Monday, December 18, 2006
Saturday, December 02, 2006
|Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence|
You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.
You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
Friday, October 20, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Sunday, October 15, 2006
And where to begin? I'm almost tempted to just run through each and every Senator and Congress person. Then hit the White House and the SUpreme Court, move on to various states, various social leaders, issues of education -- here I have a lot to work with, since my wife works in a public school, and I work in a charter school. A blessing and a curse all at once. So much to work with, so little time to work.
So much work to do, so little time to work. I need a patron. Then I could do the work I need to do. Anyone out there want to be a patron of the arts? Of philosophy? Of an up-and-coming vicious satire?
I've always thought the doom-sayers were full of it. But I've seen too much of late, I see the wheels of history turning in a way that they have turned before. The barbarians are at the gate, and they are being let in by those so weak they don't want to offend anyone. Even those who claim to be the strongest are weak beyond compare. The most terrifying difference is that the barbarians are also the most educated among us. On 9-11 we were attacked by a cadre of the college-educated. They were not the poorest, they were not the least among us, they were not even desperate -- they were highly educated, highly motivated, and highly religious. This is a religious war. Those who say otherwise are those who have never had religion in their lives, and have no idea what it is even about, who don't think religion has any real effect on peoples' lives. It is these people who will the death of us all. Well, them, and others like them -- people like Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-Il -- who only plan, like the dogs they are, to make cynical use of others' religious fervor.
I've been all over the place -- or have I? The satire seems to have begun a little earlier than I originally thought.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I have a 7th grade English class that has a student who is exactly this way (loud, rude, etc.). Recently I have been reading Aesop's fables to teach my students the very basics of storytelling. I read them one, then ask them 1) What happened? 2) Who is the protagonist? 3) Who is the antagonist? 4) What is the setting? 5) What could you learn from this fable? They do the work in class. I have done this several times already. Let me give 1) the statistics for the two days this student was in class, then give 2) the statistics for two days he was suspended.
1) Day 1:
Average grade = 24
Number of zeros (did not turn in work at all, out of 24 students) = 14
Average grade without counting zeros = 58
Average grade = 34
Number of zeros (did not turn in work at all) = 11
Average grade without counting zeros = 62
2) Day 3:
Average grade = 64
Number of zeros (did not turn in work at all) = 6
Average grade without counting zeros = 87
Average grade = 81
Number of zeros (did not turn in work at all) = 2
Average grade without counting zeros = 89
That's right, the average grades doubled with the absence of this student. More, this absent student has a friend in my class. Here are his grades, from day 1 to day 4: 42, 10, 100, 90. He went from a 10 one day to a 100 the next day. Am I really to think that he suddenly "got it" within a day? That's not an impossiblity. However, his highly disruptive friend was not there -- and his grades leapt up.
What does this mean? Should be just get rid of some students, count them as a lost cause? Perhaps not -- I'm not quite so pessimistic as that yet. However, this does indicate that one major problem with our schools is the very presence of such students. How to fix it? How does one fix bad parenting? Or poor societal influences? However, we can reintroduce actual discipline to our classes (I have discovered that the only students detentions work on are those who don't get them -- those who do, their own parents don't want them around, and those parents are happy to get rid of them an hour earlier). And we need to have strong discipline from early on. Teach manners, ethics, posture -- things we have abandoned long ago. These will lay the foundation of good behavior later. Will this mean there will be no bad eggs? Of course not. But there will be many, many fewer -- and those we do still have, we can remove from the classrooms more easily and put them in classrooms together, away from the rest of the students, so the rest of the students have a chance to become educated.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I'm reading one of Chretien de Troyes' Arthurian romances, "Eric and Enide," and I ran across the above line. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife or goods." Indeed, without the sin of covetousness, there would be no need for "Thou shalt not steal" nor "Thou shalt not committ adultery." I would venture to guess that there would also be no need for "Thou shalt not murder" either. When one covets what others have, one wants precisely that thing that they have, and not just something like it. Coveting results in theft, adultery, and even murder, as well as resentment, which incidentally gives rise to redistributionary economic and political theories, giving rise to taxation, the welfare state, and the various forms of socialism, especially communism. When one covets, one can even learn to hate the good for being good.
It seems to me that there is a difference between coveting -- wanting precisely what others have -- and . . . what is the word? ambition, perhaps? still, this word seems insuffient -- wanting the kinds of things others have. If one wants the kinds of things others have, one is compelled to work hard to get those things. This attitude is the very basis of capitalism. But if one wants the exact thing someone else has, one is guilty of the sin of covetousness, which leads to theft, adultery, and any number of other sins. We have typically failed to differentiate between these two attitudes toward what others have. That too, it seems to me, is a great sin as well -- for then we cannot tell the difference between good and evil.
Monday, October 02, 2006
This is not to say that I'm not enjoying myself teaching. I am teaching The Iliad to my honors 8th grade class and The Odyssey to my honors 9th grade class. I am reading them out loud to my classes because the only version of The Iliad available at the school is this godawful prose translation, and I want my students to get the best translation of it, so they can get closest to what it is like in the Greek. More, I am reading them out loud so my students can experience these works as they were originally experienced (or at least close to that, since I'm not about to sing them, and nobody would want me to). Finally, I am doing it to develop their listening skills. We don't teach our children to listen.
I am also incredulous at the level of ignorance I have had to face. I knew, with experience teaching Freshman composition, that there was almost know knowledge of grammar -- or much of anything, for that matter. But still, I am shocked anew at how little students learn in school. More, I am shocked at how little anyone expects of them. I have honors English students who actually asked me "what's a predicate?" and "what's a subject?" I've decided these children will not leave my class not knowing grammar. I have told them I will give them grammar quizzes at least every week until they all make a hundred. And I am talking about having them pick out the subject, the predicate, the nouns, the articles, the verbs, the adjectives, the adverbs, the direct objects, and the indirect objects -- of simple sentences. My honors students (8,9,10th grades) have done poorly with me, and it is because I am having to teach them about a decade's worth of information that they should have known by now.
But this is nothing compared to 7th grade, where I cannot teach anything at all because I have to get them under control first. I only received these 7th graders a few weeks ago, after 9 were siphoned off from another class. I have had to come up with a set of extremely strict rules, ranging from the complete abolition of speaking in the class unless I call upon them to making them have good posture and have a zero-tolerance policy for not bringing paper and pen to class. I had to give out 5 detentions today for people not bringing back signed copies of the class rules -- that's right, only 4 brought their back, and a few said they had lost theirs. I told them they had better find them, and that they would get detention every day until I received those papers back, signed.
All of which made me realize that if I ran my own charter school, there would be a few things that I would absolutely enforce in the school:
1. A true physical education, centered around gymnastics
2. A requirement for all students to learn good posture
3. A musical education (my best students are all in band)
4. A poetic education, where poetry is the core around which all reading is based. I am sick of having to re-teach the love of poetry after teachers have taught students to hate it.
5. Repetition and memorization -- which, according to both traditional educational theories and modern brain science, is the only way the brain learns anything
6. A language curriculum based on what we have learned from linguistics -- meaning, students will be taught foreign languages when they can learn them, between the ages of 5 and 10.
7. An ethical education, where students are taught to take responsibility for their own actions and not whine over every little thing.
8. A reintroduction of classes such as shop and automechanics, as well as plumbing and electronics, since not every child is an academic or will go to college.
9. A high standard of excellence -- since this is what is lacking in most schools anymore.
The most important thing that needs to be done with schools is the abolition of Rousseau and all his thoughts about everything from education. If there was one person who was completely wrong about everything, it was Rousseau. Even Marx got a few things right. But it is appalling that educational theories exist that are based on the theories of a man who said the best thing that happened in the world was the destruction of the Great Library, since it destroyed so much accumulated knowledge.
Friday, August 18, 2006
It is all the fun of game theory combined with the excitement of literature. :-) I, at least, find them fun and exciting, anyway.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Dear Dr. Camplin,
Thank you for your email. I won't be able to addressall the questions that you raise, but I can try. I don't think that the square root speedup in Grover's quantum algorithm is related to Kauffman's formula. The square rootin quantum search arises out of the wave nature of quantum mechanics, while that in Kauffman's formula arises from combanitorics, as your detailed discussion indicates. There might be some connection, though. Ask Stuart! I hope that you enjoyed Programming the Universe.Good luck with your inquiries.
I sent the question to Kauffman, with this e-mail. I hope to hear from him.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Friday, June 30, 2006
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The No of truth:
The "senses nowhere lead to truth" (TL, 80) - how can they when our bodies deceive us about our own bodies, masking and thus making us forget about "the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers!" (TL, 80)?
Does truth exist outside of man? No. Truth was invented so we can live together socially (TL, 81). Truth: "a uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth" (81).
Are words truth? No. "What is a word? It is the copy in sound of a nerve stimulus" (81). The designation of certain sounds to certain objects or, more accurately, concepts, is arbitrary (82), that is: "truth alone" is not "the deciding factor in the genesis of language" (81).
"With words, it is never a question of truth" (82).
"The thing in itself" - a Kantian concept - is this the truth? "The "thing in itself" (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for" (82). Words, therefore, do not correspond to "the thing in itself," and "the thing in itself" is itself a pointless pursuit - why pursue what, by definition, you cannot know? And what of the "would be"? Does not this "would be" require an "if"? If, perhaps, there were such a thing as "pure truth?" In any case, "pure truth" is something Nietzsche sees as "something not in the least worth striving for" since words do not correspond to pure truth, to "the thing in itself." The "genesis of language" is "not derived from the essence of things" (83).
Why? "We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things – metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities" (83). What is a metaphor? Saying one thing is another. Words, therefore, themselves are metaphors. What are words for? Particulars? No. Words are for concepts. We cannot name each particular, unique object. Therefore, words "correspond in no way to the original entities." More: "a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases" (83). And what is a concept? "We obtain a concept, as we do the form, by overlooking what is individual and actual; whereas nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts" (83). Concepts are created in the human mind: "our contrast between individual and species is something anthropomorphic and does not originate in the essence of things" (83). "Concepts, forms, etc. is based upon" "an equation between things that are unequal" (94). There is no perfect "original model" of things, like leaves "according to which all the leaves were perhaps woven, sketched, measured, colored, curled, and painted" (83), presumably be a deity – the only thing capable of such weaving, sketching, etc. This is a truth that does not need a god. This is a truth found only in the mind of man. The "essence of things" does not appear "in the empirical world," (86), but only in the mind of man, since artists "reveal more about the essence of things than does the empirical world" (87). It is we who bring "truth" into existence (87-88), "truth" as "the essence of things."
So, "What then is truth?" (84). What, indeed, is the Yes of truth? Truth is:
A moveable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are not considered as metal and no longer as coins (TL, 84)
That is: "to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors" (84), which means that it "is the duty to lie according to fixed convention" (84). We have forgotten that these are lies, and that is how we have arrived at our "sense of truth" (84). Truth means using things "in the designated manner" (85). Truth, therefore, is mere convention - the way things have been done. Truth, therefore, is not permanent. "New truths" are possible - new truths are merely new ways to do things. But these are all"anthropomorphic truths," which means we have designated concepts with words, and then act surprised when we find something else that fits that category, and so declare the concept we originally created as "truth" (85).
Is all truth anthropomorphic? What about the "true in itself"? Is there something "really and universally valid apart from man" (85)? By forgetting metaphors and being particular – "this sun, this window, this table" – do we come to "truth in itself" (86). Knowing "truth in itself" is knowing the world as a place, not of concepts and forms, but as a place of unique particularities.
So, can we get away from anthropomorphic truths and get at the "true in itself"? "The drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive" (88), and the mind "seeks a new realm and another channel for its activity, and it finds this in myth and in art generally" (89). Indeed, "it is only by means of the rigid and regular web of concepts that the waking man clearly sees that he is awake; and it is precisely because of this that he sometimes thinks that he must be dreaming when this web of concepts is torn apart by art" (89). We prefer our anthropomorphic truths to the "true in itself," they create comfort, convince us we are awake. It reflects the regular, the rational - and it is in fact the rational man who wants to use the usual metaphors. But it is the intuitive man, the "liberated intellect" who creates new concepts and shatters (by dividing up) old ones (90). This is the artist, the creator of new metaphors, the creators of untruths, without which "there can be neither society nor culture" (92).
"His nose wrinkled into a prune" creates a new concept – one that includes human noses and prunes – and therefore creates a new truth. It is also a particular – a particular nose, "his," that is associated with this thing, "prune," to make his nose have a particular look – thus making it unique and, therefore, a "truth in itself" as well as a "new truth." The new metaphor creates a new concept (new grouping of objects) that results in a "new truth" in the anthropomorphic sense, while bringing us closer to "truth in itself" by unveiling the particularity of the wrinkled object. How does it do this? Because art admits it is a lie: "Artistic pleasure is the greatest kind of pleasure, because it speaks the truth quite generally in the form of lies" (96), and therefore comes closest to revealing itself as truth. "Art works through deception – yet one which does not deceive us" (96). Why? Because "art treats illusion as illusion; therefore it does not wish to deceive; it is true" (96). "His nose wrinkled into a prune" – an artistic statement, and therefore closer to truth than anything else in this protokoll. Why? "Truth cannot be recognized. Everything which is knowable is illusion. The significance of art as truthful illusion" (97). A redundant statement: "truthful illusion": since truth is identified by Nietzsche as "illusion" (93). Thus art is an "illusionful illusion," and, as such, like love and religion, one of "the truest things in this world" (95).
This then leads us to Ecce Homo, to the autobiography of an intellect. In keeping with the theme of truth, I thought we should see how Nietzsche’s ideas on truth have evolved. A lifetime of philosophizing has passed, and this immoralist, this Anti-Christ, has come to proclaim that "Overthrowing idols (my word for "ideals") – that come closer to being part of my craft (EH, 218, 4). (I give first the pg. of the Kaufmann translation, then the Hollingdale) And what are ideals (idols)? "What is called idol on the title page is simply what has been called truth so far. Twilight of the Idols – that is: the old truth is approaching its end" (EH, 314, 86). He shows the old truths – the anthropomorphic truths – are what have been called "ideals." He reiterates that the world of ideals, what he is now calling the "true world," or what philosophers past have considered the true world, is really the invented world (218, 4), the world invented by man, through concepts. Only Nietzsche’s words have now become stronger: "The lie of the ideal has so far been the curse of reality" (218, 4). And not only this. "Error (-belief in the ideal-) is not blindness, error is cowardice . . . Every acquisition, every step forward in knowledge is the result of courage, of severity towards oneself, of cleanliness with respect to oneself . . . I do not refute ideals, I merely draw on gloves in their presence . . ." (218, 4). So, error is "belief in the ideal," and, not only that, but cowardice as well. Naturally, courage is the opposite of cowardice, meaning courage is disbelief in the ideal. For Nietzsche, only those who do not believe the lie of the ages – truth, ideals, "the thing in itself" – are courageous. He sees this "truthfulness as the highest virtue; this means the opposite of the cowardice of the "idealist" who flees from reality" (328, 98). "Cowardice in face or reality" is "cowardice in face of truth" (320, 91). But Nietzsche here, as in "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense," refuses to be dogmatic – that has not changed. This is why, despite his saying those who do not believe in ideals have courage, Nietzsche says "I do not refute ideals, I merely draw on gloves in their presence . . ." Why gloves? He does not want to be soiled by the filth of "ideals." This, despite his acknowledgment that "ideals" had been "the real fatality in my life, the superfluous and stupid in it, something out of which there is no compensation, no counter-reckoning" (241, 25) – ideals have been difficult for Nietzsche himself to rid himself of – they are "the fundamental irrationality of my life" (242, 26). Looking back, Nietzsche realizes that it is difficult to shed ones life of the lies one is raised with. "We all fear truth" (246, 29), undoubtedly because we fear change – and we fear the world unmasked of truth. At best, ideals have been frozen by Nietzsche, if not truly refuted (284, 60). He hopes he has gotten us to see, as he has, that "all idealism is untruthfulness in the face of necessity" (258, 38), while acknowledging that most are not capable of seeing: "‘where you see ideal things, I see – human, alas all too human things!’" (281, 59). Truths remain mobile. There are "my truths" (259, 39), and Zarathustra "creates truth" (307, 76). And if truths can be created, they are impermanent, changeable, "a moving army of metaphors." While the "true in itself" comes "upon every image (metaphor)," while "words and wordchests of all existence spring open to you; all existence here wants to become words" (301, 73) because words, concepts, are more comforting than "truth in itself." Only when we realize that "Nothing that is can be subtracted, nothing is dispensable" will we be able to realize that "precisely by this measure of strength does one approach truth" (272, 50) – again, it is the particular that is the "true in itself," not words, not concepts, which require that something be subtracted in order to be conceptualized, in order to be given a sound tag – that is, a word to represent it. And the more conceptual – the further from reality – something is, while claiming to be truth (unlike art, which admits to being a lie), "Those things which mankind has hitherto pondered seriously are not even realities, merely imaginings, more strictly speaking lies from the bad instincts of the sick, in the profoundest sense injurious natures – all the concepts ‘God,’ ‘soul,’ ‘virtue,’ ‘sin,’ ‘the Beyond,’ ‘truth,’ ‘eternal life’" (256, 36). Why do we do this? "The concept of the "beyond," the "true world" [was] invented in order to devalue the only world there is – in order to retain no goal, no reason, no task for our earthly reality" (334, 103). In fact, "Twice, at precisely the moment when with tremendous courage and self-overcoming an honest, an unambiguous, a completely scientific mode of thinking had been attained, the Germans have known how to discover secret paths to the old ‘ideal’, reconciliations between truth and ‘ideal’, at bottom formulas to a right to reject science, for a right to lie" (320, 91). So now science, in addition to art, is a path toward the truth, since the "right to reject science" is seen here as the "right to lie." The "true in itself" now seen as achievable through both art and science, through the breaking apart of the old metaphors and the realization of the particularity of the world, that the world is first perceived, then conceived, and not vice versa. This is now Nietzsche "was the first to discover the truth by being the first to experience lies as lies" (326, 96). This is how Nietzsche can say " – the truth speaks out of me. – But my truth is terrible; for so far one has called lies truth" (326, 96), and he has shown us the lies we live by.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Chaos theory shows that growing systems are nonlinear systems that exist on the borderlands between order and disorder. Complete order – and complete disorder – both are definitions of being dead. A salt crystal is an example of complete order – a gas in a closed container at a constant temperature and pressure is an example of complete disorder. Living things exist on the edge of order and disorder, the realm of chaos, wherein lies the principle of growth. Living things are systems, and systems have order and disorder – the heart is a system (that makes up part of the circulatory system, which makes up part of the organismal system) that can have neither completely orderly beats, nor completely random beats, but must have beats that are mostly orderly, with some disorder, which means the beats are fractal. Cell membranes are orderly and disorderly – they are liquid crystals, fluid yet solid, as the proteins and phospholipids slip past each other. All living things live on the principle of growth, live in the realm of order and disorder, live lives far from equilibrium.
If the principle of growth and stability for life is in the nonlinear, far-from-equilibrium realm between order and disorder, this would also be the principle of growth and stability for systems of living things as well, including superorganismal systems such as ecosystems, economies, and governments. Indeed, studies of ecosystems show they are not stable – at some sort of equilibrium – but are in fact always in flux, always changing, in time. And the way they change follow power laws – with many small changes, a few medium-sized changes, and very few large changes, as we see in avalanches of sand when we pile sand up one grain at a time. They are systems that are far-from-equilibrium, always growing, in a state of orderly disorder – disorderly order. If something were to happen to make any given ecosystem stop changing – which is to say, stop growing – that ecosystem would die off. Ecosystems are stable only so long as they are constantly in flux, constantly changing. Thus, they cease being the ecosystem they are within the next moment, forever changing – deserts move in and recede, forests expand and recede, grasslands too expand and recede. Meandering rivers cut off oxbow lakes where new kinds of fish evolve – to be introduced to the river when the meandering river merges again with the oxbow lake. There the new fish compete with the other fish in the river, pushing some to evolve, others to go extinct, others into other habitats. They change as the river changes, flowing into new species with the flow of time and the flow of the very river in which they live.
A stable government is thus an unstable government. Any government that constantly changes – every two or four or six years, in towns, counties, states, and nations – is a government that is stabilized by this instability. Who is in charge in such a government as that found in the United States? The President, who is there four or eight years at most? The Congress, made up of two Houses in conflict with each other, whose members could be there only two or six years, but who may be there any number of years from two years to two decades? The Court system, which can overturn even what these two branches of government pass? Or how about the states, which are given (according to the Constitution, even if this is not true in practice anymore) all the power not explicitly given to the federal government? Or is it the people, who elect and defeat people who run for office at the town/city, county, state, and federal levels? All of them, and none. The system is kept destabilized by the very process of election – stabilized by varying degrees of continuity (two and four and six or more years, as the case may be). There are power laws of continuity that prevent power from existing in one set of hands for long, if at all. The most stable political systems are indeed those based on the principles f power laws – many people have most of the power and have the most cumulative effect, middle-sized entities have less power and less cumulative effect, and the federal government has the least power of all, and the least effect on us. Do you not like what the President does? He is gone in four years (if he is too bad, in less, with impeachment). Do you like him too much? Too bad – we cannot reelect him more than once. We have prevented ourselves from electing our own dictators. And if the President tries to take on too much, to take too much power, the Congress will block him, refuse to pass what he wants. And if the Congress tries to take on too much, to take too much power, the President will veto them. And if they both agree to too much, the Supreme Court can refuse to let it remain law. We have them fight each other, trying to take power from each other, so they cannot harm the people, who prosper and grow. But the people only prosper and grow so long as the government is in a state of stable instability – as is found in republican (not democratic, where the power is placed in the hands of one group – and we get the tyranny of the majority) governments. Stable governments are based on power law distributions of power.
Stable governments create instability – dictators create instability in their own countries, among their own people, let alone among the peoples in other countries. Often this is done precisely to create the stability inherently missing in dictatorial governments. Whether the dictator is ideological or nonideological, the results are the same – they try to prevent change (change means a change from their rule, after all), which stagnates, creating equilibrium – which is to say, death. We have seen the cultures of death, the governments of death, in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, in the series of dictators in the Soviet Union, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, in Pinochet’s Chile (though there is something to recommend in his economic policies), in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the dictatorship of minority rule in South Africa during Apartheid, and in and with the various kings and queens throughout history. They attempt to override and overcome natural power laws through the use of force – many large avalanches are created through the use of a smashing fist. The democratic republics of the West and increasingly throughout the rest of the world have not always had the cleanest of hands – but those hands were only spotted with blood compared to other times and other countries where dictatorships (no matter what the name) ruled, when rulers’ hands dripped with blood. While France, for example, has not had the best of reputations in the twentieth century in its former colonies, especially as they pulled out of them, at least the French people have been safe from the French government – something that was not the case under their kings, the government of the Terror, or under Napoleon. Only as France has become more and more politically destabilized in their having now a representative government – and are even more destabilized by becoming part of the European Union – has France become safe for the French people. Thus has France become increasingly stable.
Economies too work on the same principle as ecosystems and government – the connection between economy and ecosystem should be readily apparent in the common root of the two words. Economies that are designed to be stable – the planned economies of socialist and communist governments, and even the over-regulated economies under interventionism and Keynesianism – are themselves highly unstable. Socialist countries around the world had and have high levels of unemployment. Communist countries starved their citizens because they could not produce enough food, or properly distribute it – during the 1980's the Soviet Union had to spend 25% of its GDP on the military to keep up with the Unites States spending only 2% of its GDP on the military. Welfare states slow economic growth in order to support the unemployed – those made unemployed by the slow growth created by the welfare state. Subsidies keep unprofitable businesses around at the expense of the profitable businesses – Britain famously subsidized looms when the textile industry became automated, keeping unprofitable looms around at the expense of the textile industries, which could have caused the economy to boom even more than it did, absorbing all of those temporarily displaced by the economic changes (and those who are displaced by change are always only temporarily displaced, for the growing economy rapidly takes them in). Every instance of a government anywhere trying to control the country’s economy has resulted in at best slow growth, at worst starvation and complete economic collapse. Any attempt to make an economy remain at equilibrium has had the same result – death.
The principles of a growing economy are the same as the principles of growth of ecosystems, organisms, and everything else in the universe – the economy must be on the edge of order and disorder, in the far-from-equilibrium state where growth occurs. Growth must be based on power law distributions. The economy must be allowed to be unstable so that it may be stable – stable enough to grow and adapt and change over time. It must have the rules of voluntary cooperation for it to have life (the imposition of force – which is what governments do – brings entropy-as-equilibrium to the system, making it act no longer as a system), for it to grow and to produce and reproduce, to create, recreate, and procreate – for these are the elements of growth. Economies, like ecosystems and organisms, must be heterarchies – both hierarchical and decentralized, full of nonlinear feedback loops. No one can control an economy any more than any one cell controls an organism (and, when one cell tries to take over an organism, it is called cancer – which results in the death of the organism). Even the brain dies without a working heart or liver. Yet, there is a hierarchy at work to create a living organism. The same is true too of economies – which are constituted not only of individuals, but, in a power law distribution, of families making decisions together, and each church making decisions as a church, communities making decisions as communities, companies and corporations making decisions as companies and corporations, and even governments making decisions as governments (though it is best when their decisions are to remain out of the economy as much as possible, since they are more apt to try to control it than participate in it – the only possible exceptions being doing things like building roads, which are more difficult to do privately, though one should note how, in a power law distribution, it is local governments that build and maintain more roads than do state governments, which build and maintain more roads than does the federal government, and which should all be done using only the "user fee" known as gasoline taxes, which I would argue should also only be used for roads). In such an economy, it is not the individual, the family, or the various groups and entities that are in charge of the economy – in fact, no one is in charge, or even for the most part has much of an effect on the economy as a whole, any more than does any individual member of Congress. Yet each individual and entity is necessary – and an individual or entity can have a large influence on the economy, with the introduction of a new technology, etc. Two bicycle mechanics had a massive influence on the world’s economy when they invented the airplane – yet think too of all the other bicycle mechanics who simply repaired bicycles, making tiny contributions to the economy that were, as part of the accumulation of economic activity, important, but only minimally important. But such innovations by bicycle mechanics could not be planned or directed by central command – they arose because they were part of a system that, because it existed at a far-from-equilibrium state, could be influenced by butterfly effects. Only in such an economy could a pair of butterflies like the Wright brothers truly take flight.
If we want to truly have stable governments, societies, and economies, we have to have governments, societies, and economies that are inherently unstable, far-from-equilibrium, on the edge of order and disorder, wherein lies the principle of growth. For it is growth – and growth itself is imbedded in time, and changes and evolves – that is the source of stability in the world. A growing organism is most stable, healthiest, most adaptable. The same is true of ecosystems, economies, and societies. When an organism, an ecosystem, an economy, or a society stops growing, it becomes unstable, unhealthy, and may even die. We know what the principle of growth now is – a growing system is a far-from-equilibrium system on the borderlands of order and disorder – meaning, we now know what we must do to have a growing economy and a stable government wherein the people are safe from that government, other governments, and even those citizens which wish to do others harm. Only to the extent than an economy and a government are both hierarchical and decentralized, and constantly changing in such a way that stability is created (by good rules, not by either ironclad laws or anarchy), can they lead to safe and prosperous societies and citizens.
Monday, June 05, 2006
People who mistake profit for theft are thieves themselves. They cannot tell the difference between good and bad. So, what is profit? The gain from any transaction. Any gain resulting in mental, physical, or spiritual betterment. From the Latin prÇfectus, an advance, from prÇ-, forward, and facere, to make. Thus, profit makes us advance. Profit is growth – it is life. Thus, those who make the most profits are doing the most good for the world.
Thus, we need to stop taxing profits, including capital gains, as this actually punishes profit-making, and thus punishes good. All income taxes should be abolished, stricken from the Constitution, and replaced with a very small federal sales tax. If the purpose of taxation is to generate revenues, this will generate the most revenues without punishing people for doing well. It is likely to generate the most revenues overall of any form of taxation, and will do so while allowing for increased economic growth, once making money is no longer punished. And it has the added bonus, for those who hate profits and thus want the rich to pay more in taxes, that the wealthy will pay more in taxes, since they in fact spend more money. But if you do decide to support such an idea, please note that it is important that we rid ourselves of the income tax first – otherwise, we will be in danger of burdening everyone with both kinds of taxes.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
I think back to when Clinton and the Republican Congress shut down most of the government over the budget, and all the non-essential workers were sent home. Let me ask you: what corporation out there has non-essential workers? Anyone the government could send home, they should send home – permanently. There should never be such a thing as a non-essential worker in either business or government. Their presence is the very definition of government waste. If you truly want to cut the budget, get rid of all these wastes of time, space, and money. It is time we modernized and computerized more and relied less on people who work an hour’s worth of work for eight hour’s pay.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Dear Dr. Lloyd,
Allow me first to introduce myself, so you can understand the spirit of the questions I wish to ask you, and the level of ignorance it necessarily comes out of. To begin with, I am not a mathematician, so please forgive whatever mathematical errors I will necessarily make – though the question is necessarily a mathematical one. I am an interdisciplinary scholar, with a background in the humanities (philosophy, literature and the arts), English, molecular biology and chemistry (Ph.D., M.A., and B.S. major and minor, respectively). I am particularly interested in complexity, systems, and information theories – and it is from these that I as my question.
In your book Programming the Universe, you describe the universe as communicating and registering binary bits. You also say that "the number of quantum searches required to locate what you’re looking for is the square root of the number of places in which it could be" (143). When I read this, it made me think of the following calculations I did for my dissertation, Evolutionary Aesthetics, taken from Stuart Kauffman’s formulae for calculating possible states of complex systems. Is this square root you mention in any way related to the calculation for number of potential strange attractors? If so, we may have a quantum mechanical description of the origins of strange attractors. Please let me know what you think of the following calculations, and the aforementioned idea. Am I completely off base here?
I have yet to hear from him (but you never know), but I do wonder if I am onto something here. Any thoughts?
People who laugh with each other about each other do not want to kill each other. They do not even want to hate each other. Laughter dissolves meaning in a meaningful way, so we do not take each other so seriously we see each other as a threat. And when people do not take us seriously this way, we should not be offended – they are learning to love us through laughter. But only if we laugh along with them. If we allow people to laugh at us – and get offended – we in turn show them that we are contemptible, that we do not or can not have a sense of humor. If we are perceived not to have a sense of humor, we will be taken seriously – and if we are taken seriously, we are in danger of being hated.
However, we want people to laugh with us, not at us. All laughter is aimed at folly – when we are acting good, we cannot be laughed at. Self-deprecating humor fits here too: people laugh with us as we laugh at our own shortcomings. Good people see the world as serious, but funny (as Aristotle says, serious people don’t take much seriously – and know when to take something seriously). Good people laugh the most. Beware of the humorless – even they know they are not good people.
Let me make a serious suggestion. How do we recognize a bad law? Can it be laughed at? Can we make a joke about it? If so, it is a bad law. Who jokes about the laws against murder, theft, or rape? You cannot vilify the good. You can only ridicule the ridiculous.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Coercion – all force – is unethical. Sometimes force is needed to prevent greater injustices, but even if we need a small injustice to prevent a greater injustice, this does not prevent the small injustice from being unjust. Thus, corruption always occurs in governments, police forces, or active military. Practicing injustice by punishing injustice leads people to practice injustice. This is clear when we realize what the practical actions of a just police or military force really is. While the presence of police or military force as a threat of force may prevent some injustices, only rarely are they around to do so. Usually, they react to injustices already performed. Punishing injustices already performed is revenge, and revenge is the returning of evil for evil. This creates a corrupt culture, especially among those with weak characters, as a culture of revenge is a culture of injustice. We create police and military forces to exact revenge for us so the culture at large can be free of the corrupting influence of revenge. This also allows us to act indignant whenever members of the police or military act unjustly – as we should, even though by putting them in cultures of revenge, we make them prone to acting unjust. Thus, we sacrifice our police and military personnel to reduce corruption in the culture at large.
If we cannot eliminate corruption in a revenge culture, can we at least reduce corruption? The worst kind of good is one that is good because it is better than some other evil. A bad kind of vengeance is one where a greater evil is given for a lesser evil. A better kind is one where an equal evil is given for an evil. But we do not want a police or military with members as evil as those they fight. If we want better, less corrupt protectors, we need laws where, if revenge is needed, the revenge is a lesser evil than the crime. To do this, of course, requires we identify "evil," including levels of "evil," so we do not make the mistake of using a greater evil against a lesser one. A historical example is Prohibition, when buying and selling alcohol could get one put in prison. This was a greater evil (putting someone in prison) for a lesser evil (buying and selling alcohol), and most would now say we used an evil against something that was and is at least morally neutral, since drunkenness and alcoholism are bad (these being actions), though the social benefits of drinking and the health benefits of at least red wine are good. Prohibition gave us dramatic increases in all crimes, especially murder, organized crime, and police corruption. When we repealed prohibition, all the crime rates dramatically decreased. This is why it is important to identify what is good and what is bad, and what is evil, so we can avoid corrupting our protectors.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
And the notion of "cuts" in Washington is a complete joke. Is it too much to ask that there be true cuts, rather than mere cuts in the rate of growth? When I say cut, I mean that less money is actually spent this year than was spent last year. Is this too much to ask?
If we are going to get true cuts, there are a few things we can do. First, we need a sunset law for all extra-Constitutional laws – for every law passed by the federal government. The Constitution itself would not be under this law (and, indeed, I would recommend making it a part of the Constitution as an Amendment). This would force legislators to have to approve of each and every law every so often (I would recommend every ten years), which would cut out the deadwood and reinforce those laws that are in fact worth keeping. If a law is worth having, it is worth voting for again. This would allow us to get rid of laws that may have had their time and place, but which are no longer relevant to current circumstances.
Second, we need to have earmark reforms. Not everyone needs to have a piece of every single piece of pie passed by Congress. Third, we need rider reform – or, in fact, abolishment. If a law cannot stand on its own, it should not be passed. And that leads me to the final reform – reduction of the size of bills. There need to be fewer laws passed as packages. Again, if a law is worth having, it should be able to stand on its own.
These are the only things that will get Washington spending in check. If the Republicans are serious about reducing the size of government – and the past five years have created very strong doubts in my mind – then you will work to enact reforms such as these. Otherwise, if the government is going to grow more and more anyway, we might as well elect the Democrats – they are at least honest about wanting to increase the size of government.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Because English is not the national language, we have many legal documents in both English and Spanish, since many recent immigrants are Spanish-speakers. As a result, these recent immigrants do not have to learn English. They can continue to speak English and still participate in civil life, including vote. Does this actually benefit those Spanish-speakers?
Many argue that it allows these people to vote. I find this doubtful, since people’s names are not either English or Spanish. English speakers do not refer to my fiancee as Ms. Flowers – they call her Ms. Flores. So what is actually going on? One of the benefits of English-only would be that people would again be encouraged to learn English, which would help them to be more easily and rapidly integrated into American society. This would also allow them to have more and better economic opportunities. Even those who do not think people should have to learn English to be either a resident or citizen know this – which only makes me wonder why they want these Sanish-speakers to be deprived of the kinds of economic opportunities they can only get through knowing English.
If we acknowledge that many of those who are in favor of English-only (except, as it turns out, the president of the main group that is pushing for English-only, whose native language is Spanish and who also speaks several other languages) have racist motives, then we have to acknowledge too that those who want people to remain in ignorance at the very least do not have Spanish-only-speakers’ best interests at heart. This is assuming that this latter group are not themselves racists – I suspect they are, only far more clever ones than those English-only supporters who happen to be racist.
If someone really wants immigrants to do well, they would want them to learn English so they can have access to as full a range of economic opportunities as possible. One way of doing this is by making English the official language of the United States. And if someone really wants all our students to do well, they will want those students to learn foreign languages when they can learn them — starting in Kindergarten. There is no conflict between these two positions. We should support the learning of English by all people who come to the United States, and at the same time, we need to be teaching our students as many foreign languages as possible. There is certainly no reason why students should not be learning to speak, read, and write in both English and Spanish in their first few years of school. All linguistic research shows that children can learn languages best at this age, that they do not get confused, and that it only benefits their thinking and future education.
The official position of the U.S. government should then be that English is the official language of the U.S., and that if one wants to be a resident or, especially, a citizen, one has to know English. But the official position of the U.S. government should also be that all students learn at least one foreign language – so that all students will have more economic opportunities in this increasingly globalized world.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
The disciplinary approach to teaching is breaking down. Students are siphoned into what they enjoy, and these same students then ignore everything else, complaining about anything that intrudes on the one thing they want to learn. This kind of hyper-specialized education is fine if all you want to produce is worker bees. But if you want creative thinkers, those who can come up with new things – the kind of people who will make more wealth and produce more value in and for the world – then disciplinary-only educations will not work.
What we need is a truly interdisciplinary education. We need interdisciplinary thinking, interdisciplinary classes, and interdisciplinary education. Only an interdisciplinary education will allow students to see how disciplines are interrelated. Only an interdisciplinary education will create interdisciplinary thinkers who can create more value in and for the world. We need chemists who love Bach, biologists who love Goethe, businessmen who love Aristotle. We need philosophers who love biology and business and artists who love physics and economics. Only with an interdisciplinary education will we have people who think this way, across the disciplines, through the disciplines, complexifying their thought so new things can be thought. What would the world be like if our politicians actually knew and understood the economics of Ludwig von Mises, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, the plays of Sophocles, the linguistics of Chomski, the novels of Kafka, chaos theory, systems theory, evolutionary theory, the poetry of William Blake, and ancient Greek history? Could interdisciplinary thinking finally give the country great statesmen instead of demagogues? Could an interdisciplinary education create more ethical businessmen, since they would understand that there is not a conflict between ethical action and profit? Imagine a businessman who knew the value of a dollar, of his workers, and of a van Gogh. Imagine what an interdisciplinary education would do for teachers. Wouldn’t it make them – teachers? How can teachers teach when they know nothing? Teachers more than anyone should be interdisciplinary. They should know and understand the reason for having an interdisciplinary education, to understand and know the connections between the disciplines, and be able to help their students understand the importance of all the disciplines for understanding any one of the disciplines.
What is interdisciplinarity? It is not multidisciplinarity, where we have just a hodgepodge. It is not having students doing writing exercises in math class, or quadratic equations in literature class. That does not show students how the disciplines are interrelated. To have an interdisciplinary education, students need to know the value of each of the disciplines, how they relate to each other, the history of the disciplines. Students do not know how modern science arose out of natural philosophy and religion. Misunderstandings of ideas such as entropy make people reject evolution on the argument that more complexity could not arise in an entropic universe, where everything is becoming more random (this is, incidentally, not quite what entropy is about). We need to teach students about systems and complexity and information, so they can see how all disciplines relate to one another. This will give students an interdisciplinary education. And they will need an interdisciplinary education if they want to have an edge in this increasingly interdisciplinary world.
So long as the United States is capitalist and, as a result, wealthy, while places like Mexico are socialist and, as a result, poor, we will have economic refugees wanting to work here in the United States. Without a rational guest worker program – one that allows everyone who wants to work and can find work in the United States – the influx of economic refugees, and all the problems that brings into the United States, will continue. The only real choice other than a guest worker program is to simply kill on sight everyone who crosses the border. That would certainly discourage anyone from crossing. But aside from the fact that we are (or should be) too moral a country to commit such a brutal, evil act, I am also sure it would result in a war with Mexico. We want neither to be engaged in mass slaughter nor in war with Mexico. That being the case, the only real choice is the guest worker program.
One of the many benefits that a guest worker program would bring would be tax revenues. If economic refugees could come here legally simply by easily getting proper documentation, they would. And documented workers would then have to pay taxes. A black market in labor would come to the light, as would the tax dollars that they could then pay.
Another benefit would be that all those who wished to come to the United States to work would have proper documentation, and would not have to sneak across the border. Thus, we would be more certain that anyone trying to sneak across the border is indeed up to a true crime rather than simply trying to get a job. This is a national security issue. We need to know who is coming into this country. A guest worker program would allow us to do that.
Along with a guest worker program, we need to reform our citizenship laws. This is something I mentioned earlier. Why should someone be a citizen just because they are born in this country? This should continue to remain the case for those born in this country to legal residents and citizens, but not to those who are simply here as guest workers. Again, a guest worker program would allow us to make such clear distinctions, and to thus solve many of the problems associated with economic refugees.
The United States has a history of accepting political refugees from around the world. We should extend this to the acceptance of economic refugees. And we should openly use this term. Only by calling them economic refugees will be be able to make it clear what the real problem is: lack of economic opportunity in countries like Mexico due to corrupt governments, lack of protection of property rights, and socialist policies (the three are deeply intimately connected to each other). Then we can address those problems and hopefully solve the problem of economic refugees at its source. Otherwise, we will not and can not solve the problem.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
These are in what we have historically perceived to be increasing ethical order. Of course, rarely are our interactions purely one of these – nor are they perceived to be. And the interactions are oftentimes very complex. And this can get us into trouble, since 1) is always unethical. But what is happening if I am an employer, and I hire someone? Certainly this is 2), but if I hold the threat of firing the person if they do not do their job properly over them, it is perceived that the interaction is also 1). But is it? Just because I withdraw 2), it does not mean that the interaction I am having with the person is in fact 1). The worst I can do is fire the person from the job that it was mine to give him. And when he ceases to do something good for me (do a good job), then I am under no obligation to continue doing something good for him (keep him employed) under interaction 2). If I were to keep him on, it would be due to 3), which is not the purpose of a place of employment. The purpose of a place of employment is to make everyone working there profit – to make everyone there better off than they were before they entered into interaction 2).
Any time a government interferes with either interaction 2) or 3), it is interacting with people with interaction 1), and thus is acting unjustly. Only when government works to prevent others – including itself, from engaging in interaction 1) does government act justly.
Monday, May 15, 2006
From the example above, we can now distinguish between bad and evil. A bad engineer is one who is not able to design a bridge that will do the proper work of a bridge. An evil engineer is one who is able to design a bridge that will do the proper work of a bridge but who chooses instead to design a bridge that will not do the proper work of a bridge. For the bad engineer, the destruction caused by his bad bridge is incidental to his inability to design a good bridge. The bad engineer is bad because he is ignorant. He would build a good bridge if he could. For the evil engineer, the destruction caused by his bad bridge comes about because he chose to make a bad bridge so that it would cause destruction. The evil engineer is evil because he knows the right way to build a bridge, but chooses not to do so. He can build a good bridge, but chooses not to.
When education experts choose to use teaching methods like the look-say method of teaching reading, when it is well-established that it does not and never has worked, over using phonics, which we know is the best way to learn how to read, then which one of these categories do you think America’s educators fall into? And what about our choice not to teach children foreign languages when we know they can learn them – before they reach puberty? Or using the "tally" method to teach "comprehension" (it does the opposite, and we know it does)? Isn’t it time that we started providing our students a good education, rather than the one we have been providing them which has failed both them and this country?
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Basically, we are in trouble when it comes to foundations. We undermine our students left and right, using tests to determine how many prison cells to make for future inmates rather than to educate. Schools do not teach concepts, they discourage students from math and science, they teach children to hate poetry, literature, and the arts. There is a crumbling of philosophical foundations throughout our country. For many, it is too late once they get to college – for those who get to college. And then they have to be fortunate enough to have professors who challenge them and provide those foundations they lack.
It is time for a revolution. Tinkering around the edges won’t do it. We don’t need educational reform, we need educational revolution (first, abolish "Education" as a major in college) from top to bottom. Our schools need to get back to teaching grammar and logic and foreign languages (especially Greek and Latin) in elementary school. They need to teach music, so every child can play an instrument, and get all the benefits of music, including better math skills. This will allow each child to discover philosophy and art, truth and beauty, to live fulfilling lives. This is what we need if we want our children to have good educations. With the reforms being proposed now, I have little confidence that anyone actually cares that any child learns how to do anything.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
Capital Gains Tax
CDL License Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Court Fines (indirect taxes)
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
Hunting License Tax
Interest Expense (tax on the money)
Inventory Tax I
RS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Local Income Tax
Marriage License Tax
Real Estate Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Road Toll Booth Taxes
Road Usage Taxes (truckers)
Septic Permit Tax
Service Charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Toll Bridge Taxes Toll
Tax Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers’ Compensation Tax
So we are taked when we make money, spend money, save money, invest money -- and die.
Ever look at your phone bill (if you have a land line)? Twice the bill is taxes.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
May 4, 2006
Dear Dr. Camplin,
Thank you for teaching English 1302. It is one of the few classes that has challenged my daughter’s writing abilities. Although the class was difficult, Kristin learned not only to write better but also to pay attention to the words she uses.
I also want to compliment you on the effort you put into the class. Your lectures were very informative and your comments on the papers helpful. However the thing that impressed me the most was how quickly you graded the assignments. You always return the papers the next class period which I find amazing especially when marking every syllable in the iambic measure assignment.
Your teaching style also has renewed my confidence in Richland College. Last semester my daughter had a teacher who rarely lectured and never made any suggestions on her papers. Both Kristin and I felt that the class was a waste of time. This was extremely painful since as a dual credit student, the class counted as her senior year of high school as well as her freshman English. I originally thought Kristin had a poor teacher, however two of her other friends said their classes were also poor (the second teacher was good). We decided to try another English class only because Bonnie Houston stated that you were an excellent teacher and that Kristin would learn something in your class. We have not been disappointed.
I feel the community college is a bridge between high school and four year universities. It is a place where students can be prepared for higher education. If the classes are not challenging, the students will not be able to handle the upper division classes when they transfer into a university. Thank you for not watering down your class to the desires of the students, but instead raising the students to the level they need to be at to succeed in college.
Once again thank you for the time and effort in teaching my daughter. May you continue to help other student in the same way.
Deborah L. S.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
YOU ARE NOT RECEIVING THE BEST EDUCATION YOU COULD BE FROM THIS COLLEGE!
The Administration had determined that, since many students are only interested in receiving a good grade and are not interested in being educated, that everyone must receive CONTENTLESS EDUCATIONS!
The only students who complain are those who do not want to do class work or learn anything, but still want to receive good grades. Rather than giving students what they need – a quality education – the Administration has decided to simply cave in to these irrational demands, and thus deprive you of a good education. Many classes are thus being structured so as to make it possible for students to receive an A without learning anything at all – since content puts students in danger of making something other than an A. They are accommodating those students who do not want to learn and, as a result, are cheating the rest of you of a good education.
THIS MUST STOP!
If you want to receive a good education, if you want to have classes with content, and do not want to just sit in classes that teach you nothing, do not challenge you, and put you together in groups so that other people who do not know anything can waste you could be learning to talk about what they don’t know, you must act now!
Tell the Administration that you want TEACHERS who actually TEACH classes with actual CONTENT
If STUDENTS do no insist on being properly educated, the Administration will continue to take your money while denying you a true EDUCATION
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
And that is where the problem lies. If I foster rebellion, that could put my career at stake. If I do not, I may be abandoning the future – a future my child will have to live in. Many, when faced with such a dilemma, decide to be practical and try to do what is best for their child now. As a result, many abandon principled action in favor for playing along, in order to ensure job security. Others are so busy being out there, fighting the good fight, that they forget to raise their children, and so their children end up being sacrificed for the future. The irony there being that often these parents were working to make this future for those same children, who would have been better off if they had had their parents home, raising them properly. It seems to me that we have to know when to pick our fights. When is an issue big enough that you have to fight it? Well, in my case, the fight involves education.
I am currently an adjunct faculty member of a community college in Dallas, Texas. Money-wise, that amounts to very little – but I do it to refine my teaching skills and get teaching experience, so I can one day get a university job. Recently my supervisor sat in on one of my classes, and critiqued the job I did. Now, while I will be the first to admit that there is room for improvement, much of the critique bothered me greatly. The reason I was so bothered was because the assistant dean told me I needed to dumb down my classes. Well, to be honest, she said, "Now I don’t want you to dumb down your classes, but . . ." and then she proceeded to tell me I needed to dumb down my classes. The reason? Because she did not want students coming to her to complain that they did not get an "A", though they had not done the work to get an "A". She told me that since community college students typically did not come to community college to learn anything, but rather to receive an "A" and credit for the class, that I should teach in such a way that the students would not have to learn anything, but could rather just be granted their "A" and their credit. Further, she proposed that I attend a workshop the community college offered that would teach me the best way to provide my students with this kind of contentless education.
Here is the crisis in education. Administrators do not want students to fail, because if they do fail (or if they do not get an "A" even), the school loses money. So students get passed, even though they learn nothing. In community college, the threat is more direct, since if students fail, they will not want to come back to that community college, complaining that "it’s too hard there." And fewer students also equates to fewer government dollars as well. In our elementary, middle, and high schools, student failure also results in fewer government dollars – so, again, teachers are encouraged by administrators to make sure every student passes. If that meant that more learning occurred, that would be great. The reality is that teachers, who are encouraged to teach reading using the least effective method of learning how to read ever devised, the look-say method, now have developed the tally-method, where the student counts all the words in a text, and then uses that information to figure out what the passage "means." Rather than being taught how to read with comprehension, students are being taught methods to pass the standardized tests. You do not have to read at all to determine what a passage is about if you use the tally method. All you have to do is count all the symbols, find out which symbol you have the largest number of, then compare that symbol with the symbols on the multiple choice test, and mark that dot.
Since I am not an elementary school teacher, I cannot fight against such methods there, directly. But I can fight them at the community college level. I am being told by the administrators that they want me to adopt the college version of this kind of education. While now I am using grammar, rhetoric, poetics, and logic to teach my students how to read, write, and think, I am told that I have to use a textbook that ignores all of these things, except its very superficial discussion of rhetoric. But then, how deeply can you cover rhetoric if you do not cover grammar, poetics, and logic? The book, The Aims of Argument, only teaches students about different kinds of arguments. You do not have to learn how to construct good sentences, you do not have to know logic, you do not have to write it well at all. All you have to do is be persuasive. Though the protagonist of "Thank You For Smoking" is a rhetorician’s rhetorician, he does at least know what the truth is. The community college I teach at want me to make my students unable to even be able to do that. I am not to challenge my students’ opinions, but only consider whether or not they have an argument. It is no wonder that one of my students told me that she loved my class because I did something the teacher in the English class she had before mine had never done: critique her writing for errors in grammar, facts, and reasoning.
So what do I intend to do about this problem? If the administration is only concerned about students who complain, I decided that we need to get the students who want a good education to complain. I will be putting up posters around the college, telling the students about what kind of education their college thinks they deserve, and why. Hopefully, that will get the students who want a good education to stop being silent, and to speak up more, like their lazier fellow-students have done. The lazier students, in trying to get something for nothing, are depriving other students who do want to learn of an education. Since the students do not know this, they need to be told.
My trepidation comes in the potential of being caught. What will happen if someone learned that I was the one who put up the posters? Since I am just an adjunct, the school does not have to re-hire me, and I have no recourse, no ability to challenge that decision. And since I am looking for a university job, there are likely to be inquiries by search committees regarding my teaching skills and behavior. What do you think the administration would say about me? Like I said, I do have a child coming. I do need to work. And I would prefer to work doing what I love: teaching students and scholarship. Should I just suck it up, since I do have a baby to pay for and support? Or should I fight to change the educational system, so that my child will have an opportunity to receive a good education? The pile of posters sit on my desk, staring at me. Especially now that I have a child coming, how can I abandon the future?
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
But if the government approaches someone and tells them that if they do not give the government their money, that it would take them by force and lock them in jail, it is called taxation. If they refuse to pay and the government follows through on its threat, it is called arrest and imprisonment. This is considered by many to be a just and proper way for the government to make its money.
Why is something that is unjust for an individual to do to another just for one group to do to others, so long as that first group is larger, stronger, and called a government? If something is unjust and immoral for an individual, then it is unjust and immoral for a group, even if that group calls itself a government. A change in terminology does not justify unjust behavior. Theft is theft, no matter if you call it by its proper names of theft and extortion, or by the evasive term taxation. To tax is to steal. And that is what any government does whenever it taxes. A free and just society is based on the concept of free trade. Free trade is based on the premise that "if you do something good for me, I’ll do something good for you." The opposite of free trade is extortion, or "unless you do something good for me, I’ll do something bad to you." Any government or society based on free trade is just. Any government or society based on extortion is unjust.
Whenever the concept that taxation is theft is brought up, the response is always that the government has to make money somehow. Which is true. But so do I. Yet this is clearly not enough for me to engage in extortion. So why is it a legitimate reason for the government to do so? Anything immoral for an individual is immoral for a group, whether they call themselves a gang or a government. Anything illegal for a private individual or group should be illegal for the government. It is no better than anyone else simply because it is called a government. It does not know more, is not wiser, it is not more intelligent. And even if they did have these attributes, that would still not give government the right to steal - which is the right to take away another’s rights to their life, liberty, and property - a right no man ever has, least of all in a free, civilized society.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
And then one day, a nucleic acid comes to you and tells you that you are part of this larger entity, that your mind is not entirely your own, but that there is this thing out there, this "cell" of which you are a part, that comes in and influences your actions. All that you thought were your choices or merely random events is in fact run by this higher intelligence known as the "cell." It is not that you don't have choices -- you can be in this or that part of the cell, you may attach yourself to a tRNA, to a protein, to a short polypeptide, etc. -- but you are now informed that there is a greater purpose involved, that you are part of this larger cell, and that your actions help to keep this cell alive.
Now, from the point of view of the amino acid, the cell will seem, in relation to you, "immaterial." It will make no sense from your material point of view. It will seem very strange indeed. You may believe in the cell, or not (and be an atheist). There will be discussions among your fellow biochemicals regarding the nature of the cell. Is it material? That is, if it even exists. The "cell" theory does seem to make a lot of things make more sense -- but it is nonetheless troubling. If it is not material in the same sense as a biochemical, is it really material? From our more complex, emergent human perspective, the cell seems to be just as material as as its constituent biochemicals. While, on the other hand, our "mind" appears to be just as immaterial as the cell is to the biochemical.
Let me tell a short story of emergence.
In the beginning was pure information, or pure energy. Information is inform, yet gives form. It is the foundation of all things. (In the beginning (archae) was the word (logos).)
As the universe expanded and cooled, that pure energy crystalized out into quantum particle-waves. It became more material.
Some of those quantum particle-waves combined to form emergent atoms with greater complexity. These atoms were more material than their constituent particle-waves.
Some of those atoms combined to form chemicals (more material than atoms) --- and some of those chemicals were able to interact in complex cycles to give rise to cells with emergent complexity. These cells were more material than their constituent chemicals.
Some cells were able to develop complex interactions such that multicellular organisms were able to emerge, giving rise to greater complexity and more complex interactions. These multicellular organisms were even more material than their constituent cells.
One species of animal evolved a highly complex brain with an emergent intelligence. This brain resulted in more complex social behaviors, the evolution of language, and the emergence of complex culture and religion. It was so complex that it was able to contemplate itself and the universe (thus, the universe became complex enough to become self-aware, to be able to contemplate itself). It seems that there will soon be 10 billion members of that species, with brains so complex that the minding function of that brain has given rise to the appearance of permanence (the same way that while each of the lower levels that constitute it are in fact always in flux, always in time, they nonetheless gain more appearance of permanency). This species has more time and more time experience, more material being, than do all the levels below it that constitute it (there is a nested hierarchy -- a new Great Chain of Being). And that mind is much more material than the brain that gave rise to it.
Humans are not the end of the line. New levels of complexity have emerged in the past, and they will continue to do so in the future. And there will be fewer examples of those more complex levels that emerge (the same way that there is more energy than quantum particle-waves, more particle-waves than atoms, more atoms than chemicals, more chemicals than cells, more cells than organisms, and more organisms than humans). The emergentist evolutionary world view thus gives you emergence of tue universe to God -- who is the most complex, highest level of emergence, with the most time. Thus, God is also the most material.
This story derives from Darwinian evolutionary thoery, combined with information theory, complexity theory, chaos theory and fractal geometry, the theory of emergence, and self-organization theory. This combination is able to give rise to both ethics and God.