Saturday, October 25, 2008

History and David McCullough

David McCullough, the author of prize winning biographies and histories, had this to say about history at the National Conference of State Legislatures:

David McCullough:
"History is not about dates, and quotes, and obscure provisos. History is about life, about change, about consequences, cause and effect. It's about the mystery of human nature, the mystery of time. And it isn't just about politics, and the military, and social issues, which is almost always the way it's taught. It's about music, and poetry, and drama, and science, and medicine, and money, and love."

History is the story of humanity. Without history we cannot begin to understand what it means to be human. Without history we cannot improve our society, nor protect the progress we have made. Without history we cannot give our children a better life, nor even plan on leaving them at least with the benefits we received from our parents.

We must provide our children with a good grounding in history. And we adults need to maintain a life of learning, constantly adding to our knowledge of the story of humanity, growing in wisdom as an example to our children.

Robert Canright

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Math Should be Valued

The New York Times on Friday, October 10, 2008 on pages A15 & A19, published and article, "Math Skills Suffer in US, Study Finds" by Sara Rimer.

Here is a quote from this article, "'We're living in a culture that is telling girls you can't do math -- that's telling everyone that only Asians and nerds do math,' said the study's lead author, Janet E. Mertz."

This is a well written article that touches on one of the great failings in America education: the poor attitude within our culture towards mathematics. I remember reading an op-ed writer in a national newspaper, the Washington Post I think, writing that he never learned algebra and that did not hurt him, so he felt no one needed to learn algebra.

There are a lot of negative attitudes towards math, even amongst school teachers and college professors in the colleges of education. I have most certainly run across parents who had a poor attitude towards algebra and passed that bad attitude on to their children.

I heartily recommend the article by Ms Sara Rimer and I suggest we need a greater effort to promote valuing mathematics.

Robert Canright

The title of this article in the print edition was "U.S. Failing to Promote Math Skills, Study Finds - Citing Lack of Value for Talent in Culture." Sometimes the print edition and the online editions have different titles.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Economics Should be the New Science

When the Russians launched Sputnik, the USA increased its commitment to science education because the satellite launch raised fears of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM's).

The recent economic meltdown is a greater threat to America that Sputnik was. We need a national focus on economics and finance. We need to reduce the emphasis on science and start adding the study of economics and finance to public education. Banking deregulation and irresponsible monetary policy is a greater threat to America than Al Queda.

Economics and finance should be the new science.

Robert Canright

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Education and V for Vendatta

A man I respect had this to say about the 700 billion dollar bailout our Congressmen voted on October 4, 2008: "The treason of our politicians had put me in a very sour and depressed mood. To Lift my spirits and regain some inspiration - tonight I am again watching "V For Vendetta". It always seems to lift my spirits and give me hope."

Many Americans are worried by how irresponsible our leadership is in handling money. But I see bigger problems than the money and I see a connection between our problems and education.

The failure of banks in America, year after year, is a symptom of big problems. The problems are (1) our leaders are incompetent, (2) our leaders deceive and manipulate us, and (3) too many people go along with the manipulation and deception.

Regarding Manipulation

Besides the movie V for Vendetta, featuring government deception, there have been movies with a similar theme for many years, like The Parallax View (1974). Even the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) had the AI computer, HAL, go crazy because it was forced to lie to its crew.

In the movie, The Matrix, the character Morpheus says, "...there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad." That "something" is the deception and manipulation practiced by our leaders,

On the large scale, our deception has been documented in Manufacturing Consent. On a smaller scale, an article in the Saturday August 30, 2008 Wall Street Journal, "Machiavelli's Daring Gift" by William Amelia says Lee Atwater has read The Prince 23 times.

Karl Rove has been described as a Machiavellian in Machiavelli's Shadow by Paul Alexander. Scott McClellan wrote What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception and was pilloried in the press for being disloyal.


One critique I have heard of The Prince said that the manipulation and deception encouraged by The Prince is most helpful to mediocre people, so a Machiavellian system is riddled with mediocrity and incompetence. This goes a long way towards explaining the incompetence of the current Bush administration. Lee Atwater was important to George H.W. Bush and this Machiavellian presence in the 1st Bush administration had to influence the 2nd Bush administration.

To Be or Not to Be, a Sheep

The frustration of the American people with our corrupt leaders is finding voice in artistic works besides V for Vendetta. The book Black Friday by James Patterson describes disgruntled veterans blowing up Wall Street and assassinating the Secret Government. The short story, Sergeant Chip by Bradley Denton in Year's Best SF 10 depicts our government murdering its own soldiers in order to give the government an excuse to continue an unpopular war. There is a growing sentiment that our government cannot be trusted.

Cicero said it is dishonorable to be deceived. So it is our responsibility to be well enough informed that we are not easily deceived. Once we perceive the deception, some people think violence is an answer, or at least enjoy fantasies or movies about a heroically violent struggle. Yet, non-violence has been an effective form of resistence.

The Wall Street Journal, Saturday September 13, 2008, ran a story on page 1, American Revolutionary by Philip Shishkin about Gene Sharp. Gene Sharp started The Albert Einstein Institution to promote non-violence in the defense of freedom and democracy.

Gene Sharp wrote a handbook, From Dictatorship to Democracy, that is available as free PDF document. Gene Sharp promotes non-violence and the techniques he describes have been proven to work around the world.

Education is the Real Solution

We must avoid slipping into an outright dictatorship. The key to preserving our freedom is to educate our children for liberty to they can preserve their freedoms.

Ideally, we should educate our children so they can become tomorrow's leaders. We do not need to accept the existing ruling class. We can educate our children to rise to the top and restore competency, rationality, and morality to our nation's leadership. This is one of the goals of the Timeless Way Foundation.

Robert Canright