3.04.2015

American Factory Education - the Warehoused, the Widgets, and the Priests

Kevin D. Williamson has another good piece over at National Review Online - this one on education.  He points out that educational reform via politicians is almost always going to be defective because, among other things,
...two different things are meant by “education.” We have education in the true, Arnoldian sense of the word, the improvement of one’s mind (and possibly even one’s soul) through the study of “the best which has been thought and said in the world,” which is the goal of a classical liberal education; we also have the Bismarckian sense of education, the conception that commands the attentions of politicians, which understands the schools as factories producing the human widgets that the state requires for its own purposes, economic competitiveness and military preparedness at the top of the list. (A deep problem with state-run systems of education is that they almost always mistake their customers for their products.) [emphasis in original -PNR]
Prior to moving to South Dakota and taking up my present duties, I considered for a time the possibility that I might teach in a high school.  As part of that, I spent a week or two observing at a large public high school in central Norfolk, Virginia.  It was clear that the organizational methods and standardized procedures of the system in place were very much borrowed from mass-production techniques.  One moves the student along a conveyor belt (aka a hallway) from one work station to another where the employee uses the standard procedures in place to work on the student before sending him on to the next station.  If a child is fairly alert and mildly interested, or if his parents are mildly interested and moderately respectable, the child will learn some basic information and skills that will fit him to eventually take his place at the corner bar after he's done with his assistant manager job at Walmart or Target - the widgets Williamson mentions.

For those students who are particularly interested and whose parents are insistent, there is a parallel track called AP courses.  These will provide the child with a fairly good, if culturally and politically biased, education that will equip them for college and eventually for work as bankers, physicians, lawyers - the priestly castes of modern America.

But for those students who couldn't care less and whose parents are no more concerned than their students - which was a significant majority of those students at this particular school - it was no more than a warehouse until those children hit 18, after which they would flounder for a bit until they either had children of their own and start to qualify for welfare benefits, public housing, and all the rest, or they committed some crime and ended up in prison for the next decade or two.  In other words, until they could be stashed out of sight in a different warehouse and forgotten.

The key factor in the school as to which track a child was on - warehouse, widget, or priest - was not race.  The key factors were the student's motivation and the parents' interest.  A motivated student with disinterested parents would do well.  An unmotivated student with motivated parents would also likely do well.  But unmotivated students with unmotivated parents were lost no matter what the school did.  The race-baiters who kill hope by denying any improvement in race-relations or conditions over the last fifty years, together with the hopelessness dependence fosters, meant more Black students lacked motivation themselves as well as lacking motivated parents.  I strongly suspect the same is true of the BIA schools in this state.  To create conditions where it seems nothing the students or their parents do really matters, either for good or ill, and then expect them to strive for excellence is foolish.

Setting common national standards, whether through Common Core or No Child Left Behind or whatever other politically problematic Washington, D.C. administered program, will not solve the problem.  It's not the standards, it's the motivation.

Neither will the "everybody-gets-a-trophy" ersatz self-esteem boosting boilerplate help.  Indeed, it's part of the problem because it feeds the notion that nothing you do really matters.  To solve the problem of mediocrity in the schools we must first solve the hopelessness by making it clear the choices individuals make do matter.  That means not only not resisting inequality, but celebrating it.  It most decidedly is fair that somebody who works his tail off, takes risks, keeps going, ends up with far more in the way of success - however you wish to measure success - than the one who does not.  My brother (who happens to be Black, by the way) has far more money than I do, but then, he has worked very hard for it over the last 25 years and has taken some major risks that I have not and would not.  This is not unfair, but right and proper.  He ought to be richer than I.

The field of athletics attracts many Black youths not so much because they are genetically superior athletes, but because it is clear to the Black community that, when it comes to sports anyway, hard work really does pay off.  And when it does pay off as, for instance, in the case of Michael Jordan, nobody begrudges him the fruits of his labor.  The same goes for the entertainment industry.

To create hope and motivation, one must be able to see that a goal is achievable, and be able to celebrate its achievement.  We do that for Black athletes and entertainers.  We do not for Black, or any other race for that matter, of entrepreneurs, corporate executives, or most lawyers and physicians (there are a couple exceptions).  Culturally, we resent them (at least, until one of our own kids gets into this priestly caste, then they're okay).  Until that changes, the culture of the schools will remain the same and the vast majority of Black (and Indian) students will simply be shuffled from one warehouse to the next.

2.27.2015

The Rising Pressure on Christian Institutions from the Gay Rights Lobby

Apparently the powers-that-be in the San Francisco area find it objectionable when the local Archbishop insists the Catholic schools he oversees should in fact be, well, Catholic.

The fundamental error his critics make can be summed up in this quote from the San Francisco Chronicle editorial objecting to his stance:  "[Archbishop] Cordileone could not be more out of touch with the community he has been assigned to serve."

The Archbishop is not elected to his position by "the community."  Nor is it his job primarily to be "in touch" with that community.  He is appointed to his position by the Church.  His job is to be in touch with the Lord of the Church (that would be Jesus - the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, not Christ).  In fact, it is precisely by holding fast to the teaching of the Catholic Church and insisting those in authority in Catholic institutions (like schools) do so as well that the Archbishop serves the community.  He would betray that community rather than serve it were he to let their fleeting whims determine doctrine for the day.

We are fast coming to a time in this country, largely because of the offensive intolerance of the homosexual rights community, when it will be both illegal and a "hate crime" to hold to biblical morality on questions of sexuality and marriage.  There is a concerted effort to demand the church cave to the immorality, vulgarity, and yes, hate of our present age.  The church's schools, both Protestant and Catholic, will be the first major target.  

It will start, as it is in South Dakota, with obscene regulations as a condition for participation in sports leagues.  It will seem a small thing to many parents for whom athletics are the dominant purpose of a school.  Once the schools give on this, though, they will find it harder to gin up the necessary will to resist further incursions and, as they will have already given some ground, the law will not support them when they try to say some other point is a line they cannot cross.  Yes, presently the proposed regulation in South Dakota makes an exemption for religious schools - added only after protests.  How long will that last?  The "exemption" addition itself almost invites lawsuits against religious schools on this issue and the courts have indicated a rather glaring weakness in this area of religious liberty.  Before it even gets to that point, we must ask what these regulations will mean when a Christian school hosts a visiting "girls" volleyball team that includes a young man who cannot deal with biological reality?  What good will this "exemption" do them then?  What will the Christian school do when a couple guys start making out in the stands?

The gay-rights lobby that wants to force this issue will recruit young people to do these things with the intention of provoking a response so they can label the Christian school as intolerant and bigoted, and depending on that response they may also file a lawsuit to force their perversions on the school.

It won't be much of a leap from this to attempts to invade the churches.  They'll do it through social programs at first - ministries to handicapped and/or disabled, parish nurses, food pantries, homeless shelters, adoption agencies and orphanages (they've already done this in several states).  The goal is to shut us up inside our churches, forcing us to be "private" about our faith and utterly silent on it any time we're out in public.  They'll call this "tolerance" but it is no such thing.  It is explicitly intolerant so they can run roughshod and unopposed over society.

Will we resist, or cower?

2.25.2015

Thought Police on Campus Has Run Out of Conservative Targets - Now Attacking Other Liberals

Given the rampant notions on too many campuses that one should never have to hear an unpleasant thought, word, or phrase - unless you're a white male - our institutions of higher learning are becoming places where nothing can be discussed for fear of offending someone.

Wendy Kaminer's piece in the Washington Post a few days ago explores how a discussion about this was twisted by the censors into a racist, misogynist romp.

In the aftermath of the communist revolution in Russia, a common method of dispensing with mid-level rivals was simply to denounce them.  Of course, if one of your rivals denounced you...  We have long passed that on too many college and university campuses today.  One slight misstep and you're a racist, tenure denied, forced to resign, your academic career over.  But since there are vanishingly few conservatives on these faculties, this is largely a matter of lefties back-stabbing other lefties.  Despite warnings from conservatives and others, leftists were quite content to impose speech codes and thought crimes when it seemed only conservatives would suffer.  Now that they've dispensed with conservatives, the only targets remaining are those not sufficiently committed to the socialist, multi-cultural utopia.

Well, we conservatives are making the same warnings with regard to Obama and his trampling of the Constitution.  At present it is uniformly supported by the Democrat party.  Don't tell me Manchin and Heidtkamp and others oppose it.  They don't - not with votes, which is the only language that matters in this regard.  Words not backed by actions are empty and meaningless.

It's not just a matter of what will happen if the next president is a conservative.  What will happen if the next president is a liberal, but doesn't think you're sufficiently "down for the struggle"?  It sucked to be a Trotskyite once Stalin was in power.

2.24.2015

Democrats' Minority Leader Blocks Clean DHS Bill

Democrats continue to filibuster DHS funding.  Despite what some might report, it is Democrats who are preventing a bill funding DHS from getting to President Obama's desk.  Majority Leader McConnell offered a "clean" DHS bill, one that removes the language blocking Obama's unconstitutional executive orders on immigration.  Harry Reid balked, saying he wants Boehner to cave, too.

The senate minority leader continues his obstructionist path, trying to dictate to both houses of Congress what they must and must not do, preventing any meaningful debate from happening.

And several Democrat senators, including senators from North Dakota and West Virginia, who loudly declared Obama's actions unconstitutional and harmful to the country have, when it came time to vote, put their mouth where Reid's money is.  So much for principle.

Democrats are the party of "no" - no innovation, no new ideas, no funding for DHS, no, no, no, no, no.  They are trying to hold on to an antiquated system of government hand-outs that is bankrupting the country, destroying the poor, worsening race relations, and deleterious to our culture.  Why?  Because it's their ticket to power.  It's certainly not because they're serious about helping the less fortunate among us.  The policies they're defending have been demonstrated over the last 55 years to be abject failures on that score.  But they have helped Democrats keep their stranglehold on the federal bureaucracy and the Congress - a stranglehold Reid is desperately trying to maintain even in the minority.

As National Review Online reports:
“If the Democrats, as a minority in the Senate, can not only tell the majority what bills they can bring up and whether or not they can or can’t have amendments, but also feel like they have the power to tell the House what bills they have to pass, it’s going to be like this on every single issue,” a GOP aide told National Review Online two weeks ago. “If our leadership in the House and Senate want to go through this for two years, then capitulate; don’t fight.”
McConnell shows some indication of fighting - of putting the bills on the floor in ways that make it harder and harder to maintain the fiction that Democrats just want to get things done.  No.  They don't.

2.18.2015

Light Posting Over Next Month

Sketchy posting.  For those of you who, due to some masochistic tendency, regularly come here and do not like what I write, you're welcome.  For those who do like what I write, I'm sorry.

I was, not long ago, given some duties with the regional group of churches called "classis" in the CRC tradition.  Those duties are particularly intense the month prior to regular meetings of classis.  Our next meeting is March 3, so I've been busy.  I haven't really had time to follow the news and most of what's out there isn't all that new.  

ISIS continues its violent ways - and our president continues his delusions.  

The GOP congress is doing some things right, some wrong, but mostly it's way down in the weeds and I don't have time to go there.  

The state legislature is humming along, but most of what it's doing this year is pretty tame - no real hot-button issues that interest me.  I'm just not able to get all that worked up about whether one needs 3% of registered voters in the state, or 3% of those who cast a vote for governor to get something on the ballot (or whatever the percentage is - like I said, I'm not all that worked up about it).

There was something a bit ago on South Dakota War College in which Rep. Hickey got a little short, but that led to a shouting match in the comments section (one that did not much involve Rep. Hickey) over evolution, creationism, etc.  There was a little fun to be had there pointing out just how closed are the minds of those who call themselves "free" thinkers.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that being a free thinker is kind of like being beautiful.  If you have to tell me you are, you aren't.

Thing should be slowing down just a bit over the next couple weeks, so I'll be able to post a bit more.  Then there's the paperwork after the classis meeting, followed closely by preparations for Holy Week.  Posting is just going to be a bit more sporadic over the next couple months.  I'm sure you'll survive.

2.12.2015

President Asks for Authorization to Pretend to Fight ISIS

The president has asked Congress for a joint resolution authorizing the use of military force against ISIS.

This is rather odd, considering the president has consistently maintained he does not need it as the existing authorizations provide all he needs.  So what's he after?

If you read the text of the proposed resolution, you find three rather odd elements.  

The first is that it expires after 3 years.  The end state of an authorization to use force - to go to war - is victory.  It would be good if such resolutions helped to define the conditions we would consider "victory," but the resolution doesn't do that.  The proposal just asks congress for permission to kill ISIS fighters for three years, rather like an extended hunting season instead of a military action.

Then there is the explicit statement in the resolution that "enduring ground troops" are not authorized.  The snark in me is tempted to ask, "What, we want to send in troops with no stamina - a bunch of wheezing asthmatics or something?"  It is this enduring delusion among some that wars can be fought with clinical precision and isolation.  The fantastic things we can do with weapon guidance systems these days helps to fuel that illusion.  The fact, however, is different.  Wars are won by infantry - by personal contact with the enemy in which we find, isolate, and destroy him where he lives.  All of the other parts of war - aircraft, artillery, strategic bombing, navies, and everything else - is intended to assist our infantryman, whether he be Marine, Army, or SOF, in finding, isolating, and destroying the enemy.  The navy protects the sea lanes so the infantryman can get to the enemy, be supplied with food, ammunition, clothing, and other gear.  The air force helps to isolate the enemy on the battlefield, preventing him from receiving reinforcements and resupply.  It also functions as a kind of high-power, really long-range artillery.  Don't get me wrong - that support is important and necessary and one of the reasons our infantrymen tend to live longer than the other guys' infantrymen.  It's also dangerous and the combat that occurs at sea or in the air can be just as deadly.  But winning a war still comes down to our guys on the ground coming into contact with their guys on the ground, and only our guys walking away from the encounter.  To ask for authorization to use military force and explicitly exclude this encounter is self-defeating.

But the third thing strikes me as the real reason Obama is asking for this resolution.  It repeals the very resolutions he currently claims provide him the authorization he needs.  It is a way to remove the resolution authorizing force in Iraq under the cover of pretending to authorize force against ISIS.

There's a lot more in that resolution that has merit.  My recommendation to the congress would be to delete these three paragraphs, and then pass it.  The president will get his authorization, but not in a way that hinders his successor from actually trying to win the war.

2.06.2015

President Obama's Childish Morality

President Obama, while speaking at the national prayer breakfast, noted that evil has been done in the name of Christ.

Indeed it has.  And that means...what, exactly?  That it's okay for people to now do evil in the name of Muhammad or Allah?  Perhaps it means we shouldn't resist evil from other sources because once upon a time somebody connected with me did something evil?

Allow me to point out that, at the time this evil was perpetrated and in the years since, there have been strident voices within the Christian community challenging the perpetrators, and that it is these voices that have come to define Christianity, not the voices encouraging vice and violence.

We have only begun to hear similar voices among the muslim community and they are by no means a majority.  Far too many justify Hamas, encourage ISIS, subsidize al Qaeda, and volunteer their sons and daughters to become murderous bombs.  Many, many more maintain a fearful silence that is a form of complicity.  The student union at Berkeley, to shouts of "Allahu Akhbar," voted to encourage divestment from Israel.  Would they even begin to consider divesting from Palestinian authorities who celebrate the murder of infants as if it were an act of bravery?  No, not hardly.

It is the epitome of a childish morality to complain "But he did it, too!" when called to account.  The sins of Christians whether a thousand years ago or last week do not exculpate or atone the sins of muslims either then or now.  The universality of sin does not make sin acceptable.

The president of Egypt is correct - and very brave - in challenging imams and muslims in Cairo to reconsider the path chosen.  It would be nice if our president supported him, rather than continuing to offer excuses and equivocations for those who would burn alive a caged prisoner.  Egypt's president is prepared to face the reality of evil.  Ours apparently is not.