American Elephants


The Teacher, The School System, The City Council, the Legislature. the Governor and Maybe Even the Courts Will Tell You the Schools Need More Money! It’s All Lies! by The Elephant's Child

What about America’s public education? There are a lot of complaints about K-12 as well. Many hope that Betsy DeVos, the newly confirmed Secretary of Education, can make a big difference in the schools that are failing our most-at-risk children in poor neighborhoods. She is a big proponent of school choice, which allows parents to choose where their child should go to school—something well-to-do parents do quite naturally without realizing that choice is not available to all. One of the great tragedies of the Obama administration was the president’s failure to support the nation’s capitol’s Opportunity Scholarships which have changed the lives of poor kids.

Most ordinary Americans support their community schools, and believe public education to be a good thing. Yet college professors are complaining that their incoming students don’t know anything. There was a small note of cheer this week when I ran across an article that said “Cursive Writing Is Making a Much- Needed Comeback in Schools.” Alabama and Louisiana passed laws in 2016 that mandate cursive proficiency in public schools, the latest in 14 states that require cursive. Fads, unfortunately, pass through the education system destroying everything in their wake. There is a generation out there who never learned cursive skills. They hold a pencil awkwardly, and write in big block letters.

Penmanship proponents say writing words in an unbroken line of swooshing l’s and three-humped m’s is just a faster, easier way of taking notes. Others say students should be able to understand documents written in cursive, such as, say, a letter from Grandma. And still more say it’s just a good life skill to have, especially when it comes to signing your name.

A remarkable amount of dross comes out of the schools of education. When computers arrived on the scene, they decided everyone would communicate with keyboards, and all kids needed was to learn “keyboarding.” You also have to learn how to read other people’s handwriting. I was lucky in that my father and an aunt had the world’s most execrable handwriting possible, and learning to cope with them made me pretty good at deciphering anyone’s scribbles.

The act of handwriting helps to fix the thought in the mind. You learn better if you write it down. That’s why people intuitively write lists, directions, rules and anything they want to remember. The more you write things down the better you will do in the memory department. This is an actual scientific fact. It’s all very nice to have things in 12 to 15 point type in a clear font, but the teeny keyboards you can pull up on your phone are not an improvement on a pencil and a scrap of paper. (If this kind of thing is of interest to you, try to get your hands on the 4 books by Richard Mitchell, beginning with “Less Than Words Can Say” or simply Google “Richard Mitchell underground grammarian,” and you will have access to his works)

“Diversity” is another fad that swept the schools. Children obviously couldn’t learn properly unless the classroom had a wide array of skin tones, ethnicity, countries of origin, language, etc., etc.  That schools were supposed to be about reading, writing and arithmetic, as they used to say, escaped the educators in the education schools. Teachers used to learn how to teach in “Normal Schools.” These were 2-year schools that covered the basics of grammar school. (There was also once a reason why they called it “Grammar” school) By the time kids got to high school, it was a bit more demanding so teachers gradually were required to have a college degree. Departments of Economics, Philosophy, Physics, that sort of thing, were apt to look down on Departments engaged in how to draw the letters of the alphabet on a blackboard, and unimpressed with PhDs in Education, which has made Professors of Education very sensitive, and apt to fall for the latest new thing.

Even more recent is the discovery that many black adolescent boys behave badly in school, and get sent to the principal, sent home or expelled more frequently than white adolescent boys. Obviously racism. And the cure is to just not expel or punish those who misbehave if they are black. If you know anything about kids, this is an invitation for more bad behavior. There is a rash of teachers being attacked in schools across the country. Science says successful students need hours of physical activity every day. They don’t get enough exercise. Boys particularly. But we have to protect children from physical dangers. Did you ever wonder where the teeter-totters went? Or what happened to the swings and the merry-go-round?

Parents trek to the schools for parent-teacher conferences and the teacher tells them how splendidly their kid is doing, and you assume all is well. But you have not learned the basic lesson of the schools. All problems are to be solved with more money. Class size is deemed to be a major problem, if the classes were smaller your kid would get more attention. More money. Even the courts have gotten into the money problem ordering states cough up equally for all districts everywhere. Some of the best schooling I ever had was in a one-room country schoolhouse with a very good teacher, a pump on the front porch, a stove in the classroom and two separate outhouses in the separate back corners of the property. It’s not the money, it’s not the playground (there wasn’t one, just fields) it’s not fancy equipment. It’s a skilled teacher. And the Schools of Education are failing, and it’s not their money either.

 



The Decline and Fall of America’s Educational Excellence by The Elephant's Child

While the nation’s budget watchers pour, with horror,  over the numbers involved in student loans, it seems that students are spending their student loan money to have a really good spring break fun-in-the-sun trip. Perhaps that is an outgrowth of the Obama administration’s insistence that every young person should go to college. Or on the other hand, perhaps parents just put too much emphasis on what fun they had when they were in college. Unfortunately, Congress keeps upping the amount a student can borrow to go to college which directly results in colleges raising tuition. It’s a cycle that must be ended.

This comes in the wake of the riot at Middlebury. Students at Middlebury College in Vermont decided they could not tolerate opinions that differed from their own. Actually, they were acting on hearsay about the work of distinguished scholar Charles Murray, that came from sources such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, and they had no idea at all about Murray’s work or ideas. The protest resulted in a faculty member hospitalized. Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal suggests that this event may be a tipping point, though that is not at all sure. The news from our colleges is not, to say the least, encouraging.

Why are the Millennials Protesting?” asks a piece from Townhall.

As for the self-evident, self-centeredness of many millennials, this is partly the result of their upbringing and environment, as they have grown up in a culture of indulgence, a culture of narcissism, a culture of radical, leftist, campus ideology (which often revolves around “my feelings”), a culture of me-focused social media, which finds its ultimate expression in the selfie.

At Pitzer College, there is a current flap about white girls wearing hoop earrings, something claimed to be cultural appropriation of styles that belong to brown and black people. Who knew?

In response to student and faculty activists, Barnard college will divest from companies that “deny” climate change. They have not yet defined what makes one a denier.

Yet the college will not be divesting from fossil fuels in the traditional sense.

Instead, it will take an approach that no other college has taken before, divesting from companies that “deny climate science or otherwise seek to thwart efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change.”

Oddly enough, I have never heard of anyone who denies that the climate is always changing. It’s a natural process. Since the activity of the sun controls the warming and cooling of the planet, this does not promise to be a major point advancing the value of a Barnard education.

There has always been nonsense going on in our colleges. There was a time when it was as tame as goldfish swallowing and panty raids, but that devolved into the much more serious protests against the Vietnam War, largely because students were terrified of being drafted. Which in turn ended up with a lot of educational deferments by those who believed a PhD would keep them out of the war, and resulted in the leftist takeover of American education. Since professors help to choose the new faculty,  leftists did not endorse those who disagree with them politically. Add on the Frankfort School and you have today’s campus problems, and Leftist indoctrination of students.

The essence of all the protests and outrage at the injustices of the world, the renaming of college buildings that celebrated someone who once approved of slavery, and removal of statuary of unapproved forbears is on display. The kids are often away from home for the first time, and experiencing new things without much knowledge of either the present or the past, and the colleges are flush with moral outrage, which seems to be catching.  Reason sums it all up nicely in an article titled “Moral Outrage is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists.

When people publicly rage about perceived injustices that don’t affect them personally, we tend to assume this expression is rooted in altruism—a “disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.” But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern—what social scientists refer to as “moral outrage”—is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one’s own status as a Very Good Person.

The faculty at Middlebury is trying to back down in the face of the riot the protests developed into. Mizzou has had a distinct decline in enrollment, had to shut down some dorms and had a devastating attack on their funding. There are consequences. Faculty and administrators need to start acting like grownups. Bad behavior should not be tolerated, and if the colleges don’t react, their potential customers may well choose somewhere where bad behavior is not tolerated. There is the overall question of free speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, not a bunch of adolescent students, but of basic manners and decent behavior.

Education does not involve comfortable wallowing in the same old ideas one brought to the institution. Students are expected to meet startling and surprising new ideas and new approaches to everything. There are no “safe spaces” in life, and empathy and moral outrage are not the path to coming face to face with the real world.
Businessmen are beginning to learn that customers aren’t necessarily in tune with business spouting politics. Organized protests are unneeded. People take their dollars elsewhere. Colleges and universities should be learning the same lesson. Mizzou will not be the only university to find their students gone elsewhere. Parents want their kids to learn, not to be indoctrinated in someone else’s politics.



Why the Left Gets It So Completely Wrong by The Elephant's Child

Kevin Williamson is a roving correspondent for National Review, and his recent piece titled “Fake Hate Crimes” is particularly worthy of your attention. I copied a paragraph from the post which particularly impressed me, but neglected to say where I got it or who wrote it, and I promptly forgot. So, testing Google’s algorithms, I entered the first two lines of this paragraph, and Google turned it right up. Do read the whole thing, it’s not that long. But I thought this paragraph captured the situation masterfully.

The Left, for the moment, cannot seriously compete in the theater of ideas. So rather than play the ball, it’s play the man. Socialism failed, but there is some juice to be had from convincing people who are not especially intellectually engaged and who are led by their emotions more than by their intellect — which is to say, most people — that the people pushing ideas contrary to yours are racists and anti-Semites, that they hate women and homosexuals and Muslims and foreigners, that they could not possibly be correct on the policy questions, because they are moral monsters. This is the ad hominem fallacy elevated, if not quite to a creed, then to a general conception of politics. Hence the hoaxes and lies and nonsense.

Phony hate crimes. Phony hate.

Democrats play dirty, and Republicans are not good at fighting back. Republicans believe in the free market and sound economics, the private sector and the wisdom of the market as a whole. It’s hard to explain a lot of the economics because they are often counter-intuitive, and actually take some explanation. Easy example: the minimum wage. Activists get minimum wage workers all fired up to demand better pay.” You can’t support a family on the minimum wage,” they cry, whether it is $7, $9, or $12, and organize a march with pre-printed signs (sure sign it’s not the marchers’ idea) and the signs say “Fight, Fight for Fifteen.”

They did that in the Sea-Tac  (Seattle Tacoma International Airport community) community: hotels, restaurants, motels, bars, and it passed. Some were laid off, free parking was omitted, free lunches and dinners were omitted, other benefits cut and many workers were worse off than they were in the first place. Same deal in Seattle. Small businesses closed, some just moved out of town. Wendy’s and McDonalds are installing computerized ordering stations, and hamburger-making machines may not be far behind. Minimum wage jobs are beginners’ jobs for people who have few, if any , skills. When you have skills, you can look for a better job, and you are a more desirable hire.

My local grocery used to have box-boys who took your groceries out to your car and loaded them into the trunk. There was one box-boy who always remembered my name and that I had two cats. Another was usually sullen, in spite  offers of pleasant conversation, irritated at the annoying job. The first one is in college and will probably be an executive at some large company in a couple more years. But it takes a lengthy conversation to explain why raising the minimum wage instantly to $15 an hour is not necessarily the right idea.

The Current Debate is about ObamaCare and how to get rid of a failed program. The Left is out with claims that we are trying to deprive the sick of their last drop of hope.  And the leader of the House minority, Nancy Pelosi says, right from her very own mouth: “We need to know what’s in the health care bill before we pass it, … says Nancy Pelosi” echoing the most famous statement of the Obama administration: “We have to pass the bill so we can find out what is in it.” So there you go.

The president has released his new directive for a 90-day halt in immigration from 7 countries. Democrats are calling it a Muslim ban, and insisting that is prevented by the First Amendment freedom of religion, which is false since the President can refuse admission to anybody he wants to, and the Washington governor is suing on that basis because the Democrats have no bench and he wants to get noticed for his availability, and the Judge in the case was wrong first time around and is still wrong on this one. Politics is so exciting and such fun.



Victor Davis Hanson Goes Right to the Heart of the Matter by The Elephant's Child

—Victor Davis Hanson has a number of recent columns that get right to the heart of the matter. “The Democrat Patient” on January 17. is one such:”Ignoring the symptoms, misdiagnosing the malady, skipping the treatment.”

If progressives were to become empiricists, they would look at the symptoms of the last election and come up with disinterested diagnoses, therapies, and prognoses.

Although their hard-left candidate won the popular vote, even that benchmark was somewhat deceiving — given the outlier role of California and the overwhelming odds in their favor. The Republicans ran a candidate who caused a veritable civil war in their ranks and who was condemned by many of the flagship conservative media outlets. Trump essentially ran against a united Democratic party, the Republican establishment, the mainstream media (both liberal and conservative) — and won.

He was outspent. He was out-organized. He was outpolled and demonized daily as much by Republicans as Democrats. Yet he not only destroyed three political dynasties (the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas) but also has seemingly rendered the Obama election matrix nontransferable to anyone other than Obama himself.

— On February28, he addressed President Donald Trump himself in “The Metaphysics of Trump:” Paradox:How does a supposedly bad man appoint good people eager to advance a conservative agenda that supposedly more moral Republicans failed to realize?

We variously read that Trump should be impeached, removed, neutralized — or worse. But until he is, are his appointments, executive orders, and impending legislative agenda equally abhorrent?
—On March 8, He took on The News, “Talk Radio, Cable News, the Mainstream Media and the News Revolution” What is their assigned role, and how are they doing? Victor Hanson does a marvelous job of clearing up their roles and who is succeeding and who is a failure. and why.
In the hubbub over Trump’s attack on the media, we sometimes forget that Barack Obama et al. customarily went after talk-radio and cable-news conservatives — whose job, after all, was opinion journalism — as biased, whereas Trump went more after news-gathering organizations who deliver the news under the pretense of straight reporting.
Who has suffered from this ongoing media crackup?
Not conservative opinion journalists on television and radio. The role of talk-radio and cable-news outlets is to interpret the news, and they continue to do that well from a conservative point of view.
But are the mainstream news outlets — AP, Reuters, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc. — commensurately doing their quite different jobs?
Hardly, given the epidemic of fake news passed off as disinterested reporting, the hysterias about the Russians, the smearing of officials like Jeff Sessions, or the collusion to undermine the Trump administration in general.
What we are witnessing is an utter inversion in the supposed way the media works. Whereas the task of a Rush Limbaugh or Tucker Carlson is to offer cogent analysis from a more conservative viewpoint on the news of the day, a supposedly disinterested media cannot be relied upon in the same degree to do their quite different job of reporting the days’ events.
Or is the implosion of the mainstream media even more revolutionary?
Clarity of thought, clear expression, and going directly to the heart of the matter. I am a great admirer of Dr. Hanson’s work.


The Middlebury College Disgrace: Leftism, Ignorance and Hate by The Elephant's Child

Last Thursday. March 2, the distinguished Professor Charles Murray was invited to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont on his most recent book Coming Apart and how it related to the recent election. Plans for protests began to emerge, encouraged by several faculty members. The logic, Dr. Murray says, that “since I am a racist, a white supremacist, a white nationalist, a psuedoscientist whose work has been discredited, a sexist, a eugenicist, and (this is a new one) anti-gay, I did not deserve a platform for my hate speech, and hence it was appropriate to keep me from speaking.”

The lecture hall was filled to capacity, about 400, half of whom had come to hear the lecture, the other half to protest. The protesters had scripts to read from and screamed enthusiastically, but had no idea what they were screaming about. The students got violent, the Political Science professor who had agreed to act as moderator for the Q&A session and ask the first three questions herself, was injured and sent to the hospital.

The New York Times coverage of the incident is here. Largely ill-informed and fake news, they used the Southern Poverty Law Center, described as “left-leaning” rather than far-left (which is more accurate) as an “authority.” The photo shows students reading from their scripts. Here is Dr. Murray’s description of the event from AEI where he is a distinguished scholar. Here is a photo of the lovely Middlebury Campus where the yearly cost for tuition, room and board is a startling $61,046 a year. ($6,000 a month).

My great, great uncle was a Middlebury graduate, probably 1838, though he was ill with typhoid one semester. His room and board cost $2.50 a week in the nicest private homes, and his entire education cost no more than $1,000.

Here’s an interview from Hoover’s “Uncommon Knowledge” series by Peter Robinson, when Charles Murray’s Coming Apart had just come out in 2012. Uncommon Knowledge interviews are long (47 min) but completely fascinating, giving you real insight into the scholar. The book explains how over the last 50 years the culture has changed, and changed dramatically. The Founders said that to preserve the free society they were advocating, Americans must possess certain values: 1. religiosity 2. marriage integrity 3. industriousness and 4. plain honesty.  And we are losing that.  Perhaps for good.  And if we do, we will not be the same country we all have loved.

There must be consequences for the Middlebury students. There is no excuse for such behavior, and such ignorant behavior. How many parents are able or willing to spring for $6,000 a month? How many future employers will look askance at a Middlebury degree? Will parents pull their kids out of school and put them to work? Are there consequences?

I had long looked with a bit of disfavor on Dr. Murray because of his division of people into classes, and I had always believed in an America that was essentially a classless society — yet that is precisely what he is arguing. In Coming Apart. We were essentially a classless society, and we are losing that, and it is unhealthy, and may be beyond redeeming. The protesting students have their arguments essentially backwards. Fascinating arguments. While you can see faint glimmers of where the protesters got their ignorant ideas — they would be far better off to have listened carefully and tried to understand. But our American campuses are no longer places of learning, but devolving into something quite different. And that is a huge loss as well.

ADDENDUM: Here is an essay about the Middlebury contretemps by the editors at National Review. A good piece. ” Charles Murray is used to protests. If he opens a box of Cracker Jack, there is no prize at the bottom, just some Haverford College sophomore calling him a racist. If he were protested any more widely, he’d be the Vietnam War. But, usually he is also permitted to speak, free speech being a two-way street.”



The Art of the Planned Protest by The Elephant's Child

I posted the picture a while back of Republican protests on the day after Obama was elected. Interestingly it seems that Democrat right-wing-riotsprotesters are usually paid to protest, or their union sends them. I don’t know if the Unions pay them or not. Some are reported to be paid by George Soros, but that’s a frequent claim, and if true he must be shelling out a lot of money.  Democrats protest in large numbers, enough to be impressive in media photos, and somebody is calling out the anarchists and black bloc bunch. They don’t arrive spontaneously.

Union leaders organized a protest at Representative Steve Knight’s (R.,CA) house of over 50 protesters who arrived in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) vans, carried a fake coffin to the house to send Rep. Knight the message that his votes in Congress were “killing” them, according to a report in the local Antelope Valley Press. Informed by neighbors and later the police that they were at the wrong house because Rep. Knight had moved away several months ago.

But they were already there, with their coffin and their candles, so they carried on with their candlelight vigil. The police eventually removed them from the home’s driveway and front lawn.

An aide to California State Assembly Leader, Democrat Anthony Rendon, defended the protesters insisting that it was not an “embarrassment.” Rendon aide Darren Parker said “What I saw was people are looking for solutions to uncertainty and sometimes they don’t get the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.” He added that he was pleased at the turnout.

Throughout February, protesters organized by the state Democratic Party have targeted the Southern California Republican at his local office. The protesters said their efforts were based on a guidebook called “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.

This all reminds me of another picture I saved of Republicans’ protest when Obama banned 197855_5_
refugees from Iraq
for 6 months in 2011. Do protesters impress the party regulars so much that they are willing to go out and protest too? Every big Leftist protest or march comes with organizers, busloads of protesters, and all of their ‘spontaneous’ signs seem to have been printed by the same printer.

Which doesn’t seem to be spontaneous at all, but do the Democrats’ big efforts accomplish more? Are Republicans missing the boat? Do we pay a price for trying to be honest?



We Apparently Paid A Really Big Ransom To Iran For Our Hostages. by The Elephant's Child

The truth will out, as Shakespeare said. It doesn’t always become clear when it should, but sooner or later it does. Back in September, AEI’s Michael Rubin “testified before the House Financial Services Committee on the allegation that the Obama administration had paid Iran a ransom—at the time it was believed to be $400 million but it was later revealed that the figure was more than three times that amount—in cash for the release of American hostages held by Iran.”

At the hearing, it is now clear that State Department officials lied outright to the committee. But, lest there be any question about how the Iranian government perceived the payment received from the United States, Hossein Nejat, deputy Intelligence Director of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps yesterday bragged that Iran forced the United States to pay $1.4 billion ransom to win the release of imprisoned Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.

What does this mean for the United States? Unfortunately, the damage is already done. The cash the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps received (for they were the entity which took possession of the ransom) will fuel greater terror as well as Iran’s campaigns in Syria, Yemen, and perhaps Bahrain as well. In 2010, the United States busted the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington because the US intelligence community was monitoring bank accounts known to be operated by the Qods Force. Cash makes it far easier for Iran to move money without risk of detection.

There is a reason why the United States customarily does not pay ransom for Americans taken as hostages. Giving in puts the life of anyone else in reach of terrorist forces at risk, leaves the impression that the United States is weak, and puts our allies at risk as well. Michael Rubin says the hostage agreement should be published. Obama promised he would preside over the most transparent administration in history. Well, yes. Promises, promises. “It is now clear that State Department officials lied outright to the committee,” Rubin added. And you wonder why President Trump speaks of draining the swamp.




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