Why I’ve Stopped Watching Football

Though I quite enjoy many things about watching my favorite team play football, I don’t like what it does to me as a person.  So I’m done.  It’s a matter of first things first, my personal authenticity taking precedence over my enjoyment and entertainment.  I’ll explain below, but please understand that this is not some rash move over my favorite team’s loss in its season opener last night.  I still love the FSU Seminoles, and wish them and all their fans the best!

The Personal Issues at Stake

Anger.  If I’ve already had a difficult day, a frustrating football game tends to incite me to anger rather easily.  I note that I’m tempted Continue reading

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The Allure of Compromise and Its Failure To Keep Its Promises

One friend’s teenage son complains that there ought to be some “middle ground” between the uber-healthy foods his mom provides, and the convenient, tasty, and unhealthy snacks he finds at his friends’ houses.  This idea of a “middle ground” has some serious problems, however, and it’s got me thinking this morning—and not just about food.

It’s an interesting notion–this idea that compromising on what is best is somehow the right and fair and proper and open-minded and moral and enlightened and normal thing to do. It is the idea that compromise itself is the best policy, and that those in their right minds should naturally practice compromise as a fundamental paradigm in life—as the default manner of reasoning. It is the fallacy that in every disagreement, there should be some “middle ground” to which both parties should rightly repair themselves. It is the fallacy that all opinions have equal merit, that all strategies are equally likely to end in good outcomes, that a thing and its opposite can somehow have equal value, or that a thing and a discounted version of the thing both have equal value.  It is the fallacy that the best thing to do is that which is not the best thing.

To be maintained as a way of life, however, such a notion is generally not stated as clearly as I have put it here.  Rather, it must remain fuzzy and unclear—not as a thing to be exhaustively proven and demonstrated, but quietly assumed and beyond questioning. Its primary purpose is to avoid the realities of diligence–to avoid the sting of reality:  that work is require in order to maintain what is right and best. It is a wish for a reality of a different sort–one that simply doesn’t exist—one in which no difficult decision need be made, and moreover, in which no difficult decision need be carried out in deed.

Those who employ such notion of compromise, however, do not do so consistently. Indeed, they do not want to do so consistently, for there are certain instances in this real world where compromise makes for flagrant failure.  Consider the following ridiculous scenarios:

  1. Lisa sits down to watch the big game, which she knows to be on channel 206.  When she turns on the TV, she sees that it’s on channel 82.  Being a devotee of compromise, she decides to find the “middle ground”, and tunes the TV to channel 144.
  2. Billy knows that it takes 3 gallons of gasoline to mow the field behind his house.  He drives to town and purchases 2.5 gallons for the task, thinking that this is a good compromise because “it’s good to compromise on everything”.  He knows he’ll have to come back for more gas later, but it just seems right to him not to go all the way—not to do things right the first time.
  3. Sally’s chicken pen has three holes in its fence, torn by debris blown by last night’s storm.  Sally is afraid her chickens will escape, so she sets out to repair the holes.  She patches two holes, and figures that this is a fair and proper compromise between what she ought to do and what she is willing to do.  As a result, several chickens escape and are eaten by various predators.

Most people would find compromises such as the ones in these scenarios to be foolish.   They (the people) are not entirely deluded about reality, and they readily understand that some things just don’t work unless they are done right.  Further, and more importantly, they have a motive to see certain things done right.  That is, they have decided to care about certain things enough to go to the effort.  In other areas, where they give in to the temptation to compromise, what is lacking is this level of care—this moral operation of applying oneself to do what is right and best.

Compromise is one-sided.

Have you ever noticed that compromise always gives less, and never more?  The way we think about it, it’s not considered a compromise to donate $10 when asked to donate $5.  We don’t call it a compromise to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill when the plan was for 20 minutes.  No, the whole idea that drives compromise is the avoidance of full exertion.  The point of it is to give less than what is needed, and not more.  It is an attempt to escape from responsibility—from reality.

Compromise promises us that life will be better under its influence than without it.  It promises that we will feel better having done less than what is best.  But this is the stuff from which regret is made.  And who among us feels that life is better with regret than without?  No one, of course.  Compromise is a liar.

I remember a college roommate who sleepily shuffled into the kitchen, removed the milk from the refrigerator, and sniffed it to see if it was still fresh.  At detecting a sour odor, he winced, put the cap back on the jug, and proceeded to put it back into the refrigerator—as if it might be better tomorrow!  He could just as easily have dropped the jug into the trash can, which was a mere step away, but the greater promise, as he perceived it, was in putting it back into the refrigerator, where it could continue to disappoint other roommates who would try the sniff test for themselves, and where it would still need to be thrown out.  He simply wasn’t thinking it through.  Otherwise, he’d have quickly realized that the best and most efficient course of action would be to dispose of the milk and be done with it.  His compromise, therefore, was in doing less thinking than the situation required.

And so it is with eating junk food snacks.  Ask anyone whether junk food is healthy to eat, and they’ll tell you “no”.  They certainly know better than to eat it, whether they actually eat it or not.  Thus does it generally come down to the question of whether we will do what we know is best.  But compromise is always there—always lurking about to promise us at every opportunity that life would be better if we would do less than the best.  It is the excuse that supplants personal diligence and discipline.  But who ever reaches the death bed, convinced that he or she was too diligent in life, and had made too few compromises?

The tug of compromise is as certain as the hold that inertia has on an object at rest.  Resting objects do not spring into motion without being acted upon by some force.  And so it is with our naturally ability to apply ourselves toward doing and thinking what is right and best.  It is a reality of this world in which we live that such operations require the deliberate exertion of energy, which exertion we will not always find convenient or desirable.

The way I see it, we have two choices.  We can sit around wishing that there were an easier way, or we can get up and do what needs to be done.  We can put all the lipstick we like on the pig of compromise, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig.  And isn’t it interesting when someone actually goes to the trouble of putting lipstick on that pig?  I mean, if the point of the compromise is to shirk responsibility, then why volunteer to be responsible for defending the practice of compromise as if it were a good and proper practice?  Why not just do the work of diligence in the first place, rather than to do the work of pretending to justify the lack of work?

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Lousy “Christian” Logic on Why Voting for Evil is Good

TownHall.com has posted an article by Christian theologian Wayne Grudem under the title, Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice.  To put it bluntly, the article’s logic is lousy.  Let me count the ways.

Grudem’s thesis statement is this:

(I think) voting for Trump is a morally good choice.

That’s his conclusion, and he claims that those who say otherwise are “incorrect”.  He specifically addresses those who say “when faced with a choice between ‘the lesser of two evils,’ the morally right thing is to choose neither one.”   And so now it is up to Mr. Grudem to prove his case.  Here’s his first argument (emphasis added):

I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.

Now, Mr. Grudem does not support this assertion—the one that holds that as long as you think your candidate is better, there is “nothing morally wrong” with voting for him or her. He does not offer any evidence to demonstrate to us that he is right. And it’s probably best that he did not try.  By this logic, Judas Iscariot would have been a fine candidate choice because at least he’s not as bad as Beelzebub (the lord of evil spirits).  And by the same logic, Beelzebub would have been a fine candidate because he was not as bad as Satan.  And lest you think I’m waxing ridiculous with these particular examples, let me point out that by this same reasoning, Hillary Clinton would be a justifiable choice for president if she were running against Putin or Ahmadinejad.

Right away, we see that Mr. Grudem employs relativistic reasoning in defense of the idea that voting for a “lesser-of-two-evils” candidate is a morally good action.  This, of course, is not only a logical no-no, but is quite contrary to certain paradigms found in the Bible.  Here are a few passages for your consideration, each followed by my thoughts on their relevance.

Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Is this statement a fair representation of Paul’s paradigm on taking part in evil?  If so, we see that they were to take “no part” in it.  It doesn’t say “take the smaller part in it”, but “take no part”.  Interestingly, this is from the ESV, a translation that Mr. Grudem oversaw, so there’s little room here for bickering about translations; Mr. Grudem should accept this at face value, yet he seems to make an exception when it comes to this election.

1 Timothy 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

Again I ask whether this one-liner from Paul is typical of his paradigm about whether Christians should ever participate in wrongdoing.  If a candidate is expected to be a wrongdoer—and Mr. Trump is—then what would Paul have said about actively supporting Mr. Trump’s campaign by voting for him?

So, would voting Trump into office be bad for the USA?  Does he have any bad qualities and/or habits that would likely have a bad effect on the nation?  Well, for that, let’s turn to the opinion of Mr. Grudem.  Here are his exact words regarding Trump’s faults:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages.

If nothing else, the “brash” behavior is quite a scary trait for a President.  It is from a lack of judgment—from foolishness—which is never once spoken well of in the scriptures.  Consider these passages:

Proverbs 10:14 The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.

Proverbs 14:16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.

Proverbs 26:1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.

Do we really want to “bring ruin near” with a foolish president?  Do we really want a “reckless and careless” administration?  Do we really want to “honor” a man for whom “honor is not fitting”?  As my son would enthusiastically interject (humorously), “What would possibly go wrong with THAT?!”

Yes, these are just a few of the things the Bible says about fools, but does Mr. Grudem think they should be taken into consideration in this present matter of Trump 2016?  Well, apparently not.  Pay close attention to Grudem’s sentence that closes the paragraph from above that detailed what is wrong with Mr. Trump (emphasis added):

These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

Again, these are very serious flaws, but Grudem is careful to stipulate “in this election”.  And that brings us back to his relativism.  Yes, they are terrible flaws, but Grudem thinks that there’s some sort of good cause in play that trumps (no pun intended, though one is quite appropriate here) normal Christian morality.

Grudem continues with a completely irrelevant argument:

On the other hand, I think some of the accusations hurled against him are unjustified.

It’s not the inaccurate accusations that should keep someone from voting for Mr. Trump.  To bring it up here amounts to saying “Look, he’s not as bad as people make out.”  Well, actually, Trump is worse than most Americans realize.  I say that because most Americans are not very keen on the Constitution and the Rule of Law, else they would squirm at hearing many of Trump’s plans to undermine both.

In his penultimate grasp at straws, Grudem writes:

He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity.

The suggestion here is that a guy with these qualities must be a good choice for President.  Such notion, however, is false.  Having good qualities does not erase or offset bad qualities.  It does not make them any less bad.  If it did, Joseph Stalin could not have been so bad since he had a very warm relationship with his daughter, Svetlana, yet we know him still as the “Butcher”.

And that brings us to Grudem’s parting argument (emphasis added):

But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.

“The most good”?  The most good of what?  The most good of all possible choices for president?  Or is it “the most good” between Trump and Clinton?  Surely, Grudem means the latter.  In other words Grudem might as well be arguing that our only two choices are Trump and Clinton, and that no other option for America is possible at this time.  And there’s your problem, Mr. Grudem.

This “two-party system” that is nowhere authorized in the Constitution, and that has a stranglehold on our politics—Grudem’s advice seems to be to run with it, as if it were not our right to overthrow it for the abomination that it is.  This exemplifies a cognitive error that cognitive scientist Daniel Kahneman might classify as a WYSIATI problem.  (What You See Is All There Is.)  That is, Grudem does not have in mind fixing anything.  He does not have in mind the philosophical origins of our Union.  He does not have in mind principle and righteousness, but merely that the one bad choice seems better than the other bad choice.  He’s not searching for solutions, but for what are commonly called “justifications”.  And no doubt, what he has conjured up here will be quite satisfying to Christians who identify as Republicans.

One wonders whether Grudem would find this altered verse to be logically compelling:

For God so loved the world that he gave flawed Peter, since at least Peter, even with his flaws, wasn’t as bad as Satan.

Grudem’s piece is quite troubling once its logical foundation is uncovered for the relativistic mess that it is.  Even more troubling is the fact that arguments of this (low) quality should find an audience in this culture.  But they do—even at TownHall.com—where part of the plan is to manipulate the religious voters into voting a certain way, whether God likes it or not.

Remember, according to Grudem’s relativist logic, Hillary Clinton would be a justifiable candidate, as long as someone worse than here were running, too.  So really, how impressive is it that such a reasoner as Grudem tauts Trump as the “moral” choice?  This is not morality, but foolishness.

For the record, I support neither candidate and neither party.  It is never a good idea to do the wrong thing—not even “for a good cause”.  Self correction is the rightful duty of all humans and of all human cultures.

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The Leaf Cloud Theory (of Trees)

What follows is a brief description of my Leaf Cloud Theory of Trees.

Perhaps through some sinister government conspiracy, or perhaps only through commonplace institutional dullness, schools in America have taught students for many generations that trees come about through deposition of seeds (such as acorns or pine cones) into suitable soil.  The seeds, it is said, then sprout and grow into (sometimes quite large) trees, which, of course, yield canopies of leaves.

New evidence, however, suggests that this model may be inaccurate.  Without getting bogged down in details and proofs, the intent of this brief article is simply to present the basics of the Leaf Cloud Theory.

Leaf Clouds

A leaf cloud of moderate proportion.

A leaf cloud of moderate proportion.

Nearly everyone has stopped at some point to admire a tree, but very few actually understand how trees get there in the first place.  To complicate matters, as fewer and fewer people spend time outdoors in each successive generation, long-understood phenomena become more scarcely understood until what remains is mistakenly considered to be mere fable.  Perhaps there is no better example of this than the leaf cloud.

Living leaves, because they are strongly social beings, tend to form themselves into societies numbering from just a few to a few hundred thousand.  In such numbers, and under the right conditions, electromagnetic anomalies occur and leaves in societies of sufficient size will levitate in cloud-like formations.  Hence, the name “leaf cloud”.  (See photo above.)  The greater the number of leaves, the higher the levitation, as a general rule.  Most single leaves, especially when they are brown, are unable to levitate, while green leaf groupings of as few as two to four have sometimes been witnessed to levitate within mere centimeters of the ground.  Larger leaf clouds are rarely witnessed to levitate more than a few hundred feet above the ground.

The Need for Water

Early Channel Formation

Early Trunk Line Formation

Leaves in such cloud societies are still limited by their need for water.  Once the society has decided on a promising location (such decision is believed to be by popular vote), its separate leaves begin to emit single, twig-like appendages, one per leaf.  These join together, attaching the various leaves together and growing in length, in search of similar appendages from other groupings of leaves within the cloud.

The effect of this corporate joining together is that the appendages nearer the earth are considerably thicker, as if by some additive effect.  They dangle downward as they continue to grow and join together.

“Trunk” Formation

Half-Formed Trunk Line

Half-Formed Trunk Line Thickening and Approaching the Ground

Once all the leaves have integrated themselves into the collective, the water channels so formed will join themselves into a single “trunk” line reaching ever closer to the ground.

At this point, the forming trunk line begins to form a crusty outer layer (commonly referred to as “bark”) in order to protect the interior water lines from evaporation.

The amount of energy expended by the leaf cloud to form a trunk line sufficient to reach the ground is considerable.  It is believed that this is the reason that leaf clouds of lesser population remain low to the ground, while tall trunk lines are only ever formed by large leaf clouds—those having sufficient energy for it.  Once the trunk line has reached half way to the ground, the individual leaves are short on energy and are in danger of death should any complications occur.

Grounding

Fully Grounded Leaf Cloud

Fully Grounded Leaf Cloud

The process of grounding with a suitable trunk line moves very quickly, and this is crucial for the survival of the leaf cloud.  In their energy-starved state, normal occurrences such as full sunlight can prove deadly.   This is why it is believed that almost all leaf cloud trunk line installations occur at night, as it not only minimizes the threat of death from exhaustion of the weaker leaves in the cloud, but also tends to hide the installation from more particular species who may object to a trunk line being installed in any given location.

Well, that’s enough detail for now.  You’ll likely have questions, but you know how to reach me.  In the meantime, I’ll be busy overturning all the world’s ignorance and scientific hogwash.

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Why Does the Bible Warn So Much Against Being Deceived?

There are many warnings in the Bible against being deceived.  Here are three from the New Testament to get our study started:

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

Galatians 6:7  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

1 John 3:7  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

Such warnings are commonplace, and they range from general warnings to warnings about deceit on specific topics.  In fact, the idea of deceiving and lying is a fairly common theme in the Bible.  Depending on the English version, the word “deceive” and its variations occur about 65 times throughout the Bible.  (That’s an average of about once per book.)  Meanwhile, liar and its variations appear about 20 times, while lie to and lied to appear about 10 times.  This doesn’t count, of course, instances in which we read about someone lying in a narrative that doesn’t come out and use one of these words or terms.  Even if we count our estimate at a modest 95 occurrences, however, we end up with roughly 1.5 mentions of lying per book in the Bible, on the average.

And if that’s not enough to cement the topic of lying/deceit as an important one, God’s bold statement that the place of liars is in the Lake of Fire should certainly do it:

Revelation 21:8  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

I note that it’s not just some liars, but all of them that are in view in this passage.  The wise believer, therefore, would do well to heed these passages.

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

1 John 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Galatians 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves

James 1:26  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

I could go on, of course, but the people who are interested in being honest have already seen enough, while those looking for a way out of total honesty will still be looking for a way out even if I show them every passage there is.

The reason the Bible talks about it so much is that every time we think about anything, decide on anything, write anything, or tell anybody anything, we have an opportunity to be dishonest.  Every time.  Just as we have an opportunity to fall down every time we walk, we have an opportunity to make moral errors every time we think or communicate.  God knows this, of course.  Hence, all the mentions of it in the Bible.

And if I understand the Bible correctly–and I do–God is simply not interested in the eternal company of people who are not fully committed to the truth.

 

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Choosing Between Church And God

If you are a member of a church, you are frequently called upon to choose between church and God.  Let me spell it out for you.

When you were young, there was always some kid around encouraging you to do things your parents disallowed.  Do you remember that?  Or maybe it was a classmate trying to get you to disobey school rules.  Even today at work, there may likely be one or more coworkers who actively encourage you to break the rules in order to do things in a way that’s more advantageous to the employees and less so to the employer.

This sort of thing happens because not everybody shares the same paradigms about life.  Whenever a standard is set, whether parental rules or rules on the job or public law, there will always be somebody who wants to cheat.  And while we could debate whether an individual has any obligation to follow this or that rule, I’d rather just fast forward this discussion by taking it to the top level.

Christians have an implicit obligation to obey God.  They also have an implicit obligation to revere what God says.  After all, when you claim that someone is the Supreme Being in the universe and the Creator of all that is, a certain amount of respect and homage is implicit in that.  Since Christianity is a book-based religion, wherein the central facts are recorded in the Bible, there is also implicit in Christianity some level of responsibility to the information in the Bible.  For example, we call the Creator “Yahweh” because that’s one of the names by which he is known in the Bible, and we don’t call him “Doug” or “Jerry” because he is not known by those names in the Bible.  Or, to give another example, we go around teaching that God’s son was born in Bethlehem.  We could teach instead that he was born in Schenectady, NY, but we don’t do that because we draw our information about him from the Bible, and not from imagination.

That’s basically how it works.  And it works that way with more than just information; it also works that way with our moral code.  For example, a diligent Christian believes that God hates lies because he or she can read as much in the Bible.  The diligent believer, therefore, shuns lying.

But then there’s church.  And at church, there’s always going to be somebody trying to get us to cut corners and to cheat in one way or another on our obligations to God.  It happens all the time, whether it’s cheating with doctrine, with morals, or with the purpose for the program.  The fact of the matter is that it’s just way easier to run a church as one sees fit than it is to run it in such a way that everything that goes on there jibes 100% with all 1,100+ pages of the Bible.  So the program comes first.  And, fortunately for the program-mongers, very few in the pews are the sort to pay much attention to the departures from scripture.

Those who are, of course, can generally be talked into relaxing their objections.  Things like “just go along to be unified” or “look, we’re doing this for a good cause” are particularly effective.  And then there’s the table-turning tactic that bullies the objector into submission—things like, “I see a lot of pride in your thinking about this”, or “What are you going to do, start your own church?”

At the end of the day, however, all this boils down to what will be the fundamental paradigm of the people in the group.  What is their prime directive?  Is it to keep the church running, or is it to please God?  I vote for the latter.  But, of course, I had to cast such vote with my feet—again and again, as I realized just how impossible it is to find a church that is interested in fully embracing everything the Bible teaches.

 

Posted in Paradigms, Religion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Borrowing from Due Diligence

All my life, I have borrowed from due diligence in order to invest in things I have considered to be more important. As it has turned out so far, those investments have not generally been frivolous, but have been sunk into due diligence in other matters—things not popularly considered to be important. The result is that I am increasingly keen in areas that do not interest many others, and just getting by in many of the more mundane matters of life maintenance. Continue reading

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An Epiphany About Liberty

A few folks in our culture prod us to restore our liberty, standing up against the constant encroachments of the federal government and the bankers who seem to own those who govern, driving their behavior.  I have certainly been among such activists, even in recent years, but my understanding of the situation has continued to evolve with further study.

What these “liberty movement” activists don’t seem to understand—and what I have not understood until recently— Continue reading

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To Critics of Home Schooling

With suspicion you question people’s motives for and methods of home schooling. You are fairly certain that something must be wrong with it. It only seems right to you, since what we do is so different from what you do. So when you see a home-schooled kid walking the dog at 9:00 a.m. on a Wednesday, it’s obvious to you that his parents aren’t taking his education seriously. When you see that another has time to be in several plays a year, it just affirms your suspicions that his school day is one of goofing off and that he sleeps in as late as he likes.
 
When you get around homeschooled kids, you like to quiz them, certain that they are not really learning what ought to be learned. And if you find, to your surprise, that they do know what you think they ought to know, you switch the game and label them as “nerds” or “geeks”. Surely, you must be right in one way or another—even if you can’t quite nail it down—that what is happening with their education is a travesty. You even think about reporting them to the authorities—not so much because you see any evidence of wrongdoing, but because it just doesn’t sit right with you that they are doing what they are doing. You really want them to be like you—perhaps even for reasons that you cannot explain.
 
So I thought I’d take a minute and give you some information that will help you—if you are willing—to understand what’s really going on in a great many home-schooling families.
 
We decided to be extravagant with our kid’s education. We decided it was worth a great deal to have it be as excellent as we could discover how to make it. We saw certain downsides to public education, and decided it was worth the risk and sacrifice to see to his education ourselves.
 
So we gave up a lot of things to make it happen. And I mean a lot. We gave up the typical American family lifestyle of 2 parents working full time. We struggle financially to make it happen, and it’s worth it. We don’t drive the new cars we’re expected to drive, or live in the new houses we’re expected to live in. Those things just aren’t as important to us as our child’s education. So we do without.
 
We also do without so many of the conventions that you find to be perfectly normal, while we find them to be needless or even counterproductive. We don’t tell our kid to quit asking questions because questions are disruptive to the rest of the class. We don’t force him (whether he is brilliant or dull) to operate above or below his potential on account of it being easier to manage him (and 20-something others) that way. We don’t read him books about books; we read him the books about which the books are written. We don’t fill his weeks with tests, but with learning. We can’t tell you his IQ (because we don’t know it), but we can stand by and let him tell you what he knows. We can watch him have a full conversation with a 2-year-old or a 92-year-old—forthright, alert, respectful, curious, and kind. And all this, while you insist that he is not properly “socialized”.
 
We are always teaching—at the grocery store, on the road, doing chores. We share with our kid what we ourselves are learning—what we wonder about, what we wish we knew, what we have discovered we are wrong about. We get our kid to look up things for us. We bounce ideas off of him and sometimes get some amazing input in return. We are learning partners—all together in a confederacy of life-long learning.
 
And we notice things. We notice fallacious arguments, inauthentic behavior, redundancy, nonsense, cognitive bias, misinformation, disinformation, presumption, bald assertions, double standards, and the like. We see such things all around us, and rather than to pretend that they are not there, we call them for what they are and avoid participating in them ourselves. This is where we are often at odds with what the rest of the world is doing, and yet even so, we ourselves are not invulnerable to such error. Where we stand out, however, is that we consider ourselves free to walk away from error, whether so many others take it as some rite of passage—something to be obligatorily tolerated while doing one’s rightful time in the societal traditions.
 
But we don’t just notice the bad; we also notice excellence—and we have made the time for it. We can stop at any point in the day to further examine an excellent point, and excellent idea, an excellent question. We can take the time to look up the song that was brought to mind by the lesson, or to check out whether our memory of such and such is accurate. We read from some of the greatest minds ever to live on this planet, considering their ideas directly, and just as they put them forth—as opposed to some version filtered through the mind of a textbook editor.
 
We take the time to talk. Our kid narrates back what he has learned, and we discuss it. At five years old, he would initiate, “Dad, can we talk about the government?” At 12, he is noting the fallacies in the TV commercials, in political debates, in TV preachers and the like. All this learning, these skills, these moments—they are all very important. They are also fun and they bring us closer together.
 
I’m writing a book about the philosophy of rational thinking and the whole family–including our 12-year-old has discussed almost every detail of it extensively for nearly four years now. We think about our thinking–which makes us odd birds in this culture, to be sure. We try to catch our own cognitive biases in action, and we do pretty well with it. We’re quite used to the idea that we’re going to mess up in thinking from time to time, so when we do, we don’t get defensive about it; we just fix it. We share this goal in common–to be in our right minds on all matters at all times. Formally, we put our paradigm like this: “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, wherever it may lead.”
 
And that brings me back to the public schools that we have avoided by home schooling. It’s that “wherever it may lead” part that makes us such radicals. In public society, a great many untruths are silently swallowed or tolerated. Many know these things are false, and they put up with them anyway. They know the speech is bloviated rhetoric, yet they don’t call it out for what it is. They know the policy is hypocritical and inconsistently enforced, yet they will not insist that the policy be improved accordingly. They know that not all the kids in the class were guilty, yet they sit silently by while the entire class is punished. They know the rules are arbitrary, yet they do nothing to see to it that the rules are improved.
 
That’s the kind of mental compromise that we just weren’t willing to take. Another paradigm of ours is this: “Self correction is the rightful duty of all people.” Yet people from that culture think that WE are the strange ones. We broke free from it, and are not dependent upon anyone else to educate our kid for us. Even when we do put him in some class or lessons, we pay for it from our own pockets. This is how we do it—because we are not willing to tolerate the systemic problems of public education. To us, “free” is simply not an irresistible draw. In fact, our taxes pay for schools that we do not even use—the schools that your kids attend—the schools where so many systemic problems fester.
 
Interestingly, however, you who are just fine with those systemic problems—you who will tolerate them and not lift a finger to fix them—you are deliberately rising to action, not for a cause that is your own natural business, but for another: the cause of proving that there must be something wrong with us homeschoolers. You gloss over the occurrences of corruption and bad teacher behavior and ever-failing initiatives in the public schools, as if that were all to be expected, yet you dig to find some manner of fault with us home schooling families—as if it would be unconscionable not to get involved with problems, should any be discovered.
 
We do not spend out time by prying into the public schools to expose what all needs to be exposed there. No, we reached the conclusion that that was not for us, and we moved on from there to take care of our own business at our own expense. But this has drawn your suspicious eye, so you pursue us to accuse us of wrongdoing—adamant that the state would best be served if we were like you.
 
You should know that we are as put out by your overbearing suspicion and meddling as you are by our freedom from your conventions. In the mean time, however, we are very pleased with the results of our home-schooling efforts so far. We are raising a rational, responsible, and loving human being, and we’re doing it ourselves, as his parents. Although this has drawn criticism for years, no one has ever successfully demonstrated that it is wrong for parents to raise their own kids, and that it is better to hand them off to the government instead. Sure, you wouldn’t put it that way, but that’s exactly why you are so suspicious of us, it seems to me. Indeed, we do not hear you objecting that our son is smart, rational, clever, kind, respectful, conscientious, responsible, well-informed, self-disciplined, patient, wise, and can read an 800-page novel in under a week in his spare time (while your children are probably watching TV). So what else could it be? What else could be irritating you so much about us? It may be that that question will require a new level of honesty from you if you are to answer it accurately.
 
Meanwhile, however, we are raising our kid to be able to solve the very sorts of problems that you are helping to sustain and promote in your defense of the status quo. You THINK you want us to join you at the public school. You THINK you want us to “help fight for change”, even. But should we come and join you, you would quickly want us to shut up about the need for the schools to be honest, rational, and self-correcting.
 
Ours is a different philosophy from yours, and we were wise enough to see that and to part ways from the mainstream practices. If you really want to keep chasing us down to pick a fight, I could go on and on about what all is wrong with conventional educational philosophy and practice alike. I’m pretty sure you would not enjoy that exercise, even if you could benefit from it.
 
So perhaps its best for you simply to leave us be. We promise not to quiz your kids to prove to ourselves that their education is worse than what we provide to our own. And we promise not to call the authorities to tell them that we’re pretty sure something really bad is going on in your house since you send off your kids to compromised government schools, rather than seeing to their education yourselves. We respect that you are in the position of making those decisions for yourself. And even though we think our decision is better than yours, we do not make it our business to follow you around looking for fault.
 
So how about a little Golden Rule here? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Somehow, even though you continue to pry, I don’t really think that’s what you want me to do to you. But if I have got you wrong, and you really do think you’re providing a necessary service to me and my family by continuing to harass, I’m pretty sure you would change your mind after just a short time of having the tables turned in your direction.
 
If after all this, you’re still convinced that we are messed up and that your way of thinking about government-run education is superior, then here’s an idea for you: Why don’t you actually DEMONSTRATE that? Why don’t you actually do some studies and write us a book proving that your way is better? That, of course, would mean that you should resist the urge to cherry pick the worst examples of homeschooling you can find, while ignoring the veritable ocean of good examples. And that would mean that your findings would fall under the scrutiny of peer review. It would also mean that you’d have committed your argument to print, where any error in it can be on perpetual display for the world to see—even past the point at which it will have become obvious whether your own kids have turned out to be the excellent people that one would expect to be the outcome of an educational system that you taut as being so worthy of our investment. These are the same kids, mind you, who are currently bullying the homeschooled kids for being different.
 
And that brings me to my conclusion. While I have hopes that this short article might influence a few and change their minds, my primary reason for writing it was to encourage those who home school, lest they be worn down by your constant criticisms and challenges. They are doing what they think is right—and they are doing it themselves, rather than handing it off for someone else to do for them. You are actively working to discourage such people. And to what end? To make yourself feel better that you have done so little yourself? If you are so uncomfortable at having done so little, perhaps the better option would be to reform yourself, rather than to attempt to drag down those who have done what you yourself are neglecting to do.
 
We home schoolers are by no means perfect people, but we have done something you have never managed to do—and by and large, it is working quite well for us and for our children. We do it because we think it is right, and not because we long to be approved of by you.
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Facebook! Facebook!

Facebook! Facebook! Every day!
‘Tis here we while our lives away.
Posting, liking, sharing—we
Our vanishing humanity.

Posting memes, and sharing, too,
There’s always something more to do.
It’s oh such fun! And wait, there’s more;
Now potty time is fun galore!

And that’s not all; old drudgeries
Have now become our times of ease.
E’en driving, which was once a bore,
With Facebook now is so much more!

And endless hours once spent at work
Now seem but few. And he’s a jerk
Who ‘llows us not this Facebook joy,
But makes us work in his employ!

Posting, sharing, checking in.
Our lives have never better been.
Redefining “substance”, we
Now find it in the “likes” we see.

Schools are failing. Law’s astray.
Honor’s rarer every day.
Government’s stark raving mad.
Inflation’s high and times are bad.

Freedom’s waning; so are we—
This land of opportunity—.
While truth and reason, love and care,
And diligence are now so rare.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a sin
To chat on Facebook with your friends.
And maybe this will make you mad,
But I’ll explain how you’ve been had.

You’ve been sold a bill of goods—
This idea that our our children could
Have happy lives here anyway,
Despite the mess we leave today.

Sure, it’s tough to think about
Just what to do to work it out,
But you’re not thinking much at all;
Instead, you answer Facebook’s call.

Meme me this and meme me that.
Share your supper. Share your cat.
Share you party. Wave the flag.
Share your faith. Boldly brag.

Complain about the way things are.
Complain that things have gone too far.
Complain that “they” should have it solved.
But leave it there; don’t get involved.

Don’t right the wrongs or find the facts,
Expose the lies, or judge the acts
That really cause what ails us most;
Stay “positive” in every post.

One big, lovely country, we—
Our grand exceptionality!
No need to fret these woes that loom;
No worries for our children’s doom.

Facebook! Facebook! Every day.
It’s here we while our kids away.
Their future’s firm—that we pretend.
While here on Facebook with our friends.

Posted in Character, Parenting, Poetry, Politics, Religion | Leave a comment