Do Not Ignore Ignorance – Do Public Schools Perpetuate Poverty?

Ignorance is not stupidity.  Ignorance is the absence of knowledge.  Example, are baby boys ignorant or stupid?  They are ignorant, but eager learners.  They watch, copy, listen, explore, and fall down.  They must learn to control their bodies; they must learn what is good to eat; they must learn to communicate; they must learn how to ride bicycles, play tag, kick a ball, write their names, be nice to grandma, be nicer to girls, and so on.

Schools are important, because what children learn in school, they could not learn by themselves.  Schools teach them the ways the world works.  Schools teach socialization on a much bigger scale than at home or in the neighborhood.  Schools show children that their home and community are not universal, there are other people, and other places that are much, much different.  Schools teach how to answer questions and solve problems.  Schools teach English the way that gives them the best avenue to written and spoken knowledge.  It might not match the way things are at home, but awareness of the “other-“worlds outside their experience is crucial for their future.

In the most primitive societies, people learn what survival has taught.  Live or die is the standard of measure.  Children start learning as innocents:  parents give “protected” lessons, small doses of harsh truths; they provide regular rescues and frequent warnings of the dangers.  As children develop, parents and family show them life skills in increments, and let them practice within safe limits; let them make small levels of all the natural mistakes, and suffer slight versions of all the natural penalties and results.  Primitive environments offer little slack between action and consequence.

The family teaches them the practical skills of eating, drinking, bathing, shelter.  Children learn to hunt, fish, farm, gather, make and use tools.  Their family shows them how to escape danger, hide from threats, and adopt social skills.  The kids learn what is required to stay alive.  After they can demonstrate the basics, they begin to refine and master whatever they need to live and prosper as an adult.

The parents, siblings, family and tribal members know that survival demands awareness of the differences between success, failure, and everything in between. Children and adults constantly watch, listen, practice, and compete with others to improve their knowledge and skills.  They win some, they lose some, they best some, and lose to others to find their place on the scales of mastery.

They are never allowed to go forward believing they can do something they cannot.  Life hangs in the balance, not only for the child, but for everyone in the connected community.  Mistakes by one spell critical danger for them all. What you don’t know will kill you.  Ignorance is death.

I like the saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”  This is the essence of ignorance – you have no clue that things exist that could be vital to your life. You are oblivious to dangers and opportunities, because they have never been revealed to you.  You are blind and deaf to what you could have and do, if you only knew you didn’t know.  Because then you could learn about those parts of life, and add them, if you are interested.

What happens when a child is not given direct links to truth and consequences?  What happens when they get vague or misleading feedback?   How will they fare in real-life competition when they grow up, after being praised for mastery they do not have?

Today, I read about the importance of education and thinking skills when competing for jobs.  I also read about poor children drifting through public school with other poor kids, copying their buddies, or family, or neighbors, dropping out early, because their friends do, or their parents did.  Even if they stay the course and graduate, how many are discouraged and disappointed when they venture into the “real world” nobody told them the truth about?

How is that working for us?  Almost a quarter of the students entering college or junior college require remedial courses to fill the yawning holes in their high school learning.  Why do they have a high school diploma that leaves them in the ditch for higher education?  How has the freshman year in college become the junior/senior year of high school?

Public schools like DISD have 90%+ poor children to educate.  This is a daunting mission.  Leaders and teachers are both proud and embarrassed with their jobs.  The truth is they provide educational foster care for their students for 12 years. They are the substitute family for these children. They feed them breakfast and lunch.  They show them all the knowledge they know how to show.  They have after-school activities for those whose parents work, to keep them safe, so they don’t have to be alone at home. They try to widen the children’s social perceptions and self-esteem, because poverty has wrecked them; home is where learning stops.

They cannot mitigate the parents’ problems, and the environment at home.  They cannot add staff empowered to backup teachers who face “class management” problems.  The poorest public schools have given up, because they cannot win; the problems are overwhelming; every factor is against them succeeding.  So, what choices do they have?  They either quit or compromise to survive as employees of public institutions; they point to marginal gains, and use subjective standards to describe “progress. “

They are deceiving us and our children mentally, emotionally, and socially. The object seems to be to get them to age 18 alive, and teach them enough to justify sending them into the world on their own.  It does not matter that they do not know what they do not know is ahead.

The advent and prevalence of “alternative evaluation” such as “participation awards,” has deprived children of the ability to answer life’s most important questions: What happened?  Did I win, lose, or draw?  What did I do or not do to get my results?

Part of the occlusion comes from cumulative generations of parents who have no foundation in their own education.  They cannot measure or judge their child’s knowledge or understanding of subjects that are foreign to themselves. Another contributor is the deliberate removal of clear measurement standards from school.  Whether grades are A – F, or 100 – 0, they give the student a place to stand on their personal learning curve.

All the malarkey about emotional intelligence, self-acceptance, cultural awareness, instead of mastery of subjects, derails education, and generates unprepared high school “graduates.”

Such subterfuge is just a smoke-screen to camouflage ineffective teaching systems, unsuccessful learning efforts, incompetent, deluded teachers, and dishonest, political, school officials.  Federal and state money to schools can rely on reported student achievement and advancement.  When the students do not perform on standardized tests of basic subjects, penalties arise for the school district.  The incentives to “play the game” are vast.

The saddest thing about this structure is its cumulative self-perpetuation.  High school drop-outs do not just disappear, they grow up, they have children whose parents are not educated or enthralled by the school experience.  These children do not have adult models of success, and are less likely to value and complete high school.  They grow up, they have children who have two generations of parents with limited education, and success, and so on.

The answer is not to pass students from overcrowded class to overcrowded class, frustrating year to frustrating year, with phony, political, grading methods; it is not to issue them a counterfeit high school diploma, and kiss them good-bye.

What are the answers?  Cut the psycho-babble crap; forget the “participation” trophies; tell our children the truth; give them grades on a finite scale; offer them tangible ways to measure what they really know; teach them learning skills and habits.  Let them see who has learned, and who has not.  If they fail to learn some parts of subjects, show them; then let them know that failing once, or twice, or ten times is not the end, show them how not to quit, show them how to try again.  No child learns to walk or ride a bicycle on the first try.  Why should other learning be different?

Want to see motivated, determined learning?  Watch children play sports and games.  Kids will practice and practice until they find out what works, what does not, who is good at them, who is not.  Failure does not stop them when they want to play.  Golf is a great example.  Golfers are not daunted by the fact they may never be excellent.

We are telling parents and children that their only hope is college.  At best, this false notion leads many underqualified students to enter college unprepared, to struggle into insurmountable debt, fail, drop-out, or earn a useless, jobless “degree.”  College is not the only way to qualify for a respectable job.

The absence of non-college career training is a glaring omission in modern education.  Why can’t we emphasize quality trade schools as respectable alternatives to college?  Restore prestige to learning trades.  A master plumber can earn more than a poorly-performing college graduate.  Trades offer decent earnings opportunities, as well as professional pride and respect.  In addition, most trades cannot be “outsourced” to another country, or eliminated by technology.

Why not:

  • Offer trade-related courses in high school as an alternative to college preparatory courses?

  • Reinstate work/study programs related to trades.

  • Offer trades training to undereducated parents

  • Let parents and children see that most trades require knowledge of basic math, language, and science.

  • Offer trades-enhanced GED diplomas

  • Let parents bring their children to afternoon and early evening classes.

Think about the stages of human mastery:

  1. Discover something you want or need to learn

  2. Test your current knowledge

  3. If you fail, analyze, learn, and adjust

  4. Retry, analyze, learn, and adjust

  5. Once you learn the basics, practice, analyze, learn, and refine

  6. Practice, analyze, learn, and refine until you excel.

What might happen if we taught this mindset and process?

 

Children Threatened in Public School Classrooms – Federal Laws Deny Them Protection from Disruption

Civilized societies set behavioral norms, and prescribe consequences for violating those norms.  For example, it is not okay to harm another person without cause; it is not alright to harass someone, or “disturb the peace.”  Families can set broader boundaries inside their homes, but not in public.  However, sadly misguided federal laws and rules subject public school children and their teachers to violent, threatening, disturbing, unpredictable, disruptive behavior every day, in the name of “equal education.”  This violates common sense and the rights of the other children to a peaceful education.

In the so-called “real world” normal people do not put up with violent or disruptive people.  The disruptive person is usually fired from a job in a work environment, ejected or arrested in social or public environments.  Medical treatment is indicated, to the extent emotional disabilities or mental illness are involved; punishment and fines are indicated otherwise.  In other words, society separates or isolates disturbed citizens and insulates normal citizens from their disruptions.

I do not know any normal, emotionally healthy people who are made to endure the disturbances of disruptive adults.  Why do we subject our children and public school teachers to behavior normal society does not allow?  Most teachers are not trained psychologists, and none of the students are trained to accept and deal with such frightening, threatening behavior either.  Even if they were, there is no excuse for making public school so trying, and perhaps harmful.

 The current federal laws paint children with “disabilities” and public schools with a broad brush when they require inclusion and mainstreaming without stipulation.  Do they think normal classrooms are therapy for violent and disturbed students?  Do they think the distress and disruption help normal students learn?  Disturbed, violent, and disabled students need added, special resources and treatment that normal students do not.  Why subject the whole class to special efforts that scare them, delay normal learning and deny them the knowledge they are present to obtain?

Special needs children deserve to be taught the same knowledge as other kids.  Many special needs children are not disruptive.  However, their special needs may require different teaching approaches and intensive, trained, instruction to attain that knowledge.

The advocates of “mainstreaming” tout the marginal benefits to special needs students, but blithely avoid discussion of the serious detriment to “mainstream” students and the teachers that must cope with the stress and interference required to produce those benefits.  This attempt at social engineering is so obviously lame, it cannot stand a reality check.  Does anyone remember when even whispering in class, and passing notes were punishable infractions?  They were infractions because they distracted students and teachers from the purpose of the class.  Has this idea expired from political correctness?

If the needs of the few can be met without expense to the many, I say, so be it.  Find another way to fulfill the needs of violent, threatening, and disruptive students.

Parents Addict Children – Screen Zombies

Parents put their babies in front of television and tablet screens to entertain and “babysit” them.  Parents and teachers believe children can advance their knowledge through computer “learning systems.” Parents surrender to the pressure from their preadolescent daughters for smartphones so they can text their friends and share activities through social media.  Children spend hours at their computers and tablets absorbed in online role-playing and video games.

The problem is these children can easily become lifetime addicts to their virtual worlds.  Notice the bent heads of children with their families in restaurants; they are not saying grace.  Check out kids in buses and the back seats of cars; how many are looking out the windows or talking to each other?

Listen for that faint buzzing sound in movie theaters, and watch the Pavlovian response of children who cannot resist answering voice and text messages no matter when or where they are.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras is an expert in addiction and rehabilitation.  He paints a chilling picture of the futures of these children in his book “Glow Kids.”  He operates rehabilitation centers for drug and alcohol addiction.  The problem with “screen addiction” is there is no way to eliminate the “substance” from their environment; tech stimulations are everywhere, waiting for the addicts to notice and return to them.

The trance induced by these addictions is powerful; people can spend hours at the screen and be totally unaware of the passage of time or the events that happen around them; their lives have been hijacked, and that part of their lives is gone.

Social media addicts get emotionally engaged with people they never met, pictures of somebody’s lunch, and silent “verbal” exchanges. When I was growing up, if someone teased me or called me names, I was taught to say, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”, or “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”, or “so are you.”  It really worked for me (except when sticks or stones, or fists or feet were actually employed.  THAT was what we called bullying;).

Now, kids are committing suicide in response to slurs or embarrassments.  Why would they do that? Think about it; no physical harm was done; a normal person would not react that way; it must be psychological; they would have to be addicts to respond that strongly to “cyberbullying.”  Not knowing about the addiction leaves most adult, non-addicts perplexed about what to do.  Instead of rehabbing and strengthening the psyche of the addict target, we try to outlaw bullying; what a thankless, futile waste of energy and time when dealing with children at that stage of development.

I defer to the experts on what to do and not do, but reading this book would not hurt your understanding of this problem.

12 Signs of Attitude – How Others Assess Your Behavior

Are you being respectful or disrespectful?  Other people, including authorities, are very sensitive to signs of possible danger.  A disrespectful person puts anyone on edge, especially the police.  A respectful attitude goes a long way to put everyone at ease, especially the police.

Older generations consistently trained their children how to show respect, be polite, be considerate, and follow the unspoken rules of being civil; they also led by example to demonstrate the good results a person can get by being mannerly and pleasant.  Much of the training was interrupting disrespectful behavior. (e.g. Stop strangling your sister!)

Today, I see less respect and consideration everywhere I go.  Traffic is the most common example; people just leave their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle; people text while eating dinner; people take their children with them shopping but do not control their actions or screaming.

There is little social cost for these egocentric practices; but there can be serious, even deadly consequences for being disrespectful and belligerent with the police.  I believe that developing “manners” is valuable, and possibly life-saving.

Here is a table of behaviors that communicate respect and disrespect.

How do you appear to others?  What practices could you and your family adopt to convey more respect, and improve safety in police encounters?

 

Respectful

Disrespectful

1

Calm/Relaxed

Tense/Agitated

2

Pleasant

Unpleasant

3

Watch/Listen

Interrupt/Ignore

4

Polite

Critical

5

Speak Normally

Raise Your Voice

6

Considerate Inconsiderate
7 Ask Peaceful, Clarifying Questions

Complain/Accuse

8 Answer Questions & Requests Clearly

Criticize/Berate/Refuse

9 Positive Facial Expression

Angry Facial Expression

10 Stand /Sit Still

Pace/Walk Away/Wriggle

11 Peaceful Hand & Body Gestures

Wild, Angry Gestures

12  “Sir,” “Ma’am,” “Officer”

Expletives & Epithets

Populists Remodel Both Parties, Instead of Constructing New Ones

“Americans are not only strongly dissatisfied with the state of the economy and the direction in which the country is headed, but with government efforts to improve them. As the Pew Research Center’s analysis of exit poll data (2010) concluded, “the outcome of this year’s election represented a repudiation of the political status quo…. Fully 74% said they were either angry or dissatisfied with the federal government, and 73% disapproved of the job Congress is doing.”

http://www.pewresearch.org/2010/12/14/how-a-different-america-responded-to-the-great-depression/

Like the two poles of a magnet, anger and dissatisfaction manifested in favor of a clearly popular Bernie Sanders movement on the left, and more clearly in the ascendancy of Donald Trump on the right.

The Democrats

Bernie Sanders attracted a large plurality of younger citizens to socialist ideas for solving perceived failures of government.  The Obama administration did nothing to ameliorate the impact of staggering loan burdens on college students; the Affordable Care Act not only failed to manage healthcare needs, it aggravated the problems of access and affordability.

Super delegates, and the strident support of the DNC establishment saved Hillary Clinton’s primary candidacy from an embarrassing drubbing by the populists.  Nonetheless, the Democrats had to shift their platform to the left to avoid losing the new voters Bernie Sanders attracted.  The party apparatchiks felt their grip on power slipping, and quickly adjusted to retain control.  Witness the remodeled Democratic Party

The Republicans

The Republican powers-that-be were not so lucky; by denying, resisting and eschewing, they lost control of the party to a populist candidate beyond their influence.  Donald Trump, by design or blind luck, tapped into the anger and frustration of a tsunami of new and dormant voters on the right. Instead of building a new third party, ala Ross Perot, Trump remodeled the Republican Party.  This massive wave of constituents was so strong that sixteen traditional candidates succumbed to mild taunting and criticism in televised debates, and strong turnouts in the primaries.

The barrage of criticism from both parties, the withdrawal of political support by RNC powerhouses, and the withholding of financial support by big-time contributors could not stop a political neophyte from becoming the Republican candidate on a tiny fraction of the money spent against him.  The Republican Party has been transformed into a conservative, populist majority; sour grapes, snubs, and disownment remain ineffective on the new dynamics of the party.

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” is our new national creed.

Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”

 

“Equality” – An Evil Definition

What qualities are we trying to “E?”  Who decides “equal?”  How does anyone improve the qualities of another person?

When a political party adds a word to their platform, shouldn’t they define it?  Does anyone believe our human race was advanced and improved by denying the qualities that surpassed “normal” or “average?”

I cannot seem to find anyone anywhere who can or will say exactly what they mean by “equal,” or how “equality” will be achieved.

If fostering equality means reducing those who excel by taxation or regulation, what will that accomplish for the “unequals?”

What politicians are ready to point at individual citizens and say, “You are unequal, you are above equal, you are exactly equal.”?

Am I supposed to be so ignorant that I do not interpret this criminalization of success as a naked call for federal government stripping resources from those with money to finance distributions of resources to those who are “below equal.”?  Do I want to live in a communist society where everything is artificial, and nothing works?  No.

Millions of people have risked life and limb to get to the place where they are unencumbered by lack of opportunity – the USA.  They are here to improve their chances for a better life for themselves and their children.  They see that here they have a chance that their efforts will pay off.  Do they require a perfect environment?  Do they insist that the government remove the obstacles to their accomplishments?  No.

Oh, and by the way, where is the campaign for GLOBAL equality?  (Silence)  Hmmm, so giving up what we have that exceeds what other people have in other parts of the world is different.  Hypocritical at best.

Kurt Vonnegut was prescient in a short story he wrote in 1961, (just as George Orwell was in 1944 when he published “Animal Farm.”)

Read what he wrote.

 <HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr  1961

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.  They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.  Nobody was smarter than anybody else.  Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.  All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though.  April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime.  And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts.  And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear.  He was required by law to wear it at all times.  It was tuned to a government transmitter.  Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television.  There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head.  His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious.

“All the things they think up.”  “Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers.

“If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well-maybe make ’em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better than I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck.

“Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, ” then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”  If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.

“Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.  And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake. George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune.

“My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”  The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head. When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood – in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people.

“Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.  She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too.

“Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well. They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again.

“You been crying” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said.  “What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”>

 

“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.