Saturday, February 5, 2011

What's in a Title?

Some may be wondering why I chose this title for my blog. The reason is because I have recently learned (the hard way) that the admirable characteristics of this country's historical Patriots have no place in today's society. We claim to revere the boldness, brashness and resolve that stamped the names of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Franklin into history, but we simply do not tolerate it today. Most folks will think I am off my rocker for making this observation, as I would have, no more than a couple of years ago. Most people operate with the belief that we have rights in this country, that laws are written to apply to all of us, and that we are free. As I just stated, I was of this belief until recently. The fact is that none of that is true.

The truth is that your rights are predicated on who you are, who you know, and how you can hurt others. After all, isn't that what power is really all about - your ability to inflict pain on others? Why else do we see politicians and government agents as powerful? In a just society, a non-criminal (the vast majority of the population) would not view police officers, District Attorneys, Sheriffs, or Judges as being powerful.

But I digress. Why do I think the traits that made our historical figures great are unwelcome in contemporary society? I think about how Jefferson would be viewed. His ideas on the supremacy of the individual, the evils of government, and his disgust with the mob mentality would probably land him on an "enemy combatant" list. Washington? Forget it. Making soldiers march through the snow with no boots? Yeah right! Executing deserters? No way! "Off with his head!" they would shout.

I could go on and on. The point is that too few of us believe in rights these days. Too few of us see greatness in the citizen who refuses to sit down and shut up. Instead, the majority would love to see him locked away and the key lost. For all of the rhetoric being tossed about these days about how to right the ship in this country, I see this as a fundamental place to start.


Edith Ann said...

The short answer is that the folks in 'power' often assume they have the ability to define and redefine what has been standardized already. We all know that not all who find themselves in a power position have a clue how to handle that power. Many times the things designed to protect us become weapons and these folks are at the top of the chain. There is no place to lodge a complaint.

As to the rest of mankind--95% of folks slept through History, Civics and Government classes and haven't got a clue as to what rights they actually have! I am always astonished at the folks who believe they can say anything, ANYTHING, and the rest of us have to sit silently, without comment.

It is also amazing the number of folks who believe they possess a greater knowledge than all those who came before and carefully crafted our codes and laws and practices.

Power is a heady thing.

Jared said...

Cool to see you blogging! I didn't know you started. I found out via EdithAnn's blog!

Something sort of on subject. I remember doing research for an education class a while back. I was on a team of classmates that researched alternative education which included charter, private, homeschool, and problem child schools. The research indicated back then that homeschoolers were the most civic of the bunch and private schoolers next (but there was a gap between then) and far in last lane was public schooled children. I would like to know if this has something to do with reading our country's fore-fathers in their own words or if it is a systematic problem. Why does the vast majority of public schoolers drift away from practicing their civic duties of voting? What are your thoughts?

Anyways, looking forward to reading more of your thoughts and discussions.

Edith Ann said...


Let me toss out a bit of stuff for you to ponder upon--

Texas sets the national standard for text books for schools. We are the biggest consumers, follwed by California. Right now on the State Board of Education we have a bunch of ultra right wing nut jobs rewriting the history books to make things 'neater', if you will. This is not just my opinion, it is well documented. Google it and read for yourself.

Rick Perry refused to apply for the federal "Race to the Top" grant money for education in Texas. It could have been a very significant amount, and it would have benefitted the students of Texas greatly. He didn't want to take money from the feds, "We can take care of ourselves!", but that thinking didn't stop him from accepting stimulus money to try to balance the budget. (And let's just not talk about how much it is costing each month to keep him in the rental...)

So, Texas sits at #46 out of 50 in education. God knows I love Texas and all things Texas, but this SUCKS!

Matt Ocker said...

That is an excellent discussion topic, Jared. I have had many arguments/discussions about the merits and pitfalls of each educational setting. Of my 13 years in primary schooling, roughly 2 were spent in Catholic school. Can't you just see me as an alter boy? Anyhow, let me go ahead and dispel a myth that many people take as fact. Classroom size has virtually nothing to do with the quality of education a pupil receives. If a teacher is a master in their craft, a class of 30 will be taught just as effectively as a class of 12. The problem is that the quality of our teachers has significantly dropped through the years. Some of this has been a function of overburdening bureaucracy, some is due to poor principals, but excuses are like you know what. The reason many believe classroom size is inversely proportional to student achievement is because the "empirical" research is ineffective and erroneous. It has no method for measuring the quality of the instruction.
Moving along, another factor that must be considered when comparing educational settings is the mindset of the parents. Let's face it, anyone willing to pay an amount above and beyond their taxes to assist in the education of their child definitely has a propensity toward education. Because of this fact, it is impossible to compare public vs. private on so many levels. For an equal comparison, take the top 10% of each. When I was in junior high I used to compete in academic competitions, both as a private-schooler and a public-schooler. There is no difference between the cream of the crop of either.
Home schooling is a completely different animal. In my life I have known some smart kids that were home schooled, and some that were not so bright. To me, this is where the largest gap should occur between educational settings in the areas of civics, government, and history. Many who homeschool make that decision because of either a lack of trust in the typical school structure, or a disgust with it. This could be a discussion unto itself, but I won't get into standardized texts, watered-down lesson plans, and the harmful role that politics and money play in the equation.
Because most homeschoolers come from a non-conventional standpoint, it stands to reason that the instruction would represent the same. While mainstream kids are learning the antiseptic version of history and government, and never watch a single second of a Congressional Committee hearing, the homeschooler is probably taking a trip to the State Capitol Building and seeing a bill being debated live.
I'm not sure if this answers your question from my perspective, but it is hard for me to keep from rambling in print. The long and the short of it is this - our public schools do a terrible job of teaching history and government. Students only take 2 years of history in high school today, and only one semester of government. Civics class is a thing of the past. Geography is a joke. Starting to get the picture? I have argued for some time that with the pervasiveness of today's government, students should have to take 4 years of government, with 2 full years focusing entirely on the Constitution. Maybe if developing kids knew the amount of control government has over their lives, while simultaneously learning that this was not always the case in America, they would go on to do something about it.

Edith Ann said...

Let's not forget that wonderful Bush initiative, No Child Left Behind. That makes a significant contribution to the premise that class size matters.

Teachers can only teach to the middle of the class in public school because they are required to teach to the achievement test du jour.

When you have the combo of NCLB and that infernal achievement test--in a large class--who is the loser here? Not the administration. They blame the teacher. The kids lose, the teachers lose, the district loses.

Let's be honest here. Education in Texas is FUBARed!

Jared, the voting question is more of a sociological issue rather than a lack of civic duty.

Matt Ocker said...

NCLB is a joke and a failure, no doubt. This is exactly what happens every time central planning is employed to help rectify a problem, whether real or perceived. Far be it for me to take up for Bush, but he is not wholly responsible for this unConstitutional legislation. Although he signed the bill into law, the House vote of 384-45 and the Senate vote of 91-8 leave plenty of blame to spread around.

victorianbybirth said...

Discipline I belive to be the answer to Jareds question. Homeschoolers don't necessarily have to deal with discipline issues since they are self secluded, Private schools still have discipline where public school has thrown discipline out the window. There is no set standard of behavior anymore & it is distracting & intrusive to the better behaved kids.

I would blame the lack of voting is due to the parents not stressing the importance of voting....I don't know many of my daughters friends who really care one way or another because they weren't raised that way.

Matt Ocker said...

Invariably, discipline (or lack thereof) is usually the fall guy when attempting to diagnose educational shortcomings or failure. I'm not so sure. While some sort of decorum is integral to the requisite structure necessary for the dissemination and absorption of knowledge, I have found that an overemphasis on discipline can prove counter-productive. In my personal experience, the teachers that spent the most time focusing on classroom behavior were made to endure the worst. The teachers that focused on teaching the curriculum, including all members of the class, being enthusiastic, and keeping the students interested, had to deal with virtually no discipline problems.

Legion said...

In 5th grade,(1967 or so), at William Offer Elementary I saw the first instance of what has become student un-discipline.

William Offer was a small school, 7 or 8 classrooms I think. Most of us started first grade together and stayed that way through fifth grade.

In fifth grade we had a new teacher fresh out of college, and also a new student from California.

We all love the teacher, she was 22 and quite attractive ;), anyway, the new student did something, I don't remember what, and the teacher told him that wasn't acceptable. He got up and walked to his locker,they where in the back of the classroom at WO, grabbed his coat, and said "F&*k this, I don't have to listen to you!", and walked out of school. The rest of us where shocked, as the teacher was, we hadn't seen anything like that before.

Long story short, things have been down hill in education since then.

Matt Ocker said...

That is an interesting story. But who do we ultimately blame? If I had been the teacher, I would have said, "Don't let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you." The problem is that we have a State Legislature that believes in adult education. Any kid that wants to piss off their formative years is not relegated to the proverbial "ditch digger" status. Instead, they can come back as 20-somethings and get a second chance at education, funded by the same people that gave them the first chance. Education is a right in this State, but it needs to be a privilege as well.

victorianbybirth said...

If the teacher had said that, they would be fired today. The teachers, like every other beaurocratic paper pushing social programmers are having to do their jobs with their hands tied behind their backs....some of 'em are even blind folded & hog tied. The parents should be held accountable for their childrens actions, discipline has to start & continue to be reinforced in the home consistantly. Schools will not improve until structure has been restored.

Matt Ocker said...

Discipline in the home...what an outdated concept. Once again, the very entity that has helped ruin education (the State of Texas) prevents you from disciplining your children, at least in certain situations. Don't believe me? Ask anyone who is divorced from a bitter ex-spouse. I will have far more to say about this at a later date. I suggest checking out the Texas Family Code, then study the cases that have been overturned by the 13rh COA. You will notice some interesting ones from right here in Victoria. Search the name Gray.

Matt Ocker said...

I was being sarcastic about the issue of discipline. I completely agree. The problem is that we need to replace our judges here, and two of them just ran completely unopposed. I am hopeful that Williams and Kelly will have primary and general election opponents next year.

Rebecca said...

If England decided to take over America and you were considered a "traitor" for speaking out against your government, and your words sealed your fate and death, you wouldn't be a Patriot Born Too Late. I think those men were products of their times. Maybe you would find comparable situations where men and women are being killed because they speak out against their government or state religion. Their (founder's) rhetoric, though maybe a bit out of place now, matched the pressure they were under then.

One of the subjects that homeschoolers in Texas are required to teach in order to be exempt from compulsory education is "a course in good citizenship." It's a very vague phrase, but many interpret it to mean "get involved in politics." It's why we have walked for Ron Paul since I have lived in Victoria and it's why I used to take my kids with me to vote. Now there is not much oversight in Texas, but parents don't want to NOT be compliant or risk losing their right to teach their children at home, so they will try to meet that "requirement."

The Texas Home School Coalition is very political and encourages families to be involved in politics to the point where they have field trips to the state capitol and more. Look into their "political action committee."

Very Conservative Republican, but very active.

Rebecca said...

I meant THE founder's not THEIR founder's. I switched topics there without making a new paragraph. Sorry about that.

Rebecca said...

Ron Paul came and met with the homeschoolers in Point Comfort one year! That was back when I lived in Port Lavaca and we had a pretty big active homeschool group there. He played guitar for us. I remember thinking that he was a "guitar playing homeschool grandpa."

Jared said...

So much of education goes back to the family. In my 5 years of teaching, I could easily tell which kids came from strong families and which came from no-parenting families.

I also think we have forgotten how to educate. Our system of education is not based on a novel approach, it was copied from an existing system found in the 1800s in Prussia.

This marks a large change in education. How to educate a child has a lot to do with what you think man is. The Prussian model of education sees man more like a state object rather than an automonous human person. Of course, the Prussian model paved the way for the notorious Hitler. If you like history, the history of modern education starting from the 1800s is quite interesting. This is perhaps why many Germans didn't see a problem with their crimes.