Reason #1,546,328 “Why I Love the Internet”

I’ve commented before about the availability of really high-quality reads on the internet–for free, no less.

There are things like Project Gutenberg, where one can freely read or download for offline reading any of thousands of public domain works–literally a lifetime of reading if one wishes.

Then there is “MIT OpenCourseWare [which] makes the course materials that are used in the … all MIT’s undergraduate and graduate subjects available on the Web, free of charge…” FREE courses. From MIT. Wonderful!

And I’ve also mentioned before that one can read many of the books available from the Chicago University Press for free online, books like The Founders’ Constitution which retails for $475 (and can be bought for anywhere from $80 for a not so good used copy all the way up to retail). For free, though… online. (And once again, I HIGHLY recommend The Founders’ Constitution for all American citizens and citizen wannabes. Highly recommended. Very highly. Seriously.)

Other books available there as well, such as biographies (a great book on Fred Hoyle, for example), history, and more, much more.

And then there are singular finds sprinkled all over the web. One such is find number 1,546,328 (approx. :-)): Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset, an amazingly prescient work written in 1930 (from lectures/essays dating earlier). Consider this extremely short excerpt from Ortega y Gasset’s introduction to the work:

The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will. As they say in the United States: “to be different is to be indecent.” The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. And it is clear, of course, that this “everybody” is not “everybody.” “Everybody” was normally the complex unity of the mass and the divergent, specialised minorities. Nowadays, “everybody” is the mass alone. Here we have the formidable fact of our times, described without any concealment of the brutality of its features.

“…the brutality of its features” indeed.

May I seriously commend this book to your attention? Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset may be a dense read for those not enamored of the rather pedantic tone it sometimes assumes, and Ortega y Gasset’s view of the accomplishments of the common man may shock contemporary American sensibilities, but in this day and age where the democratic urges the Founders rightly feared are wreaking havoc on our society as a whole, it’s a very important read.

And it’s available for free on the web. Amazing. Dontcha just love the internet?


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We Need This Man for Emperor

*heh*

Well, either him or his clone, thinking exactly as he does.

Example, a snippet dealing with education, Darwinism and Intelligent Design:

“So long as the idea of scientific method — the generation and testing of falsifiable hypotheses — is shown, I don’t have any great worries that bright kids won’t figure out their own answers to matters like intelligent design; and I don’t really care if my auto mechanic believes in his heart of hearts that he was divinely created and endowed by his creators with certain inalienable rights as opposed to his having evolved from bonobos without attention from his creator. I do worry that he knows how to read the output of the computer test equipment, and that he can figure out what the funny squeak is…

“…Mandating the “correct” position and requiring local schools to adopt that is a more dangerous principle than teaching an alternative to Darwin, without regard to whether Darwin is “really true” and belief in Darwin is so fragile that teaching an alternative would undermine belief in Natural Selection. I am not convinced that there is a school district that would teach “flat earth” as an alternative to the conventional wisdom, but if there were, I do not think the republic would fall if that were allowed. There would be ridicule and merriment and mirth, but I doubt the consequences would be much greater than that.”

Read more at the link and here as well.

Heck, go a little further than Dr. Pournelle’s very calm and reasonable argument and (BUY AND) read James P. Hogan’s, Kicking the Sacred Cow. Hogan may go to extremes at times in his aversion for Dogmatic Science practiced as a religion, not science, but he marshalls his facts pretty convincingly in an accessible presentation for laymen.

Similarly to Hogan, it really chaps my gizzard to see purely religious views presented as “science”–and conversely to see religious views denigrated because they are not scientific. As my old chemistry prof was wont to say, the two manners of approaching reality deal with entirely different sets of questions and using the thinking of “blind faith” in science is just as stupid as attempting to use scientific reasoning to prove/disprove matters of faith.

Science cannot ultimately even ask or answer real “why” questions, just as religion cannot deal satisfactorily with “how” questions. ANd people who cannot see the differences in the two manners of thinking and the sets of questions they can effectively deal with are just dumber than a bag of hammers, no matter how high their IQ may test or how much alphabet soup they may string after their names.


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Prescription for What Ails US: Hope and Change

Yes, both “us” and “US”. This will be short (relatively), and I will provide zero supporting elements. Any comments resulting from readers doing their own homework on the elements below are welcome. Comments that demonstrate absolutely no knowledge of the elements below will be mocked. Do your own homework. I will NOT provide links here. You can type “google.com” as easily as I can.

Barry Hussein Obama-Winfrey floats a lot of hot air about “hope” and “change” (yeh, he hopes to change the US into a completely socialist society filled with grievance groups of “victims” leeching off producers–and he has a good chance of success). Well, unless we, as an electorate, take steps to knock a few politicians *spit*, bureaucraps and assorted other leeches on the head (metaphorically, you understand) in order to change the direction our coutry is headed, I hold out little hope for a future U.S. with any resemblance to the City Set on a Hill envisioned by the Founders.

What must be done (apart from throwing the bums out of office–darned near every elected official we can find)? Several things would stem the tide–perhaps even roll it back.

1. Don’t take this lightly. Every person I’ve presented this to so far (and I’ve been talking this up in the RW for years *sigh* so far w/o much movement) has expressed a positive response–even those who view themselves as “lefties”:

Each State of the Union needs an amendment to its State constitution providing that
a. every elective position on each ballot include “none of the
above” as a choice on the ballot
b. if “none of the above” recieves a plurality of votes, then ALL
candidates listed for that ballot position are disqualified from
seeking that office in the future and
c. a new election must be held for that position with new
candidates.

Frankly, I could see “none of the above” winning in a landslide in the upcoming presidential election…

2. Get the feds OUT of public education, at ALL levels. Out. No influence, no monies, no diktats. Nada, zilch, a big zero with the rim kicked off. Then work on reducing State influence on local schools. Make local school boards and parents completely responsible for their children’s education. With around 2/3 of recent college graduates functional illiterates, largely as a result of early intervention by “feddle gummint” busybodies’ stupid policies, we need to get the fedgov out of education.

It’d be a start.

3. Do some commonsense things to get our economy back on track. No, I’m not talking here about the recent Chicken Little wails about recession. I’m talking here about the fact that we’ve been strongly encouraged (in large part by stupid fedgov meddling) to become a nation of consumers surrendering more and more of our nation’s producing capabilities. “Line jobs”–factory work, even low-to-medium skill work–is dropping off, and this suits socialists just fine (more dependents for government handouts) but does nothing for a republic of free folk. Look, by definition, half our population is “below average” in intellectual potential. What are you going to do for productive, meaningful work for thse folks as more and more real goods manufacturing is moved offshore? Put ’em all in call centers making telemarketing annoyances of themselves?

Or maybe they can all go to work for McDonalds. Ya want fries with that?

To stem the tide of manufacturing jobs bleeding from our society (mixing metaphors is what metas are for, IMO :-)), two simple things would make a huge difference. (Do remember Clausewitz’s admonition that “everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult” and remember that we The People must recognize that we are in a sort of war with our political buffoons *cough* leaders.)

a. despite the opposition of politicians who do NOT want to
reliquish the power over your life that the IRS and the income
tax gives them, we must press for The Fair Tax.

Do your own homework. I’ve posted enough FACTS here at twc in the past to demolish most of the disingenuous arguments against the plan, so any comments demonstrating you have not done your homewoprk will be roundly raspberried. Rational argument demonstrating you’ve done your homework will be welcome, though. (*crickets chirping*)

b. a 10% accross-the-board tarrif on ALL imports from
EVERYWHERE, no exceptions whatsoever. Period.

These two things alone would do much to restore America’s competitiveness in manufacturing, create more jobs for the average joe (and josephine :-)), strengthen the dollar and encourage thrift (more investment capital–of the right kind).

4. Get a handle on illegal immigrants who are stealing American jobs, stressing American health and social services, Close our borders. Period. Make sure we facilitate LEGAL immigration, but close our borders, seriously police them–like Mexico does its Southern border (complete with shoot to kill orders, exactly as Mexico does). And aggressively go after ALL employers of illegal aliens (are you listening, Tyson?). Shut down the jobs and social services (all social services except for legitimate health emergencies–provide emergency health care and then a free ride to the border) and watch the flood of illegals make their way to the borders. And make no mistake, of the 20,000,000 or more ilegals in this country, much more than 75% of them will head south… Eisenhower accomplished similar results in the 1950s, and what man has done, man can aspire to do… It ain’t rocket science.

Reminder: any arguments with assertions made above should show you’ve done your homework.

5. Make some commonsense decisions about energy policy. Right now, energy policy is being made by stupid, short-sighted politicians who’re either afraid of their shadows (eco-whackos) or bought and paid for lackeys of oil companies, OR by greedy, short-sighted energy company execs who just want to cash in now without serious thought for the future.

a. eliminate our need for fossil fuels for electricity production.
E-lim-in-ate.

MIT has put plans for a modular pebble bed reactor in the public domain. China likes it. Although China is now leading the world in oil imports (actually, energy imports of all kinds), it plans on being a net exporter of energy within the next decade, relying largely on pebble bed reactors. Now, admittedly, PBRs are not the most technically advanced possibilities for nuclear energy production, but the technology is here, now, and is safer than any other energy production method, save possibly hydro-generation, that can approach its ability to provide large-scale electricity production. Safe. (Do your homework. Oh, and include readings on radioactivity, hormesis and what actually happens when Cobalt60 is accidentally introduced into the building materials for a large apartment complex… yeh, you get one link from me to start you off. It’s a PDF file. :-).) And please, no cries of “What to do with nuclear waste?” That problem’s been solved, solved and solved again. Take your pick of safe, eficient and easy methods. It’s 19th Century engineering.

But oil for other uses? Why the heck is the U.S. importing oil at all? We already have enough reserves for short-to-medium term oil production. If the fedgov would get out of the way, that is. And technologies like thermal depolymnerization manufacturing of oil are proven technologies. Heck, if every lil burg simply contracted with a TDP company to process its raw sewage, the lil burgs would have their clean water as a “by-product” and the contracting company could sell the oil. Everybody wins. And the odor some folks complain about from TDP plants? Not any worse than raw sewage, my friends, and the odor from TDP plants has this advantage: it smells like money. Talk about win-win-win-win: lower costs could be assessed on citizens for water treatment, city has a new business to tax (*feh*), the Saudis and Hugo Chavez take it on the chin, and the TDP business makes money.

And nuclear energy, available proven reserves and TDP plants are just three of many things we could be doing right now to wean ourselves of foreign oil. No pie in the sky technology leaps necessary, just political will.

There you have it: the twc five-point plan. It’s not exhaustive (I’ve not mentioned, for example, annual meetings of Mass Media Podpeople with Dr. Tarr and Mr. Fether or many of the other things that would benefit our society), but you get the picture.

Argument welcome, but remember the warning above: comments that demonstrate the commenter hasn’t bothered to do his/her homework will be mocked.


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It’s the little things…

For want of a nail
the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe
the horse was lost.
For want of a horse
the rider was lost.
For want of a rider
the battle was lost.
For want of a battle
the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want
of a horseshoe nail.

It’s always the little things. But little things are often very, very large.

Take one of three very, very large things that are dragging the U.S. over the face of a precipice and down to ruin: illiteracy. No, I’m not just talking about the lack of what Mass Media Podpeople, Academia Nut Fruitcakes, edu/bureaucraps, and politicians *spit* that are the Conspiracy of Dunces intent on bringing the U.S. to ruin have redefined literacy to mean (a simple ability to laboriously decode words from print).

No, literacy is much, much more than simply being able to decode the printed page or sign ones name, as the dumbed down version our wonderful Conspiracy of Dunces would have it. It is at the very least the ability to decode those words, make sense of them and use their meaning to make rational decisions or come to an understanding of things beyond ones personal experience.

That’s simple functional literacy. And functional literacy is on the decline in the U.S. Witness all the idiots who in 2000 were too stupid to be able to follow directions in voting and caused such a brouhaha in the Florida vote count.

Worse, college graduates who are unable to understand simple directions for taking prescription meds or a newspaper editorial written to a theoretical eighth-grade level. College graduates.

But the simple, little thing of functional literacy is essential to a democratic representative republic, for when voters are too stupid to make sound choices, the government they get will be… what we have.

It’s a little thing. Continue reading “It’s the little things…”

“…ready to dump our schools…”

From Robert Cringely:

…we’ve reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools.

And about time! Cringely’s of my generation (well a little younger) and makes his point well about the chasm between technology use by different generations. While I may sometimes chuckle and wrying shake my head when my octogenarian father describes his (do note: successful) struggles to master his computer and make it a useful part of his lifestyle, my children, I’m sure, chuckle to themselves and wryly shake their heads at my abandonment of my cell phone and lack of any desire whatsoever to “text”.

But Cringely goes beyond the obvious divide in different generations’ integration of new technologies as genuinely useful parts of their lives and notes a specific impact of the effect on education.

These are kids who have never known life without personal computers and cell phones. But far more important, there is emerging a class of students whose PARENTS have never known life without personal computers and cell phones. The Big Kahuna in educational discipline isn’t the school, it is the parent. Ward Cleaver rules. But what if Ward puts down his pipe and starts texting? Well he has.

Speaking about the shift from knowing stuff to Googling stuff–yeh, who hasn’t “put down” that eBook to do a quick search on “Albegensian” or whatever? *heh* I picked that because I already knew a bunch about that word’s historical implications from “old guy” stuff rattling around in my head… and still did a search on the term some months ago. Google is sometimes better than memory, you know–Cringely notes:

This is, of course, a huge threat to the education establishment, which tends to have a very deterministic view of how knowledge and accomplishment are obtained – a view that doesn’t work well in the search economy. At the same time K-12 educators are being pulled back by No Child Left Behind, they are being pulled forward (they probably see it as pulled askew) by kids abetted by their high-tech Generation Y (yes, we’re getting well into Y) parents who are using their Ward Cleaver power not to maintain the status quo but to challenge it.

Read the whole thing for a twist you might not see coming… 😉

h.t. Jerry Pournelle’s Mail. Drop by. Read. And wish Dr. Pournelle well.


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Who Needs School?

I’ve mentioned MITs OpenCourseware before (somewhere–I’m not looking for it right now). Such things are widely available all over the web. For example, THE work on systems analysis, Herman Kahn’s Techniques of Systems Analysis, is available as a free download from the Rand Corporation.

With such sites as Project Gutenberg and many other organizations and universities making literature and courses available for free, anyone with the mental horsepower, the desire and access to a computer or a public library (most have computers available now) can have not only the usual library resources available but a world of educational enrichment at their fingertips.

I used to haunt the public libraries where we lived when I was a kid. School libraries all the way through grad school , most definitely ALL the school libraries I could reach–collections varied. *heh* I needed “The Second Sex” for a research paper once and the ONLY copy available in five college libraries (and two public) consulted was Le Deuxieme Sexe. Right. In French. Thanks to a good French prof, that was OK. (Of course, it was also fun when the prof asked me to translate material I cited. *heh* What? Didn’t think I’d actually read the horrible book? Simone de Beauvoir was one kinky, twisted woman. Still, I’d probably have been less critical of the book had I not known her history.)

Anywho… off the rabbit trail, now and back on track. If you’ve not learned anything new today, you’ve wasted your time so far. Go. Learn. Grow.

(OK, I’ll admit that formal schooling has its uses, but the way public schools (AKA, “prisons for kids”) are going and the manner in which colleges and universities have become low-class diploma mills for sub- and illiterates, the value of such things is rapidly approaching large negative numbers. Trade schools and such like: great for training, not so much for education–and yes, the two are very different things.)


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More from “The Underground History of American Education”

Reading the book yet? Here’s another teaser:

Full literacy wasn’t unusual in the colonies or early republic; many schools wouldn’t admit students who didn’t know reading and counting because few schoolmasters were willing to waste time teaching what was so easy to learn. It was deemed a mark of depraved character if literacy hadn’t been attained by the matriculating student. Even the many charity schools operated by churches, towns, and philanthropic associations for the poor would have been flabbergasted at the great hue and cry raised today about difficulties teaching literacy. American experience proved the contrary.1

Think about it. “Reading specialists” throughout our nation’s prisons for kids have a vested interest in making the art of teaching reading as arcane and difficult as possible. There are those, however, who have had universal success with a program that essentially lets kids teach themselves.

Storm the “bastilles’ of public education! Rescue the children! Save our future as a nation!

Those are not too strong. If anything, all those exclamation points are too few, too weak.


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Thought for Today

From John Taylor Gatto’s, The Underground History of American Education,

I’ve yet to meet a parent in public school who ever stopped to calculate the heavy, sometimes lifelong price their children pay for the privilege of being rude and ill-mannered at school. I haven’t met a public school parent yet who was properly suspicious of the state’s endless forgiveness of bad behavior for which the future will be merciless.

I’ll just keep on posting these teasers every now and then until y’all start reading the book. *heh*

Hmmm, maybe I should do the same with this book


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What’s the matter with kids today?

From a wide array of socially destructive interests affecting youth today, one stands out as the 500-pound gorilla: prisons for kids, AKA public schools. While I have some arguments with some of his sub-points, John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education is a book every American should read… those that are able to, that is. *sigh*

Why, in the face of readily, easily, available source information, free courseware (here and elsewhere, as well), tutorials, literature and direct interaction with Wise Men is the electorate of our democratic republic ever more stupidly uninformed (as can be inferred from the candidates it votes for)?

I think I can assuredly assert that at least a major part of the reason is our nation’s prisons for kids, AKA public schools.

As Gatto asserts,

Exactly what John Dewey heralded at the onset of the twentieth century has indeed happened. Our once highly individualized nation has evolved into a centrally managed village, an agora made up of huge special interests which regard individual voices as irrelevant. The masquerade is managed by having collective agencies speak through particular human beings. Dewey said this would mark a great advance in human affairs, but the net effect is to reduce men and women to the status of functions in whatever subsystem they are placed. Public opinion is turned on and off in laboratory fashion. All this in the name of social efficiency, one of the two main goals of forced schooling.

Gatto’s book, linked above, is available in full on the web. I’d like to reorganize his website to make it easier to read, but if you stick with it (and do open links on the TOC page in new tabs–that’ll help) and read the whole thing, you’ll soon be foirwarding the link to everyone you know… especially those in your addressbook who are teachers.

Don’t expect politicians to read the thing. They don’t have the time or inclination to read things that would tell ’em how to actually fix what they’ve broken (and the record shows they do not have to fear an electorate holding them accountable for the child abuse they encourage–and in cases outright dictate–in the classrooms across our country). You’ll have to read it, spread the word and build a grassroots groundswell of “take your damned hands off my kids!”

*heh*


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Worst Photo Ever :-)

grad.jpg

Now, before you even ask, yes, there is a reason I blurred out my Wonder Woman’s face. And no, I’ll not tell you anything beyond one word: politics *spit*

*sigh*

It was a dark and stormy night… Really. Snowflakes as big around as a heifer’s eye were stampeding down on the Sunflower State when my Wonder Woman was striding across the stage (to her very common name’s mispronunciation by a cultural illiterate) to recieve her empty diploma case while having her “Academic Dean’s Honors” status (4.0 average) announced.

And so, 34 years after her BS, she added an MS (Ed Tech/MLS) to her curriculum vitae. One of a very few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy sitch for public education. Seriously. Sure, adding the masters degree was pretty much de rigeur once she left the classroom to start serving kids’ learning needs in the library (yes, bureaucrats are pushing for more ticket-punching there), but while I generally deride professional certification degrees–and especially in education–I saw some value in the courses and activities she was required to fulfill for this degree.

1. Few “education” classes. Yeh, there were education theory and practice classes included in the mix, each and every one filled to the brim with typical education school hokum. But given the emphasis of her degree, these were thankfully few and easily set aside after having those mini-tickets punched.

2. Most of the classes seriously addressed–and offered avenues for genuine creativity in–the need to make sure that using computers and the like in the library (and classroom–she still does classroom teaching, but now ALL the students are hers) are useful in learning, that measureable objectives in use of technology to aid learning are clear and that actual learning of useful information results, rather than kids just learning how to use computers; IOW, that kids learn how to use computers (and the like) to learn, to do independent research well, etc.

3. Oh, there was no neglect of the other, typical MLS topics, topics anyone who’s had to use a library for research appreciates when they have the aid of a librarian who has MLS training as opposed to someone who has not.

4. But of all the reasons I came–finally–to view this degree as a good thing for the schools here, one is a standout: having a lil more clout with the IT people to DEMAND (nicely, she’s always TOO nice, IMO) that the equipment be configured so that users can, well, USE it to do useful things (instead of just being configured for the convenience of IT folks, as has all too often been the case). *heh*

Now, that’s about all I’ll say here applying to her (new) degree except, “WTG, Wonder Woman!”


Other observations, lessons drawn from the ceremony/event may follow later. For now, enough to say, “Well done, Wonder Woman!”