Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Every Generation Blames the One Before
As a new parent, I'm spending more time around families socially these days and noticing things that could never penetrate my old bachelor tunnel vision. For instance, I take my son to a nearby school playground in Brookline and am appalled at how many lunch boxes, mittens, jackets, and backpacks get left behind on the schoolyard each day. My gut reaction for a while was "stupid rich kids". But that has evolved to "stupid rich parents who don't teach their kids to value anything". How can I blame 7-12 year old kids for anything? Shouldn't a parent notice that their kid came home from school without the coat they wore in the morning?
This was by no means a situation-specific epiphany. As I alluded to above, my burgeoning experiences with other parents has opened my eyes to pervasive parental incompetence.
I laughed really hard the other day at a Drudge headline of "Israel on Time Out" - or something to that effect that obviously was a story on the 48 hour air raid break the Israelis gave Lebanon. Nowadays kids don't even get punished; they are put on "Time Out". Apparently life is one big game with 20 second, full, and "TV" timeouts. Heck, let's just grant the poor Hezbollah terrorists a "time out" - anything else would be crudely judgmental.
Everyone knows a government school teacher and has likely heard their incessant complaints about the students' parents. It used to be when little Billy sassed his teacher; his parents would clean his clock (Billy's, that is). For the last few decades however, Billy's parents have rushed in and defended their son against every indictment, notwithstanding evidence and fact. In the convoluted world of Baby Boomer induced logic, an aspersion cast at the child is more importantly, a de facto aspersion towards his parents as well.
Sometimes, for brief nanoseconds, I wish I had a job that gave me more Moron blog material. For example a friend of mine teaches fifth grade reading on Long Island and I just can't believe the stories she tells me. For instance, her class hands out some bullcrap Citizen of the Month award. The mother of one little girl who was yet to win the award came into school to complain. She was thoroughly pissed that her little "Sally" hadn't won the award despite her stellar grades. The teacher tried to explain that it was a "non-academic" award but it 'twas to no avail. Sally's mother righteously demanded to know the grades of the most recent three winners of the award. The teacher calmly explained that she couldn't discuss other kids' grades and said maybe she should go complain to the principal. Sally's mother was actually delighted and enthused that she could take this frivolity up the chain of command.
Let's take a Time Out here. If I were the teacher I would have laughed so hard in this woman's face. I would have mocked her with all my might - as she clearly deserved. Remember, this is all over some STUPID MEANINGLESS AWARD IN FIFTH GRADE.
My teacher friend also told me that many parents demand that she,
"...not correct my child because it's bad for their self-esteem."
That reminds me of these asinine parents who won't say "no" to their kid. This is hardly a unique cavil of mine. Patricia Dalton wrote in the Washington Post,
I've talked to many parents who are so influenced by psychological theories about child rearing that they disregard common sense. Some are critical of the way they themselves were raised, and are searching for another model to guide them. Then there's the romantic, New-Age view: Children come into the world uncorrupted, and therefore are best raised using principles of noninterference. From this viewpoint, "no" is a dirty word, children should be given choices and provided with explanations; punishment and adverse situations should be avoided as much as possible because they might harm the child's fragile self-esteem. There is an unspoken assumption that a child who feels good will never need to behave badly.
Read that whole article. I think she really hit the nail on the head by saying that these incompetent parents opt for "theory" over "common sense". And as I explained in the comments of my last post, these parents have the psychological baggage of guilt leading them astray. Remember, Morons are not necessarily or categorically dumb, but whether the issue is "global warming", taxes, or disciplining children, otherwise clear heads falter. My only addendum to Miss Dalton's piece would be that many parents can't use common sense as a guide for the simple reason that they have none themselves.
My teacher friend gave me a few more nuggets.
She said that her school has a "nutrition committee" to monitor "obesity". This is a hardly a new topic for my blog. From a prior post,
I remember being screened for scoliosis, lice, and cavities in elementary school. But today in Pennsylvania they may send a kid home with a note informing his parents that he is hunchbacked, bug infested, has rotten teeth, AND is FAT. That is right, public schools there are now "screening" the brats for obesity.
Okay, this so-called nutrition committee has banned the cupcake birthday parties that we all grew up with. Remember when it was your birthday, your mom baked and frosted 35 cupcakes for you to distribute to your classmates? Well due to the exploding obesity epidemic, more than a few schools have ended this tradition. What's wrong with a cupcake here and there? Well, my teacher friend said it's chaos with 35 kids' b-days crammed into a 9 month school year - making it one per week. Yeah, the kids with summer birthdays all bring in cupcakes as well, lest they be left out and suffer another jarring blow to their self-esteem.
The nutrition committee has decreed that only one day per month are birthdays to be celebrated. No longer do the kids get their own day, instead they have to share it with the entire month's celebrants, and here's the kicker - ONLY HEALTHY SNACKS ARE ALLOWED.
As I said in the past, soda, Doritos, and cupcakes are probably 1,000th in the hierarchy of government school problems but that isn't slowing down the Obesity Police in your local schools.
It almost goes without saying that the Obesity Police are flexing their muscles in schools all over the country. A local dingbat pol here in Cambridge, Massachusetts tried to actually ban the FlufferNutter sandwich from government school cafeterias. He was roundly (and deservedly) mocked all over the country. People even started mailing him jars of Fluff.
Okay, say they ban all tasty food from cafeterias.... are they going to start searching lunchboxes and lockers for Twinkie contraband? Will they limit what kids can brownbag in?
Enough with this school lunch Fluff. I'll end it by saying that when it comes to school lunches, I am staunchly pro-choice.
I have so much more to say on parental incompetence, government schools, and the Obesity Police that I am going to have to leave it for future posts.
I want to apologize (yet again) for the lack of posting. I happen to be mired in the Hamptons this summer as we are taking full advantage of my wife's maternity leave. I lugged my computer down and am still trading up a storm (these days in the futures markets: gold, silver, oil, natural gas, and Nasdaq futures) but most of my free time is expended at the beach or in the pool.
I have also been reading quite a bit these days - almost all modern history books. I would say that it's completely impossible to hold strong intelligible opinions of the issues of the day without a thorough understanding of relevant context. The salient example du jour is the Israeli/Hezbollah fighting in Lebanon. Any Moron calling for a ceasefire or "peace talks" would be wise to look at the empirical history of such suggestions. (Hint: that has never worked, ever.)
I remember reading my high school American history book and littered throughout the text were non sequitur paragraphs with constant updates on the roles that Native Americans, blacks, and women played in the chronicled events. Usually it went like this,
...And Native Americans, women, and blacks didn't participate, get a vote or a say in [fill in this blank].
While on the subject, did you hear that the California Legislature passed a resolution last week,
... that since women and minorities weren't present at the writing of the US Constitution....they've declared the Constitution, "un-Constitutional"?
By the way, that was a joke - but who would really be surprised if it wasn't?
The older, wiser, and more well-read I get, the more I realize how much complete BS has been propagated and dissembled as "fact", "education", or "news". For instance, take the theory of evolution, a subject that quite frankly I have never thought about since my freshman year of high school. Even then it was only a chapter in a book whose bullet points had to dwell in my short-term memory only until the test. But one thing I did remember is the white moth/black moth study that proved the theory of evolution. Perhaps some of my young readers remember this from school as well. Here's the problem,
THAT MOTH STUDY WAS A COMPLETE FRAUD.
Now frauds are perpetrated in every field, so why am I so mad?
Because my textbook was written long after the fraud was exposed. In other words, the author had his story and he was sticking to it. The publisher didn't care about factual accuracy. The school board didn't care. Your teacher likely didn't care either. Now bear in mind that most states have laws demanding factual accuracy in school textbooks.
I was intending to provide two examples of fallacies from my education - the moth evolution fraud and the gross mischaracterization of Senator Joseph McCarthy - but some googling research has opened up Pandora's Box on this subject.
Here is an hour-long video lecture on the lies and utter falsehoods propagated by scientists, particularly on evolution theory but also touching upon geology and a few other areas. I absolutely dare you evolution theory subscribers to watch it (though I am quite confident you won't). Some Morons have already labeled the video under "crap" and "lunatic".
Did you know that there is no way the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon?
Yet the entire scientific world bleats that it was carved over millions of years by said river?
Why would people have to lie about the origin of a canyon?
Really, find the time to watch that video.
The best part about the video is when the scientist tells the story about bringing his daughter to a museum. Looking at a diagram of the earth's rock layers, the guide pointed to one and claimed it was 70 million years old, the girl asked the museum guide how its age was known. He said it was a good question and answered that they could tell the age of the rock layer by the age of the fossils found in them.
Next they went over to a dinosaur fossil. It too was described as, say 100 million years old. The curious girl again asked how they could tell the age of the dinosaur fossil. The unconscious museum idiot again said "good question" and explained that they can date a fossil by the age of the rock formation that it is found in.
"Whoa, isn't that circular reasoning?", the young girl asked.
After all, he used the fossils to date the rock and then he used the rock to date the fossil. Circular Reasoning couldn't be a more obvious Moron tactic but it's got to hurt when pointed out by a little girl.
One last thing on evolution theory (for the time being), remember that "survival of the fittest" is a tautology.
Q: Why did these species survive?
A: Because they were the fittest.
Q: How do you know they were the fittest?
A: Because they survived.
But my favorite Moron tautology remains,
"rich people have more money..."
The black moth fraud doesn't itself disprove the theory of evolution anymore than "Enron" disproves capitalism as a viable economic model. (Though most other "proof" of evolution has imploded as well - e.g. the Piltdown Man was another complete hoax.)
Back to the more general subject of textbooks. I am hoping that in the future, those politically correct non sequiturs about women and minorities are replaced by addendums more along these lines.
Yes. Joseph McCarthy accused some Americans of being covert Soviet agents. But he was dead right. For over 50 years, educators and media gatekeepers suppressed, distorted, and lied about what transpired. Consequently, the public, has been recklessly ignorant of a vital period of American history.
The media whitewashing remains a huge untold and untaught part of American history.
Everyone knows that history is written by the "victors". Winston Churchill himself even said,
"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."
In short, less government involvement in education would remove a lot of the ignorance-inducing text books as ideologues will have no leverage to force them upon the privately educated and the home schooled. And heck, the kids may actually learn something.
According to a 2000 American Council of Trustees and Alumni study, "Losing America's Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century," not one of the top 50 colleges and universities today requires American history of its graduates.
Believe me, American History is not dismissed at the collegiate level because the kids master it in high school.
Most people know what "McCarthyism" is, or is supposed to be, but hardly anyone knows about the Venona Papers which, despite the obvious waffling from that Wikipedia link, clearly corroborate the almost entirely forgotten and obfuscated point,
That in the 1940s and 1950s, Communists were in high US government positions. And these weren't just innocuous ideologues who thought the rich should be taxed to the hilt, they were actively collaborating with the Soviet Union.
Joe McCarthy didn't want Communist sympathizers jailed, burned at the stake (The Crucible), stamped with pink C's, or deported. He just didn't think they should be working for the government and handling sensitive information.
So what's the really radical position? The converse? An apathy towards the allegiances of government workers privy to, say the Manhattan Project?
That Wikipedia link on the Venona Papers is borderline pathetic. Towards the end of it, they talk about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and how,
Venona has added significant information to the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, making it clear that Julius was guilty of espionage and that Ethel was an accessory, although their contributions to Soviet nuclear espionage were not as vital as was alleged at the time. The information Julius passed to the Soviets related to the proximity fuze, or detonation device, not the actual process of nuclear fission.
Now we are splitting hairs here. Saying that Julius only passed the Soviets info on the detonation device is tantamount to arguing that Bin Laden only killed 2,900 Americans on 9/11 instead of 3,000. What's the point really?
I wasn't alive back then, so forgive my forward suggestion that maybe he shouldn't have been passing anything to Soviet agents. Furthermore, I posit that academics' and media organs' failure to accurately report on Cold War espionage has been at least a gross injustice to the American public and perhaps treasonous itself.
In summary, you may not think you've been influenced by or even retained anything from your 12 year sentence in government schools, but the stuff you weren't taught is actually more important than the deliberate distortions they did throw at you. This process of relearning science and history in which I am amidst, is in no way entertaining. If anything it gets me very angry and invokes that expression, "if you aren't pissed off, then you aren't paying attention."
Like more than a few parents, I want to give my kids more than I had growing up. Not to say that I was deprived or abused, outside of the canned lima beans and the different behavioral standards for my sisters (sorry Mom, therapy can only exorcise so much), but I want my children to have far superior educational experiences than I had, among other improvements. The more I reflect on my own schooling, the more deficiencies I see. There really is no mystery as to why home schooling is gaining momentum all over the nation.
I contend that today's children are comprehensively coddled by society - to everyone's detriment.
Consider that in the last 100 years we have gone from a country that sent nine year olds to work in coal mines to one today where 22 year olds won't take out the trash. Americans, not so long ago, used to get married at age 17. Today, even a most perceptive individual wouldn't be able to tell if that grey, balding man pushing a stroller in Brooklyn Heights is the infant's father or the grandfather. I in no way consider myself a young husband or young father. But at 32 years old, everywhere I go around Boston the parents of similarly aged children are seemingly all 5-15 years older than my wife and me.
The coddling starts with government school. Since parents don't directly pay for schooling, they have very little control over the quality of their children's education. Big Education cares more about protecting their monopoly and playing politics than imparting practical knowledge to its captive students.
School vouchers would be a marginal improvement BUT not a permanent or ideal solution. Sure it will introduce much needed competition amongst abutting school districts. Competition is ALWAYS beneficial - even if not many students switch schools, it will light a fire under most schools to get their act together somewhat.
But vouchers likely won't help lower the cost of schooling. Nationwide vouchers would just recreate Medicare for schooling - let's call it "Educare". After all, patients can pick and choose their doctors and healthcare facilities but medical cost inflation remains largely out of control thanks to Medicare making government the largest buyer. Vouchers will slowly increase in magnitude and when they start to dwarf the out-of-pocket parental tuition contribution, education price inflation will spiral up again.
Don't like my Educare analogy? Well look at college tuitions. There already is a de facto voucher system for higher ed, yet college kids still don't learn anything AND their parents pay through the nose for the privilege of donning those rear windshield stickers.
It'd be one thing if college was expensive but the kids graduated with marketable skills. However, today college is costing $160,000 or more yet kids who go straight into plumbing, landscaping, or police work are out-earning the English majors from Dartmouth. Forget those studies that "prove" college grads out-earn others by wide margins over their lifetimes. That's just educrat propaganda not to mention completely backward looking sophistry. In the past, college was never so expensive nor was it such a joke academically.
(Pictured above: Locust Walk at my alma mater the University of Pennsylvania, perhaps the most beautiful urban campus in America.)
Here's a glimpse into the future of college education. Forbes profiles Neumont University,
Physically and philosophically, there's no confusing Neumont with a traditional university. It is housed in a glass-and-steel reflective office building. Students live in nearby apartments - no campus quad, football games, frat houses or keg parties.
Doxey aims foremost to please employers - not students, not parents, and certainly not the educational establishment. Produce what business needs, he figures, and graduates will win good jobs, which in turn will attract more paying students.
He's onto something. The school's first batch of 27 graduates this past spring all had jobs waiting, with an average starting salary of $61,000 - some 20% more than the average computer science grad and 50% more than DeVry University graduates' starting pay. After a year Neumont's graduates should be able to command $70,000 - $90,000, predicts Joshua Steimle, chief executive of Salt Lake City Web design firm MWI, which hired two grads.
The connection to industry goes beyond job placements. Most of Neumont's profs were recruited from corporations.
At elite liberal arts colleges, the profs disdain practical skills and pontificate about theoretical topics suited to their academic journals. Not here. At Neumont students spend only 30% of their time on theory and 70% learning the newest technology, mostly working in groups on projects. That's the way complex software is written today, in groups.
Neumont's tuition last year was $28,000. Earning the money described above makes Neumont seem like a bargain compared to spending almost $45,000 per year at a school like Boston College and having to scramble for a job upon graduation. A few years ago, while my cousin was in medical school he moaned incessantly about the 250k he'd owe when done. At least he was getting a six-figured secure job for life. Today undergraduate Philosophy majors from Holy Cross will be out 160k, so $250,000 in the hole doesn't look so bad from where I am sitting.
I want to repeat the most important sentence from that link,
Doxey aims foremost to please employers - not students, not parents, and certainly not the educational establishment.
Preparing kids for the real world.....what an earth shattering, profound notion!!!
Let me try to tie some of this hodgepodge together.
Consider embryonic stem cells. Polls today show that around 60% of Americans are in favor of government funding of embryonic stem cell research. Of course those polled weren't vetted to see if they actually understood the slightest about stem cells. And I doubt these polls allowed for respondents to inveigh against government investment in research that the private sector is well-equipped to fund. Anyway, the potential of embryonic stem cell research (not to be conflated with adult stem cells) is pure science fiction at this point. Furthermore, "groundbreaking" studies, used to push the embryonic stem cell prop-agenda have been outed as frauds.
Michael Fumento says it best in an attack on Science magazine, which had to retract some of its ESC cheerleading. In a round indictment of what he calls PsuedoScience magazine, Fumento concludes,
The journal wants to flood unpromising ESC research with taxpayer dollars because private investors know just how very unpromising it is.
Let's see...Fraudulent studies, championed by scientists, that reek of agenda-driven politics....does that remind anyone of the Piltdown Man or the Black Moth experiment?
A month or so ago, I clicked on a Drudge link about how Al Gore and his "Let's not burn oil and fry the Earth" entourage drove a mere 500 meters from one place to another at the Cannes Film Festival (instead of walking). First of all, it was a Reuters news story - that is no longer listed on their server. What I mean is, Drudge didn't write the story - Reuters did. But that point was lost on the Drudge haters and they quickly said that the Gore story was false and accused Drudge of a "smear".
The green blogosphere exploded with vitriol towards Drudge, as if he has the ability to confirm every story he links too. If the story was false, their anger should have been aimed at Reuters. Since Reuters is a green (Commi and terrorist) friendly organization they went after a preferred bogeyman in Drudge. Anyway, I found some lengthy and active blog thread that was discussing the entire controversy and was very surprised to find in the comments, a bunch of homosexual epithets hurled at Drudge from what one can safely assume were liberals/progressives. The most common bleat was,
"Drudge likes fudge..."
Now I had heard once before a rumor that Matt Drudge was gay. But how can the same side that trumpets "gay marriage" and routinely colors its opponents as "homophobic" logically also hold gayness as a pejorative trait. Oh, never mind, hypocrisy scorekeeping gets boring after a while.
Now the other day, a new website called FudgeReport.net was launched. See it for yourself. It's sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial campaign and endeavors to mock the Drudge Report with another less than subtle swipe at Matt's alleged homosexuality.
How does this tie in?
Well let's go back to so-called McCarthism. It may surprise the historically illiterate that the smearing of Communist whistleblowers McCarthy, Chambers, Jay Edgar Hoover, etc. all accused them of being homosexuals ("queer").
History, regardless of who writes it, still tends to repeat itself.