Over the last few months I’ve been discussing the forgotten (or, rather, systematically ignored) history of American occultism, partly because it’s interesting in its own right and partly because it offers a good functional escape hatch out of the rigidly dualistic vision that has so tight a stranglehold on so many people’s ideas of the history of the United States. We have a lot more along those same lines to discuss, and next week I’ll be posting another serving from the same simmering pot. In the meantime, though, the current state of emergency has been having some intriguing effects, and we should talk about those, too.
No doubt the current coronavirus outbreak and the vagaries of the public policy measures taken to control it will be a subject of endless discussion for months to come. I don’t propose to add much to that discussion here. It’s enough for present purposes to note that the systematic efforts made to flatten the curve of infections, so that US hospital systems would not be overwhelmed, appear to have worked. The millions of deaths predicted early on were effectively headed off, and the outbreak has slowed to the point that some states have already removed the more extreme preventive measures and others are preparing to do so.
The most important of those measures, though, may have some unexpected results. I’m thinking here of the mandatory closures that resulted in millions of Americans staying home most of the time. Until those orders went out, a very large number of people in this country lived on the equivalent of a high-speed treadmill, scrambling at top speed to keep up with the demands of work, commuting, and social commitments. That left a great many of them too tired and distracted to do much more than keep scrambling—too tired and distracted, certainly, to stop, catch their breaths, and think about whether they actually want to lead the lives they’re living.
For more than a month now, by contrast, the treadmill has been turned off. Willy-nilly, a great many Americans have landed in the equivalent of one of those retreats where you have the time and space and solitude to think about your life and figure out where to go from here. Not all of them have made use of the opportunity, but to judge by what I’ve read while lurking on a variety of online forums, a very significant number have done so, and a good many of them are not well pleased by what they’ve realized over the course of their involuntary retreat time.
For example, most American schoolchildren have been staying home during the emergency, and those who go to public schools have generally kept doing their schoolwork by way of various distance learning arrangements. As a result, a great many parents of school age children in the United States have had the chance, in most cases for the first time, to find out exactly what their children are doing to fill the hours they spend in this country’s public schools. That hasn’t exactly been a pleasant revelation, and it bids fair to reshape the entire debate around schooling in today’s America.
For decades now, proponents of the US public school system and proponents of homeschooling have been locked into a debate closely tied into the broader rhetoric of the so-called culture wars. A large number of homeschooling families, that is, belong to conservative religious movements that disapprove of the ideological biases of modern US public school education. The proponents of the public school, system, of course, return the favor with interest, disapproving just as heartily of the ideological biases of the conservative religious movements. That’s exactly the sort of rhetorical merry-go-round that’s been filling our national life with the sort of political calliope music with which we’re all far too familiar—and it serves, as all such rhetorical games reliably serve, to distract attention from other issues less welcome to either side.
Thus it’s probably necessary to say that based on the sample I’ve seen, parents of schoolchildren who have been looking over young shoulders at their daily lessons aren’t particularly bent out of shape by the ideologies on display therein. What has them looking on in dismay is just how little their children are being taught or expected to learn. They’re watching their kids receive dumbed-down lessons that take vacuousness and mediocrity to previously unplumbed levels, and make-work exercises that by and large are well within the capacity of an ordinarily intelligent hamster. Many of them are watching their kids complete a day’s worth of lessons and assignments in well under an hour, and they’re wondering for very good reason exactly why those same kids are being expected to sit in a school for six or seven hours a day, five days a week.
Thus the core problem with the public schools, from the point of view of a great many parents of schoolchildren, is not that they teach this or that ideology. It’s that so few public schools teach much of anything at all. That’s something that people have been talking about out on the fringes of our society for a while now, but it wasn’t something that most parents heard about or noticed. Now it’s become impossible for many of them to avoid. The result, of course, is that a great many of them are starting to think about whether they can do a better job of teaching their children themselves—and in a great many cases, yes, they can.
Of course the pushback has already started. It’s not accidental that a few weeks back, while the current emergency was getting under way, Harvard Magazine published an article calling for a ban on homeschooling. Of course the article trotted out exactly the sort of rhetoric I mentioned above, and of course it did so in the cluelessly hamfisted way that’s become de rigueur these days whenever the talking heads of the comfortable classes rail at deplorables who won’t shut up and do as they’re told by their self-proclaimed betters. The result was practically self-parody: we can’t let parents decide what to teach their children, only we have the right to decide that! It’s an old song, though rarely played in so shrill and tone-deaf a manner.
I suspect, though, that it’s going to get even less applause from the audience than it has in the past. I also suspect that if state officials attempt to crack down on homeschooling in an attempt to head off a wholesale flight from the public schools, they’re going to discover that they’ve just handed their political opponents a weapon that will be used with impressive vigor in the next few election campaigns. We’ll see how the game plays out, but it seems likely that the long decline of American public schooling may just have passed the kind of inflection point after which not even the most frantic defense of a failed status quo can stave off radical change.
The realization that our public schools no longer provide an education worth the name is only one of the insights that seem to be dawning in a good many minds just now. Another is the realization that it’s not necessarily a good idea for both members of a married couple to work ouside the home. A great many people are beginning to wake up to the economic possibilities of the household—to put things in economist’s jargon, the production of goods and services at home by and for family members, outside the reach of the money economy.
In nearly all human societies throughout recorded history, the household sector produced a very large fraction of all goods and services. That stopped being true in large parts of the industrial world in the second half of the 20th century, when lavishly funded marketing programs set out to convince people that they should stop producing goods and services at home and let the money economy take over that aspect of their lives so big businesses could profit off them. The two-job family was a core element of that marketing schtick, and it was pushed heavily by advertising campaigns that borrowed the rhetoric of feminism to convince women that being exploited by an employer was somehow more liberated than working for themselves and their families at home.
I should probably stop here and point out that even aside from the little matter of same-sex marriages, there’s much to be said for abandoning the notion that men by definition should work outside the home and women by definition should manage the household economy. That was never as universal as it’s sometimes claimed, by the way; my wife’s great-aunt Martha worked as a bookkeeper for most of her adult life while her husband Charlie stayed home and took care of the household. For that matter, I was a househusband for a good many years, and transitioned from that role to that of breadwinner only when my writing career started bringing in enough income to support us and my wife’s health made it necessary for her to leave the work force.
So talking about the revival of the household economy isn’t a dog whistle for some kind of antifeminist agenda, though no doubt corporate marketing campaigns will try to make this equation if the household economy gets going again. In any family containing two or more adults, there’s often a strong case to be made for one of those adults to stop working outside the home and take the household economy in hand, providing services such as childcare, cooking, cleaning, food preservation, gardening, and a range of other practical crafts that would otherwise have to be paid for in cash. Add up all those services and products, and then factor in the savings in commuting costs, business clothing, and all the other incidental expenses of having a job, and in a good many cases the benefits and savings outweigh the foregone income.
That’s been true for a good long while now, but here too this was something that you rarely heard anyone discussing except well out on the fringes of society. Now, it’s suddenly a live issue, because people have had the chance to remember that there’s an alternative to the two-job treadmill. Watch online conversations where the subject comes up and you’ll find that a good many people are realizing how much they enjoy being home and having the time to cook meals from scratch—and the half-bare shelves of your local grocery store will testify to how many people are picking up raw materials such as flour so they can bake their own bread for a change.
Once again, there’s sure to be pushback. On the one hand, the corporate conglomerates that cash in on people who don’t have time to maintain a household economy are sure to pull out all the stops in an attempt to hold onto their formerly reliable cash cows. On the other—well, ask women who’ve chosen to be homemakers what kind of treatment they’ve gotten from other women, and you can count on hearing horror stories; it can get really brutal. (In my experience, househusbands get much less hassle from other men.) Here too, though, I think we’re passing an inflection point of some importance, and the pushback may not be anything like as effective as it’s been up to now.
The dismal inadequacy of our public schools and the weary burden of the mandatory two-job family: these are the two most common realizations I’ve seen as I scan the internet. There are others. It’s an interesting question, for example, whether the American university industry will survive in its current form, or at all, now that distance learning arrangements have given parents and prospective students the chance to gauge just how little value comes in return for those absurdly inflated tuition payments. It’s also an interesting question just how many people will be willing to go back to work in cubicle farms now that they’ve realized that they can get just as much work done sitting comfortably at home. The list could be extended to quite some length; there seems to be little in American life that isn’t coming in for a hard and skeptical look now that people have the free time to stop and think. By and large, though, we can sum up the entire pattern of reflection and reassessment in a simple if colorful way: a great many Americans have discovered that their lives suck.
You’d think that they would have been aware of that long since, but human nature is what it is. Most people have had, as I have, the experience of being in a bad relationship, or a bad job, or a bad living situation, or what have you, but being so caught up in the moment-by-moment scramble to cope with the situation that it never quite sinks in how bad it is. Then it ends, or you get a sufficient respite from scrambling in some other way, and you finally have the chance to take a good hard look at it and realize just how awful an experience you’ve been through.
A lot of people seem to be going through that experience right now. A poll in Britain a little while ago asked people how many of them wanted things after the coronavirus outbreak to be exactly the way they were beforehand. The vote in favor of returning to the pre-pandemic status quo? A mighty total of 9%. I’d be surprised if the figure was quite that high here in the United States. I’m quite convinced, for that matter, that so many people in the US are insisting loudly that nobody should go back to their ordinary lives yet, that we have to stay locked down indefinitely and that nobody should go back to work, because they can’t bear to go back to the dreary lives they’ve made for themselves.
It’s always a troubling experience to realize that your life sucks, but it’s also a helpful one, because that realization makes it possible to change. If the things that make your life suck are a matter of personal choices, once you grasp this, you can make different choices. If the things that make your life suck are a matter of social, cultural, or political factors—for example, the dismal quality of US public schooling or the problematic nature of the mandatory two-income family—you have two ways of taking action: you can change your own relationship to those factors (by considering the possibility of homeschooling your kids, for example, and assessing whether your family will benefit if one of its adult members leaves paid employment for the household economy) and you can also help bring about change on the larger scale (by lobbying your state legislators to support homeschooling as an option, for example, and being encouraging to other people who choose to move into the household economy and defending them against bullies who think they ought to tell everyone else what to do).
This is a good time to consider such projects, precisely because so many people are rethinking the basic patterns of their lives just now. We’re taught to think of our minds as isolated bubbles of consciousness forever walled up inside the bones of the skull, but plenty of common human experiences remind us that that’s a half-truth at best; there’s a collective dimension to our consciousness, and it’s easier to change your life when other people are doing the same thing. If on due consideration you decide that your life sucks, now’s the time to change it.
It’s worth stressing here that there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for a life that doesn’t suck. There are families for whom homeschooling isn’t a viable option; there are even some decent public schools left in the United States (though you’ll want to listen to the kids and their parents, not to the teachers and administrators, if you want to figure out which those are). Similarly, there are families for whom the two-income rat race really is the best option. The point of a time of reflection and reassessment isn’t to become a different kind of conformist, unthinkingly obedient to yet another set of rules handed down from someone else. It’s to find the space and clarity to make your own decisions, whatever those happen to be.
With that in mind, I’d like to encourage my readers to do two things over the course of the week ahead, and as far thereafter into the future as they wish.
1. Assess the choices you’ve made and the life you’ve accepted, and see if it’s time for a change. If the answer is “yes,” do something about it.
2. Assess the collective actions and structures of the society in which you live, and once again, see if it’s time for a change. If the answer is “yes,” consider taking both of the kinds of action discussed above: change your own relationship with the problematic features of your society, and see what measures you can take to help further the process of collective change.
On the far side of silence, new possibilities stand open. Joseph Campbell reminds us that in the journey of every hero or heroine there’s a departure from the familiar, and very often this takes the form of a withdrawal into solitude and contemplation. That period of reflection and reassessment is a crucial step toward unfolding the potentials for magnificence that we all have within us but so few of us ever use.
The other alternative family structure is the extended family, where it’s the retired grandparents who stay home. That was the family I grew up in.
What do you think are some societies in history that did education really well?
JMG, I’ve been told that originally, the Harvard article misspelled the word “arithmetic”, and it was pointed out to them by a home schooling parent. This story may well be true:
“More amusing still, another book was originally misspelled as “artithmatic,” though Harvard Magazine corrected the spelling error a few days later. Talk about an extraordinary self-own”
Is there a way to make this kind of reflection part of life, so as to avoid getting caught up in it again? Maybe implementing something like the Jewish Sabbath?
About the chance to reassess, I had the same experience during the month when I wasn’t at work: the advantages and disadvantages of the things I do come into clearer focus, a bit like it happens when taking up occult practices. Most of my life is as I like it, but there were things which needed more clarity, and where I can now clearer see which activities are rewarding and what I don’t need to pursue any further. The whole situation of retreat for many people and the consequences thereof brought the story of Merlin to mind, who went mad, retreated into the forest and returned, wiser and with prophetic abilities.
If individual change is easier when other people change, too, than that would be one of the causes why there are long times of stability, and then, sudden change.
Excellent posting John Michael. Truly on target for a number of reasons.
For 25 years, I have been teaching in an inner city Dublin school; teaching in an unemployed centre; teaching (really) drug addicts in a court mandated programme; and lecturing in two Irish universities. Sadly, all of those ares of teaching have been reduced in that time from something bordering on meaningful to something that is now totally and completely vocational (job-orientated) and mostly technological.
My thinking for a good while has been that Irish parents and educationalists do not believe that Irish teachers cannot teach much, mostly because they have never learnt much; and that Irish children cannot learn much. Hmmm…quite depressing.
A term I learnt a few years ago, epistemophily, defined as: the innate human desire to always learn, is one I love. I suspect as I was never truly brain-washed by a school system (despite having a Ph.D.–nobody ever told me I should not argue with my external examiner during my viva voce), I still have that desire.
But where else might it be?
Keep up the great work, John Michael.
From the Irish midlands,
Retrotopia and prescience:
Regional compacts on #COVID19:
California governor talks about a “nation-state.”
So, who’s your spice dealer? Or are you and Norma Cenva comparing notes? 😉
My Wife grew up on Maui but has not lived there for many years, but reconnected with her classmates during her high school reunion this last summer. Since then she has been interacting with them on facebook especially through these recent times. Hawaii has put in place a 14 day quarantine for any new visitors to the islands , and the locals have been especially strident about helping enforce it as well as standing at the airport with signs encouraging arriving tourists to go home. The actually have a grassroots movement called Mai Helle Mai, which roughly translates to “go home”. Tourist who try and shortcut their self quarantine at a hotel are quickly sleuthed out by the locals and sent home using a fund to buy airfare for quarantine breakers. No one is allowed to be on the beach and tourists who disregard this ( even the ones who have been through quarantine) are quickly and sternly reeducated by local folks who have set up patrols to catch such scofflaws. But the thing that matches up well with todays post is how much the local folks are enjoying the break from the tourist rat race. The virus has devastated the money economy of Hawaii, but many of the folks my wife corresponds with are realizing that it was more of a treadmill than an economy that benefited them. It allowed them to work long hours at crappy service jobs so they could pay inflated prices for rent, food, and transportation. They are realizing that most of these “expenses” were created for them. They now have lower incomes but are not currently paying rent or mortgages, not driving on crowded highways , and are just spending time with family, cooking at home, picking local fruit and enjoying the sun and the surf (it is ok to be in the ocean, just not the beach). Many of them would be happy if the tourist economy did not come back, and may be ready to revolt or go on strike when the mainlanders come to collect the back rent. Some of the wealthy folks from the mainland may one day return to make use of their luxurious beach front homes to find local folks occupying them, and be met with a shrug when they call the Maui County Sheriff to get the squatters evicted.
On the question of education, what I puzzle over is why the dumbing-down has occurred. Is it intentional? Is it lethargy on the part of administrators? Is it simply that resources were funneled into the lining of various pockets and the natural consequence is that quality has suffered? Is it the insistence that this or that pedagogy simply must be true, regardless of what the results in the field say?
I mean, from a systemic point of view, how does one expect to maintain a functional (or as you said, semi-functional) democracy without a reasonably well-educated populace? What are the PTB even thinking?
My mother was an educator across something like three decades in multiple states and I watched toward the end as the joy of teaching slowly bled out of her, despite her passion for the kids. (She was an intermediate and middle school media specialist/librarian for most of her career.) It was incredibly sad to see. She was simply done with all the crap inherent in the system when she finally retired.
And since it is somewhat relevant to the topic, back in my day (graduated spring 1990) a semester of economics and a semester of government was a basic high school graduation requirement. Apparently this is no longer the case in many places.
Good article, thanks!
On a personal level, things are better since this lockdown. I have a government job and am basically doing the same thing but from home. My job allowed us 1 day a week to work from home as a “perk” but now I see that we could easily have been allowed more than that. That said, I worry about the destruction of the economy as this lockdown continues.
Re schools, I tried teaching a long time ago. It was a nightmare; the system is set up so that kids are basically warehoused and it is hard to deliver the quality of teaching that I would like. You feel more like a lion-tamer. There are 30 kids per class, if there were only 10, things would be so much better for both teachers and kids. I also had the experience of interviewing adults who could not read or write despite having a free “education” provided to them. How can people spend years at school and still not manage to learn basic literacy??
I’m friends with a few teachers, and I think most school districts are teaching a somewhat reduced curriculum, since everybody is trying to learn how to do the tele-learning stuff, and lower income families, in particular may not have the resources to do tele-learning. But your point that a minority of time in schools is still true, it just might be more on the order two hours daily rather than one.
On a related note, in the town where I live, on April 1, somebody printed up some very official looking documents announcing that, due to the quarantine, everybody would have to repeat their current grade. That just about caused riots until someone pointed out the date.
For the majority, whether they regard it as one or not, this “whole situation” is an opportunity and blessing.
A wonderful moment in “time” for a much needed shift in trajectory for the species as a whole.
So whilst there is suffering, in the bigger scheme of things, this will be short-lived, with the overall benefits (for the good of the whole) far outweighing the perceived pain.
Thank you for your superbly clear thoughts, once again.
Waves of limitless peace and bliss to you all,
Excellent post, JMG. The rat race got put on hold, and I benefited on catching up on some of my chores around the house, getting some unpaid leave for five weeks. Some of my co-workers complained and want to get back to work right away, but part of that is the socialization factor. As a confirmed bachelor and a type D introvert, I’ve been practicing social distancing my whole life, so the I reckon the quality of my life has actually improved over the last couple of months.
As for the two-income families and education, those are a couple of aspects of American life that will be hit hard by this – some people may choose to make changes, and plenty of others will be forced to, as perhaps millions of jobs will not come back, and our standard of living will decline quite a bit. But to your point, how that “standard” is measured is going to get a serious rethink by many. It should be much easier now to sell the concept of “collapse now and avoid the rush….” 🙂
as always you offer a great perspective.
I trust your insights but I can offer a couple of anecdotes from my life that differ a bit from what you see.
– I somehow work more from home than when I was at work. Being with computers there is always the pressure to be always online and available – which is the reason I moved to the company in my town from the giant corporation where I was before. Here is much better but the pressure is back – maybe people are bored at home?
– Schools and homework. We had the exact opposite experience of what you mention. The kids receive a ton of homework on multiple buggy internet websites. But the conclusion is the same as yours: most of it is makework that could be done easier and faster with pen and paper. It seems the teachers are trying to prove their importance by dumping all this half digested exercises on the kids.
As for your homework – this is good checkpoint. We had made some changes in our life that proved very useful (cooking most of our food, gardening and trying to teach the kids because we don’t trust the school).
They worked well so now I am thinking: what next? Thanks for the reminder.
Also on a different note: thanks for the well thought out consistent worldview.
This crisis revealed how much of the supposedly deep thinkers in the media or online are just looking for the views/clicks and will change their opinions so fast they give me whiplash.
Another excellent post.
I’ve always thought the “separation of church and state” argument against vouchers ringed hollow when billions of government dollars are continually shoveled at religiously affiliated hospitals.
For those employed in public education it’s a numbers game… more butts in the seats means more funding. Homeschooler’s are thus directly threatening their sacred cash cow. The union’s make it incredibly difficult to break into their game and then viciously protect the worst players while hamstringing the best.
Meanwhile we get “graduates” that need remedial courses at the university and are indoctrinated with absolutely ludicrous notions like “socialism is good” and “oil is evil”.
as I wrote in my comment in last week´s open post: ´´I did notice a lot of people starting to think about and question our way of living during this time of facemasks and lockdowns.´´ Seems like the phenomenon is international, and that is cause for hope. The more people realize that there are other ways of doing things, the more likely it is there will be some meaningful change after corona. Even our chancelloress is talking about a ecological restart of the economy – not that I think there is much common ground between her and me there.
But I also did notice that people seem to be much nicer to each other: you can witness helpful gestures (like holding a door open for someone with their hands full), heartfelt smiles and even spontaneous conversations among perfect strangers far more often now, which is really good to see.
Frank from Germany
As somebody who dropped out of the hamster wheel in my early twenties, has spent some time on voluntary solitary retreats, and has a lot of “hobbies” that include things like gardening, fermenting, cooking, wild foraging, reading, and spiritual practice… not much has changed for me. It’ll be interesting to see how a lot of these people who have had a drastic change will react. I think that might be part of the pushback from people who think we’re reopening way too soon – they’re really liking the change.
Also, I was homeschooled until 9th grade, and during that period my mom changed from being conservative christian to a new ager… we switched from “homeschooling” to “unschooling” which seemed to be the more “liberal” type. I don’t know if that divide still exists in the homeschooling community.
I do know that I learned barely anything from my high school experience except how to fit in with the herd a little better, which is a valuable experience. Especially since I already had learned how to learn, and follow my own direction.
There’s another aspect of most peoples’ lives in our society that may become questionable: the lack of genuine community. Here, I’m drawing a distinction between a geographic area where many people live, and a network of people who know each other reasonably well, and interact fairly often; I find it useful to use the words neighborhood and community to make the distinction. (The Latin roots of “community” can be read as “sharing gifts (or responsibilities) among each other”. As with a living home life, living communities have suffered under in our industrial civilization. (Aside: Wendell Berry has observed that “industrial civilization has broken every one of the Ten Commandments and committed every one of the Seven Deadly Sins”.)
A good book on the subject of genuine communities is “The Abundant Community” by Peter Block and John McKnight. Also look up “asset based community development” for more resources.
Yorkshire, that’s a good point about the extended family. As for societies that did a good job with schooling, there have been plenty of them. I’m told, for example, that the school system in Mexico is very successful — they’ve got a 94% literacy rate, for example, which is well above the world average — on a Third World budget. The US had a superb public education system until the late 20th century, when the dumbing-down process started up.
Arkansas, hah! That’s hilarious. Not at all surprising, but hilarious.
Kevin, sure, but it starts with personal choice. Are you willing to set aside part of your week — for example, a chunk of time every Sunday — for reflection, solitude, and perhaps whatever spiritual exercises you practice?
Booklover, Merlin’s a good model here. Exactly; we withdraw into solitude, to return with clearer sight than we had before.
Brian, most children love to learn, until that love is beaten out of them by schooling systems that make learning a miserable experience. That’s one of the reasons why homeschooling has become so popular over here and why charter schools (publicly funded but independently run) are also becoming very popular. I’m not sure what options you have in your country, though.
Bird, nah, I have what the late Terry Pratchett called the First Sight, the ability to see what’s right in front of your face. It’s a relatively rare superpower, but well worth cultivating. 😉
Clay, fascinating. I hope they succeed! When I lived in Ashland, OR, which also has a tourist-centered economy, one of the most popular local tee shirts read, “Why do they call it tourist season when we can’t shoot them?”
David BTL, my dad’s the same way. He put in his entire working career as a schoolteacher, and went from finding it a deeply fulfilling job to being almost frantically happy to retire and get out of what the schools had become. As for what’s caused the dumbing down, it’s a combination of bad public policy (such as the disastrous Common Core program) and the metastatic growth of educational bureaucracies that micromanage teachers in accordance with bad educational theories. It can be fixed, but probably not without tearing down the entire structure of public schooling, replacing it with a network of charter schools, and scrapping the misguided fixation on standardized testing that has done so much harm.
Douglas, you’re welcome.
Bridge, the lockdown’s already ending in some states and will end in others shortly, and I suspect the economy will come roaring back — but we’ll see. As for education, exactly — there need to be massive changes, including much less bureaucratic micromanaging and much more freedom for parents and communities to make their own choices.
Larry, the parents of elementary school children whose comments I’ve seen pretty consistently say that it takes their kids between 15 and 45 minutes to finish the day’s lessons; some high schools seem to be handing out more work — up to 3 hours, which is respectable — but others aren’t. Thanks for the April 1 story!
Tanya, thank you. My hope is that more people recognize the potential of this moment of time, and do something with it.
Drhooves, I’ve seen a lot of comments along these lines: “My friends used to laugh at me for keeping a couple of weeks of food on hand and talking about the coming decline. They’re not laughing any more.” With any luck, this will turn into a good solid wake-up call for many.
NomadicBeer, thanks for this! I appreciate the data points.
TJ, I expect to see a lot of grandstanding and media frenzy around homeschooling and charter schools as this sinks in. Like most institutions that are controlled by the managerial class, the public schools are utterly unwilling to listen to the people they supposedly serve, and so it’s going to take a mass flight to homeschooling and charter schools — combined with political action at federal and state levels — to force them to recognize their failures and permit change to happen.
Frank, fascinating. I hope that continues!
Isaac, me too — the shutdown has caused only the most minimal changes in my life, though I’ll be glad when the local public library opens again and there are some restaurants where Sara and I are already planning celebratory meals. If this helps other people realize that there’s an alternative to the treadmill, good.
Don, so far I haven’t heard many people talking about that in the context of the shutdown, but we’ll see.
Thanks for this thought-provoking post. Funny, but I’ve often thought of my grandmother during these days. She was proud to be a housewife and she had a good dinner on the table at 6 PM sharp every single day.
As for me during these weeks, I’ve gotten pretty good at roasting vegetables. (I’d be baking bread, too, but the grocery store has been out of dry-yeast for an age– and more importantly, I’m resisting additional calories.)
I transitioned from working in an office and commuting 3 hours a day to remote work about 1.5 years ago, and that was a huge eye-opener, so I know exactly the realization many people are probably having right now. My wife and I have been working towards me staying home full time and running our small homestead for years, and we are close to making it happen. Our gardens are getting larger every year, which needs plenty of work to keep running smoothly and preserved, and I plan to open a small community bakery at some point to make some side income and to maintain a skilled trade for the long descent. Now that my kids have been home and not in daycare, it has been an enlightening test run to see what it would be like to homeschool them and run the household full time. I have to say, it was difficult at first, but now that everyone has settled in to a routine, it is not nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be. I hope others come to the same realization if it is right for them as well. Thank you for posing those two questions for us to ponder. I especially need to spend some time thinking about the second one and how I can challenge some of the larger structures in our society.
Thanks for this.
Charter school experiences vary. Around here we have one that seriously drains the town’s budget (since the school system has fixed costs and the charter takes city revenue) while skirting or breaking the law (de facto rejecting students with special needs, to cut the charter’s costs; abusing teachers; etc.). I don’t understand why they get away with it except that the local elites’ kids are apparently overrepresented there.
I might be up for some “organized unschooling” with other families. Based on our experience in quarantine, homeschooling is not a good option for us, partly because our child really needs a lot of social interaction with peers.
To expand on charters a bit – public schools have fixed and variable costs; charters reduce their funding and variable costs, but not fixed costs. If the city can close and sell off an individual school building, that might be ok because fixed costs could be cut that way. If too many kids leave for the charter schools, but not enough to close one of the public schools, the city faces a real financial pinch. In our town, public schools make up about 40-50% of the budget, more when you consider health insurance and pensions.
When my oldest was in kindergarten and first grade we enrolled him in a small parent run k-6 school. The parents rented some inexpensive office space ( with a vacant lot next door for a playground) and hired a teacher then split the cost across 20 or so families.It was popular with the kids, and the “one-room-schoolhouse” model worked really well with the older kids helping the younger kids and learning more at the same time. Some unfortunate circumstances caused it to close down and my kids spent the rest their education in public school. But it taught me how simple a good school can be. After that the pointlessness of most of the administration and fluff in an ordinary school system became obvious. Homeschool is fine, but a simple model of a room some kids and a teacher works well too and is more affordable than the experts want you to believe.
Superb post John.
I know quite a few people in my social circle who are enjoying the Lockdown. Working from home, being able to cook proper meals, get jobs done around the home and pursue new hobbies has been a pleasure for many.
Whilst we are currently a two income couple, I would say working remotely has been a massively positive influence, ensuring that I don’t need to commute, more time for hobbies, cooking, gardening and exercise and reduced costs (no need for wear a suit anymore).
I’m secretly hoping that we remain at home and don’t need to return to the office until at least the end of summer!
As a househusband of now 12 years I obviously love this essay…
Without the rush to a job all day every day I can not only take care of the home-front but be noticeably present there (deterring possible property crime, optimizing the comfort of the interior environment without resorting to expensive heat/AC – we call it the “window dance”), homeschooling the children, tending a garden/orchard/chickens/bees, designing/installing/maintaining alt-tech that reduces or eliminates bills, running our small business, hanging out laundry to dry (saving more money), making fresh bread, cooking dinner from scratch, and so on. And I take odd jobs here and there off-season to help make ends meet.
I know some of you are doing a lot of the same things, too. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?
At our new house the garden is at eye-level right outside the office window where I’m now typing. It’s brilliant.
Cheers, everyone. Great post, JMG!!
Dear Mr. Greer – Here at the Institution (senior housing) we had a potluck, about a year ago. One of the inmates daughters, attended. Someone mentioned the Great Depression. She thought it was some kind of mental problem. She had never been taught anything, about the Depression.
Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia WarrenTyagi wrote a book a few years back (2004) called “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle -Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke.” Worth a look. It’s one of the reasons I liked her, even before she got political.
I went to a three day retreat, about 3 years ago. Horrors! There was no cell phone or wi-fi signal in our woodsy camp. After a few freak outs, things settled into the new normal. At the end of the retreat, several people commented on how liberating it felt to be untethered. And that they intended to really look at their device use. I wonder how many followed through?
And, lastly, I saw an article over at Slate Magazine, yesterday. I think you’ve mentioned how the ever shrinking “middle class” will eventually be thrown under the bus. Well, some of them are finding out just how well those government “benefits” work out in real life.
Here in the university the administration has been in an out and out panic. Largely, I think, because they know that in any sane world there is no way they could command their mid-six figure salaries, and the bubble may have popped.
As for those of us who, you know, do research and produce the things universities are supposed to, we are relatively unconcerned. Honestly it will just be more of the same: hard work, low pay, and obscurity. Western universities– in their traditional sense anyway– have weathered everything from the Black Death to Hitler. This, too, shall pass though obviously the funding models will absolutely have to change. And there will just plain be fewer of us.
Nonetheless, I think the culling will be good, ultimately, for research universities in that it will eliminate the people in it to find a sinecure, it will eliminate departments that don’t produce anything (looking at you, grievance studies and business “schools”), and, hopefully, it will lead to a reinvigoration of good scholarship. But, even failing that, it is comforting to know that most of the best thinkers and scholars over the years (e.g. Madison & Jefferson, Hume, Schopenhauer, Mill, etc.) were not academics. So, if I have to find aother day job, it won’t be so bad.
Having said that, though, the open question to my mind now is how far the elite are willing to go to try to reassert their authority. My working guess now– given the response to COVID– is not very far, but not for lack of trying. If this has demonstrated one thing it is just how buffoonish the jet set really are. These idiots can’t do anything right. Two months ago I would have had a very different take. I would have thought the “the State” would have made its power evident by now. Turns out it can’t.
Thank you for these excellent links.
The Twitter thread with two maps on regional compacts shows how fast things are moving. Between 4/12 and 4/27, Nevada and Colorado joined the West Coast Pact (which had to be renamed), seven contiguous Midwestern states from the Great Lakes down to the Mason-Dixon line made a similar compact, and in
regions where the governors have not joined such compacts, cities and public health departments are forming their own associations.
The American Conservative article about “California nation-state” is good IMO. The author recognizes the vast middle ground between full cooperation with the national government and secession. He does a good job of explaining how the transience of the state’s population affects its sense of identity. I say this as a native whose parents were born in two other states, a long time resident, and as a person who usually votes for Democrats. I think our governor is doing a very good job of leadership in this epidemic, including keeping our President sweet, but the jargon he uses in press briefings will drive you crazy.
I think that future historians will regard the COVID-19 crisis as a symbolic “kick-off” of both the “Wild Twenties” and the “Long Crisis” (Climate Change and Industry 4.0) that will ease sometime in the 2050s.
I think you nailed the assessment of how people’s minds are bouncing around during the Great Pause. Some are terror-stricken, and others are overtly or covertly delighted with the involuntary change. Simple pleasures such as neighborhood walks, home-cooked meals, and gardening are getting a bigger time share and it is terrific. I have been happier since the pace has slowed down, for sure.
My family has been homeschooling our two kids (8 and 13) for several years now, so I will throw out a few observations that might be helpful for your readers considering it:
1) There is a fantastic variety of curricula, distance learning, coursework, and tutoring available now. It really is an ideal environment to home school. It would have been much harder in previous times without all these resources. Lots of people are out there to help you, and you are already your child’s teacher so relax!
2) It is going to take some trial and error to find the right mix for your family, and that is the sort of dissensus that we should be encouraging. Also, what works for one of your children might not work for another. We cycled through a number of programs and now rely on a mix of our own lessons with a focus on history, the Royal Fireworks Press for language arts, Beast Academy for math, a private tutor for science, and we do a Saturday music program at a nearby college.
3) Our single best home schooling investment was a World Book Encyclopedia set. You can get a new set from 2-3 years ago for a couple hundred dollars, which works out to less than $20 per book, or even less if you can find a decent used set. Then get in the habit of looking up to interesting questions that come up to show the kids how to use them. Soon they will be looking up material on their own, or just perusing the books for fun. This was the way my daughter got into military history, which is not exactly orthodoxy for a 13-year-old girl, and my son discovered his passion for brass instruments.
I feel like what is going to happen is a stark rejection of the neo-liberal/global political platform…. If Trump is not reelected I could see a profound number of problems coming from that because here in my very very liberal state, he is gaining support. A Biden victory would be seen as nothing more than a rigged system trying to save itself. (Imagining Hilary Clinton as his running mate makes me laugh.)
A Republican sweep would push things too far to the right in some regards but it would set the goal posts up for a conversation about legitimate downsizing and down scaling. The longer progressives kick and scream about the downsizing, rather than sucking it up and coming to the negotiating table, the less successful they will be at preserving things they think are important. That conversation is happening now, not ten years from now, it is happening now.
JMG, anyone, Any thoughts?
Great post btw =)
Thank you, thank you, thank you John. This is the covid-19 post I’ve waited for from you.
I’m presently blessed with a work-from-home job with an almost-guaranteed paycheck which has allowed me to focus much more of my energies on things like meditation, gardening, making dandelion wine, and improvising first aid as a result of making dandelion wine. Not missing the office, except as a sort of mnemonic to keep my mind focused on “the job” (and I wouldn’t really call that missing). In others words, I grabbed onto this crisis/opportunity with both hands and am going to make the most of it.
When you said, “It’s an interesting question, for example, whether the American university industry will survive in its current form, or at all, now that distance learning arrangements have given parents and prospective students the chance to gauge just how little value comes in return for those absurdly inflated tuition payments,” you hit one nail square on the head. Not only has the residential university experience been revealed as more or less unnecessary for contemporary higher ed (otherwise, how could every course be taught remotely, more or less on a dime?), but the folks working inside those same institutions are discussing things like the universities providing PPE and hazard pay to faculty and staff who eventually show up to campus. And many campuses want their prospective students to decide by this Friday if they plan to attend in the fall, even though no one presently knows precisely (or even vaguely) what “attend in the fall” means. Converging crises, all on top of the crises higher ed is already enduring. Yikes.
Going beyond education for children to developing adult leaders, ancient Rome at one point had a political system called the ‘Cursus Honorum’. The literal translation was ‘course of offices’, but I think I’ve also seen it more evocatively described as the ‘race of honour’. Politicians would alternate between political and administrative posts in Rome, and military and colonial positions abroad. They’d go back and forth several times over the years, often while also running their own business like a dyeworks or fishing fleet. So when they reached the highest offices they had a very broad range of experience.
Obviously you couldn’t do exactly the same today – nobody’s going to have ‘Conquerer of Gaul’ on their CV. But do you think that basic idea would be a good way to prepare politicians?
A look at a couple of aspects of your essay, John. As retirees our life has not changed a great deal. Just less going out and more at home.One thing I have just noticed is that my relationship to time has changed. I no longer live with the clock in mind so much. Of course if I am going to contact anyone it still matters but otherwise it is a pleasant drift through the days with a mixture of work, reading, hobbies and contemplation.
I have never thought a career was very important. You do need some money to live, however. In my adult life I have worked a total of about 20 years, not in one place or job and not consecutively. How do people find time to read if they are always working? Frankly I didn’t think it was so much. What was I thinking?
When this is over I intend to go out for lunch and movies once a fortnight and am looking forward to playing cards with old friends again.
Re education: when I was at school the only compulsory education was till the age of 14 and the end of primary school. Boys left after primary school to go into an apprenticeships and girls did a Commercial course or they just got a job. As soon as you make secondary school compulsory you fail a lot of kids or you lower your standards. Likewise with tertiary education. My grandson with an intellectual impairment finished high school at year 12. What did this mean? Not much in terms of academic achievement but a great deal in terms of social development and simply giving him something purposeful to do . Not a high aim for most people but very important for him. He actually had a good education at his special school. For everyone else? Not so much.
Thank you for articulating those odd ideas we have floating around in our brains and allowing us to think about them.
Millicently, your grandmother was contributing mightily to her family’s well-being; bully for her. As for not wanting to add calories, do you like pickles, sauerkraut, or kim chi? Those are all easy to make at home, and very good for you.
Kwo, delighted to hear it. I hope the transition goes well!
Isaac, of course there are corrupt charter schools too — America being what it is, there are corrupt everything. Organized unschooling is also a good option — there are networks of homeschoolers that do a lot of things together.
Clay, and that can also be a good approach.
Forecasting, have you considered finding a way to make a living that you can do without going into an office? Your skills remain with you at home, after all…
Regarding whether there is a rival of domesticity, in my opinion, it would require a certain degree of removal of stigma. For the past two generations, feminists have proclaimed domesticity as an utterly unsuitable lifestyle for any female with an IQ higher than Gracie Allen. It is the most demeaning thing in the world for any such female to spend her existence as a baby factory doing chores in a bird cage while eating out of a man’s hand (especially a working class cave man ( https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uq7noaMwLfg)).
I don’t live in the USA.
Would you care to give a few examples of dumbed down exercises for hamster-level intelligence, from the public schooling system?
I often find things from the USA quite bewildering and an illustration of the term ‘sobering’ for which there is no translation in French. Also because France often follows more moderate versions of the trends originating in the US.
Paraphrasing a Wendell Berry essay he said the country went to pot when men started working outside the home – the household economy which produced most of its needs including almost all food, except for coffee, sugar and such.
My wife was relating stories of children expressing how much fun they were having spending time with family, playing and just going on lots of neighborhood walks. In our upper middle income neighborhood two incomes are almost universal as is daycare and back to back events and programs for the kids. Years ago our son tried to build a relationship with a neighbor boy but the other child was only home long enough to change out of one uniform into the next and off again.
Apropos of Campbell here’s the relevant contemporary model:
To Darkest Yorkshire,
about extended families. Growing up in a communist country, they followed the same pattern as the west – nuclear family with 1 or 2 kids, both parents working while the latchkey kids spent time either roaming around getting in trouble or staying at home reading (and occasionally getting in trouble anyway).
I kind of see this pandemic as a gift from Gaia.
It is like She saw how we know what our predicament is and how to start dealing with it but we were stuck doing the same things over and over (tracks in space?)
Most of the things we are doing to combat the pandemic are also things that start to deal with our ecological predicament. In general rich people need to consume less. 95% reduction in airplane ticket sales, reduced oil consumption by 20-30 million barrels per day, talk of the end of globalization and returning manufacturing to the States. No new technology needed, no great reduction in population, no big expensive government projects, just the wealthy in the world (that includes me) consuming less.
I also just saw today the traffic deaths have been cut in ½.
And there was a cartoon on the Daily Kos that made fun of democratic establishment’s hypocrisy on Biden’s sexual assault and the Russia thing. ( I was shocked)
On a personal level, I started praying almost every morning and evening now (it really seems to be helping me).
And on a community level, the propaganda posters for the Gaian Carnival are coming along nicely. On some Wednesday in late May or early June, a series of 4 propaganda posters should start appearing around Cincinnati. Once the posters start going up, If it is ok with you John, I will drop a link to the computer file for the images in case anyone else wants to join in on some guerilla poster propaganda.
I will also have some high quality prints made that I intend to gift to some people, John if you like the posters I would be very happy to send some quality prints to you and a limited number of the readers of this blog if they are interested.
Looks like at least one bank here in the UK is agreeing with you on the centralised office side of things. This today reported by the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52467965
Barclays is one of the big 4 ‘general’ banks here in the UK and cost saving from not having offices in increasingly skyscraper London would be considerable no doubt. More interesting is the sudden change in mindset that they must have an impressive central location in the city. Quite the knock on if this is repeated and I suspect the past few years of frantic building upwards will come to a rapid stop.
As for what I can do after recent job loss, you’ll be glad to know you’ve already pointed to two areas to pursue. Wasn’t so hard – you’ve just got to keep writing stuff. Funny ol’ universe – cheers.
Sorry about the interrupted comment. My point is that I saw extended families still surviving in the countryside and despite the luxuries (cars, vacations, furniture etc) the experience of living in a larger community makes up for most of that.
Coming back to your observation – cooking for 10 is not much different than cooking for 3 and working is surprisingly enjoyable when in a group.
So I am curious if there is any trend in US for people to live in groups?
…and I need to be a smidge more patient! 😉
I am also very much hoping most of our pubs over here can survive financially for a while longer so we can raise a glass out in company again. Lots of questions on small business rates and rents to be had no doubt.
A further aspect of the situation with the lockdowns is that FOMO (the fear to miss out), a phenomenon characteristic for modern society, has gotten the rug pulled out from under it. But it remains to be seen which cultural changes, if any, will result from the coronavirus pandemics, after it has ended. So far, after what I can observe, the prospects are mixed.
This post resonates with me as I reflect on the changes in my family’s life over the past six weeks. In mid-March I was laid off from my part-time job and our children’s daycare closed. Luckily, my husband’s job is about as stable as you can find in the current environment. We have loved all the extra time we are spending together as a family and not having to wrangle a toddler and a preschooler out the door to daycare three mornings a week has been positively heavenly! Plus, I’ve had time to start teaching our older child how to read. I’ll be devoting myself to homemaking for the foreseeable future and considering how we want to go about educating our oldest, who is supposed to start kindergarten in the fall. Out of my friends and family, many people seem eager to get back to “normal” but others are enjoying the slower-paced life and/or reflecting on ways to make their financial situations less precarious in the face of the current economic uncertainty. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how all this plays out.
I look with great scepticism at politicians who have never really had another job. They have no idea of life on the outside and have a very small group of people they relate to for life experience. Different experiences of various kinds sound like a great idea to me.
There are a few things that seem to have slapped the Canadian public across the face during the lockdowns:
-the lockdown’s effect on you depends on your class
-why are essential workers often the poorest-paid, worst-treated workers?
-EI is not available to a lot of the working population these days
-migrant workers are a much bigger part of the agricultural and food system than most people had realized, and this is a big vulnerability
-if you’re homeless, you can’t self-isolate and most of the services you depended on have just shut down
-long-term care/nursing home facilities were an understaffed under-resourced disaster waiting to happen. The disaster has now happened, and in Quebec they’ve had to send in the military to try and make sure people get care. I’m not kidding:https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/covid-19-april-18-1.5537249
-meat processing facilities were another disaster waiting to happen, and when outbreaks hit two of Canada’s largest beef plants and it isn’t handled well, you get a massive outbreak of over a thousand cases and a major hit to the country’s meat supply. McDonald’s is now importing beef from the USA.
I saw the original illustration that accompanied the Harvard article and it did indeed say “arithmatic”; the rumor is true. My youngest son sent me a link to the article when it came out (all of our kids were homeschooled until they graduated high school) and we laughed about it. As for the rest of the article, we had no idea for all those years that we were involved in a shady, right-wing, no doubt racist, enterprise by learning without benefit of state-sanctioned teachers. Thanks to Harvard we now understand how badly misguided we were. That’s snark, by the way.
Kevin Taylor Burgess:
I don’t know how old you are, but believe it or not Sunday closings of nearly all retail used to be a common thing right here in the US, which I remember distinctly from my childhood. They were called Blue Laws and, whether you were religious or not, Sunday was a day of rest enforced by state law. I clearly remember my mother doing a little extra grocery shopping on Saturdays if we were going to have family to visit over the weekend as she wouldn’t be able to pick up any forgotten item on a Sunday.
As far as it goes around here during the Great Corona Lockdown, nothing much has changed in the last month, although it would be nice to go down to the general store in Weston for a little bag of really good chocolate now and then, but it’s been closed since mid-March. We’ll just have to use our imaginations.
We brought home two new packages of bees over the weekend and installed them the same day – the gods must have been smiling on us since that turned out to be the only non-rainy/non-snowy day all week. When I checked this morning, the queens had been released from their cages by the other bees and the field bees are already hard at work filling the cells with nectar. All is in order.
The rhubarb is up and looking lovely, the comfrey as well. I’m not a huge fan of things baked with rhubarb, but a syrup can be made from it to be added to seltzer water for a lovely drink. We planted peas last week and the rest of the starts are still safely in the greenhouse; it’s way too cold at night to plant out any tender crops.
The baby chicks are on their way from the hatchery and should arrive tomorrow, the brooder is set up in the kitchen and ready for them. The cats know what that brooder means and routinely peer through the hardware cloth top to see if any chicks are there yet. They seem disappointed; I’d explain, but cats are poor listeners and just don’t have a good grasp of time.
The Grackles showed up last week in force, the Red-Winged Blackbirds too; Elvis and Priscilla, the red squirrels, are on the back porch daily to taunt our indoor cats. The mice have moved out of their cozy winter digs in the woodbox so I’ll be able to sweep it clean for next winter. I’m saving their soft bedding (probably made from my missing cotton garden gloves) as I’ve heard that it’s good for putting in bumblebee houses; apparently Bumbles seek out abandoned mouse homes to lay their eggs.
As spring struggles for a firm hold here on our mountain and the days become a little warmer, our outside work keeps us so busy that we usually don’t notice what is happening in the larger world. For us, this pandemic is not a presence in the way that it might be to a city person stuck in an apartment for the duration and for that we’re grateful.
If your public school system is only taking 40-50% of the municipal budget, you are ahead of the game. In many places, such as my town, it is more like 80%. I wondered about this for a long time…how can this percentage of spending result in such bad academic outcomes and constant calls for additional school funding?
The best answer I have uncovered was through reading John Taylor Gatto’s book Weapons of Mass Instruction. He is a public school teacher–voted teacher of the year in NY state for whatever that is worth–and his conclusion is that despite the original intentions, the public school system has become an administrative jobs program. I haven’t been able to come up with a better explanation. In most places in the US outside of big cities, the school district is the biggest employer.
If universities and school districts seriously want to get their act together, one of the best things they could do would be to go into their archives and dig up their administrative flow chart from, say 50 years ago, 1970. Then compare it with the flow chart in current use. Then strip out all the stuff that has been added in the past fifty years. This is all bloat, increasing complexity and dysfunctionality that needs to be cleared away before other problems in the system can be addressed.
A bit off topic, but I’m sure you’ve seen this by now. The whole thing reminds me of several of your posts on the Archdruid Report, and the interview at 51 minutes of your essays on the Religion of Progress and how devotees react when their religion is questioned.
Reporting back on banishing insomnia: 1st night, not much change, incremental changes for the better on subsequent nights. Then I slept 12 hours last night. I figured my brain needed the catchup so I did not set the clock. Will allow 12 hours for another night or two and then start working my way back to a normal schedule.
The homeschooling issue is less clear cut than your present it.
Is the school system utterly failing the students? Yes, no question. I have been always absolutely appalled by how little US kids study (note: I am not from the US and have gone through a much more rigorous school system).
Is it indoctrinating kids in patent nonsense? Yes, no question, it is.
Is there a huge element of entitled comfortable elites wanting to preserve their control over it? Yes, no question about that too.
But is it also the case that a lot of homeschooling parents are teaching creationism, climate change denialism and other absolute falsehoods to their kids? Yes, they are. And I highly doubt they are also teaching them advanced math. In those cases they are clearly doing even more damage than the public schools.
Homeschooling is necessary for genius kids of the Von Neumann type.
For society as a whole it is much better to fix the educational system than to further wreck it by promoting homeschooling.
BTW, there is one measure that will work and that you are leaving out — shut down and ban all private schools. That will force those who currently can afford those to use the public schools. And the public schools will drastically improve as if by magic. Countries with good public schools tend to not have private schools.
What a perceptive and timely post! An instant favorite, for me. (Of course, complaining about how schools are run has been one of my hobbies since first grade, so…)
There’s an interesting issue coming up for the universities, when students and their class-action lawyers come knocking for tuition refunds. If the universities reply that while the students didn’t exactly get the on-campus community experience described in the glossy brochures, they’re still getting a degree with the university’s name on it, and that’s what they’re really paying for — well, that kind of gives the game away, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, construction on my town’s fancy new elementary school building is proceeding on schedule. Any suggestions for what to use it for when it’s finished?
(Actually, I’m sure it’ll still open as a school when it’s finished, and fortunately it’s not a nasty prison-school design. But in the longer term, one way for public schools to remain relevant against an exodus to home schooling might be to let the public back into the system. Such as being more open to volunteer programs, guest teachers for specialized subjects, community events, and parent involvement in matters beyond illnesses or behavior problems.)
I think Covid-19 has brought out something else in modern life.
1) Modern medical care keeps far more people alive than ever before, but especially very medically fragile people who cannot remain alive without constant input from the medical-industrial-pharmaceutical complex.
2) Atomizing families because upward trajectory jobs demand relocation so no one (including me) lives anywhere near their frail, elderly relatives.
3) Two-income households virtually guarantee that no one in the household has the time to devote to hands-on caring for frail, elderly relatives.
4) Stigmatize caring for people unless the carer gets paid formally (minimum wage).
5) Since no one is available to do ‘free’ elder care, the most efficient solution is to warehouse medically fragile, elderly patients in big bunkers attended to by poorly-paid, overworked staff who ignore their own relatives to earn a living.
6) Hands-on labor is expensive, so cut labor costs to the bone by using the minimum staffing levels that will keep the Board of Health at bay.
7) Add Covid-19 and watch the scythe mow down the residents.
On homeschooling – one caveat: a friend of mine, from a small municipality in the high desert of Oregon, notes that there were a good many families who claimed to be home-schooling their kids, but just kept them out of school so they could work. Big kids, I gather, not little ones; and it could be a rural thing.
On having one person on the home front – what has to be addressed here is not only the modern lack of respect for the housewife/husband, but the long historical lack of respect which traditionally has been expressed and seen as sexism. There may be regional variations here. Now, my personal evidence extends no further than my father’s attitude towards my mother, my admittedly toxic in-laws, my ex-husband, and from reading. On the other hand, my Albuquerque daughter takes care of the home front while her husband, who has (had) long and irregular hours, worked outside, and there is no disrespect there at all from what I can see.
On public schools: Gainesville public schools include magnet schools, which you gain entry to by a combination of tests and grade point average. Both my grandsons attend magnet schools and say their on-line classes have piled the work on more heavily than they ever did before. My Albuquerque grandchildren attended a private school, because their mother said the public schools no longer offered what the private schools did. Both families claimed the public schools in Albuquerque and the non-magnet schools in Gainesville did not meet their children’s needs. For what that’s worth.
A lot of the parents’ generation learned their civics from Schoolhouse Rock, a show I wish were still on the air.
Regarding unwanted tourists: My wife still has, tucked away somewhere, a t-shirt that reads: “Welcome to Boston. Now, go home” from when she and her daughter lived in the tourist-popular North End. The were also fond of answering, “How do we get to the Paul Revere house?” with “Oh, sorry, they moved.”
However, there are quite a few “they’ve seen better days” smaller towns and resorts that would gladly host a portion of the tourists the Hawaii residents don’t want any more. I wonder if local travel destinations (such as Atlantic City or the Catskills) will be making any kind of comeback.
Both my kids are now college grads, but back in the day they attended San Jose Unified schools. I recall my son’s English studies being particularly painful. One teacher took THREE MONTHS to study “The Great Gatsby.” It’s a short novel–about 200 pages–took him a weekend to read it at leisure. Every night at dinner we would get a recap of the slow agony and boredom.
Some of their classmates were folks with very different values. The school’s colors were a patriotic red, white and blue–but you weren’t allowed to wear red or blue because they were rival Mexican gangs (Nortenos vs. Suranos). But worse, some of the teachers were bullies. If I had to do it again, I would home-school.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) wrote those words, and I remember learning them in public school more than half a century ago. Do they still teach such cranky stuff in school these days?
A sign of the times: The Director of the RI Dept. of Health just confirmed (in the daily presser on Covid-19) that hospitals in RI count people who’ve died in the hospital as “discharged”. She said this in response to a local TV news report the previous evening. I was glad to see local TV news committing some actual journalism.
Funny me, I thought that when the hospital discharged a person, that person went home cured of their illness. For the hospital, it just means that the person can no longer be billed for services.
(The presser was broadcast live on the local NPR station, which immediately switched to a previously scheduled program. Coincidence?)
I’m also starting to see grumblings about the cost of university tuition and fees. This could be the time of reckoning for two of the great scams of our time: the medical industry and the credentialing industry.
I grew up with two professional parents, both of whom worked from offices at home. My mother made more as a pediatrician than my father did as an engineer, and she had office hours late in the day to accommodate the parents who could only bring their kids after work. That left my father to be the househusband, responsible for cooking and (some of) the cleaning. He was a terrible cook, though: I grew up thinking that pork chops were supposed to be dry cardboard.
Thank you for taking a constructive approach to the tensions rolling through our civilization right now.
I can say from personal experience that I have continuously run up against the sort of pressure to conform that you talk about in this article. Nevertheless, our decision for my wife to stay home and work through our online company, to avoid standard financial investment vehicles such as a 401k, to use natural health supplements like elderberry syrup before immediately using pharmaceuticals, and to pursue unusual hobbies (I think we are the only ones in our neighborhood with a garden) has given us a much greater quality of life.
As little as six years ago it seemed like no one wanted to talk about collapse related issues. Now, multiple people have told me my garden is a great idea in just the last couple weeks. It seems like for the first time in my life I can talk about peak oil, peak technological complexity, and even peak material prosperity without everyone trying to shut the conversation down with thought stoppers.
I certainly don’t want to see the food distribution network break down, but all these meat processing plants calling the availability of food at the grocery store into question might just be what we need to get the culture working doing the sorts of stuff you talked about in Green Wizardry.
With all that said, I do have to ask about the possible negative side of these changes. I have noticed that those of the apocalyptic persuasion have been… let’s just say quick to share their opinions loudly. What do you think 2020 does to the doomsday prepper types? On the one hand, we have had a pandemic which although in remission is still not over and we still don’t know if it will come roaring back after the lock downs end. We also have a lot of food insecurity happening from what looks like climate change enhanced locust storms causing real problems from northern Africa through the Middle East and as far out as the Pakistan/India boarder. The price of oil has been crushed, and along with it the income of many already politically unstable countries. In short, the doomsday prophets have a lot of scary things to point to (I’d even venture to say more then normal, albeit not nearly as much as certain unlucky past generations).
So do you think the apocalypse meme will benefit in this environment? Should we expect a big rise in rapture ready Christianity, books on New World Order Order conspiracy theories, and endless predictions of environmental collapse? Or will they overplay their hand and suffer embarrassment just like the progress meme?
You’ve previously talked about the cycles American society goes through every 40 to 50 years or so, moving between more focus on the spiritual and more on the political. I’m thinking this may greatly accelerate the transition from spiritual to political currently underway. As people are underwhelmed with the current situation, they’re more likely, as you’ve pointed out, to want to do something about it, so why not join a group or political party and start that process? What do you think?0
I’ve always assumed that the primary motivation for most people is status. What one learns in the modern school system is how to find your place in the social hierarchy. Those skills come in useful later on when climbing the corporate ladder.
It’s no coincidence that the people who seem to excel later in life are usually the ones who are the ‘losers’ at school. Rather than spend their time and energy jockeying for social position (which is actually a very energy intensive activity) they go and learn things for themselves, usually by following something they are passionate about.
I certainly hope the refrain of “things will never be the same again” does lead to some positive outcomes. To me it has the disturbing ring of an impending germaphobic authoritarianism.
“Add up all those services and products, and then factor in the savings in commuting costs, business clothing, and all the other incidental expenses of having a job, and in a good many cases the benefits and savings outweigh the foregone income.”
I remember watching Elizabeth Warren making that observation, with numbers to back it up. It might have been a TED talk.
And my daughter (just graduated from college at the very wrong time) often complained about “no child gets ahead” when she was still in high school. She was very happy to escape to community college, and then did the second half in the four-year school.
Distance learning has limitations though. Homeland Security and the EPA both will look askance at the reagent list for a chemistry degree. Some of the stuff in the physics department may make them a bit nervous too.
Thank you for this, JMG. Thanks in no small part to your advice, I have done my best to collapse and avoid the rush in the last decade: before moving to a small house in a neighborhood that is considered sketchy by the upper middle class people I grew up with, my husband and I lived with my parents, which involved much pride-swallowing as we were both middle-aged at the time. There has been a gradual falling away of salary class aspirations and behaviors for us. For me, this has meant not putting money into certain pursuits that are expected of a woman born into upper middle class circumstances. On the large scale, we don’t fly and we travel less than once a decade. He no longer golfs. Our house is small enough that zoning codes would not currently allow it to be built at the same tiny size. We grow vegetables in our yard, I was cooking most of our meals from scratch before it was cool to do so. I don’t visit hair salons and though I’m not proud to say it, we cannot afford dentistry. Eyeglasses come from Zenni, contact lenses from Korean circle lens online shops that sell normal contact lenses if you comb their sites hard enough. I have not been to the doctor in a decade because it’s not affordable and I feel well enough not to go. My husband has to go to the doctor though despite both of us not having health insurance because he has a couple of chronic conditions. All this time, my wardrobe has been 70% thrift, 20% Christmas gifts from other people, 10% new, for instance, shoes, socks, and underwear. Small appliances come from Facebook marketplace. Furniture comes from the Goodwill store.
Will some salary class individuals living the salary class lifestyle catch on after this? I have often said that they cannot afford their lifestyles any better than I can, except they don’t realize it yet. I don’t think the bulk of them around where I live will figure out they need to practice L.E.S.S. (less entertainment, stimulation, stuff) because they are not ready to look honestly at the flaws of the Narrative. For instance, I have a relative whom I’ve mentioned before who recently bought a gigantic McMansion with a swimming pool and a horse barn even though her kids are grown and not moving back home. Her husband designs sports stadiums. My speculation is she will stay there like a very small princess in a very large castle until the Apocalypse and no sooner. The McMansion set does not seem to have caught on that we are in a collapse. They are good at ignoring the drone that accompanies their ever more climactic game of Musical Chairs.
Those of us of a certain age (old) who grew up in small towns and small cities have noted that the current situation reminds us of the days when most everything was closed on Sunday. It has that “Sunday” feel to it. Those languid Sundays are remembered fondly. They were a chance for everyone to just take a day and relax. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do, no money to spend and no stores open to spend it in. And we liked it.
I’ve noted that some stores which are allowed to be open for sale of necessities are none the less closed Sunday, or on very restricted hours on Sunday. I expect that at least some stores will follow this practice even when we are back to “normal”. Much the same has happened with 24 hour stores – most are no longer open all hours of the day. Some, I suspect, have found that it’s just not worthwhile. I suspect many of us have learned, again, how to relax, and will want to hang on to that practice.
My wife is retired and I’m due any time – maybe annother year or two, maybe just a few months. Hard to say. I’ve been home 4 days a week and I’ve found that if I’m not on the figurative treadmill I’m much more likely to use the litteral treadmil. I’ve lost 5 pounds so far. If we’re not working all the time we have more time to take care of ourselves.
I’m hoping that there will be at least a mini return to closed Sunday/ closed at 9pm. A general awareness of the need to just take it easier and quit running around being “busy” 24/7.
Thanks for another interesting post. I’ve been reading your work for years and have never made a lengthy comment previously, but today there were several items I thought I’d better broach.
When you stated that parents are getting to look over their children’s shoulders as they receive their online lessons you didn’t mention how long they sit, how many subjects are covered over the course of that period, nor whether or not an actual teacher was present on screen. I can’t say I know many teachers, but from the ones I’ve spoken to it seems few or none were ever given instructions in conducting classes online so the current situation must be viewed as neither classroom or home schooling, but something in between that was created because of an emergency.
The fact that teaching children has been subject criticism from both sides of the divide is a longstanding one and it’s easy to understand the pros and cons of both. Among them would be the fact that the STEM and Core programs currently in effect across the public school system appear to be designed to program children into test passing rather than teaching them to think or use deductive reasoning, never mind forgoing their innate creative abilities. A number of teachers weren’t pleased about being forced into the system but have no say in the matter. At the same time many schools are providing essentials to children a number of whom live in less than optimal circumstances – food, washing and laundry facilities as well as oversight of their physical and mental well-being. These are not small things and it’s shocking to grasp just how necessary are these seemingly ordinary benefits to a large number of children. This is all without mentioning just how many teachers provide crucial learning materials to their students.
Home schooling can be beneficial too. An attentive and dedicated parent can cover a lot of the essentials involved in educating a child and also provide them with the materials and experiences to help that child expand their interests. There may even be groups of home school parents who take on the duties of pedagogy among a number of children and that’s all to the good. However, most parents aren’t trained to be teachers and I just don’t see how it’s possible for an average person to teach the range of subjects covered by schools. In olden days and maybe even now in some wealthy homes children were taught by tutors – sometimes several of them.
It’s also true that children need to be in contact with other children both in the classroom and on the playground in order to develop as well rounded people. Yesterday a nice thing we saw was a mother out shooting baskets with her son, but she was never going to call him a rude name or knock him down. While mothers don’t generally do those things it doesn’t mean they aren’t important lessons. It’s kind of terrifying to imagine what I would have been like if I’d had to spend every day with my mother as my main company.
The other subject worth mentioning is your take on having one adult family member stay home to run a family economy. Never mind how it came about but the situation now is that in order to pay the rent, buy the ingredients for meals, buy the fabrics for sewing, pay the phone bill, dentist, doctor, pharmacy, fuel for just one car – or to obtain any of the necessities for daily life it’s generally true that doing so requires the income made by two people. It’s also true that most people live in apartments rather than having even a little house with a garden, never mind the chickens or a cow.
The fact of the matter nowadays isn’t so much that life could be so much better if our society was arranged differently – that is true and I agree with you 100%. The problem we’re facing is the fact that tens of millions of people have been put out of work in these past few weeks. That circumstances will be very different for all of us in future goes without saying. I hate to use the word ‘hope’ after you know who spoiled it for so many of us, but in this case I will use it again in the strongest sense of longing that we turn a corner as a society and bring about a version or two of Retrotopia in the fullness of time.
Many thanks and all best wishes.
A large chunk of the Australian Post Office’s administrative staff has been working from home for the last month. It’s just been extended for another month, to the delight of almost everyone involved. Home life at the moment is regulated by mealtimes rather than office time.
The surprising thing for me over the last month is how reassuring it was to have laying hens in the backyard, who are currently providing eggs for four people. Also, cooking dinner six times a week rather than three has given me some practice in providing variety from the pantry. I have expanded my food garden, learned how to start seedlings and given away a lot of plants to friends and neighbours.
I read about the realization by a doctor in Denver that medicine has become a for-profit industry, putting patients’ needs second. The relative who sent this article asked my opinion, and I felt like saying the equivalent of “No kidding, Sherlock,” but refrained from encouraging an awful pest. One of the big realizations I’ve had during this lockdown is just how much a slave I have become to people with smartphones in some other part of the world. That actually includes a group of scientists with hard-wired computers whom I respect, but they all have time to run off at the mouth. I’m simply swamped, and they are showing indications of that too. Nevertheless, we have a sense of crisis that I have described here before and will not belabor you with.
The fact that we are among those being censored for disagreeing with the WHO, however, I expect to work to our advantage. So many people became aware of just how financially beholden they are to the pharmaceutical industry, when America’s contribution was revealed to be nothing but a fraction of their funding.
Otherwise, I am doing fine. I’ve been forced to socially distance for the past 20 years and have adapted well. Incoming work is way down, but I expect that reverse in time to the frenetic pace I had in the first two months of the year. But I’m going to have to claw out some free time for myself. to work on my book before things pick up again.
Japan, BTW, never abandoned the single-income family concept. When I married, one place I’d been working for faithfully simply let me go on that assumption. Valuing education and the wife’s role in ensuring it, they hold to the traditional notions of family as an important ideal. Recently this has resulted in fewer marriages and far fewer children as the economic situation allows fewer workers the leeway for that. Lots of offspring in their 40s still live with their parents and will contribute to the household economy once pensions start failing.
If anyone would like a book length argument covering similar ground (plus a good bit of ecology), but nearly 4 decades ago I heartily recommend Wendell Berry’s What Are People For? Which make the same argument about household economy in the 1980s. There’s even, wait for it, a discussion of an article in the Harvard Review about the “possibility” that “educated people” might be about to teach their own children, which Berry of course eviscerates. I happened to have read this piece the night before the modern one came out, which nearly made me spit my coffee out.
Anyway, it’s a good a book well worth getting when your local library returns to business.
One thing that does concern me, coming from a household that homeschools, is that if enough people start homeschooling, that’s considerable financial hit to the school system (which generally gets money based pretty directly on kids being in those chairs). That’s bad for the kids who have to go to school, and potentially a bipartisan point of agreement that might lead to action from lawmakers looking to get kids back in those chairs. I hope not though, we’ll see.
@ JMG – Wonderful essay – I appreciate that you don’t have a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach that is all to common these days.
Back in the day when I had my first child, I went to a small informal mothers support group for a while. This was the time there was a big push to get more women into the workforce. I was the only mother in this group that HAD to go back to work, the others were able to stay home with their babies (as I later realized) came from privileged backgrounds and had husbands with good incomes. I always got the feeing that they felt their was something wrong with me because I had to return to work and couldn’t ‘force’ my husband to make more money (things did not go as planned). So, the snob factor was present in a certain cadre of stay-at-home moms as well. On the other hand, I did get a lot of grief from some women at the office because I dared express the desire to be a stay-at-home mom. These women, incidentally, generally came from the more privileged backgrounds as well and had career paths in mind, and could afford to hire nannies. Most of the women with families were like me. They HAD to work outside the home (as well as work at home); in some cases they had support from the extended family. I later realized that both my mother and grandmother worked outside the home – just not until the children went to school and even then, not always full time. It seems to me, that for several decades before it became ‘fashionable’ for middle & upper class women to enter the workforce, women of working class had to get outside jobs to help support the families, especially with growing urbanization and the loss of family farms.
As far as the past few months are concerned, everything and nothing has changed. My husband & i continue to go to the mom & pop store everyday. Totally non-essential (but we sell things that would fit nicely into Retrotopia,..). We are NOT open to the public (door is locked), but have managed to do some, but not enough, business online. Also, we come in to keep an eye on things, use the internet for non-business reasons. The biggest change is not being able to socialize with our friends, both at informal gatherings and for worship. I miss being able to browse in bookstores (i don’t understand – books are essential!).
Regarding changes: 1) There are certain things I would like to change, but I am not sure how to go about making these changes. I’m guessing you would recommend journaling, meditation & affirmations? One thing I am changing, bit by bit, is calling people I haven’t heard from in long time – and, after things get back to a semblance of normal – keep on doing this regularly.
2) The realization hit me that I NEED to be more involved in the community.
One thing that has struck me, for those people who are at work in essential jobs (grocery store clerks, truck drivers, nurses, doctors, etc.), many of them are working longer and harder than ever.
@JMG I’m a software engineer, now working remote with two elementary school kids at home because of Covid.
I’m of two minds on the home schooling thing. On the one hand, yes, there’s a lot of unnecessary busywork and a lack of real world learning. We need a new model for child education, which may just be the old one, or some new hybrid.
On the other hand, it’s a huge distraction. Imagine you, as a writer, being interrupted every 15 minutes to think about geometry. I’m not a good teacher and I don’t want to be one. Neither does my spouse. Specialization may be overrated, but teaching is a special skill. I also think that having a base level of education for the populace is a good thing.
For example, I didn’t like math in school (nobody likes learning difficult foundational subjects that take many years to realize a benefit), but I remembered just enough to pivot into a software career, which I think is valuable to society, at least for the immediate future, as it allows conversations like this to take place. Without public school, there’s no way that would’ve happened. I would’ve been hopelessly behind someone more fortunate, like in the olden days when only the children of aristocrats had dedicated teachers.
On the broader point, regarding work, amen brother. I’m so ready to put a nail in the coffin of the Industrial Age 9-5. I love working remote and from home. More than that, I’d like to experiment with PT work, “multi” work and other permutations to see what works. Now’s my chance. Now’s everyone’s chance! Well, not everyone honestly. The truly essential workers are getting screwed again. But my hope is that they come out ahead in the long run. My fear is that it’ll take a bloody revolution.
“ I should probably stop here and point out that even aside from the little matter of same-sex marriages, there’s much to be said for abandoning the notion that men by definition should work outside the home and women by definition should manage the household economy.”
I’d like to suggest that the resurgence of/ wide scale adoption of gay marriages/ relationships full stop has done a lot to dispel notions of “men do this, women do these things”. Entirely because we break the status quo merely by existing and being seen. Enjoy seeing men being more introspective, sensitive, more interested in self care? Thanks largely to queer people breaking the norms.
*bows deeply in gay*
Thanks for writing, again. I love hearing you talk and open minds.
Wow – nice piece JMG.
I might throw out something beneficial to the soul and the pantry as a great way to think and be as alone as you wish – fishing. It’s the one ‘sport’ (loose term there) where alone is more than ok and a couple or 3 is the norm. For decades, when things are getting me excessively cranky and frazzled, or when I need to make a tough decision – fishing has been my go-to for solitude and think time.
I’m not talking about deep sea fishing or fishing in a big bass rig. I am talking about fishing a jetty or a pier; fishing a river or a stream or some farmers pond (you can just ask any farmer – the likelihood of them saying, “Sure, knock your lights out!” outweighs them telling you to sod off). You can take kids or grandkids for some one-on-one too – great chance to teach a myriad of skills and lessons not taught in any school.
I took my grandson last week. We landed about 30 good sized sac-au-lait (white perch, crappie) and then I taught him some knife safety, how to clean the fish and use the heads to bait for catfish. While we were cleaning up, his rod went buzzing and he got a 6 lb cat on that fish head. Those seemingly eternal skills are now missing from most kids raised in big cities or just lost in the hamster wheels of life. Yet to me, they are both treasure and pleasure.
While fishing, we recited multiplication tables. It’s “forbidden” in modern schools, but once we got going, my grandson was digging it in between yanking fish out. I didn’t know it was forbidden knowledge until my daughter informed me on our return. He heard that, and we all know how kids deal with things secret and forbidden!
I do believe this is the lighting off of the descent – based on what has happened in the oil business. It was a coin toss as to whether inflation or deflation started it – the answer is in, so the next thing is inflation, which is likely to destroy a lot more than the oilpatch. But it’s all part of returning to normalcy.
I probably won’t be here to see it, but 1920 lifestyle with a few select modern things is far from an impoverished lifestyle.
Grover, exactly. It really does make a lot more sense.
Lew, good gods, If the middle class actually realizes how badly people in the welfare class are treated, there could be some real change there, too.
Anonymous, I’m sure that universities in some form will survive. The existing academic industry, though, needs to be taken out into the pasture and shot. Maybe we can go back to the old model, where a college was a cooperative of students who hired professors to teach useful subjects.
Aidan, it’s quite possible. Certainly it seems to be shaping up to be a serious inflection point.
Samurai, thank you for this!
Dah PPT, for what it’s worth, I expect to see this crisis completing the process that Trump’s election set in motion — the rejection of both sides of the pre-2016 political consensus in favor of a new set of issues and standpoints. The GOP is already fumbling its way in that new environment, while the Democratic leadership is frantically trying to cling to a failed status quo; my guess is that no matter what happens in November, their grip is going to fail, and away we go. But we’ll see.
Rage Monster, I’ve been watching the flailings of what we laughingly call “higher education” for some time now, and yeah, things are close to the snapping point. With any luck something better will come out of it — or at least a lot of overpaid administrators will find themselves having to look for honest work for a change.
Yorkshire, I’m torn between that on the one hand, and the Athenian habit of picking legislators by means of a draft: “Greetings! You are hereby ordered to report for induction into the United States Senate…”
JillN, there’s unquestionably such a thing as too much schooling, and you’re right that it’s not a good idea. I’m glad your grandson got the help he needed — a lot of others are not so lucky.
Anybody here in my age group? Gen Xers? I will be – gods willing and the crick don’t rise – 62 in 2035, which was the estimated cutoff date for being able to draw Social Security, according to the SSA. Well, thanks to the lockdown and subsequent bailouts, the projected date of illiquidity has been bumped back to 2032…
Talk about the washout from all this getting personal. And the Boomers I’ve mentioned this to keep coming back with how their benefits are going to get cut back to 75% of what they’ve been getting! As if that’s somehow worse.
I never really expected to draw SS, and I’ve been working hard on other options for 11 years now, but to see it typed out in black “ink” (online) is still a substantial blow.
Really thankful that I got a hold of this one as early as I did and stopped expecting big government to keep it all floating, and I’m hopeful that a whole lot of people are seeing the things JMG has described in this post. And taking them to heart.
Susan C. and Brian, thank you for expressing some of the nuances of the current situation re school. I am working at home while my spouse handles the kids, and it is tough on everyone. They need the structure and social environment of school, she needs adult interaction and some intellectual challenge, and I need undisturbed time to focus on my work. None of us are getting what we need. When we can socialize again, things will be better, but that doesn’t mean homeschooling and a single income will be what we aim for. If we can get to two part time jobs, I think that would be ideal – but even with the shock of Covid, not all employers are willing to contemplate having professionals drop down to 20-30 hours a week.
The public schools here seem to be doing a decent job, but state and federal mandates seem to be hemming them in. Our principal has actively resisted the push to teach to the test, but she exists within a larger system that she can’t entirely defy. I wish I knew what the answer was.
I think the media might be near a breaking point too, I’ve never seen trust and disgust with their behavior so low. CNN was literally shilling for China to the point that even the NYT called them out on their behavior.
For those doubters of homeschooling…
I just edited my 11 y.o. daughter’s first novella. Plenty of spelling errors, to be sure, and a few homonym mixups, and of course getting a dialogue with quotations right takes a little practice.
This is something she’s going to self-publish, and sell at the farmer’s market from her lemonade stand (3rd year in business). It’s a decent story, too. First of four she has planned. Quite the go-getter, that one..
She isn’t suffering from not attending public school, I assure you. When we made the decision to educate our two at home, all we had to do was look at the fruit the public school system in our area was turning out. It’d be pretty difficult to get it more wrong.
And no, we’re not teaching creationism or climate change denialism…
My little brother and his wife probably are, though, but their eldest tested out of her senior year and is off to a Baptist University in the Fall. And I say more power to her.
We don’t need more mental monocultures.
There’s also the option where both partners work part-time outside the home, rather than one out in the money economy and one running the household. This is what my partner and I do, and it has a lot of advantages. Good to have a range of options for families, to suit different circumstances and temperaments.
I appreciate your call to this as a moment for people to flex some political muscle. It may be true – I hope it is – that just when the dysfunctional dominant systems of our society seem poised to finally strangle out all alternatives – in education, medicine, arts…etc – is when they’re actually ready to be toppled over by a good hard shove.
Hello there! Personally, this whole experience has been a bit of a disaster. I’m working from home so I have the guilt of having to work and care for the kids at the same time. It’s so stressful. Actually giving up work isn’t an option–my relationship is under a lot of strain and may not survive much longer, so I need the income, as little as it is. Plus, my work is easy and involves finding creative ways to help others! So I feel alright about it. But yeah, not having a lot of option school wise is unfortunate. I think my kids could be getting a much more challenging education. Unfortunately, I feel like my hands are tied.
My grandsons go to a private school. Kindergarten and 2nd grade. My daughter says it takes till 3 or 4 to finish the schoolwork. And one is in kindergarten! I’ve heard opposite complaints and from public school parents too – so much homework in very young grades and requiring the help of the parents. Most homework should not require the parents.
If the public schools are managing to teach even less than when I was in school that is truly something.
I did not know until very recently that kids in school are being programmed politically. I never encountered the faintest whisper of such a thing when I was in school, although it is true I cannot be said to have attended high school. I find that shocking and disgusting. I should think a teacher talking in such a way as to encourage kids to back this or that party or candidate should result in a firing.
I have never been attracted to Judaism, but I do think the Sabbath is their one Great Idea.
Here is a different view. Our work hasn’t fallen off. In fact, if anything we have even more work. However, what has plunged is our expenses. This has resulted in us taking a hard look at how we might be able to get off the hamster wheel by lowering our expenses until we have a chance at retiring (at least partially).
Hey John Michael,
One thing I do not hear in many discussions regarding the schools is the scale. I have lived in Madison AL for over 20 years and the town has grown from ~25k to over 50k people. Along with this growth has came a many of growing pains especially with the schools (numerous re-zoning, and school building projects, taxes more than doubling). The high school my children attend at one time was over three thousand kids and packed to the hilt. And as soon as the city builds another it fills up just as quick. Talking with my own children and many others most seem to like the majority of the teachers and education but are lost and overwhelmed do to the scale of things and constant reshuffling due to the city growth. It will be interesting to see how the school thing, especially with the scale issue get sorted out if some of these social distancing guidelines end up staying in place for awhile.
Not just schools but many other aspects of life become overwhelming(suck) when they exceed a certain population growth. This is just my opinion from observation and reflection but seems to be a taboo subject with the mainstream and especially city governments that are pretty much bought and payed for by development and real estate industry.
I hope and pray that you are right, JMG. But I know a lot of people who cannot wait to get back to dining out, retail therapy, and resort vacations. Two months of doing less isn’t enough to change some people.
My ex-girlfriend is a public school teacher in Phoenix, and from what I saw that’s a miserable affair indeed. The teachers generally were not consulted before the administration made sweeping changes to their jobs. For instance, my ex was declared “Teacher of the Future” one year, and all of her old, functional classroom furniture was traded out for new, unusable furniture, and a nonfunctioning suite of media technology.
That’s one school out of millions, but I suspect the teachers themselves, the ones that care and not the ones who’ve slid into apathy, have quite a bit to say about flaws in the system.
We made this calculation early in our marriage. I was happy to work until we had kids. After that… I don’t have a flashy college degree or other credentials, and once you tally up the cost of outside childcare, work wardrobe, commuting expenses, takeout food, etc… it made a lot more sense for me to manage the household and the kids, than continue earning a paycheck– and I was earning more than he was, at the time. We never even considered sending the kids to school. Three years into homeschooling, we’re still happy with this. For us, grade school was a colossal waste of time. With our own kids, we can cover all the formal stuff in a couple of hours most days, and then they have the rest of the day for their own pursuits. What they learn by tinkering and exploring for all those hours every day dwarfs what we’ve taught them. Seeing it, I grieve a little for my own childhood. What would I have been, now, if I hadn’t spent all those school years, all those homework hours, engaged in useless, boring, stupid work, to which I never refer in my day-to-day life?
I’ve enjoyed the quarantine. So nice to have nowhere we have to go. I wonder how many families will be dropping out of sports teams and extracurricular activities, once things resume?
The illustration that went with that article DID originally have an “arithmatic” book. It was immediately pointed out by probably hundreds of homeschoolers on Twitter and in every homeschooling chatgroup I keep tabs on. It was pretty funny to see the article linked a couple days later… with the spelling corrected.
I homeschooled a couple of years in my youth, and now homeschool my own kids. There is still some divide between the stereotypical conservative/religious homeschool set and the secular/unschool set, but it’s not as stark as it used to be. I feel like there’s a whole lot more middle now.
First off, I’ve been doing okay on my side – my workday, which was 12+ hours a day before the new year and down to around 10 hours a day until all the social activities (all the “nonessential” stuff) were shut down is now down to around 6-8 hours/day, and I’m loving it. I drive people for a living (and a lot of them are medical appointments of various forms, making me “essential”), so between that and some inherited money I’m doing all right (although looking at ways to cut down further on spending). I wouldn’t mind an extra month or two of down time myself, but then there’s lots of people who’s sole or major source of money over the past six weeks was $1,200 (or thereabouts) that will be clawed back come tax time 2021, so I’ll graciously accept what comes my way and consider how to extend it past the attempted return to normal.
As for schools, this decline has been coming since the ’50s, when consolidation of school districts was the rage. More kids into fewer buildings, complete with buses to bring the kids from the newly built suburbs – what could go wrong?
Other things that haven’t helped the schools is the unionization of school teachers in the ’70s (what happens when the women teachers suddenly need to make a living), No Child Allowed Ahead (aka No Child Left Behind, when tests became the holy grail. I consider Common Core as a Kludge within the NCAA system.) and the consistently declining reproduction rate in the United States (why pay for schools when you won’t have any children yourself?). Add to that Administration creep, and you have a recipe for the wrecking of the elementary and secondary schools systems (and the College system we have today, which acts as a four-plus-years rumspringa with a massive, interest loan that is intended to follow you to the grave).
Another interesting effect of this shutdown is my changing from buying a new car (last car I plan on buying, as I see radical changes coming) to fixing my present car. With certain cars that were to come out soon being delayed, I figured I’d better get mine fixed at some point and keep aiming at more walking, less driving….
And my writing has exploded. I’ve put five new blogposts up in the past month – about the same as each of the past two years.
Why are you so concerned with what others are teaching their children? The idea of freedom and liberty is not having others dictate to you precisely how you run you & your families lives… especially the government.
If you’re going to ban schools it should be the public ones. When parents have a choice you can be damned sure they’ll pick the best one for their kids and not have to settle for whatever’s forced upon them.
In addition to shilling for China, CNN is also coming under fire for shilling for Joe Biden while never missing an opportunity to bash Trump. The rather obvious double standards and slanted coverage really has been a sight to behold. As a result, CNN and other establishment media outlets are doing a great deal of damage to what is left of their already soiled reputations.
There were a couple of recent interviews of Biden by CNN in which they conspicuously failed to ask him about the recent allegations of sexual assault and have been catching a lot of flak for doing so.
In addition, there is a closely related scandal that broke recently when it turned out there is a Larry King episode which appears to corroborate the allegations by Tara Reade, who claims Biden assaulted her in 1993 while she was working as one of his staffers. Lo and behold, the following day the recording mysteriously vanished from Google Play and they renumbered the subsequent episodes to make it look like the episode never existed. They made a sloppy job of it, because there is an obvious gap in the dates.
I think it’s beginning to dawn on the elites what a disaster Biden is likely to be as the Democratic nominee and right now they are desperately trying to bury the story. It won’t work. Too many people know about this and other Biden related scandals and you can bet your bottom dollar Trump and his supporters will hammer on Biden and the MSM relentlessly using this and other points of attack.
Aidan, sure. Now look into the saturation ad campaigns that corporate interests used to convince feminists to do that. I’m old enough to remember when feminism meant that women (and men too!) could make the choices that were right for them. Now the movement’s been coopted by big business interests, and preaches subordination to the corporate economy and hatred toward working class people of both sexes. It’s really sad.
Jean-Vivien, “Here is a square. Divide it with four lines, two horizontal and two vertical. How many squares do you have now?” Now imagine two or three pages of questions on that level…
Daniel, I hope more parents let their kids off the treadmill!
Skyrider, the Kos published that? Good gods. “Wind is changing” indeed. (Though I notice that the comments were a fine rant-a-thon against the cartoonist.) You may certainly post a link here; thank you for the offer of copies, and I’ll take a look and let you know.
Jay Pine, that’s good to hear — and it’s good to hear that you’ve got some prospects. Now’s the time to go for your dreams.
NomadicBeer, not that I’ve seen so far, but we’ll see what happens once the shutdown ends.
Jay Pine, you and me both. I’d be a member of CAMRA if I lived in Britain, and I hope to be able to get a pint of good brown ale from a local pub the next time I’m over.
Booklover, oh, granted — and it will vary from place to place and social class to social class, of course.
Lauren, delighted to hear it! Are you getting any significant pushback about becoming a homemaker from the people you know? I ask because watching the levels of pushback will give me a gauge of shifts in collective opinion.
Pygmycory, thanks for the data points. Maybe some useful changes will come of this.
Antoinetta, that would be a very good idea. Of course the people who would have to do this are exactly those people who would be out of jobs once that was done, so I don’t recommend holding your breath…
Bryant, the link didn’t come through. Can you post the URL as text?
Your Kittenship, delighted to hear it.
GM, your suggestion — that we can somehow fix the US public schools by getting rid of all the alternatives to public schooling, while doing nothing at all to address the miserable excuse for education that public schools provide — would benefit nobody but, ahem, the publis schools. You also quite obviously haven’t taken even five minutes to look into homeschooling — if you did, you’d find out that homeschooled children in the US routinely test much higher on math (and all other subjects, for that matter) than children who’ve been through the public schools, and that there’s a whole industry providing teaching materials to homeschooling parents so that they don’t have to rely on their own knowledge of subjects like advanced math. Really, you’ve done a good job of proving that people who criticize homeschoolers don’t know enough about the subject to have an informed opinion!
One other thing. Since, as you say, you’re not from the US, you may not be aware that one of our national values is a little thing called liberty. That means that no, you can’t just force parents to do what you want, not without some very good reason — and propping up a failed institution at the expense of children is not a sufficient reason. What you do in your country is of course your own business…
Walt, funny. I get the impression that the universities are really having to scramble at this point to justify their abuses, and aren’t doing a very good job.
Teresa, when I worked in nursing homes as an aide, it was standard for every year’s flu epidemic to take out anything up to a couple of dozen residents per facility. The current outbreak is simply bringing attention to something that’s been happening regularly for years.
Patricia M, two good points. I’m glad to hear that your daughter isn’t getting hassled! As for magnet schools and private schools, yes, those are also options — and I remember Schoolhouse Rock. “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”
Walt, here’s hoping! If the Catskills want ’em, by all means.
Jen, it wasn’t quite that bad when I was in the public schools, but it was bad. I used to write heroic-fantasy stories in class, pretending to be taking notes — the alternative was death by boredom, as the teacher trudged gamely on through the lesson.
Norman, they didn’t even teach Thoreau in cutting-edge, up-to-date public schools when I was there in the 1970s, I graduated from high school in 1980, having never been required to read a single important work of literature. Plenty of “relevant” trash, sure…
Peter, here’s hoping!
Stephen, of course there will be downsides to the changes, and yes, I expect to see a lot of people go whole hog into apocalyptic fantasy — though a lot of others may note the gap between the panicked predictions early in this current outbreak and what actually happened. With any luck (and a little hard work), the latter can be encouraged at the expense of the former.
Lenn, I think you’re quite correct. A lot of people, with very good reason, are highly dissatisfied with their local, state, and federal governments, and this may well lead more of them to get active in the political sphere sooner than would otherwise have happened.
Simon, I’d be concerned about the authoritarianism, too, but it seems to be getting quite a bit of robust pushback — organized protest or, as here in Rhode Island, a mocking unwillingness to do what the authorities say. The number of people wearing masks outdoors dropped sharply when the city government here mandated it…
PVguy, many chemistry and physics courses at universities these days don’t actually do experiments — they have students run computer simulations of experiments. I kid you not, it’s gotten that lame. There are fortunately plenty of good experiments in both sciences that don’t require dangerous reagents…
Kimberly, it’s going to take repeated shocks before the McMansion set catches on, but I expect them to be the last holdouts. Still, we’ll see.
Christopher, makes sense to me.
Susan, no, children do not need to socialize with other children in a classroom setting to become well-rounded human beings. Children became well-rounded human beings for something like a million years before the first classroom was invented. Let them play with other kids — and not just at strictly supervised playdates and regimented activities! — and they’ll socialize themselves just fine. As for the supposed necessity of the two-income family, that’s true for some people in some areas with a high cost of living. If you’ll scroll through the comments and read the comments by househusbands and housewives here, you’ll find that in fact, for many people, a single-paycheck household is a viable option with many advantages.
Kfish, excellent! Being able to produce at least some of your own food is a great confidence builder, no question.
Patricia O, delighted to hear that you’re doing well. I’m also delighted to hear that more people are realizing that the US health care industry at this point is basically a racket, and nothing more. That way lies constructive change.
Sng, Berry’s always worth reading. As for the pushback, yes, that’s going to be a political hot button for a while; as the populist movement picks up speed, I expect school choice (meaning the right to homeschool and access to charter schools) is going to become one of its main issues. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
PatriciaT, granted; having one parent stay home won’t be an option for everybody, but it’s an option I think more people should explore. As for getting more involved in the community, excellent — that’s how change happens.
Brian, of course homeschooling has its difficulties. Have you considered getting in contact with local homeschooling groups to find out how they deal with these issues? There’s quite a bit of experience out there that novice homeschoolers can draw on.
Logan, that’s one of the many reasons why I was delighted when same-sex marriage became legal — it helped broaden the range of options for everyone. *Bows just as deeply in straight but not narrow*
Oilman2, I’m not at all surprised that multiplication tables are forbidden knowledge in today’s US public schools. Anything that allows kids to think for themselves and dispute the canned answers handed to them by schools and the media is strictly discouraged these days. I hope you keep on teaching your grandson such eldritch, forbidden lore!
Varun, that’s a big one. Of course it’s been building for a while — last I heard, CNN news programs were fielding a smaller viewership than the Home Improvement Channel — but it may be hitting critical mass in the near future.
Curtis, and that’s also a good option! As for the fragility of the established order, that’s a lesson Taoism teaches — it’s when the yang reaches its maximum that you know it’s about to collapse into yin, and vice versa. As any t’ai chi practitioner can tell you, of course, a good shove at the right moment helps…
Orbit, you might want to explore other options involving schooling. Your hands may not be as tied as you think.
Onething, there are quite a few private schools that still offer a decent education, so that doesn’t surprise me at all.
AV, interesting — and thanks for the data point. I hope you put the opportunity to good use.
Pete, and of course that’s also an issue. I’ve made a point of living in places where the population is stable or declining, to avoid such problems — but then of course I have that freedom, since my job travels with me.
Dana, oh, of course there will be plenty of people who don’t or won’t change, and some who can’t. Significant social shifts always start with a minority. It’s where it will go from here that’s the interesting question.
Cliff, that’s certainly been my experience. It’s not the teachers but the administrators, bureaucrats, and universities that are behind the failure of American public schooling; let the teachers make changes based on their lived experience of schooling, and I suspect there would be sharp improvements.
Methylethyl, I know the feeling. Between the constant boredom and the equally constant bullying, my time in public school was far and away the most miserable experience I’ve had in this life. I figure I had karma to work off, but it still hurts sometimes to think about how much of my childhood was wasted and immiserated that way.
Godozo, nicely summed up. Yes, exactly. And keep up that writing!
Ace of Spades, I wonder when it will sink in that CNN’s clumsy propagandizing is simply handing more and better ammunition to the far more nimble memetic warriors on the other side…
1) On schooling: My observations are mixed; I like my kid’s elementary school and I miss them, he’s fine either way – they use The Virtues Project (https://virtuesproject.com/virtueslist.html), so, for example, each younger class picks an animal and virtue when they start in September, and part of the curriculum is to notice when they are using that virtue, and how to practice it (there are 52, so you never run out!). My husband teaches in a different district in high school, and that is… different. One parent with three kids she’s trying to help distance learn (4 hours a day/kid x 3 kids + 8 hours of expected own work from home = complete breakdown) said one teacher sent her grade 7 kid THIRTY THREE emails in one week. My husband has found kids with stable homes and parents with jobs that adapt to home (pro-tip: no office job requires an actual 8 hour work day to get the projects done) are doing very well indeed. Those with parents who can’t both stay home, or who have no wherewithal to take over from the incompetent teachers are falling further behind, and those families are suffering substantial psychological problems.
2) On technology and bodies: remember how people were all bubbling over with how awesome it would be that everything would be online, and the future is all digital for everything all the time? I think the bloom is coming off that rose, as people start to realise that while web meetings can fill in for some things better than travel meetings, they are not a substitute for physical social interaction, even when you can see the person’s face. Seeing what happens to children who can’t tousle and play with other children, or elders who can’t feel your presence at their bedside is so much more stark. Our physical bodies give something to each other – we’re not just minds in jars.
3) Food: I’ve been struck by the number of people who have told me that they have noticed their food waste has gone way, way down. Even those who were already stay at home parents. They don’t go out to eat and forget about the leftovers. Also only buying a small variety of food (because that’s all that’s left in the store), they don’t have bits of this and bits of that left over. I was perplexed because I am always creating a new meal from 3 leftover ones in the fridge, but apparently this is new to people. They also suddenly realised food does not magically come into being on shelves, and along with everyone now being a gardener (wait for the disappointment, wait for it…!) food policy councils in some cities are being incorporated into the Emergency Operation Centres – meaning they are listening to food systems experts and implementing their recommendations at emergency speed : you need to invest in local seed growers for The Next One, the farmers say they ran out of seed. Incentivize local growing – remember how we said one day California will dry up and blow away? Hey, remember how they’ve been screaming for you to streamline permitting for small community and co-operative abbattoirs for years now…? Not all the changes may get traction, but we can suddenly be believed when we say things that we weren’t before – that these threats are happening now, not in a nebulous future.
4) Slow the streets: everyone finally wants more space for pedestrians and bikes, and to reduce the roadwidth for cars. No one dare argue with the imperative for social distancing, what, do you want to kill people? (shhhh never mind that cars killed way more people and no one cared before).
Antoinetta-Funny you should mention university archives. I am currently woking from home digitizing university finding aids for the internet. It’s tedious software, as you have to enter line by line. So I see every line of each box list. You can see the administrative complexity take off in the 50s and 60’s but it really doesn’t hit it’s stride until the 80’s. And now we have six-figure diversity administrators, including a Vice President of Diversity… There was a conversation about “diversity” as a jobs program for the management class on this blog, not long before our department had to attend a mandatory meeting at work with the diversity goons. I had to keep my mouth shut… They circulated a questionnaire about “recognizing your bias” a week beforehand that was plainly illegal and proved nothing… I have previously commented here how in some of our Cold War collections you can see our Imperial bureaucracy explode starting around 1947… Berserker
The Atlantic Monthly on the delimmas faced by college and university administrators, students and their parents.
Brian — the one who teaches in Dublin — would you be willing to e-mail me? I think we have a lot of common interests, and there’s a lot I’d like to ask. I’m at briankaller at yahoo.com
Good morning (for me).
M. Greer, I feel baffled by what you said : when were millions of death predicted in the USA? From what I read, 100 000 deaths or so were feared by your government, and even that statement was contested : https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/29/politics/coronavirus-deaths-cases-anthony-fauci-cnntv/index.html
Here is another view on the role of intellectuals, by Karl Kautsky: https://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1903/xx/int-work.htm. I’m conflicted about this. On one hand he condemns intellectual remoteness and elitism, and advocates participation in real life. On the other, it was written in 1903 – the year of the split in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. The idea that workers essentially had no individuality, and that intellectuals should get in line and obey, was quoted approvingly by Lenin to justify the start of Bolshevik authoritarianism. This was when the rot set in.
Some time ago I sent in a comment about comet ATLAS and whether you would consider interpreting it through the lens of mundane astrology. Like the man said, however, comets are like cats: they both have tails and do as they please. This one broke up, much to my chagrin, as I’d gotten my hopes up for a beautiful northern hemisphere comet.
However, unlike cats, they apparently come in herds, as comet SWAN has just attained naked eye visibility in the southern hemisphere. In my guesstimation it became visible on the morning of the 29th in the constellation Aquarius, based on twitter reports. Perhaps a southern hemisphere reader could chime in with more details?
It will eventually cross over to the northern hemisphere, so here’s hoping!
P.S. This virus may not exactly be the Pale Horseman, but I erred on the side of caution and brewed a nice batch of beer anyway.
John – One of your best yet, some most elegant and entertaining prose. And a good homework assignment 😉
samurai_47 – One can still buy a new print encyclopedia? – !!! Thanks for letting me know.
And thanks for the pointer to the Gatto book.
NomadicBeer – re: any trend in US for people to live in groups? The only datapoint I have is that my handyman/caretaker moved away into an intentional community/co-housing/co-op setup and seems to like it.
Directory/info at Foundation for Intentional Communities:
Many thanks for this article. I have “The Long Descent” on my bookshelf, and thought it was time to see what you were writing about the current situation.
The last paragraph about the need to take a break for reflection resounded like a bell. I am taking this opportunity to really think about what I want and need to do with my remaining years on this earth. I am involved with the transition movement here in Sweden and grow food on an allotment and on my balcony. I have lost all my freelance work, but my partner has a full-time stable (?) job. We have always cooked but now even more. Deep-cleaning the apartment, fixing things. Lying on the sofa and dreaming. Reading books. We are both enjoying this extra time together – the walks in the park, making music. Having been forced to stop, I am becoming grateful for this caesura. The metaphor of the fallow field has been guiding me – the earth needs to rest and so do we.
I live in Sweden and the Swedish economic model depends greatly on two-income couples working full-time and children in (public, highly subsidised) daycare/school/after-school programmes. There are very few part-time jobs. And the tax policies benefit the rich (e.g. no inheritance tax but high income tax for low earners). There is universal healthcare, which is good but not enough preventative medicine. I have worked in primary schools in the city here, and the best thing about them is the free school meals for all to grade 9, the long recess and lunch break and that some learning is done outdoors. Also there is less emphasis on testing and it starts later than in the US. But mostly the schools are holding pens for the poor and cadre training and selection for the middle class.
Sweden is one of the few countries in the global north (rich countries) that has not had a lockdown, just “recommendations” to work from home if you can, social distancing and no public gatherings with more than 50 people. Thus, middle-class parents can work from home, while their children are still in daycare and school, the restaurants and bars and shops are still open and the well-off are spreading the virus by leaving the city to spend time in their summerhouses.
I doubt the Swedish middle class will learn much of anything during this time.
This crisis also shows utterly clearly how many people, again in so-called rich countries, have been barely managing to survive for years. Austerity economics in the UK where I am from have decimated communities. The poor are severely more impacted by covid 19, as they are by everything else negative in our industrial growth society. Are we going to face up to that and change it?
I guess we need to start by changing ourselves.
Good to be reading you again!
I am reminded of my schooling. For reference, I graduated in 2003. I started out enthused but as it went on I got further beat down and disinterested with what was being offered. It isnt offering education but mindless distraction trying to nab folks into a field of training and get prepared for monitary extraction.
Straight out of school I was working in a super market for a year and then into a two year period of unemployment. With all that new free time I essentially went into a self taught autodidactic model, I absolutely learned more in those two years than all of my upper education years. Two years of self improvement that I am forever thankful for. Unemployment to me isnt entirely a negative, it is an.opportunity to expand oneself.
The first few years of education are useful in terms of ground work (spelling, math, reading, gramma etc) but after that it starts to become much more vague and somewhat useless. Even then there is no reason.why those initial years cannot be done.at home. Higher education always fell more into line of the administration determined model.
Will be fascinating to see how this pans out over the next few years.
You don’t mention your children’s maturity levels or ability levels, which would be helpful.
Can they both read fluently? If not, pick up a good program-the BOB books are what I use-and spend your time with them working on that skill first. Kids without learning disabilities or vision issues should learn to read well over a period of a couple years somewhere between four years and ten years of age. That skill allows them to self-teach. And I do mean read well: Ivanhoe is sixth grade for mine, and they have all had the skill to read it without difficulty or help. My eight year old-second grade by the state’s reckoning-who is a bit more advanced than her older brothers were at that age grabs my King James Bible to read when she’s bored at church. She has to ask for the occasional definition still.
I’m 99% a home maker, but my kids-from five to seventeen-know not to interrupt when I’m teaching cello lessons except for certain situations. It’s trainable. And they know not to bother Daddy or Nana, who are both now working at home, during work hours. The only issue has been the one time when my husband had the windows in the room he was working in, and the game in the yard got too loud.
Do schedule their school work for outside of your working hours if there’s any possible way you can. With elementary that should be accomplished in a couple hours in the evening without any difficulty. If they are close in ability you can put them together for some subjects: history, literature, and science are favorites for that purpose. Literature makes excellent bedtime stories for that matter: Andrew Lang’s color fairies books are good early elementary literature.
You can give them activities to do while you work, such as at the end of the day you will want to see a new sketch in their nature notebook, a new doll dress, or a new lego design if they need direction on how to busy themselves while you work to start out, it is, after all, a new responsibility for them to manage their own day. Then you can have them give a report on and show what they have done over dinner. They should also both be able to prepare their own lunches within your boundaries for them in the kitchen, and clean up after themselves, unsupervised. (Obviously if they are very small you will have already sliced bread and so on.)
All of that advice, of course, is aimed at actual home school, not the current online school at home. I have no experience in online school, and do not know what might be useful, but I expect some will be.
Two universal tips: 1. Make them eat a good breakfast. For unknown reasons, every child seems to go through a phase of not wanting to eat breakfast, and then they can’t think and they lose self control. 2. Make them get physical exercise before school. Half an hour of tree climbing or laps around the outside of the house or joining you for your workout or gardening or pretty much anything makes children so much more able to focus.
I am a second generation homeschooler with a BA from a state university. We have six kids, ranging from 17 to 5, all home schooled. That’s where my advice comes from.
If you have questions, I’m always happy to try to help.
JMG, This article should have been nailed to the doors of high schools and colleges decades ago as a forecast of what is headed our way. But, as we know, the magic of convenience won out. Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero of A Thousand Faces’ should be required reading in college…for those students who can read. Keep writing. TG
Hi John Michael,
Quiet time out for reflection is a worthy thing. I tell ya, in the past when I have completely stuffed up a situation or a job or something larger than the ordinary everyday occurrences, I’ve taken time out to reflect. Of course time out for me involves working on some other thing, but that may be just me. Still it is valuable to spend time reflecting on how things could have ended up so badly.
Dunno about you and I’d be curious to learn your thoughts on the matter, but from my perspective being super-busy all of the time rarely yields any insights. A lot of people I have observed, claim busy-ness as a lifestyle choice. They might not be so busy right now.
One of the reasons that I decided to no longer work for the big end of town, and instead work for small business, is that rarely were you allowed enough time to cogitate upon problems and strategies. The demands and work were never ending, and I’ve long suspected that that is a deliberate strategy. It reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon in that: Some of the work was actually useful. And such time out to cogitate spilled over into time after work, and to be honest after a lot of years, I eventually felt a lot cheated by that circumstance.
Nowadays the lack of noisy aircraft hounding the skies, is a thing of beauty.
Do you suspect aversion to feminism will reach post-Soviet Russia levels?
I was doing exactly as you suggest starting a few years ago, I literally spent the time with one goal, to move out of the Bay Area to Western Washington/Northern Idaho. In March, a couple weeks into the quarantine, I finally got a job offer there. I ended up turning it down. I spent a week meditating on it and agonizing over it, but at the end of the day I decided not to go. I work in IT for a University, and the ONE thing that could happen that could possibly destroy the economy of my chosen location has happened (shutting down the Universities). And taking an enormous pay-cut, selling my house now for a lot less than I could a few weeks ago, and moving to a new job and community where I would meet no one in person in a place where I know no one seemed like an incredibly bad idea. Risky from a community standpoint, and possibly financial suicide from a budget/job security perspective with massive job losses happening and more on the way (especially in my field of “academia”). I may hate this area to live in but we have family, friends, seniority at our jobs and have lived in this house 22 years. I know my neighbors and have a maturing food forest in the back and front yards, and a network of people we barter with.
Perhaps that’s the message this mess has for me, how to appreciate the community and home I have made here? What has it been that I have desperately wanted to escape? More things to meditate on I guess. None of the radical changes I have made over the past years have been bad ones (getting out of debt, radically downsizing our lifestyle, planting every inch of dirt, volunteering for local organizations). Maybe that’s what I was meant to do all along?
Anyway, we still don’t want to live here forever, that’s for sure. I feel at “home”, safer, and healthier mentally and physically when I am on the Palouse. The changes we have made will allow us to buy land when the right property comes available, but maybe the big change for me is not making one?
Always lots to think on. And as you know, you do inspire many of us to make real and positive changes in our lives. Thank you.
Thank you for this! I work as a teacher at a “Gymnasium” in Germany – the closest corresponding type of school in the English-speaking world might be the British grammar school. Basically, you’re allowed to university when you successfully complete the 13th grade and final exams. I switched over to teaching coming from a career which was a mixture of science and industry, but I switched rather early on. One reason for the change was that being a teacher in Germany is (unlike being a scientist) a very family-friendly profession, which was important for me. But there was also a strong feeling of “vocation”, I realized I wanted to be a teacher and I hoped to be able to make a difference, at least a small one and at least for a few.
Being in the profession for almost a decade now, my feelings towards what I am doing are very mixed. Being a teacher allowed us to move to a rural area, where you don’t need a lot of money. At the same time, teachers (especially after being in the job for some years) are quite well payed for. That’s a very positive combination. While I am the breadwinner for my family and can still think of reducing my working hours, friends of us who live in urban regions, despite being well-trained and highly paid, have to have two jobs to pay for everything, including care for their small children (1+) which consumes a lot of money and does not really make happy since they too have realized that it can be quite nice to spend the time at home with your small children.
So that’s the material side of things, which is quite positive for us, obviously. At the same time, with every year working as a teacher I get more frustrated by what I am doing there. This is a twofold thing: On the one hand, I realized that there is something like real life, I realized what contact to nature, gardening and things like that can do and how they are able to transform oneself and the perspective on things. At the same time, this real life does not play any role in the school I know. I’d go so far to say that it is actively kept out of school (maybe, because if too many realize what real life is like, they’d also realize how much what they’re doing all the time sucks). The system is made in a way that it’s nearly impossible to break out or add anything beyond ordinary schooling. For nearly all students and their parents it’s about grades, it’s about performance, career, etc. To know and understand something because it’s fascinating to know and understand plays a role for maybe 1 out of 100, to be generous. Frustrating, as this experience is I notice over the years I have become more and more demotivated, reduced the energy I put into my job and become increasingly sloppy, which is self-amplifying and not a good development.
So what now? I don’t know yet, only that the current situation as it has developed is good for nobody if I let things just go on this way.
The problem with a single-income household is that the person staying at home will likely be economically dependent on the breadwinner. If the breadwinner is abusive, their partner is less able to leave because they don’t have enough of their own money to do so. if the breadwinner dumps their stay at home partner, that partner could end up destitute. Nobody should be at the economic mercy of their partner, because so many partnerships don’t last forever.
I was shocked by how fast they shuttered public schools and then provided zero information for parents for three weeks here. Just repeating “we’ll share more information when we have it.” We have no skin in that game, but man if my kid was in school I would have been hopping mad. To demand all this time and energy from families to comply with their schedules and requirements, then to slam shut is really something.
Did you see that many schools are just giving kids all A’s for the year? They not only cancelled all the standardized testing, waived graduation requirements, but also faked the one assessment they do control. So much for all that hoopla over grades being important! In an instant they showed how meaninglessness it all was.
PA mandated that all teachers now get a “virtual teaching certificate.” It was slipped in to a flurry of announcements so got passed over by the local media obsessed on how many died that day. I’m sure our tax dollars will pay for this certificate and local colleges will be more than happy to charge several thousand dollars for each one.
As schools move to this virtual model, I’ll also expect there to be more home visits by child welfare officials. The state will insist that all children are unsafe at home unless proved otherwise. Parents will be fined and dragged into court to prove they are competent parents, and the media (professional and social media) will cheer it all on.
Homeschooling will only save us from this dark future if the lawyers can keep the government out of people’s homes. It’s a daily battle and the cases the HSLDA takes on are frightening in their implications.
And you are spot on with your reasoning of why people keep saying we all need to stay home! But they don’t dare it. Instead they say they want to keep people safe. Ha!
To be fair to the teachers: they’re dealing with 20-30 children, not 1-3. Back when I worked in hospitality, I realised that anyone can make a dinner for themselves and a few friends – so long as they all come at the same time, eat the same thing, and you have a day’s notice. The skill of cheffing is not cooking, but preparing 12 different meals from scratch – yes, there’s a menu, but at least 3 of the 12 will be special requests of some kind – all within a few minutes of each-other… while dealing with 6 other tables.
Unless your children are particularly gifted or challenged, teaching 1-3 children is not a great challenge, and the material required by the state can be taught in an hour or two a day at most. Now, add in another couple dozen children of varying abilities and interests and see how you go – oh and by the way, after school you have to talk to Mr Johnson who is convinced his boy is gifted (he’s not) and Mrs Johnson who’s convinced her boy has ADHD (he doesn’t, he’s just eight). And Mr Singh didn’t finish high school and Mrs Singh is a recent migrant from a non-english speaking background but they still have an opinion on how you should do things.
My children are currently engaged in what the state calls “remote learning.” But they can’t do it unsupervised or without the help of an adult. It’s not really “remote leaning”, it’s state-supported homeschooling. It’s pretty simple stuff, but the websites are multitudinous and woeful, and the several apps are a mess. Now at the end of the third official week of it I’ve given up on navigating the half-dozen different websites and taking photos of work and sending it – today I just came up with my own stuff, and it was a lot quicker and we covered about three times the material – and there was still two hours left over for lego and playing outside.
But we are a well-educated pair of parents, and I’m a stay-at-home father, and neither of us believe that our children are particularly smart or particularly challenged – it’s unusual these days for children to be average, but there you go. Others will be having a much harder time.
@Grover, I would be interested in hearing about what homeschooling looks like in your family if you wouldn’t mind sharing, as it seems like I have very similar goals for my househusband life! I am a little younger than you (32) and have a 5 and 2 year old. I have a large garden, chickens, ducks, a small but growing orchard, and work remotely full time right now but hope to be full time at home with a small home business in the near future. How do you balance schooling with all of the other household tasks you manage? Do you actually sit down and teach your kids, or is it more a hands off, let them learn on their own approach? I’d also be happy to hear any other readers’ experiences with this as well!
I pointed out to a friend, you know how we have been called consumers most of our life? You probably hear the word consumer a thousand times a year. But when you think about it, we are producers more than consumers, in that surely we produce more value than what we consume, particularly when you consider how much wealth “trickles” up the social pyramid.
We are called consumers incessantly so that we remain focused on consumption, so that we think of having a job that we might consume. Never mind it takes ever more work to buy ever shoddier products.
We are not called producers or citizens conversely, because we cannot be conditioned to think about ownership of our own production, or ownership of our own country, or we would probably take back our production, which is the basis of most of that wealth so consolidated by so few in this Republic, America.
re: the household economy
I think it will grow, not because people like it or want it – but because the external economy is failing. Like you said, if you can’t buy the bread, then you have to make it yourself from the raw materials. If the goods and services aren’t there, you either do without or you do it yourself. Doesn’t matter whether you’re the best at it, if you can’t do it at all, it doesn’t get done. BTW, that’s something rural people have had to deal with and cope with since time out of mind. Now it’s city dwellers but they have neither the tools nor the mindset to deal with it.
It’s also what you do when you have to do things without resorting to money because it’s not available or has gotten so screwed up, Again something a rural person knows well by now.
re: Public Skoolz
The public education racket in this country is about providing make work jobs for people who have a work ethic but not much else and it provides a reliable voting bloc for politicians to manage. That’s it. The kids? They’re just props on a stage in which this education musical is performed. They absolutely do not matter. I suppose in years past the musical was choreographed better and they put some effort into the song and dance to satisfy the rest of the public but like with everything else, it has deteriorated over time. Nobody cared and it shows. I guess people caring about their own kids is heartening but it really takes this kind of event to make people care? Late is better than never, I guess.
You didn’t even touch on how many of them are hopelessly dependent on Chinese demand, which is very likely to be going away and never coming back. That whole sector is going to need to slim down, although it may turn into another voting bloc/make work program for pollies as well. However musicals need a stage and props to perform from. I guess you can just sing from the sidewalk but nobody will take you seriously. And unis are not compulsory, people can and will opt out if they think there’s no value there.
Cynically to me, it’s looking like the 21st c is resembling more of the 19th than the 20th. I guess you can say something about cheap oil here. And I would also say the 21st will probably be more rural in nature as well. I remember the 70s, being rural was something popular. The 21st c may look like the 70s on steroids in various ways.
Hmm… Having just one person in a couple work outside the home strikes me as rather risky. Divorce remains perfectly legal, and illness and death are unlikely to be abolished any time soon. 😉
Ultimately, the problem is that the nuclear family is a rather fragile institution. Having only half the adults in an extended family consisting of 20-ish adults (and however many children) work outside the home makes perfect sense. A nuclear family with only two adults is a different matter. Unless you have some sort of insurance or backup plan for the eventualities (divorce/illness/death) mentioned above.
Really happy to see you discussing this. I commented on it generally last week, as I know a lot of people who seem happier than they’ve ever been, including some career oriented parents getting to stay home with their children for the first time ever.
I have 1st and 3rd graders at home, and I fully concur with your assessment. Frankly, I don’t believe the school in my corner of suburban/rural Pennsylvania is pushing any political ideologies, liberal or otherwise. The issue is exactly what you say… what are they doing all day? This year, my kids got “snow day packets” the first week of school. So they could work from home on snow days and wouldn’t have to make them up. My daughter did the first one the night she came home with it, because she wanted to be prepared. It took half an hour. Then we didn’t get any snow and she was fretting she wouldn’t get to use it. Then the school closed for 6 months. The point is, why go to school for half an hour of work? I’m not really criticizing their teachers, who seem great, and are sincerely trying to help right now. Honestly I feel bad for them. I’ve seem some idiotic posts about how heroic the teachers are for “reinventing education” on short notice, which is over the top and embarrassing. But really, they have tried, and what else can they do? Honestly I have little advice to give on how to improve public education in general. Your ADR post on local control of schools was pretty good. All I can do is ask: why send my kids to school for seven hours to do a half hour of work? Is it just so I can go to work? I’m not blaming anyone, but it’s a fair question.
In general though, school aside, I think we’re seeing something huge here. Millions of adults, who grew up believing the only honorable path in life was to get a job and make money so they could spend it, are suddenly stopping to think. My wife is talking about it. My friends and coworkers are talking about it. Do we really need to live like this? Do we really need take out dinner every night? Do we really need to buy every new product? You can’t undo that.
David, track who bought, reduced, and owns the educational system, for example, the textbooks, will tell you all you need to know. Why on earth would the 6 billionaires who run +90% of U.S. media want “reasonably well-educated populace” and “A functional democracy”? That’s just silly. They want an uneducated mob, so they can create their opinions, tell them what to do, and the population won’t be smart enough to resist. That is technically a “democracy”, but it’s not a “Republic”, where the minority still has rights, and is exactly what the Founders feared for exactly this reason. Or you can see it in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” or any other such rendition of “shaping narrative” as you see throughout all Orwell and “1984”. That was the entire point of “NewSpeak”, to make the vocabulary so stupid and contradictory that intelligent thought would become impossible. And so it has. Just as he warned, interviewing and being part of those very societies back in 1940. Thanks to NewSpeak, no one listened.
No: they ARE successful. This was their plan, and their goal is successful to gain more money and power and less oversight and accountability from the people, while keeping the illusion of their consent by happy minions by using the name “democracy.” As you see, they can make the people do whatever they say and print, no matter how self-defeating. It’s ever so much easier to pick their pockets when they have no skills and have never learned to read or balance a checkbook. Planned, engineered, extensively documented, proudly published by themselves. All you have to do is go read what they wrote.
“**The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society CONSTITUTE AN INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT which is the true ruling power of our country.**” –1928, exactly when this started. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays
Anyway, many schools such as Baltimore are graduating statistically *Zero* students with competency. Many have hardly any graduates at all, even without competency. So what’s the point of the exercise in self-deception and self-congratuations? Just to “do something”? If what you’re doing has a 99% fail rate, wouldn’t virtually anything else, even chosen at random, be better? And we don’t have to do even that. Just as school become compulsory (1890) we had a peak of curriculum and expertise. None of us could pass an 1890 8th grade final exam. You could literally just reprint their books and be better off. So we know HOW. We choose not to. Since nobody’s mad about it, it must be what all the power-brokers want. If it wasn’t what they want, there’d be a scandal and they’d be defunded and removed. So clearly we like being 39th in education behind Slovakia and Latvia. We also spend more than nearly anybody else to be 39th, $50k, $100k/student? So…why? With that kind of money I could buy each one a free house and get them much better set up for life.
“feminists have proclaimed domesticity as an utterly unsuitable lifestyle”
Just shows how much Feminists hate women. Apparently they want them to be men, to fight, and succeed only in only those fields and only on mens’ terms. Strange. Womens’ happiness has dropped every day since they got started in 1974. https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/11/13/20959863/women-happy-chores-gender-gap Did they not notice they’re going the wrong way? Because as JMG says, it sure has been the right way for money, corporations, and profits, for control and for politics, the right way to make citizens dumb and exposed and unprotected as children. 60 years later: same direction, worse than ever. Why?
Sunday lockdowns and blue laws may or may not be legal, (you have freedoms) but their departure is an attack on everyone. So instead of everyone having a state holiday once a week, we have to work 7 days a week, and now on-call 24 hours a day with the dreadful device. That means swing shifts, schedules, no coordination for families, no meet-ups, etc. So the plan to chisel the next guy by being open an extra hour then backfires on everyone INCLUDING yourself. Now you HAVE to work on Sunday, at midnight, and you’re NOT getting extra income from your competition: you’re getting the SAME income but working two extra shifts and never seeing your family.
Prices doubled or wages halved with the extra work, take your pick. The kids wander the streets unminded by anyone, trying drugs, congratulations, was the extra dollar worth it? You got that BMW and sold it to put your kids in rehab when they were turning tricks for their dealer. There’s more to life than money. And that’s above how with half the hours, half as much driving happens, leading to quiet, rest, and oil savings. And your fathers warned you in 1960 and said all this would happen, now long ago forgotten. PS We do know Judaism isn’t the main religion in the U.S. that supports the Sabbath, right?
“a doctor in Denver[says] that medicine has become a for-profit industry,”
It was for profit – in a sense – since the Greeks practiced it, B.C. It was through America since the colonies although there were many charity hospitals and such. But it was never, ever, anywhere near this bad. Why? Government-enforced monopolies perhaps? It was still very functional and yet “for profit” as recently as 1990. What changed? Was it in 1992 the government got involved and passed legislation medical lobbyists wanted about HMO’s, etc? Weird how passing legislation from that industry led to wildly higher industry profits and more indemnity for them while providing less service to the people, huh?
In your example to Jean-Vivien with the homework problem about the square… what a wasted opportunity! As long as you don’t force the lines to be equally spaced, you can get so much discovery out of that single, seemingly simple problem. As any good diplomat negotiating a border dispute could tell you, the result depends entirely on where you draw the lines.
I’m guessing, though, the teacher meant it in the most boring way possible: draw a tic-tac-toe grid and count the squares.
The link was to the Guardian’s piece about the reaction of the Greens to the new Michael Moore documentary “Planet of the Humans.” It brought to mind some of your past essays on the topic of the religion of progress.
Thank you for the clear insight. Reminds me of what Thich Nhat Hanh said, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
I have recently been laid off and want to use it as a chance to gain skills. One of these is writing- and in regards to your #1 above perhaps it is time to take the plunge, invest in myself and begin researching the world closer. But on the other hand I’ve always assumed you needed to know something in order to write, and being of the opinion I KNOW close to nothing I never had much confidence in my pen. Any insight is appreciated. Thanks again.
My tuppence on a few of the topics brought up so far in the discussion:
Homeschooling. I was not home-schooled, nor was my daughter home-schooled. (She has, however, opted out of the tradition 4-year college experience, which is likely a good thing considering the debt load it was going to bring.) But as a civil libertarian, I have a strong aversion to centralization and any squelching of freedom-of-choice. Moreover, in a free republic anyway, children are not the property of the state, but rather the responsibility of the parents, and the choice of education should be left up to the parents and to the child as s/he grows older and can make those choices for him/herself. The last thing we need are more bureaucrats telling people how to think.
One-income households. We are such a household and have been for over a decade, more or less since my wife and I married. We joke, actually, that the reason I was able to convince her to marry me was so that she could leave her soul-sucking job which was slowly killing her. Granted, i make a good salary, but having her to manage the budget, to keep the house (except for dishes and laundry which she doesn’t care for and which I enjoy as meditation exercises), and to prepare better and more wholesome meals than you could find in many upper-end restaurants (at a fraction of the cost) helps us live very pleasant lives. She also has time to be with (and during the present crisis, help teach) the three grandchildren. Living in a modest cost-of-living region and in a smaller city has its benefits.
The “stickiness” of the lessons from the Great Pause. I am hopeful that a significant minority of people will make more or less permanent changes to their lives as a result of this experience and that many more will succumb to the pressure to (re)conform only slowly. There will, of course, be those who revert to BAU right away, but the presence of the other two groups will provide a window of opportunity for lasting changes to the system, which are sorely needed. As annoyed as I was at first by the interruption, I can understand its necessity in the larger picture. Humanity needed a solid rap on the knuckles by a stern nun to get it to pay attention to itself and that is exactly what we got. Will we do something useful with this opportunity? Changes will only be pushed from the bottom-up through the populist-style movements, as the elites will have no truck with such things. It is going to be fascinating to watch.
Very helpful, lots of things to consider in this one. Thank you. A few points in response, hopefully useful.
I had already started a time of quiet reflection in January, which I have been doing for a few years now. This January I read through “Reconnecting to the Earth” by Aaron Hoopes (which you had recommended on your other site) and it provided a lot of good structure. It’s a great book, definitely worth the money and time. So my time of reflection in January extended to the whole winter! Quite a gift. I’ve also been re-reading Mystery Teachings Of The Living Earth, my favorite of your books, provides great structure for reflection.
One of the challenges I’m working through is how to best focus my energy as i age – I’m closing in on 60 – and the energy I took for granted most of my life is beginning to ebb a bit. I changed my life substantially a good number of years ago – back in my 40s when I backed away from the managerial class. Since then I’ve started a small herbal products and gardening business, done some part-time IT consulting to pay the bills and focused much of my time on the garden and home economy. This has been a great path for me, but physically demanding. So, I’m figuring out how to shift more to teaching and giving up some of the heavier chores, gradually. I know I’m getting into that time of winding-down, the time of dissolution. I don’t want to go into it prematurely, but I do want to respect it. It’s emotionally quite a challenge, because physical activity has been so much a part of my identity over the years.
Regarding schooling and homeschooling, we had to take different approaches for each of our kids, since they each had different talents and needs. That’s the first thing I’d emphasize – know your kid, and design a program that meets their abilities. My son had dyslexia, really struggled academically, but we were able to find a public magnet school that specialized in aquaculture, a vocational school, which worked well for him. He learned practical skills in an experiential environment. He’s happily running an oyster farm in RI now, totally in his element. Our youngest daughter, who’s gay and on the spectrum, was bullied out of middle school. We home schooled her, but she’s brilliant academically and didn’t really need much tuition help from us. She enrolled in some homeschool co-op classes. She’s doing great now, finishing up her last year in college, and is very strong, flexible and capable. She basically managed her high school education herself, found a lot of inner strength. And, yes, she completed a week’s worth of high school academics typically in a day and half, so she had a lot of time to learn other skills. So, be confident that you will be able to find resources and build a program for you kid if you want to homeschool (or unschool or alternate-school or however you want to frame it) but try to really understand your kid’s specific needs and abilities, don’t try to force them through your own view of what you think schooling should be. It takes a bit of a leap of faith (or a big push) to step away from the standard public school path but it’s soooo much better once you do.
About that square subdivided by four lines… depending on how the lines are positioned, so far I’ve found positionings that yield 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, or 14 squares. I might have missed some possibilities.
Two or three pages of questions on that level could keep me occupied for days!
(I was a bit of an, um, difficult student in grade school. If actually given that squares question, I would have picked one of the more difficult-to-find answers—either 2, 3, or 6, in this case—wait to be marked wrong, then show its correctness along with all the other possibilities. That’s one of the ways I kept crushing boredom at bay.)
Looking forward (patiently) to your new Sacred Geometry book, by the way.
I remember a book on this exact subject that was floating around in the 1980s. The author crunched the numbers to show that, for a couple with two kids, having the lower earning adult quit working for pay and instead make running the household frugally a full time job could result in a better overall quality of life for everyone in the household.
It came to be regarded as obsolete within a decade because of one factor: the burgeoning price of housing, especially if a couple aspired to home ownership. Landlords and mortgage companies don’t care about the efficient running of a household. They want to see dollar income. I sort of figured that lifestyle was gone for good, but now I realize that housing was not experiencing the price increase that’s normal when demand for a resource continues to rise in the face of limited availability. What was happening instead was that housing had become the subject of a speculative bubble. In 2008 the bubble burst and something like normal household economics became possible again. It’s just taken this episode of quarantine to make people notice. It doesn’t hurt that the distance learning and working has opened up the possibility of moving to a place where the cost of living is low without having to find work there.
It was also the case that certain DIY skills didn’t save money anymore. For instance, in the garment industry, economies of scale and jobs being outsourced to low-wage countries resulted in finished garments being actually cheaper in American shopping malls than the fabric needed to make something equivalent. Only people who were an unusual size and needed something custom made could save money by making it themselves. That hasn’t really started to change yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
Many thanks for this salubrious perspective! Certainly, I’m one of those people who found public schooling to be the very worst experience of my entire life, and it seared me with a permanent wariness and distrust against bureaucrats and managers. Growing up I envied folks who were able to attend schools with different arrangements, and certainly I heartily endorse people taking their children out of school. Furthermore, the whole arrangement of property taxes paying for public schools is a political issue of no small magnitude. The arrangement really only benefits a very small segment of the population, I would much rather, personally, see cheaper rent and fewer public schools and more homeschooling!
As for the home economy: this is a really important point, too. I think that the big problem concerns the degree to which people have been brainwashed to conflate their jobs with their identities. To voluntarily choose to be a house-spouse is, in the eyes of many, to voluntarily choose to have no identity. Indeed, the time I was the house-girlfriend of a partner in Tennessee that person really used all of her economic clout to keep me working for her very long days doing back-braking menial labor, without even giving me a place to live during most of that time, without giving me any independent spending money, with me still buying most of my own food, for a long while during this time I was homeless, indeed, that was the time of my life I had the worst and blindest scramble. Of course, I allowed it all to happen, which is what ultimately hurts the most: I let myself get played and had and all on account of the sweetest and sincerest sentiments of love and the tenderest of delusions. Years after, that’s what still pains me.
Perhaps this is a major problem with being a homemaker — unless one has very good reason to trust the wage-earner they can really, with varying degrees of subtlety or heavy-handedness, use their money as a weapon, as a trap, as a threat. Certainly that’s what happened to me, and the scars in my heart remain. I’ve had bad employers, of course, and I’ve left jobs with the same suddenness I’ve ended relationships with, but I never also had an employer be my landlord and confidant, and that’s the profoundest difference, especially when things run off the rails.
I guess that my sort of experience is what inspired early feminists to insist that women have the right to work. That said, obviously the mandatory two-income family seems like a recipe for a lot of unhappiness, and it seems ultimately better that people do their best to navigate their own unique lives and their own unique relationships with what lights they have rather than by some robotically reductive script.
Not directly pertinent to the post, but more broadly to vehicles for inducing change and your efforts here as one such vehicle.
I would note that you, good sir, are a mover of markets. I noticed that the offer price for the single copy of View Over Atlantis available on Thriftbooks went from ~$7 to ~$23 over this last week. It also just happened to be one of the texts you mentioned in the MM post on the other blog. Coincidence? Hardly!
It is a small but visible example of how each of us can be influencing things in bigger ways that are not always direct or expected.
The comments about homeschooling and creationism are pretty ill-informed; for real indoctrination into unquestionable dogmas, nothing beats public school in the 21st century. I would be unsurprised to find that most of those same “homeschooling bad” commentators would have no problem with those latter dogmas, even when they openly contradict the standard “you can’t argue with science” argument.
In this college town public education is a shale-show, and most of the loudest preachers on the power of public education practice sending their kids to the town’s private elementary schools and quasi-private university lab high school.
There’s a reason for that. The private schools work, and the public ones don’t, at least at the task of providing educations to our children. (During the pandemic, the public school district’s primary function has been delivering three square meals a day to the 60% or so (!) of the student body that needs them. Admirable definitely, but also not really the role of education. Right?
My kid’s junior year in our town’s sole public high school was a criminal farce, because the administration implemented a “restorative discipline” policy over the previous summer without parental input (and, I think, without faculty input either.) Needless to say, all that was “restored” to the high school was the usual state of affairs when inmates run the asylum. Sanity prevailed after a giant group fist fight in the hallways – involving those students who normally would have been suspended or expelled previously – resulted in the arrest of a parent (!!) and the injury of at least one teacher.
My kid, whose graduation from high school this year will be virtual, reflects fondly on only one year of schooling – the year I got a new job that allowed me to send kiddo to a private school for 8th grade. The rest of her experience has been something from Dante.
Great essay JMG, and as others have said, my anecdotes from folks are all similar: people realizing the lack of value of this country’s education system, the secret joy in being able to get off the treadmill, etc. I was talking with neighbor across the street from me, who is a foreman / low level manager at a local factory. We were discussing the possibility of the lock down extending into the summer and even early fall. I said it wouldn’t happen, for a whole slew of reasons, including the awkward fact that I don’t think our economy could be paused that long without completely falling apart. Without missing a beat, in a casual yet serious voice, my neighbor replied, “ Oh, I hope it does. I hope the whole thing collapses. I really do.” I laughed pretty hard at that, my neighbor just grinned.
So I guess one of the things I’m most interested in is what will be the overall economic effect this whole thing will have. I’m a sole proprietor, which means here in NY state I can still work. So can other guys I know in the building trades. Folks with employees who run small to medium sized businesses? Unless they can get deemed “essential”, they’re tearing their hair out.
It reminds me of what a farmer told me one time about running a business and scale; he related his experiences after spending some time with a pastoral tribe in Africa. He noted how the families that kept just a few cattle, mostly for themselves, did well. A handful of families kept quite a few head, and commanded larger grazing areas, and made all their income from it. Then there was everyone else, who kept more than a few but not as much as the families with access to the larger pastures. The result? The folks who had just a few, did rather well (low overhead). The families with the bigger herds, did rather well (made enough to justify the cost of managing the larger herd). Everyone else? Stuck in a treadmill of poverty- they weren’t making enough and at the same time their overhead was too high. Not a pleasant place to be.
So I’m thinking that this will squeeze out lots of folks in the middle, making for consolidation from among the big boys at the top but also providing opportunities for those nimble enough at the very small scale. Interesting times!
Timely topic (as usual), JMG. Since the beginning of the “lockdown” in my province, I have hoped that forcing people to stay at home would be a golden opportunity for folks to get off the high-octane hamster-wheel that they call “life” and actually be still for a while. Sometimes just the act of being still physically can induce the mind to slow down and (heaven forbid!) reflect. Of course, reflection is something that neither big business no government want folks to do, but it looks like with Covid-19 in the driver’s seat, they have less influence than they usually do. I am glad to see that many people are taking this opportunity and reconsidering their priorities as well as questioning the rationality of being part of the “rat race”.
I guess I was lucky to have been born in a home that was decidedly “anti-rat-race”. At age 60, my dad decided to become semi-retired (being the owner of his own small company and trusting his employees, it was an easy thing for him to do) and simplified his (and our) life enormously. Good-bye, big house in the ‘burbs’; hello, small cottage in the woods! Dad always criticized the “rat race” and knew how to enjoy life. Once he fully retired, he lived in a small sailboat and then a recreational vehicle until about age 90.
Like my dad, I never bought into the whole rat-race thing and have considered the whole go-go-go lifestyle of folks in the big cities to be a kind of sickness. Sadly, I live amongst them in a big city! Regardless, I have chosen to live simply and unostentatiously and because of that my wife was able to work as a “home-maker” for a decade while the kids were small. I now work part-time (by choice) and am able to participate more fully in the broader economy called “life”.
Re: public education, it is sad that in much of Canada the teachers, children and parents are victims of the vacuous education fads and of a system that only benefits the ever-expanding reach (and budget) of the administrators and union leaders. A long time ago, I went to teacher’s college as I wanted to impart my love of learning to kids; after four weeks I had seen enough and said to myself, “frack this shale!” and never looked back. I do hope that Covid-19 is a wake-up call to an education system that is woefully inadequate.
When I have heard public school teachers worrying out loud about the growing popularity of homeschooling, it’s never about The Fundies. It’s about fear that the kids with the fewest behavior problems, the kids that the teachers count on to exert some peer pressure on the others, will be the ones most likely to be homeschooled. As those kids disappear from the system, the level of misbehavior will go up, prompting even more parents to pull their kids out, until the only kids left are the uncontrollable ones, and the ones whose parents have no other alternative or don’t care. On top of this, there is the issue that homeschooling parents are unlikely to vote to continue funding for the schools, so the teachers will find themselves doing a harder job with less money.
Underlying this concern is a problem that we as a society have never handled well: mental illness. This is personal for me because I was raised by crazy people and, as a schoolchild, lived in terror of certain obviously crazy peers. But the teachers were, for the most part, sane. The only time I felt really safe was during classroom time when we were all under the teacher’s eye. Oh, and in the library, another situation where I was under the protection of a sane adult. The thought of kids like me being homeschooled just makes me shudder. Some kids need rescuing from their parents, and putting an end to mandatory schooling will greatly reduce the likelihood of rescue.
wise words as usual. As someone who was home-schooled as a kid, I am forever grateful to my parents for having the courage to go against the status quo years ago. I hope we see massive changes to education in this country in the years ahead with alternatives to the public schooling like Waldorf, Montessori, homeschooling, and charter schools, all getting the equal respect they deserve. Cheers…
I wonder how much the decline of these institutions can be attributed to the hegemonic nature of American power during the latter part of the 20th century. The focus being to preserve the status quo while falling into a trap of believing in your innate superiority, there being no recipe for failure like success.
“Ah, so what your saying is its not our fault for getting into this mess and that the ship will naturally right herself after a sufficient collision. So we don’t have to make any adjustments to our course. Excellent.” 🙂
Just a report from the front-line:
I am working in a home office arrangement since 7 weeks.
The whole family is at home.
Normally home-schooling is forbidden in Germany, but now we have it.
A very interesting experience. That should have happened much earlier.
It is like you describe, one wonders what the kids were doing at school.
They are solving their homework much quicker now and have more time to pursue their interests.
As they have enough free time, we all are cooking together, trying new receipts.
Since flour is short in supply, but grain is available for a fair price in bio-quality, we just bought a grain-mill, Having own fresh bread at home is just delicious.
Somehow it feels that we have been catapulted back to the 80’s. It’s a bit strange but feels good.
With all restaurants and activities closed, we are falling back on activities like the ones we made as students: Some tours by car, visiting different towns along with a decent pick-nick in the countryside.
All is not crowed as usual, people are more friendly and relaxed.
It takes a bit of a time to re-arrange, but it feels good that society slowed down.
Even my client tells me that my team’s work-quality went up since we all are working from home.
So I am taking stock, what to keep for the future.
Definitely one can achieve more with less.
What really sucks is that travel abroad is restricted, but hey Germany has also nice places which are less crowed now.
We will take some time to explore it in summer.
@Yorkshire and JMG about electing (or selecting) our leaders.
I think randomly picking citizens for the elected offices is the best thing we could do. Provided they are paid the same as the current senators (something like 10X average wage) most people would be happy and not corruptible (why lose a great thing?).
As long as the terms are reasonable (maybe 4-6 years) there are plenty of opportunities for greater political participation and better political response.
Of course there is the issue of the permanent bureaucracy hampering any change – but we have that issue now!
Not to mention that there is historical precedent in the selection of the juries.
Unfortunately even a great thing like that can be corrupted – look at how “a jury of your peers” became a “selection of malleable idiots by lawyers”
@PatriciaT, your comment reflects my experience too. “Most of the women with families were like me. They HAD to work outside the home (as well as work at home); in some cases they had support from the extended family. I later realized that both my mother and grandmother worked outside the home – just not until the children went to school and even then, not always full time. It seems to me, that for several decades before it became ‘fashionable’ for middle & upper class women to enter the workforce, women of working class had to get outside jobs to help support the families, especially with growing urbanization and the loss of family farms.”
I remember being surprised when I went away to college and met people from more privileged backgrounds – almost everyone’s mother, grandmother, and so on stayed at home. Those few who worked typically had a prestigious career like a lawyer or a doctor. My mother, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers all work(ed) outside the home – shop clerk, house cleaner, hanging wallpaper. One of my great-grandmothers was even postmaster! It seems like situations were more flexible and fluid then, at least in the working class. There were years when the husband of a couple would stay at home, working the farm, while the wife worked outside the home, then things might flip for a while or shift around. Quite different from current expectations.
My husband and I are both working remotely these days, and our two kids receive “distance learning” from their public school plus supplemental work from us. In addition to gardening, baking, etc., I’m using this time to add in a contract gig with a small business with the hope of eventually building it into a part-time, remote position so I can leave the rat race, at least partially!
I am someone who has long been sympathetic to the homeschooling/unschooling movement, but have not been in a position to do so myself. I don’t necessarily see that changing right now, nor do I see that changing substantially among a lot of my friends and acquaintances (many of them are single parents). I actually have friends who unschooled their daughter for a period of time; and even though they’re urban homesteaders who live cheaply compared to most people, they could not sustain the arrangement economically and otherwise. They’re daughter now attends the same charter school as my own.
The whole remote learning situation has been frustrating, because I have a demanding job, and I don’t have time to monitor my child’s assignments for most of the day (my husband’s job cannot be done remotely). She does not work well independently and tends to get easily distracted. She’s in middle school and somewhat behind academically, but she also has a genetic condition that has made keeping pace with her peers challenging in general. And because of her condition, having affordable health insurance is a MUST and makes living on one income pretty much impossible. In fact, about half of the stimulus check I got went to paying a medical bill.
What I recently decided to do is turn off the devices and have her work with paper and pen/pencil, based on assignments I’ve selected. On the weekends, we will identify teacher-assigned online stuff to work on together. If she’s on the computer, she’s basically clicking around playing games while I’m on a Zoom call for work.
What I actually would expect to see more of is people subverting the system, or taking a hybrid approach. They keep their younger kids enrolled in school, but the level of actual engagement varies. The thing with homeschooling is that part of the appeal is that most other people aren’t doing it. If it becomes mainstream, many of the advantages actually evaporate.
If I regarding the Swan Comet:
This graph shows people determining rather precisely the timing of when the comet entered magnitude 5.5, or the range of human vision:
https://www.spaceweather.com/images2020/29apr20/lightcurve_detail.png. It seems that the the time of day is expressed as a decimal out of 100.
So if the first report of the comet at 5.5 magnitude is at April 29.87 then we can imagine that the comet was viewed when the hours of the day were 87% completed. There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes to an hour which equals 1440 minutes. 1440 x .87 = 1252.8
So the comet was seen 1252.8 minutes into the day, divided by 60, it was seen 20.88 hours into the day, so at approximately 8:52 pm, Nedlands West Australia.
If my math is correct — it may not be, that would mean that the chart for the first sighting of the comet would be as such:
I’m not sure that this image comes through, so I’ll also post a link to my blog with the chart I’ve put together speculatively: https://violetcabra.dreamwidth.org/47299.html
If people are better at math than I am, I would love to see the correct chart and I’d be even more delighted if it turned out that I did the math problem correctly. This of course, relates to public schooling, homeschooling and real life math problems which certainly has some relevance!
“Kevin, sure, but it starts with personal choice. Are you willing to set aside part of your week — for example, a chunk of time every Sunday — for reflection, solitude, and perhaps whatever spiritual exercises you practice?”
I’m working up to it. I currently set aside an hour Saturday morning, and over the next few months plan to make it gradually longer. Eventually I intend to up it to at least six hours a week, but I don’t expect to be there for a few months yet.
I was born in 1995. I’m too young to remember them, but I’ve heard from plenty of people who remember it how nice it was when almost everyone had a day off. I think it’s worth trying to revive, although I expect the pushback to be quite intense.
Off-topic, but do you suspect as I do that Joe Biden will be “switched out” for a nominee who is less of a glaring liability at this summer’s Democratic National Convention? Given how reluctant the Democratic National Committee is to give any power to someone young and more genuinely progressive, they would probably have to do some vigorous barrel-bottom-scraping to prop up their batty gerontocracy!
This is off topic, but I’ve just found one of the most jarring Deepfakes: a group of former US presidents performing N.W.A’s song F**k the Police. My concern with it is quite simple: it’s good enough that were it not such a patently absurd thing I wouldn’t be able to tell it’s not real.
I suppose this means I can no longer trust anything which I don’t see with my own eyes….
B3rnhard, my observations in the German city in which I live are a bit different. Young women still clutch their smartphones all the time. People are a bit more relaxed, but still, comminication is often rather rudimentary. Nice conversions do occur a bit more often, but on the whole, the changes in public behavior have been modest.
Oh Joan, I hear you, and I was wondering if anybody else would bring that up – “The thought of kids like me being homes-schooled just makes me shudder. Some kids need rescuing from their parents, and putting an end to mandatory schooling will greatly reduce the likelihood of rescue.” Someone else also brought up the issue of domestic abuse, and how being financially dependent on a partner can be a terrible trap in the wrong circumstances.
Generally speaking, I actually am on board with the sentiments expressed by this post and most of the comments – insofar that they apply to sane, healthy situations. But then there is the other side of things.
These days I find myself thinking about all of the former or part-time escapees who are now constantly trapped in their own private versions of hell on earth – the kids for whom school, however imperfect, was actually a welcome respite from an abusive or otherwise dysfunctional home, the residential college students who moved out thinking they’d finally gotten away from the miserable prison of their parents’ house but who are now remanded back into custody, the abuse victims who were working and saving money and hoping to get out some day, who are now trapped in the house. And I, too, shudder.
Like I said – in many, if not the majority, of situations, the home life and home school being celebrated by most posters is a good thing. But….well, there’s the other side of things…and for those people, things are no doubt worse than ever.
My own enjoyment of being home now is tempered by constant thoughts of how if this had happened when I was living in my childhood home, it would have made a bad situation a thousand times more unbearable.
Dear gods, the shoe has dropped: all the flailing, all the frantic inventing things which need to be done NOW, all the mandatory social calls which the upper classes are engaged in (I’m stuck living with some right now) is all to avoid having the time to think and realize just how much their lives suck.
It doesn’t make the news, but it got old within a week. I wonder how many people will be able to keep it up until things reopen…..
I think it’s “Weekend at Biden’s” for the duration, because any attempt to replace Biden as the nominee would immediately re-engage the Sanders contingent. The DNC can’t have Sanders as the nominee, nor can they well afford to infuriate all of his supporters by replacing Biden with anyone else.
It’s hard to see how Biden can win since he’d never survive even one debate and the bad baggage keeps accumulating, but the greater DNC establishment would much rather lose the presidency than lose their jobs.
JMG, Another great post! (as almost usual) I’m glad that people are reassessing their lives. There is much that could be improved in our world. However, there is a lot of unaddressed privilege in your post. Only middle class professionals have the luxury of working from home. Only they can afford the luxury of a house-spouse. The Underclass is either continuing business as usual, only with added risk and fear, or unemployed. I’m in the movie business and there is no telling when production will resume. I just hope government assistance keeps coming. I’ll be forced back out there as soon as it stops. The experts and commentators say that the pandemic will cause an explosion of automation, after this experience with the fragility of a human workforce, and the decks cleared, every employer who can will be wondering how many machines they can put in place of humans. A customer base taught to fear human contact will be more open than ever to self-serve options.
Home schooling is another privileged option. Well educated work from home or house-spouse parents can provide their children an excellent education. Not so much Underclass parents who barely graduated from our deplorable public education system. If they can afford to stay home they are not qualified to teach. If they can’t their children are sent to an ever more tattered public option. School is more than learning facts. It is also the forum in which we learn to be functioning adult humans. High school drama club was the only thing that prevented me from committing suicide when I was fifteen. Children who are not pushed out into society will live even more of their lives “on line.” Once again, it is upper class parents who have the where with all to arrange for private social opportunities (eg. Little League, Scouts, summer camp, or even play dates). The lower your income the more likely that it’s not even safe to play in the street. While college is dreadfully over priced, it is the only path young people have out of the Underclass. Young people from lower income families will not likely be banding together to hire private tutors, or readily welcomed into the groups that do so.
I’m a Druid and an urban homesteader with a decent sized garden on my small suburban yard. I’m also a whole-hearted Metropolitan. My entire life, other than grocery shopping takes place in “the city” (Atlanta) twenty minutes north. I’m a single gay man with a Masters degree nothing in common with my working class Het neighbors. I’m pretty certain they are not reading your blog. I see my life in the city evaporating before my eyes. Bars and pubs will likely all be out of business before they are allowed to reopen and it’s doubtful that they can find a financially viable way to do so. Likewise the mid priced sit down restaurants and family owned ethnic restaurants. Their profit margins are slim at best and they can’t afford cut their profits by 50%. I’ve read thousands of small hold farmers who depend on the gourmet market will go with them.The national fast casual swill houses will likely survive on the strength of corporate backing as well as the stratospherically expensive five star gourmet places with a large profit margin. Movie theaters are endangered. AMC the largest chain in the country will be bankrupt in July. How long before anybody feels safe spending an hour plus in a room full of strangers? Ordinary people will watch Netflix and large screen viewing will become yet another luxury of the 1% with private theaters in their basements. Park festivals, a big thing here in Atlanta, are in the same boat, along with the artists who depend on them. I don’t see theater, symphony, etc. fairing better. If it can’t be marketed online, it’s likely to die. It looks like we face a future of staying home baking bread whether we like it, or not.
Do you really think *that* many people are baking Bread? My grocery hasn’t had flour for three or four weeks but flour disappeared right about the time toilet paper started coming back. I’m sure some people are but I think buying flour is likely the latest neurotic hoarding obsession.
I agree about gay marriage. I believe the major root of most socially endemic homophobia come from the fact that, simply by existing, LGBT, and particularly gay male, people challenge the gender binary and the Establishment that it supports.
I just want to point out that “feminists” were never interested in people working even more and having even less time. I remember Gloria Steinem being quizzed about the stress of dual-income families, and that it was all the “feminists’ fault.” She pointed out that was not the feminism she signed up for, and that it was capitalist society that gains from everyone working all the time to the point of exhaustion.
Seems like a good time to quote Rebecca West again:
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat”.
Our lieutenant governor regular posts on social media about strengthening public schools by providing more funding, how schools are essential to the economy, charter schools and homeschooling need more regulations, blah blah blah….and also posts fun photos of his three children visiting him at work….all in private school uniforms.
The hypocrisy is to be expected at this point I guess.
I agree in principle, though I share the concerns about economic dependency and abuse (or even just misfortune–my grandmother insisted on both her daughters getting teaching certificates because, even if you got married to the best man in the world, Things Happen Sometimes). I think those could be mitigated by households with more than two adults (whether a polyamorous relationship, an extended family thing, or whatever) and by a community of family/friends who could support the other partner until they got back on their feet, but also by an economy that doesn’t demand ridiculously up-to-date qualifications/experience/etc, and doesn’t have ridiculous housing prices. If leaving to become a waitress and live with your mom for a bit is a viable option, then I’m all for having a one-homemaker-per-multi-adult-group general ethos.
(Relatedly: I’ve seen men get more flak for being househusbands than vice versa, or at least I’ve seen them feel worse about it, but anecdotes and data and all that. What I’ve seen more of either way is a stigma about living with parents or other family members, which is irksome. Independence is good, some time away from the place where we grew up is vital to most people, and everyone should contribute something to their household, so the non-rent-paying person playing XBox in their mom’s basement all day is indeed awful. But if you move back in as an adult, or have an older relative move in with you, and you’re doing chores or paying some amount of rent or whatever, I don’t see the issue.)
I’ve been talking about the whole lack-of-in-person-school thing online with others, and, while I’m neither a parent nor a teacher, my parents were teachers, and I remember my own public schooling. And yeah, the kids are *at school* for seven hours, but a lot of that time is moving between classes, waiting while the teacher makes Jimmy stop throwing spitballs, or going over work in a way that’s necessarily redundant because there are twenty kids with different learning styles and not all of them will be in class or paying attention at any given point. Plus, you waste like an hour a day because the state, for reasons known only to God, thinks volleyball is a life skill.
I went to private high school, which was much better.
And I think a couple things contribute to all of that:
1) Class sizes, OMG. People have mentioned them here, and there’s a reason that “small class sizes” are a big advertising feature of every prep school I’ve heard of. As the number of people in a group goes up, the chance that Amount X of information presented to said group will benefit Person Y drops. Person Y then stops paying attention, if they’re a typical worker/kid, and might very well miss stuff. Like JMG, I spent a lot of time writing fantasy in elementary school while the teacher went over what I already knew.
2) Distance from home/helicopter parenting and teaching. Boarding school was very efficient. You had an average of five classes per weekday. When you weren’t in class, you could go back to your dorm room, or wander around campus, or go eat lunch, or whatever. (If you didn’t eat lunch, you didn’t eat lunch, and if you were hungry later on and didn’t have two bucks for the vending machine, well, that was on you.) The administration didn’t feel that it needed to structure every minute of your life lest you fall down and scrape your knee. I suspect this might also have been the case back when most people could walk home and back for lunch, but I’m not old enough to remember.
3) Curricula designed for the corporate world. Nobody needs to spend an hour of their schoolday playing volleyball–teach about the body and how to exercise, yes, but specific games, no. But the 9-5 world values Teamwork, because There’s No “I” In Team So Here’s Twenty Hours of Unpaid Overtime, so kids learn that. Student presentations are how one kid learns to make two minutes of material fill twenty, while the others learn the valuable art of pretending to pay attention while actually writing/dozing/thinking about sex–very useful in meetings, but 90% of meetings, virtual or not, could be memos. And so on.
One of the books I’ve been reading over this pause is “Understood Betsy,” which features not only a sickly city girl becoming awesome and capable by doing chores up in Vermont, but a neat Montessori-style classroom with only a couple kids. If you can read at a seventh-grade level, do that–and while the teacher is hearing the sixth-grade pupils, you give the third-graders a hand.
I think it is good, as I said, to get people away from their family and home neighborhood for a few years in adolescence/early adulthood, but societies have had a lot of ways to handle that: apprenticeships, fostering, national service of some form, and so forth.
I also, though worried about my parents and older friends, am enjoying the pause. Various plants continue coming up–I was elated to find that I actually do seem to have carrots–and I just spent some of my stimulus check to get a pair of gardening gloves that are a) sized for me, and b) intact about the thumb. Gardeners’ Supply Company, in upstate VT, seems to be a pretty good place–employee-owned stuff that looks like it’s not made for planned obsolescence.
Pixelated, thank you for the data points!
Ace, thanks for this.
David, that’s what the government said. Some news media outlets I saw early on in the outbreak were waving around claims of up to two million deaths. No, I didn’t keep the bookmarks.
Yorkshire, like so much that comes out of Marxism, a fine mix of real insight and dogmatic cluelessness. Thank you.
Jay Dee, yes, I was sorry to hear about the fate of Comet Atlas; hopefully Comet Swan will put on more of a show. As soon as I can work out which decan of Aquarius it appeared in, I’ll work up a tentative prediction.
Sunnnv, thank you.
ScotinSweden, many thanks for the data points. As for change, exactly — first you change yourself; then you identify the ways you participate in the features of your society that you find problematic, and change those; and finally you look at options for helping to change society as a whole. The climate change movement, to name an obvious example, tried to do just the third step, while ignoring the first and second — and that’s why it’s accomplished so little.
Michael, good heavens, yes. I had 12 years of public school and 5 years of university education, and yet most of what I know I learned myself, outside of schooling. These days you basically get to choose between being an autodidact and knowing nothing at all.
T.Gibbs, quite a few people have tried to nail something similar to school doors for years now. Fortunately the current crisis has made it possible for a lot of parents to figure out just how badly their kids are being schooled — and so change is an option.
Chris, of course! Staying busy is a way to avoid noticing what’s actually going on, and I suspect many people do that deliberately to themselves with that goal in mind. I have to schedule in breaks from writing and other activities now and then, and give myself some silence and solitude, so I don’t make too many stupid mistakes.
Aidan, I hope not.
Tude, I’m sorry that it fell through, but under the circumstances that seems smart.
Nachtgurke, one of the advantages of the current crisis is that it makes such reflections easier. Are you by any chance a fan of the novels of Hermann Hesse? Several of your comments had me flashing back to Das Glasperlenspiel…
Elvishpresley, as I noted in my post, there are people for whom a two-income family is a good idea. Obviously if you can’t trust your spouse, that would be something to take into account. Not everyone married is in that situation, though!
Denys, I’m increasingly convinced that the intrusive behavior of state governments toward parents is going to be a massive hot-button issue in the politics of the next decade, and populist politicians will make vigorous use of it. You might see if there are politicians in your state who might be interested in challenging the bureaucrats on that.
Kiashu, I don’t blame the teachers at all — I come from a family of schoolteachers and heard lots of stories from the trenches growing up. I blame the administrators, the bureaucrats, and the politicians for making it all but impossible for teachers to do their jobs. I note, though, that if it’s so much easier to teach 1-3 children, maybe teaching children in groups of 1-3 really is a better idea…
Another reason public schools will HAVE to change is funding.
This may not be true in other areas but here in Central Pa, we have a LOT of tourism. It isn’t just Hershey Park and the Amish.
Because of amusement and hotel taxes, a lot of $$ flows into the local school districts. In the Sun (our local, very good weekly) the Palmyra school district is contemplating big cutbacks. Last week it was Hershey’s school district.
Sadly though, it looks like it will be instruction and library funding that gets cut and not administrative bloat.
@ Bryant – wow, thanks for that link to the Guardian article on Michael Moore’s latest. Frankly, I’m amazed it didn’t just come out and call Moore a racist, a member of the alt-right, or a troll on the intellectual dark web.
The article not only connects to JMG’s ongoing critique of the religion of progress, but it specifically connects to a post he wrote last August on the next twilight of environmentalism and the emergence of a narrative equating environmentalism and right-wing politics.
I remember a C-realm podcast after that post, and the host KMO’s relative incredulity at JMG’s proposition, and I also caught what I considered a salient and significant error in KMO’s position (and in the position of progressives in general): the equation of concerns about climate change with a more general concern about the environment and all its ongoing crises. Climate change definitely remains center stage as a concern of the progressives in the U.S., but almost every other form of environmental concern (e.g., human population overshoot, resource exploitation, etc.) is ignored, at best, or written off as “encoded [fill in the blank bad thing],” at worst.
Glad to see Michael Moore has come to his senses about this. I look forward to checking out his documentary. Thanks again!
I have no first-hand experience with American public schools, but it seems to me that one of the bigger issues is that Americans tried to have their cake and eat it, too. Allow me to explain. Actually, let me first quote part of our host’s reply to GM: “Since, as you say, you’re not from the US, you may not be aware that one of our national values is a little thing called liberty.”
Right. Americans do love their liberty. But here’s the thing: when you let each school (or even just each town) do as it pleases, you’re not going to get an excellent public school system. No, you’ll get results that vary from amazing to amazingly awful. Okie dokie, good for the amazing part, so what do you do about the amazingly awful part? Well, one way to address that is by having a highly centralized system that stipulates the curriculum to be followed in the entire country. That will not eliminate variation, but it’ll reduce it, and (assuming the curriculum makers more or less know what they’re doing) it may just entirely eliminate the amazingly awful part of the system. The problem is that you’re likely to dumb down the amazing part, and in any case, you’ll wind up with a fairly high level of uniformity, which Americans don’t much like.
And so, we get to having and eating the cake. As I understand it, the Federal government decided to let the schools teach whatever curriculum they like, but then mandated that students take all these standardized tests. And what’s on the tests? Not any particular content (except, I suppose, for math). Can’t be. There is no set curriculum. So instead, they test “skills.” And that translates into passages from uninspiring texts by unremarkable authors followed by multiple choice questions (or occasionally questions requiring very brief answers). Now, it’s been said that he who controls the exam controls the curriculum. Bingo. So now you have a de facto curriculum (consisting of uninspiring texts by unremarkable authors), even though on paper you have nothing of the sort. (But schools are welcome to teach anything they like!!! Say they. Except that “anything they like” is not on the test, so it doesn’t count.) And kids get fed a cardboard education, meant to prepare them for cardboard tests. (BTW, I got much of this from E.D. Hirsch’s _Why Knowledge Matters_. Highly recommended.)
So anyway, you got the worst of both worlds (centralization and decentralization). Personally, I tend to favor a higher degree of centralization (with a set curriculum), but then again, I’m European. A case can be made for the other side. American public schools, sadly, seem to be stuck with a particularly toxic mix of the two (centralization and decentralization).
In case anyone is interested in my observations on gardening in the spring of COVID-19, here is my blog post on the subject: http://livinglowinthelou.blogspot.com/2020/04/gardening-in-spring-of-covid-19.html
My mother claims the public elementary school I attended in the 1960s was an experimental one. I’m not sure what she means by that; it wasn’t near the big land grant university in town and I don’t remember student teachers or observing education majors in my classes. But besides the unit on the Amish in third grade that I mentioned several weeks ago, the school had another interesting feature: no homework. We did all our work in class. That left plenty of time after school for play with my siblings and other children on our street and we took full advantage of it. I liked school well enough as I learn best in a structured environment and most of my teachers provided enough to chew on in their lessons to keep me engaged. Nor did I suffer at all from the lack of homework; it was easy to slip into doing homework and to do well on it once I entered seventh grade. On the other hand, I also enjoyed having all summer off to spend reading or playing outdoors, and I’m certain I learned a lot from those experiences as well. Looking at schools like the one I attended might provide some pointers in improving public schools for those who have an interest in that.
@ joan, El, and btidwell – sincere thanks for those perspectives and the reminder that mine is but one of many.
One family member has made some well-meaning suggestions about job searching “once things get back to normal,” but I haven’t gotten any other pushback on becoming a homemaker following my layoff from friends or family members. Since we got married, my husband and I have made a lot of frugal lifestyle choices that our salary class peers consider rather eccentric in order to live off of one income and save the second income, so I think most of the people we’ve told rightly assume that we ran the numbers and made the decision responsibly.
Through most of human history public education has not been a thing. I submit that we need a different way to think about getting children out of abusive situations than putting them in a school all day. Child abuse has always been a thing, after all. For those who have a passion about this, what was done before compulsory schooling?
I believe, from anecdotes in novels and such, that it was mainly dealt with by people in the local community who knew what was going on, but I haven’t looked into it. There’s an incident in the great children’s book Understood Betsy where the community conspires to get a local man made good in the big city to take in, and take away, the local drunkard’s stepson.
I must truly be the odd man out here, but I was to a large degree enjoying my life before this bullcrap set in. I had gradually worked my way up in the company that I worked in, and I had a job that I was good at, that I liked, with a schedule that, though it had imperfect hours, gave me the two days off in the week that I wanted. I had been feeling increasingly confident, and I was ready for even more improvement. Granted, maybe all of this was due to a cumulative effort that took place slowly over many years on both the inner and outer planes, and I’ve been at least skeptical of following the herd my whole life, but there it is.
Now, however, I am getting free money from the government in the great, and soon to be bankrupt, nation of Canada. I have no kids and no spouse, and I live alone, so I have nothing to do, and am faced with loneliness only slightly better than people in jail.
I have been taking some positive steps to make the best of this unfortunate situation, but all told, I might have implemented them anyways, just slower and at a later date. One thing that has probably literally saved my life, considering I’m an extrovert and a people-person, has been the barbell that I bought myself for my birthday. I’ve noticed that working out with it is way more fun and has increased my level of motivation and enthusiasm for working out, as well as making me way more muscular with way less effort. So I’ve leveled up in a hobby where I was floundering yet hanging in the game for years. The mood boost that working out gives me is probably literally keeping me from suicide. I’ve noticed that when you’re right on the edge, probably what keeps you in the game of life is a combination of little things.
One of my gurus told me many years ago to learn to cook. At the time I just took it to mean that I’d end up being a loser and living alone. Ahem, while that part may be true, I do find that I really enjoy the end product of my own cooking. Both the taste and the generally good etheric boost (despite the fact that even while I am doing it I mostly hate cooking) have been wonderful.
I’ve also been keeping up with my meditation practice, going for walks, going to the beach and tanning when it is nice out, reading, and catching up on fourteen years of missed TV.
Personally, I miss hanging out with my friends, going to restaurants, eating gelato, seeing my co-workers and my customers, and having romantic possibilities. So this is hell for me.
The only three things I was looking to change in my life were to get a fixed schedule at work in terms of hours, get transferred to the downtown location instead of the suburban branch I worked at, and to get a girlfriend. Now all three of those are off the table indefinitely or permanently. My job is probably the last thing that will ever be allowed back because of these new rules, and it is doubtful whether the company I worked for will return, and doubtful that the company would be financially viable in a population that is largely composed of paranoid panicked yuppies. From what I have seen, women seem to be the most in favour of social distancing, and most are saying point blank they will not be going on any dates until this is over.
As far as the school system, I get the impression that the extremely crummy impoverished rural Ontarian school I attended, staffed largely by the most braindead losers fresh out of teachers college, was actually miles ahead of the average American school. Our schools had a lot tougher material from what I gather, and the focus by the time I was coming up, was not on learning facts, or performing to tests, but mainly on productivity. Most of the best students had mediocre intellects but were mentally healthy enough and unquestioning enough to cope with the truly titanic quantity of homework our schools assigned. I certainly could have learned a lot more in a lot less time. But, in terms of homeschooling, I don’t know if my basket case of a single Mom would have been any better than the public school system. I assume it would have been far worse. My Mom was emotionally unstable and I’m starting to think she had Asperger’s as well, plus we were poor, received no child support, and she always had to work full time.
The home economy is a bit of a troublesome area considering I live by myself and work full time. I had made it my goal to cook food for work about three times a week, and I worked at a place where the only way to cook was the microwave, so it was necessary to make my food before going to work and just heat it up at work. I live in a big urban area and I’m not sure how much I could do myself. I was doing pretty well financially and saving a little each month, sometimes more, it didn’t seem necessary for me to start growing my own wheat on my balcony or anything like that.
Yes, to my knowledge World Book is the only print encyclopedia company left in the US. The company is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is not my favorite corporate overlord, but I have to applaud them for continuing to produce such an archaic product, and to do it so well.
When our set arrived, the mailman noted the weight of the box and asked if we were ordering ammunition online. When I told him what it was, he said he had never delivered an encyclopedia set before.
We got ours from the company as a past-year overstock, but a couple of my friends have been able to get them inexpensively at library sales. Well funded children’s libraries sometimes purchase the lastest set every year to stay up to date and let go of the previous versions.
We can all agree the rat race is bad, but if things go bad (or even very, very right) there’s going to be a lot of hard work ahead. What would constitute a healthy attitude to it, especially as the Protestant work ethic is so deeply embedded? I do have a few ideas.
In The Book of the Courtier, Baldasare Castiglione introduced the concept of ‘sprezzatura’ – effortless accomplishment. These were Renaissance polymaths who were trying to be brilliant at everything, but couldn’t look like they were trying too hard. It’s not perfect – it has definite overtones of aristocratic disdain. It also formed in a very deceptive and backstabby environment. Like most other ideas it was also taken to ridiculous extremes, such as trying to dance and swordfight without breaking a sweat.
But it would be an excellent corrective to the culture where overwork, stress, and being constantly busy are status symbols. Madeleine Bunting skewered those attitudes spectacularly in Willing Slaves and I was sorry to hear she seems to have been swept up by corporate mindfulness. Too strong an embrace of sprezzatura could also devalue the efforts of people who really have to struggle to do something, or even something that nearly killed them. However consider the number of people with no natural talent, who think success through ‘grit’ makes them superior to people who were just good the first time they tried it. In my more spiteful moments I consider writing a book called Hard Work: the Last Refuge of the Talentless. Sprezzatura may have a balancing effect there too.
There is another consideration of the power of words. I always resented the concept of the work ethic. Both the moralising tone and the fact someone else thought they could demand it of you. Then I started reading about Soviet athletes having something called ‘work capacity’. USSR and USA teams would sometimes train together while at competitions, and the Americans couldn’t even get through the Russian team’s warm up. And I’m like “Tell me more…” There are a lot of methods from sports science, human factors, and management consulting you can use to make yourself more capable and efficient. More psychologically significant is that work capacity is in you; yours to deploy as you see fit (especially as there won’t be a Russian coach shouting at you).
Also, if you call house and farm work ‘chores’, you fail marketing forever. With branding like that it’s no wonder your kids don’t want to do it. 🙂
Ordinary schools are just as dumbed down in Ireland and the UK. Everything is aimed at getting the average/below-average kids to attain the basics. Kids who really struggle get special teaching assistants. Kids who are anything above average spend their time bored.
My daughter’s learned more in the last month with me than in the year at school before that! Unfortunately there’s no possibility of me homeschooling her. On the bright side she wouldn’t want to anyway. She absolutely loves the social side of school – friends, enemies, competition, drama, all of it.
But the dumbing down is unbelievable. I have a UK geography textbook aimed at 7-9 year olds (I got it because the Irish one was busy teaching 7 year olds that farmers sometimes have sheep). It has a map of Europe that shows the main mountain ranges and oceans. Then they fill in two pages in a workbook. They’re instructed to refer back to the map to answer the questions.
At the end of the workbook’s two pages there’s a little tick box where the child declares that they now know the countries and mountain ranges of Europe and the oceans that surround it. As if! Hardly any adults in the UK could tell you that. All the child ‘knows’ is how to open the other book, read the labels on the map and copy them into the workbook. It all reminds me very much of the tick-box attitude of administrators in adult cubicle world actually…
Meanwhile my daughter knows off by heart the capitals of half the countries of Europe, one interesting thing about each, and can say hello in three of their languages – and that’s in a tiny amount of time every couple of days spread over a month.
I would love to see it change, but discussing it would seem to require acknowledging that children have different capacities for learning. Outside of the two extremes of remedial education and the very rare gifted programme, that’s one of those facts that’s both obvious and taboo in polite company.
Quick note on the comet math I did above if I may:
I misunderstood the scientific notation; it is in universal time rather than local and so I’ve redone the graph for 4:52 AM local time for Western Australia and the resulting chart makes way more sense given the location of the comet in the constellation Aquarius. the more accurate chart is posted here: https://violetcabra.dreamwidth.org/47299.html
The square divided by lines problem resonated with my experience. I went to a “good” private school in the “good old days” (graduated in 1973). My disillusion with the schooling system really got going in the 7th grade. My Algebra teacher failed my final exam because I didn’t show all the intermediate steps, and I was forced to retake the class the next year. I argued with her that since the answers were correct, I should have not failed. I still think Mrs Kovel was an ass for failing me.
Evidently, I didn’t understand that the purpose of education was to learn to follow orders. I still haven’t accepted it, though I will fake it in order under certain circumstances.
The excuse of Covid 19 should make it mandatory that every store which the public has access to be closed once a week for a storewide deep cleaning. Voila! A reinstitution of blue laws without the religious framing.
@Mister Nobody: The Hill (for Washington insiders) has published an editorial suggesting that Hillary replace Biden. Is that scraping the bottom of the barrel enough?
@ Isabel Cooper: every time I read “There is no I in team”, I need to point out that there is a “me” in team. 😉
@David from Normandy
Here’s one reference for the potential 2M death toll (found via a quick Google search):
I guess this one’s not black. It is erupting though. Thought you’d be interested.
JMG and GM,
Well, we have heard the two most common objections to homeschooling here already, “Socialization” and “Christian Fundamentalism”.
Children are going to be socialized no matter what, the only question is: by whom? Here is my own family’s experience: Because of all the time spent with parents, tutors, and other adults, I think it is fair to say my kids are better behaved and more pleasant to spend time with than the average school child.
Over the past few weeks, a cohort of public-schooled kids have joined the online classes my kids are taking and they are the majority of the kids wearing pajamas, rolling on the floor, not contributing, or being disruptive to the class. Some home schooled kids are malefactors, no doubt, but on the whole I would say home schooled kids are more serious students and better behaved than their public school peers.
As for the Christian Fundamentalism wing of home schooling, yes, that is a factor but I believe it is a small minority. There is a popular book out by Tara Westover called Educated. It is a memoir of growing up in an isolated family in Idaho amongst family with mental illness and Mormon fundamentalism. Mrs. Westover finally escaped and joined the educated elite at Cambridge and Harvard…a happy ending, which is maybe why it is so popular. I believe her sort of abusive homeschooling scenario is fairly rare, and I have never seen a convincing comparison to the likelihood of children being shot, abused, or psychologically damaged in a traditional school versus homeschooling.
Here is another interesting angle you might not have considered: some of the Christian homeschooling groups have produced terrific teaching materials that are now available to everybody, particularly in the area of classical studies. We have sampled far and wide and now use a number of courses and teaching aids from Memoria Press, a Christian publishing company. I’m telling you it isn’t so easy to find grade-school materials for teaching Latin, rhetoric, or Roman History and they do a good job.
This past week my son’s cursive practice words included “Devil”, “Satan”, and “Archangel”. I thought it was hilarious and am not too worried about fundamentalist indoctrination through penmanship. Also, since he prefers to learn math from tentacled horrors, we use Beast Academy, and it all balances out.
Germany does indeed have many beautiful places to visit. My husband had cousins in Germany and we visited them a number of times over the years. Germany is the country we have most frequently visited. I have many happy memories of time spent there and the wonderful hospitality of his family. Go for it.
@Peter Van Erp: Ha! Also “team” is “meat” spelled backwards, which is a good bit of resonance, to me, with corporate culture.
A friend of mine once ran a Space D&D game where we got to the caverns of Ilsensine, evil brain-god of the mind flayers, and the whole thing was a parody of office culture, complete with referring to brain eating as “utilizing human resources.”
It is…probably not coincidental that Ilsensine was one of the few traditionally evil D&D gods that the party didn’t work with and/or try to redeem in the course of that campaign.
@JMG re: Comet SWAN:
As of 20:52 UTC on April 29 (the naked-eye sighting), according to JPL Horizons’ ephemeris, the comet was located at Right Ascension 23 hours 52 minutes 38.38 seconds, Declination -19 degrees 19 minutes 20.0 seconds.
Which is definitely in the constellation of Aquarius (or so says Celestia), but I think (if I’m doing the math right) it equates to 28° 9′ 35.7″ tropical Pisces.
I agree about Gardeners’ Supply! Last year I did an experiment, with 3 tomato plants of the same variety in self-watering containers, one in Pro-Mix, one in a homemade mix (peat, perlite and vermiculite, plus a little garden lime), and one in Gardeners’ Supply Self-Watering Container Mix. They all did equally well, making the Gardeners’ Supply mix the best deal around for smaller quantities of light potting mix. (Since with both Pro-Mix and peat, you have to buy them by the bale.)
I also use their supports for my peas and squash/melons/cucumbers. They now have multiple sizes of the “cucumber trellis”–my old one, from when they only had one size, is a little bigger than the current “medium.” They no longer sell the small pea tunnel–shame, because it works really well. I guess it’s similar to the “Super Hoops” they now sell, but not adjustable and came with trellis netting.
Having said that, though, the open question to my mind now is how far the elite are willing to go to try to reassert their authority.
Reassert? Whatever do you mean? It looks to me like this entire covid response and its over-the-top reporting and BoJo saying the lockdown is indefinite – is a display of elite authority on a breathtaking scale.
If this has demonstrated one thing it is just how buffoonish the jet set really are. These idiots can’t do anything right.
Well, yes, and I think more people are seeing it – hope it’s enough.
Two months ago I would have had a very different take. I would have thought the “the State” would have made its power evident by now. Turns out it can’t.
Gee, what more power would you have thought to see?
William, that’s an excellent point. It used to be the case that to call someone a “consumer” was to label him a worthless person who just consumed, and didn’t produce anything.
Owen, ah, but it’ll be much easier on people if they find they want to make the changes that they’re going to have to make anyway. As for the schools and colleges, no argument there at all.
Irena, it used to be standard here in the US for people to have insurance and backup options in place for such eventualities — for example, life and disability insurance policies to keep money coming in if the breadwinner died or was disabled, and a lot of people who planned on becoming homemakers made sure to get a marketable skill first, just in case. There’s no reason why that couldn’t be done again.
John, I’m delighted to hear that! The longer this goes on, I suspect, the more people will ask such questions — and I suspect that the mainstream media and the political and economic establishment will not like the answers that result.
Bipeninsular, exactly. “How many ways can you divide this square using four straight lines?” would be a great assignment, but no, that’s not what they had in mind.
Bryan, yep. They’re basically screaming “Heretic! Blasphemer!” at the top of their lungs.
Jimmy, the Delphic oracle proclaimed Socrates the wisest of the Greeks because he knew that he knew nothing; everyone else thought they knew something. To become a writer, you don’t need to be omniscient or even hyperinformed — you just need to know how to gather information and present it in a meaningful, readable, and enjoyable form. No more excuses, please — if you want to write, apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and the tips of your fingers to the keys of your keyboard, and do it.
David BTL, exactly. It’s going to be entertaining to watch.
Mark, thanks for this! That’s a good point about kids — one size emphatically does not fit all.
Walt, and if the question had been written that way, it would have been great.
Joan, that’s a valid point — though there were regions that didn’t get caught up in the housing bubble.
Violet, and of course that’s just it. As I noted in my post, there’s no one blueprint for a life that doesn’t suck, and the early 2nd wave feminists were right to argue that women should be able to work if they wanted to. It tends to be forgotten sometimes, though, that not all relationships are abusive…
David BTL, funny. It’s not the first time, either — and I’ve also watched phrases and concepts that I’ve introduced into circulation spread very widely. One person can indeed have an influence!
Rage Monster, yep. The fixation on creationism et al. is exactly the rhetorical game I discussed in my post — talking about that makes it easier to avoid talking about the sheer vacuousness of American public education.
Andrew, fascinating. Yes, I could see it having that effect.
Ron, I’m sorry to hear that your education system is as bad as ours. I know quite a few people who looked at teacher education and had the same reaction you did, btw — the scenes in my novel The Shoggoth Concerto where the protagonist realizes that an education degree isn’t for her were based in part on that.
Joan, so noted, but the public school system as it currently exists is broken. It’s going to take a serious shock to shake it out of its current dysfunction, and a rush to the exits by parents pulling their kids out might just do that.
Ethan, I hope so too!
Jo, I think that’s an important part of it. The myth of progress feeds into the same thing; since our managerial elites think of themselves as being on the cutting edge of progress, it’s unthinkable that any of the programs they put into place could be bad for kids, since after all, progress is as inevitable as it is beneficent…
B3rnhard, I hope more people notice those same things!
NomadicBeer, well, it worked well for Athens!
MJ, and a hybrid approach is also workable for some people. Again, the point of my essay wasn’t to substitute one uniform answer for another — it’s to talk about recognitions that may, if we play our cards right, give us a wider range of choices so that more people can get their needs met.
Violet, thanks for this!
Kevin, glad to hear it.
Mister N, I’m still trying to figure that out. The alternative is that the Democrats have realized that they’re going to lose the election and Biden is the sacrificial lamb who’s been picked to be led to the slaughter.
Kevin, yes, it does. Now imagine what’s going to happen to the entertainment industry when somebody figures out that they can produce new Marilyn Monroe movies at will.
And yes, that’s exactly what it’s about. The funny thing is that a lot of people realized that back in the 1960s and 1970s.
Btidwell, plenty of working class families homeschool; the ones I know are aware that their own education doesn’t give them enough to go by, and so they make use of the vast supply of educational resources that are available for homeschooling families. While it’s difficult right now for working class families to get by on one income, that’s an artifact of the way real wages have been driven down by neoliberal economic policies, and is already starting to reverse as sensible tariffs and restrictions on illegal immigration take effect. If you take the time to read some of the accounts in the comments here by one-paycheck families and homeschoolers, you may get a better idea of just how much flexibility there is!
ScotinSweden, to my mind, the tragedy of second wave feminism is that it started out as the belief that women are people, and gradually turned into the belief that men aren’t.
Denys, typical. I hope his opponent in the next election has a field day with that.
Isabel, one of the things I’d like to see in place of near-mandatory college would be some kind of non-military national service for teens right out of high school. Two years doing something useful, with three square meals a day, a roof over your head, free health care, and a chance to get far from home and meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet — it might do a lot of good.
“I submit that we need a different way to think about getting children out of abusive situations than putting them in a school all day. Child abuse has always been a thing, after all. For those who have a passion about this, what was done before compulsory schooling? I believe, from anecdotes in novels and such, that it was mainly dealt with by people in the local community who knew what was going on…”
Perhaps some kids were helped by the local community, who knew “what was going on”. Obvious physical neglect and abuse are hard to hide in small communities, I imagine.
I can only speak from my own experience, which was the experience of being raised in a financially well-off, outwardly-normal-looking, but deeply emotionally twisted and abusive home – one which, in the absence of physical violence, was never seen as anything but wonderful by outsiders, at last as far as I ever knew. (Narcissists, unlike some other kinds of abusers, can put on a great show for outsiders!) For me, school was always better than home, and schoolteachers were the only semi-trustworthy adults in my life, once a few elderly relative passed on (all the younger relatives having become quietly estranged from us, and family friends non-existent ).
I’m not saying that’s an argument for warehousing all kids in schools. I’m just echoing a few others’ points that for a minority of us, in the type of society we live in now, being warehoused five days a week was actually the better deal, sadly.
Maybe in a completely different social structure, someone else would have served the role schoolteachers did in my life, or there would have been some way other than school to get away from home. But right now, in the atomized nuclear-family society we live in, there really just aren’t a lot of other escape hatches, and this current situation has got to be truly awful for some.
They’re talking about having Hillary Clinton step in if Biden crashes and burns? Oh bright gods! Scraping the bottom of the barrel doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Have these people in the MSM and the Democratic Party learned nothing? Is the senile elite really that senile? Or is the incompetent thaumaturgy of the Magical Resistance backfiring in a spectacularly horrible fashion as our host predicted a while back? This election is going to be hilarious to watch, especially with US Attorney John Durham’s widening criminal investigation into the Russia-gate hoax and recent reports that the case against Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn is imploding thanks to evidence of serious misconduct by FBI investigators in documents released the other day by court order from a Federal judge.
Teresa, you’ll know that change has come when it’s time for the administrative bloat to face the axe. I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Irena, the US had one of the best public school systems in the world in the mid-20th century, when every single school district in the country set its own educational policy, under the loose supervision of state boards of education. Our public school system began falling apart when first state governments, then the federal government began trying to enforce uniform standards for everyone. What made the old system better was that local school boards were elected by the people in each school district, and so if a school wasn’t doing an adequate job of teaching, the school board would be thrown out of office in the next election and a new board would go in and fix things. You’re right that we currently have the worst of both worlds, but more centralization — effective as it seems to be in Europe — doesn’t work anything like so well here.
SLClaire, fascinating. I also attended an experimental school for part of my stint in elementary school — many districts had one of those in the 1960s and 1970s — but in my case, it was not a good experience; some experiments fail.
Lauren, I’m glad to hear that.
Merle, of course there are some people whose lives don’t suck, and some of them are going through hard times right now. Sorry to hear that you’re one of them.
Yorkshire, it would be interesting to see if a revival of sprezzatura could get off the ground!
Dot, many thanks for the data points. I wonder why it is that so few people are willing to deal with the fact that children have different learning styles and capacities.
Violet, and thanks for this also.
Peter, yeah, that sounds like the sort of petty tyrant who so often ends up in education. Gah. I managed to avoid most of them in my schooling, but not all.
Jay Pine, very much so. Thank you.
Samurai, thanks for this.
Brendhelm, excellent! Thank you.
@JMG: I’d like that a lot! It’d be great to see something like the Forestry Service or other New Deal programs, but in a more collegial way–go plant trees, or build bridges, or take down firsthand historical/folkloric/musical accounts, for a few years, get used to working hard, get out of your old neighborhood. It’d be neat.
I don’t, myself, think that I could ever trust a romantic partner or anyone else enough to be completely dependent on them: I’ve watched a lot of true crime, and every time someone says “but I *know* they’re a good person,” the first reply that comes to mind is that BTK’s wife would’ve probably said the same thing. 😛 But as you say, different options are good, and also I freely admit to being the most cynical romance novelist out there.
@Cary: Awesome! I’ve ordered a trowel, a seed spacer, and a pair of elbow-length leather gloves–we have multiflora rose out here, which is very pretty for about two weeks and then makes you appreciate the full weight of that “forest of thorns” bit in Sleeping Beauty, among other things–and I’m really looking forward to them.
@Darkest Yorkshire: I’m glad someone else is bringing up the Protestant work ethic, which is one of my mortal foes both on principle, and, like all good mortal foes, infesting my own mind. I think it might be good to start looking at types of work and why they’re important or necessary–or not. Is this vital to someone’s survival? Does it enhance someone’s life–or does it enhance my own to do it? (I’m not going to argue that jigsaw puzzles are going to make the world better, but they’re fun.) Do I need to be the person doing it right now?
And also props for sprezzatura, which I hadn’t heard since freshman year of college, and which is a nifty idea!
@BoysMom: I am tickled that we both mentioned Understood Betsy in the same post! IIRC, the townsfolk become aware because of the schoolchildren talking about the kid’s condition at recess. but that doesn’t have to involve school–it could’ve been any group of children playing and chatting about a kid in the neighborhood.
There has been a real rush, here in rural PA, on well-known varieties of wine. I’ve been drinking one called “Blue Diamonds.” I like it–it’s sweet, a little grape-y in a way that resembles no actual grapes I’ve eaten in my life–and Dad says it tastes like kerosene. Experiences!
John Michael wrote, “Jean-Vivien, ‘Here is a square. Divide it with four lines, two horizontal and two vertical. How many squares do you have now?’ Now imagine two or three pages of questions on that level…”
If that is an actual question students are having to deal with, good luck on them. Hopefully there’s an “equally spaced” or something like that missing from the question? Otherwise the answer could range anywhere from 1 to 14 depending on how far apart the lines get drawn. Of course, if it is being taught to a test, the question on the test may be just as indecipherable. Then the important thing would be to make sure the students memorize the “right” answer, so they will pass the test. Kafka could never have come up with a plot so absurd.
Unfortunately, I can vividly remember being frustrated with questions that impossible to answer way back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was a student. My math teachers got used to me bringing the textbooks or even tests up to them to ask about necessary parameters missing from questions. My favorite was multiple choice tests where none of the options were the right answer to the question as phrased, but you could reverse engineer the question they thought they had asked based on the answers that were provided.
Wow, I forgot how much I loved taking standardized tests! It really is a indictment of the US educational system that taking the tests was often way more interesting than sitting through the interminable lessons — so many missed opportunities to engage students and bring them a sense of the sheer wonder of the world around them. And teachers weren’t even teaching to the tests back then, so I can only imagine how unbearable most classes must be now.
Other than learning how to manipulate teachers and how to avoid getting singled out, what are kids learning in school today? There is always something to be learned, no matter how horrendously designed the lesson plan or test, though it may not be what the teacher hoped anyone would come away with. Sounds like parents are discovering some unintended lessons hidden in the poorly designed online classes. Quite the self goal by the teachers — this promises to be quite entertaining!
Further thought: one way to get the “other trustworthy adults and also kids to play with” benefits without the school structure would be through organizations like the Scouts, or 4-H, or DeMolay, or whatever. Those organizations also do a good job, IIRC, of teaching practical, physical skills: I remember learning to weave a little in 4-H, and wish I’d stayed with it longer.
I believe the US was among the first countries in the world to educate its young people en masse. So, it’s not surprising that in the early 20th century, it had one of the best systems of education in the world. But is that because that system was amazing, or because other countries hadn’t yet built their systems and so had nothing to compete with? And didn’t some segments of the population (black Americans, in particular) have appalling educational outcomes, including high illiteracy rates? (https://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp)
Perhaps the US has tried to build a flying car of a public school system. The point being: a high degree of decentralization has its advantages and disadvantages, as does a high degree of centralization. But if you try to combine the two, you wind up with the worst of both worlds, because the advantages of the two are largely incompatible. Does that sound about right to you?
“William, that’s an excellent point. It used to be the case that to call someone a “consumer” was to label him a worthless person who just consumed, and didn’t produce anything.”
Yes, comrade! Useless eaters! 😉
When I was growing up, when you bought something from a (typically local, small) shop, you were a ‘customer’. When you bought a newspaper, it wasn’t to ‘consume news’. When you bought a book or magazine it wasn’t to ‘consume content’ (gah! I hate that expression!).
You knew if you wanted or needed something, and when you had enough money, you bought it. If it was expensive, and you really wanted or needed it, you saved up. Oh my, no credit cards! And everybody had Sunday off!
Other than that, mostly what you were was a ‘citizen’. Your only real input into the system these days is how you spend your money, and that’s all anyone seems to care about. The transformation from a nation of citizens to an aggregate of ‘consumers’ is just one of the many toxic legacies of the Reagan counterrevolution.
Sure, no problem. First, we read to the kids ALL THE TIME. Have been since they were in the womb, and still do. BUT, we didn’t push literacy on them AT ALL. We let that ripen at its own pace, wanted them to experience the world with their other senses first. Consequently, they were both about 8 when they really started reading (thank you, Calvin and Hobbes!), but they were above grade level competency within a year or so after that. When being illiterate became a hurdle to what they wanted to learn about, they took care of it almost on their own.
As for our day-to-day routine, we are very into natural magic and organize our schedule on the basis of planetary astrology.
Monday – Science
Tuesday – Social Studies
Wednesday – English
Thursday – Math
Friday – Art
Saturday – Agriculture/History
Sunday – Physical Ed
(We also organize our dinner plans along the same lines…e.g. Thursday (tonight) is wild game, fish in this case, beef tomorrow, pork Saturday, etc.)
We put in about an hour/day of actual one-on-one instruction, and then guide them into projects or research/writing, and so forth. We also do the Brain Quest workbooks just to make sure they’re getting the Common Core stuff, but that doesn’t take that much effort really, as our host noted in this post. (Common Core mathematics are especially backward, IMO.)
Of course, I remain available for “teaching moments” and to answer questions. We do allow them to watch online videos, but the caveat is that they have to recap what they’ve learned for us, preferably in written form. (Doesn’t always make it onto paper…)
We definitely encourage them to have hobbies (they both do jiu jitsu, chess club at the library, son does 4H, daughter does yoga and has her lemonade business in-season, etc), get out into society and interact, play with neighbor kids, start clubs, keep rooms clean, help with household chores, take care of pets.
Notably, we let them follow their own interests, organically. Taurus daughter is BUSY! Sewing, crochet, makes her own clothes, writes like a maniac, has a couple of clubs with neighbor girls. Cancer son is more introverted, naturally, but has been building a natural history museum in his room for a couple of years (fairly impressive! and makes gifts easy…), wants to be a paleontologist or ornithologist, and openly discusses the evolutionary connections between the two disciplines.
And yes, I’m still left with enough time to attend to 2 self-reliant, low-impact properties and a small business, ref soccer, tend to the garden and orchard…
Mostly I feel blessed that we got two such wonderful children and I certainly learn more from them than they do from me. We play the role of governor and guide more than we do teacher and taskmaster. That seems important to me.
But every kid is a new adventure, and I wish you the best, sorting out what works for you and yours.
The Fear-mongering over millions of deaths was intense: https://reason.com/2020/03/31/2-2-million-american-deaths-from-covid-19/
Documented here. Of course, of course, they would say, read the fine print! No one said we would do nothing! But the real nub is how it was portrayed emotionally in the media, whether they even discussed fine print, and how people were taking it. Everyone knows you can put backspin on your frontspin, long after the event settles down. The upper end of the spectrum was portrayed in the millions, for the USA, if we did not do what was suggested, or were especially tardy about it. There was no finer grained discussion, at least in the public space of the Res Publica. My perception is that they anticipated a very dire scenario indeed, unless you consider six digits pushing seven “non-dire”.
We live in a beach town, and the quarantine meant closing down all the bars, restaurants, and beaches. The tourists evaporated. Even though our beach-tourism-based businesses are taking an awful hit… the general sentiment seems to be “good riddance!” Shootings and drug crime have declined noticeably with the disappearance of the spring break crowd. This is not lost on the locals. Good on Maui! May similar sanity prevail here. The “we need tourist dollars” vs. “why can’t we enjoy our own beaches without all the trash and drunken college students falling off balconies?” debate has been raging here for decades. I hope that enough people like the no-tourists difference to push hard for the kind of strict petty crime enforcement that would encourage the worst crowd to move along.
How many homeschoolers do you actually know? I mean, the cloistered-creationist-borderline-cult homeschooler is a common enough stereotype, but I homeschooled a bit in my youth, and currently homeschool my own kids, and I have never actually met one. I take it on faith that they exist. But I have a hard time with the idea that I should sacrifice my (not super-genius) kids over to the local wreck of a school system just because someone, somewhere, might be teaching something you disagree with.
FYI, the standard practice among all the homeschoolers I’ve known is, when you get beyond the math your parents (or grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or retired engineers at church) can teach you, you go take trig/precalc/calculus at the community college. Problem solved.
On the subject of changes to lifestyle, I’m considering getting a kick scooter. I can’t afford a car, don’t really trust the currently-shrinking bus system right, and have physical issues with bicycles. I tried them, didn’t work for me. Does anyone here use a kick scooter, and how practical do you find them? Would you recommend them to an adult who wants to get around slightly faster and more efficiently than walking? Also, where is one supposed to ride it? In a bike lane? At the side of the road? And is there somewhere other than Amazon I can buy one?
But is it also the case that a lot of homeschooling parents are teaching creationism, climate change denialism and other absolute falsehoods to their kids? Yes, they are.
In other words, what you are saying is that those who believe as you do have the right to declare that others who believe differently are wrong, and because they are wrong, you have the right to decide that they can’t teach their kids.
The problem is that I consider neoDarwinism not only foolish, but unscientific and behind the times. Yes, I think that JMG and others, if they truly looked into the knowledge gained in the past 20-30 years would be astonished. I don’t believe in Biblical creationism, but those who believe in Darwinism consider any input from intelligence or intention anathema to their theory. So because they have declared themselves right, they can then dictate that those who believe that consciousness is a real thing in the universe are wrong and have no rights. Even though I have never found a Darwinist who can discuss the details on a scientific level.
As to climate change, its nonscientific bunk, in my opinion. Of course, I might be wrong. I just haven’t been able to see how. It’s not like large groups of society or scientists or priests or what-have-you have not been wrong before. That is why we are supposed to have quite a bit of freedom in the US, so as not to have smug minorities dictating how others are to live.
@ JMG and Irena re dumbing down of education and centralization:
There’s a lot of centralization going on in German schools. Frankly I see it as a way of removing the last parts of sense and liveliness left in education. One of the most cherished terms nowadays is comparability. You have to be able to objectively compare anything to everyone. If this guy is doing his oral exams in English and the other in math, of course you have to be able to compare the result which at the end is just a number. Do I have to say that you can’t even compare the exam of person A to the exam of person B even if they are done by the same teacher, let alone different teachers or different subjects? In my experience, many teachers don’t like to hear this, but the personal factor is of extreme importance in education. I am not a good teacher for everyone. That’s just the way it is. On the other hand, some pupils like my way of teaching while they’re bad with other teachers. Naturally, one of the former will do worse in my exams than one of the latter. If I am honest enough to myself (and that’s what I’d expect or at least hope of a grown-up well educated person with several years of experience on the job) I can try to compensate that, but I suppose I’ll never be able to achieve 100%. After all, humans do make mistakes. Besides the personality issues there are a whole lot of other factors which each individual weighs differently which make education a highly subjective experience.
But large parts of the work of our administration aims at standardization, removing the subjective part from the process education which makes the whole thing ultimately rather dry and lifeless. Not long ago, a math teacher in my federal state would set up the complete a-level exam for his or her course. There are a lot of requirements you have to satisfy and the exam will be evaluated and if everything is formally correct approved by a commission of the ministry. Such an exam is meant to be done by the students uninterrupted in about five hours time. While I hate correcting them (I’m not very fond of marks in general), it can be fun to set up a demanding test which incorporates actual real-world problems and research broken down to the level of the students. All teachers did this, and the result was a huge variety of different tests some mediocre, maybe, but many inspiring and interesting. Now large parts of the exams are centralized, and the test are just ugly, dry and lifeless. Just to give one example.
So I preach for real comparability. Because if you want to compare, you actually need something worth comparing. Give the schools a building that is not just a ruin. Give them money. Allow them to make small classes and hire more teachers. Evaluate them, but give them more freedom to make their own decisions. Sigh.
Re Hermann Hesse: That’s curious. Despite having his books on the shelf it never occurred to me to actually read them. Can’t tell you why. It’s not even that I find Hesse uninteresting or unimportant. I pick up the book, I put it back. Something repels me. In the light of your comment, maybe I should give his books another try…
One more point on education which has been made clear to me in these ten-plus years of marriage: education comes in many forms, by many vehicles, and not by virtue of this or that certificate. I spent a decade in college, finally exiting with a BA, MS, and PhD. I got through three-quarters of an MBA before my divorce cut that project short. And, as mentioned last week, I’m contemplating a multidisciplinary MA because I’d like like to study someone like Rudolf Steiner in a formal manner.
My wife dropped out of high school in 10th grade. After her divorce, she worked herself off welfare while raising two kids and getting her GED.
It is far from clear which of us is the more intelligent and I’ll readily admit that more often than not it is me acknowledging her points when it comes to things of the real world.
She gained more practical knowledge in her rough-and-tumble existence slipping into bars at 16, hitchhiking 30 miles to Sheboygan, and learning from those experiences than I ever did in all the books I’ve ever read. We complement each other well, though the differences in viewpoint can sometimes be stark. But she is not by any means “uneducated.”
Dear JMG, you’re most welcome regarding the research and math! As for abusive relationships, it’s funny, after all the time that has passed I don’t think I’ve ever quite formulated in my mind that the relationship I was in was something I could call “abusive,” but with the least little reflection I see that it really was quite abusive. And so, thank you, for using that word, since I think I may find some healing in it. Part of what made the relationship so toxic was the constant one-down position I had in it: my partner was older, had a booming business, owned a house, came from a wealthier family, everyone in the tight-knit community knew her better than me, and everyone loved her and held me at arm’s length. And I had low self-esteem in a variety of ways. And the good times were so good and the bad times were so bad, and I always had to pay for every little thing, and everything got worse with time and she got meaner and began to berate me more for my perceived flaws and failings. It ultimately turned out I had no power in the relationship and she got to control everything and if I didn’t like it I could drift around the neighborhood sleeping in sheds and what have you. She talked about giving me spending money, but that were thin and airy talk, and once she had used me to get what she wanted she pretty much dismissed me and I went back dejected to Massachusetts. Point being, it seems like a pretty standard script for an abusive relationship. So funny that I never managed to find that word! So, again, many thanks — it’s a helpful word for framing my understanding of that time in my life and hopefully healing.
Fascinating article on the many changes facing high education post-virus, from small liberal arts colleges to ivy league such as Princeton. A sobering read–yet maybe some much needed shifts will emerge. (from Wall Street Journal)
While it is absolutely true that not all relationships are abusive it is difficult to maintain a good relationship when the laws favor one party over the other as laws in the West have favored men for most of the last few centuries. When women could not obtain credit in their own names, work in most professions, have a share of the marital property after divorce, use birth control, etc. they were at the mercy of husbands. Being at anyone’s mercy is not a comfortable position, nor is having someone at yours. I trust I will not be thought to exaggerate if I compare it to the position of a good, well intentioned master and his slaves. While his conscience and his own personality will inspire him to certain actions the rest of society will regard him as a weakling and coward who is just making it difficult for everyone else. For the marital equivalent I’m sure we can all supply the appropriate unDruidly term. Back in the 80s I did an extensive study of the laws affecting women for an article on the subject. It was very enlightening and depressing. Much has changed since then, especially in regards to divorce and employment, but I would regard any woman as a fool who does not have a back-up plan in case her relationship goes wrong. Even good partners can die or suffer a personality change that ruins the relationship (drug addiction, mental illness, etc.).
@ JMG – Horrors! I had no idea it was THAT bad – no real science labs? in your reply to PVguy, you said, “many chemistry and physics courses at universities these days don’t actually do experiments — they have students run computer simulations of experiments. I kid you not, it’s gotten that lame…”. One of my fondest memories was a high school chemistry lab class gone wrong – the teacher was doing a demonstration that worked too well – class had to be evacuated because tear gas was produced and the ventilation system was defective. College chemistry lab was a challenge because sometimes I just didn’t get things right the first time (a few times, never) – but i these experiences forced me to reflect and redouble my efforts.
One of the things, in this country, that pushed schools/education (among many programs) further along the decline was revenue sharing (i.e., theft), that while it got its start some years earlier, started in earnest in 1968, which took money & control of money from the states to the Feds.
Just read the Harvard article. Shakes head in wonderment. I went to an alternative school (in Canada) for four years, and a number of people I knew there were homeschooled, or homeschooled part time and went to the alternative school part time. They seemed fine to me, and not deprived in any way I ever noticed.
The article goes so far out on a limb it undermines its own argument, and winds up looking like when the author complains about the potential for parents to have way too much power over the thoughts of their children the author mostly wants that control themselves. The irony is that there likely is a small minority of parents who are that kind of problem, and you could make a decent argument about needing a few more safeguards. But this article is so over the top it looks like a power grab on the part of the author.
And barely a passing mention of how public schools are failing a substantial number of students in them. I didn’t leave my regular public school for no reason after all, I left it because I was being bullied all the time and my mom got tired of seeing me come home in tears every week. They were unimpressed by the quality of teaching that last year either, and were worried because I’d started saying I hated math. This experience is Canadian 1990s, not current USA, but everything I’ve heard suggests the situation in the USA these days is worse, not better.
That said, not every adult is naturally a good teacher even at the one on one level. My mom is excellent, my dad trying tended to result in my being more confused and frustrated than I was before I asked for help, and my step-parents did not have the education to help with highschool math. I’ve tutored chemistry and biology, and while I did it well enough for people to pay me, I don’t think I’m especially good at teaching.
I just realized something right now while reading an opinion about Dr. Fauci being possibly guilty of war crimes for his involvement in creating a dangerous chimera–which would be beyond my ability to assess. Nonetheless, no one guilty of war crimes in the US has been even remotely threatened by justice for a very long time. But what the late Andrew Lobaczewski recommended under severely corrupted regimes was disengagement from the corrupt system. Our engagement with it, even to try to fight it, he said only empowers it further.
Thus I think it is very very perceptive of you to focus on this particular effect of the lockdown and encourage wider realization among people that they were running in place in a hamster wheel for the elite’s benefit and amusement.
“my grandmother insisted on both her daughters getting teaching certificates because, even if you got married to the best man in the world, Things Happen Sometimes”
My mother told me that in her youth women were encouraged to learn to type and to take dictation in shorthand so that they’d have something to fall back on if that Something did happen.
Teresa from Hershey:
It’s never administrative bloat that gets cut. Those people always seem to have ironclad job security and it’s a darn shame. Here in Vermont we spend a ton of money on the schools – even though there is an ever decreasing number of students – and there are boatloads of bloat including endless educational requirements cooked up by the wokesters in the state legislature who think that teaching kids to be activists is a worthy use of the school day and an acceptable use of our hard-earned tax money.
For those who aren’t sure if any particular indoctrination is going on in the schools, might I suggest that it doesn’t need to be actively taught to be pervasive. When I was small I attended a Catholic school for a couple of years. Even if there had been no formal religion classes, all of the subjects in the school would still have been taught from the perspective of a Catholic understanding of the world and our place in it; this is the ground upon which the rest of the Catholic education had its foundation. In our local public schools around here the overriding philosophy is that of the political far left and in all subjects, even those that have nothing to do with social justice, racism, the benefits of socialism, etc., children are nonetheless taught through the lens of these beliefs. It does not have to be overt: from the choice of textbooks to how teachers direct class discussions, the entire curriculum is suffused with modern leftist thought.
Re: your comment to Irena
Federal standards seemed to be the end of the driving spirit behind organic agriculture, as well. One day you have small farmers huddled together at a farmers market trying to outdo each other with their attentive closed-loop cultivation methods, and the next day you have corporate ag conglomerates trying to figure out just how little they have to do to get a round green-and-white stamp on their products. The dividing line was the passage of federal organic standards.
FWIW, I think the old spirit is reemerging, but for now, perhaps “know your farmer” is the best we’ve got.
Ugh, SATs. I took them, I did well, and I knew the whole time that they were mostly testing my ability to take standardized tests. Even the test prep authorities admitted that during the late nineties/early 2000s. (I also…did not technically cheat per se on the math bit, in that we were specifically not allowed to program our calculators with formulas such that we could run them, but there was no rule saying that we couldn’t type in a version that didn’t run as code, thus basically removing the need for memorizaing said formulas. I still maintain that mine was the more useful long-term skill.)
@Walt F: Lord, tourists. I lived in Malden until last August, and worked in downtown Boston from 2010 through 2018, and I really want one of those shirts. They’re everywhere.
Plus, as I remember saying about the time they were considering bringing in the Olympics, we have plenty of our *own* subway-clogging packs of loud sports fans.
@Rita: “Being at anyone’s mercy is not a comfortable position, nor is having someone at yours.”
That’s a good point! In addition to what people have mentioned here, I’ve seen or heard about a number of relationships where the partner with economic power was being either abused or at least treated badly by the other, and felt obligated to stick around because they saw the breakup as kicking so-and-so out on the street/forcing them back into a bad family situation/etc. (Which…my solution is “okay, So-and-So, you have six weeks to get a job and a new place, but we’re not a thing any more, and I’ll be going out on dates, and I don’t want to hear it,” but a) that assumes I trust the ex not to react homicidally, and b) I am a heartless creature, many people are not, and many others are very good at weaponizing whatever vulnerability they have.)
I don’t think having one homemaker partner is untenable, but I would advocate that both partners go in with enough savings to pay for, say, a month or two in a modest apartment (or the equivalent in community support*) and keep those accounts separate. Which gets back to the economic issues, I suppose.
* The Friend On Whose Couch You’re Always Welcome to Crash was an invaluable asset back when I dated, and I recommend that everybody thinking of getting seriously linked up with an SO have one or two such arrangements.
@Beekeeper: Exactly! I think secretarial school and nursing were also options for Mom and Aunt Chris, but they both ended up liking teaching, so that’s the one I associate with that side of the family.
Of course, back then a teaching certificate was a teaching certificate, and typing/dictation was typing dictation, is the impression I get–you might have to brush up a little before going back to work, or start out again as a substitute, but there was much less of the notion that you were now unemployable because you’d taken time off the workforce to concentrate on family matters of whatever sort.
(Of course, Mom says, you also were basically expected to quit your job as soon as you got pregnant, and never mind what you felt about it, but that seems to have passed, thank goodness. Opposite of one bad idea etc.)
Oh me, oh my, what shall we do
The world has come down with Nothingburger Flu
From the bowels of China it came like a bat out of hell
Giving the legacy media a Nothingburger story to sell
The elite classes got in on the scheme
Faster than you could say “Covid 19 meme”
“Stay in your home, flatten the curve”
Says Ellen and Cuomo and Greta Thunberg
Virtue signaling from their luxe apartments and McMansions
Egged on by executives with multi-million dollar pensions
We wouldn’t want old people dying too fast
We prefer to make cancer, dementia, and Parkinsons last
Two years is enough but a decade is better
To take Pops from functioning adult to drooling bed-wetter
Nowadays he’ll be in an uncrowded but expensive ICU dying alone
Reduced to a ghostly image on a leased iPhone
Never mind the entire middle class
In financial free fall, a Depression without surpass
Owned a small business? I guess that’s too bad
Soon there will be many vacant commercial spaces to be had
If you work in a blue collar service low paying profession
Hygiene just became your number one obsession
There’s no relaxing for you if you’re not the suited workforce
But by all means, the comfortable shame from high horse
As you wonder how the hell you are going to pay your rent
They shout online about how the break’s heaven sent
You are a white supremacist Nazi if you want to go back to work
In their DIY Coronapocalypse gone berserk
Never mind the coming world famine
If you need to work to survive, you don’t respect Wamen
Or Science, or distancing, or pronouns on Twitter
Or whatever cause du jour occupies the dour and the bitter
They don’t understand that fields of untouched rotted wheat
Mean that Africans who depend on aid will have nothing to eat
Also DOA is your local mom and pop restaurant
Their stimulus hasn’t arrived, and not for lack of want
But hey, you’re doing okay so it surely doesn’t matter
If the entire underclass becomes a brown splatter
Your walls are high and your fortress is grand
And you have not yet deduced that it is made of sand
I find them extremely effective and have transported myself extensively with them throughout my youth. they are about twice as fast as jogging, easy to carry, and mesh well with other forms of transportation such as cars and busses. They are much easier to transport than bicycles, but require a lot more physical energy than bicycles and they go considerably slower, too. Still, in places where there’s a lot of asphalt and concrete they take less exertion and time than hoofing it.
My epiphanies from at least 30 years ago.
Watching TV, realizing that there is no reason for me to be vicariously living an adventurous life doing interesting stuff when I could ,actually go out and do interesting stuff on my own. Maybe without the gunfire and explosions, though. Army days are long gone. So I do. I go out and do things locally, several activities a week that keeps me super-fit and engaged in exciting pastimes, like sword-fighting and horse riding. Why would I want to spend time away from that?
So every year I go through the roughly the same conversation:
Co-worker: “I’m going to go X for my vacation. (where X= cruise/trip to the Caribbean/Florida/ &c.) Where are you going on vacation?”
Me: “No plans.”
“When are you taking time off?”
“Haven’t thought about it yet.”
“How come you’re not going anywhere?”
(inside voice) “Because my life doesn’t suck like yours does so that I need to escape from it?” (outside voice) “Because I have lots to do around the house.” i.e. replaced all the siding, upgrade the insulation, built a proper work-shed and metal forge, re-built a saddle for my riding, &c. &c.
(tone of half-pity, half-bafflement) “Oh… a staycation, eh?”
On another related note, I must say I’ve been a bit annoyed at the lack of flour in any of the markets near me, as baking bread is a suddenly-discovered fad for so many, because I have been baking my own sourdough bread for several years. Mostly because a 10kg bag of flour produces 2 tasty loaves a week for about two months, for about the same price as three commercial loaves of air-bead. So I was almost in danger of running out of flour these past 2 weeks because it is suddenly cool to bake bread at home. Sigh.
Thanks for the continuing inspiration.
Another thing that’s striking as a realization is that the treadmill can be stopped at will. “Wait, what? There’s an off switch?” And then the question is, who gets to decide when it gets slowed or stopped, based on what criteria? Subject to what accountability?
I’m having difficulty with the adjustment though. Have been in long-descent preparedness mode since about 2005, doing family and household scale things (gardens, chickens, home repairs, canning, emergency savings, etc.), but also trying to work at the local government/local NGO level with local independent reporting/op-ed/blog publishing, farmland conservation campaigns, homesteading workshops, watershed protection campaigns, fighting corporate land developers and capital malinvestment, and challenging local government enabling of same, trying to encourage local government obstruction of same, running for local office on populist perspectives, trying to help build legal structures that would support local government obstruction of same, against the preemptive laws and crippling lawsuits the corporations threaten and bring to bear against obstructive local governments.
I think I take my fighting Scots-Irish stock to heart, and often find myself back in political conflict with the local powers-that-be even after I throw up my hands in burnout/despair. This has lead to some ego-stroking benefits – people less likely to speak up in public meetings and write punchy critiques to sass the officials enjoy , and they say encouraging things about my work. But it also takes a terrible emotional toll that I’ve gotten better at managing over the years, but still not good.
Suddenly, the standard of living decline is on everyone’s minds, not just the fringy folk. And more people might be trying to persuade local officials to take different directions, not just the conflict-tolerant activist types. I’m finding it bewildering. I don’t know where I fit in the new scheme. At all. And I can’t figure out what to write or why anymore, and am totally frustrated by the tenor of the internet as a public discourse medium these days. So much effort seems so wasted by disappearing into the cacophony, and so much censorship of non-conformist views is happening so blatantly. Matt Taibbi had a great essay on this today.
Also, I’m realizing that my lack of a smartphone is a major handicap in COVID-times. I know it’s how my kids are keeping in contact with their friends and keeping a sense of human connection, and I think a lot of my friends would be texting back and forth with me just to keep in touch. I can’t just bump into them on my regular errands and activities around town, or plan to meet for coffee, and they don’t really email so much. But I don’t want to get a smartphone and thereby put myself more on the minute-by-minute GPS corporate-state surveillance grid. So I’m tremendously lonely, even while grateful to be able to be safe at home with my husband (whose income supports our household and is stable for now) and two fairly independent kids (age 21 and 15), with a good neighborhood for walking, and plenty of around-the-house projects to work on.
Just feeling adrift and anxious about the prospects, and process of finding a place to anchor again.
Isabel, doubtless I’m biased by my own experience and that of other people I know who’ve made marriage work over the long term. In my case, there was quite a while where I was financially dependent on Sara, and for quite a while now she’s been financially dependent on me, and it hasn’t been a problem. Still, I’m not a romance novelist. 😉 (Well, unless you count The Shoggoth Concerto.)
Christophe, I used to get “wrong” answers all the time on tests for exactly this reason. I finally settled on learning how to psych out the badly designed multiple choice tests my schools used, and got absurdly high grades for minimal work.
Isabel, an excellent point.
Irena, iirc the US public education system was largely an imitation of the English board school system, and by the time we had universal public education most Western European countries had had comparable systems in place for some time. To my mind, the major problem with the US system isn’t the collision between centralism and decentralism, it’s the extent to which the educational system has insulated itself from the consequences of bad policies. That’s a pervasive problem here — you also see it in our medical industry and in the universities: no matter how bad the outcome, nobody in the industries ever has to worry about negative consequences. Figuring out a way to fix that is challenging, but it has to be done.
Sgage, no argument there!
Arkansas, thanks for this.
Nachtgurke, “comparability” — that is to say, treating children as interchangeable parts in a factory. It’s a bad idea, and never works well. As for Hesse, interesting — he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s one of my three or four favorite German authors.
David BTL, an excellent point. One of the reasons I value being a member of fraternal lodges such as the Masons is that the other members come from a wide range of backgrounds, some with much less formal education than I’ve got, and yet they’re far from uneducated…
Violet, you’re welcome. There’s real magic in giving something the right name.
Lydia, many thanks for this.
Rita, fortunately those laws have changed — and I would encourage any man entering into a relationship to have a plan B in mind as well, as things do go sour in the other direction tolerably often, you know.
PatriciaT, that’s what I’ve been told by a couple of readers who teach physics at the university level. I know, it’s appalling.
Patricia O, one of the profound vulnerabilities of a corrupt system is that it can be pushed over the line into failure if people just stop taking it seriously. That’s much of what happened to the former Communist nations of eastern Europe, and something of the same kind could happen here as well.
Grover, it’s certainly the approach I use!
Kimberly, I trust you’ve put this to music.
Renaissance, and highly useful epiphanies they are. With any luck the flour supply will catch up to demand shortly.
KW, start by getting a lot of extra rest and maybe a massage — you sound very stressed, and that limits what you can accomplish. After that, see whether you can find ways to help people who are new to decline adapt to the new reality — that’s very helpful and can speed the transformation we’re in.
@pygmycory.. If your problem with bicycles is balance related, get a bike that is slightly smaller and have the pedals and crank removed so that you can sit while your feet are on the ground. This will let you use the bike as a walker. This gives you the advantages of wheels while also being able to carry a load when needed.
That was a fabulous screed.
The only people I have run into who take the Sabbath seriously are a few Jews and the 7th Day Adventists. Christians compromised with the competition to monetize everything.
Hi John Michael,
Agreed. It is time well spent and yields good results, although some people do over indulge that aspect of their personalties. And like you, I schedule in down time. If it is not scheduled in, it often gets absorbed by other activities.
Speaking of schooling. I have a riddle for you: If people cannot think clearly, how would they know that they are unable to think clearly? 😉
‘I wonder why it is that so few people are willing to deal with the fact that children have different learning styles and capacities.’
I think different learning styles are acceptable to discuss, although ironically as far as I know the concept, like a lot of educational psychology, has fallen foul of the replication crisis. It’s differences in learning capacities that’s the taboo (and then only if you fail to attribute those differences entirely to environmental causes).
If I were to comment on our class parent WhatsApp group about how low a standard the school aims at, there’d be deathly silence. They’d leave it to the mother of the special needs girl in the class to respond, and she would not be happy. The silent majority would be condemning me for combining boasting and meanness.
The obvious source is the left. Conservatives are just correct that the mainstream educational ideology for decades now have been ‘progressivism’. Same reason the UK ‘geography’ book I have asks kids to list three benefits of the EU for businesses. All but a fringe of the left have issues, major ones, with the existence of genetic and biological differences in learning capacity. Since most of the parents I know were raised in the same ideology, as I was, they suffer the same discomfort with the topic. And I guarantee that they couldn’t explain the source of that discomfort.
Wanted to throw into the discussion on abusive relationships that the abuser can be any age or gender. In spousal abuse, half the time it is the woman abusing the man both physically and emotionally. And in same sex relationships, there are also abusers.
There are teens who terrorize their parents and parents are stuck with them in the house as there is no mechanism to remove them. CPS was set up to remove children from abusive parents, not remove abusive children! Parents in these situations get very little support and are made to feel incompetent and that’s its all their fault their child is acting this way. Assigning blame never solves a problem.
Our local domestic violence shelter changed their name removing “women” from it to reflect this reality. It also has seen a significant DECREASE in calls and cases since quarantine began. If abuse was increasing at such phenomenal rates as everyone keeps saying, wouldn’t the calls go up or at least stay the same? They’ll use “being afraid to get the virus” as a reason, but I do wonder if its removing the pressure of the running around all day that is making a difference.
Did you see this paper on the virus https://project-evidence.github.io written from publicly available sources?
Interesting summary of the experiments being done on SARS viruses. In one case it was combined with HIV to make it infect animals. In another they found non-breast fed piglets could be infected effectively.
I read it two weeks ago and the authors have been adding to it as they find new things. It doesn’t make a case for anything in particular but the history of how we got here is interesting. And of course raises the questions, does our intelligence service know all this and what have they been doing about it?
JMG, I believe that secondary-school-for-everyone was an American invention. Actually, I’m not convinced it was a good idea. 😉 Or perhaps it was a good idea, but then there should be tracks. Not everyone needs to learn trigonometry, but some students clearly do, and they shouldn’t be held back by those who don’t need (or want) to, but for some reason still have to. But I digress.
Also, is it really true that there’s no accountability in the American public school system? Or that accountability is not set up in a proper fashion. If a school performs badly (and that means on standardized tests), then it can suffer all sorts of consequences. Correct? But those schools aren’t getting the support that they need to succeed. It’s not just the funding. It’s also things like a proper curriculum to follow. And then there’s the no small matter of discipline…
>you also see it in our medical industry and in the universities: no matter how bad the outcome, nobody in the industries ever has to worry about negative consequences. Figuring out a way to fix that is challenging, but it has to be done.
The unis will fix themselves by going bust. Those that survive will focus on adding real value. Or bribing the right politicians. In which case they become permanently unfixable afterwards.
The other two? UNFIXABLE. Only response is to bypass them. Homeschooling/private schooling and medical tourism. Or, the only way those two get fixed is by a general collapse of society first. Sometimes the babies have to go with the bathwater.
I’ve had a business idea for a while now but I don’t know if it’s at all viable on a numbers level. You pay $X/mo and get access to a service that provides you an ambulance to an airport, a jet that has a medical professional on board and a trip to a foreign hospital of your choice. I bet it could undercut whatever the medical system here charges but I don’t know for sure.
JMG’s response to Kiashu: “I note, though, that if it’s so much easier to teach 1-3 children, maybe teaching children in groups of 1-3 really is a better idea…”
Okay, I laughed out loud when I saw this. Ha!
Look, if you have the resources to do that, then that’s great. Homeschooling does work for some people, but those people are few and far between. (And an even smaller number of people can afford to pay private tutors, rather than send their kids to school.) Most people lack some combination of time, knowledge, temperament, etc. to properly homeschool. Me, I went to a public school (not in the States), but my parents did supplement my education at home. And I did learn more as a result. On the other hand, the experience was, shall we say, less than pleasant. The amount of yelling that I was subjected to for failing to understand what they wanted me to understand… And no, the yelling did not help me understand better, just in case anyone was wondering. So, quite a lot of people lack the temperament for teaching (even – or perhaps especially – their own kids), even if they happen to have the time and the knowledge. I know that in the United States, homeschooled kids do better, on average, than kids who go to public schools. But that’s only because homeschooling parents are a highly self-selected group (and even then, some of them manage to mess up mightily). Ask parents to homeschool en masse (when most of those parents never asked to do so), and watch the disaster unfold.
And, yes, I know. Schools are a relatively recent phenomenon. So is mass literacy. The two seem to be closely intertwined, even though some people manage to get one (either one) without the other. On that note, here’s an article about schooled illiterates in some poor countries:
(But no, getting those kids’ parents to homeschool wouldn’t fix the problem. Most of the parents are illiterate, after all.)
>But I don’t want to get a smartphone
You do know as a woman who doesn’t want one, you are about as rare as a unicorn? One in a thousand rare. Maybe one in a hundred thousand.
But you are right, more than you know. Anyone who has one, you don’t really own or control it and the people who do – they hate you. Whatever value you think you get from one is absolutely swamped by the negatives. They do their best to hide them from you but they are there.
Interchangeable parts in a factory – that is exactly how I think about the whole issue. We’re educating children to become little gear-wheels for our economy. University is no better. Many universities in Germany have been – as far as I can judge – among the best in the world. And what did we do? We have thrown it all away by implementing the “Bologna reform”. Which had the goal, of course to allow more for comparability and interchangeability (disguised as flexibility – which was not a problem before the reform!) and – of course – to increase the output of graduates no matter what they can or can not do.
@JMG: Ha! And certainly similar models worked for my grandparents, and my general “default to never completely trusting another human being,” model of life may not be the best one for everybody.
I thought of another way to mitigate a possible power imbalance, at least a little: separate savings account for the homemaker, with the breadwinner depositing some small percent of each paycheck until they reach a mutually-agreed-on contingency amount. (If there’s no mutual agreement on what somebody needs to survive for a month or two, then that’s probably a sign that these people should not be in that sort of relationship.) A bit like the original intention of alimony, before it became all about weird vengeance for relationship “misdeeds” and people thinking they have the right to live in the same style they did when their partner was supporting them–and more of a social agreement than a legal one. (For the legal version, I think you could just have a prenup with “in the event of divorce, I get rent in an apartment of X type plus Y amount for food, for Z months” in there, but I am not a lawyer.)
Kids or other dependents would complicate things, but then, they always do. And you’d have to revisit it every so often–if the rents around you go up a bunch, if the Friend With A Couch who you’d originally factored into the equation is no longer around for whatever reason, if medical conditions increase someone’s monthly survival cost, etc–but I think it’d help with a lot of the potential issues. The person with less money would know they had a way out, and the person with more wouldn’t feel obligated to stick around if they weren’t into the relationship any longer.
Always Have a Quick Exit Route is another motto of mine, so that always comes up in these situations. 😛
>This past week my son’s cursive practice words included “Devil”, “Satan”, and “Archangel”. I thought it was hilarious and am not too worried about fundamentalist indoctrination through penmanship.
Don’t worry. I got stuffed full of fundie teaching in my youth and became quite the apostate and heathen later on. Most of that stuff goes in one ear and right out the other for the most part with kids. TBH, one of the things I’ve found rather odd is that the kids who were wild and unruly and rebellious? Today they’re the exact opposite, preachers and such of the straight and narrow kind. And me, the stick in the mud? I’m the heretic now, I’m the one they would warn you about as a kid. Although I like to think of it as “spiritual offroading”.
You’ve reminded me of my sad math experiences in high school. I’m actually quite good at arithmetic, I can do most calculations in my head – even long division. Once I had to take algebra, which I define as math (arithmetic involves numbers; math is the unnatural mixing of numbers and letters, per my personal definition) I was lost. Geometry was particularly painful, but I did have one lifeline: I’m really, really good at grammar. Thus, I found answers to those dreadful word problems by grammatically parsing the questions themselves. Mostly it worked, although it was clear to the teacher that I had come by the answer in a non-mathematical fashion.
David, by the lake:
Your wife is clearly well educated, although she may not be well schooled. There’s a difference. I don’t think I’ll get much disagreement around here to say that sitting in classrooms (schooling) often has precious little to do with education, although they can occasionally coexist.
On “Consumer” – I had a friend back in Albuquerque who worked for a small social service provider. Her job was to help people navigate the bureaucracy and get their social security or disability or get into housing or jobs and so on. She kept referring to them as her “consumers” and I called her on it, noting that it seemed derogatory to me. She said “They *prefer* to be called “consumers.” To them it means they’re part of the system instead of outcasts from it.”
On “Understood Betsy” – yes, I *loved* that book as a child, but felt somehow it was a guilty pleasure, partly because I badly wanted to be “understood” the the practical way of Betsy’s country aunts and not the soppy overpsychologized way of her city aunts. I think I’ll hit the used book sites and try to re-acquire a copy.
And – totally OT: Blessed Beltane to those who celebrate it; happy May Day/International Women’s Day/Workers of the World Unite day etc…. And by a great and happy coincidence, the local paper’s front-page human-interest story and photo was of a wedding.
Because the County Courthouse has offered drive-up weddings once a week to couples who have a license but could not have the ceremony because of the shutdown. And when did they choose to start? Yesterday evening!
The Lady of Love could not have had a better offering, on a day which celebrates the marriage of the Lord and Lady. Well, the eve of … which we in the Craft count as the beginning of the holiday anyway.
We now return you to homeschooling, the rat race, the lockdown, and the Fourth Great Crisis in American History. I’ll be going out to see and hear the winged ones at their love games later in the morning.
Oh – and on consumers – when our food is brought to our apartment doors (because of the shutdown*) the little menu and note that comes with it says “Consume immediately or within two hours of removal from refrigeration…. reheat items….and consume within two hours …keep refrigerated until consumed….” !?! What’s wrong with the words “eat” and “eaten”? Besides that this was almost certainly written by a graduate of Management School; it’s certainly their jargon.
*You would not believe how a slip of the fingers on the keyboard nearly sent out an undruidly epithet here. Freudian slip?
Re: feminism – one of Eric Flint’s Appalachian characters (in his 1632 series), a schoolteacher, heard “I’m not a feminist,” from her girl students and said “Let me ask you – do you think you should have the right to vote?” Well, yes. “Have money and credit cards in your own name?” Of course! To take whatever job you’re qualified for and get full pay for it?” (Appalachia – the right to stay home if you could afford to was already well established.) And so on … just a list of the ordinary rights of a free citizen, “and be treated like an adult and not a minor,” …
Point made. I’m a “women are people” type feminist and have been around a number of same-sex couples and similar arrangements to be cool with everything except putting yourself at the financial mercy of another, let alone the physical mercy of another. But, alas, “We’re all people…” is somewhat out of style among certain cohorts. And – well, it’s Beltane, and femininity is much on my mind, including getting a pretty haircut when the shutdown ends. (And why it shouldn’t have to include high heels or the like or, the gods help us, a mandate to be sexy, at work. Unless of course, being sexy IS your work.)
In doing research this morning on state mental institutions I ran some numbers:
PA population 1950 10.5 million, institutionalized 30K (.3% of population)
PA population 2018 12.9 million, institutionalized 1K (.008% of population)
Pennsylvania peaked at committing people to the state mental hospitals in the 1950’s. Between 1950 and 1990 the population reduced to what it is now, less than a thousand people under 24 hour care.
If we institutionalized at the same rate now that we did in 1950, we’d have 39K institutionalized. Is this the abusers, sex offenders, and mass shooters?
Just my own impressions.
I was homeschooled until 4th grade, with materials and fortnightly written feedback provided by a remote teacher. My sister and I certainly progressed faster than our age mates, but we had to learn some social interactions when we entered normal school, such as dealing with the frustration when somebody else got to answer a question. It bears mentioning that my parents were well-qualified, and my sister and I had no innate learning problems, otherwise things might have looked different.
German public schools, at least gymnasia, seem to be require more of their students than American high schools, since those of my classmates who spent a year in the US at age 16-17 learnt English and not much else during that year. It was basically as if they had spent a year travelling or working as a waiter, and they had to recover the math they had missed out on (differential calculus). Still, my biology teacher told us we would have to learn more in a week at (public) university than in a semester in school, and he was right.
I have no idea how to fix a broken school system!
With regard to the current situation, I would love to go back to how things were before the pandemic, since I liked my job, my wife was studying the course she chose, and our daughter loved to go to public school. Quebec has announced primary schools will be back, more or less, on May 11th, and I hope this will work out. Writing code alone at home is great; discussing problems and plans per video is almost useless compared to a personal meeting.
Now, with a small kid at home none of us has breathing time left. Why is the situation so different from my own childhood? For reasons I won’t go into, my daughter is the only child at home, while I (and my wife, too) had brothers and sisters. In the afternoons, we had friends to play with on the streets and in the trees, some were homeschooled, some were not. There was hardly a car on the streets. Even today, for families with several kids and a garden, the pandemic will feel very different than for a single apartment-dwelling kid.
So, no size fits all.
I have been thinking about your self-assessment challenge at the end of the post over the last couple of days. Thanks for ending on a provocative note, by the way. One thing I have been working on myself for the last few years is to stop complaining about challenges and take more personal responsibility.
When I take stock of my own life and community, the big challenge is excessive and counterproductive regulation at the local level. It drains time and energy away from truly productive activities, and makes it impossible or illegal to implement some of the activities needed for the long descent. So far, my efforts to make any changes have been met with a fairly impressive array of bureaucratic, legal, and political defenses.
Do you have any suggestions for combating excessive bureaucracy? I am not there yet, but the comments from KW resonated–taking on town hall seems exhausting, and I am worried about dissipating my energy in a quixotic fight.
I really appreciated your post and it has always been obvious to me that this situation will be experienced very differently depending upon circumstances. For those who have lost their jobs or fear that is likely, for those living alone or in small apartments, for single parents – all this might be quite stressful and with no end in sight.
I also fear, especially the longer it lasts, that there will be cascading unexpected fallout that will not be good at all. It is all well and good to discuss the many faults that our society in its workings had, but sudden change is rarely doable without hurting and harming people.
It is also disappointing to me to see how people behave in such lockstep under fear coaching.
Actually, I think it makes very good sense to have state-level exams that are the same for everyone. Otherwise, what happens is that graduates of some schools get an unfair advantage over students of less prestigious schools. Now, that’s not to say that having common exams eliminates all the unfairness. Of course it doesn’t: if some students are provided better tools (by their families and schools) than others, then there’s obviously a level of unfairness. But at least they still have to prove that they actually did learn more. Without common exams of some sort, graduates of prestigious schools get an advantage even if they happened to accomplish less with more.
Are there downsides? Of course there are. Everything in life is a tradeoff. He who controls the exam controls the curriculum. Teaches *will* teach to the test, and telling them not to is roughly comparable to telling cats not to catch mice. It only works if you eliminate the exam/mice (or the teacher/cat is somehow incapacitated). My solution is to make the exams somewhat unpredictable. Not completely unpredictable (so that teachers just throw their hands up and admit defeat); there should be a set curriculum, with a reading list, and the exam should be based on that. But the exam should contain complex tasks. So, ask students to write a 2000-word essay in five hours, rather than a 300-word essay over 20 minutes. Topics should be based on the required reading (that’s important, because it helps ensure that the students actually do the reading), but otherwise fairly unpredictable. Of course, such exams aren’t “standardized,” i.e. the same student may do better or worse (and non-trivially so) depending on the particular version of the exam s/he gets. But teachers will teach to the exam. If they know their students will be expected to write a 2000-word essay, then they’ll assign 2000-word essays for homework. If they know that students will need to write 300-word essays, then that’s what they’ll assign, and that’s all that students will learn to write. Also, 2000-word essays are much tougher to grade in a standardized/checklist fashion than 300-word essays. That makes grading less predictable (oh, well), but it also means that schools can’t just produce students whose writing is hyper-optimized for scoring high on a very particular kind of essay question.
Of course, students, parents, and teachers would push for higher transparency (read: predictability). If the state gives in (as it often does), then the quality of education will suffer. He who controls the exam controls the curriculum. If the teachers have a very good idea of what the exam would contain, and exactly how it would be graded, then they’ll teach that and nothing else. Expect the quality of education to suffer as a result.
@ JMG: “…That’s a pervasive problem here — you also see it in our medical industry and in the universities: no matter how bad the outcome, nobody in the industries ever has to worry about negative consequences.” Boy Howdy!!, and especially in politics. Which state has the highest death rate from Covid19? Which state’s governor is daily lauded in the media for his tough stance in press conferences? Governor Cuomo in New York gets all the press plaudits, despite the actual results of his policies.
@ Renaissance Man: those newbie bakers are a pain, and we know that most of that flour will be thrown out 3 months hence full of flour moths. Luckily for me, a friend owns a commercial bakery, and he gladly gave me 10# of flour when I needed it.
This isn’t directed at anyone here, but it’s fascinating how so many people seem to assume all relationships are, by definition, abusive. It says something profound about our culture……
The alternative is that the Democrats have realized that they’re going to lose the election and Biden is the sacrificial lamb who’s been picked to be led to the slaughter.
Or maybe they are fighting like a cornered animal and will stop at nearly nothing, including bringing much of the world to impoverishment and perhaps even hunger, and fearmongering people into being afraid to go to the voting booths.
Our elections may be tampered with, but mail in ballots seems like it open up the possibilities quite a bit. Was it Lenin? Krushchev? who said, “It doesn’t matter how they vote; it matters how we count the votes.”
But I have to admit, these are fascinating times and I am on the edge of my seat. I love the unexpected silver linings that I see happening.
First of all I just want to say thanks for the advice in the previous thread. It helped me and I started to appreciate myself a bit more.
Anyway, onto the topic at hand, I have to confess that I think when it comes to Western countries, the impact of the virus is going to lead to a transformation in lives. If there is a depression or it takes a while to get things back on track, I think this will lead to a new restart in family values which the West desperately needs.
The easy divorce culture, the smaller families and isolated individuals maybe might start to give way to new conservative family values as the jobs disappear and a new form of economy, which you mention as the home economy, starts to take root. Of course feminists will complain it will lead to a return to women at home in the kitchen but why not promote healthy family values with the man being in the kitchen? Whatever suits the family based around a more traditional model I think would be welcome. Plus it would lead to a rise in birth rates which the West does need in the long run…
However, I don’t see this trend taking root in the Russian Federation or the other BRICS countries. I think the West is going to be entering a post capitalist world as capitalism in these countries, I think, have run their course. Not quite so in the BRICS.
I’ll give you an example. The Russian youth are calling out for democracy only because they think it will give them the lifestyles that Westerners enjoyed…in the late 20th century. There is no actual realisation that those days have been over for some time now and that it is coming to an end…
It’s the same story. We must do exactly what the West did so we can have more money. I’d say as a society, a lot of the old Soviet values that taught community and social values are starting to unravel, to be replaced by this need for more money. I suspect it is the same in China and India.
I suspect that because of the Communist periods (colonialism for India), the desire for get rich capitalism is evident in the societies of these countries and it will take them getting more developed and on the ladder to start to revive themselves with more family friendly, environmental values in the long run…
Either way, whilst I would love to see the birth of Sobornost here in Russia and the new flowering of something great, it’s going to be a long way off.
My name is Celia , I’m from Sapin and right know I’m living in Canary Islands, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism. And my job is , well, was untill the covid lock down surf instructor. My Father Anselmo ,who is a regular reader of your posts, considers that an economic depresion is aproaching and also he estimates this crisis will last two centuries and will bring the colapse of Industrial system. Producing a poverty climate, where there’ll be no room for tourism activity any more. However he believes this new situation will not take down the leisure activities and entretainment ,as it occurred during the decline of the roman empire, and more recently afther 29’s Crash…
I’d appreciate your opinion about this.
¡Thank you , and best regards!
Thanks for the poem! And thanks for being a voice of reason. Semi-related: I’ve been following the Atlantic coverage, and while they’ve certainly had some good articles, the tone can be really hard to stomach sometimes. For instance, a couple of days ago, they had an article entitled “‘We’re Literally Killing Elders Now'” (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/04/coronavirus-especially-deadly-nursing-homes/610855/). Yes, they were quoting someone else. But they were quoting the person approvingly! It appears that failing to take extreme measures to prevent pathogens from entering a nursing home is equivalent to lining up grandmas and grandpas against a wall and shooting them. Because, you know, if only we’d been more careful, they would have lived forever. Obviously.
What do you think of Richard Wolff, if you’ve heard of him? For an economist, he does seem to have his head screwed on in some fashion. At the very least, he has no problems talking about the absurdities of infinite growth and the impossibility of continuing business as usual into the far -or even near- future. He is a died-in-the-wool socialist though (I guess economists have to be wrong about something, right?), but at least some of his ideas would resonate with what you’ve been saying over the years.
“Or perhaps it was a good idea, but then there should be tracks. Not everyone needs to learn trigonometry, but some students clearly do, and they shouldn’t be held back by those who don’t need (or want) to, but for some reason still have to. But I digress. ”
In my highschool days (69-73), there were 3 ‘divisions’, tracks if you will. 4 if you count the ‘accelerated’ classes available. It seemed to work pretty well.
@Irena: “Or perhaps it was a good idea, but then there should be tracks. Not everyone needs to learn trigonometry, but some students clearly do, and they shouldn’t be held back by those who don’t need (or want) to, but for some reason still have to.”
Agreed. IMO, stuff that everyone has to take should be genuine life skills: basic reading and writing; math that focuses on understanding statistics and logic or budgeting or whatnot; the earth-science basics like minerals and the water cycle and the scientific process; social studies/civics/a general world history outline; the essentials of music and art; and home ec, shop and first aid. That takes you up to eighth grade or thereabouts here–13/14–and after that, it seems better to let students choose what subjects they want to specialize in. (This is also when kids used to go off on apprenticeships or similar, so it tracks pretty well.) If people are concerned about someone giving up too early on a subject they might like or need later, there could be a one-term yearly minimum for each of math, science, English, history, etc., so kids who didn’t need trig wouldn’t have to do it for more than three months or so.
I also think that teaching the basics of a subject in a way that’s clear and interesting for those who aren’t good at it is its own skill, and a very different one from teaching the same subject to people who come with talent, interest, or both. Bring back Rocks for Jocks and Physics for Poets, I say: the equivalent that I took in college (extraterrestrial geology) taught me more, and was more interesting, than many of the classes I needed for my major, and has left me knowing at least a few cool facts about volcanoes on Mars.
…meanwhile, apparently lockdown makes me want to reinvent the world. 😛
I was hoping Gatto would be mentioned! Regarding how we educate our children, his speech accepting the NYC teacher of the year award is as relevant and important now as it was 30 years ago, maybe even more so:
Why Schools Don’t Educate
A couple of weeks ago I was accused here in this forum of being a major conspiracy theorist. While that may be true on a certain level, the fact remains that for a crazy conspiracy theory to be just a whopper of a theory it has to only be a theory. This article presents facts:
Since my wife and I are among the lucky(??) few to still be working full-time throughout this panic-demic crisis, we don’t have a lot of time to test the validity of this author’s claims; he does seem, however, to be making sense. I would very much appreciate any and all educated analyses of what this author has to say – yours especially, John, but I hope others will chime in too with their own perspectives.
In general, I am relieved to see that others are finally beginning to notice that something is profoundly wrong with “the system” as run by the self-ordained experts we have been trusting to take care of things, and there may now begin to be some pushback against it. In particular, against the fact that somehow over the years “We The People” eventually came to mean “We The People In Charge”.
What do you think the income cutoff should be for homeschooling? How much education do you think qualifies a parent to teach? Do you feel that “underclass” children would be better off in the public schools available to us, than cobbling together an education at home? What exactly qualifies a family as “underclass”?
Every time the bike pedals touched my legs, I got a bruise. Medication side effects mean I bruise badly. When I gently toppled sideways on a non moving bike, I got lots of bruises, one of them giant, and a bad flare of fibromyalgia symptoms. Riding a bike for long enough to be useful also caused fibromyalgia pain related to the saddle and unrelated to pedals or bruises. Just not worth it. Something that doesn’t have a saddle or pedals might work better for me.
There are a lot of non-public school options being discussed here: homeschooling, charter, private. For those of you who attended or chose private schools for your children, I’d be interested to hear more about your experiences and recommendations. Our children attend public elementary/middle school now (well-off neighborhood school in a huge urban district with intense poverty) and it is not very rigorous, for sure–though it is quite economically diverse. And yet, the private schools around here known for being the most rigorous are not only crazy expensive ($33k+ a year!), but land your kid in a group of ultra-wealthy children being groomed for Ivy League colleges and to take their place among the elite of society. Maybe it’s just the chip on my shoulder after going from a working class public high school to an “elite” liberal arts college, but I see lots of problems making this my children’s peer group. I’m trying to encourage open-minded thinking about careers, including trade school or farming–not create the next generation of consultants at McKinsey. What sort of private schools have others found effective? Parochial schools? Or is homeschooling really the best bet? No Waldorf high school here, unfortunately, which might possibly mitigate some of these issues.
Chris, excellent! That was Socrates’ main point, you know — everybody he met thought they knew much more than they did. Of course pointing this out to them got him condemned to death…
Dot, no doubt you’re right. Someday, though, we’re going to have to grapple with the fact that not all children can be above average!
Denys, I’m glad you said that. Men who mention that a lot of men get abused by women tend to get dogpiled by a screaming mob. As for the study on the origins of the current outbreak, no, I hadn’t seen that — thank you.
Hi JMG and Comments Crowd,
I’m not sure I agree that the biggest issue with public schools (what we call state schools here in the UK) is the management, or the teachers, or the curriculum, or the testing. I hate to say it, but its the children.
In the last decade I spent many years qualifying as a secondary school teacher (ages 11 to 16 years), teaching for about three years, and quit as soon as I completed my final qualification, so you could say I have some experience, or you could say I have an axe to grind.
Nevertheless, I have only seen one comment above that touches on the damage that screen technology has done to children’s minds. Computer games, especially, are like crack cocaine, and designed to be so by the manufacturers. They completely mess up the reward-system in the brain’s hormones and destroy attention spans, especially in young brains that are not fully developed. Children today (I’m talking about the majority who are surrounded by screens, not all, obviously) simply cannot tolerate boredom, and cannot focus on anything that is not instantly pleasurable or fun. As trainee teachers we were quite seriously told not to talk in front of the whole class for more than three minutes (!), or we would lose their attention. The lesson is broken up into bits of teacher input interspersed with lots of ‘activities’. Ideally the activities should mimic games as far as possible, with the learning content contorted and twisted to fit into a ‘fun’ game structure. There was no notion that the content itself could hold a child’s attention.
For those wondering how all the time at school is spent, I can tell you about a typical day in this age group. The day might have 5 lessons of 60 minutes – it varies between schools. The first 5 minutes is wasted going between rooms and getting in and sat down. The next 5 on the register and getting everyone quiet. 10 minutes of teacher instruction (I never stuck to the 3 minute rule), followed by an exercise of 10 to 15 minutes. The teacher introduction might contain 5 minutes of solid content and the rest was repetition, questions about what to do in the activity because they weren’t paying attention, re-explaining the activity, etc. Needless to say, a third of the class finished early and chatted, a third tried a bit, gave up and chatted, and a third were never going to bother, they only pretended to work if the teacher was watching. Then another 5 minutes to get everyone quiet again, take a few questions, then maybe another short exercise, and 5 minutes to all pack away and move on to the next lesson.
So about 5 to 10 minutes of actual real teaching and learning, or a maximum of about 50 minutes in a school day of about 6 hours including lunch break, plus the travel time of course.
Tablets and smartphones everywhere. Most teenagers have their own. The temptation to click away from the assigned online work and onto a game or video site is irresistible for children. Hence the need for parents to ‘help’.
Colleagues who have been sent home to work from their desk jobs, and who have young children sent home from school, tell me that the children have never had so much screen time. It is the only way to keep them quiet for a while so the parent can work.
This is not going to end well for our civilisation!
No, every child shouldn’t be educated like every other child.
But we can’t admit that fact at all.
One big advantage that private schools have is they can kick out the real problems. The public schools (because EVERYONE has to be educated) have to keep the problem children and there are problem children.
I was never on the principal’s speed-dial but there were many, many times when the phone would ring and I would cringe, hoping it was a telemarketer.
Homeschooling didn’t work for us.
A dear friend’s daughter had ‘bear parties’ in fourth grade. Student X would have a meltdown, the teacher and Student X’s full-time aide would subdue Student X while the rest of the class would proceed out to the hallway and wait until they were called back to the classroom. As you can imagine, this didn’t improve the learning experience. Yes, parents complained but the elementary school had higher bosses than the local parents. And, everyone has to have an education so how dare you stigmatize those unfortunate children!
I have no idea what the solution is, except that if you want the public school system to educate *everyone*, including the many kids who can’t stand being chained to a desk from age 6 on, then you need to have a LOT more teachers and each class should be a group of five students. Or less. Every student needs to be fed breakfast and lunch (since there are parents who are incapable of providing those meals just like there are parents incapable of providing needed medications) and there should be plenty of run-around time at recess because kids need to run around like savages in the sunshine.
You also need to admit that some students are discipline problems.
So are some of the parents.
Right now, a friend is raising her grandson. She’s on the principal’s speed-dial. The Covid-19 quarantines are a challenge, but he loves not going to that place where he will never, ever fit in.
One size does not fit all.
The quote you are looking for was from Joseph Stalin
“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
For what it’s worth, I suspect the second theory about Joe Biden is the correct one. The neoliberal establishment is desperately trying to cling to power and they know that if they try to jettison Biden and bring in someone else in like Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo or Stacey Abrams, it will just add fuel to the fire. It’s also worth noting the huge number of female liberal celebrities and Democrat politicians who are doubling down in their support of Biden in spite of everything. We are seeing the last stand of a senile elite that is in the process of self-destructing and losing its grip on power.
For those who are concerned about Christian homeschool texts that use practice words like “Devil”, “Satan” and “Archangel”:
Just tell them Archangel was Lockheed’s code name for one of the coolest airplanes ever built, back when the CIA had its own air force that included Mach 3 spyplanes!
Planet of humans is getting free appalled publicity from the CBC. Don Pittis points out many of the problems with the film we talked about last week, sounding slightly apoplectic, but also mentions that the films has a few points worth making in terms of the power of money to distort priorities in the green movement, and that biomass at the large scale it is being done is not a good thing.
As a follow-up to my previous tongue-in-cheek post, here is an Archangel in flight 😉
>The easy divorce culture
There is another way of dealing with that – don’t get married. The marriage rates here in Murica dropped below the 1932 Great Depression low – in 2004 or so, and they’ve been declining lower ever since. And have hit all-time new lows recently. Think about that – things are WORSE than the 30s. Right here, right now.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say, when that rate bottoms and turns around, you’ll know the real economy is on the mend again. Until then as someone said in a book he wrote – Enjoy The Decline.
Irena, I agree that it’s not a good idea to make all children go on to secondary school. The option should be available, but not required. As for accountability, well, there are school districts in the US where up to half of high school graduates are functionally illiterate. If you have corrupt local officials and a corrupt teacher’s union — and those are as common here as sand in the Sahara — let’s just say that somehow the tests always have the right answers on them whether or not the kids in question put them there.
Owen, unfixable? Not at all. US public education could be fixed in a decade by replacing the existing public school system with a network of charter schools, with laws giving them plenty of room to experiment with different ways of instruction. As for health care, that’s just as easy: strip the medical and pharmaceutical industries of the galaxy of legal barriers that keep them safe from competition; allow nurses to practice independently and diagnose, treat, and prescribe for the 99% of health conditions that don’t require an MD; and legalize alternative health care modalities, which most Americans these days prefer anyway. There would be a lot of high-profile bankruptcies, sure, but once the rubble settled, doctors could go back to treating the small minority of conditions that actually require their expertise, while the vast majority of routine conditions would be treated inexpensively by nurses, naturopaths, etc.
Irena, I think you need to talk to more homeschoolers, People who can homeschool are anything but few and far between these days, especially since there’s a vast amount of educational material for them online. I agree that there should certainly be schools available for those who can’t — see my comment to Owen immediately above — but for a very large number of people here, homeschooling is also an option.
Nachtgurke, exactly. I hope that once the EU finishes falling apart, German universities will recover.
Isabel, that seems quite reasonable. Do you recall discussions in Regency romances about the articles of marriage, and how the groom settled X (very large) amount of money on the bride? That was part of what was involved there. I wonder if it would be possible to make that fashionable again, since so many women swoon over Regency romances… 😉
Patricia, I’ve seen that same typo more than once! As for “feminism,” a lot of us guys are still very much in favor of the version of that which says “women are people too;” we just draw the line at the later addition, “…and are entitled to all kinds of privileges that men don’t get.”
Denys, ding! Yes, it is.
Matthias, thanks for this. Yes, German schools by all accounts still teach something, while American schools generally don’t.
Samurai, I’m not at all sure how best to take on a metastatic regulatory system, though finding candidates for office who will prune it back might be one approach. Definitely something that needs to be explored, though.
Peter, I suspect the adulation of Cuomo is purely because many Democrats are flailing around trying to find some alternative to Biden. Still, we’ll see.
Kevin, I know. Nothing good, either.
Onething, that’s also certainly a possibility. It’s also at least possible that the Democratic Party is divided, with different factions flailing this way and that.
Ksim, that makes sense to me. If the old occult writings are correct, the rise of the new Russian great culture is close to a century off, and it will probably take a series of hard crises to get it going — for example, if Russia goes charging down the same route of kleptocratic capitalism the West embraced a century earlier, slams face first into serious social crises later in this century, and turns back to sobornost in reaction to that, it would be following a classic historical pattern.
Celia, I think he’s right in the long term — I’ve been arguing for some time now that Western civilization is already in decline and will take one to three centuries to unravel — but that’s in the long run. I expect to see the tourist economy rebound from the current crisis, at least for a while, though it may never reach previous levels and will likely taper off somewhat from there. It must be a lot of fun to be a surf instructor! Still, you may want to begin looking for other things you can do in the future.
Thepublicpast, I haven’t heard of him, and clearly I need to fix that. It’s quite common, btw, for soclalists to have a very clear idea of what’s wrong with the current system; they’re just wrong about what could replace it. As people used to say in Russia after the Soviet collapse, “Everything Marx said about Communism was false, but everything he said about capitalism was true.”
Ken, thanks for this!
Steve, I tried to read the post but it wouldn’t scroll on my browser. There are plenty of theories circulating now about the coronavirus, some of which are plausible, others of which are pretty well out into cloud-cuckoo-land; they don’t concern me greatly at the moment. Take a look at the track record of predictions made by people who base their arguments on conspiracy theories, and you’ll know why.
Christine, I’d encourage you to talk to the various people who’ve posted here who are homeschooling their children. Somehow they’re not having those problems, and it might be worth reflecting on why.
Student X sounds like my grandson. He still has very real problems but was taken out of mainstram schooling and offered a place at a special school. It was the best thing that could have happened to him. He was, and still is, difficult for good and sufficient reasons. He loved school and used to run away to school. He did not learn to read and numbers seem to be forever a closed book for him but he learned so much and had such good educational experiences.
Onething, on: “Christians compromised with the competition to monetize everything.” That’s not a compromise, that’s total surrender. From the Founder’s mouth, “You can’t serve both God and money.” (And how many also ignore his advice on paying taxes, and render neither to Caesar nor to God? At least when it comes to reaching into their pockets.)
Chris at Ferndale – oh, yes, being unable to think clearly is like what they say about oxygen starvation and senility and being drunk- the first symptom of it is you don’t know you have it.
Denys – oh, yes! What my ex did was purely verbal abuse, and while he was a man, a lot of women have made it their primary weapon. (Have you ever heard a man called a shrew?) Not to mention the ability of both to come on all sweetness and light and betray their partner whenever it’s convenient.
Owen: on your business idea for foreign medical service: the rich have been doing that for decades.
My grandmother’s family grew up very, very poor, and she and all seven of her sisters worked from their teenage years up through when they got married. A couple of them did secretarial work at the high school, while they were still students there. Most of them worked as telephone operators (the eldest made a lifetime career of it, and became the regional Bell telephone manager), one did a stint as a teenage weld checker out at the shipyard, during WWII, and a few were secretaries. Secretary work got my grandmother through her brief widowhood, after her first husband died. The eldest had a good career with the phone company, that allowed her to divorce an abusive husband. One of the others ended up divorced with two kids, quite against her will, and managed decently by renting out the spare bedroom to single ladies of good character, and working as an interior decorator. They all knew the value of a good backup plan 🙂
I think it’s unfortunate that most viable “backup plans” these days require a college degree, professional licensing that must be maintained, and at least a few years in the workforce for experience. Granny and her sisters were all able to get decent jobs with a high school diploma or a good word from a teacher or big sister– they didn’t have to delay marriage and kids, or go into debt, for their backup job skills. Runaway credentialing has made this a lot more difficult.
Kevin Taylor Burgess – I don’t see it assuming all relationships are abusive. I see it as “there is always the possibility that they may become abusive.”
I once asked my ex why he didn’t talk to me that way during courtship, and he said “You didn’t belong to me then.” Who could have anticipated that?
JMG: Just retired from teaching math and physics at several colleges: I was disappointed at what I called “cook book” labs that were certainly promoted by the sellers of lab equipment. My young son said in disgust when I explained what the labs did: “but you already knew that”.
It got so bad that all I had to do was plug a bunch of boxes together turn them on, the students would push some buttons, copy the readings, sign their name and hand it in. OK, OK, I exaggerate slightly.
I developed a new system that was very popular with the students, once they got over the shock. I would write on the board something like: Demonstrate Archimedes Principle, and sit down. It was off to the texts, what was the principle, what did it claim, how to demonstrate the principle, prove it, test it etc.
Then, what sort of apparatus did they need, how to put it together, what was a useful procedure, did it work, why not, what to do differently….
Once in a while I would intervene to ask a few questions to prevent a lot of waisted time, but not very often.
The old labs went for two hours. With this system about one hour was plenty, all the students on the team got involved.
Accuracy was not as “good” as with the commercial lab equipment, but understanding and creative education were excellent.
I passed around a write up, got a lot of interest from other professors but that is as far as it went.
Progress lurches forward.
Ken, That was great.
A well-written, critical review of the Harvard article over on the National Review website.
From the review:
“From Frederick the Great and Johann Julius Hecker through the Progressive Era to today, schools have been treated as factories that produce what the state needs: able administrators and bureaucrats in the context of the emerging Bismarckian welfare regimes and, later, workers in the industrial economies. Schools organized this way do not exist to serve children or families: They exist to serve the state, and children are not the customers — they are the product.
Homeschooling is based on a radical proposition that is utterly incompatible with Professor Bartholet’s politics. Homeschoolers insist that their children are not the property of the state, to be farmed and dispatched in accordance with the state’s needs; the homeschooling ethos insists that the purpose of education is to serve the needs and interests of students rather than those of the state or of business; it insists that there exists a sphere of life that is private and not subject to state surveillance, and that this sphere covers family life and child-rearing unless and until there is some immediate pressing reason for intervention.”
The whole thing is worth a read:
@JMG: I’d forgotten about that! I’d be all in favor of bringing it back, along with public balls and men who look dashing on horseback.
Also, on abuse and gender: while I’ve been lucky enough to not have many cases of physical abuse in my immediate social circle, there have been a fair number of emotionally abusive relationships, and I think a slim majority there have featured a female abuser, including the ones that did briefly get physical (he told her that he didn’t like her saying a particular thing to him, she slapped him, I heard about it later and had to be dissuaded from going down the hall and punching her teeth in). And there is a pretty gross culture/pop culture attitude that property damage or even physical violence is cute/feisty/excusable when a woman’s doing it to a man who’s “done wrong”–there’s a grotesque and grotesquely catchy Carrie Underwood song called “Before He Cheats,” for instance. *As* a feminist, I object to all of the above.
@Irena re state-exams and grades in general: In principle, no argument here. If you want to have state-level exams, I agree they should be closer to what you describe than to what they are right now to be useful. Anyhow, I’d go further and say you don’t need grades at all. The unfairness you describe basically arises from the fact that you try to measure a quality with a measure that’s not appropriate for this purpose. Finished A-levels with an average of 1.8? Forget about studying medicine! Does it matter then, that this 1.8 guy has taken advanced classes in chemistry and biology with great success but the 1.2 guy took English and history instead? Not a bit. 1.2 may go study medicine without further ado, 1.8 may not. Of course it would be easy to make the application process a bit more flexible (which is being done in Germany to some extend), but still – what is it that matters? Somebody who wants to study medicine should have what it takes to study medicine. How can you find out without grades? Well, I think universities have to invest some time and actually talk to their applicants. The same applies to any profession, be it an electrician, plumber, software developer or MD. There is no way to measure the qualities of a person with marks ranging from 1 to 6 or whatever the scale may be. The fact that this is done all over the planet does not change anything about this, in my opinion.
Also, the psychological use of grades to provide students with easy feedback and motivation is not only overstated, in many cases grading does more damage than good. To give an example from my work: When children come from primary school to us, they’re about 10-11 years old. Most of them do not care about grades. Not all, but many of them (especially those with an intact home, I have to say) come with genuine interest in learning. To illustrate what happens over the years to most of them the following episode might be interesting: At the end of the school year I offered my physics class to create a kind of tutorial video to some topic. I would provide them with one or they could choose freely whatever they wanted and do it in whatever way they wanted (be it funny, ironic or dead serious) as long it has anything to do with physics (tell me anything which has not…). And the “best” of all: Since I had already collected enough grades, grading was voluntary so all you could do was to improve your marks and have some fun with creating a funny video on a few nice summer days instead sitting around in the school building. A few girls asked me, whether it would be sure they would improve their mark for the whole year if they’d perform very good with the video. I said, look, why don’t you relax and forget about marks for the moment. You’re very good and I’m sure you can make a very good video – still I can’t give you any certainties. Why don’t you just pick something that you find interesting, make a weird funny video and see what happens? The answer was: “But the mark is the only thing that matters!” and since it was voluntary and since they did not have the certainty they’d get the mark they wanted they chose to do nothing and just sit around. That’s the spirit! (you find everywhere)
@ onething thanks for your reply. I appreciate you as a poster here. You’ve got such a strong personality. I hope you are doing well and getting better. I did a small prayer of general blessing for you today.
As far as unforeseen unintended consequences, I just read an article that said that Canada, when you take into account the debt from all three levels of government (national, provincial, and municipal), is the second most indebted G7 country in the world, and it maintains that bad ranking when you throw in household debt. So basically our government’s lockdown plus free money strategy is going to dramatically lower our credit rating or cause us to default somewhere down the line. The Canadian system is built so that the federal government looks good, while the provinces have all the really heavy fixed costs, and then the federal government chips in to the provincial treasuries in exchange for vote buying. Municipalities have very little taxation power and require provincial approval to gain more, approval which for some reason provinces never want to grant them. Individual provinces have actually needed bailouts before from the federal government and have partially defaulted in the past. If we had kept everything running and let the chips fall where they may, we’d have more of a future.
JMG: “Irena, I think you need to talk to more homeschoolers, People who can homeschool are anything but few and far between these days”
When in doubt, ask Wikipedia:
Apparently, about 3.4% of school aged kids in the United States are homeschooled. So, about one in 30. That’s more than I thought, but on the whole, still a small minority. More people could homeschool, sure. Some would do great, some would do abysmally. But I’m going to guess that something like 90% would be either completely and utterly incapable of doing it, or could just about pull it off if they really had to, but with suboptimal results for everyone involved (see my comment above about being screamed at by my parents for failing to understand what they wanted me to understand).
That’s not to deny that some do a great job of it. On average, homeschooled kids do a bit better than their public school counterparts. On average. (And once again, the homeschooling parents are highly self-selected, which skews the results.) I know that *some* do extremely well. But *some* public schools also produce highly competent graduates.
Personally, I am reluctantly in favor of banning homeschooling. (Oh, not in the United States. I know, I know, you Americans have a strong libertarian streak, and I respect that. Europe is somewhat different, though, and Europe is what I have in mind.) As I said, I know some people do great (hence the reluctance), but others fail miserably (and sometimes abusively), and on the whole, I just don’t think the tradeoffs are worth it for society as a whole. And parents are, after all, perfectly welcome to supplement their children’s education at home as they see fit (preferably without screaming).
>the damage that screen technology has done to children’s minds.
Put forth the idea that you should let a child use a complicated piece of machinery like an airplane by himself and without training or supervision and people would lose their minds.
But put forth the idea that you should let a child use a complicated piece of machinery like a smartphone, without any training or supervision and why, that’s A-OK. I mean, what’s the harm? What is the harm. And a smartphone is more complicated than your average airplane is, by quite a bit.
And before smartphones, a lot of lazy parents (and I saw this up front and personal) used TVs as electronic babysitters. Just shove the kid in front of the TV and he’ll shut up. Who cares what the TV is doing to him, as long as he’s quiet, that’s the important thing.
To zoom out for a moment, take all the expedient, easy, fast choices that people have made collectively over the past few decades, take them all and sum them up and ask yourself if you’re surprised not at how bad the world has become but that anything still manages to function at all.
@ Christine: I partly agree with you that the constant exposition to electronic media does damage to the children. From time to time I talk with my pupils about that issue and ask them to realistically assess how much time they spend in front of a display each day. And it seems that those who have most difficulties to concentrate or discipline are those who spent the longest with electronic media. Still, exceptions are the rule. Also I’d say that the problem are not the children, it’s their parents. If you have the possibility observe how parents handle especially their young children you should definitely watch closely. Even newborns are frequently sedated by excessive exposure to sound or movement (I’m talking here about things like noise generators or loud music throughout the whole night or violently rocking your baby in a motorized cradle for 2 hours or more without break). Of course you could go on and say that the parents are not the problem since they are the victims of society which is sad but true in many cases – still, if anybody in that whole business is able to make a choice, it’s the parents. When children come to school and already have an attentions span of less than 3 minutes (ok to be fair, sometimes school IS boring !), clearly a lot of damage has already been inflicted to them. And it is very difficult, if possible at all to pick up on this at the kind of school we have.
That depends on the privilege. Back in the day, when the push for accommodations for the fact that women bear children began, it met with a derisive hoot of “You said you wanted to be equal, nyaah, nyaah, nyaah.”
The invention of parental leave helped a bit, and many public facilities have lactation stations, since feeding a baby in, say, a restaurant, even decently covered, is still seen as unseemly. But taking parental leave has been stigmatized in today’s rat race. Okay – let’s say the same accommodations as a man would have for military leave – national guard duty, time in service, etc.
Privilege #2 – most sexual assaults target women, girls, and boys. When equality meant male guards in women’s prisons, we saw the results. (Female guards in men’s prisons also have problems. Lots of them.) The idea that some spaces should be single-sex for the sake of decency was a major reform sought for in the 19th century. That’s what they meant by it. Similarly children young enough to be called children, should not be incarcerated with teenagers or guarded solely by men. Because captive populations are to predators what piles of money are to thieves.
The question has been raised on whether equality meant women would be drafted for military service. My only problem with that would be that during WWI and WWII, in the nations most affected, women kept the economy running.
Other that that, no, no special privileges. Now let the storm of barnyard wastes begin.
“You do know as a woman who doesn’t want one, you are about as rare as a unicorn? One in a thousand rare. Maybe one in a hundred thousand.”
I think if you polled this combox, you’d find it has an astonishing number of unicorns.
Re: Your secondary school comments:
I big issue regarding education is quality over quantity. My family went over my grandfather’s (1924-2014) old schoolbooks and found that he learned math in 3rd grade that my sister learned in 8th grade. He also learned world geography and history in grade school. One only learns national geography (in the Ontario school system) in Grade 9 and nation history in Grade 10 . And let’s not even talk about the utter absence of, say, Latin relative to my grandfather’s or even mother’s high school days
By going back to quality of information to create polymaths early in life (when retention is easier) rather than specialization in secondary (and post-secondary) years later in life, our systems could remove the stigma that only “dumb” people don’t pass high school.
Youngsters can go out and make money as apprentices at age 14 with little or no debt just like they used to.
 I personally learned about them when I was a kid out of personal interest and curiosity
American parents, if your kid has any sort of handicap, you are entitled to what is called an Individual Education Plan. The IEP gives you the final say on what and how the child is taught. I was able to use this to have Sonkitten taught phonics and the arithmetic tables. The teachers didn’t like it, they were especially resistant to phonics, but they had no choice.
Re smartphones—as of right now, no law says you have to take the thing wherever you go. (I anticipate such laws in another 5-10 years, so Big Brother can more conveniently check your papers-please which will all be loaded onto the phone.). Right now, If the phone’s at home and you’re frolicking about at a state park 50 miles away, as far as Big Brother is concerned, you’re home. You can get a “burner” flip phone to carry around with you for when you need to make a call while traveling, e.g. to AAA.
Re sleep—I’m having bumps and starts, e.g. last night I woke up about every 20 minutes, but overall I seem to be heading in the right direction, so I think banishing your insomnia is worth trying.
@Onething. I meant in two ways.
One ontologically and epistemologically. Nobody where I live–beyond the well socialized–take any of what political elites say seriously. True, their employers have furloughed them but there is nothing like ideological buy-in. As I write this, there is a racous block party going on outside.
True, some pro forma obeisance is being made to masking and distancing or whatever. Nonetheless, whatever this or that chattering apparition on TV has to say is so nakedly ideological my friends and neighbors at any have stopped listening.
Two, any sort of locking down here has been purely voluntary. There simply aren’t enough police or soldiers to enforce it. Matter of fact, the entire traffic enforcement division in my city of some 300k+ citizens was laid low by the virus… and they were dreadfully understaffed as is. We cooperate because, for now, it is convenient to.
You mention the British Government’s policise. I point out that Middle America and the UK couldn’t be more different places beyond sharing a version of the Common Law and a language. My wife, as it happens, is a British citizen. Whenever I’ve visited there the omnipresent police/surveillance presence always gave me heebie jeebies. So I believe The State can do more of what it wants to there.
As for me, my metro area comprises something like most of population of Scotland spread out over three counties. And we’re armed with at least shotguns.
So, the this raises the question: what did I expect to happen? I dunno. Something like the national guard mobilizing, nationalization of essential services, weapons confiscation, martial law. Instead we got another business bribe, 1200 Schrute bucks, and a request to stay home. Ho-hum.
JMG, since you are working on UFO stuff right now, what do you say about this?
This site is usually big buildup + facts making anything unusual unlikely + but who knows? It COULD have happened!—but even a blind pig finds the occasional acorn.
You do know as a woman who doesn’t want one, you are about as rare as a unicorn? One in a thousand rare. Maybe one in a hundred thousand.”
I not only don’t particularly want one, I don’t want one.
This is truly interesting and different. He claims that Fauci and the CDC have broken the law. Very juicy if true.
off topic on the tone deafness of elites:
Philadelphia mayor decided to open two things today: construction work and… golf courses.
Well, golf isn’t a contact sport so if you are going to open a few things up it kinda makes sense except golf is a symbol of being upper-middle class and upper class so it sounds really bad.
GM. Nethylethyl is correct. Let me tell my home schooling background just to give you a sense of what is possible.
I was home-schooled from 1st though 4th grade and thereafter I went to a private school. It’s curriculum was self teaching homeschooling curriculum, with the teachers there to provide help when needed. You have to be able to read just to do the work (100% literacy rate in the school)… Also does a great job of creating self starters.
On hitting 9th grade I started taking advanced courses at the community College at night and in the summer. (they refused to admit me a year earlier because I wouldn’t have been ‘mature enough’). Took English, physics, psychology, sociology, and a whole bunch of computer classes (programming, maintenance, desktop publishing, etc). This was while still going to the private school.
Graduated high school at 16 and then started to go to the community College full time, graduated from there at 18 and then went to a university for an electrical engineering degree, graduated in 3.5 years (I’ve got 10 years in the electric industry now).
Also when I say private school you might think, rich. Nope
The school’s tuition was $1,000 per year (probably closer to $1700 now). A bit like a one room school house in nature.
As Nethylethyl said, when the school maxed out on math the community College was there to step in (didn’t hold be back from making it through 4 calculus classes in college).
I wasn’t an one off genius either. One of my classmates also went and got an engineering degree. My brother got a Masters degree.
Just finished Understood Betsy – thanks to G. Kay Bishop for the link to Project Gutenberg. Wow! How… familiar!
Everything old is new again! Helicopter parents* in 1910 *well, helicopter aunts
Spoon-fed education tied to nothing real! I know exactly how they feel
Kids pyschologized to Hades and back …. the Xers didn’t invent this?!?!? What the frack?!?
OMG – my daughter SO needs to read this!
U.B – even the milk thing! My grandsons are fed low-fat milk – “for fear they’ll get fat.”
My daughter’s totem animal, I swear – not the one she likes best, but the “if she were an animal, what would it be?” – is a Border Collie.
Kevin Taylor Burgess,
I know, right? Eighteen years of marriage and it just gets better every day…
“Onething, that’s also certainly a possibility. It’s also at least possible that the Democratic Party is divided, with different factions flailing this way and that.”
Well, I don’t mean the democratic party per se, but rather the deep state, of which the DNC seems to be the public face these days.
Ever since I achieved the financial stability sufficient to save one, I have always maintained a savings of that sort, for specifically that reason. I called it my “frack you money”. It applied equally to living situations and jobs. If I needed to leave, I had the money to do so and be ok for a couple of months.
It grew directly out of living in less-than-ideal to awful situations that I was too poor to leave and not having a familial safety net that I even remotely wanted to engage with if I could at all help it. Took me a while to save it up, but once I had it, it gave great peace of mind.
I suppose most people just call that a “savings” but to younger me, my own term was more appealing and inspired me to keep hands-off save for appropriate situations.
In the threads of discussion here, I think it is important to distinguish between compulsion and choice. I don’t think that anyone is arguing that *everyone* must homeschool or that *all* households have a house-person managing the homestead full-time whilst the partner works outside the home. Rather, the argument is that those options should be permitted and allowed for any who wish to choose them. Freedom is about that choice. And the price of your freedom and my freedom is watching other people use *their* freedom in ways of which we might not approve. (Like homeschooling; or marrying someone of the same gender, or of another ethnicity; or deciding to not have children; or deciding to be a housewife/husband; or smoking; or drinking; or whatever.) The point is, for those of us who consider human freedom to be of high value, the ability to choose one’s life for oneself, without compulsion by the State or bureaucrats or experts, is of paramount importance. If person A wishes to send their child to the state school, let them. If person B wishes to homeschool their child because they think they can better meet their child’s needs, let them. If person C wants to sent their kid to the church school because that institution supports their family’s values, let them. It’s not anyone else’s business at the end of the day, and certainly not the State’s.
Personally, I have a strong aversion to paternalistic government. The proponents of Prohibition, for example, were well-intentioned, but still wrong. You let people lives the lives they freely choose; you do not compel them to live the one you think is best. At least not in a society that purports to be a free republic.
“or violently rocking your baby in a motorized cradle for 2 hours or more without break”
I wonder if you’ve never had a baby? They love it. And if it goes 2 hours without a break it is because the baby loves it enough to sleep for two hours without a break. They absolutely love rocking motions. And, by the way, I found with very young infants who are hysterical, that you can only break through by actually rocking or jiggling them quite hard, then they calm down, then you rock slower. The more frantic the baby, the more motion they need to calm down. But I’m talking of only a minute or two, as it works quite fast and it would be exhausting to keep up such a pace.
If these things made babies miserable, no one would bother with them. All the parents (and grandma) want is peace. No one should have a baby without a rocking chair.
JMG, Ethan, and Ip,
Since we have seen a few mentions of Waldorf schools, I have some comments to share. Our daughter went to a Waldorf early-childhood program and a different Waldorf elementary school through grade 4. Also, my sister was a handwork instructor at another school, and we have a very close friend who was a Waldorf teacher. I volunteered for one of them and served as treasurer for two years. All of us–my family, my sister, and our friend–ultimately bailed and would not go back to a Waldorf school.
The advantages of Waldorf, at least to me, are 1) an explicit anti-media policy 2) a system of sequencing subject matter to match the developmental stage of the child and 3) a holistic approach that includes things like handwork, gardening, and art. The classrooms are free of plastic and there is emphasis on mythology. Many aspects of the coursework are delightfully old-fashioned.
The problems are that behind the veil of homespun purple woolens, it is rigidly dogmatic in its own way. Keeping the kids together in a class with the same teacher for 8 years can create dysfunctional family dynamics and bullying. Steiner is revered as a figure, but his writings are difficult and I began to realize that the faculty were regurgitating Steiner sound bites without a real understanding and it just turned into gibberish.
It is setting high expectations to talk about an educational system that can bring the child in touch with his or her higher self, and now it just appears to me as an empty sales pitch. Many of JMG’s descriptions of the declining New Age movement can be neatly applied to the Waldorf community, especially expectations that the universe is there to fulfill wishes, and the meltdowns that occur when it does not.
Despite the interesting philosophy, my conclusion is that most Waldorf schools don’t function with a lot of integrity, and that is dangerous. We picked up some ideas, but went in a different direction. Your mileage may vary of course!
About declining rates of marriage in the US, I think there are three main reasons for this and they all developed during the 1980s, which means that they are firmly entrenched in our socioeconomic system
The first: I read a good article about fifteen years ago about what has happened to marriage in the working class and underclass. It might have been written by Barbara Ehrenreich, who also wrote the book Nickeled and Dimed about how difficult it is to survive on a full time minimum wage job (if you can get one). The thesis of the article was that marriage has become a luxury that poor women cannot afford. This is not (primarily) because of regulations that used to, and in some places perhaps still do, make it very difficult for a woman to get government aid for herself or her children if she admits to being in a long term relationship. Rather it is because of what has happened to the job market for working class and underclass men. The jobs that women of those classes can get are service jobs. They pay very poorly, but they are relatively easy to get and tend to be steady work if you do what you are told. The jobs men can get do not provide steady employment.
This requires women, particularly mothers, to make a cold economic calculation as to whether they can afford to get married. If a woman is barely making enough money to feed her family and pay the rent, can she afford to also support an adult male whose economic contributions to the household are going to be erratic, who is not socialized to do much housework or childcare and does not have a side gig he can do from home? No she can not.
The second: As a result of the feminist movement, the kinds of jobs women can get and the careers open to them have have vastly expanded from the immediate postwar period (late Forties through early Seventies), In those days, if you were middle class or aspired to be, your choices were schoolteacher, nurse, secretary, or going down the ladder, typing pool, phone operator, store clerk. Or something in the entertainment field. If you doubt me on this, take a look at the classified ads in any newspaper from 1955 or 1960 and compare the Help Wanted-Men section to the Help Wanted-Women section. Yes, this was legal and no one thought anything of it. The pay and prospects for promotion are still worse for women than for men (controlling for race, age, ethnicity etc.), but earning a living while female has improved enough that a women who prefers the single life is not condemned to scraping by in genteel poverty. Women don’t have to get married. Women don’t have to stay married. They can make it on their own.
The third: The social stigma on a woman for having a child out of wedlock, and for the child being born to an unmarried mother, was once severe and universal, but now has vanished in every social class. Being a single parent is difficult, but has become so commonplace that it is normal. I think this development is more a result of the economic changes in points one and two than it is the cause.
Your faithful feminist correspondent,
Umber Somnolent Skull
JMG, do you not see a resurgence of the virus coming back once things open back up this summer and fall? I know you said you expect the economy to come roaring back, but I wasn’t sure what timeline you had in mind for the economy to take off again. I have a hard time thinking people will go out and spend money the way they did before the lockdown, at least not until we have a handle on how the virus will spread (or not spread) in the next month or two.
I did ALL the school things in my grade-school career: Some homeschool, some public school, and a couple of parochial schools. They all had their pros and cons. One homeschool year consisted entirely of attending the local community college full time in lieu of my senior year, so doesn’t really count. My other homeschool year was a co-op type deal (my parents both worked), where I’d spend the day with a homeschooling family down the street, and their mom would supervise my progress in math, writing, and science (and take me to homeschooler group events like shark dissection), while I’d read and discuss history and civics with Dad in the evenings. It worked reasonably well, but I might have done better with a bit more structure, having just come off eight years of regular school (it’s not unusual for kids to need some transition time).
The parochial schools: School A: It was not academically rigorous, but it was at least on par with the public schools, and avoided the disciplinary problems common there. My classmates did include a fair number of doctors’ kids, but it wasn’t so pricey that it was ALL rich kids. The kids were civilized and generally well-intentioned and even though I did not fit in socially (there or in public school), I was never bullied. Our religion/history teachers were the assistant pastors for the church– enthusiastic, intelligent, fresh-out-of-seminary young men who did a fantastic job, and were often recapping college-level course material. I think most grade school education is a waste of time (stuff I don’t need or use IRL), but one thing that school A did very well was religious literacy. It’s not “useful” in the job world, but in life more generally, I deeply appreciate it. We studied church history, a basic survey of world religions, Old Testament, New Testament, and a basic survey of the major Christian denominations, what we believe in common and what we disagree on. There was no pressure to profess any particular belief, as the school accepted students from many denominations. I have referred back to this knowledge base more than any other subject I studied formally in school. Weirdly enough.
School B: 5th-7th Grades, a very small, informal affair with combined grades: 5-6th together, 7th-8th together, small classes, co-op-ish, my mom helped choose the curricula, we had the sort of brilliant field trips you only get when there are 12 people in your class, you’re accountable to nobody, and your teacher is an archaeology buff (visiting and volunteering on nearby digs, sailing on a replica of the Golden Hind…). We studied Latin, read lots of books, dissected frogs, had a retired gentleman in to chat with us about local history… there was a pool table in the building, and a classroom computer with DOS Typing Tutor on it, and through friendly competition we all achieved basic competency in both pool and touch typing, in our free time (touch typing is the single most useful thing I learned in school, ever) I wouldn’t call it academically rigorous, but it was very engaging, marvelous fun, and when I dipped briefly into public school afterward, I was in no way falling behind, and was ahead in math and literacy. The culture shock was like a ten-ton hammer though. I don’t know anyone who actually enjoyed their middle school years, except my classmates from that school, some of whom I am still in touch with. We LOVED that school, and remember it fondly. It was the most humane and convivial school I went to. After 7th grade (as often happens with such schools), the associated church had some nasty political rift, and the school dissolved. We try to have little reunions now and then– we all felt like refugees forced to leave a beloved homeland, after that.
I’ve run into a few people who went to schools or co-ops like school B: universally beloved by their alumni, they are by nature temporary arrangements. If they’re really successful, and they grow, they become more institutional, and lose the easy conviviality that makes them great. If they don’t grow, they go broke, or become too much of a financial drain on the church that sponsors them. Pure luck if you find one, and be grateful while it lasts.
One thing that’s been left out of the discussion of problems with schooling and education is the risk-managers. Pretty much every school system and every college and university has an office of risk managemnt. Their main job appears to be to avoid possible lawsuits, and this means keeping everything done to/with stduents as objective as possible, as free of any personal element as possible. The moment you have to allow personal judgement in the door of academe, you become open to all sorts of legal action–whether frivolous, mendacious or sincere–alleging bias, prejudice, privilege, etc. etc. Standardized curricula with standardized tests and automatically assigned grads are part of the risk-manager’s answer to the danger.
There was a time in my own academic career when it seemed prudent to go and talk with our lawyer’s firm about this sort of risk. The junior lawyer with whom we started the discussion was himself well aware of the problem and the dangers that any acadermic faces from university risk-managers. Not entirely in jest, he remarked that the academic risk-manager’s primary task was to keep students and faculty from interacting with each another across the student/faculty divide, and also to keep students from interacting with one other, and likewise faculty from interacting with one other.
That really had the ring of truth to it!
Of course, the academic risk-manager’s task is impossible–or was impossible when everyone was physically present on campus–and also, to the extent that it might be possible, would pretty much prevent real education from happening.
The current shut-down of university campuses probably makes academic risk-managers’ jobs much easier. Major universities resemble, more than a little, gigantic hedge-funds which still maintain their associated educational institutions chiefly for the sake of the tax advantages they give. For such a fund, risk-management is a major concern. Indeed, I’m not all that sure that university risk-managers would be all that eager to open their campuses again after the current lock-down, were it not for the revenue that students bring to campus with them. (And, anyway, that revenue seems to be significantly less that the revenue coming in from research grants and so forth.)
@methylethyl: Entirely agreed! I suspect credentials have gone through the same planned obsolescence process as tech, and likely for the same reasons.
@Patricia Matthews: Ew. Glad he’s an ex, hope he fell down a well.
Also in re: relationships, the need for a backup plan/financial independence isn’t just a matter of trust or abuse. People grow apart, people want different things than they think at the beginning of a relationship, and that’s fine too–I’m a big fan of Dan Savage’s comment that marriage and murder are the only things we consider “failures” if they end without a corpse, and that this is somewhat fracked up–so that’s another place where a good backup plan can come in handy. Breakups in non-abusive relationships don’t have quite the emergency flavor of the other sort, but having to follow a breakup by staying with your ex until you can find a job/apartment is all sorts of awkward, and best to avoid.
Basically, I’m all in favor of arrangements that make sure any participant in a relationship can leave when and if they want, without worrying either that they’ll starve in a gutter or that they’re condemning somebody else to that fate. The societal corollary to my “always have an exit strategy” motto is, I suppose, a belief that there should be plenty of accessible and well-marked exits at all times.
@Bonnie: Ooh, yes! I’ve heard that term elsewhere, and I really like it.
Michael, exactly. One of the points of having lab sessions at all is that you find out that nature is not neat and tidy, and won’t necessarily come up with the right answers.
Beekeeper, many thanks for this.
Isabel, those customs are definitely worth reviving! As for abuse, yeah. That’s one of the things I had in mind when I mentioned, in response to another comment, the way that feminism has been distorted into a claim of privilege: when a man abuses a woman that’s monstrous, but when a woman abuses a man she’s justified. Say what?
Irena, Europe is Europe and America is America; the cultural differences are real. My guess is that homeschooling will top out at around 20% of children, while a diverse range of other forms of schooling take up the remainder. 20% would be enough to put the fear of God into the public school bureaucracies and quite possibly force serious changes…
Patricia M, if you’re willing to be content with that set of privileges, I’m good with it. Too many soi-disant feminists these days seem to think, to cite just one example, that women should have single-sex spaces but men should not — I’ll let you imagine how many rants I’ve listened to about the alleged sexism of Freemasons, who simply want the right to their guy time.
Aidan, no argument there at all, There’s a reason why the old McGuffey Readers have become very common textbooks among the homeschooling set — they teach, and expect, a 19th century level of reading comprehension, so your 8th grader is getting the sort of thing you have to do grad school to face these days. It works really well, too.
Your Kittenship, classic stuff. Consider the possibility that US intelligence agencies were doing this to keep the UFO scene in a tizzy. Are you at all familiar with the case of Paul Bennewitz, who became the unwitting conduit by which UFO conspiracy theories were fed to the UFO community? He’s worth looking up.
Wanderer, that’s pretty good, Right up there with the governor of Illinois insisting that everyone else stay home while his wife and kids bug out to Florida…
Onething, they’ve got to be pretty close to panic at this point, too.
David BTL, exactly. Thank you.
Samurai, that’s the pervasive problem with Steiner’s otherwise brilliant creations — they’ve become locked into a cult of personality in which Steiner quotes substitute for thinking. It’s really sad, as he had some excellent ideas that other people could develop further.
Ian, given how quickly it spreads and how small a fraction of people who get it ever show symptoms, by fall population immunity will take care of it.
Robert, that makes a frightening amount of sense.
Here are couple more thought-provoking Musa Al-Gharbi essays in which you may be interested:
I’ve been deeply engaged with the issues of educating kids for some decades now, as a public school teacher, a parent of kids enrolled in public school, a homeschool parent, someone who helps other homeschool parents teach their kids, a volunteer teacher in youth organizations, a university teacher educator, a curriculum developer, an education researcher… suffice it to say I’ve thought about these things a lot. I’d like to add a few points to the perspective offered here. Apologies if I am repeating others’ points here, as I haven’t had the chance to catch up on the comments yet.
1. The educational offerings many schools are using in the current situation as so-called distance learning bear very little resemblance to what most teachers normally do in the classroom with students. Good teaching is all about relationships- between the teacher and individual students, between the teacher and the group, between the students themselves, between the student and the material to be learned. The teacher’s job is to orchestrate all these relationships, and it is exactly this structure that has been gutted in the current circumstances. Online distance learning options are necessarily the lowest common denominator, because the teacher has no control over how they are implemented at home. Further, many districts are deliberately and severely limiting what teachers can demand of their students over distance learning because of “equity concerns”. Some kids have parents by their sides doing the discussing, probing, reflecting, and encouraging that the teacher would ideally be doing in class, and some kids have no support at all. Thus it’s not considered fair to expect students to be able to hack very much on their own, so everyone gets the same watered-down expectations. This is not how teachers were taught to teach, and not how they ever intended to implement their curriculum plans. They’ve had a couple of weeks at most to pivot to this new, undesirable setup. Their job is even more impossible than usual. Judging public schools on what you see peeking over a kid’s shoulder at their Chromebook in the past couple of weeks would make no sense.
2. The world of homeschooling is really, really diverse these days. It’s not really mainly powered by ideological concerns anymore (though there is certainly that strand). There are people who want to accelerate their kids’ learning, people who can’t get themselves together to get their kid to a classroom five days a week, people who want the flexibility to take their kids on extended round-the-world trips, people whose behaviorally-challenged kids have been kicked out of three public schools by grade 3, people who just want their families to stay as a tight unit, people whose kids travel as competitive athletes or elite musicians, and on and on… and homeschooling options have multiplied to meet these different motivations. Some people buy complete boxed curricula and re-create the rigidity of the worst public schools at home. Some “unschool” and only follow their kids’ interests. There are parent co-ops, hybrid public/homeschooling programs (like the one my son attended for the past couple of years, where he went to small classes three days a week and was at home with me the rest of the time), online programs, correspondence programs… It’s the wild west out there. And there’s a huge industry of curriculum developers, publishers, programs, classes, conferences, tutors, etc. ready to take parents’ money, whether it comes directly from their own pockets or from their public school voucher money.
3. The public school system definitely has some suspicion about whether most homeschooling parents are going to do a good job educating their kids at home, but in my estimation their greatest concern is about the money, pure and simple. In many states, when you homeschool, you get to control a portion of the money that the public schools would otherwise get to educate your student, so you can purchase your own curriculum, etc. Fewer little heinies in classroom seats means less public school program funding. It doesn’t take many empty seats before budgets start to feel the pinch.
4. There is no one-size-fits all solution. Homeschooling can be great, or it can be dismal, just like public schools. Different kids, parents, and families thrive under different circumstances. This can vary within the same family from kid to kid, subject to subject, and year to year. Not every parent is cut out to teach, and certainly most of us need to call in some subject-area expertise, at least by high school or so. And let’s remember, there actually are some great public schools and some great public school teachers out there. Just “killing” the public school system would be no answer to the dilemma; I believe that with no public school system available, we would have just as many kids falling through the cracks, as many families are unable or unwilling to adequately educate their own kids. The healthiest possible situation would be to have a thriving, diverse ecosystem of educational options, with freedom for individuals and families to find their own niches.
5. There is definitely an economic class aspect to homeschooling, as families have to be able to afford have at least one parent available to guide and instruct, at least younger kids, most of the time. This issue has been evident as families have been thrown into involuntary semi-homeschooling during the current crisis, especially when the parents are “essential workers”. As I’m sure you realize, JMG, most working-class families don’t have the luxury to afford to restrict one worker to only the home economy and educating the kids. It takes two adults, working flat-out, just to almost survive. And about 31% of American kids live in single-parent families. As much as we may love to bash public schools, entirely aside from their educational function, they serve a vital economic function for many lower-income families by providing a safe place for kids to be while parents are working. (This is not to mention the breakfast, lunch, and even weekend food provided by schools to vast numbers of low-income kids.)
6. This leads to my final point: one huge reason that public schools are failing so many of our kids is that we can’t seem to agree on, or limit, their purpose. They cannot adequately educate students in the basics because they are too busy trying to feed them, clothe them, and check their hair for lice, counsel the sexual abuse survivors, teach dental health, nutrition, and drug and alcohol abuse avoidance, and cope with any other fool topic that someone in the state legislature decides should be added to the curriculum this year. (Nothing ever gets dropped from the curriculum, except the arts and time to breathe. These examples come directly from my fourth-grade classroom. Every time I hear someone begin a sentence with, “Why don’t schools teach…”, I want to slap them.) We can’t get kids the skills they need to become 21st century citizens because we can’t agree on what those skills *are*. And the schools are expected to serve many functions that would have been expected of families themselves, or of functioning communities, in the past. Why would we expect schools to be anything other than a reflection of our dysfunctional culture? They are suffocating under bloated, unrealistic expectations, just like all of our other institutions. But, as many have discovered the hard way in the past few weeks, it’s easy to criticize the system, but educating the nation’s kids is not so easy to actually do, especially when you don’t have the luxury to focus on just that.
–Heather in CA
RE: The Democrats and their “problem (predicament):” I smell the touch of KEK on this, especially in relationship to #MeToo.
After seeing too many #MeToo proponents doubling down on Biden against a woman whom, if the video evidence is true, seems a bit OLD for Biden’s seeming preferences, I can only think that the army of KEK followers have not only cast their spells, but many of them have taken honest training and upped their game against an opposition who still hasn’t thought about settling down for a second and rethink their plans. And while I can understand giving the presidential nomination to some old guy who’s served the party well but should only be allowed to run when the election is obviously lost, the fact that the #MeToo and VoteBlueNoMatterWhat contingent is rallying around a guy whose dementia has taken from him the ability to control his desires should tell you that something hidden is going on…at least that’s what it tells me.
@Ace of Spades, I see the A-12 was a precursor of the SR-71, my favorite of all the airplanes, and I loved them all. My father, who worked at a variety of airports in their flight service stations (weather briefings, flight plans) says he saw one on radar once, and it was doing well in excess of Mach 8. Its true capabilities were never revealed to the public, but I heard the pilot’s manual included procedures for getting yourself out of orbit. The aircraft south of Tucson said it used a V-8 engine to get its engines started.
*To everyone else, apologies for raving like this!*
I thought some here might find the following excerpts from my Grade VI Reader which I used in 1957 at the ages of 11-12 interesting.
A child who has gained the habit of reading for the sake of the pleasure and the profit that it brings will continue his self-education after he has left school. The aims are to instil into the minds of the pupils such a love of literature as will last beyond school-days and be an unfailing source of profit and delight. Special attention has been given to the poetical pieces, many of which, if learned by heart, will prove a joy forever to the diligent scholar.
Do not be fooled by the word profit. This is way before the Thatcher-Reagan hegemony and has a very different meaning.
It goes on in similar vein. No wonder I enjoyed my school years so much and have continued to be interested in learning pretty much anything.
It is a pity that more of your readers didn’t learn under a similar system.
The mention earlier of sharing poetry has inspired me to go through these books and write the poetry out so I can easily look at some familiar poems.
I know that’s a hot iron for many. I have three children. Two of them slept rather bad when they were small. Of course I rock a baby if it can’t find sleep. Of course, I sing or play music of it helps calming the baby. What I am taking about are absurd motions made by a machine that no parent would be able to keep up for more than two minutes applied for hours. Loud Music or white noise that you wouldn’t stand for times longer than one hour played the whole night, every night. I perfectly well know how demanding it can be to have a baby that has problems sleeping and that there are moments when you have to put your well-being first because otherwise you would just collapse. Still what I am talking about has a different quality. I know a few infants who had been subdued to such treatment when they were small an all I can say is it leaves traces that I’d call damage. And for what I know it’s not a rare thing to happen.
Mr. Greer, in your books, you have written about the fact that the deindustrial age will be different from the current age, just like our age is different from the ages preceding it, and that its impact will be applicable to a wide range of fields.
That got me thinking a bit, especially with regard to mathematics. While pure mathematics is completely a proof-based academic field, applied mathematics is not, as it requires graphing and computation to a large degree. For instance, if you were to come up with a mathematical model that describes auxin transport in plants, you would most likely simulate it using numerical simulation and produce a plot (or more than one plot). However, in an age where our best tool for number-crunching is a slide rule, evaluation of mathematical models will be done in a very different manner. While the insights of pure mathematics will surely be useful, there’s a limit to what they can reveal, and I won’t be surprised if the field of applied mathematics in the mid/late 21st century itself might look somewhat like it did in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Also, the mathematical tools used might also be restricted. For example, the use of fractional order differential equations or delay differential equations in mathematical modeling might be a bad move, as such models simply cannot be simulated without the kind of cheap and fast computing power that computers and laptops provide us (I don’t even want to talk about the much touted ‘machine learning’). Similarly, statistical calculations will be done using the statistical tables which were done in the early 20th century. In all probability, fields like optimization and operations research might not survive in the long run, as they are very computationally intensive fields, and thus are unlikely to be used in the absence of computers.
I’d like to read your take on this.
This all brings to mind Ivan Illich’s very useful term: Usefully Unemployed. It is amazing how much telling someone you are Usefully Unemployed can change their reaction to telling them you don’t make money. The stigma attached to this can be so large that when you tell someone you don’t have a job and are not looking for a job that are often taken aback. Then they usually ask if you are a student. A piece of advice I got when I was a teen was that it was easier to get a job if you had a job and that this somehow implies you should be in continual employment. Yet being unemployed has been some of the most fruitful periods of my life.
I left out the homeless out of my numbers of institutionalized people. The number in PA right now? Just under 14,000. That would be a big piece of the 38K
We volunteered for a couple years at the local homeless shelter and all of the perpetually homeless needed medications for both physical and mental health issues. The social services staff needed to act like their mom in order to have them take their meds – constant calls, coaching, reminders, and watching each one for signs of change.
Back to the abuse question – wouldn’t justice be more served if the abusers were removed from their victims, rather than their victims being removed? Currently the abuser gets to keep their life as is, and the victim if a child is placed in foster care, and if an adult, runs to a shelter. The victim suffers the majority of the impact while the abuser gets little. No criminal charges in most cases, no job loss, no discomfort of having to move.
We treat a lot of people like they are disposable and unimportant.
I meant to share this when you start this series on occultism in early America. The PA German History Center at Kutztown has many original diaries in PA German, some translated, on the various healing practices. I went to a talk by the director years ago and the older folks in the room could all name things their parents and great grandparents did for protection of family and house. I wish I had audio recorded it, because it was such a rich discussion.
The other source here of original manuscripts is the Historic Society of PA in Philly. They have 20million+ items tucked into that building and a small fraction are in their catalog online. Here is the search on the word https://discover.hsp.org/Search/Results?lookfor=occult&type=AllFields
The reading room is delightful there (dead silence) and they have a small kitchen where you can bring your lunch and warm it along with some tables. It is convenient to public transport too.
The trick to find what you want out of their vastly uncatalogued collection is to know the prominent people of the time. They do have things labeled under their names. The card catalog onsite covers more of the items but hasn’t been updated in maybe a decade.
They were financially crashing prior to the pandemic so I’m really worried about what’s next for them. But I think they could be an interesting resource of original materials for you. They allow people to photo the materials for free so if you see something you want, let me know and I could just send you photos of it. But they won’t allow photos of a whole book no matter how old, obviously! I think you’d probably want to see things with your own eyes and hold them. It’s seriously the coolest part of research- to hold something hundreds of years old and just be with it.
The other Philly resource is the Consortium of Special Collection Libraries. Again, their online catalog is a small fraction of what any of them have. https://pacscl.org I haven’t been to Penn’s Collection yet but I bet it’s good. And for what it’s worth, one of the lead people at the Catholic Historical Archives is in his 20’s and very eager to crack open what they have. Could be some interesting bits there since as a faith they were so interesting in stomping out what they though was strange. Although in Philly they were so busy battling the Presbyterians in the streets that that could have distracted them. lol
One point worth mentioning is how the tax system pushes people out of the domestic economy and into work, since you have to pay for the public education system along with all the other “services” government and local authorities provide whether you use them or not. Of course now that China has just won world war III without firing a shot the future looks like being interesting to say the least. At this stage any predictions as to how things will shape out under the New, New World Order are likely useless other than to say it’ll be different.
JMG – I’m cool with men-only spaces, guy time, and man caves as well. The problem arose in the early days when women first began getting high-level positions, there came to be two sorts of meetings: the public ones in which the women participated. Then the men went off together and settled things “informally.” This may still happen; I’ve been out of the rat race since 2003 and never was at that level.
And the old women’s networks of relatives, neighbors, etc died in the I’ve Been Moved days, when hubby was expected to go where his employer sent him and the family had to follow. “Okay – I’ve been transferred to Denver.” Almost like military families, except that the military brats among my friends say that a base is a base and the base culture is pretty uniform.
Transition times can be rough, and messy.
@JMG – just remembered – IIRC, in England during another transition time after WWI, women had their clubs just as men did, and like the men’s clubs, offered meals and rooms as well. They were a lot more underfunded, just as the women’s colleges in Oxford were – and my source on Oxford is Dorothy Sayers, for what that’s worth. I may be mistaken.
>Major universities resemble, more than a little, gigantic hedge-funds
LOL. They’ve taken their base income stream and leveraged all this other stuff on top of it. But in order for all this other stuff to work, they still need those lowly peasant students, except they’ve almost forgotten that they still need them. And have almost forgotten they need to cater to their needs and interests.
This is going to end well.
European and US cultures are different, sure. But the US didn’t pick its attachment to liberty from the trees. Homeschooling is legal in Ireland and the UK for exactly the same reason it is in the US and fortunately there’s no prospect of the authoritarians overturning that.
On women abusing men, the statistics on this are understandably an unholy mess but it may be true that if you count every single push, slap and poke as a single incident of abuse, women abuse men more than vice versa. What is undeniably true, though, is that there isn’t a silent iceberg out there of men with broken eye sockets and smashed ribs who are hiding their injuries out of gender-based shame. Women hit more during domestic fights precisely because they almost invariably cause less harm in doing so.
This is inconvenient to men’s rights activists of course. What’s less obvious is that it’s become inconvenient for most feminists, because women being less physically strong than men is now also taboo. Seems perfectly reasonable for society to care more about the quality of harm caused by violent incidents than it does about their quantity.
But one thing that feminism doesn’t get half enough bashing for is demonstrated by several commenters here. There’s what can only be called an obsession with protecting that minority of children or women who are being abused, regardless of the cost to the majority of the population. It’s misdirected, distorted and unbalanced maternal instincts, the same instinct that drags all children down to the lowest common denominator so that no one’s feelings get hurt. It’s an attitude that says who cares if the majority of children are failing to achieve anything like their potential in public schools, who cares what that costs our society as a whole in genius and achievement and invention and quality of citizenship, so long as that minority of abuse victim have a safe place to go on weekdays.
What on earth is wrong with a society that subordinates something as crucial as educating future citizens to domestic abuse prevention? Should public education solve climate change, win the War on Hate and achieve world peace while we’re at it? Oh, wait, they’re trying that too… Maybe blaming feminism is a little unfair, maybe this is just what cultural decline looks like and vague feminism happens to be the face it wears this time.
As a parent, taxpayer, and also a part time teacher (of chess), I have had a lot of experience with public education in a wealthy suburb of Chicago…In most cases, it’s a mindless bureaucracy with a few motivated teachers that continually demands more money from parents, but is unaccountable in every way, and is quite happy with dumbing down your childrens’ education…For example, Common Core seems explicitly designed to destroy your kids’ math abilities, and its “history” lessons combine massive propaganda and outright lies……. which is why they attempt to prevent parents from learning anything about CC….Homeschool or die…
I was homeschooled k-12, and my mom was a contact person for the Wisconsin Parent’s Association for many years. I think any attempt to restrict parents’ rights to educate their children would run into a wall in this state. It’s been tried before, and homeschooling families of all stripes came together to defend homeschooling. It got conservative Christian creationists and liberal hippie types working together, for goodness sake. Wisconsin now has some of the least restrictive homeschooling laws in the country.
For more information about homeschooling, especially in Wisconsin, the WPA website is a great resource: https://homeschooling-wpa.org/
Remdesivir, which costs about 1K/dose, approved by FDA for Coronavirus treatment.
What are the chances your insurance won’t cover it, that they’ll call it an “experimental treatment “?
In other bad news, following links led me back to one of my nutroots sites today. Last week they were relatively placid; this week the mad-o-meter is cranked as high as it will go. So if you live in a leftist area, keep alert for eruptions of violence. The big complaint seems to be that states are letting those filthy, infectious MAGA types go back to work, thus increasing the chances that their virtuous PMC betters will be infected, what with more people out and about. Also, they’re quite unhappy that in some states Coronavirus is worse than in other states, and the healthier states are not sufficiently frightened.
I myself think that the main reason for Coronavirus hysteria is that New York City, where many of our rulers spend much of their time, is much worse off than areas that are not as large, not as crowded, and not as full of people coming and going from all corners of the world. (Both JFK and LaGarbage have “populations”—staff—bigger than a lot of Flyover towns.). If I lived in New York, I too might come to believe the apocalypse is upon us.
Good news, Sonkitten gets to keep his eye appointment next week!
Great post, thank you. It’s interesting to read everyone else’s situations, too. Life hasn’t changed too much for my wife and I except that we’re both working remotely. We’re both very busy at work, and we’re saving a lot due to the reduction in expenses. My wife doesn’t have to commute for 2 hours a day, so she’s getting a lot of out of this.
One bright light is that I started a book club at work to read Epictetus’ Encheiridion. A number of work colleagues are anxious about the lockdown, so I thought that that book was a perfect choice. There are just three of us, but we’ve been having good discussions how practically to be less affected by events outside our control. It’s one thing to understand the book, it’s another to put it into practice.
We’ve been discussing how, with predictions for the future (ie, unstable meat supply, possibility of inflation or deflation, whether there will be a second wave of the virus or not), it’s hard to determine whether they will actually happen or not, and this is outside our control, but our preparations in light of the possibility that these predictions will occur are within our control. That balance between being generally ready for future situations, and going overboard and having your mind’s agenda being driven by future scenarios and by interest groups, is a frequent topic of discussion, as it’s a way of coming to grips with statements as in in Encheiridion #13 where he says ‘it better to starve in a calm and confident state of mind that live in anxiety in a state of abundance’, which, frankly, is what most of us are living in.
Another (related) observation is about my job: I manage a team of web developers, I used to do web development myself not long ago. Although a pandemic was predictable at some point, I never imagined that my skillset as a web developer would be such an asset during the pandemic. I’ve wanted to leave this field for a while now, but if I had gone into a different field, I could be in rather more difficult waters right now.
One question I have: when you and the many commenters here speak of the growth of administrative work in the post-secondary and health sectors, are there examples of what you mean? How was it different in the past?
My aunt’s a corporate wife, my uncle being a high poobah in an I’ve-Been-Moved company. Up till the early ‘90’s, at least, the wives supported each other, knowing as they did that it would happen to everyone. In the next shuffle, you might be the one needing help and support in a strange place. My uncle retired in the early ‘90’s, so I don’t know what happened after that.
Back then, corporate wife was a decent position as long as you could tolerate being constantly hungry. It’s not so good now, because right at the time of her life when she would once have been reaping the full benefits of her position, the modern corporate wife gets dumped for a younger model. (My uncle came up in the old school, so I’m sure my aunt’s with us for life. They genuinely like each other. I don’t believe he’s ever had a long-term mistress. When I saw Twilight Samurai, where the other men laugh at the guy who enjoys his family so much he goes straight home every night, I laughed and thought, “That’s Phil!”)
The attitude of live and let live you’re describing used to be called “liberalism.” And I am very much a liberal in that sense. Pounding what they’ve decided is “the right thing” down everyone else’s throat is what the DNC has been doing for a fair few years now. Definitely NOT liberal. And so these days I am definitely NOT a Democrat…
Speaking of education and what’s happened to what we study – I read a modern translation of the Kalevala in a college survey course of the old Northern cultures’ literature. (It was called, officially, Viking Mythology, taught every year by a different visiting scholar.) It didn’t do much for me. My memory of it was that the language was prosaic, the characters implausible, and the stories made no sense; and I also got the impression that it had been made up from scraps and pieces by Elias Lonnrot in the 19th century.
I also downloaded the only version I could find for ereaders, John Martin Crawford’s 1887 translation – with preface – from Project Gutenberg. I started reading it this afternoon, and, my, what a difference! Crawford goes into great and loving detail about the Suomi pantheon, from great gods through tiny specialized nature spirits, and despite a lot of stuff about “simple”…”primitive”…savages…” an appreciation of the world of this epic shines through clearly. And here is the ringing poetry whose meter carries the reader along as if on a tide.
“Mastered by desire impulsive,
By a mighty inward urging,
I am ready now for singing
Ready to begin the chanting,
Of our nation’s ancient folk-song,
Handed down in by-gone ages”
It’s the difference between home-brewed mead handed around at a bardic circle in the woods, and hotel bar wine served in a conference hall following a powerpoint presentation. I am *enjoying* the reading!
@Isaac Salamander Hill, just wanted to say how much I love seeing you post here! I found the Hills and the Rivers via this blog, not from you, and I’d just like to say your music is on right now and on constant repeat in my house. Just so beautiful. Thank you so much!
FWIW, for another perspective, I’m one of those people that is unfortunately WAY busier than I was before the quarantine. Sue, I’m not commuting the 2-3 days a week I no longer go into the office, but I manage a team that supports our main computer system for students and administration and we are being hammered by our regular work, plus all the system changes that have to go in to support all the administrative changes happening. In addition to all the new work on top of the maintenance work, we are down 10-25% of staff hours due to administrative leave for people caring for children that are suddenly home. Those of us able to work remotely that don’t have family obligations are dealing with extra work because of the shutdown, extra work to cover for people taking time off, and just an explosion of busywork and meetings to keep up with the constantly changing policies and procedures. All while looking at a budget deficit at a quarter billion and climbing!
No time for me to reflect..it’s all how do I keep it going while supporting my staff though this emotional and personal turmoil.
I apologize in advance if a quick skim of the comments on schooling missed someone else making the point I am going to raise. It seems that most commenters assume that smaller class sizes are better in all ways. However, several years ago I read _Confucius Lives Next Door_ by T. R. Reid, an American journalist who lived in Japan with his family for several years. He enrolled his children in the neighborhood school and was surprised when the principal apologized for having smaller than average classes. Apparently in the Japanese system larger classes afforded more opportunities for children to be divided into work groups for projects and were seen as an advantage rather than a defect. Students were also expected to do many things done by adults in US schools, such as serve and clean up after their mid-day meal, sweep the rooms and corridors, etc.
Aidan, thanks for these.
Heather, it may well be unfair for parents to judge the public schools by what they see looking over their kids’ shoulders, but it’s not the only data point they’re using. This comes at the cusp of a long series of visible failures on the part of the US public schools, and the result seems to be shaping up into a massive crisis of legitimacy: a critical mass of people are being jolted out of any remaining willingness to put up with a failed system. The public schools have by and large been unwilling to take responsibility for their failures — I’m sure you recall how the once-lauded Boston Compact turned out — but the social consensus that enabled them to get away with that is cracking. You and other people in the public school industry are going to have to be willing to make dramatic changes in response, or US public schools as they now exist are likely to be dismantled and replaced with some less petrified and more functional system.
Godozo, that seems extremely likely to me. The closer we get to 2020 the more bizarre and self-defeating the behavior of the Democratic Party becomes, and the most likely explanation to my mind is that the Kek-worshiping chaos mages of the alt-right decided not to rest on their laurels after 2016. The left could have countered them, but Michael Hughes et al. went into the struggle with the serene conviction that they already knew everything there is to know about magic — do you recall Hughes’ weirdly paralogical responses to my critiques over on my Dreamwidth journal? — and so were unable to learn from their mistakes or draw on traditional magical lore. The MAGA mages don’t seem to have suffered from that handicap. How this plays out in the long run is a fascinating question; given the way things seem to be moving, I’m waiting to see if a few months from now, Democratic politicians and their news-media enablers suddenly start blurting out actual gibberish: “Blunt frippers intantly to pointed bdeluroid” and the like. (If they do, I can make a good guess at one of the books on the required reading list in Kekistan.)
JillN, good. Now look at the old McGuffey readers, and see which elementary grade was expected to read at that level.
Rajat, you’re quite correct, of course. One of the things that happens when a civilization declines is that the products of its creative eras get sorted through, and those that have practical value and can be done effectively on a restricted resource budget get saved while the rest get abandoned. Mid-20th century applied mathematics, using slide rules and books of tables, were good enough to put human bootprints on the Moon; I suspect that our descendants in the centuries to come will preserve that level of mathematical expertise if they possibly can, while methods that depend on brute-force data crunching will go away.
Tom, a fine term! Thank you.
Denys, many thanks for this.
Mikep, don’t be too sure the Chinese have won. The game is still very much in play.
Patricia M, if it does, it certainly doesn’t happen at Masonic lodges! These days most Masons come from the lower middle class and the upper end of the working class; contractors and firefighters are more common in lodges than doctors and lawyers. As for women’s clubs, you’re quite right, of course.
What I am taking about are absurd motions made by a machine that no parent would be able to keep up for more than two minutes applied for hours. Loud Music or white noise that you wouldn’t stand for times longer than one hour played the whole night, every night.
Hmm, I don’t know what you’ve got over there in Germany. I used to have a windup swing. Yes, it is a labor saving device. I also remember my daughter had one of the grandsons in a little bouncy chair and she would bounce it, well, literally almost all day. That is what he required. When babies aren’t happy, they aren’t reluctant to cry or fuss.
About the white noise. I never did it but I come from the stone age. They do have these white noise makers. Thing is, white noise is soothing, and very soothing to babies. I have known people who the only thing that worked sometimes was to put the baby near the vacuum cleaner and turn it on. Some have put a little carrier on top of the dryer. Another one would put the baby in a stroller and roll it back and forth over a bump in the floor.
The only problem is when you stop.
Apparently, living in utero is very noisy, and also full of motion, sometimes quite jerky.
What damage do you see?
Samarai re Waldorf–Two of my grandsons attended a Waldorf school. I second the comments on the good points–seeing a school with a garden and animals to care for, where children were allowed to climb the trees , where the class project for one of the grades was to design and build a playhouse, and lovely May poles dances were performed was great. However the school failed both boys in different ways. The oldest completed 6th grade to learn that there were not enough students to form a 7th grade class–since his birthday is late in the year he was judged too young to join some of his classmates in 8th grade and it was impractical to send him to the other, larger Waldorf school on the other side of town. So he repeated 6th with the promise that he would be given 7th grade material–but the promise was not fulfilled and the teacher’s excuse was that he never asked for extra work.
His brother really wanted to learn to read, but Waldorf doesn’t teach reading until 3rd. grade. However his teacher apparently expected her students to just pick it up on their own from the exposure to written material in the classroom, and he finished 3rd still unable to read. Not lack of ability on his part, in one year in public school he caught up, going from Dr. Seus level to 5th grade reading level in one year. I think part of the problem was that his teacher disapproved of his exposure to media fandom through his father who writes fantasy fiction, attends, Cons, and is part of the fan culture. Maybe she felt it was a waste of time to teach a child who was being corrupted at home. My grandson’t other grandmother, a former teacher herself, thinks he is on the autism spectrum–so maybe that was something the teacher had problems with. Who knows.
On a random note, I have always wondered why a certain type of school seems to fetishize wooden toys. Blocks fine, but wooden toy cars and trains?/Why, real cars are made of metal (or plastic) why not toy ones?
Another family member worked in a larger Waldorf institution with adults committed to the system. But they were utterly unable to adapt to changing circumstances such as requirements that course descriptions be consistent and requirements from outside regulatory agencies be met. Everything my relative told the administration about a need to change was met with a ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ attitude. The program my kin ran was eventually terminated because it lost outside support due to the non-compliance.
David, by the lake: “The point is, for those of us who consider human freedom to be of high value, the ability to choose one’s life for oneself, without compulsion by the State or bureaucrats or experts, is of paramount importance. If person A wishes to send their child to the state school, let them. If person B wishes to homeschool their child because they think they can better meet their child’s needs, let them. If person C wants to sent their kid to the church school because that institution supports their family’s values, let them. It’s not anyone else’s business at the end of the day, and certainly not the State’s.”
But where’s the child’s choice in that? Nowhere. It’s simply a question of parental vs. state authority.
Again, as I said, I fully realize that some people are extremely successful with homeschooling. The question is: what do you do with those who aren’t, but still insist on homeschooling? Abuse has already been mentioned, and it’s an obvious concern. If an abused child doesn’t go to school, that reduces the odds of a responsible adult noticing and notifying the authorities. And then there’s the issue of families that are not exactly abusive (or at least not abusive enough to warrant state involvement), but are just dysfunctional and unhealthy in some way. Parents constantly yelling at each other and/or at the children. Or, parents constantly belittling their children or otherwise undermining the children’s confidence. Or, parents severely restricting their children’s contact with age-mates, or even just with anyone outside the family. (Families with such relatively mundane problems vastly outnumber families in which someone is being violently beaten, raped, etc. I’d go so far as to say that they constitute quite a significant minority of all households.) No, schools might not call the social services on such parents, but that doesn’t change the fact that such parents suck, and that for their offspring, school can offer at least some relief from that environment. If homeschooling is legal (and not massively supervised by the state, which would kill the whole point, wouldn’t it?), then I simply don’t see how you’re going to stop such parents from homeschooling, and thereby messing up their kids even more than they would have otherwise. (And then there are parents who are otherwise okay, but just don’t have an issue with their 10-year-old not knowing how to read yet and not being in any hurry to learn… This would describe some unschooling parents.)
But JMG is right: “Europe is Europe and America is America; the cultural differences are real.” See, when you put restrictions on homeschooling, you simultaneously make certain kinds of failure *and* certain kinds of success less likely. I happen to think (and I note that this is a value judgment) that preventing particularly bad kinds of failure, especially when it comes to children, is worth it, even if it simultaneously makes certain kinds of success more difficult. (And mind you, it’s not like parents have their hands tied. As I said upthread, they’re still perfectly welcome to supplement their children’s education at home, and quite a lot of people do so.) I think it’s fair to say that my perspective is fairly typical for Europeans, while the opposite (“don’t put roadblocks on my way to success; and if I fail, that’s my problem alone, so stay out of it”) is more typical for Americans. Of course, different people will have different opinions, on either side of the Atlantic.
BTW, Dot, I’d say that the UK is culturally closer to the US than to continental Europe. After all, what eventually because the United States was once a collection of British colonies. I admit I’m not sure where to place Ireland in this picture.
@Heather in CA:
I think you raise important points here, and especially in your point #6. One implication seems to me to be that a sizeable number of children have to be sent to public schools who within the limits of given public school resources simply cannot be educated; and the task of managing these children is so great that it leaves little time for educating the other chidren in the class. Do note that I said “within the limits of given public school resources” here. Mere mortals cannot turn stones into bread.
(A good friend of ours, a thoughtful and kind man, qualified as a teacher in his middle age, and went to teach in the Providence public school system. Within a few years the challenges and stress of that sort of classroom, together with the greed, entitlement and self-centeredness of the administrators running his school, literally broke him, and he is on permanent disabillity now.)
We live in a hugely disfunctional society in an increasingly disfunctional nation, and it is getting harder every decade to keep the schools functioning with the ever fewe resources available, This cannot possibly endure, except as a system of prisons for children. (Our hiost, of course, pointed this out already in his “Retrotopia.”)
Further to Godozo: and now a Democratic state legislator from New Hampshire was caught tweeting that women can’t be penetrated without their consent. There’s some very, very serious weirdness afoot.
Dot, I’m delighted to hear that.
Re the obnoxious tweet: He’s probably lucky Lucretia didn’t have Twitter.
What a maroon,🙄
Heather in CA:
I am a millennial, graduated from high school in 2010, had a perfect score on my Massachusetts MCAS test, my SAT scores were comparable, earned my BS in Environmental Science from UMass Amherst and I have a lot of contempt for the American High School and College system.
JMG has reigned me in here a couple times on this blog, and I am grateful for that. My language is a little strong on the topic of public education. (Whew taking a deep breath.) Why I’m using one my whimsical user names.
You are correct that everyone is getting a watered down education. There is one topic JMG has never discussed on this blog, that is American culture’s worship of stupidity. It falls right in line with our ugly architecture. Even Mozart wouldn’t be able to have withstood the average American’s education in music; he’d have overcome it eventually but how long would it have taken? Einstein likewise wouldn’t have withstood American high school mathematics. The American school system fears smart kids because they represent that antithesis of a culture based on accumulating wealth at any cost. These kids are thus penalized for being smart by being forced, ball and chain Trail of Tears, into taking on student loans.
As for distance learning and education, in the end brick and mortar public school or no public school, you cannot force someone to learn. Should we all have the opportunity, yes. Should a base level of resources be there for them, yes. I think what needs to happen is that high school education needs to go back to ability based classes rather than age based classes. If you can read Shakespeare in third grade, go for it. In the end, K-12 Math can be broken down into a year, perhaps even a semester. PEMDAS, Variables, Factoring, Quadratic Equation, Radians, Trigonometry: BOOM READY for Calculus. No way that takes twelve years to beat into a kid. Maybe four tops???? Many kids who graduate from high school don’t go past Algebra 1. Nothing wrong with that but yes having a tutor matters. What is missing today is there are far too few tutors and kids do not have the time to form meaningful relationships with their tutors.
What needs to happen is predatory AP tests and CLEP tests etc. need to be done away with. You don’t need complete doctorate mastery of a subject to build upon it merely know the fundamentals is 95% of the time good enough.
Oh yes and about those hyenas in the classroom, the herd of hyenas in the classroom has gone far too long without being thinned by natural predators, like corporal punishment. (Scrubbing the bathroom sinks and doing all cafeteria dishes is a far better teacher than suspension.) Getting suspended is what they want then they can stay home. Getting expelled from school should ultimately mean you get put into a job doing menial labor for a time, then are given the opportunity to come back.
One other thing I remember about being a kid is kid clothes are insanely uncomfortable when you outgrow them. Like the expectation that kids should look like little adults in perfectly fitting clothes is wasteful. Like expandable pants with legs that could be made longer used to be a thing in the 1800s. Not so much now.
Robert Mathiesen – ‘who within the limits of given public school resources simply cannot be educated;’ The notion that the problem is one of resources, as in money, is nothing more than leftist dogma. The reason they can’t be educated is because they don’t want to be. I mean, most of them will tell you that themselves in less polite terms if you just ask. There isn’t a resource in existence that can teach a human who doesn’t want to learn. They’re incarcerated in schools for purely political reasons.
Irena, I wasn’t really talking about culture. I was talking about the laws which still provide a barrier to the kind of authoritarianism in pursuit of utopia that you favour.
Re homeschooling, etc.
Certainly, one can approach the issue from a variety of perspectives and with a variety of presuppositions. With differing value propositions—differing axioms, as it were—two people will likely come to differing conclusions, even when presented with the same set of facts. Such is the case here, I’d suggest.
Re authority, yes, when a child is young, we are simply talking about parental authority versus state authority. But with respect to small children—except for egregious cases—parental authority and not state authority is the proper course. Children are part of a family, not the property of the state.
As a child matures, naturally, the child’s interests and choices come into play. How does that work in a system enforced by the state where choice is denied? In a system where options are permitted, one has the flexibility to adopt different modes to different children of differing capabilities and differing interests. I’d argue that a parent, working in coordination with a maturing child, is in the best position to make those choices.
Furthermore, we appear to have contrasting views as to the purpose of schools. I see the purpose of a school as being education, not social work, and certainly not monitoring of the populace by the state. Obviously, if abuse is occurring, those circumstances should be addressed; however, one does not begin by assuming that parents are abusive. We have a “presumption of innocence” as a fundamental concept for a reason. My starting assumption is that the interests of the parent lay with the welfare of their child.
Finally, as I mentioned, there are people who desire to tell others how to live their lives with the best of intentions. To some degree, what constitutes “abuse” is very much in the eye of the beholder. I mentioned back on the ADR, I believe, a debate I once had in an online forum with a secular humanist. It was particularly interesting because we both used the Amish as an example to illustrate our opposing points. I offered that they represented a clear case of how a people can, in a non-confrontational way, separate themselves and create a segregated community which minded its own business and lived quietly according to its own values. He argued that they represented precisely what cannot be allowed and that they were guilty of a form of child abuse by refusing to teach things like computer programming and other “modern” subjects. In short, he said, they should be compelled to educate their children according to the values of the state. Obviously, we did not come to any kind of agreement on this issue. (It was also interesting in that the ideal of each was anathema to the other: he desired the unification of humanity under a single coherent social order and I desired thousands of small nation-states, each pursuing the welfare of its citizens according to that community’s values. I saw his ideal as a conformist nightmare and he saw my vision as a fragmented, chaotic hellscape.)
It is the state which serves the people, I’d posit, not the other way around. And the state should interfere in private life to the minimum degree possible. There are other views on this, I’ll admit.
@JMG: Ugh, yes. And while the (I think) statistical general prevalence of male-to-female domestic abuse is worth discussing in its own context, I don’t think the ground rules for relationships should differ depending on the genders of the people involved. (At a bare minimum: don’t use threats of violence to yourself or others to get your way, don’t belittle or try to control the other person. don’t destroy the other person’s stuff. This…should not be hard. AND YET.)
One of the things going around online lately, which I find interesting, is noticing how much of pop culture humor is based on the idea that long-term couples (especially heterosexual ones, maybe, or maybe that’s just because they’re dominant in the culture) don’t actually like each other. Lots of TV shows, books, etc. where really awful behavior is “just how marriage is,” or whatever.
@Lady Cutekitten: This reminds me of Fritz Leiber’s “Conjure Wife,” which, being a horror novel, looks at the worst manifestation of that sort of thing, but definitely has it as its background.
@Robert: Ugh, risk-mitigation. I know lawyers are useful in some circumstances, and I know there really are situations (“put out or I’ll fail you”) where that sort of thing is necessary, but I definitely think it’s gone too far. There’s this thing in our culture where it’s almost a sin to put people in a position where somebody could theoretically suffer, even to let them choose to be in that position, and it bothers even my extremely leftist self.
Re: Divorce laws
I’ve been following the conversations about relationships with great interest. Given that I am an old bachelor, my perspective is limited to what I have observed with people that I know.
(1). Based on a lifetime of observations, I have come to the conclusion that divorce is simply too easy nowadays. I have come to believe that “divorce ‘at will'” is no less unjust than “employment ‘at will'”. In both cases, your future is totally at the mercy of someone else’s whim.
Thus, I think we need to return to an older understanding of marriage obligations, namely, that if you are married and want out, then you have to “show cause” in front of a judge. “I’m not ha-a-a-py” is not a good enough reason to torpedo your family.
Generations ago, it was commonly understood that a marriage was not just about two people tying the knot. When a family is formed, there are wider ramifications, especially to minor children. I have seen, with my own eyes, the devastating psychological impact that parental divorce has on even grown children, let alone minors. These effects have been studied and documented to death by now, so I think it is safe to say that they are a matter of common knowledge. That is the main reason why I have grown far less “libertarian” on this subject than I was as a younger man.
(2). Now, I realize that in predominantly Protestant countries, marriage is seen primarily as a binding contract between two people. In other words, the bride and the groom are the only two parties to the contract which matter. From that perspective, objections to such things as same-sex marriage seem completely illogical and arbitrary, and any restrictions upon the right of either “party” to terminate the contract seem oppressive and burdensome.
On the other hand, I (as an Orthodox Christian) take the Catholic and Orthodox perspective that marriage is a sacrament, not just a contract. From this perspective, the bride and the groom are not the only two people with a stake in the marriage. In this understanding, God Himself (though the operation and descent of the Holy Spirit upon the newly-wed couple) has a stake in the marriage, as do the extended families of the couple, as well as the wider society as a whole.
Even if you are not religious at all, I think it should be evident that extended families, minor children (if any) and the wider community all have a stake in the success of families. The atomistic individualism of Enlightenment classical liberalism is simply bad anthropology. From that perspective, the “Market über Alles,” greed-is-good attitudes of neo-liberal “free market fundamentalism” have been incredibly destructive to family life, exactly as Marx and Engels said.
(3). Connected with the above, is the well-known statistic that half of all marriages ultimately end in divorce, and the 70 percent of divorces are filed by wives. Now 70 percent of 50 percent is 35 percent. You are going to have a huge uphill battle convincing me that 35% of all married men are unfit husbands and fathers. 5 to 10 percent I will believe, if you group together the hard-core sociopaths and the men who come from broken/dysfunctional families and have never learned how to relate to women properly.
But 35 percent? Sorry, folks, but that just doesn’t pass the laugh test with me. Something else is going on here! Of course, we all realize that marriages do fail. However, in a clinically sane society and culture, that number should be more like 5 percent, not 50 percent!
(4) Ever since no-fault divorce became the rule in the Anglosphere, divorce has become a sleazy industry and a racket, much like medicine and higher education have become. Jim Kunstler defines a “racket” as “an enterprise organized explicitly to make money dishonestly.” That describes most Family Court systems I have seen to a “T”. It is no wonder that so many young men have concluded that marriage is a game of Russian roulette, with at least two of the six chambers loaded, and are opting out. This is bad for men and women, and bad for society as well.
P.S.; I just saw this piece in the New York Times:
Joe Biden and the Presumption of Innocence
Sub-title: “Being heard is not, and should never be, the same thing as being believed.”
Columnist Bret Stephens is speaking of the kangaroo courts on college campuses, but I have seen the same sort of thing happen in Family Courts as well. That’s what I mean about “racketeering.”
And a round of applause for the honesty of the CDC boffins, who had every incentive to claim things are worser than ever. 👏👏👏
There are issues with some baby-soothing devices: have a gander at the number of recalls every year. There are even things sold as baby toys that are loud enough to cause hearing damage if they’re right next to the baby’s head. It’s good to be cautious, and it’s not out of the question that some mechanical aids are harmful.
On the other hand… Colic is a thing. As a parent, it will drive you to the edge of your sanity. And I have to wonder if in some cases we are reading the cause—>effect chain backward.
We have three boys. #2 and #3 are shockingly normal kids. Easy to soothe and get them to sleep– a little nursing and snuggling, and off they go to dreamland. It’s like a little miracle every time! First child had the *worst* colic for the classic 3 month span. He was miserable nearly all the time, day or night, and almost never slept more than ninety minutes at a stretch. We wore out shoes walking him up and down the hallways, sang ourselves hoarse, played 2-hour youtube videos of rain-in-the-forest noises… it helped a little bit? First time he ever slept well was at 2.5 months. On an airplane.
But we didn’t have access to any white noise machines (speakers on our laptop were wimpy) or baby-swinging and -jiggling devices (If we had, we’d have used them a lot!). Not even a rocker. Now that he’s older, he clearly has some aspie tendencies(like his parents). You could read that as, maybe we walked him around too much when he was a baby, and over-jiggled his little brain (we were too exhausted to really trot). But I think, given that the rate of colic is much higher in infants who later get autism-spectrum diagnoses, it’s just as likely that he was born with those tendencies, and they contributed greatly to his being colicky. What shocks us is not that he’s a bit on the aspie side, it’s that our other two are so terrifyingly normal!
So… I’d think that if parents resort to extreme measures to comfort babies, it’s very likely the child is having some troubles already, and they may be provoking the extreme measures, rather than resulting from them.
A little off topic, but back in the day, when you had lots of complex math to do, you built mechanical computers that were analogues to the complex system you were trying to model. For example, a British scientist built a computer that could accurately model the British economy out out a system of tanks, valves and hoses and of course some water called MONIAC. Of course, to update this computer to model the kleptocratic parody of an economy we have these days might require a different working fluid ;).
For what it is worth, when I was in university a decade ago, sometimes we did physics experiments on computers, but we wrote the software that modeled a physical system ourselves, which was in some ways more educational than doing it for real. Of course the majority of practical stuff was done for real.
As a public high school science teacher, I whole-heartedly agree with Heather in CA. There’s not really anything I can add to what she said.
@onething: Use a windup swing, attach a motor, put the baby on top of the washing machine, turn on the hair-dryer, drive it in your car, do whatever it takes. Still, there’s a limit. One size doesn’t fit it all, clearly – anyhow I’d say amplitude and frequency are an important factor. How would you feel jumping up and down with an amplitude of >=1 m at 1.5 Hz for three hours two or three times a day? Or listening to music not too far below the threshold of pain for the whole night every night? No matter what, the child has to function in a certain way so that the parents may function as well.
Certainly this is very difficult terrain and on the few occasions up to now when I was present when such a treatment was applied to a child I did not speak too openly everything I thought. After all, it’s not my child. I know next to nothing about the internals of the families everyday life and I live a completely different life than they do. Who am I to judge or even intervene unasked? It’s difficult, but there’s already enough well meant misery being inflicted to families and children (Norway comes to my mind as an extreme example. If there are by chance any Norwegian readers here, I’d be very interested to hear whether the situation there is as shocking as I have been told it to be). Still, I feel in many families there’s a lot of empathy for (not only) the children missing. When I have them sitting in my classes at the age of 10 and older, this is clearly visible. Roughly one or two in ten children aren’t living with their family but have been given to foster families. Many of them show signs of a variety of psychological problems. Roughly the same proportion does not show signs of any psychological issue which not always but mostly seems to correspond to having an intact family. 6 to 8 out of 10 are somewhere in between. These are the numbers for a Gymnasium, which is the “top level” public school in Germany.
The damage – well we came to this from talking about the very limited capability for concentration in many school children. I’d say this is clearly one consequence. More subtle – everything good and bad that comes when you have to function as the wheel-gear you’ve been indoctrinated to be from your earliest childhood on.
@ Robert Mathiesen,
I teach in a small town and I can adequately teach most of my students.
As a student, though, I attended inner-city public schools. Things worked well enough at the elementary school level, but by middle school I could tell things were going down hill for most of my elementary school friends. (My parents moved me to the magnet program, so I was spared most of the worst of it.) I sometimes wonder if compulsory education for everyone after 6th grade is a bad idea…
Hi John Michael,
No, I wasn’t aware that that was the case. In the decade and a bit we have been enjoying a long conversation, this was without doubt the most surprising reply that you have supplied. Thanks.
I’m now left wondering if Socrates knew his fate but pushed ahead with his agenda anyway?
For your interest, the insight came to me weeks after a recent Dreamwidth discussion regarding clarity of thought. I was left scratching my head and asking the hard question: If that is the case, what does it look like?
Years ago I developed an interest in early colonial art on the basis that the works displayed the environment in a different pattern than what we see today. Initially I used to ‘see’ the trees that the artists had depicted as being not what I would expect to see of a tree. Turns out that I was wrong, and the artists had depicted the trees as they were, and my internal understanding of what a tree looks like was different to reality. It was quite an eye-opening experience, but also very useful and instructional.
Last night I watched the film the big short (it is a fave of mine) and I could see that previous ‘tree story’ was writ large right through the story.
Your Kittenship, and of course they’ve also got to be cranky that the latest Thing That Will Surely Doom Trump has flopped, like all the previous ones. Have you seen his latest poll numbers?
Jbucks, Here’s an article showing that the total number of administrators in higher ed has more than doubled in the last 25 years. Here’s another from the other side of the political spectrum, showing that over the last forty years the administrator-to-teacher ratio in higher education has more than doubled, to the point that the average university has more administrators than teachers. Does that help clarify things?
Patricia M, oh dear gods, yes. Modern translations suck.
Rita, interesting. In the US, smaller class sized consistently correlate to better outcomes for students — a reminder that lessons from one culture can’t necessarily be applied to another.
Your Kittenship, what an embezzle! 😉
Isabel, I know. Nearly all of the couples I know who’ve been married a very long time — say, 20 years or more — are very good friends as well as lovers and partners in the complex enterprise of marriage. I’m not sure why the propaganda against that reality is so obsessive, but there it is.
Michael, I’m a child of what used to be called a broken home, and going through my parents’ divorce was a miserable experience; on the other hand, my wife was the child of a Catholic marriage, no divorce until death, and her mother was abusive and mentally unstable; a divorce probably would have been the best possible option for everyone. (My wife still has PTSD symptoms from her childhood.) So it’s a complicated matter. I agree that there are problems with easy divorce, but the alternative also has severe problems; as usual, the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea. Trying to find some kind of middle ground seems more helpful.
As for the column, it’s wryly amusing to me to watch how fast #BelieveAllWomen has been abandoned once it stopped being to the political advantage of the Democrats…
Your Kittenship, good to see. Thanks for this.
Justin, true enough! I’ve seen pictures of hydraulic computers — fascinating stuff. Of course there are also slide rules…
Chris, if Plato’s to be believed, Socrates knew exactly what he was risking but went for it anyway.
I personally dislike the term “househusband” for various reasons.
1) It’s redundant. The “hus” portion of the word “husband” is the Old English version of the word “house”, while “band” means “bound”. If I remember my math correctly, “house” and “hus” therefore effectively cancel each other out, leaving us with an individual that is nothing more than bound. But bound to what?
2) “Househusband” has become a very gimmicky word nowadays, a television show here in Australia even having that word as its title. I’ve never seen the show as I don’t watch TV, but from the little that I’ve read about it it seems that these bound men are typical modern-day city dwellers, pushing around prams/strollers, effectively “liberating” themselves and showing off their “feminist” bona fides by switching the gender roles of Leave it to Beaver. Contrary to the term “husband”, which implies being bound to a house, the “househusband”, being nothing but bound, is bound to little more than the corporate economy. (Although perhaps they do some interesting crafty things by watching Martha Stewart reruns on whatever streaming video platform the kids are using nowadays — and by “kids” I don’t mean baby goats.)
3) Back in the day, a “housewife” was a woman married to a “husband”. As the “husband” was in effect not bound to a Lord, the couple were neither aristocrats nor peasants, they rented or owned their own home, and had more self-determination over their own lives than was accustomed to at the time. The modern-day Leave it to Beaver-esque “househusband”, on the other hand, is a corporate stooge (much like the vast majority of today’s “husbands”, to be fair).
4) Then we have “husbandry”, which is related to the craft of farming, while “husbandman” was one who had a deep relation to a wife, children, community, and the soil. The term “househusband”, in my opinion, negates all this and dumbs the whole thing down.
The arts of husbandry and housewifery are thus wedded to one another, and together they partake in the practices of taking care of and conserving our places. I cringe when I hear the word “househusband”, and believe me when I say that I will NEVER let anybody call me something so vile and reprehensible.
@ Michael Martin
Re divorce and the ease thereof
Having gone through one, I can speak to this subject. I fully acknowledge that my experience is precisely that—my experience—and that furthermore it is atypical of your usual scenario.
My daughter’s mother and I were together for just about fourteen years. At the time of our separation, this constituted almost half my life. (We met when I was twenty.) As the “leave-ee” in the matter, I got the crash-course version of emotional coping and had to come to terms with my contributions to the issue.
And I had certainly contributed, I came to see, in a variety of ways. But she had already made her decision and a marriage between two people is not only a social contract, it is an AND function: you have to have two “yesses” to make it work. One yes and one no isn’t enough. So I had to accept the ending of that marriage.
We divorced ourselves sans attorneys via a family commissioner. At the hearing, there were four people in the room—the two of us, the commissioner, and the stenographer. We’d sat down, divided everything up, come to an agreement on child support (to some extent, dictated by state law), and settled on visitation arrangements. And for the next ten years, we co-parented our daughter, who is an amazingly well-adjusted young woman today. (Her mother’s influence, I’m quite sure.)
I understand now that that relationship had to end. Having to “show cause” in the sense of someone having to be blamed would have made the kind of arrangement we came to impossible and it would have not helped our daughter in the least.
I loved the woman and, in a very different kind of way, still do. But if I could not make her happy, then it was better for her to find someone who did. We’ve both moved on with our lives. And having remarried now, I’m learning a whole ‘nother set of lessons in this relationship of ten-plus years with a wife of a vastly different background than my own, lessons I’d never have had the opportunity to learn otherwise.
Atypical, as I said. But there you go.
Dot: “Irena, I wasn’t really talking about culture. I was talking about the laws which still provide a barrier to the kind of authoritarianism in pursuit of utopia that you favour.”
Dot, I’m sorry, but you’re resorting to thoughtstoppers. There was precisely nothing utopian in anything I wrote. I talked about tradeoffs, which always exist. Or, take a look at this:
As you can see, homeschooling is illegal in quite a few European countries, including (notably) Germany. It’s severely restricted in many others. Now, you could, I suppose, make the claim that those countries are bastions of authoritarianism in pursuit of utopia. How helpful is that? If you’d like to convince people who are not already convinced, then the way to do that is to address the actual concerns that they have. If you only want to preach to the choir, then that’s a different matter, of course, and I suppose you’re welcome to do so. But then don’t be surprised if you fail to convince anyone else!
David BTL, for example, had a perfectly sensible reply (though I still disagree with his conclusions, but only because I disagree with the premises; indeed, we have a slightly different idea of what school is for). I’ll see if I can write more tomorrow.
Just an example of how bad mathematical thought is in my suburb of Washington DC: The county government put out advice on how to improvise a face-cover, now that they’re mandatory for food stores. They suggest that we take a bandana, and fold the edges to the center line to make a “long, narrow square” of cloth. A “square”?!? I guess the word “rectangle” is either not in the author’s vocabulary, or was thought to be to sophisticated for those reading the advice.
You’re quite right, of course. But I wasn’t recommending throwing more money at the nation’s school systems. I was just forestalling a possible argument that it would be wrong to “leave any child behind” in education. Poppycock! If an older child–a child like you describe, for instance–is determined to be left behind, that’s on the child, not on society.
When I was a ‘teen (sixty years ago), you could leave school after (IIRC) the eighth grade. In theory, you could go to work then–if you had a state-issued “work permit.” It was clear to everyone that this system of work permits was meant to keep ‘teens from competing for jobs with adults 21 and up (and driving wages down); even the bureaucrats would occasionally hint as much.
For what it might be worth, I was once told that Brown University needs its own rather large staff under the University’s principal lawyer (its “General Counsel”) simply because it has to respond to dozens and dozens of lawsuits every month. Most of these suits are frivolous, or even outright money-grabs; but every one of them has to be dealt with by a lawyer. — “Dozens and dozens of lawsuits” was a real eye-opener for me about the realities of higher education.
I first joined the faculty of my university in 1967. I retired in 2005, but have kept somewhat abreast of developments since I retired.
When I first came, there were virtually no long-term office holders in the University administration. Almost every adminisrator had come out of the classroom, and would return to the classroom after 6-8 years as an administrator.
One exception was the Provost (second-in-command under the President), a professor of economics, who liked his position and had made himself indispensible by the simple means of keeping the complete picture of the university budget in his head only. When the old Provost eventually retired, his successor once said in my hearing that it had taken him about three years to track down all the partial budgets and integrate them into a single university budget. There wasn’t even a brief written document listing all the partial budgets in the university.
The other important exception was the very capable long-term Secretary to the President and the Corporation, who had served under maybe six or seven successive presidents when he finally retired at a great age. (He was also the long-term President of the local Christian Science church, FWIF.) He had never been a professor, only an administrator. He was extraordinarly competent and trustworthy.
There was no development office to speak of in 1967, not in the modern sense of university development, and the university’s endowment was trifling. Nor was there much official interest in finding new sources of money; the age-old tradition at the university was to hit up the local rich families whenever extra money was needed. Now, of course, development is a huge part of the administration.
The student body was about 3,000 undergraduates (including the associated women’s college, absorbed long ago into the men’s college) and a couple of hundred graduate students. Now the number of undergraduates had doubled or more and the number of graduate studsnts is at least ten times greater.
So yes, massive growth in number of administrators, greater (IMHO) than in number of full-time regular faculty (i.e. not counting courtesy faculty appointments and part-timer faculty).
Re: overcrowding in schools
I haven’t had time to read all the comments, so i might have missed some with similar thoughts.
In some cases it seems to me that ‘overcrowded classrooms’ is being used as an excuse for failure in our education system, when the bigger problem is lack of discipline and/or institutional roadblocks to enforcing discipline (frequently the result of overreacting to a particular abuse).
Two things come to mind: 1) in this country (USA) several decades ago, overcrowded classrooms were the norm, but most kids still got an adequate education. 2) I was told by an teacher who, not that many decades ago, taught in a high school in a country in west Africa (on local, not subsidized, wages!); he said classes were VERY large, but the students came eager to learn, and there were very few disciplinary issues.
@ Michael Martin,
When I was in college, I heard of a survey that asked college-age men if they would rape someone if the thought they were guaranteed to get away with it.
About 1/3 supposedly answered yes… So maybe about 35% is not an unreasonably high number…
I have just remembered Montaigne’s somewhat sardonic comment about a student who deliberately will not learn:
“I see no other remedy than for his tutor to strangle him early, if there are no witnesses, or apprentice him to some good pastry cook in some good town, even though he were toe son of a duke.”
I rather like the idea of having more good pastry cooks and fewer reluctant students.
“I myself think that the main reason for Coronavirus hysteria is that New York City, where many of our rulers spend much of their time, is much worse off than areas that are not as large”
I’ve noticed the same thing. MSNBC (which my parents have on constantly, and which I cannot completely evade) and the New York Times keep hollering about how the coronavirus is sure to devastate the flyover states…any day now… just you see… they’ll sure be sorry they’re not as awesome as New York…
But I keep looking at the coronavirus stats, and New York is staying squarely in the Number One slot for pandemic deaths. Cue the panic, because as we all know NYC is the most important city that ever was or ever will be, and whatever happens there has to happen everywhere else.
“Blunt frippers intantly to pointed bdeluroid”
or try this headline: ‘Transgender man gives birth to non-binary partner’s baby with female sperm donor’
“Too many soi-disant feminists these days seem to think, to cite just one example, that women should have single-sex spaces but men should not — I’ll let you imagine how many rants I’ve listened to about the alleged sexism of Freemasons, who simply want the right to their guy time.”
As someone who attends men’s groups, I feel glad not to have encountered many of these sorts of feminists (Although that might be partially because I don’t tend to advertise this fact to many people). Though In in the times where I do encounter them, their logic seems to go something like ‘mens spaces encourage all the wild and dangerous and misogynystic urges of men which need to be tamed to the more virtuous women….’ and they end up regurgitating the very sexist stereotypes feminism was set up to fight against… LOL!!!!
onething – re: “…climate change, its nonscientific bunk, in my opinion.”
and re: (science) education – such as it appears to be from the descriptions of _simulated_ experiments ?!?!?
Some questions if you don’t mind:
What science education did you have?
Did you ever learn anything about spectroscopy?
Did you ever make colored fireworks?
I ask out of curiosity about those who don’t accept climate change and
who are NOT either: obvious fossil fuel interests
or “free market solves all problems (so it can’t cause problems)” advocates
or “God gave us oil and coal to burn, so we ought to” advocates.
The above 3 categories I would label “dogmatic” deniers, likely unreachable by any truth.
Assuming you’re not in the above categories, maybe I classify you as an “unconvinced” disbeliever, or a “suspicious” (of government control) denier. Do either of those resonate? (and if not, can you articulate what does?)
There’s (to me) a quite puzzling gap between the vast majority of scientists, and “unconvinced” climate change disbelievers/deniers. (the gap is NOT puzzling with the dogmatic deniers – their dogma/livelihood is threatened).
I’m wondering if a lot of this gap is that the relevant scientists know about spectroscopy and consider it so fundamental that they don’t even think about it, or that people at large might not know anything about it, so scientific pronouncements about climate change come off as rather more “trust us” than “here’s (more) evidence building on basics”.
And the disbelievers don’t know what they’re missing, so don’t go looking.
Or maybe it’s graphs and such are confusing/intimidating/???
If you take a quick look at the illustration at the top of this link
Does it mean anything to you?
Or maybe it’s the way media presents the issue (and the writers are themselves ignorant of science and of their audience, so they write in terms of dramatic conflicts)?
Is there a collision between (a) high levels of complexity, and (b) short attention span/lots of distractions, so that some people just believe what they want to believe ’cause they got too much other stuff on their plates?
What I know is that spectroscopy is such settled science that it’s used for analysis, and any 3 or more atom molecule is a greenhouse gas, so adding more of them will cause warming.
But then again I’ve got university chemistry, experience with lasers, particularly HeNe and CO2 lasers, and a background in PV with an adequate knowledge of the basic optoelectronics of inorganic solar cells.
Some links if you’re curious:
Discovery of Global Warming
The best FAQ IMHO on climate change
If you want details, start with Science of Doom’s roadmap
I replied to you solely to clarify my point, which you were misrepresenting. I have no intention of attempting to convince you of anything.
>This is bad for men and women, and bad for society as well.
No. It’s pretty good for men. They get to Enjoy The Decline. There are a lot of guys out there just scraping by, happy as clams. The women are not happy though. They are not enjoying it. At least when it comes time for husband hunting. (Before then, they’re pretty happy too). Where have all the good men gone, they cry. Where Oh Where, Are They Tonight. They search the world over.
What it is, is absolutely horrible for society. It really depends upon men being forced into running full throttle all the time. Poor society, nobody seems to care for its future. And the marriage rate keeps dropping.
JMG and fans,
Having had a rather miserable time in the school system myself, I spent quite a bit of my early 20s studying the history of Western formal education, trying to figure out how and why the system turned out so bad. The most interesting thing I found was that the current emphasis on mass testing and standardized curricula is, to a great extent, a reaction against «liberal», «progressive» views that had quite a heyday around (very roughly speaking) 1980–2000, and that still hold currency within academic pedagogy and in many teachers’ unions.
During this time, well-meaning but badly informed teachers retried the age-old experiment of trying to teach reading and writing of phonetically written languages as if they used ideograms — the so called «whole word» or «whole language» approach. (English-speaking countries are particularly prone to this approach, since the English language is not as obviously phonetically written as, for example, Finnish or German, but the experiment also got traction in my native Norway and other European countries.) This kind of experiment always fails when performed at scale. While some kids can teach themselves to read without systematic phonics-based instruction (because they effectively figure out the phonics themselves, and/or have terrific visual memory so that they can learn thousands of words as ideograms and give the impression of being able to read), most can’t, and what you get is large-scale illiteracy disguised as «dyslexia». Dyslexia is a real condition, but in countries where it affects double-digit percentages of the population, most cases are the result of bad teaching, not neurological or ophthalmological issues.
Experiments along similar lines have also been made in other subjects, such as the «new math» craze of the 60’s and 70’s, which is great fun for the mathematically inclined (myself, I teach my own seven year old about imaginary numbers and base-5 arithmetic, because it interests him), but also a very effective way of creating practical innumeracy when it replaces the basic (base-10)! arithmetic that you actually need to know to function in society.
I was absolutely astonished to see how bad much of pedagogical «science» was, and disillusioned by the fact that it was promoted by people whose ideological views were close to my own, and also to a lot of homeschoolers: that kids should be encouraged to follow their interests, learn at their own pace, and not be straight-jacketed into a one-size-fits-all system.
What I got out of this was the conclusion that systematic teaching, and even testing, has real value when it comes to the basics – we just have lost sense of what the basics are. Everyone deserves to learn to know how to read and write at a high enough level to not make a fool of themselves, to count and calculate well enough to manage money and property, and to know the basic facts that the mainstream culture expects educated people to know about (c.f. E.D. Hirsch’s «Cultural Literacy»). With regard to the latter point, this doesn’t have to be indoctrinary: even if you want to rebel, there is value in knowing what you’re rebelling against.
All the rest is better left optional, based on interest and skill level, organized by the people/organizations/businesses/communities who care about the subject in question, whether it’s calculus (which is utterly useless to most people, but widely taught in schools) or gardening (which is very useful to many people, but not so widely taught).
@David, by the lake
It takes a village to raise a child. A child who has only his/her parents and perhaps a sibling or two for company is likely to have difficulties growing into a reasonably adjusted adult. I’m sure there are exceptions, but that’s what they are: exceptions. For millennia (probably millions of years, if you include our species’ ancestors), children were embedded in a tribe/village, and all the adults participated in raising all the children to at least some extent. That also meant that children of somehow deficient parents had a chance to bond with other adults who could compensate for the said parents’ deficiencies. That was long before anyone thought to put children into anything resembling a classroom.
That was then, and this is now. For better or for worse (mostly for worse), we live in highly atomized societies. The more “modern” (industrialized) we are, the more atomized we are. Yes, there’s some regional variation, but even the less atomized parts of our societies would have struck our ancestors as highly atomized. While the primary purpose of schools may be to educate in academic subjects, schools are also the means by which our modern societies ensure that children (all children) come into regular contact with people (adults and children) who aren’t members of their nuclear families. Historically, this was done in other ways, but as I said, that was then, and this is now.
I do, of course, understand that homeschooled kids can be extremely well socialized. “Can be.” If the parents take the necessary steps to ensure that. (On that note, the size of the local homeschooling community plays an important role in their likelihood of success. If you happen to have a rich homeschooling scene in your home town, then you’re far more likely to be able to properly integrate your homeschooled child into the local community, than if you happen to live in a town where your kid is the only homeschooled kid anyone has ever heard of, and where people tend to assume that the reason you homeschool is because there’s something wrong with either you or the kid, and that your family is therefore best avoided. So, context matters.) But the problem is that *if* the parents wish to use homeschooling as a tool for severing connections with the community (or simply don’t care one way or the other if those connections happen to be severed), then there’s nothing to stop them from doing so. If the child is so badly abused that he or she has visible injuries, then a neighbor will hopefully notice and call the social services. Otherwise? “They’re just a quiet family that likes to keep to itself.” Never mind if the child’s needs (beyond the most basic physical ones) are being ignored.
Note that in the old days, it would have been impossible (or at least extremely difficult) for parents to isolate their kids from outside influence in this fashion. Maybe it was possible for some members of the aristocracy(?). But otherwise, people depended on each other for survival in a far more immediate fashion, and if you tried to isolate yourself and your kid like this, you were at a markedly higher risk of starvation. Of course, we depend on others more than ever, but those dependencies are now mediated by money. As long as you have money, you can have pretty much all your physical needs met without ever talking to another human being. And you can isolate your kid, deliberately or otherwise.
About the Amish: that’s quite different. They do, after all, have a viable community, and one that’s far less atomized than the rest of society. That’s not to say they have no problems, but the concerns that I raised above do not apply to them.
@Fly on a Donut
Let me guess: you were given a cookie-cutter version of math education. Math competitions occupied much of my adolescence, and then I went to what you Americans would probably call a “magnet school” with a heavy math focus. The most advanced math we did was calculus. (Well, we also had linear algebra, but that was taught before calculus and got less attention.) But we were asked to do problems that actually required thinking. It wasn’t just a matter of plugging numbers into a formula. My high school was (and still is) extremely successful, whether you count by the number of IMO (that’s the International Mathematical Olympiad) medals won by its students (over a hundred so far; two of my classmates were among the medalists, and interestingly, we were considered to be a “weak” generation), or by the number of its graduates who go on to earn PhDs from top international universities, or by any number of other parameters. Again, we weren’t “accelerated.” We were just asked to engage with the material in a deeper fashion than is typically the case. I happen to think that this is a better approach.
With respect to the theme of the questions posed at the end of this week’s post, I can say that it is clear to me now that the inner work, or Great Work, takes precedence over everything else. Not that I won’t work to make the world a better place by retaining something of this slower pace, by building relationships with my neighbors (perhaps exchanging loaves of sourdough for urban-chicken eggs), or spending more time with family. But all of that will flow from the work done within as I come to…well, not “understand,” as one doesn’t understand the Cosmos, but to engage with it in a very different (and much more humble) manner.
I have stories to write. My day-job needs doing. Today, like each Sunday, I’ll be doing laundry and dishes. But yesterday I experienced a great sense of opening where I could see that the other Work is the foundation of everything else. As I recall Whomever She May Be telling me quite directly: “You are not here to do Great Things. You are here to develop your soul.” This hiatus from the usual, this Great Pause, has provided the opportunity for what She meant to sink in to some degree, even though I’m utterly failing here to articulate it in any coherent way. Call it “soul alchemy,” perhaps.
Change yourself, change the world.
In re: divorce and marriage: I think one of the things that’s contributing to a declining marriage rate is the availability of effective birth control and elective abortion. Fewer people *have to* get married these days, whether because they want to have sex or because they already have and there are consequences. Along with that, if not caused by it, there’s a greater separation between sex, love, and marriage, and much more acceptance that not everyone who wants one wants the other two, and that’s perfectly fine. (Relatedly, the idea that people–especially women–are failures if they haven’t married or reproduced seems to be dying a slow but quite deserved death.)
Being me, and believing as I do (and having heard, first or secondhand, from a number of people who did get married or have kids because they didn’t have much choice in the matter, and how this did not end well for anybody) I think this is absolutely a good thing.
In fact, instead of making divorce harder (I think “I honestly believe I’d be happier on my own,” is all the reason anyone needs for a breakup that doesn’t involve kids, and I don’t *have* kids, so I really can’t opine about those who do) I’d start at the other end and make marriage harder. Impose a trial period of at least a year and a day, where the couple lives together, like the modern version of some customs I’ve read about, and at the end they should really sit down and evaluate what they feel. If they don’t want to keep going, they can part–no harm, no foul, no need for legal involvement. (I know most modern couples live together anyhow, but I think a year where you know it’s Officially Going Somewhere would help as a test.)
One of the things I hope the current pandemic actually does kill off is the Wedding-Industrial Complex, with the idea of the huge, elaborate, costly ceremony that’s the Best Day of the Bride’s Life. I suspect that plays into a lot of marriages that maybe shouldn’t happen, and thus either divorce or really unhappy marriages.
The effects of divorce aren’t as clearcut as that. For one, the appropriate comparator for children of divorce are children from unhappily-married, high conflict families. When you do that comparison, it’s not at all clear that one or the other is better.
The other is there’s a failure to account for behavioural genetic confounders. Parents who divorce, as a group, are different on average genetically and therefore behaviourally from those who don’t. For example, the group ‘parents who divorce’ will contain an overrepresentation of people with major drug and alcohol problems, mental health issues, personality disorders, low impulse control, neuroticism, aggression etc. The group ‘parents who don’t divorce’ contains an overrepresentation of highly conscientious, highly agreeable, highly religious people.
All of those traits and behaviours are partly caused by genes and partly by environment. All of them have major impacts on every area of life. People who are conscientious about their marriage are generally also so in their job, their drug-taking habits and in taking care of their kids, for example. So, the children of parents who have divorced are more likely, on average, to have inherited ‘unhelpful’ traits genetically, and would have poorer life outcomes, on average, even if they had been adopted into a happy and stable family at birth.
If divorce, and single parenthood, were as damaging as a surface analysis would have us believe, rates of educational failure should have rocketed in line with them since the 1960’s in most western countries. Even allowing for the dumbing down of education, fraud in test results etc., that trend just isn’t there.
I totally agree that ‘overcrowding’ per se isn’t the problem. Refusal to discipline is a huge problem and particularly so in the US because it intersects uncomfortably obviously with your racial problems. Same happens in the UK.
But the problems seem to be wider than that. Most of the parents I’ve seen discussing it on twitter from the US have kids that go to schools that have no serious discipline problems. Same with my daughter – her school is very strict on discipline, in a good way. The problem they’re noticing is just how dumbed down the curriculum is and how bored and underachieving their children are. It’s not that teachers are kept too busy managing the violent kids, it’s just that all children who happen to be the same age are expected to be at the same level and are given the same work to do. And that level is set below what even the single average child in the class is capable of.
The dumbing down of education is far from being only an American phenomenon though, so I’m not sure American culture can be the cause (although it certainly has an outsized influence on the rest of us…). It’s the same in the UK and Ireland and I have relatives in Australia who report the same there. Beyond that I can’t say. The ugly architecture is supported only by a section of the highly educated in every country, and there’s no shortage of it in east Asian countries where education and smarts are valued to the point of driving children to suicide from stress.
As far as I can tell, education was dumbed down to fit the blank slate ideology of the left which infiltrated schools of education since at least the 1960’s and has been the dominant ideology behind educational policy for decades now. The dogma is that unequal educational outcomes can only have environmental causes and therefore must be evidence that children have been given unequal opportunities. Not coincidentally that ideology has provided vast numbers of jobs for the managerial class which has adopted it. Which is also we’re always just a little bit more cash (sorry, ‘resources’) and a few more years away from the achievement of equal opportunity.
@JMG: Thank you, those articles certainly do make things clearer! The rise in the level of administrators is pretty dramatic, to say the least.
@Robert Mathiesen: Thanks also for the anecdotes! My wife works at a university here in Canada, and we had a discussion about what you wrote and what I discovered from the articles JMG posted, and unfortunately here in the Canadian system, there appears to be a similar trend, although I don’t know if it is as pronounced as in the US.
Irena, : ” I happen to think (and I note that this is a value judgment) that preventing particularly bad kinds of failure, especially when it comes to children, is worth it, even if it simultaneously makes certain kinds of success more difficult.” I think most home-schoolers would argue that “preventing particularly bad kinds of failure” is not a problem endemic or particular to homeschooling: a great many dropouts and misfits and hooligans have their niche(s) in the public school system, and nobody is very concerned about it. Furthermore, how far would you take such a principle? Could bad students (home-schooled or not) be subject to forced seizure and adoption? In order to prevent failure at education? Who gets to determine who is sub-par, and who guards the guardians? It’s the old problem of the helmsman, if you will. I’m all on board with protecting children. However, I’ve also seen instances of this principle of protection being used to actually abuse the child. So its mere invocation is just not enough to gain an argument. If the assumption being used in Europe is that “the State is my most immediate family, not my blood relatives”, then I can see how they would favor a system in which local school administrators and government officials get to determine who gets to train or educate the child. Europe is also a little more ethnically homogeneous than America, but for many reasons, most Americans do not identify with the State as their guardian.
In other words, I see where you are coming from, and am willing to believe that your system could work out for the good in many particular instances that home-schooling has failed, but in general, and over all, it’s not workable from a North American ethos. And I think that is what Dot was reacting to in your comments. I’ve been thinking this week about alternatives and voluntarism. Why do we always assume people need to be MADE to do the right thing? Why (for instance) close public schools forcibly? Why not try making a wider range of options available? And see which ones people gravitate to, and then tweak things from there?
For example in the current crisis, the government could recommend social distancing, provide free face masks, subsidize time off work, etc., etc., along with recommending other recommendations in case one doesn’t like the first set of recommendations! You know they will want to make a vaccine mandatory, eventually. But why?! If it works, what difference is it that some yahoo doesn’t want it? One less yahoo for down the road. But their kids! You will say. OK, well, maybe Nature knows better than we do how little we actually know about our vaccine (other than it works for a short time, say five years): could turn out to cause Parkinson’s or cancer or just make you feel like you are 200 years old.
Robert, it’s great that you and your ex could manage it like grownups, and do right by your daughter.
Most of the time, it’s way more complicated than that. It is a large problem that the courts default to “kids should go with their mother”. Apart from having an extremely good lawyer and heaps of evidence in your favor, a dad doesn’t stand much chance. The rate of Dads getting full custody in divorce, in my area, is 4%. But as others have pointed out in this thread, women are just as capable of domestic violence as men. There’s also the rather nasty statistic that the person most likely to abuse a child is an unrelated man living in the same house (mostly, Mom’s new boyfriend). This leaves the kids (and dads!) in an awful bind.
There are a lot of men who stick around in disastrous marriages as human shields for their kids. If wife then initiates a divorce anyway… everyone loses.
My own parents are miserably married, but I’m grateful that Dad stuck around– he was a buffer between us and the worst of my mother’s excesses. Since there wasn’t any outright physical abuse or addiction… a divorce would have left us entirely at her mercy. It was no picnic growing up with constant marital tension. But it could have been so much worse.
I helped a dear friend sort out his own divorce… he’d stayed for years longer than he should’ve, to protect his kids. In the end, he had enough documentation of his wife’s mental illness and substance abuse that he was able to get full custody. You’d think that would be a win, but the kids were still devastated, and they limp along as best they can now.
There aren’t any ideal solutions. But if we could get beyond the idea in our court systems that mother is always the better parent… that might help.
Thanks to everybody for a great discussion here this week. I really appreciate all the comments, even from those I disagree with, and once again my hat is off to JMG for hosting the only forum on the internet I know of where it is even possible to have a lively discussion without it devolving into chaos.
To Irena and the others who insist on repeating the straw man argument that fundamentalist zealots will abuse home schooled children: Again, I am going to repeat my comment above that public schools can also be hellish places, with all sorts of criminal activities, shootings, abuse of every sort, indoctrination, and–in my area in particular–an opioid drug abuse culture that is a terrifying risk to many parents. Every child faces risks, and continually bringing up the abusive survivalist/crazy christian homeschooling trope just looks like demagoguery, and is not a convincing point in favor of denying families a choice of education setting.
I am also going to challenge Heather in CA that home schooled parents get to control public funds and it takes away from public schooling. Some states have minimal amounts that are available to home schoolers, but they are completely insignificant amounts compared to the public school budgets. I get zero in my state, and am actually paying twice because not only are all my homeschooling costs coming out of my after-tax earnings, the majority of my local property taxes go to support the public school system, which my family does not use and wants to avoid. So, in fact, the opposite is true: the state takes away funding I might otherwise have to use to educate my children at home.
In other words, more so than we like to think, people self-enforce through peer pressure, fear of failure feedback, quest for social status, etc., etc. This is why competing paradigms (like a religious view, or a cultural one) to the prevailing so-called monolith, are so heavily suspected and struggled against.
>When I was a ‘teen (sixty years ago), you could leave school after (IIRC) the eighth grade.
The Soviet Union was pretty much like that – compulsory education stopped at the 8th grade and everything after that was considered college prep. That bastion of freedom, the Soviet Union had less compulsory education. Perhaps less is more. Perhaps.
There are plenty ideas on how to fix the educational system, but they don’t really matter. Just like if a child wants to be left behind, it’s going to be left behind, if the system doesn’t want to be fixed and is politically connected (and nothing is more politically connected than a teacher’s union) your ideas mean nothing. And all the teacher’s unions want is the same as last year except just a little bit more. Innovation or imagination – forget it. They will always demand tomorrow be like today plus 5%.
You have several responses. You can move to a district where the schools are good because the politicians benefit from high real estate prices. (And right there we can talk about how all public education is in deep trouble because of its deep connection to distorted real estate prices) You can take your kid and put him in a private school. Or you can DIY and homeschool. Charter schools are a nonstarter, they’ll just be hobbled or outlawed because the politicians will always cater to that teacher union voting bloc.
I mean, if I was a politician, I’d definitely listen to them. Those people VOTE like nobody else does. You can always count on them to show up for almost every election. Even the off-year elections.
Nobody ever questions whether compulsory education is a good idea or not. I don’t think it’s a terribly good use of time/money/energy to educate a kid whose parents don’t care and where the kid doesn’t care either. Leave that kid behind, I say. Educate the ones who want (or whose parents want) them to be there.
One more thought on public schools and homeschooling. The length of the school day is obviously relevant. I went to school in Serbia. Depending on grade level, we had four-to-six 45-min periods per day, plus one or two 15-20 min recesses (depending on how many 45-min periods we had). Actually, in my first two years of school, I went to one of the few schools that would keep the kids from 8am to, if I remember correctly, 3pm. This included a long recess in the middle of the day. Kids who had someone to watch them (usually a grandparent) would go home for lunch, and then come back to school for one final hour. We all lived within minutes on foot from the school, so this was very doable. The advantage of such schools was supposed to be that they, essentially, offered babysitting services to the parents. I never heard anyone suggest that the quality of *education* received in these full day schools was any better than in standard, half-day ones.
Now, if your child is in school for only about four hours per day, and you feel your kid isn’t learning anything there, then you basically get to homeschool anyway if you like. There’s plenty of time left, after all. Let the kid go to school to socialize, and then teach at home (if you have the time and resources). Of course, if your kid’s school is demanding, then you won’t be able to do this quite as easily (because the kid will be exhausted); but why would you want to homeschool if the school is already offering a solid education? And I am somewhat suspicious of parents who won’t let their kids out of sight for just a few hours per day. What’s the deal with those parents?
Now, if an 8-hour school day is de rigueur, that changes the equation somewhat, doesn’t it?
““Blunt frippers intantly to pointed bdeluroid” and the like. (If they do, I can make a good guess at one of the books on the required reading list in Kekistan.)”
Hehehe…you mean That Hideous Strength, don’t you? Man, oh man, I wonder how many alt right mages are also computer programmers with a taste for offbeat science fiction or fantasy? Probably about half of them, anyway. Nature’s way of revenge on dominant but lazy elites seems to be to raise up those lesser forces of Nature that, in Merlin’s way of thinking, “are not quite yet gone”, somehow…Maybe they are eternally, “not quite yet gone”? Always disappearing, yet always returning.
The big question is: who foots the bill if you fail? Europe, in general, has much stronger social programs than the United States does. So, if you mess up your kid, whether educationally or psychologically, by homeschooling (I’m not saying this is an inevitability; just a distinct possibility), then we all pay for that failure (lifelong welfare, anyone?). Obviously, if I’m supposed to pay for your potential failures, then I have a vested interest in preventing those failures, even if that makes certain types of success more difficult for you. After all, your potential spectacular success wouldn’t benefit me anywhere near as much as your potential spectacular failure would hurt me. In the States, you’re more comfortable with the let-’em-starve ethos, which also means you’re more comfortable with letting people do as they please, even if that means that some will fail quite spectacularly. Fine. But again: cake, having, eating. You can’t have it both ways. I understand your position, but I don’t share it. I have no issue with you doing it that way in the States, though. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as our Polish friends would say.
And yes, you’re right, European countries are quite a bit more homogeneous than the US, which also means that people are more comfortable with being told (within reason, of course) how to raise their kids. After all, the people doing the telling are generally not all that different from the parents themselves. Or at least, the differences are smaller than in the States.
Further on divorce/kids–as noted, this is essentially second-hand: there does seem to be a fair amount of consideration of the effects on children, at least among the people I know. Of my acquaintances who’ve gotten divorced, the majority did so either before they had kids or before the kids were old enough to remember anything else. I think that timing was a factor, too–either they put off kids because they wanted to see if the marriage worked out, and it didn’t, or they divorced early so that the kids would be too young to be traumatized.
Conversely, I have an aunt and uncle whose marriage was *wildly* unhappy, but who waited to divorce both until all their kids had grown up and married and until my grandmother had died. I’m not close enough to the kids to know how they feel about it, but the rest of the family’s reaction was “about darn time.” (Except for my grandfather, who was old-school and thought it was Scandalous.) She hates him now, and I don’t know whether getting divorced earlier would’ve changed that or not–frankly, that aunt has never been the most reasonable or undramatic member of the family.
My general impression is that what kids respond most to is whether or not the parents respect and like each other, and also whether or not any given situation is stable. That can mean an amiable divorce and genuinely cooperative co-parenting agreements, or staying together for the sake of the kids with genuine friendship and discreet accommodations on both sides, or any number of other options.
But again: not a parent or a child psychologist, my parents are still together and love each other (in an amiably cranky way) (as far as I know, we don’t talk about love around here) so I speak with zero authority.
@JMG: Me too! And yeah. It’s pretty damaging, too–I’ve seen a lot of people in toxic relationships who think that’s just how these things work, because that’s the image they get from the media. (Wife as “ball and chain,” husband who doesn’t help out around the house at all, let’s not even go into the whole issue of sexuality, etc.) I get banter–as I mentioned, my entire family operates on amicable crankiness–that being around anybody for an extended length of time means they get on your nerves, and that nobody can push your buttons like family, but this just seems…mean. And I like meanness in its place, but there are only certain kinds of relationships that works with, and most of them have explicit contracts and safewords around it. 😛
I think the emphasis on togetherness might contribute, too. In The Old Days, even aside from work, my impression was that there was some expected separate recreation–Dad would go fishing or play poker with his buddies, Mom would have the gardening club or the church bake sale–and most of the crowd I know these days is also of the opinion that one person should not be your entire life (polyamory stuff has something, though not all, to do with that, IME). But I think there’s still the idea in mainstream culture that the ideal relationship is one where you’re joined at the hip as much as possible, and of *course* people start disliking each other in that case. I’d probably get sick of David Bowie if I had to spend all day, every day with him. (After a while.)
My feelings on single-gender clubs etc are complex (though I’m not offended by their existence or anything), but it does occur to me that they serve another purpose: for the 90ish percent of people in opposite-sex relationships, it’s a scheduled few hours a week away from your partner, which seems refreshing for everyone.
“To Irena and the others who insist on repeating the straw man argument that fundamentalist zealots will abuse home schooled children: Again, I am going to repeat my comment above that public schools can also be hellish places, with all sorts of criminal activities, shootings, abuse of every sort, indoctrination, and–in my area in particular–an opioid drug abuse culture that is a terrifying risk to many parents. Every child faces risks, and continually bringing up the abusive survivalist/crazy christian homeschooling trope just looks like demagoguery, and is not a convincing point in favor of denying families a choice of education setting.”
Right. Some American schools are absolutely horrific. Some European schools are really quite bad, but I don’t think they sink to quite *that* level of horrendously awful. Possibly, I’m misinformed. But yeah, if you compare worst-to-worst, I think the US wins (or I guess I should say loses: American absolute worst are worse than Europe’s absolute worst). If I had a kid stuck in one of those, my first priority would be to get him or her out of there, even if it meant the kid did nothing other than play video games all day long. Context matters, as always. Also, I don’t think high school should be mandatory in any case, and it’s the high schools that are the worst offenders.
On homeschooling, and also on trusting your child’s instincts:
One of the things my wife and I felt strongly about, once we had our kids, was that we wanted them to learn to read on their own by the time then entered school–nothing complicated, just so that they could, for example, read the comic “Peanuts.” Then they would have, if they wanted or needed it, the means freely to sidestep any limitations of the local school system might try to impose. For us, that meant they should learn how to turn written words into spoken ones.
Now the relation between written and spoken words in English is particularly complicated, compared to most European languages. Yet there is a system to it, though it’s a system with a very small number of usual pronunciations for every combination of letters. (Noah Webster laid it out very intelligently in a few of the opening paghes of his old blue-backed Spelling Book.)
And if English is your native language, you (the child) can try out the possibilities as you read, and see which possibility yields meaning. The child’s own mastery of his spoken language, plus some common sense about what makes for a good story, will yield the right answer in almoist every case. And a child’s comprehension improves with practice as he reads.
That was our plan. With our older child, a little bit of bribery was needed at first: one potato chip for every five words figured out and correctly pronounced. (So much easier just to let a parent read the book to him!) But the bribery was temporary, and didn’t last long; as soon as he could read “Peanuts” on his own, he went to town, and no more potato chips were needed. Our younger child saw his brother reading Peanuts, and wanted to be able tol read Peanuts too. So the two of them would sit together on the sofa, and pretty soon the younger one figured out on his own how to read as his brother read the books to him. No potato chips needed!
So … public schools, supplemented by a bit of home schooling, worked fairly well, for us and for them. In retrospect, we might have done a little better to have homeschooled them ourselves. But that’s only in retrospect, after we eventually saw just how bad the curriculum and some of the teaching were. To be fair, there were also a few really great teachers there … a few.
Each child went to college. The older one found it horrid, though slightly less so than his K-12 public schools, dropped out at the start of his junior year, and went on to build a very good life for himself in Information technology without ever having taken any degree. The younger one went to the same college, loved it, went on to graduate school (in Physics), and built an equally good life for himself: at the moment he is a data analyst.
Each child’s choice was fine with us. We had already seen that I could rely on their own instincts, their intelligence and their common sense as they figured out how to enter adult life for themselves. It was really quite a relaxed experience of parenting … (We lived about a 10-minute’s walk from my campus office back in those days, and I walked back home whenever I wasn’t needed on campus. I really enjoyed spending many hours engaged with our children at home when they were young, and I took every chance I had to do so. So I already had a pretty good sense of what they were capable of doing on their own. My university paid its professors wretchedly, but my wife and I both had already learned how to live very frugally during our own childhoods. So we managed to make my single wretched income be enough for the four of us to live well on.)
Bias in favour of mothers exists, sure, but the fundamental reason why so few fathers get full custody is that virtually no fathers want it. Most families are not abusive, you know, and most fathers don’t actually want to remove their kids from their mother, however nasty the parent’s relationship may have become. The other basic reason is that in the vast majority of cases, the person who has spent most time caring for the kids is the mother and the reasons why that’s the case don’t change post-divorce.
In that minority of cases which do involve abuse, it is more difficult for fathers to prove the mother is abusive. Again the reason for that is not gender bias in the courts. It’s that when fathers abuse their kids or wife they’re vastly more likely to leave evidence in the conveniently documented form of visits to emergency departments. Proving to a third party that mom is an emotionally abusive narcissist who drinks too much and slaps them far too often is much harder by its nature. There’s no solving that, it’s just a function of the fact that there are biological and personality differences between the genders, including in how we misbehave.
The person most likely to abuse a child is its mother, particularly if you include emotional abuse. You could view that as an argument for giving custody to fathers more often. On the other hand, the people most likely to abuse prisoners are prison guards, and for the same reason. When you then factor in how many mothers, as compared to fathers, are lone parents, that disparity in time spent around one’s children becomes even clearer.
While it’s true that mom’s new boyfriends are wildly overrepresented in child abuse compared to biological fathers, that’s not an argument for giving fathers custody more often either. In most cases where the new boyfriend abuses the kids, the mother is/was a single parent and the biological father is long since gone. Mother, absent father and new boyfriend are often all alcohol and drug addicts who live chaotic and violent lives. That’s why mom left the ‘boyfriend’ she met last week to babysit the colicky 4 month old. Those kids, by and large, don’t have a biological father out there who’s being held back from coming to the rescue by those mean old-fashioned judges. He’s wildly more likely to be in jail after thumping the new girlfriend a few times too many.
“About the Amish: that’s quite different. They do, after all, have a viable community, and one that’s far less atomized than the rest of society. That’s not to say they have no problems, but the concerns that I raised above [regarding child abuse] do not apply to them.”
I wish that were true; unfortunately, child abuse is common among the Amish, and often the entire community is in denial about it, or else blames the victim. You can google Amish and child abuse, and here’s a recent article about it: https://www.npr.org/2020/01/19/797804404/investigation-into-child-sex-abuse-in-amish-communities
If I may:
I’ve noticed a number of people invoke in the comments this week what is good or not good for society at large. But to make that sort of claim, doesn’t that imply a specific frame of reference and a specific value system? And so is it not a logical impossibility for a human within a human society to make a claim what would be best for that society given the fierce arguments at hand? One could claim that technological complexity is what’s best for society; another could say that everyone doing what they want is what’s best for society; another might say that centralized planning is what’s best for society; another may say Sharia law is what’s best for society; another could say two acres and a cow is what’s best for society; and the list of ideas of “what’s best for society” seems to me nearly limitless and almost entirely subjective because how can you get a frame of reference that can encompass the frames of reference of everyone within a given society? You run against so many incompatible values and frames of reference that may be both totally at odds and totally internally self-consistent that I don’t think that, logically, one can actually assert what’s good or bad for society at large. One can only logically assert what’s good or bad for society based upon a specific set of values, either stated or implied which, being specific, cannot encompass all possible values or frames of reference.
Allan, so noted, but I don’t share your dislike of the word and therefore will continue to use it, because it communicates clearly and concisely and most of the alternatives don’t.
Lathechuck, oof. Next they’ll want a three-cornered square…
Robert, Montaigne is always spot on! Thank you for this.
BB, yes, that headline’s getting close. As for men’s groups and feminism, one of the weirdest things about feminism is the way that so much of the movement ended up embracing exactly those stereotypes — “women are peaceful and gentle and loving and vulnerable, while men are violent and brutal and lustful and unfeeling” — which it started out denouncing, and rightly, as a bunch of sexist claptrap.
Jarle, thanks for this! That makes enormous sense.
David BTL, for those who are ready for the Great Work, yes, exactly. Change yourself and the world begins changing in response.
Jbucks, you’re most welcome. Those were just the first two of dozens of detailed articles I found, btw.
Samurai_47, I have the best commentariat on the internet, no question.
Arkansas, I was wondering who’d catch that reference first! Given that CS Lewis tends to be referenced quite often on T_D and other MAGAcentric websites, an attempt to enact the banquet at Belbury in real life strikes me as a very likely project, and by no means out of reach. (Well, except for the tiger et al.)
Isabel, bingo. One of the classic reasons for lodge meetings is time away from home. Women used to do that as much as men — there were whole archipelagoes of women-only clubs, societies, lodges, et al., so that one night a week Mom could put on something nice, leave the kids with Dad, and go hang out with other women. Since Dad also had meetings one night a week with the Odd Fellows or the Optimist Club