Friday, May 26, 2006

Culture of Revenge

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

Complex Reading

Here is an article that supports the kinds of reforms in education I am supporting:

How Not to Cut Government Spending

How is it that we have a Republican government – a Republican President, a Republican Senate, and a Republican House of Representatives – that has grown the federal government by over 10% each year Bush has been in office? Who ever heard of Big Government Republicans? Apparently Republicans are only for small government when the Democrats are in power. Give me President Clinton with two Republican Houses of Congress any day, with their 3% growth – which is at least as low as te rate of inflation.

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

English Only?

Let assume for a moment that those who are in favor of making English the national language of the United States are racists who only want to make it the national language in order to exclude a certain sector of society from participation in American civil and economic life. Let us make that assumption. Does that mean that they are right about the outcome of such a law, or that it would not be a good idea?

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

Interdisciplinary Education for an Interdisciplinary World

Part of the problem with education is students do not know what relevance many topics they study have for them. I remember throughout grade and high school that I thought math to be utterly unimportant and irrelevant to anything I was ever going to do. And throughout most of my early years I had wanted to be a scientist. How could teachers have allowed me to think that math was not important? I did not really learn math was important until I took chemistry in high school. It was only then that I truly understood fractions for the first time. And, even though I loved to read, I thought literature pointless (it did not help that in high schools they seem to go out of their way to find the most boring literature available – I learned how wonderful literature was in college, when we were made to read books and stories that were actually interesting). Literature had nothing to do with biology, after all, and that was what I was going to go into. This attitude is not unique to me or to high school – it prevails in most students, and through college.

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.

Economic Refugees

Too often we get caught up in the way we think the world "should" work, and forget entirely how it does in fact work, allowing us to make serious errors in judgement – just as the United States did in enacting Prohibition in the early part of the 20th Century. This is precisely why we need a guest worker program.

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

Human Interactions

There are three basic ways in which humans interact: 1) slavery – the interaction wherein I tell you that "unless you do something good for me, I will do something bad to you"; 2) economic cooperation (profit) – the interaction wherein I tell you that "if you do something good for me, I will do something good for you"; and 3) generosity (gift-giving) – the interaction wherein I tell you that "I will do something good for you, and do not expect you to do something good for me."

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

Good, Bad, and Evil in Education

An engineer who is good at building bridges is a good engineer. The steel he uses must be of high enough quality to do the job – it must be good steel. When building begins on the bridge, it can only be done in good weather. A good engineer is good at being an engineer. Good steel is steel that can be depended on to do the job at hand (being dependable to do the job at hand is also a feature of being a good engineer). Good weather is weather that provides favorable conditions for what work the person wants to do – in this definition, rain is good weather for a farmer, but bad for our engineer. A good person is thus a person who is good at being a person. We must work at being good – ethics is work. But ethics is not necessarily what works. One has to keep in mind the end at which one aims. We need an idea of proper ends, a proper target at which to aim. The proper end of our engineer is obvious: to build a bridge that will span the gulf at hand and remain intact. He must design and build a bridge that does the work of a bridge.

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

The State of Education

Education is in truly pathetic condition. My fiancee is a pre-K teacher, and she has her 4 year olds counting up to 100 (she is doing this using number theory), knowing all their letters and sounds (yes, sounds – even though they are discouraged from using phonics, which is the ONLY way students learn how to read), and some are even reading. In fact, she has them so advanced, the kindergarten teachers are complaining that they won’t have anything to teach them. Rather than using phonics to teach children how to read (as my fiancee does), they are using the completely useless look-say method, which requires that students memorize thousands of words without recognizing any connections among them. Students are pushed to read fast, but these same students don’t understand a thing they read. Rather than having students read and re-read until they understand, there is now a ridiculous tally method where students count up words and use the number of words to determine what a story is about or what its theme is. Mere numbers of words does not tell one anything about meaning or content, as research I have done on fictional texts shows. If we were to do a tally, we would say that Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure is about church rather than friendship. Further, 3rd grade students don’t even know what a noun or a verb is, and thus do not know what makes up a complete sentence. And I could go on and on...

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

List of Taxes We Pay

Just for fun, a list of all the taxes we pay here in the U.S.:

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
Capital Gains Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette 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
Inheritance 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)
Liquor Tax
Local Income Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Road Toll Booth Taxes
Road Usage Taxes (truckers)
Sales Taxes
School Tax
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
Tunnel Taxes
Trailer Registration
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

Note of Confidence

I received a note from a parent of one of my students. It is always nice to hear someone supporting your position exactly. I post it here to share it with everyone (just like I shared it with the assistant dean of my department).

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

A Poster For Rebellious Teachers

For those out there who are rebellious teachers (and students), who actually think that receiving a true education is important, I offer the following poster, to be put up across college campuses across the country:



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.


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