Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tyranny in Our World

Wherever government fails in its basic purpose of protecting life, liberty, and property, and instead deprives its own people of those very things, you find tyranny.

We have too many examples in our world today.

North Korea

Kim Jong-un with missiles
image from here
According to the Human Rights Watch 2016 World Report, conditions in North Korea look pretty grim. Human rights violations include: “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion, and other sexual violence in North Korea.” A UN Commission of Inquiry says the “gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

What does that look like on the ground?

Food is scarce. People are on the verge of starvation. They have no communication with the outside world to back up suspicions that the rest of the world is not even worse off, as they are told. Those who try to escape into China are detained and returned to detention, forced labor, or public execution. Yet some are still willing to attempt to escape. Among women who “successfully” escape, chances are high they will be enslaved into forced marriages or the sex trade.

Dynastic dictator Kim Jong-un is presented as a god to his people. Apparently they don’t expect much from their deity, since he recently murdered his brother (older brother, who had the greater claim to leadership, if I understand correctly). There is no other deity allowed, since religious belief is systematically quashed.

While their leader must know better (he was educated in the West), they believe they are the most powerful force on earth—because that is what they are told, and they have no access to information to discredit that lie. North Korean indoctrination would put Orwell’s 1984 world to shame.

Meanwhile, they have developed nuclear capability and are attempting to move beyond rudimentary delivery technology.

There has been saber-rattling, as a rule, annually every spring. They have done this with impunity for years, because of the rest of the world’s unwillingness to put a stop to it. This year the difference is a new US President who is an unknown quantity, but not one to suffer bullying. China is stepping up, because they now know that, if they do nothing to control their rogue vassal, the US will. And China doesn’t want increased US power in their vicinity.

The North Korean situation wouldn’t be what it is, if the war had been completed back in the 1950s. It continues, in the form of a cease fire, with enemies remaining enemies, and no progression such as Japan and Germany made after WWII. Stalemate may not last forever.

Meanwhile, South Korea flourishes economically and in many other ways, creating a contrast with the northern part of the peninsula that ought to be instructive to all the world.


Venezuela is resource rich: oil, coal, bauxite, iron, gold, and natural beauty. Nevertheless, most of its population now lives in poverty.

No food. It has become a real problem. Millions have cut back to one or two meals a day. Millions have lost, on average, 19 pounds.

Inflation is at over 50%. Money is controlled, and its value too low to bring in much from the outside. Travel, particularly travel by citizens with money, is limited. There had been a practice of crossing the border to Bolivia to get better exchange rates, but that was quashed.
empty supermarket in Venezuela
image found here

Government is corrupt and ineffective. Crime feels similar to living in a war zone, with over 90% of crimes remaining unsolved, including murder.

Following the death of Hugo Chavez, his successor, Maduro, won election by only 2%, meaning nearly half of the people are still willing, so far, to say that they don’t like the way government is failing them.

We’ve known people from Venezuela. It wasn’t always like this. While it wasn’t America, it was livable and prosperous. Now people can’t get hold of toilet paper or bread, and there seems to be no way out. But, while it’s obvious from the outside that the fault of this swift demise of a country is socialism, government has done a pretty good job of claiming the fault lies with the business class.

Many radio and TV networks simply had their licenses revoked. The last remaining dissenting TV station was sold in 2013, and then announced its policies would be changing. Venezuelans have voted for socialism time after time, but you have to wonder whether they can be informed voters when they have no access to truth in the media or from their government.


It’s essentially impossible to be living in Syria during the ISIS war without participating. Everyone else is a refugee or target of genocide.

Getting basic food and shelter for the refugees is a worldwide problem. Many have crossed into Turkey. Others elsewhere. Some have been transported afar, to Europe or America. There’s a preference to stay nearby, as refugees, in hopes that the enemy will eventually be rooted out, and they could return to their homeland. Others have given up hope, and their best future lies in finding work and a new life elsewhere.

If there is one thing ISIS is certain not to do for people it governs, it is to protect their lives, liberty, and property. Murder, genocide, and rape are expected activities from this regime. The savagery is hard to imagine.


By comparison, Sweden looks much less bad. But there are invading hordes of Islamic people—some are peaceful Muslims, even refugees, but others are Islamists who hate anyone not like them, and the Swedes are definitely not like them.

In an effort to welcome these people, and show openness and tolerance, the Swedes have over-tolerated their behavior, which includes rape with impunity. Government and media spin—remove demographic information from reports—so that it doesn’t look like it’s caused by the invading hordes. Because there is more fear of being labeled as bigoted than there is fear of its own population being raped.

A government, or media, who tells this lie—at the expense of the safety of its own people—is tyrannical. Add to that the corrupt control of businesses, and what seemed to be the world’s example of “successful socialism” is not so exemplary. Success, in business, in fact, comes only as they move away from the socialist model toward free markets.

There are other tyranny/savagery zones in the world. Anywhere there is war, you’ll find those conditions. But sometimes even without war.

Try France, which, like Sweden, has welcomed in enough Islamists that terrorism is becoming part of daily life.

Or, closer to home, Chicago, where murder rates make it look like a war zone. Or many parts of our southern border, controlled by drug gangs.

Tyranny goes hand in hand with savagery. And poverty.

The way out is toward freedom that comes from a government limited to its protective role, free markets and their attending prosperity, and civilization of people living corruption-free lives.
The way to freedom, prosperity, and civilization—all three together—is a known path. But the peoples of the world don’t seem to be aware. And the suffering continues, and spreads.

Ending tyranny for all the world will probably only happen when Christ returns to reign personally on the earth. In the meantime, we can at least spread the right way to our children, and our own circle of influence, and hope for better.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Political Philosophy

Politics is about power. It’s about influence and ruling, or controlling the lives of other people. It’s often an ugly thing.

Political philosophy is something else. Something beautiful and transcendent by comparison. While there are relationships between the two, they are not the same thing.

This blog—and the whole Spherical Model concept—is political philosophy.

Political philosophy deals with abstract ideas: life, liberty, property, necessity of government, necessary limits to government.

Politics deals with making deals, promises, compromises, and threats to get power and maintain power. In and of itself, it has little virtue. However, as long as we are left with no options but human beings to fill positions of government, politics will be in play.

Politics shows up everywhere—anywhere there is a hierarchy. Maybe anywhere there is an opportunity to use influence to get rules in place that are an advantage to one person/group or another. That’s why we have the term “office politics.” Supporting a person you think might do things the way you prefer in a job is similar to supporting a person who might do things the way you prefer for elected office.

There’s a video lesson in politics, by CGP Grey, that explains this pretty well. He lists these three “Rules for Rulers”:

1.       Get the key supporters on your side (mainly the ones who do the work of policing, building, or managing the money).
2.       Control the treasure (in order to keep the key supporters on your side).
a.       Every penny spent on citizens is money not spent on loyalty, so
3.       Minimize key supports.
a.       Keys necessary to gain power are not the same as those necessary to keep it, so there will be some purging of the pre-power supporters and some maintaining of the previous regime’s supporters.
He goes through these steps first for dictators, and then for representatives, in a democracy. Either way, he says, these same steps apply. And there’s this sad commentary:

Or you could take the moral path and ignore the big keys. But you’ll fight against those who didn’t. Good luck with that. Corruption is not some kind of petty crime, but rather a tool of power in democracies and dictatorships.
For someone who values the higher ideas, and makes decisions based on principles, I’m not willing to submit to being ruled by someone who is corrupt just because that is how the power mongering game is played.

This is politics, or possibly political science. It’s the question of how to get and maintain power—as if that is the end in itself.

Political philosophy (sometimes called political theory), on the other hand, is about why anyone should have power, and why power should be limited to the absolute necessities of protecting life, liberty, and property. As with other branches of philosophy, there are differing ideas. Some of them are false. Communism, for example, is a philosophy, but it does not do what it claims: equalize, provide, or protect; it is simply a lying cover for power mongers.

Liberty Bell replica at Union Station
in Washington, DC
A philosophy is more likely to be true if it is comprehensive of all life, all of society, and recognizes what is naturally true among civilized people. If you have the natural power to do something—like own property, or protect your own life—then you can delegate that power to a government entity for the benefit of all. But since you don’t have the right to take property from one neighbor and give it to another, you don’t have the power to delegate that power to government.

At the Spherical Model, I believe we’re on track with truth, because of our good company: the American founders.

This past Friday the radio discussion between Hugh Hewitt*and Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn was about the Declaration of Independence. I may come back to the whole broadcast closer to the 4th of July, but they referred to the Declaration as a document that is both philosophic and legal. Here’s part of the discussion:

HH: So why is the document (Declaration of Independence), which is an act of state, actually, also an act of political theory?
LA: So, it’s unique, being both those things. Last night at an event here in Georgia, where I am, I introduced the great David McCullough, who’s written beautifully about that. And I—I really love that guy. And he made the point, which John Adams (about whom he’s written a beautiful biography) made first, and that is: we’re going to have a birthday in this country.
Just think for a minute. When was England born? When was France born? You know, it’s lost back in the mists of time when there was a day there was a France and there was a day before when there wasn’t one. But what is that day? And so, we have a birthday, and we have reasons to have the nation. And they’re listed out. It is a formal enactment that makes the country. And some people don’t like that, but there it stands.
Because of the nature of the case, when you think about that for just a second, on what authority would you found a country? What kind of authority would you need? Because, at the moment of the founding, you don’t have any laws.
HH: Correct.
LA: So where do you get them? And they get them, in one of the most famous phrases in all of political history, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
HH: And we’re going to read that preamble in just a second, but I want to set up a little bit. You mentioned David McCullough. One of his many great books is simply titled 1776. I used to make my law students read it, because they don’t realize what a close run a thing 1776 was. This was not an exercise in a debating society; it wasn’t a congressional shutdown like the Democrats are going to force next week. It isn’t a legislative act. It’s actually a revolutionary act, which also makes it quite different from anything else in our history.
LA: Well, there’s a body count piling up. And so, you know, George Washington has an army in the field. And 1776 was a bitter and difficult year, and only the Declaration of Independence in that year and the Battle of Princeton and Trenton at the end of the year provided any bright spots at all.
And so, these guys, in there, who at the end of the Declaration make their personal pledge of their fortunes, lives, and sacred honor—they have reason to have fear for their lives. A writ has been issued by the commanding general of the British forces in North America for their arrest. Their names are on a list, and if they are found, the charge will be, probably, treason, and they’ll probably be exported to England to face trial for their lives. They all know that…..
LA: The king gave two answers to [the Declaration]. He gave an address from the throne later in the year in which he addressed this situation created by the Declaration of Independence, and refuted many of its main points. And that was wholly ineffective.
Later in the year General Washington’s forces had sieged the British forces in Boston, which were succored by their navy in the harbor, and they’ve got guns up on top, which were captured from Ft. Ticonderoga, and Washington’s army, while the siege was underway, was melting, because their enlistments were up.
And then the king caused his answer to the Declaration of Independence, in his address from the throne, to be distributed across the line, thinking, “This will tell them that I’m their kindly monarch, and they have to do what I say, but I’m going to take care of them,” which is the burden of his argument. And everybody read that, and then the re-enlistments just zoomed. They thought, “Oh, this is what this guy thinks.” So that’s a proof that the army agreed with the Declaration of Independence. That means it’s a philosophic document, but it’s also a war proclamation.
on the 

The philosophy in that document includes beautiful phrases like,

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed….
This is a historical breakthrough in political theory, or philosophy. The king, they say, doesn’t have an inborn right to rule over them; he is a man, and all men are created equal. And he has no right to take away their God-given rights. Their rights, they are claiming, come from God, not from a monarch who can grant them or take them at his whim.

These are not the usual words of ragtag armies. They are the words of well-educated people of principle.

Their questions are totally different from, “Is this king benevolent enough that we can tolerate his rule over us?” or “Should we revolt because we think we can get better roads or better police if we stage a coup and start anew?” The questions are not pedestrian. They aren’t “who will give us the most stuff” types of questions. They are transcendent, and exemplary for the rest of humanity.

I find political philosophy more valuable and more interesting that politics. There are others who do political discussion well enough. So, while there are occasions when we discuss here the issues in the news, of the current political campaigns, those tend to come up as examples of how the philosophical principles might be playing out in our current affairs.

In terms of the Spherical Model, it’s not very fruitful to discuss which government leader should have power to rule over us in the tyranny zone; we don’t want to be in the tyranny zone. We want to move up to freedom zone, where we can also enjoy prosperity and civilization. We can only do that by following true principles instead of flawed people.
* Hugh Hewitt's archives require a subscription, so the link might not work. The discussions between Hugh Hewitt and Dr. Larry Arnn are eventually archived on the Hillsdale College, but that takes about a week. So, while this one isn't up yet, it will soon be available here without a subscription.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Truth and Perception

What is truth? Is it real? Or is it relative—whatever each different person perceives it to be?

I’m a believer that there is a truth; it exists outside of ourselves. Our perceptions of it may be different, but if we are seekers of truth, we question our perceptions, and look for what is real.
sketch of a Grecian Urn,
by John Keats, who wrote the poem
"Ode on a Grecian Urn," which makes
the claim "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"
image from Wikipedia

There is a contingent of modern thinkers who claim that truth is relative. You can have your truth; I can have mine. We must accept that what may be true for you, might not be true for your neighbor.

This sounds open-minded and tolerant. But there are problems that come up when you can’t agree on “what is is.” How do we live together with irreconcilable differences on certain things?

For example, if I believe I own a piece of property, and you come along and decide you own that same piece of property, who gets to enjoy the benefits of property ownership? In the non-philosophical world, where we have laws to settle just such disagreements, it would be the person with the deed to the property. The deed is a proof, or evidence of a truth: right of ownership.

Suppose you believe that marriage is a certain thing—a permanent contract between a man and a woman, obligating them to one another, forming a permanent family in which to bring up their offspring, and to financially and socially sustain one another. Suppose someone else believes marriage is any two people announcing they are in a sexual relationship for the time being. Those are not the same things. It is possible for two people to define a word differently, but the thing they define can’t be the two incompatible different things at the same time.

Can the two people hold these different views at the same time and go their separate ways? That was what the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 claimed they could do. But they have not been allowed to. Believers in the permanent-contract-between-a-man-and-a-woman have been told they must accept the any-two-people-in-a-current-relationship as equivalent, even when theirs is a deeply held religious belief. And thus we have bakers, florists, and photographers being coerced to use their artistic skills for purposes that, to them, deny truth.

Suppose you believe that male and female are the only two sexes for human beings, and that your DNA and physiology define which one you are. This has been the truth for all of the millennia of human history. But there are others in our time who believe that there is a plethora of sexes for human beings, and that a person is whatever the individual decides to be, regardless of physiology.

Can the two different people hold these different views at the same time and let the other live their own way? In a tolerant world that could happen. But there is a huge amount of pressure right now to enforce a belief that doesn’t coincide with reality, science, truth as we have historically known it, or as nearly all of us can perceive it to be.

We’re seeing this enforcement of “my relative truth is the one you have to believe” play out with the militantly dogmatic LGBT community (add letters at will to LGBT). But it also exists in politics, economics, academia, entertainment, and just about everywhere you look.

It isn’t actually true that the earth would be better off without humans on it, and that we ought to return to pre-industrial-age technology to atone for being here. Nor is it true that you love pollution if you don’t buy into that humans-are-evil perception.

It isn’t actually true that setting a higher minimum wage for low-skilled workers will make the lives of enter-level workers better. It is more likely to prevent entry-level workers from getting the first jobs that give them experience along with a little bit of income.

It isn’t actually true that government intervention shows that government cares. Government can’t actually care at all; it is simply power. What is actually true is that government interference causes unintended consequences, usually exactly the opposite of the stated goal of the interference. By the way, it isn’t true that government-require purchased health insurance means better health care for all; in the real world it means higher costs and lower quality health care for all.

It isn’t actually true that abstract art, or pushing the envelope, leads to more beauty. Art within constraints has always led to more beauty and innovation than meaningless shapes or purposely vile depictions.

It isn’t actually true that Democrats are the good guys to minorities, especially Blacks. In the provable reality, Democrats have historically been anti-Black, and their policies have proven harmful to Blacks more so other demographics. But perception has overridden verifiable reality for over 90% of Black voters.

It isn’t actually true that centrally standardized government institutional education means better education; in the real world this often means education is deficient for all but the few whose needs match up with the factory-style approach. Maybe not even for them. But even bringing up the idea of alternative choices leads to a howling about not caring about children.

Here’s the problem I see with the philosophical belief that truth is relative: those who claim to believe this are the least likely to tolerate differences from their view of truth. If truth is relative, then the rule must be that you cannot impose your truth on someone else. So there should be zero pressure on the population to conform to their alternative, personal “truths.”

In a world where reality, like gravity, is not to be ignored, we are better off doing certain things:

·         Be open to new information, in case your perception of what is true isn’t accurate.
·         Be tolerant of others who have different beliefs; give the benefit of the doubt that they are searching for truth just as you are. You might just be at a different place in the truth search journey right now.
·         But when you have enough data to be quite sure of a truth, and the other side has no convincing evidence on their side, don’t let them bully you into submission. Stand firm even when the pressure is huge, and growing, and intimidating. Maybe especially then.

Maybe this is why Captain America is my
favorite Marvel superhero.
image from here

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Changing Minds and Hearts

On Glenn Beck Radio this morning, he was talking to ex-KGB agent Jack Barsky (author of Deep Undercover), who had been deep cover as a spy in the US back in the 80s. He defected shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, remaining in the US because of his daughter.
image from

In telling his story he mentioned that, when you’re indoctrinated with certain ideas, or ways of thinking, it’s very hard to let go of those ideas as an adult.

“Ideology as it’s fed to you from childhood on is a very very strong foundation.”
In their further conversation, they mentioned that Islamists, and North Koreans, who have been trained since childhood to believe we are the enemy, the Great Satan, and worthy of death for existing and not being “them,” can’t be expected to change just because we offer them freedom, prosperity, and civilization. Many former East Germans now support Putin, for example. In reference to North Korea, Barsky said,

“You cannot think that, once you free them from that dictator, that the country is going to change.”
A little later in the day I heard radio host Dennis Prager say that one of the purposes of his PragerU videos is to educate the young people who have been missing a lot of truth in their education. He believes that, if you can bring them facts, and show them truth in a logical way, you can get through to them.

This afternoon I read an email from Hillsdale College, advertising their free online American Heritage course, which I have taken. They mention some troubling statistics:

According to the National Assessment of Education, only 18% of American high schoolers are proficient in U.S. history. So it’s no surprise that, according to the Pew Research Center, only 32% of Millennials think America is the greatest country in the world.
They say this happened on purpose:

Progressives who opposed the ideas of limited government and individual rights began a concerted effort over a century ago to take over America’s schools and universities. Since the late 1960s, to the extent young Americans have learned anything about our country’s history, it is more likely than not to be about its faults.
Meanwhile, I’ve just finished a section in my Book of Mormon reading about the conversion of a rather large group of people who had previously been taught to hate the other people, to see them as thieves and liars that they had a right to murder and subjugate. The change was dramatic. They were so determined to keep their new promises to God and their fellow human beings, that they buried their swords as a sign of their promise never to kill again (Alma 24:16-18). For them that even included in self-defense, which caused some issues later, but that’s another part of the story.
Anti-Nephi-Lehies, burying their weapons
image from

These people did remain faithful. The change was not only dramatic; it was permanent.

And the former spy, Jack Barsky—his change has been permanent as well. In the cases where these people changed permanently, there are a couple of similarities: they were taught about Christ in a way that changed their hearts, and they felt love for those who taught them and for those around them.

If we’re looking for a way to change the world—to change a generation from hating freedom and the rules that lead to civilization into a free and prosperous people—how do we do it? There’s a simple but not easy answer: teach truth while loving them as they are.

I’m hoping that Dennis Prager is right. I hope that teaching millennials (and all of us) with clear, short videos that explain the truths will contribute to some conversions.

Add in the free online courses by Hillsdale College—on American Heritage, the US Constitution, the classics, and more—and clear truths are made accessible. This may mean more conversions.

I’m adding my small efforts here, at the Spherical Model, to try to lay out truth, as logically as I can, as a path to freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

I’m hoping for enough conversions here in America and among freedom-loving people around the globe, that the next generation won’t be trapped by the regressive teachings of the progressives. If we can preserve and recover freedom here in America, there’s hope for the rest of the world, or at least much of it.

But we’re up against a lot. And calmly teaching truth is the easy part. The other part, the letting them feel loved by us, so the change of heart comes—that’s always going to be a challenge.

But this week we celebrate the impossible: Christ overcoming death and the fall. With the help of the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, we can be made capable enough to help in change-of-heart miracles.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Prince of Peace

My life is religious every day. I’m not particularly unusual for an observant Mormon. But usually on this blog I try to translate into the principles that are accessible to every flavor of civilized person. However, this is the week of Easter, so today I’m sharing some Christian themes.

This first video is from my Church, for this year’s Easter celebration, with the theme “Prince of Peace.”

That main piece is followed up by several brief videos of people who apply in their everyday lives the concepts we learn from Christ. If you're celebrating along with me, click on each one.

·         Faith 
·         God’s Word 
·         Compassion 
·         Gratitude 
·         Prayer 
·         Forgiveness 
·         Repentance 
·         Hope 

In past years I’ve done some Easter celebrating here, one year with art. Other years with videos about the life of Christ. With music. Music. And more music. Music is the language of the angels; you hear it and feel it, and something transcendent can happen.

Here’s a bonus, a song I came across for the first time today, with children singing. It could be for any time. But it’s appropriate for Easter, with the message “He Lives and He Loves Me.”

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Education Conversation Continued

I wrote on education on Monday, and there was a thought-provoking comment I’d like to respond to.

Hey! I've got a couple genuine questions for you, knowing that you've spent much of your life focused on education. As long as parents have the ability to homeschool their children, how does public education usurp power from the people? Is the main issue with spending tax dollars on education or are there other ways you feel power is being taken? And 2.) while it's admirable that the general population was relatively well educated in the early 1800s, what of the slave population during the same time period? What of the many immigrants and non-English speakers who have come since? And what of the increasing number of households who need two incomes to provide for their families, and even then still can't get by? These are issues that have increased dramatically, and they are issues public education *attempts* to address. Totally imperfectly to be sure. But I can't see how a free market or philanthropy alone would do any better. As of 2011, one in five kids live in poverty--what is the incentive to supervise/educate/feed these kids, relying on philanthropy alone? It would be wonderful if parents were able to take full responsibility, but that is not the reality for most households. Help me to see what should be done.
These are good questions, and worth taking some time to respond to, in the ongoing conversation about education.
photo source

To begin, I agree with Lease that the problem looks overwhelming. And I agree that, with things as they are now, suddenly switching to a system of “pay for your own kids’ education” plus “we’ll use philanthropy to pay for the education of the poor kids” is an idea that brings on a panic attack. I’m not advocating for anything sudden, or anything that will leave a generation of kids without what they need.

I do believe in educating every child, including those whose families can’t provide. But I think right now there is a generation not getting what they need—because of the public schools.

Texas is big enough to generalize from. So let’s use some numbers from a piece I wrote in January:

[T]here are about 5.2 million K-12 students in Texas. That means 10% of kids in the US are going to school in Texas.
More fun facts: there are 130,000 students on wait lists for charter schools—which are proliferating in Texas, but can’t meet the need. Meanwhile there are 100,000 empty seats in private schools….
Also, there are 900,000 (17% of that 5.2 million) attending 1,032 failing schools in Texas. That means the school didn’t meet the minimal yearly progress (a pretty low bar) for three years in a row.
If you’re worried about 1 in 5 students being below the poverty line, a bigger worry ought to be that nearly 1 in 5 students is stuck in a school that does not educate them, but they are trapped there by the public school system with no way out—with the exception of a lottery for the lucky few who might get into a charter school.

Failing schools are most likely to be located where the poorest students live: inner cities and rural areas.

And remember, to be just above failing is a very low bar. That means huge numbers of children are trapped in public schools that do not offer them an adequate education—let alone an education tailored to help that child reach his/her potential.

Every time the school choice movement begins to get the word out, for even tiny, incremental changes, there is a huge outcry claiming this takes money away from the kids. This is during a period during which real money per student has increased manifold with no measurable increase in education outcomes.

This is, again, from my January piece, about my highly rated school district that failed my children:

·         Student enrollment has grown 30%, with a population explosion.
·         Teacher ranks have grown 50%, which is well above that population growth.
·         Non-teaching staff has grown 102%.
If you really care about educating children, why would you spend so much education money on something other than educating children?

Let me repeat the Spherical Model axiom:

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.
To apply that to education, if the stated goal is to provide an education for every child, the unintended consequence of government institutionalized education is less education, especially for poor children.

This is assuming that a quality education leading to an educated next generation is actually the goal; I suspect that the real, unstated goal of government institutionalized education is control of the populace and the inculcation of radical post-modernist ideas. I wrote about John Dewey, a founding father of modern public education here.

So, in answer to Lease’s first question, there is a problem with taking my tax dollars for public education while failing to provide my children with the education they need. And there’s also a problem with the government’s attempts to control the minds of children. There are attacks by CPS, as though homeschooling your own children is equivalent to neglecting them. There are attempts to control what is taught, attempts to “approve” of curriculum, attempts to enforce dissemination of certain messages and exclusion of other messages.

In Texas we have a lot of homeschool freedom—but we have that because of constant vigilance to prevent the (relatively conservative) legislature from encroaching on parental rights to see to the care and upbringing of their own children.
Daughter Social Sphere, citizen lobbying at the
state capitol, one of our homeschool adventures

I do believe the only antidote must consist of free market plus philanthropy. But Lease asks, with the overwhelming numbers of children whose families can’t afford to educate them, how can free market and philanthropy possibly fill that need?

As things are now, maybe they can’t. But I’m not in favor of keeping things as they are. The market for educational options needs to grow. We need more choices, better quality, and lower prices—which are the usual and expected results of innovation in the free market.

And we also need some family changes. In order for a society to support the exceptions to families providing for themselves, there needs to be a critical mass of families with married mother and father taking care of their own children. I’m guessing a critical mass is somewhere north of 75%. If nearly all children are born to married parents, and no more than 25% are then raised by single parents, poverty is greatly reduced. We know the way to avoid poverty in America:

1.      Don’t have sex before age 20.
2.      Don’t have sex until after marriage.
3.      Stay married
4.      Obtain at least a high school diploma.
That’s a pretty low bar. But we’re not meeting it. Only a few of us are teaching it.

Economic and social spheres interrelate. If we don’t value and preserve marriage and family, then we get the calamities we see in inner cities today. If we don’t have schools—and families—getting this message through, we’re stuck in a downward spiral, and I have no answer other than changing direction.

Meanwhile, here are some direction-changing ideas worth acting on:

Idea 1: Get rid of the US Department of Education—and have the money that has been sent there be given back to the states for use on education. My concern here is that, simply getting rid of the Department of Education wouldn’t be combined with a cut in US taxes (or spending), and the money counted on now for education would simply disappear into the abyss of national debt. That must not happen.

Idea 2: Have all education money attach to the child. If the goal is to educate every child, then it is obvious that is not equivalent to funding public schools. No family should be forced to pay taxes for public schools and then also pay for their child’s education when the public schools do not provide for their needs. That’s true for poor families as well as the families able to make the huge sacrifices to educate their children no matter the odds.

Idea 3: Allow the parents to use the money attached to their child’s education as they see fit: for public school, for private school (including parochial), for private tutoring, for private lessons, for alternative therapies (equine therapy, for example), for online courses, for homeschool curriculum, or any combination thereof.

Step 4: Encourage businesses, through tax credits, to offer scholarships to supplement or replace the per child allotment for certain students based on need and/or merit. This is being put forward by both my state representative and my state senator in the current Texas legislative session.

Step 5: Encourage any and every form of educational choice: charter schools, ESAs, use of public school buildings for private education business uses, and ideas we haven’t thought of yet.
Everywhere it has been tried, allowing parents to control the money for their child’s education costs less than the per child cost of public education, with better outcomes. Allowing that money to stay with the child—for future years and even for higher education—encourages wise use of the money for the particular child. And simultaneously it encourages market answers to educational needs.

Already, in large part because of the growth of homeschooling, we’re seeing online educational resources proliferate. Many of these are free or low cost.

For example, I wanted to use a particular math program for homeschooling my daughter that my boys had used in a gifted school in another state. I contacted my boys’ teachers and asked what the program was. I happened to ask why, if the program was so good, it wasn’t used for all students, but only the gifted classes. The answer was that it was too expensive. I bought the teacher’s edition, everything I needed, grades 3-6, for around $350. It was one of our bigger curriculum purchases. It was intended for an entire classroom; I used it for one child. There were a few consumable pages, but otherwise you’re looking at under $100 per year per classroom. I can’t figure out why a typical classroom, spending $1100 per year per child, couldn’t afford that. By the way, the program is now available online for free.

At some point we can look at the internet as a higher education alternative to astronomically expensive college tuition. MIT has free courses online. Many universities have online courses at lower per credit hour costs than on-campus tuition. YouTube is mostly free. There’s a lot out there. What we need is a way to free ourselves from the cost of entry into society that an ever-less-valuable university degree program provides.

Meanwhile, in some third-world countries, very poor people are successfully building private schools to get the education the government schools are failing to provide. We’re told it can’t be done, but it’s happening.

I don’t know that I’ve fully answered all of Lease’s questions. I didn’t touch on the history of slaves not being educated (wish it hadn’t happened, and that no one had been deprived of their life, liberty, and property). Or immigrants (my grandfather immigrated in 1906, at age 16, speaking no English, and went on to be successful in various businesses—no government intervention needed).

The biggest hurdle is how do we get to the ideal I see from where we are. I don’t know. But I believe that recognizing that education is a parental right, not a government responsibility, is a first step.
We ought to encourage parental control of education wherever possible, allowing the market to meet growing demand for alternatives.

And we need stronger families, which will lead to less poverty and less societal need beyond what parents must provide for their own children.

Do I foresee the ideal happening? Sometimes I’m hopeful; sometimes I’m discouraged. All I can really do is what is in my power: see to the education of myself and my children, and share good ideas in hopes others will make good choices.

I know this is already long, but if you want fuller answers and more details, follow the links in the copy.

Thanks, Lease, for engaging in the conversation. I welcome respectful feedback like yours.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Education Is a Parental Responsibility

Contrary to popular near-religious belief, public education is not the best way to get an educated populace.
Back when I wrote the original articles for the Spherical Model website, I used education as an example of something government is doing beyond its proper role. And we know that anything government does beyond its proper role will cause negative unintended consequences, most likely the exact opposite of the stated intention.
I’m going to repeat, pretty much intact, that section on education. It’s relevant here in Texas during a week that the state legislature is debating school choice issues.
But I also recommend reading Matt Walsh’s blog today, about the social environment of schools. He makes a good case for not relinquishing our parental rights and responsibilities to a government institution with its indoctrination agenda.
While the nation has an interest in having an educated populace, the responsibility for educating individual children lies with each child’s parents. They care the most; they have the most interest in the child’s welfare, and the most insight into the child’s learning needs and idiosyncrasies. So, education of children is best decided and provided by the child’s parents. (If you’re not agreeing with me on that point, then carefully consider who you think does hold the responsibility for your child and why. And how did you come to believe that a government entity was more deserving of loyalty as the basic unit of society than is the family? Because whenever society degrades the importance of the family, civilization decays. See the article “Civilization vs. Savagery.”)
A homeschool science experiment, 2007
The nation’s stake in the education of its citizenry does not supersede the responsibility of the parents to provide it (despite the unfortunate ruling of the California appeals court in March 2008, declaring that parents do not have a constitutional right to see to the education of their children, that it is the right and responsibility of the state, a decision that, like many California decisions, was shortly thereafter thrown out). Usurping that responsibility does several negative things. The federal government doesn’t know what challenges a local school (or even more locally, a family) may face. By providing a one-size-fits-all approach, there may be relatively broad mediocre success, but there cannot be success for all (or maybe even most) individual children. That’s why parents who care about their children’s education have always been involved in it: paying private tutors, teaching them themselves, or paying for a high quality private education—or, as a last resort, getting very involved in the local public school to make it as good as possible.
Historically, this last option, public education system, is a recent and not very successful experiment. Government institutional education was only invented as a response to a perceived need in inner cities where a number of poor immigrant families had working parents and no one to oversee the children. Children too often were left to the streets, and were creating mischief, as you would expect. So government assumed responsibility where parents failed (either because of unwillingness or inability to provide). The problem is that government stepped way beyond the actual need (to provide rudimentary educational skills for unsupervised children so as to protect society) and imposed “free” education on all children—usurping parental responsibility and authority. And as you might expect, social engineers (Horace Mann, followed by John Dewey, among others) used this excuse to convince (dupe) the public into believing education was the government’s role, and that it was a “right” everyone was “entitled to,” “for free,” which was actually paid for by taxes filtered through bureaucracy. Since it got into the business, government has always provided this so-called free public education for the very purpose of controlling what was taught. National government education, by definition, is socialist (south/east quadrant of the model).
At the time of the writing of the Constitution, there was no public education in America. Generally children were taught the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic at home by their parents. As they got older, some went on to private, often community-provided schools or, if parents were unable to meet the need themselves, they hired tutors. Always the training went through the basics and the classics. Then the young person, when aiming for a profession, continued to be personally mentored and guided in his learning. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, education was so successful that a typical farmer in New York could understand the concepts in the Federalist Papers (as well as the responses provided by anti-federalists), many of which appeared in newspapers and were read by a large portion of the population, a skill that challenges most college students today. In order to enter college, an applicant had to be fluent in Greek and Latin, and be familiar with many of the ancient writings, having translated them. Even our best colleges today would be sparsely populated if that kind of requirement held.
When the country was still new, in 1830, Alexis de Tocqueville visited from France and marveled at how every farmer and tradesman he met could read. We had essentially a fully literate populous before public education, but have never had it since.
Daughter Social Sphere, dissecting a squid
at a homeschool science day 2009
Still, the nation clearly has an interest in having an educated populace. So how should government deal with families where parents won’t or can’t provide for their own children’s education? First of all, it shouldn’t take over a family responsibility for the entire population, at citizens’ expense, to solve a limited problem. Granted, there are going to be exceptions, but in a functioning civilized society, parents unwilling or unable to see to the education of their children will be rare. And, being few, with individual causes and circumstances, they might be best solved locally—by donations from benefactors for individual children, by local schools that provide a rudimentary education that will help a child be at least productive to society, and based on his/her own efforts and innate gifts, the student might move on to some scholarship resource later on.
The solution is free market plus philanthropy—exactly what you’d expect from a Constitution that is silent on government’s role on the issue. (Despite various tortured Supreme Court arguments to the contrary, silence in the Constitution means the federal government has no right to usurp that responsibility from more local governmental levels: see the 10th Amendment.)
Getting back to the education example, instead of the limited customized solution the free market provides, the factory style approach so common today allows very little individualization, so we tend to badly fail those who need remedial help, and, possibly worse for the nation’s future, we fail those who need enhanced opportunity and are held back by the average learning rate and tedium of the typical classroom. In addition, there is so much care taken to teaching only non-offensive “everybody agrees” philosophies of right and wrong (or worse, values the government chooses based on special interest pressure groups over the values of the family), it is nearly impossible for the government institution to instill the values needed to keep behavior in the civilized freedom zone. (See “Civilization vs. Savagery.”)

Federal interest in an educated populace could be justifiably ignored entirely, as it is in the Constitution. Or (I’m being open to meeting government’s interest in an educated populace, but I’m not being prescriptive that this or any other solution is justified) there could be a government entity, but it could be limited to becoming a clearinghouse for ideas, methods, testing, data, and resources that state and local educators (including individual parents) could turn to for assistance—like a big but powerless library. This would satisfy the central government’s interest in assuring an educated populace without usurping the responsibility and power to accomplish it from the parents and the local communities they live in. There could be debate on the issue, to decide what if any form such a government entity could take. But there isn’t any such debate taking place.
Even as you’re reading this, you’re likely thinking the very idea of eliminating federal control of education is the suggestion of a right-wing nutcase. Bringing it up instantly brings the response, “How can you be against the education of our children? Are you crazy?” which is not only untrue, it’s intellectually stilting. If you can’t even debate whether an issue belongs in the purview of federal government control, then the demagogues have already pushed the populous far south of the freedom zone on that issue.
Incidentally, the Department of Education was created, amid much opposition because of its unconstitutionality, as recently as 1979, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Despite immediate efforts by Reagan, demagoguery phrased attempts to get rid of the federal department as being against the very education of children. Citizens over their mid-40s today [or mid-50s, as of 2017] all managed to get educated in the US without federal oversight, but immediately federal education became equivalent with all education. Not surprisingly, the homeschooling movement began to grow from then onward.

So, the point is, federal government powers should not exceed what its responsibilities rightly are. Having a national interest is not adequate reason for usurping power from the people. Evidence is that, every time government takes on a responsibility it shouldn’t rightly have, it provides worse service than could be provided locally or through the free market. Anyone considering government’s role in health care should keep that in mind.