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Sunday, April 21, 2013

3rd Quarter Report

We are in strange times.  The state of the schools, current affairs, and the economy are so odd, that they beggar description.

School: As I've probably mentioned in previous posts, this year has been a difficult one.  The intellectual curiosity of this crop of 9th graders is at an all time low.  The strange part is that it hasn't been a gradual decline, this year I have seen a cliff like drop of curiosity and academic performance.  I graded an exam as I would have graded an exam in 1998, and the class average, for both sections, was a 54.  I took into account spelling, grammar, content and appropriate answers.  As I do not give multiple choice exams (they have been proven to be useless, and the Power Elite school abolished them years ago), the writing was not only substandard, it showed a lack of awareness of the story we read and the English language.  There were misspellings of the main characters, obvious facts were incorrect, and the cheaters cheated off of someone who had no idea what happened in the story, so the answers all reflected the same incorrect nonsense.  It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Additionally, and tellingly, one of my top students told me that "I don't want to offend you, but, well, the reason that we didn't do well, is that, like, the times you were reading the story to us, we were talking because, well, I don't mean to offend you, but the story was boring."  This was told to me by one of the top students in my morning class.  The sad part is threefold, the guise of 'caring' about my feelings, the fact that a 'boring' story is license to talk while the teacher is reading the it to the class, and this was from one of the top students in the class - a young woman with a first class mind.

Current Affairs:  The Boston shooting and its aftermath is difficult to watch.  That a tragic event would be used to turn a major U.S. city and its environs into a tyrannical police state is sad.  The Herd cheers their oppressors as the police lockdown the area to catch - a 19 year old.  Only the online libertarian community and a few conspiracy minded people seem to notice what is transpiring.  I guess the words of a gov't official ring true:  "Never let a good crisis go to waste."  The American Herd, ahistorical and lacking a basic understanding of Human Rights or the Bill of Rights, tolerates scenes like this while they cheer the 'police' for keeping them 'safe'.  The works of Benjamin Franklin, a figure dimly familiar with the average American public school student, ring truer than ever:  "Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.”

The Economy:  The FED continues its operations of printing money, Congress continues to make rules for the people yet immunize itself from harm.  The gold price is crushed, simply hammered in a way that has not been seen in 30 years, and the depositors of Cyprus, the regular people, have their money simply taken from them as a way to pay back banker and government debts.  All the while, the economy is in the tank and the people, who have been trained in such a manner, beg for their overlords to 'do something!'

It is education that solves many of these problems, as the electorate has been schooled to extinction.  The free market, which allows for trial and error, mistakes to be made and then solved, is vilified and laughed at by the Power Brokers.  It's easy for them to maintain a stranglehold on minority wealth and power as they make the rules and regulations, thereby never needing to worry about any pesky little people crawling to the top.  Sometimes, someone breaks through and does this.  It is time to rip the cover off of the Educational Establishment, look at how and what they teach, so we can see how they created this unholy mess we're in now.

This is a good place to start:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Honus Wagner - Book Review

Bill James, in his Historical Baseball Abstract, lists Honus Wagner as the greatest shortstop of all time.  It isn't even close.  Number two on the list is Arky Vaughan - something of a surprise even to someone like me, a baseball stat freak who has been reading James' work since 1987.  James states clearly that the difference between the number one shortstop (Wagner) and the number two shortstop (Vaughan) is about the same distance between the number two shortstop and the number 30 shortstop.

With Wagner so completely superior to the rest of the shortstop field, I looked forward to Arthur Hittner's Honus Wagner.  James is not generous with praise, and, being pathologically independent minded, routinely finds flaws where conventional analysis does not.  That being said, I figured I had the key to the mystery that was Honus Wagner, as Hittner's book is well researched and filled with detail.  I was disappointed.

Hittner's book leaves a lot to be desired.  I didn't learn much about Honus Wagner that is not on his stat sheet or in a basic online biography.  Hittner's book reads like a series of news articles read in sequence at the library.  He reports on the news of the games found in the local papers of the day, and shares tidbits of commentary found in those articles.  The tone and tenor of the book is such.  I was never interested while reading the book, and at one point decided to read faster to get it over with.  There isn't one single event that is dealt with in an insightful manner.  I was looking forward to the section on the 1909 World Series.  The World Series was young - the American League was only 8 years old, and the Tigers had a young Ty Cobb, and the 110 win Pirates had an aging powerhouse led by Wagner.  I was expecting to get transported back to those days and 'see' the event.  Baseball at that time was still figuring itself out, and it was becoming the national pastime.  Hittner falls flat here as he covers the events of the game, and little material below the surface.  This is indicative of most of the book.

In Hittner's defense, Wagner was apparently a quiet loner of a man - almost secretive.  Wagner's  comments to the press were bland.  He was unwilling to share personal details with many friends, and spend his offseasons away from the game.  Toward the end of the book Wagner's marriage happens almost by surprise.  Hittner had no choice, it seems, than to recount the Wagner story from the press clippings.   Unfortunately, this created a dry read, one that lacks depth.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Scary Video of the Month

Lew Rockwell, in one of the many podcasts on his site, asked one of his guests if he sensed that "the propaganda was getting stupider?"  I think it is.  It is also getting more overt and frightening.  The apologia for The State seems to be reaching a fever pitch, with all the 'gun violence' rhetoric from the corporate controlled Mainstream Media (notice the framing of the issue), and the constant psychological pressure with regard to the need for the American Government to travel around the world and 'solve' every problem (North Korea, Kony, Libya, et al) by using its military.

The latest salvo intended to condition the Bewildered Herd comes from Stalinist Newsreader Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor at Tulane (!) and an MSNBC hostess.  According to Mrs. Perry, your children do not belong to you.

"We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everyone’s responsibility, and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments."  

Let's analyze this.
1) It is logically false.  Since the time of Aristotle and Thucydides, the Tragedy of the Commons has been a way to explain the devolving and disrespect toward 'public' material.  If our children are 'everyone's responsibility', then they are no one's responsibility, and will become borderline feral.  Furthermore, if my children break something or steal, will I get the bill, or will it be sent to 'everyone'?

2) It is sloppy with pronouns.  Who are 'we'?  "We" is used by statists and propagandists as a way to achieve buy in, as if one were pitching a product.  Specifically, who are 'we'?  Does Mrs. Perry's daughter belong to her, or should she be released to the community?  Is she willing to give up her daughter to the group?  If not, why not?  Perhaps she should follow Jean-Jacques Rousseau, put her money where her mouth is, and give ALL of her children to The State.

3) It is hypocritical.  The State controlled Education Edifice, along with its rubber stamp media, have driven a once proud and rigorous Public Education system into the ground.  Now they seem to have all of the solutions, from the laughably byzantine 'common core state standards', to having your children raised by the community.  I am constantly amazed that the architects of the destruction of American Education are given credence by anyone at all.

4) It is bad propaganda.  Notice how the 'private' idea needs to be broken through.  "We" must get past this.  How much more clumsy could the wording be?  What is a 'private' idea?  Is this some sort of salvo against private property?  One's own body is his private property - this is an idea to devalue?  The Statists of the Organized Left have tried this, and it led to scores of millions of body bags during the 20th century.  Perhaps Prof. Harris-Perry needs to re-read Orwell's Animal Farm.  The use of the word 'private' as a pejorative is hardly befitting a professor, nor would it be accepted in a 7th grade debate without further clarification.

This is outrageous, and it shows the Statist mentality about how everything in your life should be controlled, including raising your children.  MSNBC, in pushing this, shows its true colors.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Beginning of The End?

There was an event today that is worth notice.  The Ron Paul Curriculum came out this morning.  It is a  K - 12 program that is geared for independent thinking young people.  The initial sales pitch is toward the homeschooling community, but it will eventually spread.  When parents see what the children following this program are getting for their money, they'll re-think their huge taxpayer expense for the local public school.  Here is the part that is the lynchpin: the primary school grades are FREE.  K - 5th grades are there for a cost of $0.00.

The business model is one that makes sense.  The product that they offer is of the kind of quality that the parents will follow a successful free model up to the fifth grade.  The RPC people are confident that the parents will be happy enough to the point that after that, the curriculum will cost about $500 - $650 per year.  The intellectual powerhouses running the show will provide the 'hook' and then parents will be glad to pay for high quality education.  In case you are thinking that $650 is too much for a year, the least expensive private school around here is $4000 per year.  In case you think that your local public school is 'free', it costs you, at minimum, $10,000 per year per pupil to support that system.

This could be the beginning of the end for compulsory tax payer funded public school.  What are you getting for your 10 grand?  If you're in a good neighborhood, you're getting great facilities, solid teachers, horrid textbooks, peer pressure and government indoctrination.  If you're in a bad area, take any two or more of the above traits and make them negative, and add fighting, drugs and fornication.  Is that a good return on investment?

The end might be here.  Once people see how wonderful, independent, thoughtful, free market education can work, they might realize that the whole paradigm can operate in the same way.  Education does not, and should not be expensive.  For millennia there was no forced schooling.  It is a recent development, and it was not started for altruistic motives.  People can learn in a myriad of ways, often moving faster when they are at their own pace, exploring things that are in their interest.  Being in various rooms, confined with students of like age, in 40 minute blocks simply cannot be a one size fits all approach.  I think this might cause a sea change...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Short Story: "The Most Dangerous Game"

"The Most Dangerous Game" is representative of an era when reading was more prevalent.  You can tell this by the long lead in to the action.  The first two thirds of this elemental chase / man vs. man conflict is story buildup - background information and dialogue that skirts the edge of being considered jargon.  Sanger Rainsford washes ashore an island and he finds the aristocrat General Zaroff, a kindred spirit who revels in the 'hunt'.

Zaroff, however, is bored with hunting animals, and decides to hunt humans.  Rainsford is appalled at the moral degeneracy of this, and lets Zaroff know about it.  It is here where there is a key aspect of the story, and a window into Zaroff's beliefs. Note Zaroff's reply:
"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."

Zaroff's wretched beliefs, unfortunately, are not uncommon.  There is a long history of this idea among the 'elite', or 'adepts', or 'elect'.  Here's what I covered today regarding the justification of this deadly class pyramid - how have the Zaroffs of the real world defended the indefensible throughout history?

1) The Priesthood:  "We are the priests and we speak directly to God.  Because of this you will follow, or you will be cast out of the clan, to die a miserable death.  Better to follow, do as you're told, and hopefully get to the mountaintop."  This is the most elemental use of fear and control - the most blunt use of ad verecundiam, the fallacy of authority.

2) The Divine Right of Kings:  "We are born into a line of Royalty, and we are closest to God.  Because of our birthright, it is obvious that there are upper and lower classes, and you are part of the latter.  You will obey."  The Magna Carta did a lot to end much of this, but it was a slow process.

3) The Scientific Explanation:  "It is apparent, through natural selection, that we are scientifically superior.  We even have a book, written by one of the wealthiest men on Planet Earth, that proves it called: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.  If need be, we shall sterilize or exterminate the lower order, as they are not of the best breeding stock, or one of the 'favored' races."  Zaroff subscribes to this philosophy - not uncommon among aristocrats of his day.

4) The All Encompassing and Benevolent State:  "The government will control and run all things in society.  School, Health Care, Retirement savings, Medical Care for the elderly, Automobile practices, Farming practices, even how high a fire extinguisher needs to be above the floor.  We are superior to The Masses in education, we went to the best schools and we 'care' for the huddled humanity for whom we so altruistically manage."  This is where we are today.  Most cannot imagine a different paradigm, and get angry at anyone who suggests not having government involvement.

Zaroff is often looked at as a psychopath by my students.  His beliefs are frighteningly common, and are with us today.