Savagery has a History in the past and the present – Progress or Regress pt.4b

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands
In yesterday's post I proposed taking a trip into the not so distant past, for two reasons. The second reason was the more traditional of the two, to more clearly see the troubles of our present. Has anyone ever fed you that line before? How is that supposed to help? Has anyone ever sat up in History Class (or the 'social studies' that passes for it), and asked
"Why? Why do I need to know what so & so did x hundred years ago?!"
If the answer they give you is only that it's for you to learn 'important and and useful cultural references', you might want to consider leaving. If their answer is 'to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past', you should probably go ahead and get up and start for the door. If their answer is 'to get an appreciation for diverse points of view', I suggest burning rubber to get out of there.

Not that those points, even the last one, aren't useful, and even necessary results of 'inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation' (the original Greek definition of History), they are, but they are not, in and of themselves, separately or combined, worth your wasting hours of your life every week to 'learn'. The purpose, the benefit, the value of studying history, aside from it being just plain interesting (and if yours isn't, then you are probably studying it from a... let me guess... 'textbook'? RUN!) is to gain a better understanding of yourself and your position in your life, and how to better your life, here and now. History enables you to identify and familiarize yourself with the tendencies that are common to men in society everywhere, meaning common not only to those of the past, present & future - but to that space between your own two ears as well,

History isn't for learning about dead people, but about the living, about yourself, so that you can understand something of, and develop the habit of reflecting upon, how people end up doing what they do - that is after all, what History is made of. If you aren't trying to put yourself in the minds of those you are reading about, if you aren't managing to, in some way, identify with the thinking of the slave holder as well as the slave, then you aren't learning any lessons worth the time you're spending on learning them.

Seriously. And if that isn't what you get out of history, or if it seems that those teaching it to you are intent on your not getting those valuables out of their lessons, then you should either figure out how to do it yourself, or get the heck out of there, or if that's not possible, at least do some serious daydreaming.

But I digress. Back to why we're here.

The first reason I'd given was a fairly tangible one: to begin to identify a 'societal baseline', a recognizable point which any sound claims of progress should be clearly moving your society away from, rather than back towards.

Make sense?

And again, what's past isn't the point of studying history, escaping it is - and that requires, as best as you are able, ignoring the differences between your world today, and theirs then, and even whether or not you even live in different times from that being studied. There is nothing preventing, and much to recommend, looking at your own world from an historical perspective.

History provides many examples of this baseline, and by inquiring into the history of societies as separated in time and space as those whose beginnings can be traced from Sumer, Babylon, ancient Egypt, to the modern primitive stone age tribes of the Amazon or New Guinea, as well as the haunts of modernity, they will provide you with plenty of examples of men descending to our sought after zero point on the progress meter. The hope I have here, is that by identifying our baseline Progress point – whether measuring against our past, present or future - we'll have a point to begin measuring real progress, and regress, from.

Without that, how can claims of progress have any real meaning?

Savages are every bit as savage in tweed jackets, as they are in grass skirts
I know of one example that is especially well suited to quickly tying together Cave Men, Philosophers, modernity and academics, and doing so quickly. In 1964, an anthropologist went looking to study a primitive, technologically undeveloped society, where he, shocker, found their society to be one that had not developed civilized behaviors. That anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, prior to his expedition, seemingly put little or no thought into the thoughts that went into (or never did) those behaviors he thought of as civilized, and so it took their absence to finally begin to make an impression upon him.

As noted by Professor Backflap (H/T Gagdad Bob):
"Napoleon Chagnon’s Noble Savages is the remarkable memoir of a life dedicated to science—and a revealing account of the clash between science and political activism.

When Napoleon Chagnon arrived in Venezuela’s Amazon region in 1964 to study the Yanomamö Indians, he expected to find Rousseau’s “noble savage.” Instead he found a shockingly violent society. He spent years living among the Yanomamö, observing their often tyrannical headmen, learning to survive under primitive and dangerous conditions. When he published his observations, a firestorm of controversy swept through anthropology departments. Chagnon was vilified by other anthropologists, condemned by his professional association (which subsequently rescinded its reprimand), and ultimately forced to give up his fieldwork. Throughout his ordeal, he never wavered in his defense of science. In 2012 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences."
He expected to find a Noble Savage? Really? In a place he thought of as not having a developed civilization, he expected to find one of the finest fruits of civilization? Would you?

My first question on reading this was how much thought he could have given to the concepts of either nobility or savagery, much less the requirements of either?

My second question was, how prepared was he by his own education and study of History, for the reception his studies received back home in Academia?

Well if he studied the sort of 'History' in college, that was similar to the sort I mentioned in an earlier post, and coming from an anthropology department that was almost certainly the case, then the answer to both of my questions is: little or nothing at all.
[Hey kids, what is the value of an education that tells you so little about your fellow man or even about your own self? Same answer: little or nothing at all.]
More evidence of this can be found in what it was that Chagnon considered to be such a noteworthy discovery: finding that in his observations of the stone age Yanomamö, and soon afterwards with the technologically advanced tribes of Academia, that,
“I discovered that maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human, social and cultural evolution. My observation is based not only on what we have thus far learned from political science and anthropological field reports, but also on a lifetime of experience living with native Amazonian tribesmen who chronically live in what Hobbes called in his major treatise, Leviathan (1651), a condition of war. He likened war to foul weather - not just a shower or two, but a persistent condition for extended periods of time, something chronic. The Yanomamo among whom I lived were constantly worried about attacks from their neighbors and constantly live in fear of this possibility.

Neither Hobbes nor Rousseau ever saw people like Yanomamo tribesmen living in a "state of nature." Their philosophical positions about Man in a state of nature were derived entirely from speculation. It is therefore astonishing that some cultural anthropologists cling to the Nobel Savage view of human nature when ours is the profession that collected almost all of the empirical data on tribesmen and what social life was like under "pristine" or "Stone Age" conditions. Thus anthropologists should be the most likely people to arrive at a highly informed, empirically defensible view of human nature using the evidence from generations of anthropological research. ”
While it's good that he realized that Hobbes missed a few points and Rousseau was whacked, he shouldn't have needed to take such a long, dangerous expedition to discover what he could have, should have, learned from a basic study of Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy & Tacitus in the comforts of a classroom under a teacher who already understood both them and the common errors students make, before ever having graduated from college. That he didn't, that should tell you something of the historical wasteland of wacademia, and that was from back before the storm of the 1960's broke upon us.

Not too surprisingly, at least for those who aren't delusional enough to expect to find a 'Noble Savage' in a society where the rulers rule because they're strong and others follow because they have to, the strong become the emblems of political security, and personal security depends upon your not being seen as threats to the strong. Savagery without nobility is going to be the norm in such a place.

But also note that his own tribe of anthropologists, although not only thoroughly exposed, in many cases first hand, to the evidence of savagery without nobility, they still refused to acknowledge the evidence of their own experience. Instead they abide by, unquestioningly, parroting, chanting, that which the tribe identifies its security with, and as 'the strong' always do, they say it is for 'the greater good'.

Translation: In the absence of any higher aspirations, maximizing political and personal security is the overwhelming driving force in human affairs.

Question: Where do those higher aspirations come from?

Both of Chagnon's tribes, in the Amazon and Academe, IMHO, demonstrated many of the essentials of the societal baseline we're looking for, and whatever the superficial appearances might be, if understood, then we can use it to identify a life which bears more than a passing resemblance to Hobbes' image of life living red in tooth and claw, and in one way or another, of being nasty, brutish and short.

However, the picture of 'living red in tooth and claw' which Hobbes painted (and Rousseau romanticized and painted over), makes it appear that such societies must be a place where people are wandering about in loin clothes or grass skirts in solitary brutishness, lone wolves hunting a kill in nature; but the fact is that the people of the baseline, more than any other, tend to congregate together with the like minded, as the good political animals they are, within the societies that have developed around them. The only real relevance Rousseau's idea of a 'Noble Savage' still has, is the near talismanic powers it assumes in the hands of the wacademic left. There it's useful primarily for defending the security of those political structures they've built within their academic departments, for utilizing their own hunter-gatherer approach to reaping govt grants of non-taxable income from our public colleges. And you'd better believe that they'll defend their tribal gains every bit as savagely - though without visible bloodshed - as the Yanomamö would.

At this point we should be getting a better picture of what the absence of progress looks like, but little yet about what makes Progress possible. Patience, we'll get there within a few more posts.

The lesson to take away from this post is NOT that undeveloped societies behave savagely, but that,
  • Firstly, that savagery is normal - or at least easy - for human beings,
  • Secondly, that it is not only natural, but deeply tempting for people seek to use, and to excuse, the use of power to maximize their political and personal security,
  • Thirdly, that neither primitive mud huts, modern campuses nor royal palaces are reliable indicators of whether or not the people living within them are savages themselves. 
  • and Fourth, that there is something which some societies do develop, which lifts them above that baseline; What that is should be a constant question for anyone who doesn't wish to remain a savage
Just because a society develops more efficient technologies and stylized habits of dress, shelter and customs, that does not prevent them from behaving just as savagely as the Yanomamö; technology, social norms and a modern fashion sense, aren't key to what makes the difference between nobility and savagery, and if you do make the mistake of thinking that tweed jackets & mahogany libraries either make someone noble or rid one them of their savagery, then you too will be in for a surprise every bit as large as Chagnon's was, when he found the behaviors of the Yanomamö reflected in his fellows of Academe.

The other lesson to learn from this, is that that surprise Chagnon received, is the sort of surprise which is the very thing that a decent Education - which you should have had by High School, let alone by College - is supposed to inure you against.

His didn't. Has yours? Will the education your children are, or will likely receive, prepare them better than Chagnon's did? Does that education even recognize the Fourth point, let alone focus upon it? If your education installs illusions, rather than strives to rid you of them, you might want to question what value it really has.

We'll begin to take a closer look at what separates the appearances of, from the reality of, Progress, in the next post, tomorrow.

DESE: Facilitating the control of your education

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands
Show Me MO Shame!
I spent two days last week in our state capital of Jefferson City, becoming a member of one of the work groups tasked with rewriting our states educational curriculum standards over the course of the next year. While I was there I learned a nice lesson in self governance, and the consequences of its abandonment, a lesson that was willingly taught by DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). Their lesson was very instructive, in one part teaching how to use chaos to control the sale, and in the other part how it is just as important what you do not to do, and not allow to be done, as is what you offer to and intend to do.

If you want to understand this lesson yourself, as well as how you and your children's education is being sold down the river by it, then there are five key issues that need to be addressed:
  1. Why do we have work groups to write our curriculum standards.
  2. Were the work groups convened with an eye towards success.
  3. If not, why.
  4. What does DESE need for a win.
  5. What does Missouri need for a win.
1) The issue here is that the state of Missouri recently passed a law, HB1490, to undertake the significant task of rewriting our educational curriculum standards.The sole reason why this law was passed, was because of DESE's ham-fisted and incompetent attempts over the last several years to roll-out their pet Common Core standards by steam rolling them over any and all questions, debates, and opposition. That behavior infuriated both parents and teachers alike and caused the Missouri Legislature, Left and Right, to pass HB1490 into law, stating that our curriculum standards will be written by representatives from across the state of Missouri, selected from experienced teaching professionals and parents selected by Missouri's Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tempore.

2) To successfully lead large numbers of people, departments, divisions and other entities who may have either no history of working together, or worse, a history of working poorly together, there's a common practice to follow. To getting all members working towards a unified goal, the formula would be to,
  • Kick it off by gathering all parties together in one place for a launch meeting,
  • giving leaders from the various stake holders involved an opportunity to set the general tone and key points for the project;
  • clarify your project's purpose and getting understanding and buy in from the various departments and people involved.
  • let participants know who they'll be working with and making them aware of any slots yet to be filled,
  • establish clear channels for coordinating efforts and preserving communication between the several groups,
  • informing all of who will be attending meetings, who to contact with questions,
, and so forth.

It's not rocket science, it's just common sense. So much so that when such a project does not start off in that way, or when major pieces of it are ignored or misunderstandings are spread or even inflamed, people don't just suspect incompetence upon the part of those organizing the project, but a hidden agenda and even deliberate sabotage of the project.

That hidden agenda was not so hidden, even weeks before it was to begin, and when a number of us complained that the upcoming meetings were clearly being organized for DESE's benefit, rather than for the success of the project and compliance with the law, the Speaker's office, and that of the Senate Pro Tem President, reminded DESE of their position and of the intent of the law, and the Thursday prior, they agreed to revise their plans so as to proceed more as above; to include a plenary kickoff meeting, and to arrange for all the work groups to meet in the capital building. However, by Monday morning they'd reneged on their deal and reverted to scattering us around the capital with no meetings or communications established.

IOW, not only did DESE not approach the start of this project in such a way that was likely to lead to success, but they did quite the opposite:
  1. they refused to have a plenary 'kick off' meeting,
  2. they refused to allow the meetings to be convened in a manner conducive to unity and success,
  3. most of those involved were given last minute notification - if at all - that they were being called together from across the state of Missouri to attend two days of meetings in Jefferson City (The MO House & Senate leadership deserves heavy criticism for their lack of leadership in this area as well).
  4. there were no clarifying speeches or discussions,
  5. there were no introductions of the different teams to each other,
  6. there were no clear explanations of what it was we were to accomplish,
  7. the posted meeting places were in multiple buildings around the capital and were even moved, without notice or note, at the last minute, leaving the members to track down the correct meeting room after having been directed to the wrong one.
3) We don't need to turn the clock back very far to figure out why they might not want HB1490 to proceed according to the intent of the law. Try looking at the 'talking tour' they conducted across the state last year, this format of 'permitting' people to speak under very controlled circumstances, and breaking people up into groups without allowing the comparing of notes or receiving direct answers to questions, was and is standard fare for DESE: to divide, to take control of communication and so conquer, which is the same strategy they employed last week, and show every sign of intending to continue.

4) DESE has made clear what standards they would like for Missouri, and that's Common Core, and they've invested a great deal of time, money (yours) and prestige into imposing them. Is it likely then that DESE will see it to be in their interest to have independent work groups successfully writing their own standards?

No.

As one of the legislative assistants sent round during our 1st day of contentious meetings pointed out, if these work groups fail, then Missouri's curriculum standards will fall to DESE to choose what will be used and implement. Is it ever seen as being in the interests of a political body to have others revise or rewrite their core material? No! So why would the legislative leadership permit DESE to have any involvement in re-writing what they have a stake in remaining unchanged? Who's governing who?

What does DESE need to do for a win? Nothing. And they need as much of nothing as they can possibly get. They don't even have to 'get a sale' - they've already purchased their preferred product - Common Core - they only need to be able to retain it. So what do they need from these work group meetings? They only need to:
  • control the narrative,
  • minimize objections,
  • make the objections and those objecting seem unreasonable,
  • control the presentation of how the standards are discussed, enabling them to retain as much of the Common Core standards as possible,
  • If the standards work groups fail, DESE will implement the standards they choose - Common Core.
To accomplish that, and subvert HB1490, DESE took immediate control of the narrative with their first 'press release' for the upcoming work groups, securing a controlling role for themselves, while minimizing the perception of the power those in the work groups would have, in relation to DESE. This line in particular sums it up:
"The meetings are open to the public; however, seating is very limited. Spectators will be provided comment cards if they wish to leave feedback. Only members of the work groups will be given the opportunity to speak during the meetings."[emphasis mine]
Members of the work groups were to be 'Given', the opportunity to speak?In our own meetings? So you tell me, reading that, does it seem to you that DESE's intention is to see to it that autonomous work groups will be convened so as to define the standards that DESE would then have the job of implementing? Or does it seem more as if DESE intends to see these groups as working under the control and guidance of DESE? Add to that the fact that they scheduled the eight work groups in different buildings around the capital, keeping the members as far apart as possible and with as little awareness of each other and those they would be working with, of who and what to expect, and who best to ask questions of, other than DESE themselves, and it's clear that they mean to be the only ones in control of the process.

They've been masterful at minimizing objections and at making those with objections seem unreasonable, and by the end of the first day of meetings it became apparent just how well they'd done so. By convincing some of the legislative leadership to 'be fair' in appointing members (how could it be 'fair' to place people on committees that are opposed to the intent and spirit of the committees and the law which formed them, is something only a politician comfortable with losing, could comprehend), those interested in rewriting our curriculum standards were out numbered on their own work groups - most of which were only half filled (shame on you Missouri!) - and on top of that, DESE took it upon themselves to install their own facilitators to run the meetings, hamper dissent, and limit unwanted discussion from taking place.

But don't let my wording conjure up images of frothing Drill Sargent's shouting down and riding rough shod over their work groups, if you do, you'll not only miss what they're doing, and risk being controlled yourself.

For example, on hearing how they had their objections cast aside. I, and a few of those from our work group, History grades 6-12, which had a somewhat better go of it, assuming that this group hadn't been forceful enough, we offered up our oh-so wise words of wisdom:
"Well you should have done what we did, we said ___"
, and they stared at us in annoyance and answered "We did!". And to each additional
"Oh, well then did you ___?"
of ours, they answered "We did!"

How could this be? How could they not have succeeded if they'd done the same thing? What made the difference? I found the answer on reviewing the recordings from the morning sessions of the other work groups. They did indeed make most of the same points that we did in our meeting, and in some cases they made them better than we did. The only real difference between what we did, and what they did, was what happened in the first few seconds of the meeting. They politely waited for the meeting to get underway before making their points, while we, somewhat rudely, refused to allow the DESE facilitators to begin their presentation, and we refused to allow them the position of recognizing who would speak and when.

This is key: they raised their objections after the meeting began and we did so before it could get started.

That might seem a small point, but small and subtle are two very different things, and very often the more subtle trumps the more bold & brazen. Those who know how to manipulate a group are able to take nearly complete control of that group, if they be allowed to begin speaking from a position of power and control.

Because we refused the DESE facilitators the opportunity to even begin their presentations, or to ask for introductions, or to even finish a sentence, because we asserted from the start that non-work group members would be granted permission to speak only when the business of our work group was at a suitable point for listening to them, DESE's facilitators never had a position of power from which to control the session from.

The videos from the other sessions bear this point out. Where the DESE facilitator was allowed to begin the meeting, to ask for introductions, to lay the 'norms' for the meeting, to direct that questions be written down, and define how they they as oh-so helpful facilitators would politely recognize who would speak and for how long... they accomplished in the first few seconds, and solidified in just a few minutes, their complete control over the meeting for the rest of that day and the next.

Take a look at these two videos. The first lays it out the points you should be looking for, and in the second video, the second shows it in real time action, how difficult it is to prevent their taking control, even though you know what to look for.

Watch the Social Studies K-5, 9/22/14 AM session, and I'll bet that you won't see what's being done to the participants until it's already been done - it was decided in the first minute of their meeting, by letting the DESE facilitator start their meeting. They assumed the sale, took possession of the floor, and having taken the floor, it became theirs.
They began their presentation, nicely, politely, asking for introductions, walking participants through their slides... and so assumed and kept control of the meeting from that point on. Despite the valiant efforts of the two members who had no other connection to MO Ed than being parents - indeed, because of their opposition - the nice facilitators gained more power with every objection they made, seeming more and more reasonable, while the objections, and those making them, seemed more and more small and unreasonable.


It happens that easily.

At one point in the second video, one of the other participants, tsk-tsk'ing the objectors, states that
"The DESE facilitator cannot control this meeting, we of this work group will do that..."
, but that is in fact exactly what happened. Having been able to start the K-5 session, the DESE facilitator didn't just take control, they were assumed to have it, and those who work in one aspect or another of the state schooling industry, felt themselves to have the upper hand along with them, and they never let it go.

It is incredibly easy for that position to be taken and held! That technique, whether you attribute it to Delphi Technique or any number of others, is one that is familiar in office politics, sales and elsewhere, and it really amounts to simple power dynamics and manipulation, which enables one party to take and keep control over another.

If these tactics seem remote to you, I'll bet that you've had more experience with them than you might imagine. Have you ever allowed a salesmen into your home, and found yourself being shown to your own kitchen table, to listen to their presentation? Do you know why? Because that is the way a strong (not pushy) salesmen goes about 'taking control of the sale'. They not only take over your own kitchen, but walk you through their presentation, not answering your questions right off but suggesting that you hold them till the 'appropriate' time, they nicely refuse to give you a price: "Well I can't give you a price until I know the features you're interested in", and it just so happens that know the features you're interested in is what they need to manipulate you into buying what they want to sell you.

Whether you call it 'Delphi Technique', or simply using power to control groups, DESE was serving their own interests, not those of Missouri. They 'took the kitchen table', by selecting the meeting places, and staffing the work groups with their own 'facilitators', who were there to direct and shape the meetings, their context and their content and progress, in a manner that led to what DESE had chosen to sell - something that could not be accomplished if there had been a kick off meeting explaining the purpose of HB1490, DESE's lack of authority in the process, and the forbidden nature of Common Core in rewriting our standards.

There came a joint statement from the Lieutenant Governor, Legislative leaders Issue Statement Clarifying HB1490 Work Groups, and it was welcome when it came the next day, here it is,
“HB1490 was designed to vest in the Education Work Groups the power to shape recommendations for academic standards absent influence from bureaucrats and politicians. Under the law, after DESE convened the initial meeting, the power shifts to the groups alone to guide themselves each month with the goal of delivering their best academic standards recommendations by Oct. 1, 2015. There exists no authority in the statute for DESE to dictate the deliberations of these work groups, nor even to guide their deliberations after the initial organizing meetings held yesterday, unless invited to do so by individual work groups.”
, but really, it was no more helpful than the work group participants questions and statements.

5) As long as DESE is allowed to maintain control over the work groups, which were created to undo what DESE has been so intent on doing, then our work groups will not be able to do what they were convened to do.

Call, write, email your representatives, and let them know that DESE needs to be barred from the proceedings of the work groups, not because they are obstructing our efforts, but because they are leading them, oh so sweetly and firmly, to exactly where DESE wants them to go. And as DESE's poor judgment and proven disrespect for the opinions and rights of those they were established for and hired to serve, they should have no further part in these work group proceedings.

The work of the work groups, while it will be hard work, and it will take time, it is good work, and it doesn't require partisan efforts. Despite DESE's claims, this is not a politically Left/Right issue, or a parent vs. teacher issue - there are many people working to roll back Common Core who are politically on the left, right and center, and many teachers as well. Our work group, the 'Social Studies, 6-12' group, is, I think, split 50/50 politically, but once the manipulators were moved out of the way, we were able to discuss the actual issues of standards, listening to and thinking upon what each had to say, and so were able to make good progress.

We just needed to get DESE out of the way.

If Missouri is to have worthwhile Curriculum Standards for the education of its citizens and future voters, then the Legislature and the Governor need to remove DESE from participating in the process in any way, shape or form. They are the reason why the current process is in disarray, having paid millions for something we do not want, need or have any reason to believe will be successful for any one other than assessment companies.

And perhaps more important than anything else, is that you, if you live in Missouri, then you must insist to your state legislators, and to yourselves, your neighbors, and your teachers, that the remaining number of seats on the work groups - nearly half are unfilled - must be filled as soon as possible. Self Government is but a joke, of no one in a state is willing to take some responsibility and action for governing themselves! There's no pay in this, there's no thanks in this; I'm not getting either money or time off granted for this, it is coming, very painfully, out of my time and our already depleted bank account, and it hurts. But if I, and you, are not willing to do such things... then shame on us for the mockery we've made of 'We The People', and if that is okay-dokey with you, then you can rest assured that you will be getting even more of what you deserve in the coming years, as yet another generation is raised up knowing little or nothing about what self governance is or means.

You will learn the lesson. The only choice you've got is whether you learn it the 'easy way' or the hard way.

Shift Power Back to the States

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands

Anyone who reads the plain language of the Constitution and the writings of James Madison would come away with the unambiguous impression that the Founders vested the federal government with very few powers – powers that they felt could only be executed by a central government.  Much of what the federal government does in this post-constitutional era is not only superfluous but deleterious to economic growth and free market fairness.

However, there are other functions that are vital and important, albeit best left up to state and/or local governments to administer.  On this day 88 years ago, President Calvin Coolidge delivered a speech at the College of William and Mary echoing this very sentiment:

“We must also recognize that the national administration is not and cannot be adjusted to the needs of local government …

The States should not be induced by coercion or by favor to surrender the management of their own affairs.

The Federal Government ought to resist the tendency to be loaded up with duties which the States should perform.

It does not follow that because something ought to be done the National Government ought to do it.”

Two major issues that fit into this category are authority over transportation and education.  Both of those issues are in the news today, and conservatives should take note if they plan to effectively advance a conservative reform agenda in the coming years.

Transportation

With regards to transportation, once again the Senate is doubling down on the failed transportation policy of the federal sinkhole.  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a $265 billion highway bill, which dictates full control over transportation policy for all 50 states.  Each state has its own unique population, geography, topography, and transportation needs, yet it is all centrally planned in one 5-year bill from Washington.  Naturally, when you couple the inefficiencies with federal labor and environmental mandates, along with $43 billion spent on mass transit, the revenue collected from the federal gasoline tax can no longer cover the full cost.

Instead of taxing or borrowing our way out of the quicksand of inefficient federal policy, we should devolve most transportation authority to the states.  Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) have companion bills (S. 1702/ HR 3264) to do just that.  Each state would levy its own tax to purvey highway projects and can easily prioritize the level of taxation and spending based upon its needs.  This is not even a left or right issue.  More liberal states would naturally levy a higher gas tax to fund infrastructure projects, while conservatives would cut other functions deemed unnecessary or harmful.  But that should not be decided by the federal government.

Education

Education is also an important function that should be controlled by those closest to the classroom, particularly local governments.  While our ultimate goal must be to remove the federal government from K-12 and higher education altogether, there are two promising bills from Senator Lee that would empower state and local governments with control over some aspects of education.

After a half century of producing no positive results, Senator Lee and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) want to devolve the $8.6 billion budget for the Head Start program to the states (S. 2119/HR 4481).  The program has done nothing but self-perpetuate and create jobs for special interests.  There is certainly nothing to lose by letting the states experiment with the money already appropriated.

Another bill (S.1904), sponsored by Senator Lee and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), would reform accreditation for institutions of higher education.

One of the major problems with the Department of Education is that is distorts the “education market” much like any other government intervention in the private economy.  The current higher education accreditation system is controlled by the federal government and creates a one-size-fits-all system that is heavily slanted towards conventional four-year college degrees.  This system does not work for everyone, but the accreditation process has forced many people into this framework, even if they would like to pursue other educational training.  In turn, it has contributed to the “education bubble,” in which federal bureaucrats work with leaders of higher education to over-utilize and over-emphasize the current system, thereby driving up the cost of an education – and by extension – student loan debt.

Senator Lee’s Higher Education Reform and Opportunity [HERO] Act would allow states to create their own system of accreditation, which could grant students the same benefits and status for pursuing alternative coursework, apprenticeships or vocational training.

Every Republican publicly decries the growth of the federal government, but many decline to divulge which functions they would eliminate other than rooting out waste and fraud.  Senator Lee’s bills on education and transportation provide conservatives with a solid opportunity to advocate limited federal government, federalism, and changing course from decades of failed policies by the federal government.

Keep The Republic (This Saturday)

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands

It’s an admonishment you’ve heard dozens of times.  Dr. Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention on September 17th, 1787 and was met by a woman who asked, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”  Dr. Franklin replied, “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”

Do you feel like we’re losing the republic?

We are.

I’ve investigated a dozen different school districts from Denver to Richmond, and at the earliest of ages (kindergarten and first grade), our children are being indoctrinated into the false teaching that America is a Constitutional Democracy. Of course, they want to say “Constitutional Democracy” since the vast majority of educrats are liberals and Democrats… …and Democracy sounds like Democrats.  A republic, well, sounds like those ‘evil Republicans’.

Our Constitution and Freedoms are under constant attack, and even after we gave the Republicans all the power they need to stop the out-of-control spending, force massive reduction in the size of the Federal Government, and enjoin it to live within the confines of the document which they swore an oath to defend, the train continues full-steam towards the edge of the cliff.

What do we do?

We save the republic.

How?

Ask Thomas Jefferson…

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves: and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their controul with a wholsome discretion, the remedy is, not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. this is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” [sic]

The people have given up control of the ultimate powers of the society.  It’s time to take it back.  And, citizens across the nation are doing just that.

What have you done to Keep The Republic?

Isn’t it about time YOU did something?

Join other patriots this Saturday April 26th 10:00am – 6:30pm in training to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to articulate your desire to make the policy changes necessary to restore our governments to their proper roles!  Current liberty-minded civics training only teaches theory.  This is application training, practical exercises, and instruction to turn you into a Citizen Lobbyist with the skills to affect the direction of your local government as well as state and federal government.

For more information on the Saturday April 26th class, click here.

For more information, on the Center for Self-Governance, click here.

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Rockwood School Board Quid Pro Quo?

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands

Original Post: Rockwood School Board Quid Pro Quo?.

From the “see, I told ya so” file . . . Rockwood NEA President Suzanne Dotta worked hard to influence the recent school board election. The candidates Ms. Dotta pushed won. The new board hired Ms. Dotta as Director of Professional Learning within 72 hours of the election. I expect Ms. Dotta to teach Rockwood’s…

The post Rockwood School Board Quid Pro Quo? appeared first on Hennessy's View.

Eileen Tyrrell Is Only Rockwood Candidate In It For All Stakeholders

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands

Original Post: Eileen Tyrrell Is Only Rockwood Candidate In It For All Stakeholders.

Eileen Tyrrell is the only candidate who represents ALL the stakeholders in Rockwood School District. While other candidates focus on more money for the system, Eileen focuses on using Rockwood’s (embarrassingly) ample resources better. Here’s what you need to ask youself: Do you plan to fulfill your duty to vote on April 8? What time of…

The post Eileen Tyrrell Is Only Rockwood Candidate In It For All Stakeholders appeared first on Hennessy's View.

Farewell to a friend – The Doubtful Roots of Progress

"Far best is he who knows all things himself;
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right;
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart
Another's wisdom, is a useless wight."
Hesiod, as quoted in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics
"...Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away..."
Farewell to a friend - The Doubtful Roots of Progress
In the 21st century, we typically like to see ourselves as living the superior lives which civilization has been longing and struggling to progress to for thousands of years, but... have you noticed how uncomfortably difficult it can be trying to find examples of that progress in anything other than technology? Especially amongst those who're most convinced that they're the epitome of progressive thinking?

Case in point, I reconnected last year with an acquaintance of mine from the 1980's, back when I played in a regional rock band and he was a popular local D.J., "Dice Martin", in Vegas - but unfortunately he disconnected us again earlier this month because he disliked that I disagreed with one of his postings. Understand, my replies didn't use profanity (not that that would've bothered him), or attack him or insult him, or ridicule him - though those were S.O.P's for the continual stream of pictures he posted, captioned to insult Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers. When you add to those the additional comments he & his friends made to them, each one ever more inflammatory than the last... and I can't help asking: what was so inflammatory, to him, about someone simply disagreeing with them?

Whatever it was that made this self described supporter of the 'progressive left' so intolerant of other views, is in no way confined to Dice himself, as we'll see in a moment, rather he is reflecting what is progressively becoming the dominant view across the country - demonize the opposition and shutdown discussion or debate - and I can think of few more appropriate ways to describe it than as I do: ProRegressivism.

Person to Person
The last post of Dice's that I was able to see was a split screen picture that showed three pundits from the left with college degrees, and three from the right who either didn't go or dropped out, accompanied with comments to the effect that everyone on the Left were scholarly icons of wisdom, while vilifying Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers as:
A)"... knuckle dragging drop outs and idiots...",
who ,
B)"... are GUILTY of treason ande sedition when they supported shutting The US Govt down last October..."
, whose disagreements with Obama were:
C)" these (racially motivated, right wing, incoherent) rants."
And about the Ukraine:
D)"...Not a peep when in '08 putin went into Georgia on Bush's watch....not one word."
To which I replied that
A),"as the colleges had gotten out of the wisdom business decades ago, trading tens of thousands of dollars in debt for dated and often substandard skills wasn't necessarily a mark of the wisest person in the room",
B) "he ought to look a bit closer at congress's power of the purse and how all sides have used it in the distant and recent past to rein the other branches in."
C) that "IMHO few rants are more racially motivated, or weak and fearful, than when a clear difference of ideas can only be responded to with accusations of racism rather than dealing with the merits of the ideas in question",
D) I noted that "I and many others had indeed 'peeped' many words at the time, condemning his actions as well as his inaction's."
Dice came a bit unglued at this and expressed his true feelings for tolerance and respect for the opinions of others, with
"Fuck you- Rot in Hell asswipe! Another piece of shit who don't know what he is talking about- in the ashcan of history----chumps-----", and he added one final friendly wave with "You won't matter when we get face to face"!.
As I was responding that I'd been face to face with him before and saw no reason to worry about that mattering, he unfriended and blocked me.

So. Progress, eh? But if cutting off debate in civil discussions and demonstrating absolute in-toleration for opposing political views are examples of the progress that 'progressives' have progressed to... I guess it's up to us to tell them that the progress that they're making is going in the wrong direction.

Now I hope you won't be surprised to learn that Dice isn't a mean guy and he isn't a stupid guy. He isn't lazy, he has his own insurance business in Florida; he isn't (in his mind) unpatriotic, and he isn't, at least as it is commonly recognized today, uneducated. What's worth noting here is not whether or not someone was on the Left or the Right side of an issue, but whether or not their positions further Progress or Regress. What's also worth noting here is a certain something that isn't there, a lack of understanding of what Progress is, what it requires and what cannot be engaged in without reverting into regress.

What this most emphatically is not, is a partisan issue... or even a non-partisan affair - this is a matter of societal ProRegress, and it is a problem for us all.

More than an Academic Question
See if you can see the resemblance here, between what Dice demonstrated, and this recent article in the Harvard student journal, The Crimson, by Sandra Y.L. Korn who's been posting in a similar vein since 2010, "The Doctrine of Academic Freedom - Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice" ,
"Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue."
This is a student supposedly in pursuit of a Liberal Education... does that mean something? Indeed it does, in general it means being able to engage, free from the threat of force, in the deliberate examination of opposing ideas in pursuit of acquiring the knowledge and understanding most likely to help yourself become fit for living in liberty with others. And yet she, like Dice, believes that opposing views are not only not to be tolerated, but she's even advocating in favor of using all available power to end the active discussion of opposing views in the academy, in order to suppress dissent, in order to promote 'Academic Justice'. That my friends, is Pro-Regress.

Leaving that aside for just a moment, and looking past the irony clad nature of the last paragraph in that quotation, at first glance, there almost seems to be a sheen of sense to that first paragraph, doesn't there? After all, one of the arguments against the public funding of education in general and of universities in particular, is, why should someone who is paying for an education be forced to pay for divisive research and professors professing ideas which they believe to be false, hateful and opposed to what they believe is true? Except of course that she isn't concerned at all with the rights of those who are making her education possible - public or private - or even of those who might best understand what an education actually is. What she is advocating for is NOT a policy where those who are paying for the students tuition, or the alumni who contribute to the college, or those the college has hired to administer and profess the ideals of a Liberal Education, should have a voice in what the college teaches. Nope. What she's advocating for is 'empowering' those who are the recipients of those seats and funds and services, so that they should be able to demand that they be used against the judgment and interests of those who are providing them! As she says:
"The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do."[emphasis mine]
IOW, those who do not yet have even what currently passes for an Education, are to seize the power to determine what an education should be, because in their as yet uneducated wisdom they believe that they have already determined what is best, and so they should use the raw power of the mob to disrupt the process of education until the disagreeable voices cave and they get. what. they. want. Those who've had the benefit of some semblance of an actual Liberal Education, should be able to identify this as one of the oldest of political practices: "Might makes Right".

Or, in my other words, using power to negate rights and force compliance with the ideas of a favored faction - that is Pro-Regress.

"History is philosophy teaching by example..." - Abraham Lincoln"
So that was from a college student, at what's often thought of as the premier college in the nation. If you find yourself wondering what it is that they are teaching in college these days, I suggest directing your attention to an essay by a college professor, Lawrence Torcello, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology. This scholar feels that the views of Ms. Korn do not go far enough. This professor, of philosophy no less, feels that we must deal with those pernicious folks who are not convinced that our govts have either the level of understanding, or the means of effectively 'correcting' the global climate, or the political right to impose their final solutions upon us all, and he isn't content with simply demanding, disrupting and shouting down their opposing views to get his way - he wants to take matters to the next level, and put them in jail:
"My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept"
Remember, he is currently professing his 'wisdom' to a steady stream of young college students, he wants to actually put those who disagree with what he (who btw, is not a scientist, let alone a climate scientist) is so clearly and distinctly convinced to be true, in jail, for the thought crime of holding opposing views. He's got one thing right, it is undeniable that jailing people for their ideas is most definitely the next ProRegressive step which must follow from professing such a philosophy; where else could it possibly lead to?

And if you're sympathetic with his position, then ask yourself this: How do you respond to the position, that what he just described was what others such as myself see as being an example of political factions and corporate interests in our schools, entertainment, media and government, directing the 'funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions'? So then I can get my faction together and say 'Hey, I think this fool is wrong, can I have him charged with a misdemeanor please?' And if, like the young miss in Harvard, your answer is that I have no Right to do what you do, because I do not believe the proper Politically Correct ideas as they do (which really means that those with my views aren't in power - yet)... then you are saying that it is ok to bring down the full force of the govt upon me, but not thee, because...of who has the power to silence who - at the moment.

If that is your position, then you've not only dodged the question, but you've endorsed the course which President John Adams foolishly supported, and which far better minds argued for than the one possessed by this twit of a professor, back in 1799
" ...commonly called the sedition law, subjects to a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and to imprisonment not exceeding two years, any person who shall write, print, utter, or publish, or cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, any false, scandalous, malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States..."
The Federalists too had the very best of intentions with the Aliens & Sedition Acts, and they also had what our professing fools do not: the excuse of not having seen it abused here before. We, on the other hand, have a number of examples from the philosophical classroom of history, such as ProRegressive Democrat President Wilson using similar acts to jail thousands of Americans for the crime of disagreeing with his administrations policies.

That my friend, is a step backwards, aka: Regress. And if you are for that, you are Pro-Regress.

Missing the point
My point is not that there is spin in politics or disputes about what climate scientists say the science says, or about what the scientists say politicians say about climate science, but that there is something missing from the views of my friend Dice, from the Harvard student, and from the Professor of 'philosophy', and what is not there, is what enables them to feel perfectly fine about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in denying others their freedom of speech, and enables them to advocate jailing those who disagree with their views - and that it is perfectly acceptable, advisable and even admirable for them to do so.

What they are lacking, what their understanding does not have, is not just civility - that's an effect, not a cause - these things they lack are what makes it possible for otherwise intelligent people to advocate actions as progress, which are clearly Pro-Regress.

So what is it they lack, is it simply a lack of knowledge? Simply a matter of knowing who knows what's best? That is after all, the reason why we send our kids to school and on to college, to fill them with the knowledge which good judgment requires, right? Would new books and better tests do the trick? But unfortunately it is no longer as easy as saying what James Madison once said:
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives"
Part of the problem is that modernity has introduced an ambiguity into what the word 'knowledge' now applies to - there's what is in reality true, and there's what people accept as being true, and many if not most moderns not only do not differentiate between the two, but in any (acknowledged) conflict between them, actually lean towards favoring the later (see Keynesian economics). In this day and age, simply knowing what 'reliable authorities' have told you is so, isn't enough.

Knowledge, in the sense Madison was referring to, expects there to be a standard which new information is held up to and that it must integrate into a deeper understanding of what you know to be true. That classical sense doesn't tolerate the urge, which we all feel at times, to allow what you wish were true to override those contradictions you worry might be true, without verifying what actually is true. Modernity, however, encourages us to embrace contradictory information as being 'true' for a variety of excuses ( and not just factually, for instance what movie characters are more enthused over today than those who are 'conflicted'?), ranging from popularity, to some form of cultural 'authenticity' or political acceptability, aided by one form or another of the modernist philosophical position that we cannot actually know what in reality actually is true.

Modernity isn't comfortable with unambiguous statements such as 'the fact is', nevertheless, the fact is that if you tolerate 'knowing' contradictory positions to be true, then you are well on your way to truly knowing nothing at all. What you Know has to be what you can conform your will and your passions to, and not the other way around, and attempting to do so, attempting to put desire over reality, is the essence of being intemperate, which, again in the classical sense, has consequences. As Edmund Burke, remarked :
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Intemperate? How does that figure into anything, the word's been out of fashion for a hundred years or more, hasn't it? Well, words have meaning... and what they mean remains even if you change the words you refer to that meaning with. Push a word out the front door, and its meaning will slip in again, unrecognized, through the back door... but you'll no longer have the knowledge to know how to deal with them. See if you hear the sound of the back door slamming in this recent article, entitled "Politicians are good liars 'because they convince themselves they are telling the truth', study reveals", reports that a study, '"Liars or SelfDeceived? Reflections on Political Deception", by a political scientist named Dr. Anna Galeotti, found that for politicians such as Bill Clinton,
: ‘Self-deception is a type of motivated irrationality - the art of believing something simply because it is desired to be true when evidence points to the very opposite.
, and that,
"Because of this, politicians not only lie convincingly, but are still convinced they are telling the truth even after they have proved to have lied, the report added."
IOW the liar becomes mastered by their lies, or more eloquently put:"...men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters....", which applies every bit as much to the electorate who votes for those deceptive policies which they know can't be true ("If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan"), but still really want them to be true. But the interpretation of such actions as being intemperate and bringing consequences, is only going to follow from the older understanding of what knowledge is. Taken through the more modern sense, it'll be given the spin that we should be more tolerant and understanding towards the liar, and the lie, since they don't really know what they are doing.

Which is a view that understandably still strikes many people the wrong way, such as one fellow who responded to that article's title with words to the effect of:
"Oh come'on, what is this bs! Of course they know that they're lying!"
Which, while I completely understand such a common sense reaction and I certainly don't excuse politicians or any others who are in fact lying, the common sense view of things misses the reality of the squishiness we've allowed to creep into what we call 'Knowledge'; and that reality, and its consequences, goes to the very heart of modernity.

For instance: why is it that Bill Clinton's infamous statement that "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'Is', is.", wasn't laughed out of court and/or slapped with a contempt charge? Under James Madison's conception of knowledge, it would have been. Under Modernity's formulation... such a statement is actually taken into consideration. Why? What makes that possible? It's not just 'old' vs 'new', there's another ingredient which actively separates the two understandings.

Look at it this way, I can't tell you how many smart and knowledgeable people, friends & family that I know, who still think nothing of behaving as Dice did. Is it really just a matter of not knowing the facts or intentionally lying about them? You probably have friends and family too that, although you're frustrated with them, you still can't quite bring yourself to call them completely ignorant or deliberate liars... am I right?

Well if you don't think that those members of your friends and family are complete fools or bald faced liars... then there must be something else that they are doing, or failing to do... the question is, what?

One of the questions we've stopped asking, is: knowledge of what? And how well, and how deeply, will that knowledge they acquire in school really be known? Or once known, be regarded by them as being consequentially True? Knowledge is of course incredibly useful, beneficial, and oh so advisable to pursue and expand, but bubble tests and 'fill in the blank' level worksheets only serve to transmit data, they don't develop knowledge. It is not enough simply to acquire and catalog a mass of disintegrated facts, mentally piling them on high into towering tables of data, each one unaware of the contents of the one next to it - such dragon hordes might help you score nicely on the SAT, but they are not the same thing as knowledge, and they are very nearly barriers to wisdom. Data doesn't become knowledge until it is integrated, and if that data is not integrated through understanding its relation to other data and the principles which support them, then it will be integrated through those feelings and preferences you have towards the data itself... and how well wisdom follows from that can be gauged by a quick look around you today.

What we are missing is what is behind the conception of knowledge that Madison and his time took for granted, and what we've accepted in its place is the modern philosophical view which presumes that substance is more likely to be found in polls, than whatever it is that the polls are being taken about.

Doubting the Value of Critical Thinking
My point is that there is something vital that is missing from how particular views are held by my friend Dice, and by the Harvard student, and by the Professor of 'philosophy', and what it is that is not there, is what enables them to feel just fine and dandy about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in depriving those who don't agree with them of their freedom of speech, and enables them to righteously advocate jailing people for the crime of not agreeing with them, and whatever it is that they lack, is what is enabling them to believe that it is perfectly acceptable, and advisable, and even admirable, for them to be doing so.

Part of what they lack is the habit of questioning what they do and don't know, substituting instead, the easy flattery and convenience of artificial Doubt.

Huh?

Here's what I mean. Doubt arises naturally when our mind detects a conflict, a contradiction, between what we know, and what we are being presented with as being so, and your immediate reaction is "Oh, I doubt that!", followed soon after with the reasons for your doubt "That doesn't add up with this, this and this, so tell me, how does that make sense?", and you're off to reassessing and perhaps correcting, and so strengthening, your knowledge, and understanding. Such doubts are the result of your knowledge, are healthy and should pretty much always be pursued.

But Artificial Doubt, such as what drives modernity's vaunted 'Critical Thinking', is not something that results from our knowledge, it is prompted by no detection of conflicts or contradictions, but only by your pretending to find something to doubt.

This tendency, which has a hand in what the good Dr. Galeotti calls 'self deception', is the hallmark of Modernity and it began with Descartes' "Method of Doubt",
“I thought it necessary that I reject as absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt, so as to see whether, after this process, anything in my set of beliefs remains that is absolutely indubitable.”
If the test of truth is whether or not you can imagine the least doubt about that something, and nothing other than your imagining it prompted your doubt in the first place... doesn't that make what you imagine, prefer, wish, determine what you do or don't doubt, and the ultimate test of what you will accept as being true? You do see the problem there, don't you?

Worse, there is nothing positive involved in such artificial doubts. Artificial doubt begins with the end result and pretends to find controversies in it which 'need' to be resolved. You haven't detected a flaw, you only pretend one is there... somewhere... on the shallow surface of the data you have in mind at the moment. For instance, a doubt based approach would begin, begin with mind you, as they do in most textbooks and worksheets everyday in our schools, from a perspective of artificial doubts picked off the surface of an issue, such as this recent example:
"Do you think the Bill of Rights is outdated?"
Based upon what?! The students haven't even investigated our particular Constitution, let alone the idea of laws in general, on what basis are they to 'think' if they are outdated or not? The only basis they'll have for their 'doubts' are their feelings, and where will students, especially young students, feelings about government and law likely come from? On top of that, the worksheet goes on to instruct them to:
"Omit two and add two...[amendments]"
Again, based upon what?! They have no knowledge to draw upon, they have nothing they can draw upon but their own ability to artificially and arbitrarily doubt something, anything, about the 'Bill of Rights'.

That is not a means to knowledge, but only a bold step towards its dissolution.

To start with artificial doubts, is to start without any real problems, without any real contradictions and without any real goals; and so what you are seeking is not resolution, but confirmation of the doubts you only imagined to begin with - it's resolution is as artificial as it's instigation. The result of this is not stronger knowledge, but just the opposite. Even those times when you might succeed in acquiring more facts, you necessarily believe them less. When everything is doubtful, nothing is really Known or believed - it might be accepted... but that's data, not knowledge, which are not nearly the same thing.

What this amounts to in practice, is that if you don't like it, it's doubtful - if you do like it, its not doubtful. This is not only an impractical method for thought, it works to corrode confidence in all of your knowledge (see "In Praise of Prejudice" ). This root method of modernity is even often put forward as the basis of the Scientific Method (which it is not)... and you wonder about why we live in such an uncertain age?

Natural doubts, and true questioning,on the other hand, results from and begins with the substance of the issue, such as 'What are Rights?" and would works its way down and in towards the essentials of what it is you are trying to understand. Along the way real doubts will arise, and can be addressed, strengthening understanding, not trivializing it. Such an approach would work on developing an understanding of human nature, social organization, government, Law and Individual Rights first, and only then, after the basics had been grasped, should students work their way back up to considering our Constitution in such a critical way. Whether or not additional amendments should be added to it, or taken away, would and should be the very last step in considering our form of government, not the starting point.

But wait, there's less!
Still though, while self deception and deliberate deception certainly exist, for most every day folks, self deception doesn't quite fit the bill because it isn't deliberate self deception that most people are engaging in, right? But they don't need to deceive themselves, not if the standard which they've accepted as being 'True', was substandard as a standard to begin with, and has left them exposed to even more issues.

The errors of preference which practicing artificial 'Doubt' as a standard introduces, further encourages a narrowing of the scope of your attention and understanding, as well as what you require as verification for it ('Oh, I doubt I need to bother with learning all of that stuff'), which bears a strong resemblance to self deception. What results from restricting the depth of understanding you seek on a given matter, is that it conveniently requires your attention to extend no further than what it is that you prefer to believe.

Our minds, like our muscles, are more than happy to go slack on us. When your 'doubts' are not prompted by conflicts in your understanding, and no conflicts in your understanding need to be resolved in order to dispel these artificial doubts you go through the motions of applying, then you shouldn't be surprised to find that what you choose to call 'truth' no longer requires of you the effort of integrating your understanding.

Not only do favorable sounding truths become believable when you are unaware of what would make them unbelievable, but if you are feeling no need to doubt that something is true (or false) then Truth becomes something that requires no greater depth, or soundness, than the absense of your doubts about it.

That squishily skeptical, vaguely cynical sense which most people have towards most issues in our daily life, is the doubtful bounty of modernity,and the rot of it permeates our culture today.

Don't doubt the benefits of Questions
Has Doubt driven scientific progress? I doubt it. I suspect that, when actually followed, it actually slowed progress. What has driven scientific progress, is what cannot not drive progress, and somewhere between Robert Grosseteste in the 1200's and Roger Bacon in the 1600's, there emerged a general scientific method, which has been summed up as,
"...a repeating cycle of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and the need for independent verification. He recorded the manner in which he conducted his experiments in precise detail so that others could reproduce and independently test his results..."
, or for everyday use, methodically questioning and verifying the answers your questions logically lead you to. Rinse. Repeat. More often than not, once the clutter of doubt is brushed away from actual scientists journals, you find that it wasn't arbitrary doubts which drew them on (more often than not they slowed them down), it was the careful application of good honest questions - what do I understand this to mean? How well do I understand it? Do I understand, rather than assume, what this means?

Questions are based upon knowledge, and whether that knowledge is strong, or weak, the act of questioning draws you on to making real progress through positive understanding, and not from negative, empty, doubts. And more than that, questioning strengthens your understanding without leaving you defensive against someone else's questions, or their doubts, because having questioned your own understanding, you have the answers... or the desire to seek them out. What the moderns have accepted as being 'Knowledge', lacks what  'Critical Thinking' cannot provide: Understanding, and the fearless unquenchable curiosity which the desire for, and means of attaining understanding, naturally fosters. What its absence supplies instead, is hostility and baseless self righteousness ("There can be no doubt! It's settled science!") and not only the tendency to resort to using force instead of reason, but a satisfaction in doing so, which the actions of Dice, the Harvard student and the Professor trumpet more loudly than their 'tolerant' words ever will: 'Might makes Right, and that more might makes you more right!'.

Doubtful Progressives
Dice didn't have any doubts about what he wanted to be true and feeling no need for further understanding, he certainly didn't feel he needed to seek any greater 'understanding' of what I was saying, in order to conclude that it was false, hateful and even evil. The fact that he disliked - doubted - what I had to say and wanted it to be 'true', was more than enough for him.

The Harvard Student didn't need to bother with considering the requirements of honesty, of understanding or of valid knowledge, she didn't need to worry about whether or not it was right, or even sensible for her to demand that teachers obey the demands of students, it was enough for her to not doubt her own zeal for what it is that she wanted to be true - and for her it was beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is right.

The 'philosophy' professor didn't need to worry about what powers it would be wise to extend to govt, or how it could be controlled or corrected once given to it; he simply finds that what he clearly prefers to be truthful is beyond doubt, and so concludes, logically, that it must be accepted as the right thing to do.

On the face of it, the idea that knowledge will forever govern ignorance seems all very right minded and such... but when the test of knowledge is that it is beyond your ability to doubt, then whether or not this information is in reality true, doesn't come into question. And how likely is it that you or they will ever discover any deeper and more complete answers, if those who do question or disagree with the accepted positions, are forbidden from challenging those positions?

My point is not that there is spin in politics or disputes about climate science, but that there is something missing from the views of my unfriended friend Dice, from the Harvard student activist, and from the Professor of 'philosophy', and what is not there in their understanding, is what enables them to feel perfectly fine about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in denying others the freedom of speech they demand for themselves, and enables them to advocate jailing those who dare to disagree with their views - and that it is, beyond a doubt, perfectly acceptable and advisable for them to do so.

And while I do think it is far more pronounced on the left than elsewhere, I've seen plenty of the like from Libertarians and from the Right as well, and that is the larger point to this current series of posts: When I'm speaking of Progress vs Regress, I'm not simply referring to political matters, but to the lack of understanding of what Progress is, and what it is not, and what Progress is not compatible with, which is very much a bi-partisan, tri-partisan, and non-partisan affair. What otherwise intelligent people lack, makes them oblivious to the fact that the positions they are advancing, have far more to do with Regress, rather than with Progress. And to disperse that obliviousness, we've got to take a trip into the past....next post.

School Choice and Freedom Go Hand in Hand

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands

This week, the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey M. Burke deftly dismantled an argument by Politico reporter Stephanie Simon that since some private schools teach that God created the world, everyone should oppose vouchers.

Simon takes issue specifically with schools teaching Creationism or intelligent design. She states:

Decades of litigation have established that public schools cannot teach creationism or intelligent design. But private schools receiving public subsidies can — and do.

She goes on to broadly detail how terrible many private school curricula are, using their coursework as the basis of her argument against school choice and the use of public funds for vouchers.

Their course materials nurture disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists,” she writes, suggesting this is very prevalent in private schools.

This, of course, is a conclusion derived from POLITICO combing through “hundreds of pages of course outlines, textbooks, and school websites.”

But even if it’s the case that certain schools teach creationism, and not the same exact tenets taught at public schools, Burke contends that’s just fine. School choice is still good for parents and children. She argues from the perspective of both legal precedent upholding school choice and philosophical arguments in favor of school choice.

Burke notes that the Supreme Court via an Establishment Clause challenge against school choice, as part of the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case, upheld in a 5-4 majority opinion the constitutionality of allowing parents to use public funds to go to private religious schools:

Under such a program, government aid reaches religious institutions only by way of the deliberate choices of numerous individual recipients. The incidental advancement of a religious mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the individual aid recipients not the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits.

(Simon also cites this case on the third page of her article.)

Burke also recalls how Milton Friedman predicted arguments like Simon’s and warned against the extreme result they could produce saying:

Schools run by different religious groups will, it can be argued, instill sets of values that are inconsistent with one another and with those instilled in other schools; in this way they convert education into a divisive rather than a unifying force…Carried to its extreme, this argument would call not only for governmentally administered schools, but also for compulsory attendance at such schools.

And Oregon tried just that when they enacted a law requiring all students to attend public schools. The Supreme Court struck the law down in 1925.

Burke notes, “The philosophical and legal underpinnings of school choice have been well established.”

“Catholic school students do score significantly higher than public school students on national standardized tests in math and reading,” admits Simon. Yet, she still seems adamantly opposed to school choice and vouchers that allow parents to send their children to the school of their choice.

Where do you fall in this debate? As conservatives, we know all students fare best in education when their parents are intimately involved and when parents have a variety of educational choices that best suit the needs of their children. If you support school choice, tell Congress.

EMAIL YOUR SENATORS TO CO-SPONSOR THE CHOICE ACT (S.1909)

School Choice Almost Always Positively Affects Academic Outcomes

Stressed Schoolboy with Head in Hands

The school choice movement has an excellent track record for improving students’ academic outcomes and increasing parental satisfaction, but the same cannot be said for the public school system and the federal government’s Common Core.  The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey M. Burke expounds upon the findings of myriad studies demonstrating the positive effects of school choice on students’ academic outcomes both in voucher programs and in public schools.

From better meeting the needs of special needs students, to increased parental satisfaction, to substantial increases in graduation rates, the research shows school choice is an effective means of improving American education.  Washington politicians should take note.

Students who have participated in the D.C Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to students from low-income families living in Washington, have experienced “statistically significant increases in graduation rates as a result of using a scholarship to attend a private school of choice.”

Critics of school choice, often politically motivated by affiliation with teachers’ unions, insinuate that the very existence of the school choice movement somehow harms those students who remain in the public school system.

That’s just not so.  In fact, the very “threat of competition” and “competitive pressure from the school choice voucher program” are incentives for public schools to work to ensure the success of their students.

In Florida, researchers have also found “statistically significant increases in the test scores of students with disabilities who remained in the public system as more private schools entered” the McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities, which provides vouchers to students with special needs to attend a private school of choice.

Burke explains “states and local school districts would better serve students by empowering parents with control over their share of education funding.”  Fortunately, there are some lawmakers paying attention to this advice and acting on it.

The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education (CHOICE) Act (S. 1909), sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Tim Scott89%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard89%, is currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.  This bill would expand educational opportunities for children with disabilities, children living on military bases, and children living in impoverished areas.

The federal government’s overreach in education is a demonstrable failure, despite the billions of federal tax dollars spent on the public school system annually.  School choice and competition have proven to be far more effective means of allowing students to succeed.

Email your Senators to Co-Sponsor the CHOICE Act.