Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another Reason To Leave Boston

So I found this "pre-foreclosure" home in nearby Hingham, Massachusetts. My wife and I are going to look at it this weekend. It's about 3,800 square feet including the basement.

Price Reduction with new septic system to be installed. Luxury rambling Cape, newly built in 2002 with complete renovation of the existing structure, many custom features include Canadian cherry cabinets, Brazilian granite, all higher end appliances including GE Monogram double ovens, cook top and microwave and built in Kitchen Aid refrigerator and sitting area. The eat in kitchen blends into the Great Room with fireplace and french doors that open onto the mahogany deck leading onto a private flat backyard. Walk up to the master bedroom suite with cathedral ceiling and skylight including walk in closet and master bathroom suite with jacuzzi and tile seat glass shower with multi shower heads and rain shower. Lower Level is ideal with 912 square feet for in law, teenager or au pair suite with hardwood, full bathroom and walk-in closet. This Cape is centrally located minutes from Route 228 and close to the New Commuter Rail Service and Hingham Commuter Boat. Situated on a Cul De Sac Neighborhood and desired Plymouth River School District. A Wonderful House, give a call and see for yourself!!! Motivated seller this house is ready for new owners!!!!

That's the kitchen pictured above. The house is listed for 719k right now but will probably foreclose in the low 600s. If you can believe it, this is the first foreclosure we have found in our desired neighborhood and price range yet. Real estate here has been declining but to this point, very slowly.

I emailed it to my buddy in Florida who's a real estate broker to get his opinion. His response, "That's ridiculous" - as in still way too high. But what does he know, he's in Florida?

He then emailed me this pic of a 4,000 square foot home outside of Naples. It's brand new and on the block for 375k (part of a DR Horton inventory liquidation).

I think it's highly unlikely that I will bid on this Hingham "short sale" but if I was inclined, the pic of that beautiful house in sunny Naples might have dissuaded me.

Heck, it's less than $100 per square foot.

Not to go unmentioned is the fact that Naples/Fort Meyers area currently has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Helping The Pervert's Friend

It's almost automatic that callers to TV and radio sexologist show open their questions thusly:

Caller - "I have a FRIEND who ...."

For example, " stings when HE pees. What could it mean?"

Why do I bring this up? Well, more than a few of my, I refer to them as young-old buddies have in recent years called me with similar transparent stealth:

40YearOldLudditePerv - Yo, C-Nut, my buddy's computer is messed up.

CaptiousNut - Oh really. Let me guess. Are pop-ups for 'deep throat' and the like coming out of nowhere.

40YearOldLudditePerv - Yeah. And they crop up when his 5 year old daughter is at! If his wife sees this he's dead.

CaptiousNut - Haha. Here's what your buddy needs to do....

Then I proceed to tell him (his buddy) how to restore the computer. It's really simple. Even you people who don't surf adult content should know how it's done. One just reboots their computer, holds down the F5 key (or strikes it repeatedly) before Windows comes up, and then logs in via "Safe Mode".

Go to "All Programs", "Accessories", "System Tools", and "System Restore". Change the date to any one BEFORE you committed the online thought crimes, and you're done.

Y'all should write this down or print it out now - because when your computer gets taken over by spyware, pornware, viruses, etc. you might not be able to freely access the web to find this prescription.

How did I learn this?

Well, a good friend of mine once had serious problems with his PC...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Extra-Curricular Reading

One of the most popular new blogs today is called Stuff White People Like. Check it out, it's pretty funny.

Election Results Leaked

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

And here's another good one:

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

I guess this site is worth a revisit. There is one video there about a "porn star" that takes the cake. I can't link to it because it's beyond the pale. But I would encourage you sleazeballs to find it independently.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Homeschooling and Unschooling

One subject that I devote considerable mental energy to these days is the education of my young children (still only 3 years old and 20 months). I registered with some home schooling online forum so I could learn more about exactly what these parents do on a daily basis. There was an interesting post today that I would like to share:

What is unschooling anyway?

I can't pretend to be an expert on unschooling, I can only say that its been an amazing gift for our family. I've been unschooling my son (who is 10 yrs old) for three years now. Unschooling will look different in different families, and "radical unschooling" simply means extending the philosophy of unschooling (that children will learn what they need to know when they are ready and want to learn it) into every other aspect of life (i.e. children will go to sleep when they are tired, eat when they are hungry, and will learn to be a functioning, helpful member of a family/household without being forced/required to do things like chores, given punishments, limited on tv/videogames, etc.) Radical unschooling could also be called Mindful Parenting, or respectful parenting (although one could be parenting mindfully, and their children attend school). In any case, I cringe when I hear parents say "We unschool except for math" or "we only do two hours of seatwork a day, then we unschool" or "we unschool on the weekends" or "we unschool, and I only require "X" amt of written work each week, but they get to choose the subject!" While all of that might work for a family, its not really true unschooling. That's like saying you're a "little bit pregnant"...if you're following a curriculum, or requiring work, it may be very relaxed homeschooling, or eclectic homeschooling, but not unschooling.

A couple of excellent websites to learn about unschooling are:

Joyce Fetteroll's site: link

Joyce has a daughter (i think she's an older teen?), and has been unschooling for quite some time. Her site has TONS of info about what unschooling is, how to get started, positive spins on chores, food, sleep behavior, etc. Enough info here to keep a new unschooler reading for some time!

Sandra Dodd's Website:

(Click around on the links to different pages, to read interesting
essays on chores, college, videogames, and much much more.)
Sandra is a mom whose three children (I think they are 14,17, and 20 now) have always been unschooled. Sandra is a former school teacher, and author of the book Moving a Puddle. I've seen her speak several times at two separate Live and Learn unschooling conferences, and she's really funny.

When I first began unschooling, and was asked what it meant, I would say that it was homeschooling in a child-led, hands-on way. That instead of learning math from a workbook or science from a textbook we'd bake cookies (with all that measuring )and plant a garden (photosynthesis and all that)....and while both of those activities have value, after a few years of unschooling I've come to learn that unschooling isn't really *that*, it isn't really a way to "teach" your child that is fun or hands on. Now I realize that when we bake cookies its because baking cookies is fun and we want to eat cookies, or if we plant in the garden its because we find joy in that. I, as the unschooling parent, TRUST that learning is happening with each activity because children are learning all the time. I don't place any more value in an hour of my child reading a book than I do in an hour of him playing on online computer game or videogame. It's all learning. It's all wonderful. It's my job as an unschooling parent to recognize the learning that is taking place, see its value, and
encourage my child's passions.

Homeschooling parents usually say to me "But when left alone, my child will just play video games all day" or "unschooling is great for a highly self-motivated child, but mine is lazy and needs to be exposed to other things." That's another vital component to a successful, vibrant unschooling home, that gets missed from the definition of "unschoolers don't use curriculum"....the concept of *strewing*. Strewing, as coined by Sandra Dodd, means that an unschooling parent will create a home environment that is rich and interesting, fun and hands-on, an environment that will spark new interests and connections. Unschoolers probably have the same types of materials in their home as most other homeschooling families:maps, globe, microscope, blocks, art supplies, musical instruments, books, games, etc. But unschoolers also see everything else around them as fodder for learning. I can't tell you how many conversations about history, politics, sociology, anthropology, science, economics, etc. has been sparked by something in a videogame, online role playing game, tv show/dvd, song on the radio, comic book, etc. And yet these are the very same things that some parents try to limit in favor of more so-called "educational" items. Another vital component in an unschooling home is Trust. A parent needs to take a leap of faith, and trust that their child is learning. This is usually the biggest one for many parents to overcome. They have to let go of the "school voice" in their head, the one that wants to tell their child to put down that controller and go do something "educational" or worries that if their child isn't reading, writing, or "doing math" on the same schedule as other kids, they'll never get into college. A new unschooling parent needs to give their child time to deschool, which often looks like sitting around doing "nothing" and they have to deschool themselves as well. I would say another vital component is Joy—how to get it and how to keep it. Its Priority Number One in our household, making sure everyone is happy. My son and I both have to time to follow our interests, separately and together, we have open communication, and a completely punishment-free home. We try to figure out ways that everyone can get what they want. Joyce Fetteroll wrote "Always Say Yes. Or Some Form of Yes" and it's a philosophy I try to live by.

Unschooling can look very confusing to those on the outside looking in. It might look like the parent isn't doing anything at all, or it may look like the child is spending "all day" on activities that have "dubious" educational purpose. Often, people will confuse not *requiring* something (chores, reading, bedtimes) with the child not willingly doing those things. (Just because I don't expect/require my son to clean, he quite happily does so. Just because I don't insist my son have "good manners" doesn't mean he refuses to say Please or Thank You. Indeed I have my suspicions that it is precisely *because* I don't require, that I get so much willing cooperation from my son.)

I've seen the positive impact unschooling and mindful parenting has had on my son, such as going from a "nonreader" and one who hates to write, to a child who willingly and passionately does both. I've seen our parent-child relationship go from one filled with power struggles, yelling, stress, and the occasional spanking, to a home filled with respect, love, kindness, and the real sense that we are both on the "same side" instead of me vs. my child. I've seen what happens when hundreds of kids, all of whom are being raised similarly to my son, are "set loose" in a hotel for four days, to play, learn, and live, and it's a beautiful sight. (Particularly touching that in an entire four-day period in a hotel at an unschooling conference with probably 600+parents and children of all ages, I did not see ONE child spanked, yanked, yelled at, demeaned or talked to disrespectfully. And the children were bright, outgoing, imaginative, friendly, and kind.)

That's unschooling in a nutshell.


Speaking of NUTS, Katherine's last parenthetical remark is beyond ludicrous.

"I did not see ONE child spanked, yanked, yelled at, demeaned or talked to disrespectfully..."

It certainly says more about her own scarred(?) childhood and hypersensitivities than what may be a more optimal way to impart knowledge and skills to your kids. Is she serious, talk to a child "disrespectfully"???

For every ideological movement on planet Earth, there's always an element that takes it too far.

Faced with these nitwits, we all have to be careful not to reject an idea based on some of its proponents.

I should point out that "unschooling" is one of many varied methods of homeschooling. The two are not one and the same. As you could gather from above, unschooling is a completely libertine, child-led approach to education. (Economic discussions prompted by video games???) Plenty of homeschoolers use standard curricula, text books, and strict schedules to teach their kids.

Here's a broad breakdown of the reasons why families choose to homeschool:

Sorry it's not such a great chart. Click on it to enlarge.

This survey asserts that 48.9% of parents chose to homeschool because they believe they can give the kids a "better education" at home.

The second highest reason people opt out of mass schooling is for "Religious reasons" - 38.4%.

As far as I am concerned, if you don't think you can teach your kids a whole lot more than they'd pick-up from a 1-on-30 teaching ratio then you are most likely an uneducated Moron yourself. Furthermore, you and your brood will remain self-fufilling, circular arguments for government education for generations!!!

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I have done a considerable amount of research on homeschooling and am almost 100% certain that I will give it a go. The pathetic resistance to homeschooling should, all by itself, almost be enough to sway one's mind. I would confidently rank arguments against homeschooling even below the low carb arguments of anthropomorphic global warming. Click here to find the "socialization" myth debunked - for the billionth time.

Last week I read a book titled: Real-Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home. These types of testimonial books are more raw data than literature. For the most part, the profiled homeschoolers all got flack from their parents (kids' grandparents) and various other friends and relatives. When you do something as boldly self-righteous and morally superior as reject mass schooling, the insecure are guaranteed to take offense. When it comes to "sensitivity" and "taking offense" I always offer up this analogy:

If a three-year old kid came up to you and called you "stupid", there's hardly a chance you would take offense, right?

Now if someone older, more within your peer group, made the same allegation, any little reaction you have admits to a degree of credibility for the accuser.

The unwitting fact is, most people who outsource the mind control of their children do realize its folly. And when you homeschool (in their face) their guilt will fester into feelings that well, aren't that grown-up.

Homeschooling will especially agitate your parents. They don't want to think for a second that they were derelict in sending you and your siblings to government or private mass schooling factories. While all the homeschoolers in the book had to endure some social resistance, all but one of the profiled families' parents (et al) eventually came around loving the idea of homeschooling. (In a couple of cases, family members reported the homeschooling to the authorities. One man in Jacksonville was arrested, sent to jail, and fell into crippling debt fighting for his homeschooling rights in court. Years later he found out it was his mother-in-law who dimed him out! This was 25 years ago, before homeschooling was accepted by state legislatures. Though, without a doubt, mother-in-laws have since devised sundry new ways to terrorize.)

The one family who couldn't ever win over "Grandma" to homeschooling described her as a "career public school teacher" who was just extremely defensive of the system she devoted her life's work to. This is sort of where I am at with my own mother. I've known for a while now not to even broach the subject with her - herself a high school teacher. Her ego is, also, just way too wrapped up in what she does (or rather, what she thinks she does).

Her aversion to homeschooling isn't based on any in-depth research; she hasn't read any testimonials; she hasn't noticed homeschoolers winning National Spelling Bees. She's totally ignorant of the sordid history of mass compulsory schooling. Heck, she can't even find any time to read my blog.

No, her tireless argument for sending kids to factory schools goes like this, "We have one kid in town that I know who's homeschooled....The mother can't even spell."

There you have it. Send your kids to those government schools and they will get science teachers like my mother who thinks "for example" is rigorous PROOF.

Nonetheless, I'd still have been better off being homeschooled. Try not to extrapolate my mother's intelligence quotient from this one issue - it'd be ironically ignorant!

ALL the homeschoolers stridently claim that in the process of teaching their kids, that they themselves have stretched their minds to new heights.

I wouldn't doubt that for a second. What I have learned in the past 18 months or so about education: its theories, practices, and history, has been staggering. This one little door that John Taylor Gatto opened for me has already aroused my brain and fundamentally altered the course my family's lives.

And y'all remember that when I inveigh against mass schooling I am excoriating a system in which I thrived. I graduated early from UPenn (currently tied for 5th in those insipid rankings) with a double major and GPA high enough to merit an embellishing Latin phrase.

The unsettling truth is that the system held me back; it stunted my potential and sapped my humanity. I learned how to play the game - how to ace tests. I didn't attain or retain any real knowledge; I wasn't sculpted into a lifelong learner; and I certainly didn't develop any perspective on the real world into which I graduated. So much for a liberal arts education!

The realization that I was essentially brain-dead from ages 20-30 depresses the absolute hell out of me. For this I squarely blame the "school system" I was unfortunately born into.

On the bright side, at least I didn't wake up when I was forty or fifty.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Did Ya Know...

Did you know that ABC's Lost is the only show currently on network television WITHOUT a homosexual sub-plot?

Why Would A Genius Segregate His Money From His Mouth?

So recently I was talking to some investment banker who had an ego precisely seven times as large as mine - if you can believe it.

About the Google IPO, he chauvinistically scoffed, "Their IPO FAILED."

What he meant by that was that the IPO didn't raise as much money for Google as he thinks it should have. His chauvinism came from the fact that Google circumvented the Wall Street cartel (i.e. him and his cronies) in going public. Google utilized what is known as a dutch auction. The initial offering price came in at $85 per share and, as you can readily see, it skyrocketed right away.

I-Banker - It was obvious from the beginning that the IPO would severely undervalue the company. Google was stupid to not use a traditional investment banker-led allocation of shares.

CaptiousNut - Well, did you buy the stock personally?

I-Banker - No. What?

CaptiousNut - If it was going to be such an 'obvious' underpricing, then why didn't you buy as much as you could? Why didn't you back up the truck? You are allowed to personally trade stocks, right?

I-Banker - Yeah, I can buy whatever I want but I didn't buy any.

CaptiousNut - Well, that doesn't make any sense. I didn't know too much about about the IPO process but I was at least smart enough to buy it at $177.

Now I had been talking to this pedantic putz for a while and was getting chafed by his smugness - so I just had to slap him down a bit. Having worked with hundreds of self-made multi-millionaire traders, I have met some real monuments to arrogance, but this guy would have held his own with any of them.

Heck, all he had to say was, "Yeah, I should have bought it..", BUT his ego just wouldn't allow it.

There are very few things in this world I enjoy more than putting a buffoon in his place - though ideally, I like to embarrass them in front of a group (or on the World Wide Web).

Definition Of A Potboiler

Potboiler - noun. a literary composition of poor quality that was written quickly to make money (to boil the pot).

With Barack Obama the likely Democratic nominee and Condoleezza Rice, well, never having even thrown her hat in the ring, I doubt Dick Morris will sell many more copies of this book.

Then again, there's no shortage of Morons out there and also, there always a chance these cats fight in 2012.

Aside from going 0-2 in predicting this year's presidential nominees, Dick Morris is a political expert before whom we should all genuflect. [sarcasm]

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thomas Sowell - Inside American Education

I am sort of completely done with the antique government educational system (practically AND mentally) but somehow I ended up reading Thomas Sowell's Inside American Education this weekend. Here are some excerpts - bear in mind that this book was published in 1993.

The weeding out process begins early and continues long, eliminating more and more of the best qualified people. Among high school seniors, only 7 percent of those with SAT scores in the top 20 percent, and 13 percent of those in the next quintile, expressed a desire to go into teaching, while nearly half of those in the bottom 40 percent chose teaching.

"...existing institutions cannot solve the problem, because they are the problem."

Among the questions which school children were given an "opportunity" to answer were the following:

  • What disturbs you most about your parents?
  • Would you bring up your children differently from the way you are being brought up?
  • What would you change?
  • As a child, did you ever run away from home?
  • Did you ever want to?
  • Who is the "boss" in your family?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • How do you feel about homosexuality?
  • Do you have any brothers and sisters? How do you get along?
  • What is the saddest thing you can remember?
  • Is there something you once did that you are ashamed of?

The undermining of parents' moral authority can begin quite early. An author in the "transactional analysis" school of psychology - often known as "T.A." - has produced a book designed for children from pre-school to third grade, entitled T.A. for Tots.

Board members quickly learn to tell parents they are too inexperienced to speak on the subject of education, that all the experts oppose their point of view that scientific evidence proves them wrong, that they are trying to impose their morals on others, and that they are the only people in the community who have raised such complaints.

Parents are not simply a source of experience from their own lives; they are a conduit for the distilled experience of others in earlier generations, experience conveyed in traditions and moral codes responding to the many dangers that beset human life. Psychological-conditioning programs which enshrine current "feelings" fail to understand that it is precisely feelings of the moment which lead to many dangers, and that inhibitions toward some feelings have evolved for that very reason.

It is pseudo-rationalism to say that a child or adolescent should follow only such values as he or she can defend intellectually against the cross-examination of adult trained specifically for such cross-examination - and for emotional manipulation. The values which have endured the test of time were not created by children, but evolved out of experiences distilled into a way of life by adults. Such values are often used precisely for the purpose of guiding people too young to have enough personal experience to grasp fully the implications of the rules they follow - or the dangers in not following them. In other words, many values would not be needed if youngsters fully understood why they existed.

A trained cross-examiner could no doubt also bring about a student's incomplete grasp of the underlying premises of mathematics and science, but no one would regard this as a refutation of mathematics and science or a reason why students should make up their own rules of arithmetic, or their own personal physics.

Far from being in any way scientific, psychological-conditioning programs are often fundamentally anti-intellectual. They enshrine "feelings", not analysis; the opinions of inexperienced peers, not facts; they induce psychological acceptance of fashionable attitudes rather than teach logical procedures for analyzing assertions, or canons of evidence for scrutinizing claims. In addition to displacing intellectual courses from the curriculum, brainwashing programs actively promote anti-intellectual ways of dealing with the realities of life. Unfortunately, non-intellectual and anti-intellectual approaches are all too congenial to too many people in the educational establishment.

It may seem strange, or at least ironic, that people of such marginal intellectual competence as many public school teachers and administrators should take on the God-like role of reshaping the psyches and values of children. Yet this is perfectly consistent with the centuries-old observation that fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Few catch-phrases have been so uncritically accepted, or so variously defined, as "multicultural diversity." Sometimes it refers to the simple fact that many racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds make up the American population. At other times, it refers to an agenda of separatism in language and culture, a revisionist view of history as a collection of grievances to be kept alive, and a program of both historical and contemporary condemnation of American society and Western civilization.

The great majority of Hispanic parents - more than three-fourths of Mexican American parents and more than four-fifths of Cuban American parents - are opposed to the teaching of Spanish in the schools at the expense of English. Many Asian refugee parents in Lowell, Massachusetts, likewise declared their opposition to bilingual education for their children. In Springfield, Massachusetts, the Spanish-speaking bilingual teachers themselves put their own children in private schools, so that they would not be subjected to bilingual education. Parents in Los Angeles who did not want their children enrolled in bilingual programs have been pressured, deceived, or tricked into agreement or seeming agreement. By and large, ethnic activists oppose giving parents an option.

Teachers from foreign countries who speak one of the languages used in bilingual programs can be hired in California without passing the test of basic skills required of other teachers, even if they lack a college degree and are not fluent in English. At the University of Massachusetts, candidates for their bilingual teacher program were, for a number of years, not even tested in English - all testing being done in Spanish. Moreover, a non-Hispanic woman who was fluent in Spanish, and who had taught for years in Mexico, was rejected on grounds that she was not sufficiently familiar with Puerto Rico. Among the questions she was asked was the name of three small rivers in the interior of the island - a tactic reminiscent of the questions once asked by Southern voter registrars to keep blacks from being eligible to vote.

If you have no right to disapprove, then your approval means nothing. It may indeed be distressing to someone to have you express your opinion that his lifestyle is disgusting and his art, music or writing is crude, shallow, or repugnant, but unless you are free to reach such conclusions, any praise you bestow is hollow and suspect. To say that A has a right to B's approval is to say that B has no right to his own opinion. What is even more absurd, the "sensitivity" argument is not even consistent, because everything changes drastically according to who is A and who is B. Those in the chosen groups may repudiate any aspect of the prevailing culture, without being considered insensitive, but no one from the prevailing culture may repudiate any aspect of other cultures.

There is only one way to deal with "the whole person" - and that is superficially.

The "self-esteem" doctrine is just one in a long line of educational dogmas used to justify or camouflage a historic retreat from academic education. Its success depends on the willingness of the public, elected officials, and the media to take such dogmas seriously, without the slightest evidence. American school children and American society are the ultimate victims of this gullibility.

As one college guidebook notes: "At least fifty colleges proudly state that they are in the top twenty-five."

Other gimmicks to boost SAT averages include omitting the scores of athletes, minorities, or others admitted under special provisions. An admissions director at a leading liberal arts college estimates that about one-fourth of the students in such institutions are likely to be special cases who are admitted in compiling SAT averages.

It is no doubt true that graduates of Harvard, Stanford, or M.I.T. earn higher incomes than the average graduate of unknown state colleges, but that is very misleading. Youngsters who have taken a voyage on the Queen Elizabeth II, or who have flown on the Concorde, probably also will have higher future incomes than those who have traveled on anything more exotic than a bus. But that is hardly a reason to go deep into debt to book passage on the QE2 or to strain the family budget buying a ticket for the Concorde.

Dartmouth, for example, is not unique in listing in its admissions and financial aid bulletin the availability of home equity loans which permit parents, "to tap 80% of the equity in their homes as an educational resource."

Whatever colleges and universities choose to spend their money on is called a "cost." If they hire more administrators, or build more buildings to house them, or send the college president on more junkets, these are all additional costs. If they hire more research assistants for the faculty or more secretaries for the administrators, these are all costs. Doing more research, raising salaries, inviting more high-priced speakers to campus and many other things also increase costs. What colleges and universities seek to insulate - misleadingly - by saying that costs have gone up is that the cost of doing what they have always done is rising, necessitating an increase in tuition. But colleges and universities have been greatly expanding what they do - and, as long as they spend the rising tuition on something, that something will be called a cost. It is a completely circular argument.

In the academic world, however, organized collusion among some of the most expensive colleges has stripped the students and their parents of this consumer protection. Each spring, for 35 years, the Ivy League colleges, M.I.T., Amherst, Northwestern, and a dozen other colleges and universities have met to decide how much money they would charge, as a net price, to each individual student, out of more than 10,000 students who have applied to more than one institution in this cartel. The lists of students have been compiled before the annual meetings and officials from the various colleges have decided how much money could be extracted from each individual, given parental income, bank account balance, home equity, and other financial factors.

A cartel or a monopoly maximizes its profits not only a high price but also, if possible, a different price to different groups of customers, according to what the market will bear in each separate case. Seldom can most business cartels or monopolies carry this to the ultimate extreme of charging each individual customer what the traffic will bear, as the academic cartel did. But academic institutions are armed with more detailed financial information from financial aid forms than most credit agencies require, and for decades have been comparing notes when setting their prices, in a way that would long ago have caused a business to be prosecuted for violation of the anti-trust laws. In other respects, however, the colleges and universities use the same methods as business cartels or monopolies. Like monopolistic price discriminators in the commercial world, private colleges and universities set an unrealistically high list price and then offer varying discounts. In academia, this list price is called tuition and the discount is called "financial aid."

Ordinarily, price discrimination does not work in a competitive marketplace, because those charged extortionate prices will be bid away by competitors, until the price is competed down to a level with the cost of producing whatever commodity or service is being sold. But this does not happen among high-priced colleges which engage in organized collusion.

A Carnegie Foundation study found "widely different costs per student" among institutions. Yet in 1989-90, for example, the variation in tuition among the eight Ivy League colleges was less than 5 percent from the most expensive (Brown) to the least expensive (Cornell), even though the Ivy League colleges are scattered from Manhattan to rural New Hampshire.

Historically, elusive concepts like "leadership", "character," and the like were among the ways used to reduce the proportions of Jewish students admitted to Harvard and other selective institutions. Today, similar concepts are used to increase or decrease the enrollment of whatever groups the admissions committee wants increased or decreased, whether for the committee's own reasons or in response to various outside pressures. An outgoing dean of admissions at Stanford quipped, "If we only admitted students based on SAT scores, I wouldn't have a job." There was more truth than humor in this remark. Sweeping presumptions about admissions committees are capable of judging not only justify a costly administrative empire, with far-flung operations extending across the country and overseas, but also feed the egos of those who imagine themselves to be performing a difficult and vital task.

There is no point chasing the will o' the wisp of a "culture-free" test or any other culture-free criteria. Whatever anyone accomplishes anywhere in this world will always be accomplished within a given culture. No race, no country, an no period of human history has ever been culture-free.

When the same pattern was found among the preferentially admitted sons of Harvard alumni, then the effect of lower admission standards are clear, even if those admitted are predominantly affluent and white.

At Berkeley, where black students' average composite SAT scores of 952 were above the national composite average of 900, though well below the Berkeley average of 1181, more than 70 percent of the black students failed to graduate. Again, these were artificial failures, on an even larger scale than at M.I.T., in the sense that these black students' academic qualifications would have been more than adequate for the average American college or university, though not adequate for competing with Berkeley's white students who scored 1232 or Berkeley's Asian students who scored 1254.

Despite a rising number of blacks admitted to Berkeley over the years - the great majority under "affirmative action" standards - fewer blacks graduated in 1987 than graduated eleven years earlier. What was accomplished by admitting more black students and graduating fewer? The benefits are far more obvious for Berkeley than for the students. The racial body count enabled the university to proclaim that its student body is "wonderfully diverse" and that "we are excited that the class closely reflects the actual ethnic distribution of California high school graduates." It also enabled Berkeley to continue receiving vast sums of state and federal money without being distracted by the inevitable legal and political complications which an "under-representation" of blacks and Hispanics would have entailed.

The problems of mismatching and artificial failure proceed on down the academic pecking order. Nationwide, 74 percent of black students have failed to graduate, five years after entering college.

"May" arguments require not a speck of evidence, so that there is no way to answer them, except by constructing an alternative list of "may" possibilities. Since almost anything is possible, there is no way to resolve conflicts based on "may" statements.

On many other college campuses as well, the standards for "racism" themselves vary by race. For example, when a white woman at the University of Pennsylvania expressed her "deep regard for the individual and my desire to protect the freedoms of all members of society," she was chided by an administrator who said that the word "individual" is "considered by many to be RACIST." The reason is that emphasis on the individual could be construed as "opposition to group entitlements."

In the 1960s, there were many violent resistances to the racial integration of colleges and universities in the South, while today such violence is far more prevalent in the North. Tabulations of racial or ethnic violence by the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence in 1988 and 1989 both found more such incidents in the state of Massachusetts alone than in the entire region of the South.

Professor Duster, while likewise blaming campus racial problems on "the mood in the country" more explicitly blamed a "conservative era," in which "Reagan has made racism a more legitimate thing." Similar views have been echoed by many others, including Professor Philip G. Atlbach of the State University of New York at Buffalo, who said that "the racial crisis on campus is very much a part of the legacy of Reaganism." But Massachusetts has never been Reagan country and the problems plaguing liberal or radical institutions like Berkeley or the University of Massachusetts have seldom erupted on more conservative campuses.

Some buffoon at the Boston Globe recently "blamed" Ronald Reagan for "serial killers on television". I kid you not.

At Harvard, a freshman named Samuel Burke inadvertently got into trouble in December 1985, merely trying to help some strangers find a table on which to eat lunch in a crowded dining room. Spotting an empty table, he removed a sign that read: "Reserved HRGLSA," and invited them to sit there. It turned out that those initials stood for the Harvard Radcliffe Gay and Lesbian Students Association - which made this an ideological offense against one of the "in" groups. Sam Burke was taken to the Freshman Dean's Office. According to the Harvard Salient, a student publication:

Sam offered to apologize publicly to the GLSA for his thoughtless act. But according to friends, he was nonetheless pushed to the brink of tears by the official inquisitors who questioned his motives at every turn and threatened him with severe punishment.

Heavy pressure on this young man, at an institution where deliberate disruption and even violence have repeatedly gone unpunished, was all the more remarkable because the Freshman Dean's Office knew that Samuel Burke was already burdened with personal problems. A high school football star, he had just been told by a physician that he could not play football in college. Moreover, his father had recently been killed in an automobile accident. But no humane considerations tempered the zeal of those determined to do the politically correct thing. Sam Burke was hit with disciplinary probation just before the Christmas holidays.

He did not return from the holidays. He committed suicide.

At Harvard, the minority affairs dean handpicked and assigned "designated race relations tutors" to each house to "monitor the racial atmosphere," report "violations of community," and "raise consciousness" among the students. She also engaged an outside "facilitator company" to conduct "house workshops" on racism. Among the material used in this consciousness-raising operation was a pamphlet which presumed students guilty of racism a priori. The pamphlet urged students to "accept the onion theory, that they will continue to peel away layers of their own racism for the rest of their lives." Even a "Back to the Fifties" party by dining-hall employees was denounced as "racism" by the minority affairs dean, on grounds that the 1950s were a racist decade.

Thus, a dean at Rutgers defends those accused of political correctness as people whose goal is "bringing about change" - as if there has ever been a time in the history of the world when change was not going on. Generic "change" has never been an issue. Only specifics are an issue, and a flight into vague generalities is an evasion of issues.

...the good professor is underpaid at any salary, while the poor professor is overpaid no matter what he receives - Anonymous

Where good teaching exists - and there is much of it in many kinds of institutions - this is not merely because the faculty are professionally competent but also because they have the character to resist the temptations inherent in a situation of large disparities in knowledge, experience, and power.

The conception of academic freedom at the time was that of a protection of professors from reprisals for their activities or beliefs outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, the original AAUP report said, the professor must avoid "taking advantage of the student's immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher's own opinions before the student has an opportunity to fairly examine other opinions upon the matters in questions." Over the years, however, the doctrine of academic freedom was turned completely around to protect whatever the professors did inside the classroom. By 1969, a survey of professors found more than four out of five agreeing that "faculty members should be free to present in class any idea that they consider relevant."

Given its high costs, what benefit does tenure confer in return? For the profession as a whole, it does not increase job security but merely concentrates the insecurity on valuable new faculty members. This leaves as its principal claim that it protects academic freedom, at least for the tenured faculty. In turn, the image of academic freedom is that it is a protection against ideological conformity, imposed from the outside, and stifling the free exercise of the mind which is at the heart of teaching and learning. With the passing years, however, this conception has grown ever more remote from reality.

"Today, the NEA is far larger than the United Auto Workers, larger than the Electrical Workers, larger than the State, County, and Municipal Employees, and larger than the Steelworkers. My friends, we are now the largest union in all of America by a half a million members," Mary Hatwood Futrell, President National Education Association.

At the University of Connecticut "harassment" includes "misdirected laughter" or even "conspicuous exclusion from conversation."

Much discussion of the merits of tenure focuses on the benefits it provides to those who get it. By this kind of reasoning, one could justify monarchy on grounds that it benefits kings. The real test of tenure, as of monarchy, is how it performs as a system serving public purposes.

As of 1940, only one-fourth of young adults in the United States had completed high school. By 1970, this had climbed to just over half. During the 1980s, when hysteria about drop-outs became rampant, more than four-fifths of all high school students - black and white - graduated.

It would be considered a gross violation of "academic freedom" to fire anyone because the policies he supported in faculty meetings over the years have led to a drastic decline in the college's or university's academic standing or financial viability. In virtually no other institution anywhere is there such a blank check for irresponsibility.

1. They have taken our money, betrayed our trust, failed our children, and then lied about the failures with inflated grades and petty words.

2. They have used our children as guinea pigs for experiments, targets for propaganda, and warm bodies to be moved here and there to mix and match for racial balance, pad enrollments in foreign-language programs mislabeled "bilingual," or just to be warehoused until labor unions are willing to let them enter the job market.

3. They have proclaimed their special concern for minority students, while placing those students into colleges where they are most likely to fail.

4. They have proclaimed their dedication to freedom of ideas and the quest for truth, while turning educational institutions into bastions of dogma and the most intolerant institutions in American society.

5. They have presumed to be the conscience of society and to teach ethics to others, while shamelessly exploiting college athletes, overcharging the government, organizing price-fixing cartels, and leaving the teaching of undergraduates to graduate student assistants and junior and part-time faculty, while the tenured faculty pursue research and its rewards.

The belief that tenure simply cannot be gotten rid of is belied by the experience of Britain, where it has been gotten rid of.

Outside of perhaps a couple of articles, I had never read much of Thomas Sowell before this book. I must say I found him pretty bright. He has a somewhat interesting bio, if your inclined to read it, on Wikipedia.

One would think a highly intelligent, articulate black man like Sowell would be put out in front of the movement to ban "diversity quotas" - but few people have really had the stomach for that battle. With Tom pushing 77 years of age, such a movement will have to find somebody else. Once the damaging truth about "minority" graduation rates got out, colleges created more ethno-centric and joke majors to blunt that statistic. They'll always be a step ahead of reform.

The crux of Sowell's argument is that colleges have "bid up" minority candidates and actually guaranteed their academic failure. Harvard takes more than they should, leaving every other lesser institution also forced to preferentially admit those who lack the intellect/skills to thrive within each particular school. The colleges do this to stave off criticism and get on conducting their REAL BUSINESS - collecting massive government research grants. Sowell notes, most trenchantly, that every group receiving preferential admittance does poorly - including white, affluent students who may be athletes or alumni. What the heck else would you expect?

Don't kid yourself, our educational system will stay in a downward spiral until ALL government money is taken out of it. Student loans and taxpayer-funded research need to go the way of the dodo.

Though I couldn't find it online, the New York Times published a review of Sowell's book back when it came out (1993). Of course they had John Brademas, a Congressional bonehead who helped create both the NEA and the NEH, pen the critique. So you can guess what the fully-invested socialist had to say about Sowell's indictment of American education. Now I did find three "letters to the editor" addressing Brademas' review. One of them articulates the inanity best in writing:

Having Mr. Brademas, a former president of New York University, review "Inside American Education" is like having George III review Thomas Paine's "Common Sense."

I want to repeat and EMPHASIZE the first excerpt in this post:

The weeding out process begins early and continues long, eliminating more and more of the best qualified people. Among high school seniors, only 7 percent of those with SAT scores in the top 20 percent, and 13 percent of those in the next quintile, expressed a desire to go into teaching, while nearly half of those in the bottom 40 percent chose teaching.

That's an astounding number. Half of the the dumbest want to teach??? All by itself, this should be THE argument against mass schooling.

It reminds me of this classic Will Durant quote:

...the itch to teach is stronger than the will to learn.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Trading Update

Now THIS is a trading station. Click the pic to enlarge.

People are always asking me about the market so I will use this post to provide an update.

Right now, as core positions, I am heavily short the long bond (still) and the euro (re-established).

After a volatile start to the year - decent gains in week one, followed by horrific losses in weeks two and three - I have been trading well and chipping away at my deficit.

I have scalped Google a few times. In and out at $550. In at $513, out at $524. And now back in again at $497 and $519. As I type this it's trading at $535.

Been playing the long side in Apple recently. In at $128, out at $134. Back in again at $125. Currently trading at $128.

I dumped all my Newmont Mining, stock and calls, when it was trading at $54.90. Stock currently down to $49.21. Now if I can only get out of my other POS miner CDE...

I stuck to my plan of shorting any financials stubborn enough to bounce. Made 5 points shorting LFG. Am short Capital One Financial from $53 - currently at $48. Also short Ken Lewis' Bank of America from its current price, $42.75. Short Citigroup from $29, currently at $26. Just shorted HSBC, it's at $73.50 and I am down 2 points.

I shorted Washington Mutual at $21.50, it's currently at $16.50. And I made 5 points shorting Fannie Mae at $39, it's down to $30 - I should have held it!

Sounds like I should be rich, no? Well, I dug myself quite a hole from buying the NASDAQ-100 way, way too early.

I also bought AMD and AMR at their respective bottoms - but I wussed out and missed a couple of healthy bounces. Would have been 4pts (or 33%) on AMR and AMD bounced from roughly $5.31 back to $8.00 before fizzling again.

My futures/commodities account got annihilated by the recent spike in the 30-year Treasury; the Flight to Insanity continues. Back in October, I recommended to my millions of readers shorting it 113. I also said to use 5 or 6 points as your "mental loss provision". Well, it spiked a full 9 points after my post. In these situations, I am glad that nobody actually follows my advice! I had to cover some of my position at the very top but put most of it back on. Today the long bond future has come in a bit, but it's still at 117 and yielding a mere 4.61%. Who are these clowns still tying up their money for 30 years at rates that don't even cover inflation?

I did get long sugar and cotton recently and flipped them profitably. Soft commodities have levitated to multi-year highs over the past few months. What else would you expect when the government starts pumping money into the economy hand over fist? Wait, you didn't actually think real estate prices would rise, did you?

Take a gander at these meteoric spikes in coffee, cocoa, and sugar:

And take a gander at the recent strength in agricultural commodities: wheat, corn, and soybeans.

So what do I see the market doing these next few months?

Well, what do you care? Nobody has ever taken my advice on anything. You're going to buy and sell what you've already decided in your own mind. If my advice agrees with it, you'll be more confident. But if my advice conflicts with your opinion, you'll ignore it and just do what you were going to do in the first place.

Just kidding. All of my best ideas, my predictions, are posted above. I'd never recommend anything to anyone that wasn't in my own trading account.

Obviously, there's a percolating financial panic afoot. Nobody knows how bad it is or will become. Jim Rogers is proudly short Citigroup; he says they'll be having balance sheet stress for years.

Of course he also said the long bond would never dip below 6% - a level it hasn't seen in about 8 years.

Heck, if it would just rise to 5%, I'd make a boatload of $$$$...

Providence Elected The Village Idiot

Read what the Moronic Mayor of Providence just said about his local foreclosure "crisis":

Officials say the empty buildings are eyesores and hazards, offering easy shelter for criminal activities. Arson and accidental fires are relatively common. Neighborhood property values tend to suffer. And the homes are clustered in the very areas where cities worked hard - and spent heavily - to encourage redevelopment during the housing boom.

"Abandoned homes, while they may be a good idea for investors, are having a direct impact on families and neighborhoods in this city," said Providence Mayor David Cicilline. He said the city has about 750 vacant homes, the most he can recall in almost 30 years of experience.

Last month, he submitted an ordinance to the city council that would fine the owner 10 percent of a building's value if it remained vacant a year after receiving a warning from the city. The punitive fine is intended to upend the traditional economic equation by making it cheaper to sell a vacant building, even for a loss, than to hold it and pay the tax.

More times than I could count I have told y'all that politicians will aggravate the housing crash. If mortgage lenders are getting slammed with massive 10% fines, they'll simply pass it on in the form of higher rates to creditworthy borrowers in Providence; higher borrowing costs will propel house prices deeper into the sewer, and the downward spiral will continue.

Who knows, the proposed ordinance may not even be constitutional; it may not get passed; it may prove unenforceable; heck, it may just be demagoging rhethoric from an aspiring governor. The notion that empty homes are a "good idea" for investors just boggles the mind.

Ironically, if not predictably, the city of Providence bemoans the locations of its foreclosed homes. They are "clustered in the very areas where cities worked hard - and spent heavily - to encourage redevelopment during the housing boom".

Hah. It's no surprise foreclosures dot the areas where pols mandated affordable housing and non-discriminatory mortgage rates; it's no surprise that a political, rather than an economical, allocation of money has proved most damaging to asset values.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Empiricism - The Only Science

Have y'all read Moneyball by Michael Lewis?

I finally worked it into my busy reading schedule. I was sitting around a family member's house with nothing to do and grabbed it off a book shelf. It won't take you more than a couple of days to read this thought-provoking book.

In my opinion, it's only incidentally about baseball. Here's some of Wikipedia's synopsis:

The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th-century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time.

Since then, real statistical analysis has shown that on base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success and that avoiding an out is more important than getting a hit. Every on-field play can be evaluated in terms of expected runs contributed. For example, a strike on the first pitch of an at-bat may be worth - 0.05 runs. This flies in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many scouts who are paid large sums to evaluate talent.

By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately $41 million in salary, are competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who spend over $100 million in payroll. Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far - except, of course, in the playoffs.

Several Lewis themes explored in the book include: insiders vs. outsiders (established traditionalists vs. upstart proponents of Sabermetrics), the democratization of information causing a flattening of hierarchies, and the ruthless drive for efficiency that capitalism demands. The book also touches on Oakland's need to stay ahead of the curve; as other teams begin mirroring Beane's strategies to evaluate offensive talent, diminishing the Athletics' advantage, Oakland begins looking for other undervalued baseball skills such as defensive capabilities.

That little summary barely does the book justice so let me elaborate.

Consider the sacrifice bunt. For a hundred years baseball managers have been employing it to manufacture run(s). It turns out that statistically, it decreases a team's chance of scoring. Nobody had ever tested this century-old conventional wisdom until recently. Once these baseball geeks (Bill James, et al) started scientifically studying the numbers, all sorts of baseball truisms got thrown out the window. There's plenty more I could say about this book but I want to move on.

Dave Pelz did for golf what Sabermetricians did for baseball. Pelz, about 20 years ago, started following around pro golfers with a notebook and a measuring tape. He began gauging golf performance in entirely new ways. He too challenged century-old conventional wisdom with a novel scientific approach. Do you know whether it's more important to hit your putts solidly or on-line? Is a full wedge really easier to stick than an in-between 65 yard shot? Dave had not only the necessary passion (opting for relative poverty) but also the tools for this undertaking; he had a PhD in Physics and experience working for NASA. Any golfer who rejects Pelz's teachings - and I have met plenty of them - is essentially rejecting pure science. His premiere acolytes today are Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh; but what the heck do they know with their combined six major championships?

The last field I want to talk about is my business - securities trading. While there are countless qualified examples, I want to mention two companies: Timberhill (Interactive Brokers) and Susquehanna Investment Group. Both burst on the scene in the past 20-30 years as highly innovative, paradigm-uprooting trading firms. Both were pioneers in arbitrage and in incorporating the latest technology. They threw out the "tape-reading", pit fighting, chart-reading, and rumor-chasing strategies of yesteryear and built massive fortunes around game theory and the quantitative modeling of MIT geeks. They filtered out all the noise and whittled their bets down to only those that made mathematical and empirical sense. If only I could figure out how!!!

Take a peek at this pic of a Susquehanna recruitment stand.

They certainly don't look like the 'Old Boys Club' from Wall Street. Now, care to hazard a guess at which one is most likely from Human Resources?

Heck, at Google - another modern day paradigm-shifter - you're not even allowed to make a suggestion at a meeting that starts with, "I think...." Instead, one must preface their suggestions with "The data suggests..."

All of my examples highlight the success redounding to brave souls who challenged conventional wisdom.

I'll tell you what. If you take a good look in the mirror, catalog all your firmly held beliefs, and set out to test them...if you do this honestly you'll be quite surprised at the results. Just do it. Give your mind the enema it so desperately needs. We clean out every other part of the body, do we not?

And if you need help recognizing your flaws, just shoot me an email on the side and I will get you started.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Foreclosure - The American Dream?

Behold the beaming faces of foreclosure:

I ripped them off a website named which I'll get to in a moment.

Now, don't those pics of shiny happy people remind you of the ads for low rate mortgages we've been blasted with these past several years?

Oh look, I found a current such ad:

Hmmm....What do you think those asterisks next to "Low monthly payments" mean?

Now, back to

They are selling a "Walk Away Protection Plan & Kit" to aspiring foreclosers for the bargain price of $995. From their site, I gather that it will tell you how you can stay in your foreclosed house for "eight rent free" and avoid annoying phone calls from a debt collector.

It's just another item on the infinite list of businesses whose sole purpose is disconnecting fools from their money.

Speaking of fools. Remember our friend Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America?

"We're seeing people who are current on their credit cards but are defaulting on their mortgages," Mr. Lewis says. "I'm astonished that people would walk away from their homes." The clear implication: At least a few cash-strapped borrowers now believe bailing out on a house is one of the easier ways to get their finances back under control.

Did you catch the considerable doses of NAIVETÉ and HYPOCRISY in Lewis' statement?

He's naive because he's already proving that he wasn't "fully aware" of the problems in the housing market - just a month after tendering a purchase for the disaster that is Countrywide. See my January 16th post.

AND, he's a hypocrite because making RATIONAL FINANCIAL DECISIONS is what his bank does around-the-clock. Why shouldn't an upside-down "homeowner" mail the keys to the lender and do essentially the same thing?

I was just reading about some guy who owed 500k on his house. Meanwhile the home across the street, identical, if not better, was selling in foreclosure for 370k. So this mathematician bought the one across the street and mailed his keys back to the mortgage lender.

Immoral? Dumb?

Hardly. As far as I am concerned, he is stupid NOT TO foreclose on his place.

Sure his credit score will be ruined for 7 years, but in exchange, he makes $130,000.

By the way, I have never, for a minute thought or worried about my credit score. It's only an issue for people who want to buy things THEY CAN'T AFFORD in the first place.

Foreclosure may not be the American Dream, but it can make a ton of sense AND it sure ain't illegal.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ken Lewis Has The Cape On, Again

Look what just popped up on

AMBAC Fincl: Bank of America discloses 7.1% stake in SC 13G filing

Are you kidding me? The Bank's CEO Ken Lewis is playing superhero yet again. Now, 7% of ABK isn't that large of an investment for bank that was clearing over $1 billion a month last year. They've probably dumped no more than $70-$100 million into the sinking bond insurer. Nonetheless, the fact remains Ken is still throwing around money like a horned drunk at a strip bar - make that he's throwing around SHAREHOLDERS' MONEY.

Now, I am well aware that bankrupcy or even downgrades of these bond insurers (the other one being MBI) could very well cause a larger financial panic and that BAC theoretically has a financial interest in their solvency. In other words, the $100 million or so they donated could in fact be a legitimate use of funds. BUT, Kenny's track record has strained his credibility and now shareholders have to be concerned how much more ABK he'll buy. Remember, when his investments plummet, he simply buys more, a la Countrywide Financial.

If you haven't already, make sure you read my old post Bank Of America's Ken Lewis - Socialist Hero, Shareholder Villain. Let's just say that more than a few interested folks from the Charlotte-based bank have already read it.

By the way, Wall Street is betting on an ABK bankruptcy - 35% of its float is currently shorted.

Prediction - By February 2010, Ken Lewis is gone from BAC.

UPDATE - Just in the nick of time to satisfy my prediction, Kenny is gone as of Decemeber 31,2009! See - RIP - Ken Lewis.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Anti-Socialization And Classical Schooling

Regular readers of this blog are well aware of my scorn for "socializing" propaganda. I've slammed Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's push for all-day kindergarten which was justified as a boost to 5 year-olds' social skills. I also have posted that inane commercial that insists playing with blocks will put your toddler on the social fast track. I've even Marginalized a friend who day-cared their dog to improve its "social skills".

So perhaps you'd like to read someone else's articulation on this subject:

In September 1974, the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott delivered the Abbott Memorial Lecture at Colorado College. Entitled "A Place for Learning," Oakeshott’s lecture attacked the dominant model of education, a model predicated on the theories of the American educationist John Dewey. Learning, Oakeshott observed, should take place under "conditions of direction and restraint designed to provoke habits of attention, concentration, exactness, courage, patience, and discrimination"; but schools shaped by Dewey had instead become arenas of "childish self-indulgence," "experimental activity," "discovery," and "group discussions." Oakeshott was especially scornful of the notion that education’s purpose was "socialization," which could only turn the child into a compliant little cog in the machine of commerce and industry. "The design to substitute ‘socialization’ for education," he argued, was "the momentous occurrence of this century, the greatest of the adversaries to have overtaken our culture, the beginning of a dark age devoted to barbaric affluence."

In other lectures and writings, Oakeshott elaborated a positive vision of education. Education should initiate the student into a "historic inheritance or 'culture,'" which Oakeshott imagined as a multi-voiced conversation. Scientific, historical, philosophical, and poetic voices contribute, each voice expressing "a distinct . . . understanding of the world and a distinct idiom of human self-understanding." Education enables the student to participate in the "endless unrehearsed intellectual adventure" of that conversation. Liberal education is "above all else, an education in imagination, an initiation into the art of this conversation in which we learn to recognize the voices, to distinguish the different modes of utterance, to acquire the intellectual and moral habits appropriate to this conversational relationship, and thus to make our debut dans la vie humaine." Since education is the "distinguishing mark of a human being," replacing education with "socialization" is fundamentally dehumanizing. True education is an initiation into our full humanity. It is not so much a leading-out as a passing-on of the skills necessary to participate in culture. True education is really traducation.

Here's the link to the rest of the article. What I've posted above is most of what's said on "socialization". The rest of the article is more focused on the particulars of a classical education. Make sure you read the whole article. Remember, learning, if it began at all, shouldn't end at age 22. It's a lifelong process.

Retired learners can still function in society, BUT soon enough they'll be discombulated by something as simple as a remote control, a cell phone, or whatever the future analogues may be.

The reason these 'old coots' can't deal with technology is NOT their age - it's their so-called education and their status as lapsed-learners.

Hey Morons, At Least Watch Some New Shows

While you sheep were watching the six hour commercial-laden Super Bowl, I went to the supermarket which was blissfully desolate. Then I came home and watched a show celebrating the 30-year anniversary of New England's Blizzard of '78. I was only four when it hit so only have faint memories of the ten foot snow drifts. It snowed heavily for 33 hours and winds reached 90 mph. If you want more details you can read Wikipedia.

What I didn't realize, until seeing the show, was that Hull and Scituate, two oceanside towns that I now live amidst, were the worst hit. Now, am I presently worried about a reoccurrence? Absolutely not. First of all, I live a full mile from the ocean. Secondly, we live in a completely different world than that of 1978.

The entire tone of the show was, "It's not a question of if, but when" - meaning that another devastating storm would soon hit New England. Before the show started, I braced myself for talk of "global warming". Thankfully there was none to swallow. But there was that unmitigated alarmism which has become the default tone of these breathless hack reporters.

In 1978, they essentially didn't have satellite imagery. At best, meteorologists got one black and white image a day as opposed to the three-dimensional, real-time, high definition satellite feeds of today. Heck, they showed the news coverage of the storm from Channel Five and the weather maps had hand-written annotations on them! Though it should go without saying, computers didn't exist in 1978. Hence, forecasters weren't able to predict, no less convince people to take precautions for an anomalously strong storm. So when the next great blizzard comes, for one thing, there won't be tens of thousands of drivers caught on the roads.

By the way, they blamed "fifty deaths" on the storm. That's a tiny number to begin with and even at face value I am skeptical of its significance. They probably blamed every death on the storm. I mean, I'll bet fifty people die of natural causes and accidents every couple of days up here anyway. The only difference between some kid dying from falling off his bike on a normal day and from disappearing in a snow drift is that the latter enables thirty-years of media-fueled hysteria. Every time the slightest bit of snow is forecast, the jurassic crowd up here not only does their milk, bread, and eggs run, they generally work themselves up to a panic. It's one thing for Carolinians to freak out over a rare snowfall, but up here even though it snows all the time, mind you uneventfully, paleo-M*ssholes become untethered any time there's flurries.

I am telling you, Massachusetts is the center of the Moron universe. They are conservative on the things in need of reform and progressive on the stuff that should be left alone. They are the most educated but the most provincial. They are the oldest but the most infantile. I don't know that human history has ever witnessed a people more delusional about themselves.

This TV special on the Blizzard demonstrated much of what I am talking about. The four reporters all had special, first-hand accounts of the storm. In fact it was meteorologist Harvey Leonard's first month as a broadcaster. The sorry truth is, that media personalities in Boston haven't changed one iota IN THE LAST THIRTY YEARS. From the sports pages to the televised news, Boston is a time warp having made no progression whatsoever. Can you imagine if IBM or General Electric didn't turn over its management for thirty years? Bill Simmons has likened the tenure of Boston Globe sportswriters to those of Supreme Court Justices - someone has to die for a job to become available.

Listening to these crusty reporters is, for someone who grew up with them, thoroughly depressing and not to mention quite soporific. There's no animation, no dynamism, and no oomph behind their reporting. They've been talking about the Blizzard of '78 forever. For crying out loud it's been three decades. But this is Boston, a town mired in the past - or at least in its nostalgic image thereof.

Altogether I still found the show more interesting than the Super Bowl. In fact I barely watch sports anymore - even with my home teams vying for championships.

I consider this a testament to my personal growth; y'all should try to replace your decades-old pastimes with novel enthusiasms. Life is too short and too bountiful to wed one's spirits to the varied noise emanating from cable boxes.

Watching television should ideally be an amusing diversion from your life NOT a substitute for it.