Big (Shocking) News?

The Washington Post has a column about North Korea’s concentration camps – yes, current concentration camps where political prisoners and such, along with their families are held, forced to work and die. It’s by Anne Applebaum. It sounds like big news, something to really shock the world. Maybe not. It’s buried in the paper on page A29. Find it here.


Rant on Media

I’ve got news for the media companies of the world. They’re about to price themselves out of the range of most Americans. The tech magazines and websites all talk about how the CD is going to be old news, how DVD audio and/or Super Audio CD are going to take its place. Uh – hello? When CD’s came out, it was the holy grail. This is it, the record companies said, the last change. Vinyl, 8-track, cassette – sorry about those inferior products. The CD will be the end of all permutations of media. Well, that’s what I’m sticking with. When the day comes that I’ve got to pay more for my music because it comes out on DVD instead of CD, or I have to buy new equipment to play them – that’s the day I stick with my current music collection and say goodbye to owning the newest garbage that the so-called ‘entertainment’ industry churns out. A bunch of sheisters. Do they really think that we’re that dumb? I’m not spending a cent more than I have to on music. And, when the day comes that I have to buy a new television in order to watch ‘HDTV’, because that’s all there will be come 2007, well – tough. There’s some technology I’ll start using that’s been pretty reliable for the past 548 or so years. It hasn’t required upgrading or any type of new equipment to enjoy. It’s called a book. I think that’s the future of entertainment right there.

Leave Those Kids Alone

An editorial from the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Richmond School Board member Reggie Malone upset a lot of people with his comment about the beating of LaVerne Hamlin, and rightly so. Ms. Hamlin – a respected and award-winning teacher at Armstrong High School – required hospital treatment after being attacked by a 15-year-old student from whom she had taken a classroom phone. Malone’s response was that while the student’s behavior was inappropriate, “you’ve got to be careful who you take the phone from. He could say, ‘I was on the phone with my mama and she had an accident.'” Angry reactions from Richmond residents did not cause him to re-evaluate that view. In fact he elaborated, contending that teachers need training in how to handle confrontations.

It’s not a long reach from such a comment to, “She should have known better.”

Malone’s statement is, sadly, true in the sense that these days teachers do have to be careful around students prone to violence. (As one teacher said, “Even if we have rules posted and state them over and over, some students will do what they want to do. Nothing will stop their violent behavior.”) It is equally true that motorists have to be careful on the road, because the next vehicle to come along could have a drunk at the wheel. Such an observation is small consolation to the family of someone killed in a head-on collision. Worse, it indicates profoundly misplaced fault. Malone also raised the question whether putting phones in classrooms with lines to anything other than a central switchboard is wise. Again, this misplaces the blame, which properly falls squarely on the student alone.

Nothing even remotely justifies the brutality of his attack on Ms. Hamlin. Yet such barbarism has become commonplace enough to be, if not expected, at least not surprising. Students at Henrico’s Hermitage High and Brookland Middle have threatened violence. Parents have warned the Richmond School Board not to combine Armstrong and Kennedy High Schools because violence might ensue. Last year a student assaulted a teacher at Mosby Middle School. Thirty students were arrested at Armstrong last year for assault and battery, and several years ago teacher Greg Carter was shot there.

Such widespread violence results from cultural problems the schools alone cannot fix. At the same time, teachers in the city often do not receive the administrative backup in day-to-day disciplinary matters that they should. Thus a “broken windows” problem could be at work: Students who get away with minor infractions might feel free to commit worse ones. A stricter atmosphere probably will not control those students whose behavior is barbaric, if not feral. But it might bring about a modicum of control. And that unconditional support for the instructor should manifest itself at every level of oversight. At the very least, the community should be able to expect that when a student attacks a teacher, no one – and certainly not a member of the School Board – will insinuate she brought it on herself.

When I was studying secondary education at the University of Richmond, I got a chance to see the best teachers around the areas of Henrico County and the City of Richmond teaching to well-behaved students. This was part of my ‘observation’ period where I scribbled notes about techniques teachers used and it was very academic, high-minded, almost erudite.

However, as I was growing up in public schools in various counties of Virginia, while I had some remarkable instructors for the most part, there were those that I encountered whom I would not allow to train my least favorite dog. Moreover, the remarkable instructors seemed to excel at teaching despite the system within which they operated rather than as a result of it.

School systems degrade young people. It’s that simple. Young people are viewed as sub-human, no better than cattle to prod and corral from one class to the next. They are political pawns. Once you have become a ‘student’ there is no end to the misery you must endure at the hands of ‘adults’. The impression from almost every school I ever went to, including the private school I attended when I was very young, was that they were run by weak control freaks, people who’s mission in life was to boss children around. This isn’t a secret. Everyone has had the same experiences. Schools are full of adults who are emotionally dependent on the ability to tell others what to do, without question, without feedback, without real communication, but they aren’t able to do this in their adult relationships, so they take out their frustration on children. We call them ‘teachers.’

So, students become violent? Who cares? Did the teacher in the above example have it coming to her? I wasn’t there so I don’t know how the whole situation went down, so I don’t really know. I certainly don’t like to see any situation that results in violence. The problem is – it’s a violent world. We used violence against Iraq to get rid of a violent regime that was spawned in an area where violence is a way of life. Just tune into the TV. Even Major League Baseball, supposedly a gentleman’s sport – the baseball players attacking each other, two are up on charges for attacking someone. It’s never ending. California elects a Governor who’s acted in a slew of movies in which the whole plot centers around violence and destruction. The number one movie right now is Texas Chainsaw Massacre. America is a violent society.

Does the system have it coming to it? Yes, it does. Call it a backlash, but the people who run the schools are the same people who run society. They claim authority over future adults but are seeing their castles crumble. Columbine was but a small example. In response, schools are not progressing. They are regressing. They are becoming jails. They are becoming prisons where the only thing students learn is to shut up, sit down, and be quiet. They are places where the strong prey on the weak and megalomaniac teachers get to be sideshow attractions. Academics become advanced babysitting.

It stems from the societal attitude towards kids, in general. Children, in our society, have become nuisances we wish would just get out of sight and stay quiet. After all, this is the way it was, wasn’t it? Children were to be seen and not heard – to speak only when they were spoken to. That’s what’s expected now except these days it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Kids disappear, run off with friends – to who knows where? As long as they aren’t around and causing trouble where we can see them.

The Times-Dispatch editorial shows examples of this attitude. Students are the problem. This was an ‘award-winning’ teacher. Us and them. You see, these are not young people, they are animals to be trained. We must crack down on these feral creatures. The rules are posted – ‘PLEASE DON’T ATTACK YOUR TEACHER’ or ‘PLEASE DON’T FEED THE BEASTS’ – but they disobey! They are violent!

Yet such barbarism is not surprising.

Students are the future. When you look at a child, you are looking at a person in flux. Rapidly, that person will grow and mature. The only way to have a positive impression on that person is to make positive impressions on it. Treating each and every student the same way you treat the lowest common denominator is a type of conditioning that is vile and counter-productive to a vibrant, free society. If that’s the way it’s going to be, then our tax money should not go to schools at all. Take it away from the weak control freaks and make them get real jobs. Let the creatures roam free and frolic in the meadows without a book in sight (nor a dirty look).

Bush Wasn’t Lying But The System Was?

Excerpt from an article in the New Yorker by Seymour M. Hersh:

The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematic—and potentially just as troublesome. Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book “The Threatening Storm” generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein, told me that what the Bush people did was “dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them.

“They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information,” Pollack continued. “They were forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis so aggressively that the intelligence analysts didn’t have the time or the energy to go after the bad information.”