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On The Precipice of Mediocrity, Teetering

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Holz: Conservative  

This has come up with many of my conservative friends... let it not be said that I'm a tree hugging hippie. There are some areas in which I actually side with the right...

*I'm a supporter of the death penalty. In fact, I think it should be used on pedophiles on those children younger than 12.

*More often than not, I side with intellectual property supporters, and find illegal downloading of films/music/TV to be against the law.

*While not a disbeliever of global warming, I have begun to question numerous studies thanks to the ever-probing mind of my bud, Manchild.

*I've given up on the belief that throwing money at school will change anything, especially if it does not take into account higher reimbursements for superior teachers. I'm a supporter of school vouchers.

*I support racial profiling. Yeah, I know it's racist, yeah, I know it possibly opens up a hole for various attacks, and yeah, I've seen the opinions of cops that it doesn't work. But I also know that if I see a 75 year old lady pulled aside at an airport, and a guy who has been reading the Koran - aloud to himself - next to me for the past hour gets through trouble-free, I don't feel any safer.

*Along similar lines, and probably most surprising, is that I'm a supporter of data-mining... I have no problem with the government tracking information on strange purchases, and marking bulk buys of dangerous materials. The screaming "right to privacy" advocates go too far in many cases, and while I fear this administrations attempt to erode alot of it, I don't believe there is a slippery slope in regards to that.

The interesting thing about this list, and one of the biggest things that I think makes me a "lefty" is that these aren't set in stone, and I can see myself changing my opinion after some research, or even soul-searching. I'm sure there's a few others, feel free to include any significant differences you have with your nearest ideology, or feel free to call me a hypocrite or racist.

posted by Holz | 4:20 PM | Rant & Rave, Bitches! (20)

20 Comments:

Death penalty: [insert standard equality argument here]. You know me, I always supported capital punishment. But it really, really needs to be fair.

Intellectual property: Oh, I could go on and on here... First off: for television, I honestly can't see a difference between downloading a show that you missed vs. recording it yourself. Granted, it is different if it's a cable show and you don't pay for cable.

However, for music I will concede to you that it is against the law, because, well they are suing the shit out of people so it must be illegal, right? Personally, I view this as an act of civil disobedience. Now I know everyone doesn't see it that way, but I do. The big music corporations are ruining the industry. From the overpriced cds, to the ridiculous concert prices to the payola, it's just one big corrupt conspiracy to rip us off.

I don't see how it hurts an artist for me to listen to their music when I NEVER would have bought it. EVER. If anything, it helps them reach a wider audience. And there are many, many cds I own that I NEVER would have bought, had I not had a chance to listen to them first.

Furthermore, due to the complete crap that is modern radio, I hear most of my music for the first time by downloading it. I read a good review or I get a recommendation from a friend, and then I check out the album and decide what I think. If anything, this makes me a more informed consumer. I have enough cds that I bought because of one song, only to find out that the rest of the album sucks. I don't need anymore of those, I'm running out of room as it is.

What do you think of people who burn a copy of a cd for a friend? Is that the same? For that matter, what about copying the music for your own use? Mixed cds, convenience of having it all on the computer, keeping an extra copy in the car? Because if the industry gets its way, the copy protections will prohibit you from doing those things with music that you rightfully "own." It's already that way with iTunes. If they do this, the music should be even cheaper since it's less versatile.

I support racial profiling...
I don't think you'll find anyone who disagrees with you about the old ladies (and now the babies on the no fly list!!). But there still has to be a standard protocol to follow. How do we do that? Not to mention that it will only further alienate muslims in this country, create targets for all of our country's all-American jackasses. I really don't see any solution that's agreeable, short of searching EVERYONE, but we know that's impossible.

I have no problem with the government tracking information on strange purchases...I don't believe there is a slippery slope in regards to that.
I tend to agree with you here, but why don't you believe there's a slippery slope? There's always a slippery slope. And I find it very surprising that you're okay with this, but against a national ID.

By Blogger Kate, at 8/17/2005 12:08 AM  


Whew! Sorry, didn't mean to make such a long comment there! It all just came pouring out. Possibly because I currently have nothing better to do at 3:00 AM...

Anyway, I'll try to come up with some of my own ideological self contradictions for ya. 'Tis only fair. The thing is, I think I've worked out most of my ideological issues. Now I'm just left with my many character flaws! :-p

By Blogger Kate, at 8/17/2005 12:13 AM  


I'd have to think through all the various topics... and it's daggum early for thinking... but one comes to mind quickly.

That's the argument that ID should not be part of a Science class simply because it's not scientific. I think I am leaning towards agreement with MC's stance that since it doesn't follow the methods and practices of "science", it really doesn't belong in a science classroom.

I already fear that our country's decline in math and science does not bode well for us in the future and I can accept the call for those subjects to remain true to their real form.

By Blogger The K Man, at 8/17/2005 5:39 AM  


Death penalty : I'm against it in principle, not because human lifes are precious but because I don't know a single country that knows how to use it responsibly.

However, I'd have no problems killing someone myself if I felt I had to. (ie. Protecting loved ones. Or revenge.)

Intellectual Property is far far too heavily weighted for the corporations in law. Eliminate software patents, reform the patent office, and reduce copyright terms to 14 years. As it is, corporations have been stealing from the public for decades. And if black people or Jewish people can demand reparations for stuff that happened years ago, I want Sony and Disney and co. to reimburse me for all the overpriced crap I've bought over the years.

Global warming. Long ago fell victim to "Garbage In -> Garbage Out" models and predictions. Save the Earth, but don't lie to yourself about the nature of the problem or you'll never find a real solution.

American schools are absolutely fucked up beyond all recognition. At least that's my opinion based on my fairly limited exposure to them.

Racial profiling. Makes sense, in some circumstances, IF you know what you're looking for. I've been a victim of it many times, and its annoying but acceptable. Where it gets crazy is when you're being profiled in all walks of life by people who don't know what the fuck they're doing. (Just my opinion.)

I think datamining is evil. (One of the reasons I have concocted several fake identities in order to protect my anonymity). I know what datamining can be used for.

I agree with Kate that there is a slippery slope on that score.

Some of my other "right" wing beliefs...
I'm against gun control laws of any form. I'd prefer if everyone was allowed to carry concealed weapons. And I can't think off hand of any level of weapon that I would refuse to sell to an individual. If you can afford it, you should be free to buy it. Right up to missiles and what-not.

I'm not totally against religion in schools. I think religion can be taught as a subject. But all religions, and religion as a concept, type of class. Not a "say your prayers now let's learn about Jesus and the Bible" class.

Oh, and I don't believe in recycling.

By Blogger Manchild, at 8/17/2005 6:09 AM  


Holz... forgive me for hijacking this thread.. but...

I was wondering if MC would be willing to explain his thoughts on American schools a little more. I'm not being argumentative... just curious as to what his take is on them. As someone who spent 17 years in various facets of American education... plus 3 years as a public school teacher... I probably have some level of understanding and would like to see where you're coming from.

By Blogger The K Man, at 8/17/2005 6:46 AM  


Cripes, Holz. You may need to start a few more threads for all this discussion!

...the argument that ID should not be part of a Science class simply because it's not scientific.
Kamin, coming from you, that's a huge thing to mention. I'm impressed that you would bring it up. I'm also humbled, as I still can't think of any of my own backwards opinions to add.

Global warming... don't lie to yourself about the nature of the problem or you'll never find a real solution.
I'd love to hear more about this, MC, but heh, maybe on another thread. :-p

I've given up on the belief that throwing money at school will change anything
You are right, there need to be fundamental changes. Not a la No Child Left Behind, but we need to do something. The system needs an overhaul from the ground up. Some of that involves money, of course.

I wouldn't go so far as to say American schools are fubar, as it really depends on the individual districts, but we have some very troubled schools. And no, I don't have any solutions. But I think it's reasonable to say that every kid should be able to get an education without being afraid to go to school. Oh, and a huge part of the problem comes from the home, not from the school system. And we can't legislate or fund that away.

Datamining...
I thought I should clarify. I'm fine with the tracking of specific items like fertilizer, or other bomb making materials, for instance. But maybe those things should be classified as controlled substances (I don't know, maybe they are as I know very little about these things).

I definitely do not support datamining if the form of tracking everyone's financial records, phone records, day to day purchases, business records, computer habits, etc, etc. There should not be one big "bank" of information. Track the suspicious people, and get a court order to do it. But maybe I'm just old fashioned.

I'm not totally against religion in schools. I think religion can be taught as a subject.
I wouldn't exactly call this a "right wing belief." If anything, it's a bit liberal, since learning about all religions can be viewed as teaching a multi-cultural curriculum (and hopefully tolerance).

By Blogger Kate, at 8/17/2005 7:57 AM  


Fair enough Kate, but the ACLU tends to hop all over anyone who even attempts to bring religion into schools. So I would see the left-wing position as ultimate seperation, keeping religion out of schools. And the right wing position as allowing religion in schools. There are obviously extremes on both sides.

"He said 'Thank God!' Sack him!!"
versus
"We must have NO secular schools in this country!"

By Blogger Manchild, at 8/17/2005 8:23 AM  


KMan, just quickly and off the top of my head, some thoughts on the American school system. I'll elaborate any point you like, and might add to the list when I've had time to think about it.
-----
American schools.. Jeez, where to even begin?

Mindless group-think.
We can start with the mindless parroting of the pledge of the allegiance to the flag every morning.

Poor Funding and Corporate sponsership
The funding for schools is never enough, which leads to schools seeking corporate sponsership from corporations that have no business being in schools.
Sorry, but I think Coke, Pepsi, Pizza Hut and all those asswipes need to be kept as far away from schoolkids as possible.
Sure it might raise revenue for the school, but the cost is in the childrens health and the formation of lifelong bad eating habits.

Homework
Not enough homework is given. (The average american kid spends way less on homework than comparitive countries around the world)

Shit teachers aren't sacked
The subjects are badly taught, but this goes right through the system. It's self perpetuating. Kids are badly taught because their teachers were badly taught.
And that leads me to unions. I'm a strong believer in unions but if there's a teachers union in the US then it's doing the wrong thing by protecting bad teachers.

Shit students aren't kept back
I don't know as much about this, but I've heard that it's known for teachers to cheat on poor students papers to get them to pass and move on to the next grade.

Curriculum
The general curriculum is also pretty poor. Kids are like sponges at an early age, and they should be exposed to massive amounts of data, languages and new ideas at an early age.

Books
And that leads me to the quality of the text books. The way the text books are selected is appaling. States refusing to consider an otherwise excellent history text book, because their state is only mentioned by name in 6 paragraphs in the entire book, but this shittier book devotes 20 pages to our state, so let's choose that one.

Television in classes
Whoever came up with the idea of television in schools should be shot.
And the person who came up with the idea of advertising on that television, should be found a very special place in hell.

Corporal punishment
Oh and kids need to be disciplined. I don't agree with Americas policy of never hitting your kids. It shouldn't allways be the first resort, but sometimes a teacher needs to be able to smack a child when he or she is out of line. The younger the better. Make good behaviour in schools habit forming. When I was in school, teachers were allowed to take a leather strap to you, (with weights sewn into the strap) as well as manhandle you. There were a few sadistic fuckers who abused it, but only a few. And I would say that by age 10 or 11, over 99% of kids never received any punishment like that, because it was unecessary. At that point, other punishments (such as homework or detention) worked, because the kids were basically civilised.

Parents
Parents need to be able to discipline their kids properly too. And allow the teachers to do the same.
Parents also need to be more active in the schooling. I can't remember the last time I saw a parent want to go to a PTA meeting.
Educating your child starts at home. Parents need to realise that. School is not some cheap creche where you can dump your kids off at the start of every day. Parents need to value education and be seen by the child to value it. If the parents spends their evenings reading or talking rather than vegging in front of the idiot box, then the child has a better example to learn from.

Some sources :
Carl Sagan's "A Demon haunted world"
Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation"
James W. Loewen;s "Lies my teacher told me"
Steven D. Levitt's "Freakonomics"

By Blogger Manchild, at 8/17/2005 8:47 AM  


Mindless group-think: I would never do away with the pledge, in fact, I used to get mad at my students who goofed around during it. People today are so self-obsessed that the ideals of citizenship, duty, responsibility, allegience, etc... seem to be slipping away. Civics needs to play a much bigger part of middle/high school curriculum, IMO.

Poor Funding and Corporate sponsership: Agreed that funding is bad. When it's based on property value, the rich good schools get more money and the poor underfunded terrible schools get next to nothing. Cyclical. I also agree that corporate sponsorship is a terrible thing but in my experience it doesn't really happen. Maybe a Pepsi machine in the cafeteria or Coke book covers, but it hasn't affected the classroom instruction yet and nearly ALL teachers that I've known would be dead-set against it.

Homework: Completely agreed. However, the lack of family structure (which I believe is a direct link to the antics/drug use/irresponsibility of the 1960's) is really to blame. As a teacher, I could assign more homework, but 3/4 of my kids wouldn't do it and there would be tons of pressure against me from parents. Blame the parents, there.... not the schools. Only blame the schools for bending to the will of parents... and ultimately blame the lawyers for that.

Bad teachers / failing kids: Agreed again. Teachers should not have the job security that they do. It only fosters poor teachers because there is no competition to keep your job. I think kids who fail more than once... especially because of laziness, should be enrolled in manditory "career skills / crime awareness"-type programs so they can at least be productive citizens on SOME level.

Curriculum: Actually, schools are pushing harder and harder now than ever. The failure is not the schools... it's the kids and parents. Teachers are so frustrated at the generations of kids and their irresponsibility and laziness. The curriculums where I taught as an adult were MUCH better than when I was a student.

Books: Definitely a HUGE problem. My text books from last year were from the 1980's... but it's all a budget game. As far as new textbook selection, it's such a slimey salesman market... it's gross. They pitch books to teachers because they make teachers' jobs easier. It's awful.

Parenting: This is ABSOLUTELY the NUMBER ONE problem in schools today that accounts for 99% of the problems with our education system. Kids are not pushed to succeed at ANY level, parents bad-mouth schools and teachers, parents put zero time or energy into their kids' education, they defend their irresponsible brats tooth and nail, they sue for anything they can... The parenting in America is such a mess and the first major impact of that is in schools. The kids/teens of the 1960's are now the parents of school-aged kids and IMO, we're seeing the fallout of the whole drugs/irresponsibility/"whatever" hippy attitude's affect on the next generation.

Believe me, I'm out of education for good.

By Blogger The K Man, at 8/17/2005 9:21 AM  


Well I hope you're not out of the discussion, cause there's a couple of points I'd like to hear more about.

On the mindless groupthink, the pledge is just one example for me, but let's stick with it for the moment.

I agree that civics should be taught. Civic responsibility, civic pride, the responsibility of being an INFORMED voter, and all of that stuff.

But to me, the pledge IS mindless. It's repeated daily until the words mean nothing to most people. (That's why they goof off, IMO)

On the other hand, in a small number of people it does engender an almost pathological devotion to what is essentially a piece of coloured cloth.

It's one thing to devote yourself to a symbol when the real thing is not present, but last I checked America wasn't missing.

lack of family structure (which I believe is a direct link to the antics/drug use/irresponsibility of the 1960's

The kids/teens of the 1960's are now the parents of school-aged kids and IMO, we're seeing the fallout of the whole drugs/irresponsibility/"whatever" hippy attitude's affect on the next generation.


How long will that excuse be trotted out? Cause when it comes to self serving bullcrap, I'd lay the blame square at the Reaganomics "Greed-is-good" decade. The teenagers whos views were shaped in that decade are the parents of the little bastards of today.

The curriculums where I taught as an adult were MUCH better than when I was a student.
Surely that's "curricula"? :)

I'd be interested in knowing why you think this, since some studies I've seen (if memory serves) indicate that it has gotten worse.

By Blogger Manchild, at 8/17/2005 11:16 AM  


The ACLU tends to hop all over anyone who even attempts to bring religion into schools. So I would see the left-wing position as ultimate seperation, keeping religion out of schools. And the right wing position as allowing religion in schools.
I would have to say that there is a difference between learning about religion in school and practicing religion in school. I could be wrong, but would I think the ACLU knows the difference.

Coke, Pepsi, Pizza Hut and all those asswipes need to be kept as far away from schoolkids as possible.
I could not possibly agree with you more.

Whoever came up with the idea of television in schools should be shot.
In what context? Because I'm not opposed to showing kids an occasional educational piece. And many schools these days produce their own little tv shows (news, announcements, etc), with the majority of the production done by students. So it's both educational and fun.

I don't agree with Americas policy of never hitting your kids. It shouldn't allways be the first resort, but sometimes a teacher needs to be able to smack a child when he or she is out of line.
I'm not opposed to an occasional smack from a parent, as long as it's warranted and not abusive. But I would not be willing to let anyone else (a teacher, a coach, a babysitter, etc) make that decision. Sorry, but whether or not you agree with their methods, that decision should be up to the parents.

Educating your child starts at home.
Yes. And herein lies perhaps the biggest challenge to fixing our educational system.

Civics needs to play a much bigger part of middle/high school curriculum
Yes, but it should come through actions, not the mindless recitation of words. And even if the kids do pay attention to the words, will they know what it means?

I also agree that corporate sponsorship is a terrible thing but in my experience it doesn't really happen.
It does. Maybe not too much at the school where you taught, but it happens a lot in the really poor schools. And it's not just the Pepsi machines. It's the companies that are contracted to prepare the cafeteria food, too.

The lack of family structure (which I believe is a direct link to the antics/drug use/irresponsibility of the 1960's) is really to blame...
Okay, Cartman. Let's blame everything on the dirty hippies.

The kids/teens of the 1960's are now the parents of school-aged kids and IMO, we're seeing the fallout of the whole drugs/irresponsibility/"whatever" hippy attitude's affect on the next generation.
Not to be picky, but the "kids/teens of the 1960's are now the grandparents of school aged kids. Our parents were the 60s generation. And really, the whole family structure issue is much more complex than drugs and "loose morals." You can't boil it all down to the hippies.

By Blogger Kate, at 8/17/2005 11:26 AM  


Hrm, sorry to sort of reiterate a couple of Manchild's points. I didn't see his post until after I hit "publish."

Anyway, I wanted to follow up on the ACLU and teaching about religion. This is from their website:
Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion. As the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said, "[i]t might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion, or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization." It would be difficult to teach art, music, literature and most social studies without considering religious influences. [ACLU]

By Blogger Kate, at 8/17/2005 11:33 AM  


Whoever came up with the idea of television in schools should be shot.
In what context? Because I'm not opposed to showing kids an occasional
educational piece. And many schools these days produce their own little
tv shows (news, announcements, etc), with the majority of the production
done by students. So it's both educational and fun.


I'm not talking about kids making tv shows, or a teacher bringing in some
documentary on dvd to show the class.

I'm talking about Primedia's "Channel One"

"To recognize the falseness of that [advertising] propaganda, to learn to read its images, and also to read widely and discerningly enough to start to understand the all-important differences between a good life and a bad one: such are the proper aims of school. Which is why Channel One should not be there."
--Mark Crispin Miller, "How to be Stupid: The Lessons of Channel One"
http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1384

Let me quote from an article here. (I intend to look into these researchers, but I expect it's legit)

To test the educational effect of the program, to see how successfully it engaged "young adults" in contemporary affairs and encouraged them to see themselves as active adult citizens--to test, in other words, what Channel One was actually accomplishing, two universities conducted a survey.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Arizona State University administered pop quizzes to see what students could recall of Channel One's news content. Although students took the quizzes within only twenty-four hours of watching the episodes, they sometimes could not remember any of the content from the previous day's program. On the other hand, and predictably, their recall of commercials was nearly impeccable. If they had been invited, many students could have sung some of the ad jingles--the same students who protest most piteously when asked to memorize even the fourteen lines of a sonnet. If we are to take seriously the claims that its primary mission is to increase student knowledge of contemporary affairs, the university researchers proved that Channel One is an abject failure. Fortunately for its stockholders, however, in its real mission it is a sublime success.


I first heard of Channel One years ago, and have come across it more often in recent years.
It does appear that more people are copping on to it.
I can provide some good links to learn more about it, if you're interested.

But I would not be willing to let anyone else (a teacher, a coach, a babysitter, etc) make that decision. Sorry, but whether or not you agree with their methods, that decision should be up to the parents.

Well, we'll agree to disagree there. I think the teacher is there to teach, and that includes good manners. If your kid is acting like a prick, then he should be disciplined. In some (not all) ways the teacher is a substitute parent for the duration of the classtime. If I remember rightly, studies have shown that kids (like dogs and other animals) need to be punished within a very short time of doing wrong, in order for the punishment to be correctly mentally associated with the punishment. If the teacher is handicapped in what they can do to punish the kids, then the kid can essentially assume the class is a free reign period where anything goes. He or she doesn't have to go to detention. Can't be made to do extra work. Can basically say "No" to each and every thing, until ultimately he's ejected from the class either temporarily or permanently. And frankly, I don't think that's a legitimate solution.

Maybe not too much at the school where you taught, but it happens a lot in the really poor schools. And it's not just the Pepsi machines. It's the companies that are contracted to prepare the cafeteria food, too
That gels with what I read also.


Anyway, I wanted to follow up on the ACLU and teaching about religion. This is from their website:
Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion.


I don't get the distinction. Maybe it's a subtlety of English I haven't come across yet. Can you explain how this is not contradictory?

By Blogger Manchild, at 8/18/2005 2:39 AM  


I'm talking about Primedia's "Channel One"
Hadn't heard of it. That's a little scary.

"Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion."
I don't get the distinction. Maybe it's a subtlety of English I haven't come across yet. Can you explain how this is not contradictory?


Yeah, the semantic difference there is pretty subtle. Basically, it's exactly what you said. Schools should teach students about religion ("as a concept"), but there should be no practicing religion (i.e. "say your prayers now let's learn about Jesus"). Does that help?

By Blogger Kate, at 8/18/2005 5:47 AM  


Ah, thanks. For me, I would have used "practice religion" in that case.

By Blogger Manchild, at 8/18/2005 7:39 AM  


http://www.theonion.com/news/index.php?issue=4133&n=2

By Blogger Manchild, at 8/20/2005 3:46 PM  


Oh that is brilliant.

"evangelical physics"

"secular gravity"

I love it!!

I think I shall have to post this myself to make sure people see it.

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