do away with the notion of winning. What they wanted was another chance, no tactics, and better skills, bless their little hearts.

(For more on life in a Harrison Bergeron world, check out Bret Stephens brilliant piece at the Wall Street Journal.)

New Zealand is trying a different approach, and one that is proving to be successful.  That is, it’s not just working in the fevered imagination of ardent Leftist educators; it’s actually working on the playground itself:

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

To those of us living in the real world — one populated by actual children rather than Ivy Tower widget children — the Auckland school’s success was pre-ordained.  Provided that children are given reasonable limits that a reasonably enforced, they will not turn into Lord of the Flies monsters.  Instead, they will become the type of children we remember from our childhood — sometimes nice, sometimes mean, usually having fun, capable of solving most of their own problems, and better able to sit still in the classrooms.

How about a different approach to Holder’s demand that schools stop disciplinining minorities?

out-of-control-classroom-300x225It’s already old news now that Eric Holder has announced that schools must stop disciplining minority students because he feels they are disproportionately the subject of school discipline.  Many who read his edict thought, first, that a ukase against discipline based upon skin color, rather than conduct, was just about the most racist thing they’d ever seen; second, that this will be a disaster for minority children who are seeking some structure in their lives; and, third, that it marks the end of any discipline at all in schools, as each school drops to the lowest common denominator of possible behavior.

Robert Arvanitis has suggested that there is a different way to achieve racial parity — a way that would also expose how appalling Holder’s ideas are without turning schools into out-of-control war zones:

Holder now complains that valid, objective standards for school discipline are nonetheless racist if the results fall disproportionately on minorities.

Forget the rational rebuttals — it is unfair to all the other kids who are deprived of education; it ignores the root causes such as fatherless homes, causes engendered in turn by failed left policies.

Time to fight back in a smarter way. Let’s frustrate the left’s feedback mechanisms just as they themselves try to hijack and distort the real metrics of society.

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

For every “favored-minority” student disciplined for real cause, we report the required multiple of non-favored kids on comparable status. I don’t mean lie, I mean we actually do things like “in-school suspension.” No harm to records, which are all sealed for college applications and recorded in aggregate anyway.

Now if Holder catches on and seeks separate categories like in and out of school suspension, then we refine it a bit. Everyone is on “in-school” suspension,” and held in separate classrooms. We spend some extra for dedicated tutors for such separate classrooms. And when the real troublemakers fail to show up, then hey, they’re marked delinquent as well.

My point is that there is no rigid rule system the statists can impose, that we cannot game. I have long experience with such things as tax, accounting, and regulatory frameworks. They all fall because of the algebra — it’s called “over-determined equations.” When there are more constraints than free variables, there will necessarily be contradictions and inconsistencies in the system for us to exploit.

So rule away Eric; check, and mate.

The Left tries to reframe our expectations

Teacher affirmationIn September 2011, I wrote a post about the way teachers constantly present themselves as the hardest working, most underpaid people in America.  I have a great deal of respect for teachers and, to the extent I deliver my kids to their care, I want them to be decent, knowledgeable, skillful, hardworking people — and that’s not something that can be had for free.  Nevertheless, I don’t see them as the martyrs that they see looking back from their mirrors.

I touched upon that subject again just this past September, after I’d gotten deluged by Facebook posts from teacher friends, all of them reminding us in a cute way that no one works harder in America than a teacher or for less money compared to their work output.  Again, with all due respect for teachers, I think many people, including the troops, would quibble with this.  I contrasted the Democrats’ deification of teachers and compared it with their denigration of doctors, something expressed obliquely through Obamacare.  Doctors train for years in their profession, work heinous hours, and truly hold people’s lives in their hands — and Obamacare is intended to increase their work load and cut their compensation.  My conclusion was that socialism prefers propagandists, something that teachers are perfectly situated to do, over providers.

And speaking of socialists and the way they value different categories of workers, Daniel Hannan has written about the British deification of its National Health Service, a system that is above reproach.  It’s not above reproach because it’s so wonderful, mind you.  It’s above reproach because no one is allowed to reproach it.  Hannan notes that there are two classes that speak well of the system:  those who work in it or are ideological supporters of socialized medicine, and those who are loudly grateful to have received decent treatment from it.  Hannan makes two points about this second category.  First, they’re amiable followers of the more strident ideologues.  Second, their gratitude that the system works is itself an indictment of the system’s myriad failings:

What of the wider constituency? What of the undoctrinaire people who say, with conviction, “the NHS saved my grandmother’s life”? Well, to make a rather unpopular point, she was saved by the clinicians involved, not by Britain’s unique prohibition of private finance in healthcare provision. In a country as wealthy as ours, we should expect a certain level of service. We can be grateful to the people involved without treating the whole process as a miracle.

When else, after all, do we become so emotional? Do we get off planes saying “I owe my life to British Airways: they flew me all the way here in one piece”? Of course not: that’s what is meant to happen. Our assumption doesn’t insult the pilots any more than expecting a certain level of competence in healthcare “insults our hardworking doctors and nurses”. On the contrary, it compliments them.

The elision of the “hardworking doctors and nurses” with the state monopoly that employs them is what allows opponents of reform to shout down any criticism. People who complain are treated, not as wronged consumers, but as pests. People who argue that there might be a better way of organising the system are treated, not as proponents of a different view, but as enemies.

Naturally, the above passage made me think of the obeisance we’re expected to pay to America’s teachers.  The demand that we recognize what wonderful martyrs they are is a tacit acknowledgment that too many of them are government drones who are, quite rationally, milking a system that gives itself up for milking.  This doesn’t mean we should denigrate teachers or take them for granted, but there’s a strong element of a “methinks we all do protest too much” mindset when it comes to the ritual demand that we acknowledge that teachers are society’s new martyrs.  After all, as Hannan said, they have a job to do and they should be doing it.

Incidentally, while Hannan doesn’t address the issue of teachers, he does point out that our being bullied into expressing exaggerated surprise and appreciation when there’s competence in a public sector area isn’t limited to Britain’s NHS.  His other example is the UN, which you all know I believe is one of the most vile, evil, antisemitic, child exploitative, anti-American, money-wasting institutions on earth, as well as a few other institutions that, coincidentally, are also usually anti-American and antisemitic:

Any organisation that is spared criticism becomes, over time, inefficient, insensitive, intolerant. It has happened to the United Nations. It has happened to the mega-charities. It happened, for a long time, to the European Union (though not over the past five years). The more lofty the ideal, the more reluctant people are to look at the grubby reality.

Cheers to Hannan for stating that, while the Emperor isn’t precisely walking around naked, his clothes are scarcely the golden, bejeweled garments that his sycophants claim he’s wearing.

Grade inflation in the Ivy Leagues (and their non-Ivy peers)

If these were Harvard students, all of them would have above-average grades

If these were Harvard students, all of them would have above-average grades

Sometimes my posts just re-write themselves.  This is me writing in May 2009:

Twenty years ago, a Stanford professor let me in on a little secret:  In a Lake Woebegone-ish way, all the students at Stanford are above average.  Truly.  The faculty was not allowed to fail anyone, so much so that, if it looked as if a student was failing, up to and including the final exam, the student was just “dropped out” of the class.  “A” grades were handed out like candy.  After all, Stanford got some of the best students in America.  You couldn’t let them, or their paying parents, down by giving them bad grades.  The notion that it might be good for them to compete against others as smart as they were, so as to winnow out the best of the best, was anathema.

And this is the latest report on the grade scam in the Ivy Leagues:

Life is very, very good for the select few who gain entrance to Harvard University as undergraduates. Thanks to Harvey Mansfield, the very rarest of phenomena, an outspokenly conservative member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the world now knows that the average grade at Harvard College (the undergraduate portion of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) is A minus.

Read the rest here, because Thomas Lifson has written a long, fact-filled, analytical post about the Ivy League (and comparable colleges) scam.

The Common Core political survey isn’t just politically offensive, it’s stupid

Rear view of class raising hands

This post needs to begin with a very important observation:  Since the end of WWII, and with increasing speed and force since the 1960s, Leftists parents and educators have encouraged young people to go into America’s institutions (most notably education and entertainment) to change those institutions — and change them they have.  By contrast, conservatives today steer their children away from education and entertainment, for fear that those institutions will corrupt their children.  Conservatives therefore tend to congregate in powerless ghettos, rather than doing what’s necessary to re-take the culture.  I’m guilty of this myself, because I hate the thought of sending my children to an expensive Ivy League to learn Leftism, rather than sending them to a more affordable place where they might actually learn something.

Keep the above thought in mind as you read the following post about yet another highly visible Leftist inroad into education, one that sees the fruit of seeds planted forty years ago.

Owing to a Little Bookworm’s decent PSAT scores, our mailbox has been deluged with promotional materials from colleges all over America.  They are remarkably generic, featuring pictures of beautiful campuses and good-looking, smiling, racially-diverse students.  They all promise that students attending these collages are academically challenged and emerge, at the end of four years, as better people for the experience.  More and more of them also include “fun” quizzes that ask the student to state “true” or “false” to sentences such as “I like to party all night long,” or to pick the best candidate from three sentences such as (i) “I like to party all night long,” (ii) “Reading is my only source of pleasure,” or (iii) “I like walks in the park.”  In other words, they’re precisely the same tests that used to feature (and probably do still feature) in Cosmo or Glamour magazines, except without the focus on sex.

I hate these tests because they lack any nuance.  For example, what does “party all night long” mean?  Binge drinking?  Group sex?  Dancing?  Talking with friends?  Without that info, any answer one gives is useless and meaningless.  Likewise, the fact that I used to love to dance all night long, that I live to read, and that I enjoy walks in the park means that, when I have to choose between three statements, there is no “best” answer.  All three are true and, when I’m forced to pick one, I’m essentially lying to myself and the test giver by denying the other two.

When I saw the story about the Common Core political ideology survey currently handed out in Illinois public schools, I ended up being offended at two levels.  First, Illinois being . . . well, Illinois, I think it’s reasonable to believe that parents who self-identify may well find that their child is either shunned, or penalized, or (worse) subject to an extra dose of Leftist propaganda to offset “dangerously” individualist parenting.  And yes, perhaps one day the conservative parent may find social services standing on his doorstep telling him that the government is taking his child because it’s been determined that the home is an unsafe environment.  Why unsafe?  Because a conservative parent is presumptively a gun-shooting, child-beating, racism-ranting, government-hating fruit loop, that’s why.

Second, I find the quiz offensive because it’s both insanely and inanely stupid.  As with all these true/false tests that do not revolve around provable factual details (a provable one would ask “True or false:  The first President of the United States was Jerome Washington”), the questions are dreadful because they are invariably predicated on false premises:

conservative-or-lib-questionaireLet’s just go down the list, shall we?

Statement one:  “The government should encourage rather than restrict prayer in public schools.”  To begin with, to which government does the question refer?  It’s certainly an important distinction.  As far as federal and state governments go, those governments should stay out of the matter entirely, neither encouraging nor banning.  Both activities advance a religious viewpoint, whether Christian, Jewish, or Atheist.  (And yes, atheism is a belief system, which makes it a religion.  After all, atheists are even building churches now and demanding military chaplains.)

Once one gets to the municipal or school district levels, however, it seems to me that communities should be able to make those choices.  It seemed that way to the Founders too, who applied the First Amendment only to the government, which was barred from imposing a federal religion on citizens, interfering with any faith’s doctrine (although it didn’t stop the feds from attacking Mormon polygamy in the 19th century), and banning practitioners of varying faiths from federal office.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement two:  “The federal government has an obligation to regulate businesses in order to preserve the environment for future generations.”  Wow!  That’s a loaded, stupid statement, one that combines the free market with Al Bore’s apocalyptic view of global warming.  In fact, I do believe that the government can police the marketplace to some extent to punish fraud, usury, and other manifestly dishonest dealings.

I also believe that government is within its rights to impose reasonable controls on emissions.  While I think anthropogenic global warming is hogwash, that doesn’t mean I approve of a factory dumping manifestly poisonous sludge into a community’s drinking water.  That last sentence makes me sound as if I should support the anti-fracking movement, but I don’t.  There’s no actual evidence that fracking poisons drinking water, while I distinctly remember from my childhood bodies of water near factories that were so poisonous nothing could live in or near them.

As in all things, there’s a rule of reason before you hit the downward slide to radicalism and sheer nonsense.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement three:  “Affirmative action programs deny equality of opportunity to whites in hiring.”  Well, yes, in fact, they do deny equality of opportunity to whites.  They also denying equality of opportunity to Asians, who never benefit from affirmative action.

More than that, affirmative action programs deny equality of opportunity to blacks in hiring.  The fact is that affirmative action, a temporary post-Jim Crow fix that has become a permanent institution has operated deleteriously for blacks, and it’s done so at several levels.  Affirmative action’s existence fifty years after Jim Crow is premised on the racist assumption that blacks will never be able to succeed on their own merits, efforts, and ability.  As Thomas Sowell points out, too many blacks have internalized this pernicious belief-system and therefore treat themselves like mental midgets.

Affirmative action is also bad for blacks because it applies, not just at the hiring end, but at the firing end too.  The bald fact is that companies are afraid to fire minorities for fear of getting hit by a lawsuit.  Because minorities know that they’re tough to fire, they have no incentive to do their best.

The previous statement is not racist, because it applies to all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, etc.  Human nature is such that people do their best work when there’s profit for success and punishment (within reason, of course) for failure.  That is, if you reward a worker for good performance, and fire him for bad performance, you will get a good worker.

Problems arise when you have a worker who gets the reward regardless of the performance level, and who knows that there’s almost no downside for bad performance.  Under those circumstances, the average person who is doing “just a job” (rather than following a passion) will exert the least amount of effort possible.

These realities mean that I disapprove of affirmative action not only because it perverts the marketplace for whites and other disfavored races, but because it destroys African-American’s sense of self-worth, their self-image, and their self-reliance, while downgrading them in other people’s eyes.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement four:  “The federal government should provide funds to improve public schools and make college possible for more young adults.”  You realize that the premise of that question is that, if you throw more money at these institutions, they’ll get better.  Keep in mind that the federal government already provides billions of dollars for public schools and colleges, which are still failing our students.  I don’t think the government should provide more money; I think it should provide no money. Our education system, because it is in thrall to Leftist teacher’s unions, is broken, and no amount of money will fix it.

That loaded statement also ignores the fact that, when colleges get more money, they don’t open the door to more students.  They pay their administration more, they increase the size of their racist “diversity” departments, and they build luxury dormitories to entice the children of rich parents.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement five:  “The individual is basically responsible for his own well-being, so the government should make welfare recipients go to work.”  Again, wow!  Yes, I believe in individual responsibility.  That doesn’t mean that the government is absolved from responsibility.  Governments still need to manage infrastructure, act on public health matters, deal with foreign nations, maintain a standing military, etc.

As for welfare recipients being made to work, the statement is way too simplistic and makes me look like a monster if I say I agree across the board.  In the real world, there are all sorts of welfare recipients:  mentally impaired people who can’t work, elderly people who can’t work, healthy young people who don’t want to work, young women who view as their work the practice of having babies so as to get more welfare money, families that simply view welfare as a way of life, people who are temporarily down on their luck, etc.

I don’t believe in government-funded sloth, which is expensive and profoundly damages healthy young people whom Nature or God intended to live lives of purpose and productivity.  What I do believe is that the best thing the Obama administration could do is to stop policies that kill jobs — policies such as Obamacare, punitive regulations, quantitative easing, etc.  With more jobs available, one can more readily distinguish what Stanley Doolittle, in Pygmalion, described as the deserving poor from the undeserving poor.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement six:  “The federal government should limit its spending so that individuals enjoy the maximum freedom of choice in spending their income.”  I actually agree with that statement, except it’s incomplete.  It’s not just that government, which doesn’t create wealth but only prints money, is sucking money out of the free-enterprise marketplace.  It’s also that government is regulating Americans to death.  Even if there was less money flowing into government coffers, and more money in the marketplace, Obama’s regulations, especially (a) those resulting from ObamaCare, (b) those aimed at stopping global warming, and (c) those giving too much power to unions, also prevent freedom of choice in the marketplace.  The constraints on the individual don’t just flow from the government’s greed, but also its regulations.  I’d probably put a check mark by that statement, but I’d be fulminating about the fact that it’s incomplete.

Statement seven:  “Unregulated free enterprise benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.”   Yet another inanely simplistic statement.  In fact, unregulated free enterprise makes a lot of the poor people rich.  Also, as the depredations in the 19th century shows, it can be very harmful to the poor.  Moreover, there’s a difference between telling businesses how to do their business (which destroys the economy, benefiting no one but government cronies) and policing wrongdoing, such as poisoning water supplies, locking workers into factories that can turn into blazing infernos, or committing fraud against the public.  (“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.  Period.”)  The question is stupid, because it denies reality, which is nuanced.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement eight:  The government should guarantee medical care for all its citizens.  On its face, this one looks like a no-brainer:  I cannot think of a single reason why a government should guarantee medical care.  When I look at the countries in which the government has done so, whether Cuba, England, Canada, or any other place, I see that people fare less well than they did in pre-Obamacare America, with the only successful metric being that all people get to see a doctor for free. When government “guarantees medical care,” who cares that citizens die young?  After all, they saw a doctor.

The statement therefore ignores something profound about government guaranteed healthcare versus health care in a healthy public sector economy:  The way to guarantee citizens face-time with a doctor is a government takeover.  The way to guarantee quality medical care for the greatest number of citizens is a free market.  This means that a government can indeed guarantee medical care (as opposed to doctor’s appointments) for all its citizens by staying out of the marketplace. It can police fraud and such things, but it should not control business and medical decisions.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement nine:  The Supreme Court should reverse its decision to legalize abortions in order to protect the right to life for a fetus.  Whether one is for or against abortion, Roe v. Wade was one of the worst, most legally and constitutionally dishonest decisions ever to emanate from the Supreme Court.  It’s an excrescence that should be voided.  But remember, if I put a check-mark by that statement, I come out as pro-life, when I’m actually anti-Roe v. Wade.  (As you know, I’m also more, rather than less, pro-Life, but the purpose of this essay is to attack the statement’s flawed assumptions.)  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement ten:  “The federal government should guarantee the rights of homosexuals.”  Umm.  Excuse me.  What rights are we talking about here?  The right not to be hanged, as happens to gays in Iran?  The right not to be beaten, as happens to gays in Saudi Arabia?  The right not to be sodomized, as happens to young boys in Afghanistan?  The right not to be beaten on the streets?  As to that, every American has the right not to be beaten on the streets.  The right not to be ridiculed and humiliated in schools?  Again, we all have those rights, although they’re inconsistently enforced.  I was routinely humiliated when I was in school because I was small, wore glasses, and read a lot.  The right to marry?  Well, last I saw, any gay person could go to a church or synagogue that is willing to marry gays before the eyes of God and, in fact, get married.

The right to have the government acknowledge that marriage?  As you know, I oppose gay “marriage” because I think it will inevitably lead to a constitutional crisis.  As has already happened in England, if a particular church won’t marry gays, the gay couple sues, claiming its depriving them of their rights.  In America, the constitution means that such a suit would pit the First Amendment right to freedom of worship against the first-time-in-history recognition of a “right” to gay marriage.

The right to civil unions?  Hey, I’m okay with that.  I think governments should be free to decide what relationships they want to encourage through legal incentives or disincentives, even if those decisions prove to be damaging to society.  In other words, the question is meaningless.  So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?

Statement eleven:  “Present federal laws effectively guarantee the rights of women and make passage of the Equal Rights Amendment unnecessary.”  One thing you can say about Leftists is that they never forget an issue.  The ERA died in the mid-1970s, but here the Leftists are, resurrecting it again to a generation that has no idea what this quiz is talking about.  I hate the way our laws parse people into categories.  I would have laws that actually apply to all people, not laws that apply to some people, invariably at the expense of other people.  I’d probably put a check mark next to this statement but, again, I’d be fulminating.

Those questions reveal how completely Leftism has taken over American education.  This takeover didn’t start yesterday.  Remember how I mentioned that the march into education was led by young people who entered conservative (or neutral-ish) bastions deliberately with the goal of effecting change, no matter how many decades it took?  The company that provided the above quiz is a perfect example of the patience, discipline, and comprehensiveness of the Leftist drive into education.

The company that created the quiz is “The Center for Learning.” You can get a sense of its ideological orientation by looking at the materials it sells to schools, as well as the materials from its parent company, “Social Studies School Services.”  Both of these companies provide course material for American schools and both came into being around 40 years ago, just when Progressivism began its full-bore march on American educational institutions.

If you’re a teacher or school district shopping at The Center for Learning, you might decide to buy the lessons for American Social Issues.  You can see “Lesson 32: The American Melting Pot — Myth or Reality” for free, online.  The lesson’s objectives are twofold:

  • To distinguish between an ethnic group and a minority group
  • To consider ethnic groups and their contributions

The lesson itself is described as follows (emphasis mine):

In this lesson, students read a play that incorporates representatives of a variety of ethnic groups. They dramatize the roles, write answers to questions about the play, and discuss the play’s message. Students expand on this by talking about the inequities found in our society today and remedies for them. The final aspect of this lesson deals with the American Dream. Students study a chart showing the variety of minority groups and their income levels. Students answer questions related to the chart determining whether or not the American Dream is attainable for everyone. This lesson presents facts and concepts in a positive way and helps students determine whether we are a melting pot or a tossed salad.

There’s a handout with questions the students have to answer.  Question 6 asks “How were the Japanese, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans victims of discrimination?”  (The correct answer is “Japanese Americans were put in internment camps during World War II, while African Americans were subjugated to slavery and segregation. Hispanics are often denied jobs and opportunities because of their background.”)  Interestingly, the course material never asks about the discrimination and poverty almost all Americans experienced in their home countries, which caused them to come to America in the first place.  (And yes, even African Americans experienced staggering discrimination in Africa.  It was their fellow Africans who captured them and sold them to the usually-Muslim traders who, in turn, then sold them to British and, later, American slave owners.)

One of the proposed “enrichment” activities is to “Research and report on laws that have discriminated against or excluded ethnic groups.”  None of the suggested activities include looking at the way myriad groups in America — Irish, Jewish, Italian, Mormons, etc. — have overcome discrimination through hard work, followed by economic, political, and social success.

Social Studies School Services, which is Center for Learning’s parent company is, if possible, even more hostile to America.  One of the items they promote for American classrooms is a video called “The Flaw” which is described as follows (emphasis mine):

Directed by David Sington. Explaining the fundamental reasons for the recent economic meltdown and, along the way, recalling U.S. 20th-century U.S. economic history, this award-winning documentary’s animated graphs and interviews with renowned economists build a case against credit-based capitalism: Because banks lend, consumers spend and corporations profit, so banks and investors become wealthier. Then, the wealthy (partially thanks to easy credit from banks) drive home prices upward, creating a mortgage boom that generates more wealth and further inflates the bubble. Includes plenty of detail on the mortgage debacle. Grades 10 and up. Closed captioned. Color. 82 minutes. Docurama. ©2010.

I suspect that the film makes no mention of Democrat-driven laws that forced banks to make bad loans so as to achieve full redistribution when it came to home ownership.  (Would it surprise you to learn that the director, David Sington, is a career BBC employee whose main crusade is anthropogenic climate change?)

The company also offers a series of mini-documentaries about the American presidents.  There are no clips, so one can’t tell how the documentary approaches the various presidents, but you can probably get an idea about content based upon this single fact (emphasis mine):  “Prepared by a former Daily Show and Colbert Report producer, these fast-paced three- to five-minute segments deliver solid content in a format energized by lively puns, visual jokes, and memorable quips.”

In the beginning, people whose values skew to individual liberty, a free market, and limited government, didn’t really realize what was happen.  They blithely pursued their day-to-day lives, laughing at places such as UC Berkeley or morality-free Hollywood, without realizing that the Leftists were slowly reshaping these institutions and, by extension, reshaping society.  Now that the deed is done, conservatives respond by angrily pointing out the problems, usually to approving cheers from a chorus of like-minded people.  (My blog is a perfect example.  I love, absolutely love, my conversations with all of you, but we are definitely preaching to the choir.)  What we don’t do is seek employment at NPR or in the Hollywood studios.  Part of it, of course, is the blacklist those institutions have against hiring conservatives.  Back in the day when institutions ran scared of Leftists, though, the Leftists had no compunction about lying, subterfuge, institutional sabotage, etc.  Their goal was to get in.  Once in, they knew that they could change the world.

Our refusal to use our children to storm those institutions is worrying, because it suggests that we’re afraid that our ideals will collapse when faced with their ideals — much as Muslims, terrified lest dissent expose flaws in their faith — execute dissenters.  And we have good reason to be scared.  Leftism is an easy sell to the young:  sex, drugs, and rock & roll.  All that we have to offer are hard work, rationalism, and moral decency.  That our values make the world a better, safer place, with people who score higher on happiness indices isn’t very convincing for an 18-year-old walking into an art-house porn movie, comfortable in the knowledge that he can afford to go to movies because, thanks in part to Obamacare, which makes sure he has his parents’ health insurance for another eight years.

Clearing out the inbox

I’d reached critical mass in the inbox.  It was either spend the day working through it or go nuclear which, in my case, doesn’t mean blowing up Israel, but does mean simply deleting everything in my inbox, knowing that there’s no way I will ever read what’s in there.  I chose not to go nuclear, and I am grateful for that decision, as I was able to find a lot of wonderful stuff.  Herewith, and in no particular order, stuff I culled from my inbox:

Following up on my post about the fact that we’re now living in a Soviet joke, a reader sent me this great one liner:  “Under Obamacare if you get sick, the doctors will pretend to heal you and the government will pretend to pay for it.”

One of my favorite bloggers, who happens to be a teacher, is Mike McDaniel.  He saw two newspaper articles that I’d seen too, and that I wanted to blog about, but never got around to.  Now, I’m grateful for my sloth, because Mike did a better job with them than I ever could have done.  The first is a bit frisky, but that’s only because (honest to God truth) an American university is giving students credit for attending a class that teaches them how to masturbateWhen I were a lad, we were so poor, we had to figure those things out by ourselves.  The other “education” story is less funny, because it has even more seriously implications for the joke that our university system has become.  Once you learn about micro-aggression, I think you’ll agree that we’re within striking distance of the end of the world as we know it.

Speaking of how far we’ve come, someone sent me a link to this project:  beautiful photo albums showing toys that were once an ordinary part of life but that would now result in a manufacturer’s lynching.  I have fond memories of “puffing” on toy cigarettes.  Interestingly, those sugary white rods with bright red tips never made me more inclined to try the real thing, which smelled bad and made me cough.

Oh, and while we’re on silly stuff, here’s a test for you:  in which countries are these various toilets located?  I got 50% correct and I can’t decide if that speaks well of me or badly.

In September, during the shutdown, someone sent me a link to a Red State story about GOP hostility to Ted Cruz.  Showing that political time is like dog years, in the two months and one day since Red State published that article, the world has turned upside down, thanks to the Obamacare exchange roll-out.  Suddenly, the article seems like a relic.  The GOP is still hostile, but it now has a serious problem with the fact that Ted Cruz was right.  (I was right too; just sayin’.)

I spoke today on the phone with Stella Paul and it explained a lot about why her articles are so insightful, intelligent, and beautifully written.  She is insightful, intelligent, and beautifully spoken.  (I always knew Obama’s books were fakes because nobody who wrote as well as he ostensibly did could speak as badly as he does off the cuff.  The person who wrote Obama’s books loves language; Obama does not.)  You can catch a lot of Stella’s stuff at American Thinker, such as her delightful and astute attack against the Obamacare exchange.  She’s also publishing at Leeb’s Market Forecast, with her most recent article there about the scary fact that we are trapped inside a government Matrix and only a few brave folks are willing to take a stand against it.  When it comes to Hollywood, Stella includes in her article one of the most frightening quotations I’ve ever heard:  ”‘We know from research that when people watch entertainment television, even if they know it’s fiction, they tend to believe that the factual stuff is actually factual,’ said grant recipient Martin Kaplan of the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center.”  Lee Habeeb’s proposed alternate TV channel can’t come fast enough.

One of the fascinating things about the Obamacare debacle is the way in which the New York Times has desperately been trying to cover up Obama’s lies.  “Incorrect promise” tops the list of course, but the Times is spinning so frantically, it’s running out of neologisms, neo-phrases, and outright lies about lies in order to cover for Obama’s forked tongue.  They should be better at this than they are.  As Lee Stranahan wrote a month ago, the Left has always lied about itself and its motives.

Thomas Friedman may be nominally Jewish, but he’s nominally Jewish the way Noam Chomsky is.  These guys are anti-Semitic Jews who are “thoughtful” enough to provide cover for all the other anti-Semites who aren’t Jews.  (“Yeah, so what if I say a Jewish cabal rules the world and therefore all Jews need to be destroyed?  Some of my best friends are Jews and they say the same thing.”)  Elliot Abrams caught Friedman in a doozy of an anti-Semitic screed, one that could have fit comfortably in the pages of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Friedman isn’t just a fool and a hypocrite, he’s a fool and a hypocrite who worships at the altar of totalitarianism and will happily pave the way for the next round of gas chambers — although he’ll pride himself on the fact that, when the time comes, he’ll weakly protest that Jews shouldn’t actually be sent there.

Since the Obama administration has been preparing talking points for Democrats to use to browbeat friends and relatives about Obamacare during Thanksgiving, Ace prepared talking points for conservatives.  Very worth reading.

“Mr. Obama, we at Fox News are not the problem.  You are.”  (Hat tip:  Earl):

A friend of mine, a former Air Force pilot, wrote a book, called The Unusual Travels of Lee and Tammy.  I was happy to leave this review at Amazon:

Mr. Strom has written a charming, imaginative book about a gateway between our moon and another world that can support human life. Funnily enough, Mr. Strom’s writing style reminded me strongly of Damon Runyon’s wonderful stories (which served as the basis for “Guys and Dolls.”). His dialogue has that same present tense formality that Runyon uses, which allows us to see the characters as from a slight distance.

The plot is straightforward: several astronauts from the world’s major countries are sent to the moon for a scientific study. Lee, an Armenian, accidentally falls through a portal into another world. Once he convinces his fellow astronauts of his existence, four of them, including Tammy, who becomes Lee’s romantic interest, explore the world. They discover its connection to earth, and have some unnerving experiences as they navigate their way through this strange, yet familiar, world.

I actually expected the book to be a more “Star Wars” type adventure with lots of shoot ‘em stuff. It’s not, though. It manages, instead, to imagine a realistic scenario, one that sees far away scientists make an exciting new discovery, and then follows through on how both the scientists and those back home (both funders and governments) respond to the possibilities of this discovery.

And lastly, during the shutdown, someone made a wonderful poster about the National Park Service employees who seemed to be so willing to carry out Obama’s orders to punish Americans — especially those who served our country so bravely — by closing down open-air parks.  Even though the shutdown is over, it’s worth reminding ourselves what happened in October, because Obama has made it very plain that he will not hesitate to mobilize America’s unionized government workers against Americans:

National Park Service

When narcissists apologize: Arne Duncan regrets that he was caught being a racist

Arne Duncan defended common core by verbally assaulting “white suburban moms.”  He’s now issued the standard Obama-era apology, which is to say that he’s not sorry for what he said, he’s just sorry that he got caught saying it:    “I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret.”

I was going to ask, “How dumb does Duncan think the American people are?”  That’s a stupid question.  The American people are dumb enough to have given people like Duncan virtually unfettered power in the halls of academia for upwards of 40 years now.

Dunca is right — he doesn’t owe us a real apology.  We had it coming.  Americans have had ample evidence that he’s a scorpion and they still held out their arms and said “Sting me.”

It’s we who owe the youth of America a real apology for inflicting these monsters on them.

How public schools’ war on boys has led to an increase in gun crimes

The school year has started again and, with it, the insanity that is Zero Tolerance in America’s public schools.  The Washington Post, which originally reported the story, helpfully explains that our nation’s schools have been busy little bees for the past year when it comes to criminalizing child’s play.  I wonder if we’re looking at this anti-gun fascism a little bit backwards.  We’re seeing it as an attack on guns.  But in the context of public schools, isn’t it just a subset of the school’s over-arching hostility to boys?

Public schools like boys in the abstract, but they really hate the reality of boys:  boys are physical beings who live in a hierarchical world that reveals itself when they are as little as two or three years old.  For a nice discussion about the spectacular differences between boy and girl social interactions, if you haven’t already read Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, you should.

Boys’ physical, hierarchical world means that they have a terrible time sitting still, even when they’re in their teens or 20s.  (Heck, I know much older men who are still kinetic, whether it’s a jiggling leg or a tapping finger.)  They engage in physical or verbal play that is intended allocate them to their place in the day’s (or the minute’s) hierarchy.  They practice male roles of warfare and command.

All of this is antithetical to the hyper-feminine, hyper-feminist atmosphere that pervades America’s schools, especially her elementary/primary schools.  I don’t know what it’s like outside of Marin County, but here, almost without exception, elementary school teachers are female, with a handful of gay men thrown in for good measure.  Schools want students to sit still, which girls do naturally and boys don’t.  Schools want students to talk about their feelings, which girls do naturally and boys don’t.  Schools want to destroy physical competition, which is a hard sell to girls, and an even harder sell to boys.

What schools should be doing is to allow boys maximum physical activity, such as full physical breaks every hour.  Rather than prohibiting physical and competitive play, they should encourage it, while enforcing concepts such as honor, fairness, generosity, and loyalty, as well as the difference between play and cruelty.  Boys should learn to be good winners and good losers.

The schools’ anti-bullying programs also persecute boys.  Often, bullies are testing out their competitive and pack instincts.  Schools could address this by giving boys meaningful competitive and pack opportunities, with strong expectations about honorable behavior, or they should work to teach other students how not to become victims.  (This would be akin to teaching home owners how to lock doors.  There are bad people out there, but you certainly lessen your exposure if you take responsibility for protecting and defending yourself.)

Instead, schools out-bully the bullies by bringing the full weight of the school to bear on a kid who is, as likely as not, just testing boy boundaries.  The victim learns that people should never defend themselves because, if they do, they’ll get in trouble, and if they don’t, they’ll be celebrated for calling in the heavy-hitters.  The “bullies” learn that the best way to win is to be the biggest bully of them all.

When boys do not respond to this constant hammering away at them in an effort to wipe out their biological imperatives, they get labeled as “problem” students, or ADHD kids.  The schools then start pressuring the parents to put the boys on psychotropic drugs.  It seems appropriate to mention here that, in every one of the school shootings in the last twenty-years, the shooter has been on psychotropic drugs.  The “turn boys into peaceful girl” drugs and the fact that the boys’ families have Democrat political identities are the ties that bind these youthful mass murderers.

I understand that there are boys who are violent and angry, and that bad things happen.  I’m not blaming everything on the schools.  I am saying, however, that in their efforts to feminize boys, including taking away the pretend war games in which boys engage to test what they can do, the schools are creating boys who do not know how to harness their boy energy in a healthy way, and who too often become dependent on psychotropic drugs that have strong links to murder and suicide.

In this context, the anti-gun policy, while it is definitely related to the Progressive push to wipe out the Second Amendment, is also just another front in the Leftist war against men.  The stakes are high in this war, by the way, because manly men — men who are self-reliant and responsible — don’t like a big government that tries to infantilize or feminize them.

(For more information on the schools war on boys, check out Christina Hoff Sommers’ The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men.  I haven’t read it myself yet, because it’s expensive, but I’m keeping an eye out for it on our public library shelves.)

Schools’ war on boys

Two things come together in this article by Christina Hoff Sommers about the war that schools routinely wage against American boys.

First, it’s written by Christina Hoff Sommers, a writer I’ve deeply admired since I first read Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. I give her a great deal of credit for helping strip the so-called “liberal” blinders from my eyes and allowing me to see human nature and the world we live in as they actually are, not as the Marxist propagandists claim they are.

Second, the article supports something I’ve been saying at this blog since the day I started it, back in (gasp!) October 2004:  Our culture is incredibly hostile to boys, and this hostility is reflected in our schools.  My pet peeve is the way education revolves around “feelings.”  I’ve said a zillion times that boys tune this out.  If you want to engage them in literature, have them read Ivanhoe, not Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.  I loved that second book (in a chastely salacious way) when I was 11, but Judy Blume-esque books are so not for boys.

If you give boys books about adventure, and heroics, and honor, and decency, they gobble them up.  If you foist on them relatively stagnant books about navel-gazing, they will zone out and become disengaged from education.  Wrap that up with games that deny boys the opportunity to play rough (in a fairly safe way), and compete, and learn how to win and lose, and you will have emasculated a generation.

Could it be that my child will learn something in AP English?

My older child is taking AP English this fall, and has to do some reading and write some essays even before school starts.  I was intrigued by two of the essays:

Francine Prose’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Cannot Read : How American high school students learn to loath literature (Harper’s Magazine, 1999) and Richard Rodriquez’s Aria : A memoir of a bilingual childhood (American Scholar, 2001).  What’s amazing about both of these essays is that they go against the dominant narrative controlling high school English classes all over the nation.

Regarding Prose’s essay, I’m too lazy to search for links right now, but I know that I’ve railed repeatedly against high school English classes that have nothing to do with the English language (grammar, composition, artistry, and elegance), and everything to do with advancing a Leftist social agenda, complete with victimization, racism, white evil, and the elevation of emotions over rationality and morality.  Back in 1999, which doesn’t seem that long ago, someone could still write an essay that would be published in a major magazine making exactly those points.  Prose doesn’t phrase it in terms of the Marxist takeover of education, but that’s the underlying subtext to her complaint about the — you should pardon the expression — crap that high school students have to read, none of which advances the cause of the English language.

Oh, and while we’re talking about English language bastardization, please read Dennis Prager’s latest, in which he comments on a decision Leftist publications have made to act unilaterally to rename the Washington Redskins.  For purposes of this post, here’s the killer quotation, made as part of Prager’s slashing analysis of Slate’s self-righteous stance:

Slate Argument Three: “Changing how you talk changes how you think. . . . Replacing ‘same-sex marriage’ with ‘marriage equality’ helped make gay marriage a universal cause rather than a special pleading.”

Response: It’s nice to have at least one left-wing source acknowledge how the Left changes language to promote its causes. When more and more people began to suspect that global warming was not about to bring an apocalypse, and that, at the very least, it is in a pause mode, the Left changed the term to “climate change.”

The substitution of “marriage equality” for “same-sex marriage” is just one more example of dishonest manipulation of English.

The Orwellian manipulation of language by the Left would be reason enough to oppose dropping “Redskins,” a name representing a nearly 80-year-old tradition venerated by millions.

As for Richard Rodriquez’s article, he says what my father always said:  “bilingual education,” which really means teaching an immigrant child in his native tongue without ever exposing him to the English language, is a mistake.  At least, it’s a mistake for the child.  For the Leftists (this is me talking, not Rodriquez), it’s a great thing, because it creates a perpetual (Democrat-voting) ghetto class made up of people who do not speak sufficient English to break into the great middle class.

These articles are old, and I doubt that many more like them are being written.  I’m delighted, however, that at least one high school teacher is keeping them alive.

I should note that neither of these articles has anything to do with the English language either.  That is, this class has nothing to do with learning how to venerate and recreate the best kind of writing.  But at least it’s not PC crap.

Of Norway, petrodollars, free education, etc.

One of my old high school friends, an ardent liberal, posted the following on his Facebook page:

Norway smart - America stupid

Doesn’t that just make so much sense? Give free education and your nation will be wonderful.  Of course, both “Mr. Silhouette” and the friend who posted it suffer from no small amount of ignorance in making that assertion.  For one thing, I’m virtually certain that they don’t know that Norway can offer this free education, as well as a variety of other social benefits, in significant part because it’s floating away on an incredibly profitable sea of petrodollars.  Were Obama to allow the Keystone pipeline, we might be able to fund a few more educational opportunities in this country too.

The other thing that the cartoonist ignores is that Norway is a petite country (4,722,701 people compared to America’s 316,668,567).  More than that, Norway has a staggeringly homogenous population.  According to the CIA World Fact Book, the population breakdown for Norway is “Norwegian 94.4% (includes Sami, about 60,000), other European 3.6%, other 2% (2007 estimate).”  The numbers are a bit different for America:  “white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate).”  Even that’s misleading, because it’s just skin color (whites and blacks), and broad racial classification (Asian, Amerindian, Alaska native, etc.).  This breakdown utterly fails to take into account America’s cultural melting pot, with our genetic and cultural mix representing people from every corner of the earth.

The population differences between the two countries mean that, in America, it’s very difficult to convince everyone to do the same thing at the same time.  In Norway, on the other hand, people are practically born in lock-step.  (And don’t even get me started on Leftist educational trends in America that involve everything but education, or on the fact that we force non-academically inclined students into academic classes when they should be learning a trade.)

Finally, what neither Mr. Silhouette or my friend know is that Norway is having sufficient problems with its socialism — and that’s despite the fact that petrodollars are paying for the costly luxury that is socialism — that it is starting to turn right politically, away from socialism:

This country was transformed by the discovery of huge oil deposits off its shores in 1969. Although Norway’s state-owned oil company, Statoil, was quickly established to lead the development of the new oil discoveries, the industry has been open to private investment and participation on a scale seldom found outside the United States. That has led to an extremely efficient and profitable energy sector, which provides 36 percent of the national government’s revenue. The Government Pension Fund, into which much of the oil profits are channeled, had $445 billion in assets in 2010 and represented nearly 2 percent of the equity in European stock markets. The value of the pension fund’s assets approximately equals the value of all the real estate in Manhattan.

“Oil has turned Norway from a sleepy, largely rural economy into an economic powerhouse,” says Norwegian businessman Olaf Halvorssen. “So much money comes in to the government that Norway has largely escaped the trimming of the welfare state that many other European countries are going through.”

But more and more people recognize that the oil wealth won’t last forever, and a real debate is just starting in this country of 4.9 million people over what direction its economy should go. Norway will be holding elections for Parliament on September 9, just two weeks before Germany votes. If polls taken over the last year are accurate, the eight-year-old Labor-party government of Jens Stoltenberg is headed for a landslide defeat.

This trend is occurring despite the fact that, so far, Norway’s economy has not only been stable, but it’s been growing at twice America’s 1.5% growth rate:

This country was transformed by the discovery of huge oil deposits off its shores in 1969. Although Norway’s state-owned oil company, Statoil, was quickly established to lead the development of the new oil discoveries, the industry has been open to private investment and participation on a scale seldom found outside the United States. That has led to an extremely efficient and profitable energy sector, which provides 36 percent of the national government’s revenue. The Government Pension Fund, into which much of the oil profits are channeled, had $445 billion in assets in 2010 and represented nearly 2 percent of the equity in European stock markets. The value of the pension fund’s assets approximately equals the value of all the real estate in Manhattan.

“Oil has turned Norway from a sleepy, largely rural economy into an economic powerhouse,” says Norwegian businessman Olaf Halvorssen. “So much money comes in to the government that Norway has largely escaped the trimming of the welfare state that many other European countries are going through.”

But more and more people recognize that the oil wealth won’t last forever, and a real debate is just starting in this country of 4.9 million people over what direction its economy should go. Norway will be holding elections for Parliament on September 9, just two weeks before Germany votes. If polls taken over the last year are accurate, the eight-year-old Labor-party government of Jens Stoltenberg is headed for a landslide defeat.

Please read more of John Fund’s article to learn about the sea change taking place in Norway.

Here’s what I’ve learned:  if my Leftist friends put up a snarky political poster on their Facebook page, it’s invariably factual deficient or logically flawed.

What are the obligations educational institutions have to young people in the LGBTQ spectrum?

Let’s start with that acronym — LGBTQ.  It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning.  There are also adjectives that can precede LGBTQ, such as “Of color,” Black, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Disabled, etc., all of which create their own little sub groups within the LGBTQ group, which is itself composed of particulate matters.

All of you know that, being libertarian, I don’t care what relationships people form in their personal lives.  Having said that, Robert Lopez makes a good argument that the obligations we have to our children transcend our personal search for happiness, including love and sexual fulfillment.

I don’t believe in gay marriage, but that’s only because I believe it will lead inevitably to the type of clash between church and state that we’re seeing in England.  And no, I don’t see the First Amendment protecting religions from attacks by LGBTQ people who insist that a church must ignore its own doctrine and marry them.  We’ve already seen from the ObamaCare mandate regarding contraception and abortifacients that Leftists couldn’t care less about the First when it comes to protecting actual religions (which was the Founders’ goal), rather than protecting Leftists from religion.  I’m fine with civil unions, however, because I think the state can make whatever decisions it wants, even if they prove later to be stupid.

I’m also sympathetic to people whose external appearance is at odds with their self-identity.  I believe that hormones and other brain chemicals play a strong part in sexual identity and desire, and we all know that nature makes mistakes.  (Believe it or not, I was supposed to look like Heidi Klum.  Nature really messed up there….)

Lastly, I’m fully aware that LGBTQ people have higher rates of bad things such as drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, suicide, and spousal abuse.  I’m prepared to believe that some of these problems in childhood lead people to identify as LGBTQ; that some people are so terribly discriminated against because they are LGBTQ that they end up with self-destructive behaviors; and that there is something fundamentally unhealthy inthe urban LGBTQ lifestyle that leads people into self-destructive behaviors.

So we’ve established that I’m cool with people’s private desires, that I’m okay with civil unions, that I recognize that biology can treat people cruelly, and that I acknowledge a multiplicity of possible factors behind LGBTQ dysfunctions.  None of those factors, however, lead me to believe that our educational institutions have some overriding duty to serve all the needs of the LGBTQ community, or all of its racial or differently-abled subsets.  The LGBTQ community, though, does think that it’s owed this stuff and it believes further that our educational institutions, despite the university diversity staffs that can be bigger than the rest of school administrations put together, is failing to make the community feel good about itself:

Not only do queer youth of color deal with life-altering issues, says a new UCLA study, but schools and institutions are not adequately addressing their needs.

“GBTQ youth of color struggle with homelessness, poverty, family rejection and bullying,” says Ilan H. Meyer, the study’s principal investigator and Williams Institute Senior Scholar for Public Policy at UCLA, in a press release. “Yet, serious barriers exist to providing youth with culturally competent care.”

With a grant from Liberty Hill Foundation, Williams Institute researchers contacted L.A.-based education, medical, and social service providers, examining how the unique needs of queer youth of color are being met. What they found out wasn’t very good…

According to the study titled “Provider Perspectives on the Needs of Gay and Bisexual Male and Transgender Youth of Color,” various institutions are dropping the ball.

You can read the rest here.

I’m old-fashioned enough to have fairly limited expectations about educational institutions:  They should educate in an environment that doesn’t actively discriminate against people.  The facilities should be reasonably safe (no crumbling buildings, etc.), and the faculty should be good.  With younger students, the faculty should be attuned to obvious signs of abuse.  At the university level, it would be nice if the faculty was sensible enough to recognize troubling signs (drug use, extreme depression, anorexia, etc.), and kind enough to act on those observations, but I do not think that it should be a job requirement to have this awareness and decency, nor should the taxpayer have to fund administrations that function as social workers and psychiatrists.

Am I missing something?  Am I a societal sociopath or are the special interest groups in America demanding so much bath water that they’re killing the baby?  (And yes, that’s a fearsomely strained metaphor, but it takes me where I want to go.)

Why have a lot of little posts, when you can have one really big one?

I’ve been coming across so much interesting stuff this morning that I’m going to do another flotsam and jetsam post.

One of the things we’ve long known is that the Left lies about statistics.  Examples of this are “1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted” canard and the “women earn 76 cents for every dollar men earn” lie which is (a) factually inaccurate and (b) misleading because it ignores the fact that women’s commitment to their children means many of them voluntarily take a different career track.  (The only place this is factually true, I think, is the Obama White House, where he definitely pays women less.)  Tom Elia therefore suggests that, before blindly accepting Texas Democrats’ charge that the proposed abortion law would close all but 5 of Texas’s 42 abortion clinics (because of the requirement that the clinic be within 30 miles of a hospital), we might want to check whether this is actually true.

Before you get your knickers in a twist about the revelation that the EU has been colluding with the US to hand over European data to the NSA program, remember that the source is a virulent anti-American, antisemitic truther.  This may explain why The Guardian, after touting the story, then pulled it.  Having said that, it’s not hard to believe Edward Epstein’s theory that this was never a whistleblower case but was, instead, a carefully thought out plan of espionage.

You’re my readers, so I know all of you are already aware that we’re on the verge of the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg.  Nevertheless, I thought I’d still mention it, along with the fact that at least some Americans are aware of how significant that battle was.  World War I saw bigger battles, with more deaths (Ypres, the Somme, etc.), but I’m not sure that any Civil War ever saw such ferocious days as the Civil War did at Antietam or Gettysburg, or any of the other sites where Americans clashed against each other.  I believe it’s very useful to remind some people (and I’m not naming names) that America is the only country in the world that has ever shed so much blood to fight slavery.

Just a moment to mourn Andrew Pochter, the idealistic American Jewish kid who went to Egypt to help raise up the poor Arabs and died in a welter of blood during an anti-Morsi protest.

I think things in Egypt are about to get much worseTwenty-two million Egyptians signed a petition demanding Morsi’s ouster.  Do they really think the Muslim Brotherhood is going to walk away?  If Egypt does fall into a Civil War, it will make what’s happening in Syria look like a Sunday school picnic.

Naive people think a mosque is just a House of Worship.  While it is definitely a House of Worship, it’s also something more:  a symbol of conquest.  That’s why it has to be higher than the surrounding buildings.  And that’s why, in Germany, the air is being filled with the amplified sounds of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer five times a day.

Charlie Martin, one of my favorite PJ Media writers, is at it again, writing smart stuff, this time about climate change and a really important question:  is there any evidence that humans matter?

And while we’re on the subject of climate, Robert Zubrin explains in simple terms why Obama’s recently announced climate plans will impoverish America.  With Obama focusing on climate change (despite more and more data that the entire theory is wrong), even as the economy stagnates, national secrets go walking, and the Middle East is aflame, my first thought was that he was like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.  Reading Zubrin’s analysis though of the devastating Obama’s plans will bring to the economy, the better analogy would be Nero pouring accelerant on the flames licking at Rome.  If you doubt that, check out Obama’s recent appointees, all of whom have drunk full of the climate change Kool-Aid.

Republicans are saying that this time, really, for good and for true, their eyes are open.  That whole Gang of Eight thing made them realize that the Democrats are not their friends in Congress and they promise, never, never, never again to ever again, really ever, let the Democrats play them like that.  How dumb do Republicans think we are?  Republicans are Charlie Brown, Democrats are Lucy, and Americans are a poor, kicked-around, deflated football.

A New Jersey teachers union leader said that the rich send their children to public school so that they don’t have to have contact with the poor.  I know of at least one case where this is true.  Back in 1971, busing came to San Francisco.  I was bussed from one middle class school near my home to another slightly less middle class school far from my home.  It made friendships difficult (none of my friends were near), and there were a few more black kids, but otherwise it was no big deal.  My friend, however, was bussed from her middle class school to a school in Bayview-Hunter’s Point, one of the worst slums in San Francisco.  She could beaten up every day for the first two weeks of school.  Her parents, fortunately, had the money to pull her out of the public school system and they put her in Brandeis.  So yes, they didn’t want her to have contact with the poor — because the poor wanted to have a bit too much contact with her.

If you’re wondering what’s going on in Turkey, Claire Berlinsky will explain it to you.

This is an Open Thread, so please feel free to add to it.

The homogeneity of Leftist thinking at American institutions and its effect on poverty at the ground level

I’ve written before about one of my favorite writers, Paul Fussell.  He wrote a wonderful essay entitled Thank God for the Atom Bomb, about the righteousness of dropping the atom bomb.  He was in the Army when Truman dropped the bomb, so Fussell wholeheartedly approved — and had the data to back up his personal opinion.  (More recently released data completely backs up his 30 year old hypothesis.)  I also wholeheartedly approve, as my Mom was a few weeks away from dying in a Japanese concentration camp when the bomb dropped.

Fussell also wrote what I think is one of the greatest books ever about WWI, The Great War and Modern Memory.  I just bought the Kindle version to reread because my copy, which I bought in college, has disintegrated. It’s a beautifully written book that looks at both the war and concurrent war literature to track a vast paradigm shift in intellectual thought during the four years the war lasted.  Young men went in imbued with Victorian ideas of chivalry and honor; they came out jaded, cynical, and completely unable to accept that aggression is sometimes necessary and could have been useful in preventing Hitler’s rise. It is a triumph of both military writing and literary writing.

What you might not know about Fussell was that this iconoclast was a university professor.  Nowadays, the phrase iconoclastic professor is an oxymoron.  Not so in Fussell’s heyday.  Wikipedia sums up his military and academic career:

Fussell attended Pomona College from 1941 until he enlisted in the US Army in 1943. He landed in France in 1944 as a 20 year-old second lieutenant with the 103rd Infantry Division,[8] was wounded while fighting in Alsace, and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged from the army in 1946, returned to Pomona to finish his B.A. degree in 1946-7, married fellow Pomona graduate Betty Harper in 1949, and completed his MA (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) at Harvard University.

He began his teaching career at Connecticut College (1951–55) before moving to Rutgers University in 1955 and finally the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. He also taught at the University of Heidelberg (1957–58) and King’s College London (1990–92). As a teacher, he traveled widely with his family throughout Europe from the 1950s to 70s, taking Fulbright and sabbatical years in Germany, England and France.

As his writing shows, Fussell was an entirely original thinker who didn’t march to the beat of anyone’s drum.  Indeed, he delighted in challenging what was already becoming stifling academic orthodoxy:

Fussell stated that he relished the inevitable controversy of Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983) and indulged his increasing public status as a loved or hated “curmudgeon” in the rant called BAD: or, The Dumbing of America (1991). In between, Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988) confirmed his war against government and military doublespeak and prepared the way for Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989). The epiphany of his earlier essay, “My War”, found full expression in his memoir Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic (1996), “My Adolescent illusions, largely intact to that moment, fell away all at once, and I suddenly knew I was not and never would be in a world that was reasonable or just”. The last book by Fussell published while he was alive, The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45 (2003) was once again concerned with the experience of combat in World War II.

Fussell was never petrified or brainwashed by his academic career.  I wonder what Fussell would have thought if he’d been a teacher at Bowdoin in the last twenty years or so.  Bowdoin found itself in the news lately because of what David Feith calls “The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World.”  It all started when Barry Mills, Bowdoin College’s president, had a golf game with investor and philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein.  During the game, the subject of academic diversity came up.  Both Mills and Klingenstein would agree that Klingenstein didn’t like it.  According to Mills’s retelling at a subsequent graduation ceremony, Klingenstein was hostile and, in a word, dumb.  Writes Feith:

In his address, President Mills described the golf outing and said he had been interrupted in the middle of a swing by a fellow golfer’s announcement: “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” said the other golfer, in Mr. Mills’s telling. During Mr. Mills’s next swing, he recalled, the man blasted Bowdoin’s “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” At the end of the round, the college president told the students, “I walked off the course in despair.”

Klingenstein got word of this graduation address, which implied that the anonymous golf-companion was a troglodyte and racist, and knew that Mills was talking about him.  Klingenstein decided to set the record straight.  Rather than just saying “that’s not what I meant,” or offering his opinion about diversity, Klingenstein took his money and funded a National Association of Scholars project that carefully examined Bowdoin’s curriculum, especially in the last ten years.  The results were eye-opening, to say the least — or, saying a little more than the least, eye-opening to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on in, and the product (i.e., graduates) coming out of, these academic “gatekeepers of civilization”:

Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.

The school’s ideological pillars would likely be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to American higher education lately. There’s the obsession with race, class, gender and sexuality as the essential forces of history and markers of political identity. There’s the dedication to “sustainability,” or saving the planet from its imminent destruction by the forces of capitalism. And there are the paeans to “global citizenship,” or loving all countries except one’s own.

The Klingenstein report nicely captures the illiberal or fallacious aspects of this campus doctrine, but the paper’s true contribution is in recording some of its absurd manifestations at Bowdoin. For example, the college has “no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation.” Even history majors aren’t required to take a single course in American history. In the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.

One of the few requirements is that Bowdoin students take a yearlong freshman seminar. Some of the 37 seminars offered this year: “Affirmative Action and U.S. Society,” “Fictions of Freedom,” “Racism,” “Queer Gardens” (which “examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces”), “Sexual Life of Colonialism” and “Modern Western Prostitutes.”

Regarding Bowdoin professors, the report estimates that “four or five out of approximately 182 full-time faculty members might be described as politically conservative.” In the 2012 election cycle, 100% of faculty donations went to President Obama. Not that any of this matters if you have ever asked around the faculty lounge.

“A political imbalance [among faculty] was no more significant than having an imbalance between Red Sox and Yankee fans,” sniffed Henry C.W. Laurence, a Bowdoin professor of government, in 2004. He added that the suggestion that liberal professors cannot fairly reflect conservative views in classroom discussions is “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting and, fortunately, wildly inaccurate.”

This is an intellectual, academic paradigm shift of almost incomprehensible magnitude.  Since its inception, regardless of the reality on the ground, America’s self-image (which was sold to generations of school children and college students right up until the 1950s) was of an inclusive nation, a melting pot, dedicated to the principle that all American citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law; have a right to equal access to American opportunities (with it being up to the people whether to take that access); and are subject to the downside risks should they refuse to seize the opportunities or violate the law.  With slavery and Jim Crow, we deviated from the principles, but the principles were sound.

At Bowdoin, though, and others like it, the paradigm has shifted.  Young people are taught a new, ugly paradigm about their country:  America is composed of disparate groups, with a few select groups made up of white men (and, probably, Jews) controlling the nation and doing what they can to exploit, denigrate, and impoverish a never-ending, every-growing list of victim classes, ranging from women, to homosexuals, to non-white races, to Muslims, to fat people, to anything that can be brought under the umbrella of victim.  There is no such thing in this world as equality of opportunity.  There is only equality of outcome that can be attained by using the government to strong-arm the ruling class of white males (and, possibly, Jews) so that they redistribute their ill-gotten gains to the victims.

I was talking the other day to a friend who works at elementary schools in a large, urban ghetto.  These schools have no white children.  The schools are dreadful, and the children — innocent victims all — suffer terribly.  They grow up in abysmal poverty, and they don’t have role models within their homes showing  education or wealth.  Their neighborhoods are rife with crime (especially gun fire) and substance abuse. Almost all come from broken homes.Their streets are dangerous because of gangs.  The message one receives from those brave enough to work in those neighborhoods is that these children can succeed only if we pour government funds into their schools.  And if those funds don’t work, then we need to pour more in, and still more in.

In my mind, I compared these children — and they are so sad, since they are bright little lights that are blinking out — with the immigrants who came to this country between, say, 1850 and 1950.  They lived in ghettos; they lived in abysmal poverty; their parents didn’t speak the language of wealth (many didn’t even speak English); the streets were dangerous, not because of gunfire, but because of knives, disease, and starvation; there was significant substance abuse (alcoholism and opium); schools were grossly underfunded, etc.  And yet these children became working class, their children became middle class, and their children became upper class.  It wasn’t a 100% success rate at every generation, but it was a substantial rate at every generation.

They went from this:

Jacob Riis tenement photograph

and this:

Jacob Riis image of street kids

to this:

Suburban kitchen

What’s the difference between then and now? I don’t believe that it’s because American blacks (and it’s mostly blacks stuck for generations in ghettos) are forever developmentally disabled by slavery. John McWhorter points out that blacks were ascending rapidly, both socially and economically, before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society enticed them into welfare and single parenthood (welfare pays single mothers better than two parent families).  Starting in the 1960s, the increasingly Left-leaning white leadership in America told blacks that, the end of slavery and Jim Crow notwithstanding, they are not created equal and they are not equal under the law.  They are different — they are needier.  Without Mama and Papa government, they are nothing.

I think it’s this paradigm shift, one that starts in the Ivory Towers by creating infinite victim classes, all of which that can be raised up only by government intervention and control, that trickles down into the streets. In the old days, you had to do it yourself, so you did. Nowadays, the government is supposed to rescue you. Homes don’t emphasize education, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility. They emphasize “Why isn’t the government helping?”  This is not about race, or slavery, or poverty — it is about an intellectual environment that explicitly educates future leaders that government needs race-victims, and slave-victims and poverty-victims to fulfill its purpose.  Without those classes, government is meaningless and by definition a vehicle of evil.

Paul Fussell, who thought outside the box, would not have approved.  (Or at least I like to think he wouldn’t have approved.)

A gripe about English teachers

English teachers

I adore reading but, with one exception, I loathed every high school or college English class I ever had.  Watching my children go through high school English classes reminded me why:  the books they believe we should read are dull and the teacher’s firmly believe that a cigar is invariably anything but a smoke.  (The exception was one vigorous, eccentric, acerbic English teacher who managed, while still obsessing over sexual imagery, to teach us actual thinking and writing skills.)

Maybe I’m a cultural troglodyte, but I think Catcher in the Rye is a dreadful book.  It was certainly groundbreaking when published, because nobody before had ever thought that readers would want to spend time with a self-involved, neurotic, boring, angry, sex-obsessed prep school boy.  Apparently post-WWII audiences, exhausted by years of being on and reading about blood-soaked foreign shores were, in fact, hungering for some narcissistic fare.  But why did the book become part of the American literary canon?  Outside of a certain type of English teacher, I’ve never spoken to anyone who actually liked it or learned from it  — and that’s true whether we’re speaking about learning more about the English language or learning more about life.

To those English teachers reading this blog, I can assure you that this post is not aimed at you.  If you’re the kind of person who would read a conservative political blog, I’m pretty sure you’re not the kind who would take Oscar Wilde’s opiate-infused Picture of Dorian Gray, and spend two full lecture periods focusing on the sexual symbolism of the various flowers described in the book.  (No kidding; that’s what one of my English teachers did.)  Wilde’s book was kind of fun, and he certain knows how to use the English language, but our classroom time would have been better spent understanding how he used structure, vocabulary and obvious imagery (as opposed to pre-Freudian sexual stuff), to write his famous book.

What I keep wondering is what English teachers (or the Boards that set their curriculum) think they’re supposed to teach.  If I were writing the curriculum, I would say that they should teach (a) basic grammar; (b) rich vocabulary; (c) solid writing skills; and (d) the true canon of beautiful writing that shows our English language being used in the best, highest way.  One can quibble over who should be in that list, but modern English is sterile without knowing Shakespeare, the King James Bible, Dickens, Austen, etc.  These works are the backbone of a lush, flexible, varied use of our English language.  (It’s hard to think of any 20th or 21st century books about which this can be said.)  Read these books and you will be able to speak and write with more grace, fluidity, and richness than would come from a thousand readings about that whiny little bastard Holden Caufield.

Today, every English class seems to be about amateur psychology.  The kids are forced to read navel-gazing books that aren’t about the English language — its use and beauty — but are, instead, about modern existential angst.  When did narcissistic angst shove the English language out of English classrooms?

Kids should be reading big books with big ideas, rather than small books about little people obsessed with their puny discontents.  Kids should be reading beautifully-written books that embrace our marvelous, multi-faceted, exceptionally-rich English language, instead of reading books that delight in the use of obscenities, slang, and bad grammar — all intended to show the author’s hip, navel-gazing credentials.

Our country would be a much better place if all high school and college-level basic English classes were wiped off the curriculum.  We’d then start fresh with books and poems that celebrate the English language and the human spirit.

 

Public schools dying under the weight of teacher’s unions

Teaching math

I’ve been hostile to teacher’s unions since I was a child.  I saw them from both ends:  as a lifelong public school student and as a child whose father (reluctantly) belonged to the California teacher’s union.

In the classroom, my teachers were decrepit fossils, many of whom hated students, and few of whom could teach.  Here’s a highlight list of some of those teachers:

  • Mr. X, the science teacher who quizzed 13 year old girls about their sex lives, said of a Jewish student “there’s another one Hitler should have gotten,” and who physically attacked a student and then threw a movie projector out the window.  I think it was the damage to school property that finally got him kicked out of the classroom on administrative leave.  He drew a full salary for four years before they terminated him.
  • Mr. Y, the math teacher who would periodically rush out into the noisy hallway outside his classroom, screaming “G-g-get a-w-w-ay from m-m-my c-c-c-classroom, you f-f-future p-p-pimps and wh-wh-whores!”  His teaching was no better than his attitude.
  • Ms Z, famous for telling students that children’s books were riddled with sex.  After her class, students would convene in the halls to spread the word about sexual imagery in The Cat In The Hat or Where The Wild Things Are.  (I hear from reliable sources that high school English teachers today are just as, if not more, sex obsessed than Ms. Z.)
  • Ms A, the chemistry teacher who was one year away from retiring, and had apparently decided to start her retirement early by stopping teaching.  She had us memorize the Periodic Table of Elements, but never actually told us what it was.  She’d give us worksheets with experiment procedures, but forgot to tell us what scientific principle was at stake.  I got a B in her class.  Everyone else I knew got an A, because they’d managed to get their hands on the master sheet for her test.  She didn’t care.  She was leaving anyway.

I had some decent, or merely mediocre, teachers during my years in public school, but I had only three or four really good teachers. With those few exceptions, my teachers were old, bored, hostile, and/or dysfunctional.  Had they been employees in the private sector they would have been fired long before or, fearing firing, they would have gotten their acts together.

What I heard from my Dad about the inner workings of the teacher’s union didn’t make me very happy either.  For one thing, and this is a gripe that no longer has much resonance, the unions did a lousy job of getting teachers decent salaries.  The way it worked was that the union bosses would enter into a negotiation with the school administrators (who were also union members).  The deal would be that the administrators would get a 4% cost of living wage and the teachers a 2% cost of living wage (this was during the inflationary 1970s).  Once this deal was reached, the administrators would then negotiate with the powers that be for this pay package.  And that was it.

My Dad was disgusted that he was forced to pay union dues to an organization that provided him with something that barely qualified as a living wage.  As I said, those days are gone.  The unions have figured out how to make sure that their members get good wages.

What disgusted my Dad even more than lousy salary representation was the way the unions insisted on sticking their noses into curriculum matters.  California unions were advancing Ebonics long before the media caught hold of the notion.  (And when the media caught on, a still sane American public laughed the idea out of the schools.)  They also argued in favor of abandoning phonics (so a generation didn’t learn to read), pushing new math (so a generation, myself included, never learned math), and generally overhauling education in a direction that decreased learning.  In recent decades, they’ve added an overwhelming Leftist tilt to the entire curriculum.

My regularly occurring rant against teacher’s unions came about today because Prager U has a new video out, this one about the damage teacher’s unions to do American public education.

Incidentally, I’m trying out a new approach when it comes to school vouchers.  When I post about vouchers, I say that the school choice movement is the best thing that can happen to public school teachers.  The good ones are always complaining about the curriculum limits placed upon their classrooms and the way these limits interfere with their ability really to teach the children.  School choice, by forcing public schools to compete, would mean that school boards and state education departments would have to listen to these teachers in order to improve the schools’ competitive standing.  This argument puts teachers in a bind, because they can scarcely argue that there’s no room for improvement.  Further, if they reject this argument, they’re conceding that they’re not being truthful when they speak to concerned parents and say that, with regard to a certain teaching approach, their hands are tied.

Education for the brainwashed generation

I know I’m just grumpy, but this promotional mailing from Ithaca College rubbed me the wrong way:

Ithaca flier

Ready to write environmental wrongs.  Ithaca College will turn your academic passions into unforgettable experiences — and make you ready for the adventure of your life.

I know that the first sentence is meant to be a clever pun, but it’s not.  At first glance, I thought it was a typo or blatant grammatical error.  On second reading, I thought Ithaca was promising to teach students how to plan to create environmental wrongs.  On third reading, I realized that Ithaca is offering to teach students how to “list” environmental wrongs, although I suspect there’ll be a fair dollop of creative writing (i.e., anthropogenic climate change) thrown in.

The whole thing — with the smug girl and the promise that documenting, or making up, environmental wrong is the “adventure of your life” — made me queasy.

Am I overreacting?  I probably am.  But as Kurt Schlichter said about Lena Dunham’s and HBO’s vile, nihilistic show Girls, we need to know what’s out there, because it is out there, and it’s aimed at our children.

The hypothesis fallacy; or please explain to me why EVERY scientific experiment (whether hard or social) needs a hypothesis

Scientist

Bear with me here, because I’m about to prove how simplistic and primitive my mind is.  I need you all to help enlighten me.

Some high school students I know got an assignment to set up and complete an experiment.  Some of the experiments they came up with include looking at plant growth under different circumstances, or rust development under different circumstances, or human responses to certain stimuli.  This strikes me as a very sensible project for budding young scientists.

Plant growth experiment

My confusion arises from the fact that the students are required, as part of setting up the experiment, to include a hypothesis — or, in other words, they have to begin the experiment with an assumption about its outcome.  For example, a student measuring the effect of different fertilizers on otherwise identically situated plants, in addition to establishing the controls and variable(s), must also announce before starting the experiment that she believes that the more expensive fertilizers will work better.  Then, she’s supposed to see whether the data she collects supports this hypothesis.  (I.e., she proves or disproves her hypothesis.)

Here’s my problem:  I don’t understand why there is a scientific virtue to going into an experiment with a pre-determined conclusion.  It seems to me that it’s much more intelligent, in most, if not all cases, to go in with a question, and then to create an experiment that has sufficient controls to answer that question and that question alone.  My hostility to the hypothesis as a prerequisite arises because I suspect that a pre-determined hypothesis risks affecting the outcome.  Sherlock Holmes thought this too:

Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget

It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.

Exactly.  The scientist who has decided in advance that spending more on fertilizer results in better plant outcomes may subconsciously lavish a little more care or do things a little differently with the plant getting the good fertilizer.  The experiment is less likely to be tainted by the scientist’s biases if the scientist begins by asking “Which fertilizer is better?” rather than announcing “I think the more expensive fertilizers are better.”

Birth Control Pills

This is not just an idle question about high school projects.  I’ve noted the disdain that I have for Bay Area breast cancer studies that assume the culprit for the unusually high cancer rate in the Bay Area arises from too much bacon (evil factory farming) or from power lines (evil global warming).  One could just as easily announce that the hypothesis is that Bay Area women have high breast cancer rates because they get too much radiation from too many mammograms, or they have too many abortions (at too young an age), or they delay childbearing for too long, or they overuse of the Pill, etc.  If my study focused as narrowly on my assumptions, as these heavily Leftist studies focus on their assumptions, both studies would show that women who had done one or more of those things had higher cancer rates.

Establishing these almost random correlations (given the ridiculously biased parameters underpinning the various hypotheses) wouldn’t prove causation; instead, they would just prove that the scientist’s own prejudices forced the data down a narrow pathway.  Doesn’t it make more sense to find out about everything from diet, to environment, to lifestyle/sexual choices, and then, a la Sherlock Holmes, to see where the facts lead?

Global warming

This same “hypothesis fallacy,” for want of a better phrase, strikes me as one of the major problems with the whole global warming hysteria.  Various Leftists advanced the hypothesis that fossil fuels (which we know can contribute to pollution, and that Leftists believe give an unfair economic advantage to the First World) are evil, and then they set about proving their evil-ness.  If climate change is a genuine concern, wouldn’t it have made more sense to start with the question — “what’s going on?” — than to start with the answer — “Fossil fuels are changing our climate.”  After all, if your set-in-stone hypothesis isn’t even in the ball park, it means that your experiments are not only worthless, but they’ve also managed to ignore other, more relevant, data.

I understand that the hypothesis is a standard requirement for scientific experiments and has been since the Enlightenment.  I’ve explained, with a little help from Sherlock Holmes, why I think the hypothesis requirement taints, rather than advances, science.  Now that I’ve acquainted you with the contents of my brain, can you please explain to me why the scientific community is correct, and why Sherlock Holmes and I are wrong.

 

The main peril of factory education: boredom

(I made the following comments in this morning’s newsletter, and a friend suggested that they’re good enough to be in a stand-alone post.  Incidentally, if you’re interested in getting the reasonably daily Bookworm Room newsletter, you can sign up here.)

I’ve been working with some students helping them to review for the first semester AP European History exam.  I know British history extremely well, and the rest of European history fairly well.  This means that, when the students have questions, I usually have answers.

The problem I’m having is with the picayune nature of the questions.  History is a wonderful, fascinating, lively story, one that reaches back into time and up into the present.  It’s a brilliant tapestry on which individuals both small and great play out their destinies.  History is the best novel and the most exciting movie.  Except . . . that’s certainly not the way these students are learning it.

Savery Steam Engine

Instead, the kids are condemned to memorize both important events and isolated factoids that might make them stars on Jeopardy.  This factual relativism, which attempts to raise the mundane to the same level as the significant, wastes time and utterly fails to teach historical trends or inspire any love for the subject.  Being required to memorize the names of the three men whose work brought about the steam engine that powered the industrial revolution (Savery, Newcomen, and Watt) is infinitely less interesting and to the point than understanding about a society’s energy needs, and then seeing the wonders of the way in which harnessing energy brought about the Industrial Revolution.

The study questions reminded me, painfully, of a never-to-be-forgotten-or-forgiven test I took back in a 9th grade English class.  Although we hadn’t read Moby Dick, one of the questions asked us to identify the book’s author.  The four choices were:

Moby Dick book cover

a.  William Shakespeare
b.  Nathaniel Hawthorne
c.  Herbert Melville
d.  Herman Melville

I knew Melville wrote the book.  I knew his first name started with an “H.”  And I guessed the wrong H-name, which lowered my test grade from an A to a B.  It wasn’t a big deal (I still got an A in the class), but I’ve never gotten over the injustice of that stupid question.  Rather than testing knowledge, it tested almost meaningless minutiae.

That was more than thirty years ago, but public schools are still obsessed with the meaningless, even as they’re incapable of giving color and life to the things that matter.  How frustrating for the students.

I can only hope that my blog’s content today is more interesting and more useful than the stuff they’re teaching in the schools.

Too much education makes people economically dumb

I’m not boasting when I say that I move in very rarefied circles.  It’s a fact that became glaringly obvious to me today when I started reaching out to legal colleagues via LinkedIn.  I’m launching a new business enterprise, and those connections will be useful.

For those unfamiliar with it, LinkedIn is the professional equivalent of Facebook.  Rather than chit-chatting about children, sports, and the minutiae of their lives, people use LinkedIn to post their resumes, boast about their professional accomplishments, and network with other professionals to whom they can be useful or who can be useful to them.  So, as I said, I’m working on using LinkedIn to touch base with lawyers I’ve met over the years, whether high school classmates who went into law, law school classmates, professional colleagues, or people whom I’ve met through PTA and the neighborhood who also happen to be lawyers.

As with Facebook, LinkedIn examines your friends’ friends and, if two of them share a common friend, LinkedIn will suggest that person to you as a possible link in your own professional network.  This is where I get to the rarefied bit.  When I scroll through my LinkedIn contacts (who currently number less than 100, because I’ve never paid that much attention to cultivating these contacts), I get suggestions that run the gamut from high stratum A to rarefied stratum B:  ambassadors, corporate CEOs, senior counsel at major corporations, managing partners of huge law firms, etc.  In my circles, these titles are predominant amongst the various professional friendships LinkedIn identifies for me.  I

What interests me so much about these people is that I know for a fact as to most, and can reasonably guess as to the remainder, that they voted for Obama and, within their own states, counties, and cities, also voted for the most Democrat and Progressive (although not Green) candidates.  This milieu — rich in degrees, Ivy League diplomas, and money — is disproportionately Leftist in orientation.  If you ask them about their political beliefs, they will say that it’s because they’re smart and educated, implying that brilliant mines inevitably embrace Progressivism.

I see things differently, of course.  All of these people are products of America’s colleges, universities, and professional schools, not to mention fine high schools, both public and private, in nice neighborhoods and suburbs.  All of these schools lean Left or have simply stopped leaning and collapsed completely on the Leftist side of education.

So these smart people are right that there’s an inevitability here, but it’s not that the logical output of a brilliant mind is Leftism.  Education certainly matters, but not in the way they think.  The fact is that, if you’re academically smart, you’re more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and even attend professional school.  In other words, the smarter you are, the longer your exposure to Leftist academic thought will be.  These high earning, upper echelon people didn’t embrace Leftism because their intellectual analysis inexorably led them to it.  Instead, they embraced Leftism because their smarts mean they’ve been steeped in the Leftist stew for infinitely longer than the average American who didn’t go on to a higher degree.

These same people also remind me that academic smarts do not correlate with real life intelligence.  I have no doubt that these people are good lawyers, doctors, CEOs, ambassadors, etc.  What they’re trained to do, they do well.  Outside of their sphere of expertise, however, they’re remarkably naive and intellectually incurious.

Here’s my example for today:  In the wake of the election, I’ve heard five Obama supporters — all of whom also voted for all the California Democrats and for all the California taxes — complain that their taxes are going up next year.  The cognitive dissonance is almost painful.  All of them consistently embrace big spending — and, therefore Obama and his fellow Democrats — because they’ve been trained to believe that the spending on welfare, entitlements, and “select” businesses is a “good thing.”  This is a knee jerk belief.  They will always vote for these “good things,” and for the candidate who promises them.  And they will ignore the rhetoric about higher taxes (Obama was not shy about targeting them as the next big source of funding), and they will ignore fiscal cliffs, and they will ignore plain old common sense that says that someone must pay the piper.

One of the things that made the rounds on my Facebook was a boastful poster saying that those states with the highest number of college-educated people all went for Obama.  The implication is that these smart Blue State people, unlike the ill-educated yahoos in Red States, are the ones who have the brains and ability to understand how Obamanomics will serve America.

What the genius who created this poster missed the fact that these smart Blue States are, not coincidentally, almost all broke.  Thus, of the list above, the following Blue States are amongst those states running the biggest budget shortfalls in America:  Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Minnesota.  In other words, 80% of the “best educated” states are in dire financial straights.  You’d think that, with all those smart people, they’d be rolling in the green stuff.

It turns out that one of the biggest indicators of Blue state-ness isn’t smarts — it’s brokes.  Here’s the list of the states Obama won, with the ones that have more than a 10% budget shortfall marked, appropriately enough, in red:*

California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Hawaii
Illinois
Iowa
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Ohio
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
Wisconsin

It’s striking that, of the 26 states that gave their electoral votes to Obama, 84% are in debt.  (The perpetually broke District of Columbia also gave its vote to Obama, raising to 85% the number of broke jurisdictions that went true blue.) You’d think that, with all those smart people floating around, they’d manage their money better. In a way, you could say that the Blue States are actually Red States, given their financial hemorrhaging.

By the way, given that we’re still in a recession, it’s true that many Red States are also in debt.  Still, there’s no doubt that the Red States are managing their money better than the ones filled with all those educated Progressive geniuses:

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Georgia
Idaho
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
North Carolina
North Dakota
Oklahoma
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
West Virginia
Wyoming

As you can see, only 41% of the “dumb” Red States are seriously in the red.  They may not have the degrees, but they have sufficient smarts to control their budgets — which is the fundamental responsibility of all viable governments.

If the election is any indicator, it shows that our education system leaves people incapable of rational economic thought.  This is true even when these same educated people are the ones most hurt by their economic ignorance and Leftist credulity.

_______________________________

*I culled the state deficit information from here.

Yes, I’m working, but I also keep finding excellent stuff that I just have to share with you

To begin with, DL Sly is right that, if I don’t make each and every one of you aware of Iowahawk’s latest post of genius, I am doing you a profound disservice.  I won’t even make an effort to summarize what Iowahawk has done.  Suffice to say that your life will forever have a slightly diminished quality if you don’t read it.

Okay, having improved your lives, let’s get back to business:

Mike Devx has noted that, having smeared the polls when they were pro-Obama, we look foolish and hypocritical if we suddenly embrace them now that they show Romney inching up.  He’s right.  The pollsters have lost control of the statistics.  They don’t know what the heck they’re doing, and they’re doing it with only 9% of the public helping them out.  Jon Podhoretz says that Monday, October 8, was the worst day of all, and can be called “the day polling died.”  What’s more interesting to me is what I see on Facebook and hear at the school bus stop.  Obama supporters are starting to get that startled look of someone emerging from a pleasant dream, only to discover that the real world didn’t go away.

Romney is assuming rightly that Obama will come to the next debate loaded for bear (so will Biden, leaving Ryan with the distasteful task of picking his way through Biden’s inevitable lies).  Those of us who know Obama, though, don’t believe that his renewed energy will lead to a better debate showing.  He’ll still have attached to him the problems that dogged him in the first debate.  He won’t become more articulate, he won’t have greater knowledge, and, worst of all, he’ll still be struggling to hide his core truth, which is that he doesn’t like America, doesn’t like Israel, and doesn’t believe in individualism.  If you’re trying to debate extemporaneously in a way that is counter to your underlying belief systems, you will fail.  Oh, Obama has one more problem:  hubris.  Toby Harnden has a great post summarizing Obama’s disdain for Romney and the democratic process, as well as his laziness.

And finally, on a completely different subject, Jay Greene says that there is no teacher shortage.  His starting point is the fact that classroom sizes are significantly smaller than they were when I was a student back in 1970, but outcomes are unchanged.  From there, he talks about the downsides of hiring ever more teachers in order to reach some magic point at which the teacher student ratio is perfect.  I couldn’t agree more with Greene’s conclusions.  What do you think?

An American high school band celebrates the Russian Revolution, complete with hammer and sickle

So now we know what historical ignorance looks like:

A Pennsylvania high school marching band is raising eyebrows with a halftime performance that commemorates the Russian revolution, complete with red flags, olive military-style uniforms, and giant hammers and sickles.

“St. Petersburg: 1917” is the theme for the New Oxford High School Marching Band. Ironically, the school’s athletic teams are called the Colonials and their colors are red, white and blue. The band’s website features a picture of the group with students holding a hammer and sickle.

[snip]

Rebecca Harbaugh, the superintendent for the Conewago Valley School District, told Fox News that the band’s performance was “not an endorsement of communism at all.”

“It’s a representation of the time period in history called St. Petersburg 1917,” she said. “I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am.”

“If anything is being celebrated it’s the music,” she said. “It is what it is. I understand people look at something and choose how to interpret that and I’m just very sorry that it wasn’t looked at as just a history lesson.”

Besides, she explained, “in 2008 we did an entire show on freedom.”

But some critics said it’s outrageous for any American school to be celebrating such a violent era.

“It would be tantamount to celebrating the music of 1935 Berlin,” the parent said. “If I was Lithuanian, Estonian, or Ukrainian, I’d be a little hot. I’d be really hot. It’s insulting to glorify something that doesn’t need to be glorified in America.”

(Read the rest of the story here.)

Maybe next year they can celebrate the famine Stalin created in the Ukraine, killing something in the neighborhood of 20 million of his own citizens. And the year after that, perhaps a “Party in the Gulag” theme.

Actually, I believe that these kids weren’t endorsing Communism.  What they were endorsing was something different:  the forty year march of  a values-free approach to education, one that manages to leave both students and their teachers incapable of understanding what they teach or learn.  To them, what happened is an “event,” without meaning or consequence.  This goes beyond moral relativism into absolute meaninglessness — and if that isn’t sad, I don’t know what is.

A bowdlerization of Chesterton has him saying:  “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”  That saying isn’t quite on point, but it somehow seems appropriate here, when we have a group of well-intentioned young people incapable of understanding the meaning of what they study.  They know nothing, and misunderstand everything.

Moral hazard and martial arts — and was I making any sense at all?

It all started when my sister and I got to talking about the up-coming Olympics.  I used to enjoy them when ABC presented each day’s events as a tightly packaged three-hour narrative, complete with villains (usually the Russian, French, or East German judges) and myriad heroes, whether they were the known champions who saw years of hard work paying off, or the dark horses who surprised everyone by appearing out of nowhere. While I may not like my news packaged, I don’t mind it at all when it comes to my Olympics.

Now that the Olympics seem to be 24 hours a day, with a fairly random presentation, I’m overwhelmed and, barring something spectacular (such as Michael Phelps’ amazing run of gold medals), I don’t have the patience for it.

Having determined to our mutual satisfaction that we both feel the same way about the Olympics, my sister offered me an interesting factual tidbit:  “I’ve heard,” she said, “that they’re thinking of adding Mixed Martial Arts to the Olympics, but the people opposing it say that it’s little better than dog fighting.”

My hackles went up instantly — not at her, but at the people who would say that.

“First off,” I said, “professional MMA is a voluntary activity.

“Second, these guys perceive themselves as warriors victims, not victims warriors.  [That was a heck of a dyslexic mistake, wasn't it?]

“And third, while they get a lot of injuries, I bet the injuries are less serious than football.  It’s the whole ‘moral hazard’ thing — the more you insulate people from known risks, the more dangerous their behavior is.

“Think of the difference between football and rugby.  The rugby guys get seriously trashed with superficial injuries to most parts of their bodies, but the lack of helmets mean that they don’t lead with their heads.  You therefore don’t hear about head and spine injuries with rugby players.

“With football players, though, the helmets and padding mean that the league has relied on increasingly large players, who use increasingly aggressive pressure on the opposition.  The injuries can be deep and profound.

“MMA’s the same thing — the guys tear up their knees and shoulders, which is a bad thing, but not life threatening.  It’s a risk they ought be allowed to take.  And they’re grown men, which means that they’re probably getting a lot less trashed than all those little gymnastics, who have been taking enormous risks with aerial activities, not to mention the bone stress and eating disorders.”

Clearly, I was on a roll.  Fortunately, I was preaching to the choir, since my sister just said, “Well, you know that the safest communities are those with the least police presence.”

“That sounds right to me,” I responded.  “After all, no one is going to care as much about protecting you and your loved ones as you are.  Provided, of course, that the authorities haven’t taken your weapons away.  You know that old saying:  when seconds count, the police are minutes away.”

“Yeah,” she answered.  “Look at Chicago.  They have this insane crime rate and they already have one of highest ratios of police officers per citizen in America.  So the City is going to hire more than a thousand police officers, as if that’s going to work.”

“It’s just like teachers, isn’t it?” I offered.  “We keep being told that our failing schools will get better if we hire more teachers, even though there’s no evidence that this approach works.  More than that, it ignores the fact that, back in the day when you and I were in school, our classrooms routinely had 35-40 students per teacher, and our test scores and overall education was just as high as now, if not higher.”

“That’s right,” said my sister.  “They never look at whether the teachers are teaching a smart way, or whether politics is interfering with education.”

She and I ended our conversation then, quite satisfied with each other.

But here’s the problem:  Were we right about anything we said?  Is rugby safer than football when it comes to serious (brain and spine) injuries versus superficial (teeth, nose, elbows, knees, etc.) injuries?  Are the safest communities in America those with the least police presence?  Does Chicago really have one of the highest rates of police per citizen?  And do today’s students really know less than students in the 60s and 70s, or have our expectations gone up since then?

These are good questions and we probably should have known the answers before we started talking.  As it is, I’m simply too lazy today to check whether my facts are right.  And in keeping with my previous post, “When ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”  Since every issue resolved itself so neatly, why in the world would I want to mess up my nice little conversation with actual, possibly different, facts?