Update: Tennessee postpones education-wrecking bill

By Phil Plait | April 25, 2011 7:00 am

Some (kinda) good news: a bill designed to promote the teaching of creationism in Tennessee public schools has been put on hold until at least next year.

Earlier in April, the Tennessee House passed this bill, which basically says teachers can help students find weaknesses in scientific theories — and while that sounds legit on its surface, it’s actually very thinly veiled creationist rhetoric for attacking evolution (read the link above for more on this).

To be made into state law, the Tennessee Senate would have to pass the bill as well, but they decided to put it on hold. The thing is, it was tabled basically due to scheduling and not because the bill is antiscience, antireality, and potentially unconstitutional. I imagine when the Senate reconvenes at the next session it’ll pop right back up, as these creationist whack-a-mole bills do. After all, this is the same legislature that grossly mischaracterized a quote by Einstein to support creationism.

So science education in the Volunteer State is safe… for now. Therefore:

MORE ABOUT: creationism, Tennessee

Comments (86)

  1. davidlpf

    Wait for it… wait for it…

  2. James

    Do any of you eternal complainers ever push for a policy that would get rid of this nonsense, like eugenics? Everybody knows that in general religiosity is inversely correlated with intelligence.

  3. mike burkhart

    Good news now maybe the’ll take my advice and leave the Bible in Sunday school.This Intelegent Desing nosence was under consideration hear in Akron in the 90s and was voted down . Its never been taken up since.

  4. For anyone confused about evolution, here is a small resource: http://factsnotfantasy.com/evolution.php

    And I am also fond of this link with a much more in-depth smackdown: http://factsnotfantasy.com/creationists.php

  5. Sam H

    Whoever makes these macros is awesome :). Anyway, I have no real comment (I still stand by my most of my opinions regarding ID, and after a emotional and – yes I’ll say it – spiritual experience on Friday I may or may not count myself amongst believers – call me deluded and/or naïve if you want, but I stand by what I felt, as most people would). Even though, I will clarify that I DO NOT support the teaching of ID (because it can’t be used as science) or religious doctrine in public schools, even though I count myself as sort of a social conservative. And all this talk about America “falling behind” in academia and science which will harm the economy, thus we must “energize education” to “stay ahead” as economic powerhouse is almost certainly a moot point (for me, at least – a Canadian high schooler with a knack for global issues) – with all that is happening in your nation today (government near-shutdowns, unstoppable debt, skyrocketing oil prices, a declining economy, meaningless political pissing contests that have turned violent, climate change, and rampant hedonism constant in the media), plus such facts as the rise of the Asian powerhouse, is it no wonder that we are witnessing the gradual decline and fall of the American empire? It is almost certainly happening – the only question that I have is how fast will you plunge, and how dramatic and sudden will the crash be?
    PS: Not to say that I don’t care about education – I do – but to hell with this petty talk about the economy and innovation and being #1 in the world. I guess believe in smaller, localized governments and public school systems + appropriate private systems & homeschooling (which is how it’s been done for most of human history)- with how big the public system is in the US the system is clearly failing.
    And while you may disagree with me James, I REALLY hope that that piece about Eugenics was a REALLY bad joke and nothing more. And I’m not going to bother debating “religion and intelligence”.

  6. frankenstein monster

    Do any of you eternal complainers ever push for a policy that would get rid of this nonsense, like eugenics?

    I seriously hope this is a bad joke. But, anyway, you should stop giving someone ideas like that, because this cuts both ways, and we might all end up together staring down the wrong end of the gun barrel.

  7. What I would really like to see happen is industry telling governors that their states are too stupid to work for them, and they are taking their high tech jobs elsewhere. Intel already warned Arizona: http://blogs.forbes.com/erikkain/2011/04/04/intel-executive-warns-that-education-cuts-could-drive-away-business-investment/

    While not wishing suffering on people who are already suffering under the IDiots they elected, the time for accountability is past. Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, and all the other IDiot states should pay the economic price of having a bronze age education based on fairy tales.

  8. Jeff

    unfortunately, I’ve been a professor for 30 years, and my career conclusion is that we can not assume that history is always progress, it is a cycle of idiocy and more enlightment, and it keeps changing over history. That process, and even human evolution, have not stopped. My students today are not like the ones I first started with, as a small example. The neanderthals among the human population can always pop up and flourish.

  9. Phil, I hate to be the party pooper here, but this is an actual email that my dad received from our local rep. in response to concern about this bill. In full, it reads:

    “Mr. […], Thank you for your email. I did not get too many regarding this particular bill. Sir, I chose to vote for this bill because I believe it will allow teachers to teach any and all theories of creation. We put them out there and allow students to think about them. Once upon a time we adults taught that the world was flat. David Alexander”

    I don’t need to tell you now what the actual intent of this bill is.

  10. Quiet Desperation

    Do any of you eternal complainers ever push for a policy that would get rid of this nonsense, like eugenics?

    No thanks. We’d rather not enact a wholesale dismissal of basic human rights. Got any other pseudoscience you want to share? Eugenics (in the manner you are using the term) was debunked nearly a century ago.

    What I would really like to see happen is industry telling governors that their states are too stupid to work for them, and they are taking their high tech jobs elsewhere.

    Seems it’d be cheaper to hire people from out of state.

    So how does Intel propose fixing the corruption and entrenched interests in the educational establishment? It’s very easy to make threats. A five year old can do that.

  11. Quiet Desperation

    “Once upon a time we adults taught that the world was flat. David Alexander”

    Argh! First a eugenics proponent, and now this!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth

    And it doesn’t even make sense! Is he saying it was *good* that we taught (or so he thinks) the Earth was flat? Is he admitting that creationism = flat earth?

    @Jeff: A professor calling people neanderthals. Nice. That’ll win hearts and minds.

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    This quote sums this debate up nicely :

    “May God save us from false religion.”
    – Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5, “Believers” episode.

    In My Humble Opinion Naturally.

    It should be noted that Dr Stephen Franklin (the B5 character) was both religious and doubtful and highly intelligent and a ethical, tolerant person of science too. These things are all, in my view compatible.

    Creationism, it seems to me, is a strange and nasty political movement that does discredit to religion and science alike. It also, from my impression seems to be a movement that is – very deservedly – presently in decline and which United States society, generally, has rejected and keeps rejecting. Rightly so.

    Oh & FWIW I’m an agnostic who doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t believe in organised religion and doesn’t believe in extreme atheism either. Moderate, personal religion has its place and does a lot of good for some people methinks. Some of these peopel are friends of mine.

    Methinks also that Religion does NOT belong in science class & nobody should be compelled to have their religious beliefs determined for them by others whether that’s the Pope, the Creationists or Dawkins.

  13. I’ve only read the quick blurbs about this bill, but just the very wording of that proves to me that these people do not understand the fundamental nature of scientific inquiry. If they did, they’d know that this is complete nonsense. Or, as I put it on Twitter:

    You know what it’s called when you critically evaluate science and try to find holes in theories? It’s called SCIENCE.

    You don’t need a law to allow for that. That the Tennessee legislature thinks you do only shows that they fail to grasp the difference between inquiry and dogma, and that they are completely unfit to make any laws regulating science education.

    Also, in response to #9, mahlersoboes:

    “Once upon a time we adults taught that the world was flat. David Alexander”

    False. Pretty much just false. I don’t think there was ever a time when systematic education instilled in students the idea that the world was flat. Educated people since ancient times have not only known the Earth was round, but also had pretty close estimates on its diameter. If the common person thought the world was flat, it was more likely because they’d never even thought about the question of it being any other shape than because someone taught them it was so.

    Have you considered replying to the email with a Wikipedia-style [citation needed] inserted?

  14. truthspeaker

    “unstoppable debt”

    There’s nothing unstoppable about the US debt. Some members of Congress just don’t want to stop it.

  15. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ truthspeaker – yeah, they’re Congress so they can just print money after all .. Or .. else how? What do you suggest? :-o :-(

    *****************************

    @2. James : “Do any of you eternal complainers ever push for a policy that would get rid of this nonsense, like eugenics?”

    Yeah, you know what the world needs now – genocide! Yeah that’ll fix things and make everything better if we just target some groups we don’t like [atheists? Christians? Pastafarians?] and wipe them out .. :roll:

    Like other commenters have said, I hope you were joking there & forgot your wink emoticon.

    *********************************
    Who was it that said something like :

    ???”We’re in a race now between education out of ignorance and catastrophe”???

    Isaac Asimov? Carl Sagan? Somebody else?

    Those might not be the exact words used but I’m fairly sure I recall reading something very powerful along those lines.

    Anyone know and care to enlighten us please?

  16. katwagner

    We have so much sunshine in this country, for the life of me I don’t understand why we don’t have solar panels on every roof. I feel like the people who want religion taught in public schools are the same ones who want to maintain the status quo of drilling for more oil, whack of more mountain tops and frack or fark, or whatever for shale oil.

    On PBS last night, they showed the millionaire dude in CHINA, for crying out loud, who got rich by starting a solar panel company. Our legislators want to take tax breaks away from renewable energy startups – solar and wind. Yeah, so when are our elected officials going to wake the hell up?

  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    @13. Jason Ramboz :

    “Once upon a time we adults taught that the world was flat. David Alexander”
    False. Pretty much just false. I don’t think there was ever a time when systematic education instilled in students the idea that the world was flat. Educated people since ancient times have not only known the Earth was round, but also had pretty close estimates on its diameter. If the common person thought the world was flat, it was more likely because they’d never even thought about the question of it being any other shape than because someone taught them it was so.

    Yup. :-)

    Since classical Greek times in Western civilisation anyhow. See :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes#Eratosthenes.27_measurement_of_the_Earth.27s_circumference

    It is an urban myth that Columbus was the first to argue the world was really round not flat – what Columbus actually argued was that the round world was *smaller* than other estimates & thus you could sail safely to Asia across the Ocean without running out of food and water and dying along the way. Columbus got it wrong and was saved by the existence of hitherto unknown islands and continents that he was convinced – again wrongly – was the start of Asia. Hence the West Indies got its name.

    See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus#Geographical_considerations

    Come to think of it, it seems oddly apt to be discussing the multiply wrong “flat earth” idea on a creationism thread. Of course, if we lived on a ringworld :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringworld

    it’d be another story .. ;-)

  18. @ Sam H:

    I guess believe in smaller, localized governments and public school systems + appropriate private systems & homeschooling (which is how it’s been done for most of human history)

    And for most of human history, life was nasty, brutish and short, to take a line from Mr. Hobbes.

  19. Mary

    #15 I think it was George Orwell.
    “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

  20. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Mary : Thanks. :-)

    @17. Messier Tidy Upper :

    PS. Don’t get me wrong there btw, Columbus can be faulted on his science perhaps but NEVER on his courage, his resolve, his leadership and a lot more good qualities too. I’m not meaning to disrespect the man at all. I stand in sheer admiring awe of what Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan & Sir Francis Drake and all the other early explorers endured, managed & succeded in doing. :-o 8)

  21. Checkmate1

    I think #2 James was saying that ID should be treated with the same contempt we have for eugenics, not that we should adopt it…”get rid of this nonsense, like eugenics”.
    Might have misread it…

  22. Mary

    This discussion ties in with the Pope’s Easter message. Talk about trying to drag his followers back into the dark ages. I thought the news summary may have been wrong, but unfortunately it was not. The present Pope is a biblical, the world made in a week, creationist. The transcript is here

    http://www.catholic.org/clife/lent/story.php?id=41157&page=2

    Beware—barf bag may be required.

    Some quotes:
    …………It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no,………….

    …………..The Old Testament account of creation that we listened to clearly indicates this order of realities. But it leads us a further step forward. It has structured the process of creation within the framework of a week leading up to the Sabbath, in which it finds its completion. For Israel, the Sabbath was the day on which all could participate in God’s rest, in which man and animal, master and slave, great and small were united in God’s freedom.

    I am sure the slaves were not feeling much freedom on any Sabbath.

    It just makes one’s eye twirl. Things that come out of that man’s mouth continually reinforce that my leaving all that catholic and other religion silliness behind was the only sane, intelligent, honest, reasonable, etc. thing to do.

    I wonder how long it takes the crreationists to start quoting some of this speech from the Pope as an argument from authority.

  23. Sam H

    Nice work on pwning a eugenicist everyone :)!! While most here may not be religious, at least they retain the proper respect and not be a dick all the time…
    …except for kuhnigget. (I can see the veiled jab in that comment). Even though what you said is true in so many ways. But how much better are we now? (Sure, we have long lifespans and are richer than ever, but we have lost our connection with nature, morality has decreased in several areas, and the orgasmic pursuit of money and material wealth is so prevalent in every area of our life that we’re stuck in our own Matrix). While we’re very smart intellectually as a species, we’re clearly depraved morally (we can’t reach our own higher aspirations of it, whether they exist or not).
    So what do people think of the rest of my comment (decline of America?)

  24. @ SamH:

    There was nothing “veiled” in my jab, at all. I find your comments generally to be loads of ego-centric twaddle, your own opinions passed off as grand truths.

    To wit:

    While we’re very smart intellectually as a species, we’re clearly depraved morally (we can’t reach our own higher aspirations of it, whether they exist or not).

    Clearly? ORLY? Care to offer up some evidence for that “depravation”? Preferably something other than the usual libertarian claptrap about ebul gubmints or straying from gawd’s plan? It would help if it were something unique to this generation, as opposed to all that morality that preceded it.

  25. MartinM

    morality has decreased in several areas

    Which areas are those, exactly? Seems to me we’re doing better on moral issues than at any other time in history. I wouldn’t want to go back to the days when blacks were routinely murdered for the heinous crime of existing, when women were treated like property, when marital rape was legal, when homosexuality was seen as a mental illness, when women bled to death in back alleys because abortion was illegal…

  26. truthspeaker

    15. Messier Tidy Upper Says:
    April 25th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    @ ^ truthspeaker – yeah, they’re Congress so they can just print money after all .. Or .. else how? What do you suggest?

    -Repeal the Bush tax cuts, either on the top bracket or on all brackets. I can afford the extra $100 a year.

    This could get rid of the deficit real quick (like during the Clinton administration). Cutting the debt would require that, plus a re-examination of spending priorities. Getting rid of “earmark” spending would be a start. Closing some military bases would save a few bucks too, as would reducing involvement in overseas military conflicts.

  27. truthspeaker

    MartinM Says:
    April 25th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    morality has decreased in several areas

    Which areas are those, exactly?

    If he’s like others of his ilk, he means the following:

    when women were treated like property, when marital rape was legal, when homosexuality was seen as a mental illness, when women bled to death in back alleys because abortion was illegal…

    What you see as moral improvement, they see as a decline.

  28. Keith Bowden

    Do any of you eternal complainers ever push for a policy that would get rid of this nonsense, like eugenics? Everybody knows that in general religiosity is inversely correlated with intelligence.

    I can’t make up my mind whether James seriously recommended eugenics (“get rid of this nonsense”) or if he was blasting the forum (“you eternal complainers”). Either way, sounds like a troll.

  29. TheBlackCat

    Don’t get me wrong there btw, Columbus can be faulted on his science perhaps but NEVER on his courage, his resolve, his leadership and a lot more good qualities too.

    I sure can fault him on his leadership. He was dragged back to Spain in chains due to his gross, genocidal mismanagement of the land under his control. His leadership on the voyage was so bad he had to keep two logs, one with the truth that he kept secret, and one full of lies about their progress to keep the crew from commiting mutiny. By any measure he was an awful leader. Courage and pig-headedness were the only things he had going for him. That and luck.

  30. mike burkhart

    I think that religon and science do not have to be enemys nor dose a person have to chose one or the other. A person can be a good religons and a good scientist and vice versa. I am a religous person and I love science and think its the best way to understand the universe.I hate to say this but there are people who still beleve the Earth is flat I talked about one group in a comment abut a picture of Earth Phil had earlyer .Fortunely flat Earthers are few in number. Eugenics was a disater belef in this pesdoscience led to laws in the US that discrimated aganist people with disablltys and most extrem the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

  31. QuietDesperation

    Preferably something other than the usual libertarian claptrap about ebul gubmints or straying from gawd’s plan?

    Not a Libertarian (not with a capital L, anyway), but I think complaining about people straying from God’s plan is the last thing you’d ever hear a real Libertarian say. And they don’t particularly have warm fuzzies giant corporations abusing their power, either. Most of the hate directed as Libertarianism is directed at some ridiculous bogeyman version.

    You know, like every other tiresome hate in the world.

    Meanwhile, in reality, every ideology has at least a few good things to bering to the table, but you need to figure out when and where to use which ones. That’s why people who proclaim themselves to be strictly one ideological tribe or the other are *completely* *fraking* *useless*.

  32. @ QD:

    Perhaps I should have added a comma in there. Samh’s statement (#5) about smaller governments and home schooling is typical extreme libertarian b.s. His implication (#23) that modern society is somehow morally depraved (compared to what, I’d still like to know) is typical Bible thumping b.s. The two are not necessarily related, but in his case would seem to be intertwined. But I’m sure if he provides clear examples to illustrate his position, instead of just touting his opinion as if it were Truth, I could be convinced otherwise.

    BTW, I would modify your middle paragraph to say “most” other tiresome hate. I’m perfectly content hating religious nuts trying to push their god on me with the help of our secular institutions. And I’m not too fond of those who define everything our government does as bad, all the while taking advantage of everything good that comes of government regulation, coordination and subsidy.

  33. So no one noticed the rocket launcher? Way to go, Phil!

    (The rest of this debate is the same-old, same-old. Who wins, anyway?)

  34. Yer late to the party, Barber! That rodent has wielded the RPG more than once!

    Yeah, the debate is the same-ol’, but one can’t stand down or the b.s. pushers gain a little more, even if it is only a wee small corner of the internet. ;)

  35. Steve Morrison

    @15:

    The quote is from H. G. Wells’ The Outline of History, chapter 41: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” The full text is online here.

  36. James

    @Quiet Desperation
    What was debunked? Heredity?

    @mike burkhart
    Firstly, eugenicists and eugenics societies in Europe and the US generally spoke out against Nazi racial ideas. Many geneticists who believed in eugenics were Jewish, too. The Nazis, by killing 6 million Jews, were not practicing eugenics. Because the Central and Eastern European Jews (Ashkenazim) have the highest recorded IQ average of any group in the world, the Nazis were actually practicing “dysgenics,” which is eugenics flipped on its head. They were killing people who were smarter than them.

  37. mike burkhart

    I have said that no nation perverted science worse then Nazi Germany in a comment a few years ago I said something about the idea that an ”ice moon” crashed into the Earth bringing the ”Aryen” race to Earth nonsence of course but it was taught in every school in Nazi Germany.Last thing religon should never be forced on someone thats what this bill would do people are free to accept God or reject God

  38. David

    Louisiana actually passed this bill last year. It was promptly signed into law by Gov Bobby Jindal, and there it stands.

  39. Svlad Cjelli

    What about the Tennessee bill to send homosexuality down the memory hole?

  40. Darth Robo

    Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, all competing for the Number 1 Bozo spot:

    http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6509

    The “education” materials submitted in the examples above are appalling to say the least.

  41. Jeff

    I myself have always wished Columbus and the Europeans hadn’t colonized the western hemisphere because I believe this land is truly more belonging to the “Indians” native americans.

    They have a saying: “we don’t inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”, and such a motto keep them alive for thousands of years. Will European civilization as it is with all the companies dumping products into this fragile small planet, survive for thousands of years? Is this wise stewardship of planet earth?? Well, I’ve asked 30 years of students this rhetorical question, I can’t resist asking it of them to ponder.

  42. PayasYouStargaze

    @41 Jeff

    Your question leads me to another couple of questions to ponder.

    1. What if the Roman Empire hadn’t fallen and the dark ages never happened. How much sooner would links between Europe and America have formed? Also, how would the relationship between the Europeans and Native Americans been different?

    2. The opposite. What if the renaissance had not occured, and Europe stayed in the dark ages. Only for the Americans to “discover” Europe? Now that’s an interesting one.

    The rest of your post seems a bit over the top though. If European civilization hadn’t brought us to where we are now, some other one would have done so sooner or later. Industrialisation would have occured either way.

  43. Sam H

    @kuhnigget: while I may have been raised by a father who firmly believes in a “sinful nature”, my conclusions about this have been reinforced elsewhere. In fact, I’ve come to this conclusion after watching films like “The Corporation” – the sheer facts that we can forget completely about conscience and morality in the pursuit of money or some short-term goal (Vietnam and Iraq), and similar incidents throughout human history. And the reason I’m for localized communities, economies and governments is for a simple reason – THEY WORK. I don’t think anybody needs to be shown of the rather obvious fact that the current system IS FAILING, and very likely for the sole reason that it is TOO BIG AND WAAAY TOO EXPENSIVE. When it fails completely, smaller communities are going to be those who will most likely survive (unless, of course, you’re extremely rich). I believe in homeschooling not because I’m trying to push a certain ideological agenda, but because that education from the parents is how it’s been done for most of human history, and it certainly has it’s benefits compared to the current system.

    I can see that my opinions are not quite welcome by many here on the blog, for the simple reason that I disagree with portions of it’s political lean and naturalistic bias. Hopefully most people here will respectfully agree to disagree (something that we humans seem very inept at doing most of the time), but DON’T call me a total ignoramus – I understand where you guys are coming from, and I understand your opinions. And be aware that, as I am in an unstable hormonal phase, many of my opinions may be subject to change :).

  44. Quiet Desperation

    What was debunked? Heredity?

    @James: No. What was debunked was “negative eugenics” where you attempt to improve the human genome by removing individuals with genetic defects from the gene pool. Mutations are too common in human DNA, and show up naturally with every generation. Not even the most Draconian breeding program could ever compensate for it.

    @kuhnigget: OK. Clarified. We’re actually on the same page there.

  45. @ SamH:

    I respect your right to hold whatever opinions you choose, so long as you recognize they are just that and you don’t expect them to be hailed as universal Truths™.

    As for the benefits of “localized communities” – again, could you please provide some sort of evidence to back up your claim that “they work” better than larger communities? It seems to me there are, and have been throughout history, an awful lot of small, impoverished, insular communities. They work just fine if you want to remain in a society that toils endlessly just to get by and does without minor embellishments such as leisure, technology, freedom from imminent starvation, et al. If you’d like to live off the land in a day-to-day, hand to mouth existence, go on ahead and return to that golden age. Don’t expect the umpity billion other inhabitants of the earth to join you, however.

    This “system” you speak of…the one that “IS FAILING” and is “TOO BIG AND WAAY TOO EXPENSIVE” … are you talking about government? If so, I utterly disagree with you. To paraphrase a great old movie line, the government is not too big, the people who run it are too small. POLICY is what is wrong with our current government, not the government itself. Do the corporations and big money have too much power? Hell yes. But they have that power because WE have allowed them to take it. When the richest nation in the world has an apathetic population that can’t be bothered to vote or take part in even the most basic requirements of a democratic republic, then they get what they deserve. You want better government? Participate! Vote the bastards out. Don’t just enact term limit laws that do your job for you, or bitch and whine on internet sites.

    And as for your opinions not being welcome here, that is utter nonsense. If you’d read the good doctor’s blog for any length of time, you’d recognize that regular commenters represent a wide spectrum of political and philosophical beliefs. Everybody is pretty tolerant of differences of opinion. What does NOT go over well, however, is when people start posting their opinions in grand declarations, unsupported by facts, assuming they are great Truths, and then getting all bleaty and whiney when others challenge their statements.

    That “sinful nature” your father taught you about…was he basing it on religion? You are free to buy in to it if you’d like, but once again, if you expect to win over others to your point of view you’d better be prepared to offer up better support than “The Bible sezzzz….” Because here’s a revelation for you: there was no golden age. Human populations have always been a mix of slimeballs and decent folk. Some eras have been dominated by slimeballs. Some have allowed the decent folk to lead. Most often, it’s been a mix of the two. It’s no different today. The scale of our actions are bigger because there are more of us, but it’s still the same basic set-up as it’s been since we first settled down.

  46. @ PayasyouStargaze:

    I’d add a third “what if?” question to your list:

    3) What if the volcanic island of Thira hadn’t erupted in the middle of the second millennium, BCE? What if the pseudo-Minoan culture that thrived on Thira hadn’t been wiped out? Would the Thirans, whose rich and successful civilization seemed to treasure art, and had hot and cold running water piped into their multi-story houses, utilized the thermal energy of the island, had flush toilets and advanced sewer systems all centuries – even millennia – before anybody else, would they have continued to advance and prosper, perhaps reaching a “renaissance” of their own a thousand years before the European one? Where might we be now if they had been the ones to dominate the Greek world, instead of the constantly bickering Mycenaeans and Achaeans who took over after the eruption destroyed Thira?

  47. PayasYouStargaze

    @46 Kuhnigget

    That’s a cool one. It’s a bit more obscure than mine. I of course was responding to Jeff’s post, which was about Europeans and Americans.

    I suppose there are no end of what ifs that could be posed.

  48. PayasYouStargaze

    @43 Sam H

    Your comments about home schooling got me thinking. Kuhnigget didn’t really address them in his reply.

    1. How could home schooling be practical for anything other than a small minority of the population? Where would the teachers come from? The parents? Don’t they have to work to earn a living? So I guess they’re out of the question. Hundreds of teachers? Who’s going to pay them? Or are you suggesting education should be only for the rich?

    2. If it is the parents and somehow they can get out of work to teach each of their children for a good 8 years AT LEAST. How are they qualified to teach? How are standards maintained? Or are you happy with each family maintaining their own standard of education? What about the parents who do have ideologies that result in their children being unsuitable for work in the modern world.

    Maybe I’m missing something and you have it all worked out? What are the benfits over public education that you allude to?

    Home schooling might work for the privileged few, but if you want an educated public, then public education is necessary. Home schooling might have been the norm for much of human history, but history’s greatest civilizations are those that had the best education, with our own society being a shining example (even though education standards in the US aren’t the best in the world). We wouldn’t have the technology and quality of life we enjoy without public education.

  49. greetings and salutations!
    First off, I want to say that I was born and reared in Tennessee, and, those comments decrying the lack of intelligence here are a sad sign of prejudice that does not belong in today’s world. Why, it’s a fact that I have at least a dozen books in my library, and, only two of them are all colored in…and in THOSE, I stayed inside the lines on every page!
    Now…in a somewhat more serious vein… At #27 – it is very true, alas, that a great many folks do seem to live in the 9th century in a lot of ways, but, that is not just a problem with Tennessee. But, there are a lot of folks that think that Westboro Baptist is right and support its cause… One of the strengths of our republic and its support of free speech is that it keeps folks from limiting the exchange of views. The weakness is that it also supports obnoxious speech as well as that speech we like. However, better to be offended occasionally than hear nothing but “yes men” all the time. I would like to think that, instead of the examples you gave, this refers more to the increasingly widespread attitude we see in business that ethical behavior is a fool’s errand, and, the way to “win” is to screw the customer with the least product for the most money; It is the tendency to believe that duplicity and lying are the tools of the trade; It is the flood of soft-core porn on the cable channels that almost glorify the idea that other people are only obstacles to be removed from your path, and, that we each have no responsibility to aid those that are less fortunate than we are.
    At #48 – There is a reason for the growth in home schooling in the past decade or two…much of it has to do with the terrible disorganization that has overtaken the school system, as it is flooded with administrators whose self-appointed job is to make sure that what the kids learn is “politically correct”. This leads to such foolishness as “zero tolerance” rules, and, a rush to force the teachers to add yet OTHER topics to an already over-burdened schedule. It is very frustrating for a parent to have a kid who is 14 and is reading on the level of a 9 year old, or, is not learning basic skills and study habits in school. Since changing the public school system is, essentially, impossible these days, the only affordable alternative is home-schooling. Now, having said that, it has been my observation that a lot of folks are home-schooling their kids because the child has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and, is not able to work within the assembly line of the public school system. for that matter, it is nearly impossible for the public school system to deal with students that are too far away from the norm. Even back in the 60s, when I was in elementary school, each class consisted of three groups. There was a large percentage of the class that was “average”. These kids were fairly intelligent, but, often needed to go over the material two or three times in several class sessions before it would sink in and stick. There were the “under achievers”. These were the few kids that, for what ever reason, were learning impaired. Some could have read the material a hundred times and never gotten it. Some were on the autism spectrum, and, so could not get the information because it was not being presented in a way that they could grasp. Some were “normal” kids, but, had such a chaotic home life that it was impossible for them to focus on learning, or, they had such a history of contempt for learning in their family that they had been programmed to fail at it. Then, there were the “over achievers”. These were the exceedingly bright kids (consisting of some on the autistic spectrum and some that were NT) who were under-stimulated by the material in the class. Either there was not enough of it, or, it was too shallow a presentation. This resulted in them being interested in what was going on for the first five minutes or so. Then, they “got” it, and started getting bored. This had two effects. 1) the info they had pumped into their minds started to slip away and 2) they started acting out and disrupting the rest of the class…making the learning process harder for the rest of the kids.
    Now, let’s address your points directly.
    1) Practicality? the typical situation is that one of the parents stays home (usually the mother) and does the teaching. This has quite an economic impact on the family, but, is often the only successful way to deal with the child’s learning difficulties. Thanks to the large classes, and, the unending pressure to present more and more stuff in the classroom, and, the lack of support tools, the typical teacher cannot spend the time with the special needs children that they would like to, and, would need to in order to maximize the child’s learning.
    2) Some parents are totally unqualified…but, like free speech, we have to accept the bad with the good. A teacher said to me one time “I only have to be smarter than my students”, and, with the addition of work and the teacher’s workbooks, this is possible. As for standards…most states require that, if a parent chooses to home-school their child, that those kids have to take the same sorts of standardized tests that students in the system take. So…the state still sets the standard of education, and gives the parents a goal to shoot for. Also, because of these state requirements, the teacher’s materials that come with the workbooks, etc, produced to support home schooling do follow those guidelines. As for the question about children being unsuitable for work in the modern world, all i can say to that is that I do not really understand what point you are trying to make. There is always a job that someone can do, no matter what their level of education. A college professor of mine said “the world needs truck driver’s too” – I amend that to say that the world will always need tomato pickers and toilet cleaners, as well as rocket scientists, no matter how complicated it becomes.
    I have already touched on one of the major benefits of home schooling over the public school system, and, that is the Socratic example of a student on one end of the bench and a teacher on the other end. Personalized instruction can turn a person that might well never be productive into an excellent addition to society. Look, for example, at Temple Grandin. The public school system cannot, without serious changes, support this level of personal attention. It can allow the student to dig as deeply into a subject as they wish, thereby likely giving them a much more complex world view, and, (hopefully) the ability to gather large amounts of data and correlate it, coming to a better, more accurate conclusion about it.
    Public education is only necessary because we have a society today that is filled with parents who are unable or unwilling to take the time to teach their children the valuable life skills that will make their survival more likely. There are a lot of reasons that home schooling (as you state) has been the norm for much of human history, and, that is because it is quite possibly the best way to get the basic information about the world into a kid’s head, and, expect it to stick there. I truly wish that our society was a shining example of anything positive these days, but, there is so much ugliness and venality being rubbed in our faces these days that it is hard for me to remember that it IS a better place than most of the world.
    I could go on, but, perhaps have said enough for an ignorant hillbilly….
    Dave Mundt

  50. Dave Mundt said:

    Public education is only necessary because we have a society today that is filled with parents who are unable or unwilling to take the time to teach their children the valuable life skills that will make their survival more likely.

    I would disagree completely with that, Dave.

    As PayasYouStargaze correctly pointed out, public education is necessary for many factors, not the least of which is economics, but also the sheer depth of knowledge required to be a productive participant in our modern society.

    Previously, parents alone could do okay passing along the basic skills a child needed to get along. How to plow a field, sow seeds, barter with the neighbors for food and supplies. That sort of lifestyle isn’t exactly predominant anymore. Furthermore, it wasn’t long ago that a child’s future was pretty much predetermined by the present lives of his or her parents. For a boy, the occupation he would “choose” would be the occupation his father held, and his grandfather, and great-grandfather. For a girl, it was pretty much shut up and get married. The option of pursuing your own course was just non-existent, at least for the common person.

    It would be great if parents could impart to their own children all the wisdom and learning they need to make it in the world today, but that is just such an obvious impossibility to even suggest it as a worthy goal is ludicrous.

    Also, I don’t believe home schooling truly has been “the norm” for the bulk of human history. Sure, the basics were – and still are, one would hope – taught by the parents, but anything beyond the basics has always seen the contributions of “teachers” – be they the male hunters, the female gatherers, the potters, the shamans, and on.

    This libertarian idea that we are a nations of individuals somehow tyrannized by the requirements of a society is just so much hogwash. Public education may not be perfect, but tossing out the baby with the dirty bathwater is hardly a rational solution.

    …there is so much ugliness and venality being rubbed in our faces these days that it is hard for me to remember that it IS a better place than most of the world.

    I would never be one hide from the bad by putting on rosy glasses, but… where exactly are you looking? It’s hard to see your comment as anything but cliché without knowing specifically what you’re talking about. Is it our government policies you find ugly and venal? Our culture? Our people? What exactly?

  51. Greetings and Salutations….
    @#50… Good points, and, because I may disagree with them to some extent does not undercut their quality…. Now….(and I will try to keep from ranting TOO much *smile*), let me address a couple of points you made…
    Now, as to the first point about the necessity of public education. I do realize that there are too many facts to learn in today’s world to make it possible for any parent less knowledgeable than a Carl Sagan or Jacob Bronowski to be more than distantly familiar with them. To become intimately familiar with the topics is impossible without a great deal of work. However, it is quite possible for a reasonably intelligent and decently educated parent to go on the educational journey with their child, and, keep them challenged, interested and focused. Now…take my parents as an example. On the one hand, they are a bad example, because my father was a Phd, and, my mother had a BS in chemistry…so they were likely a bit higher on the education ladder than many folks. However, as early as I can remember, they pretty much never did give me the answer when I came up with a question about some topic. Rather, they would point me at the library, with the instructions to “look it up”. What they DID do was keep a close eye on me, and make sure that I was progressing through the school system. I was a terrible student, so, this was quite a challenge, too, I have to tell you! In any case, initially, they worked to teach me how to learn – how to research topics and, how to attack the task of correlating the data I gathered and generate a conclusion from it. They also taught me that an important part of that process was poking at my conclusion, to see what it did NOT cover…as the less general it was, the more likely it was based in fantasy rather than fact. Frankly, though, I suspect that, had my parents not felt that the socialization of the public school system was more important then the facts I absorbed, I might have been home-schooled myself. I also am fairly sure that I would have ended up spending more time on the topics at hand, and explored them more deeply….
    Your comment about the children only having to learn what their parent’s knew as an entry into the world, because they were going to end up doing what their parents did is a good point, but, applies less to America than it does to Europe. Perhaps the most confusing aspect of America to the Old World is the fact that a dishwasher can come here, and, with luck and hard work, become the filthy rich, CEO of a multi-national corporation. That is way outside the box for them.
    Now, as to the issue of homeschooling…here is a link to a decent history of the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling In any decent historical examination of the subject, there is often a mix of knowledge and skills imparted by the parent or parents to the child, and, in many cases an outside tutor. In a very real sense, public and private schools are simply outgrowths of this model, with the real change that the students no longer stay at home, and the source of funding for paying the “professional” teachers. Most of my discussion of home schooling focused on the deficiencies of the public school system, in an attempt to explore why there is such a growth in home-schooling over the past decade or so. As I pointed out, there are many areas where the public school system has turned into little more than an assembly line, designed to shuffle kids through after packing their heads with a random mish-mash of factual and subjective data. I do not have an actual study to reference here, but, it is my opinion, based on observation of the kids of family, friends and reports on discussion groups, that probably 30% of the children going through to the high school level are, shall we say, under-served by the school system. This is a sad thing, because there are a lot of excellent teachers out there in the system, doing as well as they can, but, because of administrative decisions, their options are often severely limited. granted, this has been going on for decades, and, as a matter of fact, was a problem back in the 60s when I was coming up through the public school system – the real shame is that, instead of trying to find a way to “fix” the problem, random things are being added all the time, and mandated record keeping is sucking up more of the teacher’s time. Back in the day, when, the microcomputer started to flood the world, I was an early advocate of having a computer terminal (then) or a computer (now) on each student’s desk. Some good, Computer Aided Instruction software should be on the system, and, the teachers should be able to set that software up to work with the student on teaching them the facts they need to know. I postulated that this would allow the teacher to do a better job of allocating their time between the students – less to those that did not need it, and more to the ones that were struggling, or had other issues. It is not a perfect solution, but, I believe it would be an improvement to the educational environment of the classroom. However, there are many obstacles to this, ranging from money issues (“computers and software are too expensive”) to a misunderstanding of the role of the computer (“IF we put computers on the desks like that, the administration will fire half the teachers….”) to simple fear (“I don’t know how to run this thing, and I am afraid I will break it and get into trouble”)
    As for America being a country of Libertarians tyrannized by the requirements of society? I am right with you on that. Americans tend to want to play inside the walls of the sandbox – very few are willing or able to rock the boat. To wander away from the topic at hand for a moment, that is, I believe, on of the reasons why we have seen our country get into foreign entanglements that should never have happened, has created the security theater at the airports that do little for safety but, much for bureaucracy; the widespread acceptance of “zero tolerance” policies in schools and other places without protest and the creation of “freedom of speech zones” – areas, often fenced off, that are located very far away from the topic being protested about. I could wander further afield and discuss at length the ways that these and other factors like them are a symptom of America’s slide into obscurity….
    However, instead I will drift back and directly address your last question about where I am looking to see such ugliness and venality in America. Where do I begin? How about with the increasingly loud lies that the political parties are using to impune the characters of their opponents. It seems that the issues are meaningless and, there is no focus on what will be best for America. Rather, there are the tired attacks on each other, trying to paint the opponent as a demon escaped from Hell. There is the whole “birther” thing. There is the fiery rhetoric that calls for folks that do not agree with your position to be killed, and, then the shedding of crocodile tears and protestations that they did not mean a person should be killed when the followers were incited to “take them out” – See the case of Dr. George Tiller, for example. There is continual disrespect for one’s opponent in debates by talking over their comments. There are the really poorly thought out lies that we are told by politicians of all stripes, and, businesses. I say “poorly thought out” because, at least in the 70s and 80s, these folks would make SOME effort to make their lies seem plausible. Now, though, they have realized that nobody cares, so they tend to say the most amazingly implausible things and seem surprised when someone questions them on it. In terms of lies from companies, just on a local level, in East Tennessee there have been a large number of businesses who have negotiated sweet tax relief deals, with the promise that they would keep a certain number of jobs in the area. The next thing we see is that business relocating to Mexico or some other place. it may be good economic sense, in that it will add a few pennies to the value of their stock this quarter, but, it can leave hundreds of workers dangling in the wind. Also, what about the Fukushima disaster in Japan? TEPCO started out by putting on a happy face about it…and saying it was not so bad after all. Yet, over the past month, many facts have been dug up and exposed showing that it was (and still is) a terrible disaster, and we are still barely keeping things under control there. To go back a bit further, there is the history of the tobacco industry, which, although legal, lied to the public about the effects of their products for decades, pushing the image that they were good for you, and, made you a cooler person and other nonsense, until leaned on by the government. As for duplicity and doing things that actually HURT America, let’s look at the stories
    reported at this link: http://www.propublica.org/investigations/
    I would strongly recommend that you read the articles about Magnetar:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/04/how_one_hedge_fund_got_rich_of.html
    and how it manipulated the market to make billions, while seriously damaging the financial futures of millions of Americans and other folks around the world.
    Actually, at the propublica link, there are quite a number of examples there of ways that businesses have worked to profit without considering what might be “best” for America.
    While I am griping, I would also say, yes, I find many of the policies that the government have lived by over the past half century to make me feel as if I am living in a slime pool. ON the Federal level, it ranges from the two-faced behavior of publicly condemning the excesses of the Shah of Iran, and, under the table, privately pumping money and weapons into his administration to support it, to the recent votes to cut Medicare by representatives who had gone before their constituents and sworn not to do that, to this living in the fantasy world that by cutting tax rates for the super rich (which is already 2/3 less than the rates during the Reagan years) it will, somehow, magically cause the amount of money collected to rise…
    on the local level, there are the cops who use their power to confiscate equipment in the process of investigating some mythical theft report, to city and county officials who use government cars and fuel for their private needs, to mayors who fiddle the numbers in order to pass a bond issue to pay for a convention center that is so poorly located and badly advertised as to be nothing but a white elephant foisted off on the community.
    In terms of our “culture”, it is a mixed blessing. there are some very good things about it. The tendency to introspection, and, being more willing to examine any trauma that might be affecting a person has gone a long way towards helping American’s heal. There is some greatly artistic things being done by folks, and, the creation of the Internet has allowed those folks to share their efforts with a much wider audience. On the down side, as I have mentioned before, there are many areas where we seem to be reacting emotionally, rather than rationally to issues (abortion rights, zero tolerance policies, protests, etc). The increased focus on violence as a good solution to problems is disturbing. The areas where we are less tolerant of our fellow citizen’s idiosyncratic behaviors or beliefs is worrisome.
    While not a complete list, I hope that this makes it a little more clear as to what, exactly, I find ugly and venal about American society today.
    Respectfully
    dave mundt

  52. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 35. Steve Morrison : Thanks for that. :-)

    .. But now I’m confused was it Orwell or HG Wells who said it first? ;-)
    HG Wells, I guess, was earlier.

    @26. truthspeaker :

    “What do you suggest?” [me – MTU.]
    -Repeal the Bush tax cuts, either on the top bracket or on all brackets. I can afford the extra $100 a year. This could get rid of the deficit real quick (like during the Clinton administration). Cutting the debt would require that, plus a re-examination of spending priorities. Getting rid of “earmark” spending would be a start. Closing some military bases would save a few bucks too, as would reducing involvement in overseas military conflicts.

    Fair enough. Thanks for your reply. :-)

    @42. & #47 PayasYouStargaze & 46. kuhnigget :

    Interesting “What if’s’ posed there & as noted many more alternative universes could exist too.

    Another is what if Alexander the Great had lived rather than dying so young or what if the Mongol Empire had lasted or what if Islam had never happened, or etc .. So many possible worlds that never were or exist in parallel dimensions. However, we live in the world we’ve got and can only make the best of how history’s worked out for us. Que sera, sera. Whatever has been has been .. ;-)

  53. Messier Tidy Upper

    @29. TheBlackCat :

    I sure can fault him [Columbus] on his leadership. He was dragged back to Spain in chains due to his gross, genocidal mismanagement of the land under his control.

    Not on that first voyage – that occurred later in his life three long voyages later in 1500 after Christopher Columbus had grown ill and changed somewhat as people do. Also it isn’t necessarily as simple as you seem to be suggesting. Cursory wikipedia searching notes that that “tyranny and incompetence” were accusations and that they were aimed at Columbus’es brothers as well as just himself.

    As for the supposed “genocide blame” claim, disease played the largest role in that due to the West Indian indigenes lack of immunity. That indigenous weakness, the native people’s “Achille’s heel” can hardly be blamed on the Europeans or Columbus specifically. It is sad and, yes, in hindsight the natives could’ve been treated better I agree but you have to think about the historical context and attitudes of the time as well.

    Your judgement there is, I think, too harsh and is coming from a post-modern, cultural relativist, Politically Correct view where bashing the heroes of the past ages has become a rather unsporting pastime. :-(

    The world we know – which is the best of all historical eras in terms of technology, human rights, quality of & opportunities in life for most people & so forth – wasn’t & couldn’t have been created by the ungrateful PC types. How many of the comfortable PC brigades judging Columbus and tehother early explorers from across vast spans of time and change could endure and accomplish what the heroes they condemn as un-PC did? How much have these PC people really contributed that’s of any benefit to our culture and their people?

    His [Columbus’es] leadership on the voyage was so bad he had to keep two logs, one with the truth that he kept secret, and one full of lies about their progress to keep the crew from commiting mutiny.

    Actually, that was a rather neat trick in pyschological management reassuring his more timid men while recording reality for posterity. I think it shows his intelligence and people skills in a positive light. ;-)

    (YMMV I know.)

    By any measure he was an awful leader. Courage and pig-headedness were the only things he had going for him. That and luck.

    I strongly disagree. If Christopher Columbus had really been that awful a leader then he wouldn’t have been that successful and that persuasive. I think you are letting the modern PC views unduely blacken your historical judgement there. His record & place in history speaks for itself.

    @41. Jeff :

    I myself have always wished Columbus and the Europeans hadn’t colonized the western hemisphere because I believe this land is truly more belonging to the “Indians” native americans.

    The harsh reality is that history shows us that societies that do NOT go out exploring and developing better science and technology will lose out and fall to those who do.

    If Europeans didn’t wipe out the “native” indigenous peoples then another cultural / geographic group would have done so – perhaps even more brutally and ruthlessly than the Europeans did. If we hadn’t done it to them they or someone else would eventually have done it to us.

    Rejecting the human drives of curiousity and science, being “ecologically friendly”, just stagnantly living in harmony and stability with land rather than expanding and advancing is all fine warm’n’fuzzy but – ultimately – is suicide for the people and culture doing it. Whether we like it or not.

    Even if no “alien” human culture destroys such indigenous “native” cultures so beloved of the PC brigades* then natural disasters would do them in anyhow. Death from the skies in asteroid or comet strikes, detah from the ground in volcanoes & tsunamis, death from the climate that changes naturally as well as artificially. Societies that are technologically and territorially static, that aren’t going forward, that aren’t learning more are doomed. The Caribbean (& other) Indians ensured their own demise by not exploring and not creating science enough themselves. I know that sounds harsh but its true.

    ———————-

    * Even though many of these societies / cultures are violent, patriachial and, frankly, pretty nasty when you take off the PC ideology’s rose coloured glasses. Many (most?) of these much admired and put-on-pedastal Indigenous societies traditionally practice war, cannibalism and human sacrifice. They usually have brutally enforced and sexist socio-political hierarchies and almost all provide their people with far less opportunity & far worse quality of life.

    We lucky Westerners, I fear, really just do NOT appreciate how good we have it and how relatively utopian our lives are. For all of the “Wests” admitted faults, real and imagined past injustices and room still to improve, we really are “Number 1″ in so many areas and really do have it so much better than past and other cultures.

  54. Messier Tidy Upper

    PS. Yes, I know that’s not to say we’re perfect and we haven’t committed great wrongs at times too. Its all just relative and in context and we’re not as bad as some would paint us either.

    @41. Jeff : “I believe this land is truly more belonging to the “Indians” native americans.”

    What about those who were born long afterwards in America?
    Are they not just as “native” & “indigenous” as Americans too?
    Do you feel sorry for the dinosaurs too?

    After all, they were there long before any of the human groups were. Should we apologise, and beg the dinosaurs forgiveness for existing also? Maybe hand the land back to them? Or the Carboniferous earliest reptiles and amphibians? Or the prehistoric centipedes and first land dwelling insects that came before them? :roll:

    I, for one, am so *over* the whole “black armband” Westerner-hating school of leftist history that has recentlybecome so prevalent in the West itself.

    What’s past is past. History is history. Interesting, worth looking at and learning about, determining who we are identity~wise but not really something we should feel personally guilty over since , to put it bluntly,we weren’t there & couldn’t change even if we wanted to. (Hypothetical Time Travellers not included! ;-) )

  55. Daffy

    Messier Tidy Upper Says, you just compared American Indians to dinosaurs. Let me repeat that: you just compared American Indians—human beings—to giant lizards. People who are still alive and suffering the effects of genocide and having their homeland taken from them by force.

    I suppose we should forget about the Holocaust, too, right? After all German Jews are just like the dinosaurs too, right? And those Cambodians? Screw ‘em! Why should we care? And the 22 million people Stalin murdered? Just more Thunder Lizards.

    I am so over Right Wing racists who don’t care about anyone but themselves.

  56. @ Dave Mundt:

    Well, we share one thing in common: we both had parents who took charge of our education and didn’t just dump us unprepared in school. THAT aspect of home schooling, I can agree with. Education begins at home, but it sure doesn’t end there. (My mum and dad were not PhDs, however. Not by a long shot. :) )

    Perhaps we share another thing in common, if I’m interpreting your statements regarding public schools being “mandated” into mediocrity. I don’t add on the usual crap about PCness and liberalism and all that nonsense, but I do agree wholeheartedly that too much emphasis has been placed on standardization and WAY, WAY too much emphasis has been placed on testing, so much so that you could make the argument that some schools have become factories for churning out test results, as opposed to educations.

    I’m not sure we’d be in the same camps on the whole moral decay thing, though. While I share your dismay about the state of public discourse and the “immoral” practices of corporate America, I think this has less to do with immorality and more to do with outright laziness…the laziness of the American public to nip this sort of thing in the bud back when we still could. When the majority of your population doesn’t bother to vote, prefers someone else to provide them with “the facts,” and can’t be troubled to exercise even the most basic critical thinking skills that would allow them to see through the b.s. that is being sold to them by the monied players that really run things, well…who is to blame if suddenly that same public wakes up to find out their country is run by liars and crooks?

    Have a nice day.

  57. Messier Tidy Upper

    @56. Daffy Says:

    Messier Tidy Upper Says, you just compared American Indians to dinosaurs.

    Yes? So? Your problem with that is what?

    Let me repeat that: you just compared American Indians—human beings—to giant lizards.

    Biology FAIL. Multiple biology fail actually. Firstly, as I thought everybody already knew, dinosaurs are now thought to be more closely related to birds than reptiles (“lizards”) and are actually in a separate biological category of their own. Not knowing this makes you somewhat of a (metaphorical) “dinosaur” yourself! ;-)

    Secondly, not all dinosaurs were giants – while many were, others were smaller the tiniest were the size of chickens! ;-)

    Most importantly though, let me repeat : Yeah, what of it? Your objection to this is .. what?

    Its an entirley valid analogy fara as I can see making apoint that you seem to have totally missed just as you (& Jeff) have failed to answer the actual point I’m making here.

    Things change. Humans wouldn’t be on this planet if the dinosaurs were still around and the USA wouldn’t be around if the Native Amercian “Indians” were still here. In each case we owe our present existence and the world to the fact that things went badly for the dinosaurs and the Indians.

    Dinosaur is hardly an offensive word and indeed you and your leftwing friends probably regard people like me who hold view somewhat to the right of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro as “Dinosaurs.” So again, where exactly is your problem with that comparison?

    Anyhow what *should* I have compared them to – neanderthals? Australopithecines? Would those have been better? Please send me a list of words, analogies and ideas you on the PC “holier than all” Left will permit us lesser mortals to use. :roll:

    Actually, don’t bother because who died and put your mob in charge of the English language and in charge of Western society and deciding what’s “offensive” or not. Nobody has the right to deny others freedom of speech and expression even if the Left just loves to think they do. What youare attempting to do here is use your own over-sensitive snobbery

    People who are still alive and suffering the effects of genocide and having their homeland taken from them by force.

    “Genocide” here is a word I think could well be considered offensive. The colonisation of the New World by Europeans was a long & complex story. Many of the natives died out by disease, in battles some of which at least they started. They lost out slowly because their level of technologyand understadning was less advanced tnd less osphisticated than thatof the Europeans eg. bows & arrows versus guns, nomadic hunter gatherers versus city & rail builders. To say the Europeans deliberatley went out of tehri way to just exerminate the Natiev Americans is wrong – they did try to find compromises, giving them some land – reservations – of their own, they did sign treaties and they did try to assimilate and “Christianise ” or ‘civilise” the indigenous peoples all around the globe. In hindsight it is easy to look back at difficult past centuries from the luxuorious vantage we have in this one with a juandiced eye and note how these ideas did some harm but at the time they were (often though not always) well-intentioned. So “genocide”, really?

    I suppose we should forget about the Holocaust, too, right? After all German Jews are just like the dinosaurs too, right?

    GODWIN – YOU LOSE. Net FAIL.

    Also NO, just no, totally different scenario. FFS. :-(

    As noted above the replacement of the former native tribes by the European pioneers who made America was a slow gradual process with was often governed by well-intentioned people. Most Native Americans I gather died through disease epidemics and the failure to adapt to changed circumstances, eg. not being able to hunt bison. There were clashes and I understand some “Indian Wars” which the Indians naturally enough lost lacking the technology and military & military cultural expertise of the more developed Western Europeans. But that’s a very different thing to just rounding up a whole section of the community that you have scapegoated and deliberately trying to massacre them all as the Nazis did.

    And those Cambodians? Screw ‘em! Why should we care? And the 22 million people Stalin murdered? Just more Thunder Lizards.

    BiologyFAIL again.

    Also What the .. ? Cambodians? What’s your deal there, I never mentioned anything about Cambodia? Are you having flashbacks to something past or something? Is that some kind of Vietnam war reference – because the enemy we were fighting then as part of tehlarger Cold War was Stalin – and we didn’t take Stalin out and end his genocides because the Soviet Empire had the Bomb and it would’ve meant WWIII and we wouldn’t be here now. Totally irrelevant and bizarre from your end there, Daffy. What were you trying to get at?

    Also Stalin and the Communist threta fromthe former USSR and China were Leftwing dictators. Very nasty ones if you look at a real as opposed to West-bashing PC Cultural Relativist history book.You’re actually somehwat suporting mycase theer if you’re doing anything at all.

    I am so over Right Wing racists who don’t care about anyone but themselves.

    Fact FAIL by you there Daffy and an offensive one at that. I’m far from selfish rememebr who often answers other people’s questions here for starters, certainly not racist – the colour of someone’s skin bothers me not at all – & not even really right-wing in my views more of an apolitical centrist really. IOW, I hate all sides of politics equally! ;-)

  58. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Correction – the incomplete sentence should read :

    What you are attempting to do here is use your own over-sensitive Politically Correct form of snobbery as a hammer to enforce your views and values upon the mainstream, and other dissents who don’t necessarily share them.

    That’s what I hate about the whole PC business where everyday words and phrases and understandings are twisted to suit the whims of West-hating, politically motivated angry Leftist academics. No, you don’t get the right to tell other people that they can only say things that you choose and can’t say some things because you find them offensive or dislike them. Aside from dishonesty its plain silly – if I want to call a spade a spade why should some PC Commissar force me to call it a “dirt-shift-faciliating non-challenged cosmopolitianly acceptable digging implement” instead? :-(

    @57. kuhnigget :

    who is to blame if suddenly that same public wakes up to find out their country is run by liars and crooks?

    That’s funny, I thought you *liked * Obama and the Democrats who are running the US now!? ;-)

  59. Greetings and Salutations…
    At (57. kuhnigget) – One of the things that I have agitated about for years is the necessity of the parents to take an active part in their child’s education (both in terms of factual data as schools should be teaching and, moral and ethical values). However, in the generations starting with the Hippie movement in the 60s, the attitude has changed to “let them do their own thing”. Kids are a vacuum, and WILL suck in whatever data that gets set in front of them. If those data (both factual and spiritual) are not presented and re-enforced by the parents, then, they will absorb them from many OTHER sources – The fiction on Television and radio (and I DO include the commentators with their biased and cleverly spun lies), Video games, Movies, and, what little time they pay attention in school (more or less listed in order of importance). I fully believe that kids should be given whatever level of responsibility for their lives as soon as they are ready to handle it. However, only when they are ready for it. for example, I know of a young lady (in her 20s) who is learning disabled, and, has the emotional and mental maturity of about an 8 year old. However, she is given the same rights as every other 20+ woman…so…she has married. A few years ago, her husband felt he was too drunk to drive home after a party, so, gets a point for having someone else drove, but, loses five points for handing the keys to her. She lost control of the vehicle and crashed into the ditch, ejecting a stepchild through the front window and killing him. She is not going to jail, because she really, honestly, has no clue about what was going on – and this is what can happen even when her parents made a great deal of effort to get her as developed and educated as much as possible! I have to say that I mulled over whether to use my parents as an example, because I realize that my family is not exactly “normal”. After all, how many parents have YOU run into that use recordings of Beethoven’s 5th symphony as bedtime music to get the kids (me in this case), to go to sleep? However, what is important is not so much the educational level of the parents but their willingness and persistence to make sure that their children are doing the work, and, helping find way to make it possible for their kids to learn the subjects that are challenging to them. Of course, as regards home-schooling, if a parent is not able to read and understand (at least to some extent) the teacher’s materials included in most Home-schooling resources – that would be a problem.
    I think we also agree, almost completely, about the testing issue. Perhaps one of the most widespread complaint that I hear from the teachers in the system (mostly public – but even in private schools) is that, far too often, they end up “teaching to the Test”. They are, essentially, forced to teach the facts necessary to pass the evaluation tests. In many cases this means that the students end up having to memorize a bucket of apparently unrelated facts that they burp back up on the test. This is bad for several reasons. First off, it programs the students to believe that facts and knowledge are unimportant, as they only are there to answer a question on a test. They do not realize, nor are they taught, that the test in question might well be life, itself, and, that what they are learning are not isolated facts but, are tools they can use later to improve the quality of their lives; more quickly analyze problems and find an answer to them; and, be less likely to be mislead by bad data because they will have learned how to recognize it. The question though, of how to evaluate a student’s progress, remains a difficult thing to do, without a one to one interview. When I talk with someone and evaluate their level of knowledge, the line of questioning I drop most quickly is one where I see that they have a fairly deep knowledge of the topic at hand. The lines that go on to painful lengths (especially for the person I am speaking with, but, also for me at times, because I want to “fix” the problem), are the ones where I get the sense that their knowledge is lacking. However, standardized tests cannot evaluate the depth of a student’s understanding of a subject very well. That is one of the tasks that I would load onto the computer assisted instruction system, as the computer can do a better job of flagging problems by analyzing the student’s answers.
    Now, as for my view of the morality and lack of respect for ethics I see in America…I DO tend to get on a soap box about that, and, as a matter of fact, have, in the past, lost clients because I have been unwilling to involve myself in their unethical behavior. You make a good point that apathy in the voters and consumers in America allows this sort of thing to happen. As Burke said “The only thing evil men need to triumph is for good men to do nothing” (although, yea, I know that the saying has been attributed to other folks too) However, that is only half the equation, I think. That great author, Anon, said ‘Your “Character” is the way you act when nobody is watching you’, so while some of the responsibility falls on the consumers/voters, an equal burden falls on the elected officials and upper level management in companies that do such despicable things and put enriching themselves far ahead of the needs of the country or the rest of the people in their company. After all, in recent times, no one FORCED the loan officials to talk all these people into “liar’s loans” that led to the housing collapse, or, the actions taken by Magnetar to prolong the housing bubble specifically to ensure that they would make billions of dollars MORE profit. People made the decision to put their own gain above the damage that might be done to the rest of the people in their company, or, in communities around the world.
    Having thought about this a bit more, I really think that, even on this subject, we are more in agreement than not. We simply are focusing on different parts of the equation. You are focused more on the population in general, and making some very good points that they need to either take a proactive part in putting input into the political and business process. I am, perhaps, more cynical about the population in general, so, I tend to focus on the so-called leaders of society – the big money/power folks, and argue that they should remember that “with great power comes great responsibility” and as a result should attempt to work to a higher ethical level than the common junkie breaking into a house to steal something to pawn so they can afford their next fix!
    It has taken all of us failing in multiple ways to get into this mess and it will take all of us, taking a moment to move to let our opinion be known by acting ethically, or considering the issues and voting for the candidate that supports them, or not taking rumors from the Internet at face value; or, boycotting a company’s products that holds policies we disagree with (and letting them know WHY they are not getting our business); to get out of it and get America back on track to being that shining example you mentioned in your first post.
    In closing, I have to say that, while I tend to focus on the rot in America, I also believe that it is still a pretty great place. The rot jumps out at me, though, because it is like a manure spot on a white-washed wall…the contrast causes it to become more obvious, and, I want us to do something about it before it spreads and ruins a good thing.

    Regards
    Dave Mundt

  60. Greetings and salutations….
    At 59. Messier Tidy Upper –
    while I agree that the whole concept of political correctness has gone a bit overboard in America, I do want to remind you that the trend started as a way to counterbalance the decades of disrespect that folks would heap on other folks. After all, what is more respectful? To refer to President Obama as a well educated person of color or an uppity n*****? If all of us citizens treated each other with respect and tolerance, perhaps the whole “politically correct” thing would be unnecessary, and would go away. Alas, that is ONE change that the social revolutions of the 60s and 70s did not bring us.
    Frankly, in terms of several of the past administrations, the Obama administration is a shining example of Truth, Justice and the American Way. While factcheck.org and a few sites like that have found some questionable spin on some of his statements, I do not recall them flagging any of them as an obvious and outrageous lie – as happened ALL the time with the last administration. I also have to say that I like having a president in charge that can actually form complete sentences, and does not get a “worried puppy” look on his face when asked to think about a difficult topic.

  61. Daffy

    Amazing how often people whining about “political correctness,” really just want to justify being ill mannered boors; in fact, they expect to be praised for their self serving twaddle. It’s actually become pathetic.

    Being a self serving a$$ isn’t edgy, or courageous; it’s just, well, self serving.

  62. @ Dave Mundt & Daffy:

    Yup, yup and YUP!

  63. @62. Daffy : So your response is an unjustified ad hominem attack & a refusal to actually answer those questions or show any sign that you are willing to face the issues I’ve raised. That’s very ill-mannered and boorish of you.

    I repeat again – & please have the basic manners to respond politely and reasonably :

    1) What exactly made my remarks in your view “offensive”? I really fail to understand what your problem with my comparison was.

    2) What should I have used to compare the American Indians to if not dinosaurs given the point I was trying to make < and how would your preferred comparison be better?

    3) You do get what my point originally *was*, don’t you?

    4) Who gave you the right to tell me what things can and can’t be said and why what offends you is forbidden but what offends me – & these are very different things – is just too bad?

    5) Or if we all have some equal right not to be offended and given almost anything said is going to offend somebody how can we actually talk to anybody about just about anything except maybe the weather?

    @ 61. Dave Mundt :

    At 59. Messier Tidy Upper -while I agree that the whole concept of political correctness has gone a bit overboard in America,

    A bit? That’s an understatement.

    Also sadly, the PC nonsense is not just restricted to America but is also present in Australia, Canada, Europe, etc .. Click on my name for a few examples.

    George Orwell’s idea that people’s thoughts and langague will be controlled is coming true to some worrying extent these days. Some groups are being given extra rights and NOT treated equally before the law and freedom of speech is being attacked. I happen to think these principles really matter. You don’t?

    I do want to remind you that the trend started as a way to counterbalance the decades of disrespect that folks would heap on other folks. After all, what is more respectful? To refer to President Obama as a well educated person of color or an uppity n*****? If all of us citizens treated each other with respect and tolerance, perhaps the whole “politically correct” thing would be unnecessary, and would go away.

    Yet I always do try to be polite and respectful towards others.

    Your example is extreme and NOT something I have or would ever say. My gripes with Obama are nothing to do with his skin colour – I couldn’t care less about that – but rather to do with his bad policies, his previous happy sitting back to Rev. Wright’s “G-d-m America!” rants and the shallow meaningless slogans that got him into power.

    I can’t stand Sara Palin, Donald Trump and the Republicans – or worse yet the Tea Party – either. I’m sick of *all* the political rubbish spouters & their nonsense and think neither political side has much going for it.

    I personally support gay marriage, a womans right to abortion and taking action against Global Warming among many other things. I’m not a rightwinger and if you spend much time on this blog at all you’ll know I’m very pro-science (being a science populariser myself), non-religious (agnostic rather than athiest) and NOT a political partisan but happy to point out flaws over all the political spectrums. The Rightwing gets some issues horribly wrong and others right and the Left wing is the same. One thing the political Leftwing (IMHON) gets horrendously wrong is the notion that Political Correctness could possibly be a good thing.

    The whole PC business to use an old expression really gets my goat because I support freedom of speech and expression for everyone. I don’t agree with racism, sexism, homophobia, etc & think these prejudices should be opposed but I do think that either everyone has an equal right to express their opinons however disagreeable we find them – or no one does and our society is NOT free and equal. I do NOt think anyone has the right to be free from being offended by others and nobody has the right to compel people by force or law what they may think or say. Doing so is a gross infringement on personal liberty and collective freedom. To use the quote commonly if apparently attributed to Voltaire :

    “I may disagree with what you say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”

    That’s where I’m coming from. If believing in that principle and the freedom of everyone’s speech – yours as much as mine makes me somehow an “offensive boor” in your eyes (or Kuhnigget’s eyes or anyone elses) well I think your being an idiot.

    I am convinced that the best way to tackle prejudices such as homophobia, racism & sexism is by vigorous counter-arguments and education NOT by counter-intolerance and the persecution or prosecution of people holding views you find objectionable.

  64. @61. Dave Mundt :

    After all, what is more respectful? To refer to President Obama as a well educated person of color or an uppity n*****?

    The former clearly although “person of colour” sounds pretty archaic and is a bit of a euphemism itself. ;-)

    Question for you though – should someone be punished – legally fined or treated badly – for merely voicing the latter opinion? IOW, it might be wrong but should it be forbidden by law & legally actionable?

    I agree that the latter statement is disrespectful, distasteful and bad manners, I wouldn’t say that myself and would generally think less of people who would say it – but I don’t think they should be dragged before the courts wasting taxpayers money and time over it.

    For instance, people shouldn’t say that Obama was really born in Kenya rather than Hawaii – it’s silly, wrong and makes them look ridiculous – but they should still have the right to say and think it if they’re that foolish. Just as others then have the right to rebut them and point out the facts. Sometimes looking bad socially and being rebutted and laughed at by others is enough and adequate punishment. People should never (wellhardlyever*) be punished merely for holding and exporessing words and ideas however much we may disagree.

    I think that while there are things we *shouldn’t* say there should be very few* things we can’t say.

    Because freedom of expression is a key democratic right and Western value that shouldn’t be restricted lightly.

    ——————

    * Legitimate restrictions on freedom of speech would include cases of shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre, cases of betraying confidential state secrets and making libellous and slanderous comments.

  65. One other thing – Have you ever actually heard anyone call Obama “an uppity n***”? Does anyone actually say that in Real Life?

    I sure haven’t. I’m not aware of anyone saying that at all ever – aside from you using it as an extreme example just now. Perhaps you are showing your own bigotry and revealing your own false stereotypes when it comes to those you dislike?

    As kids we used the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I wish I could get the over-sensitive PC types to write that out 1,000 times until they got it because that’s pretty true. Emotional hurt such as people taking offense rightly or wrongly at stuff said in life is NOT physical injury, “it neither picks your pockets nor breaks your bones” as one famous American noted of, I think, blasphemy – the old version of today’s Political Correctness.

    Living in a free society means you’ll almost certainly encounter views you don’t like – some religious folks hate Dawkins and PZ speaking against religion, everyone hates Fred Phelps spewing his detestable bile at military funerals and so on. Some people viciously attack Obama with words because they’re in Palin’s political camp whilst others in Obama’s camp viciously attack Palin with words out of the same political tribalism. Such speeches are often not nice, not tasteful and can hurt people’s feelings – but it is part of living in a free society. It’s great and preferable when people are polite and respectful. But its NOT & shouldn’t be the law.

    Those who take excessive umbrage – often wrongly at totally misconstrued stuff like the “black holes” incident where an entirely innocent astronomical reference was turned into a minor scandal – see “The Hallmark of a black hole” thread posted on this blog on June 14th, 2010 at 11:01 AM – have a right to their misguided opinions. They just need to accept that the rest of us do as well.

  66. Daffy

    Messier Tidy Upper Says, you lost me at your ridiculous “Godwin’s Law” comment. You made the claim that genocide should be ignored as being no more important than the extinction of dinosaurs. I gave specific examples of genocide that occurred within living memory and you dismiss it all with what is really nothing more than a cute Nazi joke.

    There is no reasoning with racists. In this and other threads you have often tried to make the case that atrocities committed by your race are somehow better than atrocities committed by other races. If that is not racism, what is? And why would I try to reason with someone who takes that stance?

  67. Messier Tidy Upper

    So another insulting and erroneous ad hominem attack and NO actual answering of the questions asked and issues raised from you then Daffy? Why am I not surprised? :roll:

    Please give me one example – just one example – of where I have judged & attacked someone on the basis of the colour of their skin rather than on reasonable ethical or factual or policy grounds or apologise for your offensive slander. Pick one.

    If I were the litigious type, “Daffy” – which luckily for you I’m not – then you would be facing a defamation / libel / slander suit by now. Because that is an offence that you have actually committed here whether you realise it or not.

    You don’t answer my questions because you cannot – and Godwin’s law is a well established internet meme & “rule” that’s hardly a “cute Nazi joke” as you describe it.

    Oh & any chance of you admitting to your biology FAIL over the nature of dinosaurs while we’re on with it, Daffy? ;-) :-P

  68. Daffy

    You would have to show damage to get anywhere with your lawsuit, and since your identity is anonymous (as is most everyone’s here), that would be rather difficult.

    Did you or did you not compare the genocide against American Indians to the extinction of dinosaurs?

  69. Messier Tidy Upper

    Yes – & again it was a perfectly reasonable analogy noting that we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those two facts. We owe our existence, the present state of the world we are lucky to inhabit to the fact that the dinosuars were wiped out and the Native American Indians were, likewise, almost all wiped out. Why is that verboten to observe exactly?

    Should we really regret the reality that it was Europeans and not say Chinese or Muslims who did the almost certainly inevitable here?

    Answers not evasions and ad hominems please, Daffy!

    Again – so what? How is that “offensive” in your precious and oh-so-important eyes oh great arbeiter of what may & may not be said by other human beings? (BTW. Who appointed you to that high’n’mighty position again Daffy? Not just yourself surely?)

    Thinking of facts have you ever known me to say anything that isn’t factual or supported by evidence?

    Plus I repeat : Answer the questions I’ve asked you (@ # 64) – or it will be presumed that you cannot do so.

    since your identity is anonymous (as is most everyone’s here), that would be rather difficult.

    Yeah, because you are going under your real name too. Not. :roll:

    My Real Life name is Steven Raine, got the guts to share yours?

    PS. You didn’t notice that I stated : *IF* I were litigious – which luckily for you I’m not - I won’t sue you. Probably. That doesn’t mean youre not guilty of defamation? Guess we can add reading comprehension FAIL to “Daffy’s” trifecta of Biology FAIL and Godwin FAIL. ;-) :-P

  70. Messier Tidy Upper

    PPS. Come to think of it, that was awfully quick and defensive of you there (@#69) Daffy. What makes you such an expert in that legal area? You’ve got me wondering if you’ve been charged with defamation / libel / slander offences & used that defence before – have you? ;-)

  71. Daffy

    I am not an expert in any sense, but part of my college education was in communication law. So I am just more aware of it than some.

    What exactly do you want me to say? In the past you have defended Roman atrocities, while expressing horror at Mayan atrocities. You even admitted it was because you want to defend your own kind. How is that not being racist?

    Now, being of a less racist mind (I have plenty of other faults, just not that one). How do I argue that point? You are into situational ethics; I am not (at least not to your level; admittedly, everyone is to some extent). You honestly think it’s OK to excuse such things in your own kind, while condemning them in others’. To my mind, justifying genocide on the basis that dinosaurs became extinct is offensive—to say the least. Justifying ignoring genocide on the basis of— OMG!—Godwin’s Law is ridiculous and hardly requires my refuting it; all it requires is an 8th grade education, if that.

    Not interested in sharing my real name with you (you can find it if you really care that much), so I give you that one. If that is your real name (I am not going to check), you are showing more trust than I am willing to show a stranger. So your point there; I don’t have the guts. I’d prefer to think of it as not being retarded, but I grant that is self serving on my part.

    You can SAY anything you like, sonny. But so can I. People like you who excuse everything based on fighting “political correctness,” seem only to care about their own freedom of speech. Everyone else’s freedom can go hang. Don’t bother arguing that point—you’re the one who threatened to sue me for my words.

  72. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Daffy : Actually I didn’t threaten to sue you – I said you were guilty of defaming me which you are by falsely accusing me of being racist. Which you have done yet again above. Also implying I’m retarded into the bargain – & hang on but isn’t that Un-PC of you? Using “retard” as an insult – for shame! ;-) :-P

    Racism is judging others unfairly based on the colour of their skin.

    I do NOT and never have done that. I don’t judge the Mayans based on their skin colour but on the fact that they practiced widespread human sacrifice for the silly reason that they thought the Sun needed blood to rise. The Romans at least weren’t that bad – human sacrifice wasn’t that widespread andf when it was done was done for slightly – not greatly but slightly – more reasonable reasons.

    Skin colour is totally irrelevant, cultural ideas OTOH are relevant and reasonable criteria for judging how good a given group is.

    Culture isn’t the same as race. Race cannot be changed – but culture which is really just ideas and customs can be rethought and altered for the better. Culture is flexible and able to be improved – and the West has been doing that constantly since it began – generally for the better.

    Saying the American pioneers are as bad as the Nazis which you did is a lot more offensive in my view than comparing the Native Americans to the dinosaurs as things that had to go before the modern world we know could exist. In that analogy I was NOT making an ethical judgement but a statement about the historic reality. I never stated that they deserved togo extincxt just that a culture that stayed static and didn’t explore and develop the way the European culture did was bound to fall eventually to a society that worked on raising its level of technology and advancing its territorial extent.

    People like you who excuse everything based on fighting “political correctness,” seem only to care about their own freedom of speech.

    What a false sweeping generalisation and misjudgement you are making there. :-(

    Did you not consider that I have actually said I oppose PC because it hurts *everyone* in our society – and that I will fight to the death so that views I disagree with – such as yours – can be expressed as freely as mine? Selfish to PC? Actually its the exact opposite!

  73. Messier Tidy Upper

    D’oh – that’s meant to read : Selfish to FIGHT PC? Actually, its the exact opposite.

    Its the Politically Correct mob who are the selfish ones thinking – most arrogantly & hypocritically – that *their* PC views and ideas only must be imposed upon everyone and those who disagree with them must NOT be allowed to say honestly what they think or phrase things as they wish.

    It is also the PC mob you’ll note – from the examples in the article linked to my name in comments #64, 65, 66 – who are using legal prosecutions as a club to censor and intimidate others and restrict free speech. Contrastingly, I’ve stated that I’m not the litigious type & not going to sue you even though you actually have slandered me by making that utterly false and offensive claim accusing me of racism.

    You, Daffy, owe me an apology – whether you’re man enough to offer one or not.

  74. Daffy

    Couple points that jumped out:

    “Racism is judging others unfairly based on the colour of their skin. ” What? You think that is the only example of racism? Preference on skin color?

    “I don’t judge the Mayans based on their skin colour but on the fact that they practiced widespread human sacrifice for the silly reason that they thought the Sun needed blood to rise.” Romans just tortured and slaughtered thousands for heresy—big difference? Oh, and for just about anything else they could think of. OK, not to a sun god (as far as I know—Apollo could be a nasty bugger), as if that’s an important distinction. All of which is irrelevant, in any case. Although I will grant it is a matter of opinion—I stand by my comment: defending one population’s genocide for no other reason than you share their genetic background is racism as far as I am concerned. And the Romans slaughtered entire populations for no better reason than they weren’t Romans.

    “Saying the American pioneers are as bad as the Nazis which you did is a lot more offensive in my view than comparing the Native Americans to the dinosaurs as things that had to go before the modern world we know could exist.” A debatable point except for the glaring fact that I never said it. Genocide is bad—but are 6 million Jews murdered worse or better than 22 million Russians or 2 million Cambodians? I don’t know—it’s all bad; but I am NOT ranking them.

    “Its the Politically Correct mob who are the selfish ones thinking – most arrogantly & hypocritically – that *their* PC views and ideas only must be imposed upon everyone and those who disagree with them must NOT be allowed to say honestly what they think or phrase things as they wish.” Since most power in the world is now wielded by the rich and very conservative, I find this point laughable. It’s right up there with “The Liberal Media.” WHAT Liberal Media? When most broadcast stations and newspapers in the US are controlled by 2 or 3 global corporations, I find the very notion of a Liberal Media to be silly; can’t say about elsewhere, though.

    “Retard.” There you and I may be in agreement. I like plain, clear language. “Differently Abled” and similar phrases generally hinder descriptive communication. On the other hand “Asians,” is generally a more accurately descriptive term than “Orientals” (unless they really are from the Orient, of course). So I can go either way, depending on the word or phrase involved.

    Basically, I would like to see society mature and improve. Making excuses for one’s own atrocities, while decrying others’, hinders that development, IMO.

    Btw, I don’t owe you an apology any more than I owe the late George Wallace an apology. I find both your viewpoints (at least on this topic) reprehensible (although we probably agree on others). In any case, my manhood does not require your or anyone’s else’s validation.

  75. Greetings and Salutations….
    @ 64. Messier Tidy Upper – Couple of quick remarks. First off, I know that my comparison was extreme. I tend to say shocking things to rattle people and often, to get them to think about what they are saying. As for the phrases….I am glad that you have not heard the “uppity n…” one…However, I live in the Southern U.S. where we still struggle with the realities of racism and the history of slavery. Things may be better but they are still far from good. So…I HAVE heard that sort of thing throughout my life.
    Secondly – I am glad to see that you at least nod to the idea that freedom of speech is not unlimited. The classic example of yelling “Fire” in a theater is perhaps the only unambiguous example of that sort of thing. Your other examples are open to argument, I think. In any case, the question of speech and what should be allowed and what should not be allowed is a very difficult and complicated path. There was just a lengthy court case in England, involving a fellow named Singh, which centered on speech, and, the responsibility of determining if it was libelous or not. I believe that Dr. Plait has blogged on the subject a time or two also… So…do I think that folks that produce speech that I find offensive should be clapped in irons and dragged off to jail? In general, the answer is no. However, there is the concept of “fighting words”, and, the whole genre of “hate speech”. In a perfect world, populated with rational and logical folks such as we, this would not be a problem, because we would control our emotions and reactions to offensive speech and not fly off the handle, falling into the trap of physical violence. However, there are a lot of folks that are more easily swayed by words (note the annoyingly large number of folks that STILL are unconvinced by the release of Pres. Obama’s long form birth certificate). Also, why is it that, even with testimony of a number of folks, and, the release of what IS the proper documentation of live birth and proof from newspaper announcements, the unending drum of folks claiming he was born outside the country and so should not be president continues? It sounds to me as if there is an unspoken agenda going on there. Add to that the avowed task of the Republicans to make their only goal being to make Obama look bad and his programs to look like failures that has led them to push to pass legislation that will hurt America’s senior citizens and cut programs to improve education for youth, and, I have to wonder what is going on. I have to say, though that ever since this whole “Birther” topic, and, the growth of the TeaParty started, I have to shake my head and wonder where in the world America is going? It dismays me to see the number of citizens who choose to believe, essentially, that the world is flat, in spite of the preponderance of evidence being otherwise.
    So…to get back to my original thought…Do I think that speech should be TOTALLY free? Alas, I have to say no, not really. Hate speech has no place in a civilized society, and, as such should have consequences for those that engage in it as a standard means of communication. Beyond that, I have to say that anything goes, so, yea, I think that people should be able to say politically incorrect things without fear of official reprimand. I also am really unhappy with the folks that have the attitude of “that’s my opinion, make it yours”, no matter what.
    However, lest I cause even MORE topic drift here, I am going to move on – been pleasant engaging in a reasonably rational discussion with y’all.
    regards
    dave mundt

  76. Silent Bob

    @ 54 Messier Tidy Upper

    Hey Messy, let me take a wild guess:

    You never signed the Sorry Book*, right? ;-)

    ——————————————-
    * Australian-centric reference.

    http://www1.aiatsis.gov.au/exhibitions/sorrybooks/sorrybooks_selection.htm

    http://www1.aiatsis.gov.au/exhibitions/sorrybooks/sorrybooks_intro.htm

  77. Silent Bob

    Oh, BTW, the phrase “Stolen Generations” in my second link above refers to the pre-1970’s Australian Government policy of forcibly removing indigenous Australian children from their families in order to breed the “blackness” out of them.

    I kid you not.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_Generations#Emergence_of_the_child_removal_policy

    (Sorry for all this off-topic stuff.)

  78. @ ^ Silent Bob : Yes, I’ve heard of the “Stolen Generations” – as an Aussie I could hardly not have. However, are *you* aware that many of those kids were taken because they were being persecuted by their tribes for being half-castes? That many -not all but many -of these “thefts” were well-intentioned? Now that’s NOT to excuse all the historic wrongs that admittedly happened but it is a lot more complicated than some of the Left caricature it as being.

    Question for you – what practical good would signing such “sorry books” do?

    ****
    Question for Daffy and others :

    What do you believe in? What are your values?

    I believe in the idea that the key Western values are summed up best in the phrase :

    “We hold that all people have inalienable human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    That is my measuring stick for how to assess cultures – how much they give those living in them the rights to live free, to express themselves freely, to have the opportunities to fully pursue happiness and live well.

    That and how much in synch with reality as science indicates it, it is and who it puts first :

    Communism puts the One Party State first.

    Islam puts a stone-age religious ideology first.

    The West puts human individuals – me & you first.

    Politically Correct Cultural Relativism (PCCR) says these cultures, these ideas on how to live are equal. They say a way of life that oppresses women, mutilates them and allows their husbands to beat their wives – plural up to 4 of them – is as good and valid as one where women are fully equal partners allowed to drive, vote, go outside on their own and get respected on their merits.

    PCCR says society where the State controls every aspect of people’s lives, tells them where they may live, controls what they say and how they think and denies them the opportunity to explore their own futures and run their own lives is as good and as right as one where everyone has equal liberty to speak and live as they please, choosing how they where and what they do for themselves.

    PCCR says a culture that practices stuff like human sacrifice, infanticide & cannibalism, that uses brutal initation rights, goes head-heading and believes in evil magic that “witches” can do – and killing those same “witches” for it is just different and equally valid to a culture that doesn’t – that finds such things bizarre and nonsensical, that practices science and uses techology to achive wonderful things rather than living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle that is uncomfortable, dangerous and offers little if any hope of positive change and progress.

    That’s why I support Western society and why I oppose Politically Correct Culutral Relativism. That’s why I think others should too. Do y’all really dsagree with that – & if so why?

    Do *you* folks value excessively respecting “cultural differences” over the notion that all people have inalienable human rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?

  79. Silent Bob

    @ 79 Messier Tidy Upper

    Yes, I’ve heard of the “Stolen Generations” – as an Aussie I could hardly not have.

    I know. My explanation was for the benefit of those who may have the misfortune of not being Australian. ;-)

    Question for you – what practical good would signing such “sorry books” do?

    (Note sure if the question was rhetorical or not. But just in case…)

    Well, perhaps none. But then… why ask Daffy for an apology? (@ 74)

    I’m not having a go at you. I’m just saying that you might as well ask what’s the practical purpose of any apology or any expression of sympathy under any circumstances? Nothing pragmatic, surely. It’s just words – it won’t undo what’s done. I guess it’s just a matter of acknowledging and showing respect for other people’s feelings.

    I expect there are many indigenous people who feel that a great injustice has been done to them and their ancestors, and would like it if their feelings were acknowledged rather than ignored.

    ****

    Well, while I’m here I may as well toss in my two cents regarding the rest of your thought-provoking post.. :-)

    … all people have inalienable human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Hear, hear!

    That is my measuring stick for how to assess cultures…

    I support Western society…

    I think others should too.

    [all emphases mine]

    Look, I understand what you’re saying. I can assure you I’m not about to defect to, say, communist China anytime soon.

    But here’s the catch.

    If you truly believe that all people have equal rights, don’t those rights include a right to self-determination and a right to decide what culture they want to live in?

    If other people want to voluntarily abandon their own culture and adopt yours because they’re dazzled by its inherent superiority, all well and good.

    But what if they’re quite happy with their own culture, thank-you very much, and don’t want any part of your culture? Is that not their right?

    I’m sure you wouldn’t sit still for some foreign power trying to impose their own alien culture and values on you.

    We may judge a hunter-gather lifestyle to be “uncomfortable, dangerous and offer[ing] little if any hope of positive change and progress”, but if the hunter-gatherers themselves feel differently, who are you or I or anyone else to tell them that their chosen lifestyle is not permissible?

    One can hardly say, “All people have the same rights as me”, and then turn around any say, “I’m the best judge of what’s good for you, and I’m going to impose my culture and my values on you whether you like it or not”. That’s a contradiction, isn’t it?

  80. Daffy

    “We hold that all people have inalienable human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Agreed. With the caveat that as soon as one culture decides IT is the best and has the right to force that on others, it violates that very philosophy. So stop making excuses for the excesses of your own culture; it undermines the very philosophy you are espousing.

    Btw, in the language of the time, “Pursuit” did NOT mean pursue as in chase; it meant pursue in the old fashioned sense, as in pursuing an occupation. In other words, people didn’t just have the right to chase happiness; they had the right to obtain and enjoy it.

  81. @ ^ Daffy : Yes. I agree with that last paragaph – so?

    This bit of what you said :

    With the caveat that as soon as one culture decides IT is the best and has the right to force that on others, it violates that very philosophy.

    Not so much. Two parts to that –

    1) All cultures think they’re the best & historically human nature says that all nations will go to war for their way of life and their nation or tribe. Its a natural part of human pyschology. perhaps sad but hard to avoid and fairly universal.

    2) Does it really violate that principle – what if we’re helping the majority of people in some areas obtain those rights to life, liberty and the pursuit (& gaining) of happiness. If more people are better off under Western civilisation then spreading that civilisation maximises human happiness and the quality of life for most. I don’t think that’s a bad thing or at odds with “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all.”

    3) Of course, some people and groups – such as the Late unlamented bin laden – try to prevent others from having their rights to life and liberty. Standing up for this sometimes means ending theose individuals lives and liberties for the sake of everyone elses. That’s just how it is – and the choice of those who decide to go against the West.

    @ 80. Silent Bob : “Question for you – what practical good would signing such “sorry books” do? [me – MTU]
    (Note sure if the question was rhetorical or not. But just in case…) Well, perhaps none. But then… why ask Daffy for an apology? (@ 74)

    Because Daffy actually wronged me – him *personally* and directly – and the ethical, decent thing for him to do is admit that, apologise and refrain from ever doing so again.

    In contrast, I have never hurt anyone aboriginal in my life. I never “stole” any children – or rescued them from persecution by their own as was often the case & how most of those responsible at the time saw it. The “stolen generations” are totally irrelevant to me, nothing to do with me at all, just part of history.

    Apologies are for personal things that *you* are directly responsible for causing.

    Not for things you have no responsibility for and couldn’t do anything about. I’ll state that I have some sympathy for the aborigines that suffered that I’d hate to have been in their shoes. (Or bare feet as the case may be, the West introduced the Australian aborigines to shoes!), In that sense, I do feel “sorry” about what happened to some of them. But forcing people to apologise for things they weren’t guilty of – that is an injustice and not ethical.

    Its like asking for an apology from *you* (which I am NOT doing notice) rather than from *Daffy* for what Daffy said. Now you’d agree *that* wouldn’t be fair or justified -but asking *Daffy* to apologise for falsehoods and accusations against me that *he* wrote, OTOH, is entirely reasonable and fair.

  82. flip

    #51 Dave Mundt

    (Apologies if this has already been said, I haven’t read all the comments yet)

    As a student of the first school in the world to have laptops per student (each kid has one at the age of 10, through til they graduate high school), I can say that they are NOT the answer to reducing teacher/student problems. It does not free up teacher time (and certainly doesn’t result in firings), in that they still have to prepare materials – and then translate them to an online or intranet form – learn how to use them, convince students not to use them for Facebook/myspace/games/whatever during class time. Yes, computers in schools are good; but they’re not the solution. They’re just another tool which can be damaging if with a bad/ignorant teacher; or good if they’re used appropriately and with moderation.

    That’s not including the fact that you still have issues to get around, such as visually impaired students, or those who are disabled in other ways. Computer programmers do their best to make their work useable by everyone, but this does not always translate well. Teachers will still need to spend time with students who don’t do well with computers and those who struggle with the materials.

    Additionally, socialisation is one main reason why students want to go to school, and one reason why they should. Online courses from the home, faxing/emailing assignments, no face time at all… that’s the line that shouldn’t be crossed. Otherwise no young person will know how to cope in the real world.

  83. flip

    #84, me

    I forgot to add: laptops have not replaced ‘traditional’ methods of learning in my school, they have simply become an additional tool. The majority of my learning (and this was more than a decade ago now) was done using books, manuals, practical lessons, and the usual overhead projectors/whiteboard stuff. Computers were mostly for typing up assignments and research, although I’m sure more classes are being done that integrate their use nowadays.

  84. Silent Bob

    @ 82 Messier Tidy Upper

    Well, this thread’s getting really stale now so I won’t post any more, I’ll just say two things:

    Firstly (and rather trivially)…

    … Daffy actually wronged me – him *personally* and directly…

    … I have never hurt anyone aboriginal in my life.

    Yeah, man, I get it. But your question to me wasn’t whether you were personally responsible for European imperialism (!), it was whether saying “sorry” would do any “practical good”. All I was saying was that it’s a moot point because saying sorry never does any “practical good”.

    “Sorry”, of course, has two different meanings. One is an apology (“Sorry I hurt your feelings”), the other is an expression of sympathy (“I’m sorry to hear your granny just died”). The intention of these “sorry books” was, I believe, the latter.

    Mate, I wasn’t suggesting you should sign a “sorry book”. I never signed one either! My original comment (@ 77) was just teasing you for your unabashed attitude in comment 54. (Hey, I’m an Aussie too and you know how we like to take the piss tease.) It was meant in good humour, honest. Hence the wink.

    Secondly, an more importantly, I think you made a really good point (actually in another thread)…

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/04/27/congress-to-nasa-go-to-the-moon/#comment-379243

    … and that was that without 18th and 19th century European colonialism we’d be living in a very, very different world, and almost certainly different for the worse.

    I think you’re quite right there.

    So I do appreciate you sharing your opinion – especially when you probably know that opinion is likely to ruffle a few feathers. I think it’s always valuable to get another person’s perspective.

    Cheers :-)

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