Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A clever man said

A clever man said: "Now consider the nature of American education. The primary goal of high school and colleges is to get students to understand and integrate ideas and facts from a variety of disciplines in order to enrich their lives and prepare them for the real world. Like all teachers, I secretly hope that each of my eager students will assimilate what I tell them and, when I meet them later in life, profusely thank me for changing their world views. Why does this so rarely happen? The answer may lie, in part, in the distinction between confronting and being confronted by events. As a teacher, for example, I lecture, or psychologically confront, a large group of students with a bewildering number of facts, theories and stories. The role of the students is to be passive recipients of information. I confront them with information; they are confronted by it. In a twisted sort of way, a lecture is like a trauma for the audience. People are passively confronted by a bewildering amount of information over which they have very little control."

Yes, I often felt battered and beaten by teachers and lecturers. Leaving class, I just wanted to recuperate from the blows.

Dr. James Pennebaker is right. It's because you're done to. You have no control. You can't jump up in the midst of the lesson and shout "Please, please, be quiet for ten minutes until my brain starts feeling more normal."

Dr. Pennebaker's experiments have demonstrated that we like to be in control, that things will be seem to us to be less traumatic if we can control them. Or, if they are traumatic, we can talk about them and thereby reduce the shocks after the events.

We had a bit of a struggle to get Pennebaker's book called 'Opening Up'. It's full of delights and goodies. It's in demand by the distant library we borrowed it from. I don't wish to let it go.

"The primary goal of high school and colleges is to get students to understand and integrate ideas and facts from a variety of disciplines in order to enrich their lives and prepare them for the real world."

I'm guessing that Dr. Pennebaker has not encountered John Taylor Gatto who would disagree that schools and colleges do any such thing. He might, however, agree with the 'preparing them for real life' bit. It always amuses me that anyone would think that you can be prepared for real life by being locked away from real life.

But, there you are, a quotation from Dr. James Pennebaker, a very clever man indeed.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

We are all heroes

Logically speaking, I've always been a fan of Mr. Spock. You SciFi fans will know who I mean, of course - the pointy-eared, green-blooded Vulcan of Star Trek's starship Enterprise fame.

I was a fan of logic before I really knew what logic was. Now, it strikes me that logic could be the answer to many of the world's woes.

Think of all the trouble caused by Mr. Badman and his ever-changing round of statistics last year. Think of the - sigh - late, late nights and strained eyeballs as you pondered his nifty use of the median because it gave a better and more damning result than the usual measure the mean. His choices of rotten-looking half-quoted comments. His pushing of the glories of schools. His telling us that we over-ride our children's rights of decision-making by forcing them into home education (a stupendous case of the pot calling the kettle black since no one I've ever heard of has given a child a choice about going to school).

Yes, statistics can be mean and they often don't mean what they say but can be employed to say what you mean and support your position in a meaningless way.

"I'm just being honest about the fact that few of us have the time, energy, need, or capacity to carry out to carry out Socratic missions. This is not to say we don't need more people like Socrates (or the child who declared the emperor naked). As the last six chapters have illustrated, the world is rife with charlatans, cheats, flim-flam artists, incompetents, unscrupulous careerists, and fools in high places (often with big egos). In addition, the intellectual world is not immune to politics or fashion. At times, it stampedes and at times it circles the wagons. As a result, bad things happen. We've seen plenty of examples."

Other people stampeded and circled by the enemies of your personal state would have cracked, broken, bowed down, cried and given up, said it was inevitable, muttered that you can't fight city hall, drunk some bottles of wine and whinged or otherwise ignored what seemed to be an unstoppable charge of unscrupulous careerists and fools in high place (with their big egos).

Home educators did not. They rose magnificently to the challenge. They will never be fooled again; they'll always be alert, on the scent, on the mosey down often sweet-looking paths snuffling out the bad, the threats to their children's intellectual rights of self-ownership, the springing colonies of mould that tarnish liberty.

We are, indeed, then a lazy motley lot who don't care about their children. Don't alert them to the arrows piercing freedom. Don't bother with their minds' development. What a bunch of people doing nothing at all to ensure that their children get the best of the best of everything available of what their children desire!

"So we need our skeptics and iconoclasts, our unmaskers and our sticklers for the truth. We should build monuments to these whistle-blowers in the fields of knowledge and create an annual holiday in their honour. Above all, we should listen to what they say (without losing sight of how often our trusted sources also get things right)."

I'd like a statue in our honour. I would. Perhaps a replica of Rodin's The Thinker, and a whole bunch of thinkers all thinking in different poses. One group would be doing statistical analyses, another would be blogging truth, another would be researching and writing, another would be organising events...

It would be a big statue.

We're not likely to get one, though.

"But most of us are ill-equipped to walk in Socrates' sandals, and most of the rest don't want to.
As we learned from Socrates, unmasking false experts can be hazardous to one's health. It usually involves speaking truth to (or about) power, and power didn't become power by turning the other cheek. What happened to Socrates is extreme by today's Western democratic standards, but, with the exception of stand-up comics, serious iconoclasts and unmaskers have a harder life than the rest of us (unless they are extraordinarily gifted like Richard Feynman). As the old saw says you have to go along to get along, and they don't."

Socrates died, of course. He was done to death, but he had the last laugh because he was true to himself. He didn't go along to get along. He went on his own terms. As we did. Not that we went, but we lost a lot, we suffered a lot, we surrendered so many hours of time we could have spent more agreeably with our dear ones. We gave up our time and energy to fight and pitch battle against unscrupulous careerists and fools in high places who would rob our young of their rights to form their own opinions and be their own people.

"The fact that our unmaskers and debunkers risk all that is precisely what makes them heroes."

All quotations above were taken from 'The Undercover Philosopher: A guide to detecting, shams, lies and delusions' by Michael Philips.

"In fact, Socrates once said, "I know you won't believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others."

"No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race. "

Friday, 13 August 2010

What have I forgotten today?

Darn, I've forgotten to lock the front door and now the dog's lying in front of the inner door in front of the front door and I just can't move him because he's fast and twitching in his lovely doggy dream.

What else have I forgotten?

Well, I haven't forgotten to spend time with my youngsters. I went in to see them sleeping this morning before I uttered those awful words, time to get up, and I saw them as I saw them years ago when they were tiny. Funny how in sleep they are tiny again. I bent over them and gently kissed their beloved, blessed little heads. At least I didn't forget to do that.

I hugged H. That was something important, not forgotten, and I thanked him to go along with the hug too because he does stuff for me, and sometimes, just sometimes, I do forget to say 'thank you.' My manners, they're slipping. 'Please' was the first to go. Do you notice? No one says it anymore. A few foreign folk and elders and that's more or less it...

I think I nearly forgot to do some research, but no I did it, and read all of my favourite blog entries to catch up on what everyone is doing and admire their zest for home education and their energy doing things and thinking about things that sound so interesting.

I remembered to cradle my dear demented old darling mother's head, and tell her that everything would be all right as she looked up at me; she looks to me to fetch her shopping and pay her bills and generally take care of her. I remember to send thoughts of love to her, even when I'm not with her, and hope that, on some level, she is content and even happy.

I recall the need to stay positive, and how we all struggled last year and what a difference a few months make, but I remember how it felt to struggle and strain and stress and feel like the bottom and top were knocked off my personal egg space and how invaded and looted my life felt and how afraid I was for all the home edders starting out, and those going along and the other ones finishing, and I wondered if the finishing ones would be the last to know a precious and wondrous freedom of thought.

It is so precious, and so precarious. I hope I remember what it was like to face colonisation of our rights forever. I hope I always remember the frantic phone calls of a home ed. friend who was terrified by the unyielding and unrelenting power of the state. I remember the faith and hope and constant belief of home educators when faced with this terrible time. I recall their words, their sacrifices, their unceasing flow of doing and being in the face of a juggernaut intent on destruction.

I hope I never forget important things like those.

Now, where did I put that key?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

We treat children like objects

Newspapers are all out for sensational stories.

A mother, driven to distraction, wanting to keep her children safe and seeing the only way is to kill them for instance (the Riggi family). It makes a strange sort of sense for, if you're dead, as far as we know, you can't be hurt any more.

Here we have it from the mother's own lips: "Yesterday, it emerged she had previously told friends her children would ‘always come first."

They were her joy. She could see the unfolding of them, like precious, amazing flowers like the miracles they were. And they were under threat.


I can surmise only, of course. I think they died because their father proposed to send them to school. A prison. A place where they couldn't and wouldn't unfold. A place where their spirits would wither and shrink.


Perhaps he saw them as a way to punish her - someone he'd loved, someone he'd wanted to live with forever, made vows to, had babies with. When love turns to hatred the casualties are worse than your own pain sometimes. Often, the casualties are the happiness of the children.


Because we see children as objects. We talk about them as if they are not there. We decide to do things with them that they cannot change or object to.

Our society treats children like objects. It demands that we stick them into school. Even babies have to be schooled at nursery. Even children who are ill have to be tutored in hospital.

All for their own good of course.

Mrs. Riggi knew this, I suspect. She knew that her babies were become pawns in the fight between herself and her husband. She knew that he would hurt her through them, as so many men choose to do when they are animated by lust for revenge and emotional pain themselves. She knew that their lives would be hurt through the rending and clawing that she and her husband were going through.

So she took them away from all of it. She kept them safe.

It's not what other people would seek to do, but it is a solution. They will never be damaged by the hell that adults would plunge them into. They will never see the day when their parents are so scoured and embittered by each other's human reactions that the children find themselves unable to trust a living soul.

You can push people too far. You can degrade, humiliate, impoverish, ridicule, isolate, annihiliate, void, damage, hurt, claw, extinguish, break and crucify a human being one step too far.

And I think that is what happened to Mrs. Riggi.