Why the Three R’s are Obsolete and Should be Replaced by the Three C’s

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Once upon a time.  (You can’t help but love my blog this week since we know that all great stories begin with “once upon a time.”)  Anyway, not to be repetitious, I will note that long long ago, people knew that to be really educated you must learn the three R’s.  The three R’s were a short cut for “Reading, Writing and Rithmetic.  Just to make things symmetrical or rhyming, they had to deliberately misspell or at least mis-pronounce arithmetic.  Doesn’t seem like a very erudite way to introduce an essential concept of education by misspelling a key concept.

Nevertheless, for over a two hundred years now, (The phrase appears to have been coined at the beginning of the 19th century.) these three concepts or methodologies have become the essential elements that EVERYONE knows schools must teach.  Politicians all over the land demand that schools in their states or in their districts will do everything they can to ensure that these concepts are taught.  Standardized tests are developed to make sure that students have proficiency in these concepts.  Students are drilled, drilled some more, tested, and tested some more.  And still in most public schools, a large majority of students cannot pass these tests.

School board meetings attended by irate parents ask why their kids are still failing the standardized tests meant to determine how assiduously they have learned their 3 R’s.  Politicians clamor for better teachers at lower pay and with more responsibilities but less power to enforce discipline or attention.  Classrooms are rife with students all of whom have cellphones that have more knowledge than the teachers standing up in front of their classes.  Teachers are blamed for teaching extraneous subjects like civility, manners, sex education, health education, racism, and holocaust history.  Back to basics scream the politicians.  Back to basics scream the irate parents.  Back to basics meaning reading, writing and rithmetic.

Ideas are bandied about to improve teachers. 

Pay them more?  “Nope, not enough money in the school budget.  Can’t afford any more taxes to pay for education.”

More stringent tests for teachers?  “Sounds like a good idea but where have all the teachers gone?”

Make it a felony to teach subjects that do not relate to the 3 R’s?    “Great idea, just as soon as we can find anyone willing to go into education, we will pass a law wherein we can convict errant teachers who dare to ignore the 3 R’s”

The irony of this entire effort is that the 3 R’s are obsolete.  They have been for a long time now.  Assuming that schools survive (see my articles are why schools are obsolete) they should replace the 3 R’s with what I call the 3 C’s.  The three R’s are obsolete in the sense that their focus is too narrow.  The 3 C’s would entail a broader focus that would allow students more latitude in what they learn while also teaching them concepts for the twenty-first century.  Of course, money must still be allocated for education and teachers must still be paid a decent salary or no one will be qualified to teach anything whether it starts with an R or a C.  However, please be patient while I explain the difference between the three C’s and the three R’s.

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Comprehension versus Reading:

The ability to read and understand text is a skill but narrowly focused on written materials.  The ability to comprehend meaning entails not only understanding the written word but also understanding such mediums as:

  • Music
  • Art
  • Lectures
  • Dance
  • Politics
  • Religion

Each of these mediums can convey a message that is just as powerful as the written word.  An educated person should be capable of divining the message carried by a great work of art or a great piece of music just as they would interpret a written story.  Politics and religion always carry messages and a citizen should be able to critically interpret the various messages and signals that are used by political and religious leaders.

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Communication versus Writing:

We write to communicate with others.  However, we also communicate with voice messages, podcasts, movies, videos, computers, spoken stories, sign and other languages.  Computer programming is a language that should be treated just as important as learning English.  Multiple languages need to be taught at an early age to all students.  Being bi or multilingual is a critical skill in todays global world.

The world of the 21st Century is for many young people, a visual world.  One filled with video games, YouTube channels, Podcasts and instant videos that are made on the fly.  Students need to learn the ins and outs of the various media that are available for communicating to the world and not just good penmanship or writing skills.

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Computation versus Rithmetic:

I am sitting here on my computer.  I have an Amazon Echo about three feet away.  In front of me, I have my old calculator.  Years ago when I was student teaching (1975), I was chastised by the math teachers in the high school where I was doing my student practicum for allowing my students to use calculators for some computational problems.  I was warned that students would never learn how to do math problems if I let them use calculators.  Seven years later, the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE) agreed that it was ok to allow students to use calculators in their classrooms.

Today, the battle still rages over the best ways to teach students math skills.  I need to know the square root of 3750, so I call out to Alexa “What is the square root of 3750?”  She answers me in less than five seconds: “The square root of 3750 is 61.2372.”  I reply, “Thank you.”  Alexa replies “Anytime.”

If I were to do this short easy problem, with a pen and pencil, there are good odds that I would make a mistake and come up with the wrong answer.  Even if I did not make a mistake, solving this simple problem would take me two to five minutes.  Regard the steps for solving the problem using long division.  There are six steps.

Step 1)

Set up 3750 in pairs of two digits from right to left and attach one set of 00 because we want one decimal:

37        50        00

Step 2)

Starting with the first set: the largest perfect square less than or equal to 37 is 36, and the square root of 36 is 6. Therefore, put 6 on top and 36 at the bottom like this:

6

37        50        00

36

Step 3)

Calculate 37 minus 36 and put the difference below. Then move down the next set of numbers.

6

37        50        00

36

1          50

Step 4)

Double the number in green on top: 6 × 2 = 12. Then, use 12 and the bottom number to make this problem:

12? × ? ≤ 150

The question marks are “blank” and the same “blank”. With trial and error, we found the largest number “blank” can be is 1. Replace the question marks in the problem with 1 to get:

121 × 1 = 121.

Now, enter 1 on top, and 121 at the bottom:

6          1

37        50        00

36

1          50

1          21

Step 5)

Calculate 150 minus 121 and put the difference below. Then move down the next set of numbers.

6          1

37        50        00

36

1          50

1          21

0          29        00

Step 6)

Double the number in green on top: 61 × 2 = 122. Then, use 122 and the bottom number to make this problem:

122? × ? ≤ 2900

The question marks are “blank” and the same “blank”. With trial and error, we found the largest number “blank” can be is 2. Now, enter 2 on top:

6          1          2

37        50        00

36

1          50

1          21

0          29        00

The answer is on top. The square root of 3750 with one digit decimal accuracy is 61.2.

Alexa solved the problem in less than 5 seconds and to four decimal places.  Why the hell would anyone want to use long-division to solve this problem lies well outside the limits of my intelligence to imagine? Perhaps they are masochists?  Crazy?  Do not have access to anything but a pencil and paper?

Computation is indeed one of the most important skills anyone can learn.  However, computation is defined as:

“Computation is any type of calculation that includes both arithmetical and non-arithmetical steps and which follows a well-defined model. Mechanical or electronic devices that perform computations are known as computers. An especially well-known discipline of the study of computation is computer science.” — Wikipedia

Everyone needs computation skills.  However, not everyone needs to use long-division to solve problems.  If your goal is to design a bridge, build a house, balance a budget, file your income taxes, you will need computation skills.  Sometimes, you will need to understand some mathematical concepts depending on your needs and priorities.  However, I get by with a calculator, computer and Alexa and seldom do my hands see either a pencil or paper.

Conclusions:

I have said many times that the model of schooling being used in the world today is obsolete, useless, and dysfunctional.  See my article:  Creating a 21st Century Education System.  The changes we need to have a valuable system of public education go well beyond simply substituting the 3 C’s for the 3 R’s.  I would do a grave injustice to the problem if I thought it were this simple.  Expanding and broadening the concepts being taught in schools today is only one small element that needs to be addressed to develop citizens who can use critical thinking skills to solve problems, perform useful societal tasks and select leaders who can make a positive contribution to society.

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Today, we have a system of mass education being systemically destroyed by an elite that knows the system is dysfunctional but sees the solution as taking their kids to private academies.  The problems of most public schools are not as evident in these private institutions but the learning that goes on is no more useful than what is being taught in the public schools.  Still perhaps ten percent of students will benefit from the traditional model of education but that leaves 90 percent of our population who will be unfit to manage a democratic form of government.  In the USA today, we are not only witnessing the decline and fall of public education, but we are on the verge of destroying a democracy that relies on a free and impartial press, an educated citizenry, and a free and fair system of elections.  Take away any one of these three and you destroy democracy.  We seem to be working on destroying all three.

Why Public-School Education is Dying – Part 3 of 5 Parts

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In Part 1 of this blog on education, I stated that, “I am going to dive into the major reasons that are leading to the death of public-school education.”  In this part, we will look at the role that our political leaders play in murdering public school education in America.

How our politicians are helping to kill public school education

Kill or murder?  I have used both words to describe what the Right-Wing political faction is trying to do to public school education.  Let me be clear on this point.  The Right-Wing politicians and their cronies in the media are systematically and deliberately trying to destroy public school education and any semblance of a free and open democratic educational system whether it be in kindergarten or in a university.

Liberals in America have always supported at least in a token sense a system of democratic free public-school education.  Their support dwindles when it comes to the university level.  When it comes to eliminating elitism in schools and eliminating anti-intellectual bias, liberals have too often watched from the sidelines when conservatives have been on the attack.  This is to say that conservatives support elitism and anti-intellectualism while liberals twiddle their thumbs and remain silent.

I want to trace a chronological picture of the attack on public education from when I first noticed it up until this past week.  We will start by going back to 1973 when my daughter entered kindergarten.

1973

I was twenty-seven years old and had been married for six years.  We were living in Providence R.I., and I was attending Rhode Island College days and working nights.  My daughter Christy had been in a Montessori School since she was three and my wife was working part-time.  With Christy turning six soon we decided to enroll her in a public school.  Two advantages for us were cost and proximity.  The public school would be free, and it was only a few blocks from where we lived.

I walked down to the public school to see about enrolling Chris.  When I arrived, I was shocked.  The school had broken windows all over and the ones that had been repaired had thick Plexiglas installed inside of windowpanes.  The school yard was full of junk and debris.  The whole place looked like a prison that had just survived a prison riot.  I turned around and went home.  I was never going to send my daughter to this school.  I would sell my soul first.

After some discussion with my wife Julia, we found that our only option was an expensive private school up the “East” side of Providence near Brown University where all the rich people lived.  The school was called Gordon.

The Gordon School is a racially diverse nursery through eighth grade coeducational independent school in East Providence, Rhode Island.  Child by child, the Gordon School community cultivates successful students by inspiring joyful learning, encouraging intellectual leadership, fostering an empathic spirit, and stimulating a drive for positive societal impact.

The tuition at the time was a fortune for us.  We were living in a 3rd floor apartment and paying 75 dollars a month rent.  We budgeted everything including purchasing light bulbs.  The cost for Gordon in 1974 was almost 3 thousand dollars a year.  Currently, the tuition varies by scholarships and financial aid but the web lists Gordon tuition for 2021 as $39,000 a year.  For us, it was either this or send Chris to the dilapidated run-down school I had visited.  Christy went to Gordon for two years until I graduated college.  After graduating with a degree in Health Education, our family moved to a small town in Wisconsin called River Falls.  There Christy was entered into the public school system where she remained until after high school.

At the time, I never made any connection between Republicans and their desire to destroy public school education.  I was pretty radical in my politics, and I voted Socialist Labor, Citizens Party, Green Party and any other party except for Republicans or Democrats.  I did not like conservatives or liberals.  The only thing I was aware of was that teachers were low paid and public schools in the inner cities were severely under-funded.  Things were much better for public education in small towns like River Falls.

1982

I enter a doctorate program at the University of Minnesota in Vocational Education.  I read “Anti-intellectualism in American Life.”  This book was written by Richard Hofstadter in 1963 and in 1964 won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

Here the politician expresses what a large part of the public feels.  The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser.  There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed; for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies.”R. Hofstader

school board attacks

After reading Hofstader’s book, I began to see a connection between politics in America and the problems with public education funding.  I still did not see any conspiracy and I just assumed it was a case of prejudice and bias with random attacks against education.

1997

I finished my Ph.D. program in 1986 and had been working with a management consulting firm for seven years before going on my own in 1993.  I was now working part-time as a private consultant and teaching part-time at Metro State University in Minneapolis.  I would drive to school to teach MBA night classes.  On my way to school, I would turn on AM 1440 Patriot Radio and listen to Mike Savage, Hugh Hewitt, Laura Ingraham, and Mike Medved.  They were all extreme right-wing commentators.  I listened to them over four years for two or three nights a week on my commute between White Bear Lake and downtown Minneapolis.

Each one of these commentators were well educated at an American University.  Savage obtained a Ph. D in 1978 from the University of California, Berkeley, in nutritional ethnomedicine.  Hewitt graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a B.A. in government in 1978.  After studying at the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt received his Juris Doctor (JD) degree in 1983.  Ingraham earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1985.  She then attended the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was a notes editor for the Virginia Law Review.  She graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1991.  Medved entered Yale University as a 16-year-old undergraduate. He received his B.A. with honors in 1969, and later attended Yale Law School, though he did not finish his JD degree.

For over four years, I listened to these “scholars” bash educators.  Bash teachers.  Bash universities.  Bash college professors.  On and on each of them would go night after night after night.  Labels and epithets like commies, pinkos, intellectuals, liberals, socialists, subversives, and anti-American were consistently used to denigrate teachers and professors.  It was assumed and even a creed that most universities and schools had a “liberal” orientation.” To these commentators, a liberal orientation was akin to being aligned with Satan.  A liberal was the devil incarnate and was on the side of “god-less communism.”

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More and more I began to understand that the right-wing hated educators, hated free thinking and hated anything that had any vestige of a liberal arts education associated with it.  I still did not see any conspiracy though and I assumed it was simple ignorance and fanatical beliefs that united the Republicans, White-Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and other Right-Wing fanatics.

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”— Thomas Jefferson

2010

I read “The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy” by Joshua Holland.

“We have all grown accustomed to conservative’s conspiracy theories about the corporate media having a far-left bias and college professors indoctrinating American youth into Maoism.”  — J. Holland, 2010

Holland goes on to describe how a cabal of rich right-wing billionaires including the Koch Brothers organized to fund a group of “research centers” such as the Heritage Foundation.  The purpose of these groups was to counter what they saw as a left-wing bias in education and the media.  These groups heralded the start of organized right-wing think tanks to fund laws, bills, newspapers, radio shows and other narratives that would combat liberalism and progressivism in American politics.  These groups would routinely rely on the strategies of Madison Avenue to get their messages across.

masksI began to see more clearly that the right wing was orchestrating a systematic attack against not only universities but also against public school education.  However, it has only been in the last few years that I realized how ubiquitous this assault was.  The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education under Trump was a message that meant the right-wing were more powerful than anyone had yet realized.  The attack on public education is now an all-out assault.

What I still did not see was how the now noticeable decline in public support for American Democracy was highly correlated with the right-wing attack on public education.  The right-wing and their political allies have been undermining public education with a goal to replace it with a system of elite education.  The purpose of right-wing education is to train people not how to think but what to think.  Fundamentalists, technocrats, wealthy elites, corporations, and right-wing politicians see no value in “free-thinkers.”  If you believe Thomas Jefferson, democracy can only survive with people who know how to think and not just what to think.

November 2, 2021

D. Vance, a Republican candidate for Senator of Ohio gave a keynote speech at the National Conservatism Conference (November 2, 2021) titled “The Universities Are the Enemy.” He said:

“I think in this movement of national conservatism, what we need more than inspiration is wisdom.  And there is a wisdom in what Richard Nixon said approximately 40, 50 years ago. He said, and I quote: ‘The professors are the enemy.’”

downloadOn his campaign website, under the heading “Protect Conservative Values,” Vance complains that “hundreds of billions of American tax dollars” get sent to universities that “teach that America is an evil, racist nation.” These universities “then train teachers who bring that indoctrination into our elementary and high schools.”  The speakers and presenters at this conference read like a “who’s who” of Trump loyalists and big lie theorists.

Finally, it is clear to me that a conspiracy or call it a concerted effort exists to defund public schooling, to undermine confidence in public education and to create a system of private for-profit schools or elitist academies that will educate the rich.  The poor will be left where the poor have always been left, at the bottom of the heap.  Democracy will be destroyed, and authoritarians will dictate religion, politics, education, and work rules.  There will be no independent thinking in America since independent thinking and democracy go hand in hand.

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December 16, 2021

I pick up the local newspaper, the Casa Grande Dispatch to read an article discussing a curriculum debate at a school board meeting.  Seems as though several people are challenging the right of the schools and educators to decide what should be in the curriculum.  Conservative parents and right-wing politicians are increasingly trying to dictate curriculum.  Often their assumptions about education or ill-formed and simply ignorant.  Regard the quote from one of the attendees at this meeting:

Loudoun

“Once this curriculum is in place they will have to teach it, whether they agree with it or not.” Said David Logue, a deacon at Passion Church in Casa Grande.  “Although I don’t have a lot of information on this, I am against it.  It is ungodly.”

This deacon admits that he does not know much about it, but he is “AGAINST IT,” because it is “UNGODLY.”  How can any intelligent person be against something, without even knowing what they are against?  And to call it ungodly?  What in heavens name is “ungodly” curriculum?  Episodes like this are taking place all across the USA and they are not isolated instances.  They are not random happenings.  The right-wing politicians have been fanning the embers of discontent with the public schools in this country for some time now and the results can be seen at school board meetings in every state in the Union.  No one is clamoring for more education about democracy and freedom of speech.  Instead they are screaming because of things they know little or nothing about like Critical Race Theory and Diversity Education.

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December 29, 2021

Republicans eye new front in education wars: Making school board races partisan” by Andrew Atterbury and Juan Perez Jr.  The assault on education today is not just about Critical Race Theory or Diversity Education.  It is a war on school boards to help determine the course of American Politics.  It is not a question of teaching students “how” to think, it is a question of teaching them “what” to think.  Make no mistake, the conservatives and Republican Party want to turn the clock back on history.  They want a one-party majority of white conservative reactionaries.  They have a design for a “white” America free of the influence of minorities, women, the poor and the less educated.  This design is not based on a balanced diet of hopes and dreams and visions of what America could be.  It is not based on any concept of democracy by the people and for the people.  It is based on a unilateral one-sided elitist view of what education is for and who should receive education.

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“There’s still no equality in education,” said Young, a plaintiff in a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center to keep public money in two Tennessee school districts instead of diverting the funds to unaccountable private schools. “To me, it’s still a form of segregation.” — Weekend Read: 66 years after Brown v. Board, schools across the South still separate and unequal

The problem has been that good liberals and progressives have not realized that a war on education is being waged.  This months Southern Poverty Leadership Report (Winter 2021, Volume 51, Number 4) has an article titled, “Calculated:  The right’s attack on the U.S. education system.”  The words in the title are very appropriate.  The attack is “calculated.”  The battle for school board partisanship is being supported by a coalition of conservative leaders — including representatives of the Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute.

The word “attack” is also appropriate.  We are not talking about reform or change.  Conservatives     want nothing less than the destruction of public-school education.

“Anti-mask efforts are, in essence, anti-public education tactics, a wolf cloaked as libertarian policy designed to devour the public’s fain in public education…. The aim of undermining public education as schools are increasingly gutted of funding and support with each legislative cycle, is to make privatization more appealing than public education.”  Calculated: The right’s attack on the U.S. Education system.

In Summation:

I have given you a chronology of my experiences and insights concerning some of the attacks on public school education by the political right.  I started out by seeing the demise of public-school education due to its paradigmatic inefficiency at meeting the needs of twenty first century students.  Along my journey, I found an all-out political assault on public schools by Republicans and conservatives.  You might think I am being a hypocrite when I condemn the Republicans since I also condemn the current model of public-school education.  However, my solution to providing a democratic education system is very different than what the Republicans want to create.  I will talk more about this difference in the final part of this series on education.

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

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John,

I appreciate your observations on trends. As a parent you knew what was best and chose a different school; and today parents want to keep the school and change the curriculum.  Your graphics emphasize each of your points.  Seeing the discontent, the elite provide the alternatives in either charter schools or private schools.  Catholic and other parochial schools, and  religiously affiliated universities were for families who wanted to instill their religious beliefs while educating.  Home education movement does the same.  Again the monetary sacrifice to do so.  The poor have no choice and tolerate what is given in “free”public education. — Socorro 

Why Public-School Education is Dying – Part 2 of 5 Parts

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In Part 1 of this blog on education, I stated that, “I am going to dive into the major reasons that are leading to the death of public-school education.”  In this part, we will look at

  • Why our present educational model is obsolete

Our present educational model is obsolete because it is based on several faulty principles or assumptions.  Perhaps at one time some of these reasons had some validity but that is no longer true.  We are not living in a 19th century agricultural or a 20th century industrial economy.  We are now in a digital economy that is moving faster than anything the world has ever known.  The following are the most important issues that one must understand to realize why our present educational system is useless.

our-education-system-needs-more-architects-e1494436705693

  1. Outdated concepts of how education should be conducted

The teaching in the early part of America was based on two principles.  First, that every child needed a broad liberal arts education to be qualified as a good citizen.  Second, that education curriculums would follow a set of orderly progression starting from simple concepts to more complex concepts.  Thus, you would learn simple arithmetic before taking complex subjects like calculus or trigonometry.

The above principles treated every student as though they were the same.  There was no customization.  There were no exceptions to the grading progressions that developed in most schools.  If you were an advanced student, you would need to wait for the less advanced to catch up.  If you were not as advanced, then you looked like the dummy in class and were often ridiculed.  If you were somewhere in-between, you kept your mouth shut and dreamed of the end of the school year.

These principles may have been useful in a society that was information poor.  Marshal McLuhan said that schools made sense when they could bring information to a central point. Prospective students from information poor societies could come together and feast on the abundance of knowledge that was now centralized in one location.  Over time, the reverse has taken place.  Societies and cultures have become much denser and richer in information than any school could possibly hope to capture.  Students today can access more knowledge on their smart phones than probably exists in the entire Library of Congress.

“Today in our cities, most learning occurs outside the classroom. The sheer quantity of information conveyed by press-magazines-film-TV-radio far exceeds the quantity of information conveyed by school instruction and texts. This challenge has destroyed the monopoly of the book as a teaching aid and cracked the very walls of the classroom so suddenly that we’re confused, baffled.” — Marshall McLuhan, excerpt from “Classroom Without Walls,”  Explorations in Communication (Boston: Beacon Press, 1960)

Treating students as though they are all the same ignores fundamental elements of human skills and abilities.  Some students may have better social skills.  Some have better musical, artistic, and athletic skills than others.  Even in the domain of cognitive knowledge some students excel at math and others excel at English and language.

Just imagine if music was the dominant purpose of education rather than liberal arts.  Children might enroll in schools where the curriculum included violins, drums, harps, guitars, pianos, trumpets, and harmonicas.  Each student would have to learn all of these instruments and get a passing grade in each to graduate school.  It would not matter if a child received an A in violin if they did not pass drums.  If this sounds ridiculous, it should not since it mirrors the way curriculum is handled today.

Furthermore, the system of education assumes that all children would need to progress systematically through learning each instrument.  You would have violin 1 before you had violin 2.  It would not matter if you could do violin 1 when you came to school, you would still be required to take violin 1 before you could take violin 2.  True, in some schools you can test out of a subject but that is still rare in most public high schools.

The idea of holistic learning is totally ignored by the rigid lock step progression that is built into curriculums in both public and private schools.  Fifty years ago I argued with math teachers about the use of calculators in a classroom.  Most felt that students would not learn the proper concepts behind the calculations if they were allowed to use calculators.  Ten years later, the Mathematical Association of America approved the use of calculators in high school classrooms.

The fear of technology is still prevalent in schools as most schools do not allow their students to make use of a smart phone’s capabilities.  In many high school classrooms, students are prohibited from having their cell phones out.  (There is a constant game today between teachers and students to prohibit students from “misusing” their cell phones.)  It is rather funny since some teachers do not restrict cell phone usage and others do.  A few students told me a while ago that they wished their teachers could agree on a “cellphone policy.”  True, many schools give students laptops and tablets, but their usage of these tools are limited to such programs as Blackboard, Desire to Learn and other instructional interfaces.  Students are not taught how to use the power of their cell phones to think.  Teachers often seem afraid of new technology perhaps fearing that it will replace them.  In truth, the times have changed in respect to what a teacher’s role should be.  Looking at the results in the Virginia Governor Race this year, where the pundits believed that parental dissatisfaction played a major role in the election results, I found the following comment.  It was made by one of the consultants that the Loudoun County School District in Virginia hired to incorporate equity and inclusion in their curriculum.

“I think the thing that public education offers… because I certainly don’t think we offer learning… are relationships.  What historically high schools were for was the dissemination of information very quickly…Well, actually, the internet is better than the high school is…Truthfully, the teacher in relation to the dissemination of information is obsolete.”  —Equity Collaborative Leader Jamie Almanza.  

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  1. The concept that more money for educators and educational institutions will result in better student outcomes

During the 15 or so years that I was a management consultant, I often encountered the argument that employees would be more productive if they were paid more.  Now, I am a great believer in paying employees as much as the organization can afford and well beyond a simple livable wage.  I am well aware of the battle between employers and employees over wages and have myself often had to fight to get a salary that I felt was fair.  Nevertheless, I see little or even no correlation between productivity and wages and I have told this to many a manager and employee.  I have frequently asked people if they thought they would be “twice” as productive if I doubled their salaries tomorrow.  No honest person ever told me yes.

Teachers are no different.  Teachers who are paid more will not have more students getting higher test scores. There will not be more students graduating or more students learning more because their teachers are higher paid.  Yes, I believe teachers are underpaid based on their abilities and goals but that does not mean that I think schools will be more effective with higher paid teachers or with more capital outlays per pupil.

I looked at the rankings for Arizona High Schools a few days ago.  (Arizona High School Rankings) The top-rated school in the state was BASIS Scottsdale.  Their average student expenditure was $7, 231.  Their “Average Standard Score” was 99.9.  I then looked at Vista Grande High School where I have been substitute teaching this year.  They were ranked 205th out of 226 public high schools.  The average dollar spent per capita for students was $9,153 dollars.  Their “Average Standard Score” was 14.1.  I briefly looked at the student expenditures for all 226 high schools in Arizona.  I did not calculate a Standard Deviation for the 226 but if I did, my guess would be that all 226 schools would fall within 3 standard deviations of the mean.  I think the mean for “per capital student expenditures” would be about $7,500.

What do the above figures tell me?  First of all that per capita spending is not related to school or student performance.  Second, that there is a correlation between the wealth or affluency of a community and high school student performance.  Put simply, students from poorer families do worse in school than students from more affluent families.  The bad news is that no amount of money poured into any school system in the country is going to change these outcomes.  The World Development Report 2018 shows a similarly weak correlation between spending and learning outcomes.

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  1. The belief that what can be measured is what is important to teach and that standardized tests and curriculums are essential to a quality education

This is another fallacy that I often encountered in my years as a management consultant.  There is some kind of a foolish business quote that says, “What gets measured, gets managed.”  What is more accurate is that “What gets measured, gets gamed.”  My mentor, Dr. W.E. Deming taught his students that a system is more important to performance than the individual.  A favorite saying of Dr. Deming’s was that “A bad system will beat a good performer any time.”  Dr. Deming taught how to measure the performance of a system and then to use those measures to improve the system, not to work on exhorting individuals or individual testing to improve the system.  Two of Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management were:

11 a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.

11 b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

12 a. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.

12 b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.

The standardized tests that are given to students all over America are no help in increasing school performance.  The ranking of schools and the ranking of students has no statistical validity in terms of improving the educational system in America.  In fact, not only are these measures useless, but they are a major impediment to improving any school system.  There are several reasons for this:

  1. They force teachers to focus on memorization and not learning
  2. They penalize students that are not good test takers
  3. They destroy student morale
  4. They stop educators from making the real reforms that are needed in education
  5. They have no scientific validity in terms of measuring student performance

The following comments are from a blog titled, “Here’s the Real Reason Why Public Education Will Never Get Better” by Shelly Sangrey

  • Schooling and education are two different things.
  • Education is about exploration and learning how to think.
  • Schooling (which is what our public schools are a part of) is about training and teaching children what to think.
  • Someone who is being educated will be told, “Do some research on this topic. Study the evidence, weigh both sides, and make an informed conclusion.”
  • Someone who is being schooled is told, “This is how it is because scientists, historians, and other people who are smarter than you have already figured it out. There’s no need to look into it further.”

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You cannot measure education.  You can measure training.  But even measures of training are more likely to reflect the ability of the system rather than the ability of the students in the system.

Where has this emphasis come from in terms of measurement and metrics?  The first is from politicians who have little or no knowledge of education.  They also lack knowledge of data analysis or statistics.  These so-called leaders are more than ready to jump on bandwagons that sound good to their constituents but actually have little value in increasing educational outcomes.

The second is from educators themselves.  Believing that if they show good rankings they can justify the money needed for higher salaries and more resources, many teachers support the idea of “pay for performance” or “measuring educational outcomes.”  These teachers know little about business concepts but are more than ready to accept that business principles can work in a school system.  Unfortunately, many business principles lack any kind of validity either for education or for business.  All over America today, we have accountants running businesses and schools.  Our systems are driven by short-term numbers and bottom-line thinking.  These are major contributors to the death of public-school education.

In Part 3, we will look in more depth at the role that our political leaders play in murdering public school education in America. 

Why Public-School Education is Dying – Part 1 of 5 Parts

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I debated whether to title this blog, “Why Public-School Education is Dead” or “Why Public-School Education is Being Murdered.”  The latter is absolutely true, the former will be true in less than twenty-five years (My prediction).  There are several reasons why public schools are dying.  But before I go into those reasons, I want to tell you why I think I am qualified to talk about this issue or should I say problem.  Mark my words, it is one of the biggest problems that any democracy or would-be democracy can face.

Democracy in America without a good public education program will fade away.  Some people will mourn the passing of democracy.  However, if the present is any predictor of the future, the number of people who care will decline with each passing year.  Democratic principles are not immutable.  They will whither and die if they are not nourished.  The most important fertilizer for a democracy is public education.

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Thomas Jefferson believed that Democracy cannot long exist without an educated citizenry. Jefferson argued that all children should be educated regardless of wealth, birth, or other mitigating circumstances.  He believed that free public education should be provided so that children from poor families as well as rich families would receive the knowledge they needed to function in a democratic society.  For more information on Jefferson’s educational ideas see the following:

Thomas Jefferson: A Bold Vision for American Education by Gordon E. Mercer

Thomas Jefferson:  Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

My Educational Background

208219_00_2xI was an above average student until high school.  After starting high school, I spent the next four years being bored and getting into trouble.  I probably spent more time in detention than I did in the classroom.  Many teachers despised and loathed me.  My father kept thinking I would go to college which was some sort of a fantasy on his part.  With no money and my poor grades, there was not a single college in the country that I could have been accepted to.

A few weeks out of high school, which I barely graduated from (I think the teachers just wanted to get rid of me.) I decided to enlist in the US Military.  The year was 1964.  The Vietnam War was ramping up and the military would have taken anybody who could walk a straight line.  I joined the Air Force because I liked their uniforms.  I had hopes of fighting in Vietnam and being some sort of a war hero.  The Air Force decided that I would make a better Radar Technician than warrior and sent me to electronics school in Biloxi, Mississippi after basic training in Texas.

I did not want to go to school, and I resumed my antics in class which resulted in my being sent to see the base commander.  He gave me two choices.  One was to get my “ass” back in class and start behaving myself, the other was to spend the next four years painting barracks in Mississippi.  Perhaps wisely, I decided to pay attention.  I graduated second in my class and was sent to my first duty station.  It was a remote assignment at a Radar Base in Unalakleet Alaska. It was four hundred miles northeast of Anchorage on the Bering Sea.  It would get cold enough there for exposed flesh to freeze in less than one minute.

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The rest of my military career was uneventful.  After getting discharged from my last duty assignment in 1968 at Osceola, Wisconsin, I worked in a variety of different occupations.  I never attended any other classes while in the military and I had no desire to go to school when I left the military.  It took about 3 years of not getting anywhere career wise for my first wife to convince me to go to college on the GI Bill or at least try to go to college.  Getting in required my former high school counselor to say that my records were lost so that they could not see the comments and stuff said about me.  I was finally accepted into a college back in Rhode Island and thanks to the GI Bill I had some money to pay for school.  Nevertheless, it was not enough money to pay all the medical bills and household expenses.

I was married with a wife that had a severe medical condition and we had a three-year-old child.  Neither of us had any extra money, so I took a job working nights from 11:45 PM to 7:45 AM at a manufacturing plant.  I was “temporary” in that the man I replaced had lost his arm in the machine I would be working on.  I questioned the supervisor on any new safety protocols that had been adopted after the accident and was told to “keep your arms away from the machine.”  I would leave home at 11 PM to bicycle about six miles to work.  I would get off work at 7:45 AM and then bicycle to the college which was about 6 miles away.  We only had one car and my wife needed the car to take our daughter to day care and then she would go to her part-time job.  After finishing my classes, I would bike home from college which was another 5 or 6 miles.  Thus, each day for 4.5 years, I biked a round trip of about 20 miles, went to school full time, worked full time, and slept about 4 hours a night until the weekend when I would try to catch up on my sleep.  I also had to include time for studying, writing papers, reading and tests.

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In 1976, I graduated with a degree in K-12 Health Education, a minor in Biology and a second degree in Psychology.  I took a job at the Veterans Administration as a GS-7 Claims Examiner.  A year later, my wife and I moved back to Wisconsin and due to some marital problems she decided to leave me.  Several months went by.  We kept communicating and were able to work out some of our problems.  We decided to move back in together and give our marriage another try.  I decided to take advantage of a 9-month extension in GI Bill benefits to go to school for a M.S. Degree in School Counseling.  I completed the M.S. program in 1979.   I was hired for one year as a Biology teacher at Spring Valley HS.  I left after my contract was up and took a job as a teacher/counselor at Guadalupe Area Project (GAP) in St. Paul.  GAP was a school for troubled high school youth in the St. Paul, MN area.  I thought I could use my degree in school counseling at GAP.  I soon found out that at this school, I was a counselor, teacher, cleaner and anything else that needed to be done.  It was a fantastic experience.  The principal at GAP was Sister Giovanni.  She was one of the most remarkable people and educators I have ever been fortunate enough to work for.

downloadDespite efforts by my first wife Julia and myself, our marriage soon unraveled again.  We agreed to separate.  I moved out and wanting to change careers, I made the decision to go back to school and focus on training in industry.  I was accepted into a Ph.D. Program at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Vocational Education.  My major would be Training and Organization Development with a supporting field in Adult Education.  By this time, my GI Bill had run out and I was now living alone and paying child support.  I applied for and was accepted as a research assistant with the Minnesota Research and Development Center in Vocational Education on the St. Paul Campus.  This job together with several summer internships and a very frugal lifestyle enabled me to pay my bills, my child support, and my tuition.

downloadI completed my Ph.D. degree in four years and graduated in 1986.  My dissertation was on “Conflict in Organizations.”  I was hired by a management consulting firm in Bloomington, Minnesota.  I worked the next thirteen years as a trainer and consultant in both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.  In 1999, I joined the faculty of Globe University as a business instructor.  I had also been working part-time as an adjunct instructor at Metropolitan State University where I was employed for 16 years.  In 2015, I retired from Metropolitan State University.  I left Globe University when they closed their doors in 2017.

Since leaving full-time teaching, I have been doing a variety of substitute teaching assignments in the Casa Grande area of Arizona.  Karen and I have been splitting the year between Wisconsin and Arizona since 2010.  We live and work about six months in each state.  As a substitute teacher here, I have replaced Art, Drama, Band, Physical Education, History, Science, Special Ed, English, Spanish, Culinary Arts, ROTC, Mechanical Arts, Social Study, and Dance teachers.  I have substituted in every grade from kindergarten to senior high school.

I have taught as a regular teacher at every grade level from kindergarten to Ph.D. programs.  I have taught at Army and Navy depots.  I have taught at over 40 for-profit industries including Chevron Manufacturing, Whitman Manufacturing Company, International Nickel Corporation and Fletcher Challenge Corporation.  I have taught at hospitals, trucking companies, mining companies and in Canada, England, and Taiwan.

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I have also written several pieces on education which you can find as follows:

Social Legacy Systems:  How They Block Change and Prevent Progress:  Part 1- Education

Legislating Balanced Perspectives in Education

Creating a Twenty First Century Education System

Educational Arrogance: Why my degree is better than your degree

What is wrong with education today? Part 1 and Part 2

So that’s if folks, I have told you why I think I am qualified to speak about education and public schools.  In the following four parts, I am going to dive into the major issues that are leading to the death of public-school education.  I will conclude with some thoughts on what a new system of education will need to look like.  The impact these issues has is not limited to high schools but also manifests itself in grade schools and colleges.  In many respects, it is impossible to untangle the matrix that comprises the public education system in America.  When public school education dies, so will all forms of publicly provided education.  If you have a car and the engine is great but the transmission dies, the car will no longer run.  In any system, the goal or purpose of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  There will be no public education in America unless we provide for it.  It will either die or evolve.  That choice will be up to you.

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In the next four blogs, we will look at:

  1. Why our present educational model is obsolete
  2. How our politicians are helping to kill public schooling
  3. How our educational unions are helping to kill public schooling
  4. What a new model of education should look like?

Q’Anon Theory versus Critical Race Theory:  Who will win?

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In the right corner wearing the red trunks we have Q’Anon Theory.  Enjoying 12 wins and 38 losses, Q’Anon is trying to make a comeback.  In the left corner, wearing the black trunks, we have the opponent, the much misunderstood and maligned challenger Critical Race Theory.  Critical Race f1ec5ba1-d5cc-49e4-a163-f18f9fe04f31_1920x1080Theory (CRT) comes into this match sporting a record of 25 wins and 25 losses.  Both opponents have lost matches to Trickle Down Theory and the Birther Theory.  The winner of this match will face the reigning champion, The Theory of the Big Steal.

This match will be judged by a panel of three judges.  One from the right, one from the left and one dead center.  They will use the “Rules of Scientific Procedures” to judge the match.  The match will be scored on six criteria.  The contestants will receive one point for a victory on each criteria.  In the event of a tie, there will be a sudden death criteria to determine the winner.

The six criteria are:

  1. The_Scientific_Method.svgThe testability of the theory’s major tenets
  2. The predictive power of the theory’s major hypothesis
  3. The theory is empirically based
  4. The theory is concise, coherent, systematic, and broadly applicable
  5. The theory has the ability to explain the aspects of a specific area of inquiry
  6. The theory has the ability to describe the causes of a particular phenomenon
  1. Testability of Theory Tenets:

best-pizza-in-washington-dcA theory may propose various tenets.  That is the theory will assert specific things that belong with the theory.  For instance Q’Anon Theory proposes that a group of Democratic politicians who are pedophiles meet regularly in the basement of a pizza parlor in D.C. to plot nefarious schemes for taking over the world.  One of the major tenets of CRT is the notion that racism is ordinary and not aberrational.  To measure the Q’Anon Theory all we would have to do is find a pizza parlor in D.C. where a number of pedophiliac Democratic politicians meet.  This would be an easy tenet to test since the number of good pizza parlors in D.C. can be counted on one hand.

The tenet from CRT that racism is ordinary and not aberrational seems to me to be more difficult to prove.  Indeed since most White people would say that they are not racist, I do not know how you could prove this tenet.

The judges score it 2-1 for Q’Anon Theory. 

That makes it 1-0 for Q’Anon Theory.

  1. The Predictive Power of the Major Hypothesis:

A key prediction of Q’Anon Theory is that Donald Trump would institute a series of mass arrests to break up the group of pedophiles and send them all to prison before they could destroy the world.  This prediction has not come true yet, but it still remains a powerful possibility given his favored son status among many in America.  No doubt if Trump gets reelected we are going to see a purge of his opponents that makes Stalin look like Mother Teresa.worthpoint.com-1929-PRESS-RE-ENACTMENT-PHOTO

A key prediction of CRT is that by confronting the beliefs and practices that enable racism to persist while simultaneously challenging these practices we will be able to eliminate systemic racism.

My opinion is that Trump will have a good possibility of getting reelected and I am certain that if he does, heads will roll, and it will be the end of democracy as we know it in the USA.  They will continue to call it a democracy but with Trump knighted as President for life and most of his opponents in jail, it will not be the democracy that many people now believe in.  As for the CRT hypothesis, I don’t think that we will ever eliminate personal racism and as long as we have personal racism, we will have systemic racism.

The judges again score it 2-1 for Q’Anon Theory. 

That makes it 2-0 for Q’Anon Theory versus CRT.

      3.  The Theory is Empirically Based:

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A theory that is empirically based is one that is based on facts and data rather than opinions and emotions. There is a lot of emotions on both sides here.  Everyone knows how emotional the right-wing faction of white supremacists are.  This side is full of hate loathing and hostility towards all things not white.  Equally emotional have been the Black Lives Matter protestors who have engaged in numerous protest marches over the deaths of numerous Black males by police officers.  I think the judges will find it hard to give either side a point on this criteria.

Unbelievable, the judges give both sides a point on this one.

That makes the score 3-1 for Q’Anon Theory.

  1. The Theory is Concise, Coherent, Systematic, and Broadly Applicable:

No contest here I am afraid.  CRT theory is anything but concise, coherent, or systematic.  As for broadly applicable, it does apply to most white people, but the world is also full of non-white people.  To illustrate what I am talking about, here is an excerpt from one of the leading textbooks on CRT.

“Our social world, with its rules, practices, and assignments of prestige and power, is not fixed; rather, we construct with it words, stories and silence. But we need not acquiesce in arrangements that are unfair and one-sided.  By writing and speaking against them, we may hope to contribute to a better, fairer world” — Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic “Introduction to Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge. 3rd Edition, 2013”

I read the above several times before I could decipher what they are trying to say.  This is a big problem for the Left since they are too intellectual and academic.  No one can understand what they are talking about.  Now you take the right-wing supporters of Q’Anon, and you have a group that is not hard to understand.  Here are some writings from Q’Anon theorists.

  • donald-trump-make-america-white-againEliminate all communists
  • Eliminate all socialists
  • Eliminate all democrats
  • Eliminate all liberals
  • Eliminate all immigrants
  • Eliminate all non-whites
  • Eliminate all gays
  • Get all women back in the kitchen

What could be easier to understand?  Nothing circuitous or incoherent about these statements.  I am going to have to say that Q’Anon theory has my vote here.  It looks like the judges all agree.

It is unanimous, the judges give Q’Anon a point on this one.

That makes the score 4-1 for Q’Anon Theory.

Well, that’s it folks. Even if CRT took the next two points, it would still be Q’Anon Theory 4 and CRT 3.  The winner is Q’Anon Theory.

Stay tuned for our next match when we will have Senator Rand Paul face off against Dr. Fauci to decide who should get any more Covid shots and if the new Omicron Variant is real or just fake. 

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A Lament for an America that I Believed In

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I sit here looking out my window and wondering what happened to the America that I grew up believing in.  A nation that was founded on the values of truth, justice, and equality.  The land of the free and the home of the brave.  A country dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Today, I look out the window and see a country that bears no resemblance to the place where I thought I lived.

I look out and see rich politicians marching through the streets asking for more and more money to support their never-ending campaigns.  One election is no sooner over, then another one begins.  I give money to one candidate, and I immediately get phone calls, emails, and texts asking me to support fifty more candidates.  I am not worth ten percent of what most of these people want but they act as though I along with other Americans are bottom less pits of money.

abcnl_ahmaudarbery_1635976650478_hpMain_16x9_992I look out and see lawyers with Magna and Summa Cum Laude degrees from Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Brown, and other Ivy League Universities who can fashion legal arguments designed to circumvent and pervert any sane person’s idea of justice.  They have corrupted our Criminal Justice System into a Criminal Injustice System.  The winner in a court room is the one with the most money who can hire the best and brightest lawyers.  An argument by one defense attorney claims that a self-styled vigilante shooting three unarmed people is a tragic case of self-defense.  Another defense lawyer for three murdering racists suggests that the victim in the case was shot because he had come to Satilla Shores “in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”

st,small,845x845-pad,1000x1000,f8f8f8.u13I look out and see corporate executives who will ignore the danger posed to the environment and climate because they can make more money today than by creating a sustainable system.  I see too many people willing to “shop till they drop.”  A materialistic mentality that supports the greed endemic in Corporate America.  A focus on short-term thinking that drains the earth of the resources it needs for sustainability in order to reap mega-profits today.  The “hell with the future” is the motto of Corporate America.

I look out my window and see a country wherein 74 million people supported a man almost totally devoid of ethics, morality, character, or conscience.  People who knew that this man was defective but instead voted for him either because they were racists, sexists, greedy or selfish.  A country where too many people discriminate against others who are different in race, religion, or gender identification.  People who will vote for someone because he takes vengeance against groups they regard as enemies.  People who will vote for a bully who is a coward and a draft dodger.  People motivated to support the candidate that will promise them lower taxes.  People who demand their rights but ignore their responsibilities.

I look out and see people that claim to be Christians but who call for their political opponents to be killed or assassinated.  People claiming that ethics and character do not matter as long as a leader will support their particular religious beliefs.  People who believe that Jesus came to preach vengeance and retribution rather than love and charity for all.

I look out a window where my views of America and the world are becoming more and more appalling.  Each day brings another senseless mass killing.  Tomorrow brings an even more bizarre crime into my consciousness.  I process some of these visions with friends mainly to check to see if I am going crazy or if my mind is becoming warped.

1623107527880_nn_mal_ca_road_rage_shooting_arrest_210607_1920x1080Is there any meaning to what I am seeing?  Am I just getting too old?  Is my brain incapable of understanding things anymore?  Journalists are murdered because they report the truth.  Innocent people are slaughtered while they watch a Christmas parade.  A pregnant woman is shot eleven times on her doorstep.  Fifty or more people rob a series of stores in what the news calls “mass grab fests.”  A six-year-old child is killed in a car seat by some maniac with road rage.  There is no bottom to the bizarre.  No one can imagine what the next day will bring.  All attempts to discover what is causing these problems or how they can be stopped seem futile.  They are meaningless crimes without rhyme or reason in a world that George Orwell would never have imagined possible.  Up is down, right is wrong, facts and truth do not exist, everything is fake.  There is no sanity.

Interlude:

A friend of mine once told me that you catch more flies with sugar than vinegar.  An old maxim to be sure.  He wanted to advise me that if I expected to get readers, I needed to write positive helpful pieces.  Ideas that would help make people’s lives better.  Ideas that were useful and people could do things about.  I have no disagreement with that bit of wisdom.

CG-Mtn-Trail-SMLThis morning while doing a 4-mile run in the Casa Grande Mountains, I thought a lot about his advice.  I realize that much of what I have said above could be considered a rant.  I would like to think it was somewhat of a catharsis.  Another friend told me yesterday that I sounded like a man in despair.  I resonated with the word despair.  I regard optimism as ideologically unsound given our present world.  Many people have advised me to stay hopeful.  There is a fine line between hopeful and optimism.  I am not sure I can manage the divide.  Despair on the other hand fits my mood just fine.  Despair is defined as: “The complete loss or absence of hope.”

What does my mood do to my readers?  Well, I can always say “Don’t read my stuff, if you don’t like it.”  I don’t get paid to write.  I don’t sell you anything.  I don’t even put commercials up on my site.  On another level, I write for myself and no one else.  I mentioned the word cathartic before.  Writing is one way, I feel alive.  I gain some hope from sharing my ideas with others if only one person writes back and says “Yes, I agree with you.”

Hope springs eternal, right?  But we need some foundation for hope.  Can hope be built on fantasies, unrealistic ideals, and wishful dreams?  How does reality impact our chances for hope?  Can hope exist when reality denies any possibility of hope?  I am not sure I know the answers to these questions.  I think I might have to go on a quest for hope.  In the meantime, I will go back to my window and tell you what else I see as I look out at the world.

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I look out and see a nation which was built on the assumption that checks and balances would protect a new democracy.  The legislature, courts, and executive branches would each provide a check and balance against the unbridled assumption of power by any one sector.  The basis for this assumption was the belief that each branch would have the best interests of the nation at heart and not partisan interests.  This of course was never 100 percent true but never has there been the divide and partisanship that exists in the USA today.

download (1)We have elected people that will support an insurrection against free and fair elections.  The most important element of Democracy.  People that prefer to ignore that on January 6th, we almost had a coup against democracy in America.  On November 17th, we had these same people vote to ignore the censuring of one of their comrades who parodied the killing of an opposition opponent.

The foundations and pillars of Democracy in America are rotten.  Jefferson believed that democracy could not survive without an educated informed citizenry.  Information would come from a free and impartial media while education would come from a system of free and impartial public schools.  The media today are nothing but paid shills for corporations who spend vast amounts of money on advertising designed to get people to stay in debt buying stuff that they don’t need.

81XUsTIXJxLI look out my window and see a public school system that is being dismantled by racists, bigots, elitists, and sexists who do not want the schools to actually teach anything that might be construed as controversial.  Two thousand five hundred years ago, Socrates was executed for trying to teach the children of the Athenian elite to think for themselves.  Schools and educators are still being attacked for trying to teach children to think.  How can our future generations create a better world when they are besieged with information that keeps them in a past that never existed and feeds them myths about the way the world works?

I look out and see people who are more worried about the shortage in Christmas trees and the price of gasoline for their vehicles than about getting a virus shot or the problems of global warming or environmental pollution.  Citizens who sacrifice at the altar of lower taxes while complaining about the rising inflation.  An inflation they blame on a President while they ignore their own cupidity and its relationship to the law of supply and demand.

The End?

Many so-called Christians say the end is near.  Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.  I don’t believe that anyone is coming to judge anyone else.  I don’t believe that our planet is near its end.  I don’t believe that there will be any kind of a global conflagration.  I do believe that the end of the American Experiment is very near.  We should have a clock for democracy like the doomsday clock.  The doomsday clock is supposed to tell us how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.  The present time of the doomsday clock is 100 seconds to midnight.  We need a “democracy clock” that would tell us how close we are to losing democracy in the USA.  I would say that we are at one minute to midnight.

74 Million Americans voted for a man who does not believe in democracy.  A man who does not believe in our military, our schools, our courts, our media, or our system of elections.  It would be foolish to think that these 74 million voters believe in any of these systems either.  Thus we have nearly 31% of our electorate who either do not understand democracy or would prefer an oligopoly.  We have 34.2 percent who did not bother to vote.  The remainder or 34.8% voted either Democratic or other party.

51FOE8gFffL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Will the USA survive?  All great empires have eventually declined.  It took 300 years for the Roman Empire to fall after it began its decline.  We are witnessing the decline of the American Empire.  How long will it take to fall is well beyond my ability to foresee.  If history is any indication, it will take many years and the decline will be gradual but punctuated by episodes of tragedy and elation.  The tragedies will far outnumber the elations.  Study any system in decline and you can see the gradual disintegration that accompanies all declines.  It is already clear that our Public Education, Political Systems and Legal Systems are in decline.  Trying to stop the declines is futile.  You cannot stop the decline of an old bridge or an old building.  You must rebuild from the ground up.  Sadly, I see neither the drive nor the desire to do the work that needs to be done to help restore democracy in America.

Organizations Trying to Make a Difference

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https://www.raze.org/  RAZE’s mission is to educate, advocate and coordinate in rural communities so they may gain access to civic education, engagement opportunities and voter registration

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Legislating Balanced Perspectives in Education  

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965

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There is a movement afoot all over the USA for what one might call, “Balanced perspectives in education.”  Every intelligent person understands that there is usually more than one perspective on things.  History and even science can be prone to paradigms that today are considered “absolute truth” but tomorrow are found to be wrong.

History is told from the perspective of the conqueror and tends to leave out minority views.  Science is based on theories which are formed on existing facts and evidence.  However, there is seldom enough evidence to prove any one theory to be 100 percent correct.  Science is a system of successive approximation.  Over time, new evidence is developed, and science revises existing theories.  In many cases, we have seen old theories replaced by new theories.

Thus, on the face of it, one might wonder how any logical or rational or sane person could question this new move to “Legislate balanced perspectives in education.”  Well, consider what I said earlier, “There is usually more than one perspective.”  The fact that there is more than one perspective does not render all viewpoints or opinions as equally valid, truthful, or accurate.  Some perspectives are more accurate than other perspectives.  Some theories are superior to other theories.  The new move is being legislated by stupid (yes, I said stupid) politicians and political leaders who know nothing or just about nothing about science and education.  The move to insure “balanced perspectives” is being dictated by politics.  There is no concern for the truth and there is no concern for science by those passing these laws to insure “balance in teaching.”

I propose a list of issues that should be taught without ANY balance in perspectives.  I propose this list because all the existing facts and data support the validity of these events or happenings.  Within ten minutes of thinking about this list, I came up with over 100 issues but in the interest of expediency, I will stick to my top ten.  I doubt any of you would want to hear my total list.  Notice my key word is NOT:

  1. The moon is NOT made out of green cheese (Perhaps Wisconsin Swiss)
  2. Elvis Presley is NOT alive and living upstairs in Graceland (He may be living in the basement)
  3. You will NOT go to hell for being LGBTIQA+
  4. If you do not support Trump, you are NOT a Traitor (Violent disagreement here in the Republican party)
  5. The world is NOT flat. (Not sure it is round either)
  6. White people are NOT superior to Black, Latino, Asian or Indigenous people
  7. Christopher Columbus did NOT discover America. (He wasn’t even looking for it)
  8. Christianity is NOT superior to other religions
  9. Greed in NOT good (Never mind what Michael Douglas says in Wall-Street)
  10. John Persico is NOT a genius (I can make an exception for this one)

A teen aged girl who lives in Texas came home from school one day and was met by her mom.

Daughter:  Our teacher was telling us about the Holocaust today when one of the other students said that his dad told him the holocaust never happened.  That the Jews made the whole story up for sympathy.

Mom:  What did your teacher say?

Daughter:  Well, the teacher looked at a list of “alternative perspective” issues that she keeps on her desk and replied, “You may be right.  Let’s look at the other side of this issue.  We will consider that the Holocaust is a made-up story, and that six million Jews did not die.”

Teacher:  On one side, we have millions of people who can testify that the holocaust actually happened.  We have video tapes.  Physical evidence of gas chambers.  Evidence of bodies.  Evidence of survivors.  Evidence of soldiers who liberated the camps.  Memoirs, written descriptions by noted people and the fact of the Anti-Jewish laws promulgated by the Nazis.

Teacher:  However, on the other side.  The side that disputes the existence of the Holocaust we have the belief that all of the evidence I cited above is “Fake.”  All of the testimonies are lies and part of a grand conspiracy to make Jews the superior race.  We have hundreds of right-wing nationalists and anti-Semite’s who believe that all the evidence supporting the Holocaust is fake and make-believe.

Teacher:  Now that I have given equal time to both perspectives on the Holocaust issue, we can move on to discussing the “Big Lie.”  That the last election was actually stolen from President Trump.

The following day the teacher was fired for not adequately balancing her view of the two perspectives concerning the Holocaust.

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An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.   — Mahatma Gandhi

We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion.  The great task in life is to find reality. — Iris Murdoch

Ten Things I learned about Life from the 2021 Tour de France

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  1. Teamwork is essential
  2. Sometimes you have to go it alone
  3. The possibility of pain and death is ever present in our lives
  4. You will never know when you are too old
  5. No one is expert at everything
  6. Life is full of ups and downs
  7. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not
  8. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point
  9. You have to get up every day to stay in the race
  10. Quitting does not define a loser

In my younger days, I did a few bike races.  I raced a criterion, a hill and dale and a double century.  I was only an amateur and never had the time to race more.  I enjoyed bicycling and did a number a bicycle tours.  At one point, I was averaging almost 450 miles a week in riding. I gave up riding in my later thirties and concentrated more on running.  It was faster and cheaper to get my exercise running.  I could no longer use a bicycle for transportation as I was commuting distances that made bicycle riding less practical.  I was a good bicycle mechanic and I worked in two different shops doing bicycle repair work.

Every year, I noted when the Tour de France came around, but I did not pay much attention to the race or the racers.  This year, (2021), I watched the Tour races in the morning on my computer and then each evening Karen and I watched a video summary of the Tour stage for that day.  It was exciting watching the riders and I learned a great deal about bicycle racing and life in general.  I have identified ten key ideas that I want to share with you.  These are some of the insights about life that I had from watching the Tour.  I suppose one could get such insights from sitting under an apple tree or watching a baseball game.  Life offers many lessons if we simply open our minds.

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  1. Teamwork is essential

No one can win the Tour de France without the support from their team.  I do not care how good you are, you will not win without a team.  Much of the reason for this comes from the support that the team gives to its designated “leader.”  The “domestiques” are the team members who help the leader out in a variety of ways.  Running errands to get food or drink; providing technical support in case of a breakdown; and drafting or helping rein in other racers.

Every potential winner needs a team to provide support and assistance. 

  1. Sometimes you have to go it alone

CORVOS_00028264-002-650x433 (1)A winner will need to rely on their team, but great riders will often find that they are suddenly alone and need to finish the race on their own.  Perhaps their support riders are worn out or perhaps it is evident that the leader needs to charge ahead to gain time or prevent an adversary from gaining too much advantage.  The great riders know when you to use their team and when to go it alone.

Sometimes you have to strike out on your own and depend on your own resources. 

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  1. The possibility of pain and death is ever present in our lives

Crashing and falling happen quite regularly in the Tour.  Perhaps a rider is hit by another rider or as in the race this year, a spectator ran out with a sign and knocked a rider down.  This caused a chain reaction knocking several other riders down.  Getting hurt is inevitable.  Falling down at nearly 30 miles an hour is painful.  Riders have helmets but no other pads.  How badly a rider is hurt is simply how unlucky they are.  The possibility of pain and serious injury is the price we pay in life for almost any endeavor that we undertake.  Everything that we do in life has risks.

There is no way to avoid risks in life unless you stop living.

  1. You will never know when you are too old

Karen_webMark Cavendish when he was at his peak was considered the best sprinter who ever lived.  This year for the 2021 Tour de France he was almost not selected by any of the teams.  At 36 years old, most thought that his racing days were over.  To the surprise of all, Mark secured a contract with one of the Tour teams.  Even more of a surprise was his winning four stages in the Tour to tie the record of Eddy Merckx for most stage wins in the Tour de France.   Mark did not know he was too old to win.  There is a time to hold em and a time to fold em, but it is very difficult to know when that time is.  One thing is for certain, never listen to other people.

Don’t let chronological age define what you can and cannot do.

  1. No one is great at everything

unnamed (1)The Tour de France is comprised of three main types of riders.  There are the sprinters who are best on flat ground.  There are the mountaineers who excel at hills and mountains.  There are the general classification (GC) riders who are good at both hills and flat ground but are not usually as good as the sprinters and mountaineers at their respective terrain.  The GC riders are most likely the best all-around riders and may be able to win a few stages in both the flats and the hills.  However, the GC riders are much more concerned with their overall time and will generally forego racing with sprinters or mountaineers who may break with the Peloton in an attempt to win a stage.  There is lots of strategy involved in winning the Tour and I do not have the time or knowledge to say more about it.

The main point here is that you can be good but not great at anything and still be successful in life.

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6.  Life is full of ups and downs

The Tour de France is a bicycle race comprised of 21 stages.  It is run mostly in France.  The first Tour was run in 1903.  One stage is run each day and two days are inserted for rest days.  Some stages are mountainous and hilly while others are flat and curvy.  The mountainous stages can be almost 10,000 feet high.  One or two stages will be set aside as sprint runs.  Many stages are combinations of both flat and hilly terrain.  Overall, 200 of the best bicycle racers in the world will race for nearly 2200 miles.  The Tour is considered one of the most demanding and difficult races in the world.

Watching these races, you can see that the world is physically up and down.  Mountains, hills, valleys, flats, and curves.  Some days will be rainy and cold, other days will be hot and humid.  However, in some sense the ups and downs are metaphorical as well.  The riders who are up one day will be down the next.  One day a sprinter will win the stage, the next day a mountain rider will win.  The General Classification riders (Tour leaders usually) will change the “yellow jersey” day by day until one finally emerges as the front runner.  The winner is never certain as falls, bad ride days and simple exhaustion take their toll on each rider.

Accept that life is going to be full of ups and downs.  Just remember that after it rains, the sun will come out.

  1. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not

king-of-the-hill-childrens-gameNo rider on the Tour de France has ever won all the stages.  Two or three riders have captured the Polka Dot (Best Mountain Rider), Green (Best Sprinter) and Yellow (Overall time leader) jerseys in the same Tour but no rider has ever won all 21 stages in one race.  We all have good days and bad days.  Some days we wake up full of energy and other days we should just stay in bed.

Karen my wife mentioned yesterday that being able to pick which days she gets up and which days she can linger in bed is one of the joys of being retired.  She noted that some days she just is not able to bounce out of bed like Tigger and meet the world with a full-on burse of energy.  She takes it easy some days and usually the next day, her energy returns, and she is out weeding the garden or trimming hedges.

Common wisdom tells us to honor the cycle of our lives, but most people are too busy being busy or rushing to get someplace to pay attention to this bit of wisdom. 

  1. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point

p077x53mTour riders line up maybe 2 miles or so before the actual start line.  Two hundred riders will be almost welded together behind a pace car as they casually ride up to the start.  As soon as they reach the start line, they are off in a rush of cycles jostling for position.  A large mass of cyclists is called the Peloton and most riders will try to stay with this group for reasons of riding efficiency and aerodynamics.  Riding alone is more effort and energy wasteful than riding in a group.  Nevertheless, some game or crazy rides will try to leave the pack.  It may happen soon in the race or half way through the race, but eventually a breakaway group or individual will try to go it alone.  The boldness of these breakaway riders is thrilling.  Daring to challenge the best riders in the world by themselves.

You watch these riders, and the computer will show you how many are in the breakaway group and how far ahead they are from the Peloton in terms of time and distance.  Almost inevitably, (you could bet odds on it) the breakaway riders will one by one fall off the pace and be reeled in by the Peloton riders.  Seldom if ever does the lone breakaway rider stay in the lead for the entire stage.  The strongest riders in the world are in this race and there is undoubtedly a bell-shaped curve of stamina, endurance, and conditioning among the two hundred riders.  Nevertheless, no rider short of superman can stay out front each race for the entire race.  The advantage of a riding in a group, drafting and avoiding wind currents is too great for the individual loner to keep up a winning pace for an entire stage.

Respect your energy levels and do not try to be superman or superwoman. 

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  1. You have to get up every day to stay in the race

This sounds so platitudinous that I am almost ashamed to say it.  Every year a few riders in the Tour de France will drop out for one reason or another.  Sometimes it is injury, sometimes it is just giving up.  We all have days when we do not feel like we can go on anymore.

Yet, it seems as though we continually find excuses to drop out of the race.  The going gets tough and we quit.  We fall down and we don’t get up.  We get rejected and we give up.  We did not get the results we expected so we abandon our goal.  I once asked a friend who was an editor of several magazines what I needed to do to have a “Best Seller.”  He replied, “I could not tell you.  But I can tell you one thing, if you don’t write you will never have a best seller.”  I have never forgotten his advice.  Buying a lottery ticket does not ensure that you will win the lottery, but you can never win the lottery without a ticket.

I once heard that there are three kinds of people.  Those who do not know that there is a parade coming.  Those who will watch the parade.  Those who are in the parade.  Live gives us the possibility to choose which of the three people we want to be.  If you are going to be in the parade, you will have to get up and do something.  The parade will never come to you.

The race does not always go to the swiftest.  Often it goes to the steadiest.

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  1. Quitting does not define a loser

Primož Roglič was the leader in the 2020 Tour de France.  He was almost certain to win the Tour.  He had held the Yellow Jersey for the last half of the race.  His lead seemed insurmountable.  Then came a time trial day.  Tadej Pogačar, a rider from another team, did such an outstanding job in the time trial that he ended up ahead of Roglic.  Pogačar won the 2020 Tour de France.

Now it is time for the 2021 Tour.  Both Primoz and Tadej are back again.  This year Tadej is favored to win but Roglic still has a chance.  Roglic has a bad spill in the race during stage 3 and receives some injuries.  He gets up and continues the race the next day.  A few days go by, and it is clear that he is off pace.  After stage 8 Roglic quits.  He leaves the race.  Is Roglic a loser? They say only losers quit.

Less than a month later, Roglic finishes 28th at the Tokyo Olympics road race.  Four days later, Roglic competes in the individual time trial.  39 cyclists from 31 nations compete in the race.  Roglic wins the gold medal in the time trial with a winning margin of 1’01”.

Sometimes it makes sense to quit.  It is not true that only losers quit.  Some of the greatest people of all time have had days when they quit.  It is not quitting that defines a loser, it is never starting again.

Be realistic about those times when pressing on is not as smart as quitting.  History is full of examples of people who pressed on and were never heard from again. 

Conclusions:

There you have it.  The ten things I learned about life from this years Tour de France.  Rest assured I will be back next year to see what else I can learn.  I may even dust my bicycle seat off, oil my chain, pump up my tires and take a ride down the Gandy Dancer Trail.  If you see me coming, you should step aside as I am sure that I will be quite wobbly.

 

Dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie du Tour de France 2021

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel
  2. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul
  3. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies
  4. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux
  5. Personne n’est expert en tout
  6. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas
  7. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non
  8. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné
  9. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course
  10. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Dans ma jeunesse, j’ai fait quelques courses de vélo. J’ai couru un critère, un monticule et un double siècle. Je n’étais qu’un amateur et je n’ai jamais eu le temps de courir plus. J’aimais faire du vélo et j’ai fait un certain nombre de tours à vélo. À un moment donné, je parcourais en moyenne près de 450 milles par semaine en équitation. J’ai abandonné l’équitation à la fin de la trentaine et me suis concentré davantage sur la course à pied. C’était plus rapide et moins cher de faire mon exercice. Je ne pouvais plus utiliser un vélo pour me déplacer car je parcourais des distances qui rendaient le vélo moins pratique. J’étais un bon mécanicien vélo et je travaillais dans deux ateliers différents pour faire des réparations de vélos.

Chaque année, je notais quand arrivait le Tour de France, mais je ne prêtais pas beaucoup d’attention à la course ou aux coureurs. Cette année (2021), j’ai regardé les courses du Tour le matin sur mon ordinateur, puis chaque soir Karen et moi avons regardé un résumé vidéo de l’étape du Tour ce jour-là. C’était passionnant de regarder les coureurs et j’ai beaucoup appris sur les courses cyclistes et la vie en général. J’ai identifié dix idées clés que je veux partager avec vous. Ce sont quelques-unes des idées sur la vie que j’ai eues en regardant le Tour. Je suppose que l’on pourrait obtenir de telles informations en s’asseyant sous un pommier ou en regardant un match de baseball. La vie offre de nombreuses leçons si nous ouvrons simplement notre esprit.

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel

Personne ne peut gagner le Tour de France sans le soutien de son équipe. Peu m’importe à quel point vous êtes bon, vous ne gagnerez pas sans une équipe. Cela s’explique en grande partie par le soutien que l’équipe apporte à son « leader » désigné. Les « domestiques » sont les membres de l’équipe qui aident le leader de diverses manières. Faire des courses pour acheter de la nourriture ou des boissons ; fournir une assistance technique en cas de panne; et rédiger ou aider à maîtriser d’autres coureurs.

Chaque gagnant potentiel a besoin d’une équipe pour fournir soutien et assistance.

  1. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul

Un vainqueur devra compter sur son équipe, mais les grands coureurs découvriront souvent qu’ils sont soudainement seuls et doivent terminer la course par eux-mêmes. Peut-être que leurs cavaliers de soutien sont épuisés ou peut-être est-il évident que le leader doit foncer pour gagner du temps ou empêcher un adversaire de prendre trop d’avantages. Les grands cavaliers savent quand utiliser leur équipe et quand faire cavalier seul.

Parfois, il faut se débrouiller tout seul.

  1. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies

Les chutes et les chutes se produisent assez régulièrement sur le Tour. Peut-être qu’un coureur est heurté par un autre coureur ou comme lors de la course cette année, un spectateur est sorti en courant avec une pancarte et a renversé un coureur. Cela a provoqué une réaction en chaîne qui a renversé plusieurs autres coureurs. Se blesser est inévitable. Tomber à près de 30 milles à l’heure est douloureux. Les cavaliers ont des casques mais pas d’autres protections. À quel point un coureur est blessé est simplement à quel point il est malchanceux. La possibilité de douleurs et de blessures graves est le prix que nous payons dans la vie pour presque tous les efforts que nous entreprenons. Tout ce que nous faisons dans la vie comporte des risques.

Il n’y a aucun moyen d’éviter les risques dans la vie à moins d’arrêter de vivre.

  1. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux

Mark Cavendish, lorsqu’il était à son apogée, était considéré comme le meilleur sprinteur qui ait jamais vécu. Cette année pour le Tour de France 2021, il n’a quasiment été sélectionné par aucune des équipes. À 36 ans, la plupart pensaient que ses jours de course étaient révolus. À la surprise de tous, Mark a obtenu un contrat avec l’une des équipes du Tour. Encore plus surprenant a été sa victoire sur quatre étapes du Tour pour égaler le record d’Eddy Merckx pour le plus grand nombre de victoires d’étape sur le Tour de France. Mark ne savait pas qu’il était trop vieux pour gagner. Il y a un temps pour les tenir et un temps pour les plier, mais il est très difficile de savoir quand est ce moment. Une chose est sûre, n’écoutez jamais les autres.

Ne laissez pas l’âge chronologique définir ce que vous pouvez et ne pouvez pas faire.

  1. Personne n’est bon en tout

Le Tour de France est composé de trois principaux types de coureurs. Il y a les sprinteurs qui sont les meilleurs sur terrain plat. Il y a les alpinistes qui excellent dans les collines et les montagnes. Il y a les coureurs du classement général (GC) qui sont bons à la fois sur les collines et sur terrain plat, mais ne sont généralement pas aussi bons que les sprinteurs et les alpinistes sur leur terrain respectif. Les coureurs GC sont probablement les meilleurs coureurs polyvalents et peuvent être en mesure de gagner quelques étapes à la fois dans les plats et les collines. Cependant, les coureurs GC sont beaucoup plus soucieux de leur temps global et renoncent généralement à courir avec sp les coureurs ou les alpinistes qui pourraient rompre avec le Peloton pour tenter de remporter une étape. Il y a beaucoup de stratégie impliquée pour gagner le Tour et je n’ai pas le temps ni les connaissances pour en dire plus.

Le point principal ici est que vous pouvez être bon mais pas excellent dans tout et réussir dans la vie.

  1. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas

Le Tour de France est une course cycliste composée de 21 étapes. Il se déroule principalement en France. Le premier Tour a été couru en 1903. Une étape est courue chaque jour et deux jours sont insérés pour les jours de repos. Certaines étapes sont montagneuses et vallonnées tandis que d’autres sont plates et sinueuses. Les étapes montagneuses peuvent atteindre près de 10 000 pieds de haut. Une ou deux étapes seront réservées aux courses de sprint. De nombreuses étapes sont des combinaisons de terrain plat et vallonné. Au total, 200 des meilleurs coureurs cyclistes du monde courront sur près de 2 200 milles. Le Tour est considéré comme l’une des courses les plus exigeantes et difficiles au monde.

En regardant ces courses, vous pouvez voir que le monde est physiquement de haut en bas. Montagnes, collines, vallées, plaines et courbes. Certains jours seront pluvieux et froids, d’autres jours seront chauds et humides. Cependant, dans un certain sens, les hauts et les bas sont également métaphoriques. Les coureurs qui sont debout un jour seront à terre le lendemain. Un jour, un sprinter remportera l’étape, le lendemain un coureur de montagne la remportera. Les coureurs du Classement Général (les leaders du Tour en général) changeront le « maillot jaune » jour après jour jusqu’à ce que l’un d’entre eux ressorte enfin en tête. Le gagnant n’est jamais certain car les chutes, les mauvaises journées de conduite et le simple épuisement font des ravages sur chaque cycliste.

Acceptez que la vie soit pleine de hauts et de bas. N’oubliez pas qu’après la pluie, le soleil se lèvera.

  1. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non

Aucun coureur du Tour de France n’a jamais remporté toutes les étapes. Deux ou trois coureurs ont remporté les maillots Polka Dot (Meilleur coureur de montagne), Vert (Meilleur sprinteur) et Jaune (Meilleur temps global) dans le même Tour, mais aucun coureur n’a jamais remporté les 21 étapes d’une course. Nous avons tous de bons et de mauvais jours. Certains jours, nous nous réveillons plein d’énergie et d’autres jours, nous devrions simplement rester au lit.

Karen ma femme a mentionné hier que pouvoir choisir les jours où elle se lève et les jours où elle peut s’attarder au lit est l’une des joies d’être à la retraite. Elle a noté que certains jours, elle n’était tout simplement pas capable de rebondir hors du lit comme Tigrou et de rencontrer le monde avec une pleine énergie. Elle se calme certains jours et généralement le lendemain, son énergie revient et elle est en train de désherber le jardin ou de tailler des haies.

La sagesse commune nous dit d’honorer le cycle de nos vies, mais la plupart des gens sont trop occupés à être occupés ou à se précipiter pour trouver un endroit où prêter attention à ce morceau de sagesse.

  1. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné

Les coureurs du Tour s’alignent peut-être 2 miles environ avant la ligne de départ réelle. Deux cents coureurs seront presque soudés ensemble derrière une voiture de course alors qu’ils monteront avec désinvolture jusqu’au départ. Dès qu’ils atteignent la ligne de départ, ils s’élancent dans une ruée de cycles qui se bousculent pour se positionner. Une grande masse de cyclistes s’appelle le Peloton et la plupart des coureurs essaieront de rester avec ce groupe pour des raisons d’efficacité de conduite et d’aérodynamisme. Rouler seul est plus un gaspillage d’efforts et d’énergie que de rouler en groupe. Néanmoins, certains gibiers ou manèges fous tenteront de sortir du peloton. Cela peut arriver bientôt pendant la course ou à mi-parcours, mais éventuellement un groupe ou un individu échappé essaiera de faire cavalier seul. L’audace de ces échappés est passionnante. Oser défier les meilleurs cavaliers du monde par eux-mêmes.

Vous regardez ces coureurs, et l’ordinateur vous indiquera combien sont dans l’échappée et à quelle distance ils sont par rapport au Peloton en termes de temps et de distance. Presque inévitablement, (vous pouvez parier là-dessus), les coureurs échappés perdront un à un le rythme et seront rattrapés par les coureurs du Peloton. Il est rare, voire jamais, que le coureur solitaire de l’échappée reste en tête pendant toute l’étape. Les coureurs les plus forts du monde participent à cette course et il existe sans aucun doute une courbe en forme de cloche d’endurance, d’endurance et de conditionnement parmi les deux cents coureurs. Néanmoins, aucun coureur à court de superman ne peut rester en tête de chaque course pendant toute la course. L’avantage de rouler en groupe, de dessiner et d’éviter les courants de vent est trop grand pour que le solitaire puisse maintenir un rythme gagnant pendant toute une étape.

Respectez votre niveau d’énergie et n’essayez pas d’être un surhomme ou une superfemme.

  1. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course

Cela semble si banal que j’ai presque honte de le dire. Chaque année, quelques coureurs du Tour de France abandonnent pour une raison ou une autre. Parfois c’est une blessure, parfois c’est juste abandonner. Nous avons tous des jours où nous avons l’impression de ne plus pouvoir continuer.

Pourtant, il semble que nous trouvions continuellement des excuses pour abandonner la course. Les choses se corsent et nous abandonnons. Nous tombons et nous donnons ne te lève pas. On se fait rejeter et on abandonne. Nous n’avons pas obtenu les résultats escomptés alors nous abandonnons notre objectif. J’ai demandé une fois à un ami qui était rédacteur en chef de plusieurs magazines ce que je devais faire pour avoir un « Meilleur Vendeur ». Il a répondu : « Je ne pourrais pas vous le dire. Mais je peux vous dire une chose, si vous n’écrivez pas, vous n’aurez jamais de best-seller. Je n’ai jamais oublié ses conseils. L’achat d’un billet de loterie ne garantit pas que vous gagnerez à la loterie, mais vous ne pouvez jamais gagner à la loterie sans billet.

J’ai entendu une fois qu’il y a trois sortes de personnes. Ceux qui ne savent pas qu’il y a un défilé à venir. Ceux qui regarderont le défilé. Ceux qui sont dans le défilé. Live nous donne la possibilité de choisir laquelle des trois personnes nous voulons être. Si vous allez être dans le défilé, vous devrez vous lever et faire quelque chose. Le défilé ne viendra jamais à vous.

La course ne va pas toujours au plus rapide. Souvent, il va au plus stable.

  1. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Primož Roglič était le leader du Tour de France 2020. Il était presque certain de remporter le Tour. Il avait détenu le maillot jaune pendant la dernière moitié de la course. Son avance semblait insurmontable. Puis vint une journée de contre-la-montre. Tadej Pogacar, un coureur d’une autre équipe, a fait un travail si remarquable dans le contre-la-montre qu’il a terminé devant Roglic. Pogacar a remporté le Tour de France 2020.

Il est maintenant temps pour le Tour 2021. Primoz et Tadej sont de retour. Cette année, Tadej est favori pour gagner mais Roglic a encore une chance. Roglic a une mauvaise chute dans la course lors de l’étape 3 et reçoit quelques blessures. Il se lève et continue la course le lendemain. Quelques jours s’écoulent, et il est clair qu’il est à contre-courant. Après l’étape 8, Roglic abandonne. Il quitte la course. Roglic est-il un perdant ? Ils disent que seuls les perdants abandonnent.

Moins d’un mois plus tard, Roglic termine 28e à la course sur route des Jeux olympiques de Tokyo. Quatre jours plus tard, Roglic participe au contre-la-montre individuel. 39 cyclistes de 31 nations participent à la course. Roglic remporte la médaille d’or du contre-la-montre avec une marge gagnante de 1’01”.

Parfois, il est logique d’arrêter. Il n’est pas vrai que seuls les perdants abandonnent. Certaines des plus grandes personnes de tous les temps ont eu des jours où elles ont arrêté. Ce n’est pas d’arrêter qui définit un perdant, ce n’est jamais recommencer.

Soyez réaliste à propos des moments où il n’est pas aussi intelligent d’appuyer que d’arrêter de fumer. L’histoire est pleine d’exemples de personnes qui ont insisté et dont on n’a plus jamais entendu parler.

Conclusion :

Voilà. Les dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie de cette année Tour de France. Soyez assuré que je serai de retour l’année prochaine pour voir ce que je peux apprendre d’autre. Je peux même dépoussiérer ma selle de vélo, huiler ma chaîne, gonfler mes pneus et faire un tour sur le Gandy Dancer Trail. Si vous me voyez venir, vous devriez vous écarter car je suis sûr que je serai assez bancal.

Optimist, Pessimist or Realist

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Are you an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I have a good friend who always says that he leans towards being a “guy whose glass is half-full.”  I guess he is a pessimist.  I know I am married to an optimist, because whenever I say anything negative about anyone, she will provide a contrasting optimistic perspective.  I tend to believe that I lean towards pessimism.  I like to think that I am a realist.  When someone asks me if my glass is half-full or half-empty my answer will depend on whether my glass is being filled up or emptied.  Nevertheless, I suspect many would find that my blogs reflect a rather negative view of life and humanity.

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Climate Change:

Pessimist: “The end is near; the end is near.  We have destroyed the world with carbon pollution, and it is too late to do anything about it.  Nature magazine published a study which shows that Global Warming stated as early as 1830 CE.”

Optimist: “There is still time to do something about climate change.  Humanity has faced disasters before, and we always overcome them.  They thought that we would destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons, but we learned to use other strategies to deal with our differences.”

Realist: “Maybe we have just been lucky.”

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Corrupt Government:

Pessimist:  Politicians since the days of Plato and Socrates have always been corrupt.  There is no such thing as an honest politician.  Lying comes naturally to all politicians and the truth is only an inconvenience for most of them.  Politicians have become worse and worse over the years in terms of lacking morality and ethics.  They will always do what is expedient and they are all amoral.”

Optimist: “How can you make such a blanket generalization?  There have been many good politicians and many or them are very honest and moral.  Look at Marcus Aurelius, Rómulo Betancourt, Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew, Jimmy Carter, and Muhammadu Buhari.  These men were all honest leaders who fought for the welfare of their people and did it selflessly.  They were capable, incorruptible leaders who made a real difference in the lives of their followers.

Realist: “You win some and you lose some.  On the whole, it would seem that we have more leaders like Trump than we do leaders like Gandhi.”

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Education:

Pessimist: “Pouring money into education is a waste of time.  Kids are learning less today than they did in the early days of public education.  Half the kids in school are bored.  Teacher turnover is at an all time high and classrooms are chaotic.  Parents do not support teacher discipline anymore.  Schools have become jails for most students who would rather be home.  Kids today do not see the value in education because parents do not.  Schools are just factories for the more privileged to come out and get the high paying jobs in society while the rest of the pack will work for Walmart or McDonalds.”

Optimist: “We live in a more educated society today then even twenty years ago.  Education has been responsible for raising the standard of living the world over.  People are living longer than ever because of scientific advances in hygiene, medicine, and public health.  Without education, we would still be dying in our mid-forties instead of in our mid-seventies.  Kids today learn different things then when we were in school.  They are more visually literate, and computers have been a new tool that students today are using to change the world for the better.”

Realist: “We seem to take two steps forward and one back.  For every pro about education today, there is a con.  For every pro about technology there is a con.  We need to have a broader perspective on change that will enable us to embrace new ideas and let go of old ideas that no longer work.”  We simply keep adding pages to school textbooks without taking any out.”

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I could go on and on with examples of the quite different outlooks that life provides us.  Who is right?  I doubt that we will ever really know.  Many of the old sayings exist to provide us with some direction on how to live.  A friend of mine tried to convince me that writing should be positive and inspirational.  His motto was, “You catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”  According to my friend, people will ignore writing that is too dismal and negative.  It is his opinion that writers should provide a path forward to growth and development.  I told another friend the other day that “hope without action is hopeless.”  It is not enough to just hope for change, you need to do something about it.  I like to think that my writings provide a path forward.

Nevertheless, we are all familiar with the concept of being too “Pollyannish.”  Someone who is too Pollyannish always sees the positive in everything.  Pushing the envelope on optimism they become extremists who see a bright spot in every dark endeavor.  We sometimes refer to these people as wearing “rose colored” glasses.  A realist would argue that sometimes a bright spot does not exist.

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My writing instructor, Dr. Wedin informed our class a few weeks ago that the story of Pollyanna, a 1913 novel written by American author Eleanor H. Porter, has been grossly misrepresented.  In common usage, a Pollyannish person is someone who is too unrealistic about life and its difficulties.  I decided to watch one of the many movies based on the novel and found a quite different interpretation of young Miss Pollyanna.  One that I assume was more in line with the novel.  In the movie, Pollyanna is a young girl who faces her share of joys and unhappiness.  However, remembering what her father told her, she always tries to find a bright spot in life regardless of how difficult things may be going for her.  Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father.

As a man who has leaned strongly towards pessimism for most of my life, I found myself admiring Pollyanna’s attitude and efforts.  They say pessimists live longer lives but optimists live happier lives.  There is something about pessimism that wears one down and tires others out.  Friends, family, spouses, siblings, and children all have a difficult time being around someone who is relentlessly pessimistic.  Just as hope without action is useless, pessimism without a plan to change things is depressing, gloomy and dreary.  Would you rather be around a pessimist or an optimist?

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But what about our third choice?  Would you want to choose a realist for a life partner?  Is this the Golden Mean that the Greeks worshipped?  I think not.  The problem with being a so-called realist is twofold.  The first problem is that realism must be based on a foundation of facts and evidence.  Herein, you can immediately understand the problem.  It is difficult if not impossible to obtain evidence that will prove irrefutable and reliable.  Life is full of lies, half-truths, unsubstantiated facts and impossible to find evidence.

The second problem with realism is that it is not useful without a path forward or some means of making sense out of reality.  Knowing reality is meaningless if you cannot do something about it.  Finding the best path forward always involves a number of decisions that go beyond the facts.  For instance, if I decide that my car needs a new engine, will it be more cost effective to purchase a replacement engine or buy a new car?  You might be able to work out an equation to make this decision, but I guarantee you that there will be several unknowns in your equation.  Every unknown impacts the outcome of your decision making.  Then of course, there are what we call “unintended consequences.”  Charting the unknown, even realists must go into mysterious territory.

So we arrive back to where we started.  Would you rather be an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I would love to hear your comments on this question.  Please feel free to send me a reply.

Only send optimistic comments though.  😊

Taking It to Extremes – Part 3 of 5 – Society versus the Economy

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Introduction: (Skip if you have read Part 1)

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about the famous “Golden Mean” of Greek philosophy.  The mean was basically a rule that said the best way of living is to balance extremes.  Another way of looking at what this rule implies is that evil or bad things happen when we over do something.  We need to take all things in moderation.  Thus, drugs, smoking, guns, watching TV etc., are not evil or bad in themselves but when we take them to extremes, they became dangerous and counterproductive.

Life is an ongoing struggle to find our proper balance.  However, it may never be a question of equal balance because the proper balance can never be static.  There are many dimensions or polarities in life where it is not really a matter of moderation or balance but more a matter of dynamically imposing a temporary order between two extremes.  The concept of Hegelian Dialectics comes to my mind as an aide in thinking about this process.

Dialectical thinking can be described as: “The ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most economical and reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information and postures.”  This is a much more complex process than simply balancing extremes.  The more I thought about it the more I decided to add a corollary to the Greek Rule.  Since I think time has easily proved the value of the Golden Mean, a corollary by definition is a proposition that follows from and is appended to one already proved.  My corollary is as follows:

John’s Corollary:

Anytime, one concept in a set of opposing concepts is allowed to dominate the other concept, extreme dysfunction will result.

I want to discuss this more by using five pairs of concepts that I think are critical to our world today.  I want to show you how the distortion created by proponents of each concept is dangerous to life as we know it.  I do not use the word dangerous loosely or frivolously or for effect.  The battle between these ideas is destroying life as we know it on this planet.   The proponents of each side of these polarities seek to destroy the proponents on the other side.

Rather than looking at things from a systems perspective and trying to dynamically adjust the system, opponents are driven to allow one idea to dominate to the exclusion of the other idea.  Witness the name calling between conservatives and liberals today.  Each side demonizes the other side and assumes God is on their side and Satan is on the other side. Liberals are evil to conservatives and conservatives are evil to liberals.

Here are the five pairs of concepts we will look at in the next few weeks.  This week we will look at number three on my list.  We have already discussed the “efficiency versus effectiveness” dimension in part one of this blog series and the “growth versus development” dimension in part two.

  1. Efficiency versus Effectiveness
  2. Growth versus Development
  3. Society versus the Economy
  4. Conservative versus Liberal
  5. Rights of the Individual versus Rights of the Group
  1. Society versus the Economy:

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Today we are faced with an epic pandemic.  This threat has led to a battle between those who want to protect the economy and those for whom society is more important.  This is not the first time such a battle has been waged.  Four thousand years ago Moses battled Ramses over the same issue.  Pharaoh Ramses had cheap labor with the Israelites.  The Egyptian economy was purring along.  Pharaoh did not want to change anything.  The Israelites were not so happy.  Their society was in chaos as it was being slowly but inevitably destroyed by Egyptian culture.  A few hundred more years and there would be no Israelites.  A leader named Moses decided his people must leave Egypt.  He first tried to convince Ramses to simply “let my people go.”  Ramses would have none of this idea.  He had a good thing going with cheap labor and he was not about to rock the boat.

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Moses decided to play hard ball.  He brought a plague to hurt the Egyptians.  Ramses was aggrieved and decided to allow the Israelites to leave.  However, at the last-minute Ramses changed his mind.  It was a question of what would be good for the economy or what would be good for the Israelites.  The economy won out.  Moses brought another plague and then another.  Each time, Ramses would acquiesce and then at the last minute he would change his mind.  He finally let the Israelites leave but once they were “on the road” he had his last-minute regrets again and sent his army to bring them back.  The rest is (as they say) “history.”

Fast forward to the world in 2020.  A pandemic more widespread and as lethal as any in history has struck the world.  The battle is again engaged between leaders like Donald Trump who care more about the economy and leaders who care more about society.  A false dichotomy if ever there was one.  Under John’s corollary, taking either position and ignoring the other position can and will only result in a destruction of both.  You cannot have a society without an economy, and you can not have an economy without a society.  But what is the purpose of each?  What is a society and what is an economy?

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A society is a group of people, perhaps a tribe, a nation, or a family that choose to live together to share mutual resources.  People that live together beget relationships that involve feelings of community that grow out of common concerns.  These feelings range from love to sometimes hate.  There is a mutual interdependence in a society that implies the good of the society is based on the good of the individual and vice versa.  Societies develop a strong bond based on this mutual interdependence.

An economy is a means of providing resources for a society.  It is the means towards an end.  The end being the perpetuity of the society.  No society can exist without an economy.  Social economies have existed since the cave people and at one point simply involved people hunting and gathering together.  In modern times, we see economies based on a much more complex web of “hunting and gathering.”  The hunting and gathering in a modern society may involve Internet hunting or gathering crops at the local supermarket.

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A supply chain exists in modern societies based on what economists’ call “comparative advantage.”  This involves multiple components of a supply chain each doing what they do best.  Farmers raise dairy cattle.  Dairies make milk.  Trucking companies transfer the milk.  Retail stores sell the milk and other dairy products.  Consumers work at some part of a supply chain (there are thousands of supply chains that exist in the world today) to earn money to purchase goods and services sold at one or more other supply chains.  This is a simple version of an economy.  The bottom line is that in the 21st Century, no jobs mean no money.  No money means no ability to purchase goods and services.  Ergo, you starve to death or rely on the charity of your neighbors in your society.

Since the Covid-19 Pandemic began, leaders seem to have chosen sides in a fruitless and ignorant battle between “society” and the “economy.”  Over and over again we have seen leaders propose one extreme position or the other.  “We must shut everything down or we must open everything up!”  In the USA, there has been endless wrangling over a second stimulus bill.  Instead of intelligently looking at the balance between society and the economy, both Democrats and Republicans have used the crisis to further their own goals and agendas.

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This lack of leadership of both parties directly dovetails with the lack of leadership set by the former President of the United States.  A man whose own agenda was based on keeping an economy going to further his chances for reelection.  For a man who scorned Marxism and socialism, he realized that the economy always plays a major role in the life of the common person.  He thought that if the economy was going strong, people would overlook the thousands of deaths of their friends and neighbors.  He created a narrative that the entire pandemic was “false.”  The deaths were false.  He claimed falsely that the hospitals were reporting everything as Covid-19 deaths when they were actually due to something else.  I personally talked to many Trump supporters who told me that doctors and hospitals did this because the reimbursement rates were higher for deaths due to Covid-19 than for other causes.

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I served four years in the United States Air Force.  I learned while in the military that a commander, whether of a battalion, a squadron or a platoon has a major responsibility to keep his soldiers as safe as possible.  Any military leader who recklessly and needlessly puts his or her soldiers in harm’s way will be tried and court martialed for “dereliction” of duty. Following are two examples from a Marine publication titled: “Leadership, Ethics and Law of War Discussion Guide for Marines” by Marine Corps University, Lejeune Leadership (2008)

“The platoon commander was charged with violations of Article 92 (Dereliction of Duty), Article 109 (Willful and wrongful damage to an automobile), Article 118 (Premeditated murder) and Article 133 (Willful and wrongful failure to safeguard the detainees) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on 1 Feb 2005.”

“1st Lt Lawson was charged with dereliction of duty for failing to account for LCpl Rother’s welfare by posting him alone as a road guide. He was also charged with disobeying an order for two violations: failing to post guides in pairs as Judgment Case Study 5 Dependability Proficiency as directed and failing to provide a roster of the guides to the logistics officer before they were posted.”

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We have a former President who claims to be the Commander in Chief, yet he violated every canon of military law by recklessly and needlessly putting the entire US population in harm’s way by his disregard for the lives of these people.  His actions resulted in the deaths of thousands and yet I hear no outcry for justice.  I hear no strong voices noting his responsibility for these thousands of deaths.  As the primary person responsible for politicizing this Pandemic, he must be held accountable for these deaths.  The liars and sycophants who supported him must also be held accountable.

I blame the Democrats for their continuing stupidity to face reality.  I blame the Republicans for their lack of integrity and for their greed.  Both parties have made the pandemic in the USA much worse than it needed to be.  The lack of courage on one side and the greed on the other side created a perfect storm for the Covid-19 Virus to spread.  As I speak, we are witnessing a spike and increase in cases that seems beyond belief.

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Part of the reason for the increase in Corvid-10 cases has been the rush by both parties to open the schools.  So-called well-meaning educators and health experts even supported this rush.  On one side it was the belief that “day care” was needed to get the economy going again and on the other side, it was the need for teachers and schools to regain income.  Both sides used such flimsy excuses as “students need socializing” and would not get it at home or “students would fall behind” if they did not have direct contact with teachers.  No one ever defined what “socializing” children means or how schools accomplish this.  As for students falling behind, were they talking about their ability to take these ridiculous standardized state tests which add little or nothing to a student’s ability to think and reason for themselves?   No one ever defined what these children would be “falling behind.”

I realize that I have digressed from my original thesis.  To sum it up, a failure to balance the needs of both the society and the economy has led to disastrous results.  Add to this, the overall lack of leadership by the US President and both parties and we have a crisis that has never before been witnessed in the USA.  Some of these same problems beset the rest of the world.  The stupidity we have seen is not simply a manifestation of American ignorance, greed, and short-sightedness.  The world abounds in bad leadership.  Will we learn anything from our mistakes?  Will we admit that we were so polarized that neither side would listen to the other side?  Will we make progress under a new President?  Only time will tell.

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