Category Archives: Education

The Swarm, by Robert Gore

There’s no stopping the swarm.

Thag and his tribesmen had taken down a mammoth that morning. The feast was still underway, but Thag was bored with the men grunt-bragging about their exploit and the women grunt-complaining about the tribulations of raising cave-kids. He retreated to his cave and sat outside it, absently rubbing two sticks together. His hand brushed against one of the sticks where he had rubbed it—hot. After rubbing some more he stuck a dried leaf on the hot spot, just to see what would happen. Smoke, a flame, fire! He dropped the burning leaf to the ground. How could this be? Fire came from the sky gods. The flame died out. He gathered leaves, put them in a pile, rubbed the sticks, ignited a leaf, and dropped it on the pile. Big fire! Warm—good on cold nights.

When Thag showed the tribe how he had tamed fire, they may have grunt-hailed him as a “genius,” although he had only stumbled on to something because he was bored. While cave living may appeal to certain sensibilities—Nature! No technology! Extended families living together! A sense of community! etc.!—it had to have been excruciatingly boring for any mentally active cave-person. Boredom is one of the most under-appreciated forces in human history, for both good and evil. Much of the change wrought through the centuries resulted from somebody trying, in either a beneficial or destructive way, to make life more interesting.

Couple boredom with a problem to be solved and sometimes the outcome is progress. It was a good thing Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, because paradise had to have been tedious. With no problems to constructively occupy their time, Adam and Eve were bound to get into trouble. It is no accident that the majority of human progress comes not from idyllic environments but from those in which the basics of survival—sustenance, shelter, warmth—are not readily available and must be obtained by the application of brain power to ostensibly unforgiving surroundings.

While the solitary genius figure exercises an attraction in both history and lore, the acquisition of most knowledge is more prosaic. It’s usually a numbers, trial-and-error, and networking game. With tribes dispersed around the globe, chances are that other Thags made the same discovery at around the same time. Given fire’s useful properties—heat, light, cooking, weaponry—once tamed the knowledge probably spread like, well, wildfire. It also prompted further discoveries. Heat up certain rocks and metal ores drip out that can be forged into arrowheads, blades, ornaments, ploughs, and so on. These new innovations allowed hunter-gatherers to become farmers, who generated surpluses that led to communications, trade, and eventually, writing and numbers.

The linchpin of discovery and innovation is dispersion of knowledge. While knowledge can be kept secret, mostly it’s a public good. Its spread in human communities can be likened to a beehive. The swarm seeks pollen and individual bees returns to the hive to let the other bees know what they did or did not find. It’s a numbers game: the more bees, the more trial and error, the bigger the network, and the greater the chance of success.

The exponential inflection point for the dispersion of human knowledge and hence, innovation, came with Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440. By dramatically decreasing the cost and increasing the scope of information dispersal, Gutenberg unlocked minds that had been trapped in dogma promulgated by the religious and political elite. Change was glacial during the Middle Ages, but in a comparatively short time the Reformation, Renaissance, and Enlightenment swept Europe. It was if a beehive went from 10 to 10,000 bees overnight: that many more questions, hypotheses, and trials and errors; that much more intellectual cross-pollination (pun intended), and a network that was no longer just those in one’s immediate vicinity, but which encompassed the entirety of Europe, and later, America.

This intellectual revolution was a direct threat to the Church and the state, bastions of unmerited privilege and inflexible, self-serving doctrine. While certain individuals were condemned and persecuted, it was the newly empowered swarm that posed the danger. Luther, Galileo, and others challenged the powers because their challenges were quickly and widely disseminated. What they planted required fertile soil—an audience. Given this intellectual upheaval, it was inevitable that someone would ask why, if individuals could think for themselves, they could also not govern themselves? It took a few centuries, but eventually the swarm overcame the elite.

The twentieth century marked both the resurgence of state-based elites and paradoxically, their inability to stop the swarm. Ironically, as defenders of orthodoxy, privilege, and the status quo, institutions of higher education and the legacy media supplanted the church. The swarm is questioning the steadily declining value of both, and eventually they will be rejected and either reconstituted or replaced entirely.

The swarm continues to expand and disseminate knowledge, notwithstanding governments’ best efforts to stop it. Despite two barbaric global wars and countless smaller ones, totalitarian regimes responsible for the suffering and deaths of hundreds of millions, welfare states that penalize the productive for the benefit of the unproductive, and the widespread intellectual and cultural embrace of statist doctrines, the swarm devises workarounds and progress proceeds.

Government began as a protection racket. Now it’s the chief threat to the physical, economic, and legal security of much of the world, and workarounds are popping up everywhere. Computerization and the internet, Gutenberg’s progeny, have dramatically lowered the cost, expanded the scope, and widened the availability of privately generated information. Cryptocurrencies and precious metals are viable alternatives to government scrip, and afford users far more privacy. There are huge global black markets in drugs, weapons, and many other goods and services (more enlightened jurisdictions are taking halting steps towards legalizing some of this commerce). Devolutionary politics are a response to the monstrously bloated, centralized governments that are impeding the swarm.

The question remains how far governments will go. Stopping the swarm is akin to standing outside a beehive and trying to shoot all the bees as they leave. The more stupidly retrograde governments, which may well include that of the United States, will take their positions, shotguns in hand. However, the power of any government is derivative and depends on the swarm. More enlightened governments will let the bees fly and enjoy the honey. The Eurasian political and economic alliance Russia and China are spearheading may prove a notable example.

Stupid, retrograde governments could destroy the world and end the planet’s most successful species. Short of that, substantial ructions that wreak havoc on present arrangements, the consequences of past stupidity, appear inevitable. However, while knowledge is not immutable, it has a tendency to survive, especially when widely dispersed among the swarm. Thus, there’s reason for optimism. The forces of ignorance, violence, destruction, and death have fought countless battles against the swarm, and while it has had its defeats, the swarm has always won—the world’s population is over seven billion—and knowledge has expanded. No matter how bleak things look, the betting odds again favor the swarm.

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Metastasizing Academic Cancer, by Walter E. Williams

SLL noted in “No Need to Ask” that, “Campuses have become bromide bastions.” It only hurts when you sign the tuition checks. From Walter E. Williams at lewrockwell.com:

The average American has little knowledge of the extent to which our institutions of higher learning have been infected with spreading cancer. One aspect of that cancer is akin to the loyalty oaths of the 1940s and ’50s. Professors were often required to sign statements that affirmed their loyalty to the United States government plus swear they were not members of any organizations, including the Communist Party USA, that sought the overthrow of the United States government. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down loyalty oaths as a condition of employment in 1964.

Today we’re seeing the re-emergence of the mentality that gave us loyalty oaths, in the form of mandating that faculty members write “diversity statements,” especially as part of hiring and promotion procedures. They are forced to pledge allegiance to the college’s diversity agenda. For example, the University of California, San Diego requires that one’s “Contributions to Diversity Statement” describe one’s “past experience, activities and future plans to advance diversity, equity and inclusion, in alignment with UC San Diego’s mission to reflect the diversity of California and to meet the educational needs and interests of its diverse population (http://tinyurl.com/mm6vzzq).” George Leef, director of research at The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, has written an article titled “Loyalty Oaths Return with Faculty ‘Diversity Statements’” (http://tinyurl.com/mxy363c). His article documents the growing trend of mandated faculty diversity statements — such as that !at Virginia Tech, in which “candidates should include a list of activities that promote or contribute to inclusive teaching, research, outreach, and service.”

To continue reading; Metastasizing Academic Cancer

Doug Casey on Why College Is a Waste of Money

College is even more of waste of money if the student goes deep in debt indentured servitude to pay for it. From Doug Casey at caseyresearch.com:

Justin’s note: Today, instead of our usual market commentary, we’re doing something special.

I recently sat down again with Casey Research founder Doug Casey to discuss a troubling trend: the fast-rising cost of a college education.

Read our conversation below to see why Doug says relying on—and paying for—today’s educational paradigm “makes as much sense as entering a Model T Ford in the 24 Hours of Le Mans”…

Justin: Doug, I recently had an interesting conversation with my sister.

She told me that her financial advisor suggested she start setting aside $500 to $1,000 a month to pay for her son’s college education. That’s because a four-year college education is apparently going to cost between $400,000 and $500,000 18 years from now.

Her advisor clearly arrived at this figure based on how fast college tuition costs have been rising, which is about 6% per year based on my research.

But you have to wonder if the cost can keep rising at this rate. It seems to me that no one will go to college if it’s going to cost a half-million bucks.

What do you make of this trend?

Doug: Well, the first thing—my advice to your sister is to get a new financial advisor. I fear that she’s relying on a complete imbecile. She should fire him immediately, and for a number of reasons.

Number one is his assumption that the trend of higher college costs is going to continue to a totally unaffordable level. In fact, the cost/benefit ratio of going to college is already so out of whack that the whole system has to change radically. A college degree, even now, is of only marginal value; most everybody has one. And things that everybody has are devalued. You’re quite correct that colleges and universities today are dead ducks as businesses. Unless you’re going to learn a trade, like doctoring or lawyering, or you’re going for science, engineering, or math, where you need the formal discipline and where you need lab courses, it’s a total misallocation, even a waste of money to go to college today.

So I applaud the fact that all these colleges and universities are dead men walking, that they’re all going to go bankrupt. They are totally overrun and infested with cultural Marxists and progressives, militant leftists that are propagandizing kids with absolutely the wrong kind of values. It’s astonishing that parents are willing to pay even today’s prices to subject their kids to four years of indoctrination. So I’m glad that they’re all going bankrupt.

To continue reading: Doug Casey on Why College Is a Waste of Money

She Said That? 4/1/17

From Isabel Paterson  (1886–1961), writer, influential literary critic, and libertarian philosopher, The God of the Machine (1943):

There can be no greater stretch of arbitrary power than to seize children from their parents, teach them whatever the authorities decree they shall be taught, and expropriate from the parents the funds to pay for the procedure.

“The End Of Truth” – Hayek Saw It All Coming Over 70 Years Ago, by Tyler Burden

On The Road to Serfdom, there’s an unmarked exit to the truth. Stay on the road and you’ll never reach it; in fact, it goes the other direction. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:  

The Road To Serfdom (authored by F.A. Hayek, first published in 1944)

Excerpts from Chapter 11 – The End of Truth

Annotated via Crossroad.to/heaven,

“The most effective way of making everybody serve the single system of ends toward which the social plan is directed is to make everybody believe in those ends. To make a totalitarian system function efficiently, it is not enough that everybody should be forced to work for the same ends. It is essential that the people should come to regard them as their own ends.”[p.171]

Berit’s comment: Ponder that statement. It helps explain the significance of universal service-learning. Like socialist youth in Nazi (National Socialism) and Communist countries, all must embrace the new ideology. Those who don’t — the intolerable dissenters — must be silenced.

The next section elaborates:

“Although the beliefs must be chosen for the people and imposed upon them, they must become their beliefs, a generally accepted creed which makes the individuals as far as possible act spontaneously in the way the planner wants. If the feeling of oppression in totalitarian countries is in general much less acute than most people in liberal countries imagine, this is because the totalitarian governments succeed to a high degree in making people think as they want them to.”[p.171]

The strategies that accomplish this mental change include numerous subtle and obvious forms of propaganda. Schools, the media, children- and youth-service teams, corporations, etc…. every source of propaganda must share the same vision. Though totalitarian, it will be designed to sound noble, compassionate and fair to all. Yet the result with be the exact opposite.

To continue reading: “The End Of Truth” – Hayek Saw It All Coming Over 70 Years Ago

Why Force Parents To Keep Their Children In Failing Public Schools? by Duane Norman

The education system should be completely privatized and the Department of Education abolished. Our children’s minds are far too important to give the government any role in education. It is most important to let a thousand private flowers bloom for those goods and services that are most essential, like education and medicine. However, absent full privatization, children in hellish public schools should be able to get out of them. From Duane Norman at fmshooter.com:

The nomination of Betsy DeVos was fraught with criticism from the left. She was derided for having “no experience with public education, no political experience, no government administrative experience,” and her support for school vouchers/charter schools, among many other things. Notably, most of the criticism came from educators, many of them members of the teachers’ unions, who have had many years and more than enough funding to fix failing public schools, with little (if any) success.

Which all begs the question – if your student is enrolled at a failing public institution, why should he/she be forced to remain enrolled there?

Recently, someone shared the experience of “Madeline” (the mother of a Philadelphia school student) and “Steve” (the student himself). Their names have been changed for the purpose of this article, which as Madeline explains, is more than likely necessary, so they do not face reprisal from public school educators and administrators. For her and her son, having a choice has meant the difference between years wasted in a failing school, and a real chance at a real education.

Madeline and Steve, both African Americans, live with Madeline’s husband in West Philadelphia, where most families are hard working but underpaid by any standard. Steve attended John Barry Elementary School (Grades K-8) from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. They both described the school as “terrible,” among several other less than savory terms. Every day there were fights, with girls pulling hair out, and kids would turn over desks/chairs before running through the halls while class was in session. Teachers would try to break up fights, but would more often call security, who would remove the offending student. If the issue couldn’t be resolved, parents would be called, who wouldn’t always show up to take the child away. If teachers took away phones from students who used them during class, they would curse at teachers and administrators with little fear of reprisal, sometime assaulting teachers.

To continue reading: Why Force Parents To Keep Their Children In Failing Public Schools?

Undermining Academic Achievement, by Walter Williams

The public education establishment keeps lowering the bar for itself. From Walter Williams at lewrockwell.com:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “The president’s decision to ask Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education should offend every single American man, woman, and child who has benefitted from the public education system in this country.” Expressing similar sentiments, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond said, “I expect that Mrs. DeVos will have an incredibly harmful impact on public education and on black communities nationwide.” Those and many other criticisms of Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could be dismissed as simply political posturing if we did not have an educational system that is mostly mediocre and is in advanced decay for most black students.

According to The Nation’s Report Card, only 37 percent of 12th-graders were proficient in reading in 2015, and just 25 percent were proficient in math (https://www.nationsreportcard.gov). For black students, achievement levels were a disgrace. Nationally, 17 percent of black students scored proficient in reading, and 7 percent scored proficient in math. In some cities, such as Detroit, black academic proficiency is worse; among eighth-graders, only 4 percent were proficient in math, and only 7 percent were proficient in reading.

The nation’s high-school graduation rate rose again in the 2014-15 school year, reaching a record high as more than 83 percent of students earned a diploma on time. Educators see this as some kind of achievement and congratulate themselves. The tragedy is that high-school graduation has little relevance to achievement.

To continue reading: Undermining Academic Achievement