There’s a lesson here somewhere

By Mike Cronin

Teachers in my state are currently pushing for higher salaries and better funding. For they most part, they do deserve higher salaries.  But there are some education and teaching realities that our governments, our public education system, and teachers’ unions would rather we not notice.

We are supposed to believe that public schools are the best place to put our kids, yet homeschooled and private school kids generally do better on the SAT.

We’re supposed to believe that public schools have such a dismal record on test scores because they are so under-resourced, yet public schools have the highest average per-student spending of the three. And federal spending, which went up 375% over 30 years, has done nothing to improve test scores. And private school teachers make less money and have fewer benefits.

We’re supposed to believe that only a qualified, professional teacher is capable of teaching our children, but we’re supposed to ignore that parents can and do teach their own children just fine – else the kids wouldn’t generally be speaking or potty-trained before they get to pre-school or kindergarten. We’re also supposed to ignore that “Research over the years has indicated that education majors, who enter college with the lowest average SAT scores, leave with the highest grades.”

We are supposed to lament that a teacher might pay a few hundred dollars out of her own pocket for materials she desires in her classroom, but we’re seldom informed that a mechanic, welder, plumber, or electrician fresh out of trade school has to spend $7-10,000 or more on tools, or that a new cop might have to spend $2-3000 for her body armor, weapons, footwear, and leather gear. And an independent trucker? A new semi runs $115-125,000 off the lot, but runs to $400,000 for parts, tires, and service over a 15-year expected lifespan. And that doesn’t include fuel, taxes, insurance, or other expenses. Our independent trucker may have to gross $180 K in order to bring home less than a teacher’s salary!

We’re supposed to believe that public school teachers deserve more money – but we aren’t supposed to suggest that yes, the good ones do…but the mediocre ones don’t, and the bad ones need to be fired. We aren’t supposed to suggest that merit-based versus tenure-based compensation and career progression might stimulate performance and hiring, even though it works quite well in almost every other occupation.

A Walk-out on Reason?

By Mike Cronin

I received an email from my kid’s high school administration this past Wednesday. The message advised me that many of the students participated in a 17-minute walk-out as part of the nation-wide event to remember and support the 17 faculty and kids who were killed in the Parkland, Fl school shooting.

The message further informed me that the kids who participated enjoyed the full support of the school administration in exercising their First Amendment rights and would not be penalized in anyway. All well and good, as far as it goes.  School is a highly appropriate venue for kids to learn about their rights; and the curriculum should be flexible enough to incorporate current events when they provide salient learning moments.

There is a problem, though.  There have been plenty of such events over the span of my kid’s school career, but the walkout on Wednesday was only the second one I can remember that generated a “learning moment” significant enough to warrant a message to parents from the administration. (The first was the recent solar eclipse, and the message to parents was about viewing safety. Hardly controversial.)

Worse, the moment on Wednesday was billed locally as a lesson on practicing First Amendment rights and/or solidarity for the Parkland victims, families, and friends, but the ultimate aim of the organizers of the nation-wide event was further curtailment of Second Amendment rights.

If you’ll recall, there have been several mass shootings/mass murders during previous administrations, including several at schools, but no group saw fit to so dramatically use the nation’s school children as puppets to protest for more gun control during that span of time.

This time around, the shooting happened during a Republican administration in a county led by a sheriff that was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton for President, and a strong supporter of the Democrat Party. The sheriff and school district participated in an Obama Administration initiative designed to end the so-called “school to prison” pipeline. The initiative boils down to not arresting or prosecuting non-white school-age kids who violate the law, in order to keep them in school and show how tolerant and non-discriminatory the community is.  The policy failed spectacularly. There was something on the order of 66 missed opportunities to keep the Parkland shooter from his appointment with infamy over the course of his high school career. But even with all of those chances, the future killer couldn’t make it to graduation. He was expelled. Fast-forward to valentine’s Day, 2018. When the shooting was in-progress, as many as four Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies felt no compunction to enter the school and attempt to stop the 19 year-old gunman. When it was all over, the killer was arrested. So even though he was given every chance, he will still end up going to prison (or the looney-bin)- straight from the scene of the 17 murders he committed in the school he was expelled from.

Did that come up in classroom conversations across the country before or after the Wednesday walk-out? No?

The organizers of the walkout would have us believe that the Parkland massacre was caused by the NRA and the AR-15. Their solution is more gun control.  But Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was already under the most restrictive gun-control regime possible: It was a gun-free zone. It said so right on the label. On the other hand, the community was not a lunatic-free zone, and I’m not just referring to the shooter. 17 people were shot by the killer, and they were sacrificed on the alter of leftism as a consequence of virtue signaling by the lunatic leftist sheriff and the lunatic school board of Broward County, Florida.

So, school administrators: If you want to impress on me that my children are being taught in an environment where rights are respected and exercised, and were education includes free and open inquiry, and they are not just being indoctrinated into leftism and being fattened up for potential future sacrifice, here are few things you might try:

Mock elections during national election cycles

Current event and issue debates

A civics class that has each kid take on the role of a Founder, and over the course of the semester the “Founders” discuss rights and the purpose of government, and write a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution

A stand-alone course on logic, fallacies, reason, and critical thinking

Improved physical security

Allowing willing and able teachers and administrators to be armed, and advertising that fact to deter would-be killers

Strict policies on removing dangerous kids.

 

Kumbaya vs Molon Labe*

*Μολών λαβέ. Greek, from a Spartan dare meaning “Come and Take Them.”

By Mike Cronin

One of the roots of modern liberal thinking seems to be the premise that we are all “our brother’s keeper.”  Under such a proposition, the idea that the individual might be responsible for his own safety and security, rather than “his brothers” (i.e., someone else, such as the police) is anathema, therefore it is worrisome when someone who does believe he is responsible for his own self protection takes those responsibilities seriously and arms himself – and in so doing also gives himself an increased ability to hurt and destroy (even though he has no such intent).

One of the roots of leftist thinking is that the collective (family, tribe, identity group, clan, ethnic group, party, race, state, religion, etc.) is the primary unit of existence, and individuals and individuality are lesser considerations. Here also the armed individual is to be feared. How dare he think himself worthier of protection than his fellow collective members? Take his weapons and cast him out!

Note the overlap in the two positions: The armed individual and his weapons are a threat to be feared, and protection is either someone else’s job, or it’s a collective responsibility applied only to the collective as a unit. In essence, the individual member of the collective is not responsible for himself, the collective is.

The majority of the mainstream media, academia, and international political bodies are either liberal or leftist. Even their most factual, “non-fake” news and research about mass shootings, murder rates, and guns usually begins from one of these collectivist premises, so of course they will generate, locate, and/or manipulate statistics that lend credence to their arguments. It is confirmation bias on an industrialized scale.

Nor are they alone. The rarer elements of the media, academia, and political bodies that lean right are just as likely to engage in confirmation bias. It is nearly impossible to find gun crime data untainted by either bias.

But here’s the thing: The United States of America was not founded on collectivist premises. It was founded on individualism.  The attitude the founders enshrined in the Charters of Freedom (The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) boils down to this premise: An individual is sovereign over his own life, so long as he does not violate the rights of others. The price of such individual freedom is individual responsibility.  The individualist believes himself to be responsible for everything he does and everything he fails to do. That includes defense of self and of loved ones.

A collective built around the liberal or leftist premises outlined above looks at a mass school shooting and is predisposed to blame the feared object, or the Congress, or the President, or the NRA, or “society,” for the horrors. They are blaming institutions, iconic figures, or inanimate objects, not the individual perpetrator, because a collective can’t conceive of an individual as a unit of volitional action that goes against the collective.

The collective cries, “When will we pass a law banning these scary weapons?” “How many kids have to die?” And so on. This, despite the fact that laws already enacted for the very purpose fail to stop the perpetrators: It is illegal to commit murder; that doesn’t stop homicidal maniacs.  It is illegal to take a firearm on to (most) school grounds (i.e., there is already a total gun ban on most school campuses); that doesn’t stop armed crazies from doing so. Certain firearms are, or have been, illegal to possess; that hasn’t made such guns magically evaporate.

Rational laws don’t stop mass murderers, especially when the murderer means to die in the commission of his crimes. But they do provide the basis for prosecutions and punishment, should the murder(s) be arrested, tried, and convicted.  On the other hand, enacting more laws, each to prohibit lesser acts than those already illegal, in order to somehow make them more illegal, or to somehow deter the demonstrably un-deterrable, is absurdity.  Adding laws on top of laws is not a rational strategy designed to actually prevent mass murders or enable more effective judicial proceedings. It is the panic response of a collective which can only serve to temporarily comfort the collective.

Even scarier? The worse mass-murders in US history weren’t committed by lunatics with guns, they were committed by by terrorists using airplanes (9/11) or trucks full of fertilizer and diesel fuel (Oklahoma City) as bombs, or even worse, by the very body the collective turns to for comfort and assurance: The government itself (Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, Waco).

The individualist sees the problem through a vastly different frame:  People who are dangerously incompetent to exercise the responsibilities attendant in being free – must not be free. Such people should not have unsupervised access to the public. That would mitigate part of the problem.  Of course, not all mass school shooters were known to be dangerously incompetent beforehand, but they all demonstrated a singular preference to target locations where it is highly unlikely they will meet any armed resistance: the “gun-free” zone.  Ergo, the response of the person who has built their life around the individualist premise is that there shouldn’t be any such “gun-free zones,” and if some lunatic or terrorist disregards the risk to themselves and starts shooting up the place? SHOOT BACK!

 

Five Ideas to Reduce School Massacres

 

By Mike Cronin

Here are five ideas to reduce or stop school attacks without infringing on anyone’s rights:

  1. If teachers are willing and able, allow them to carry firearms (but don’t mandate it). Arming teachers has worked quite well in Israel and in US districts where it is already allowed. If you allow teachers to be armed, and/or you have armed security or police on campus, DO loudly proclaim your school has armed faculty and staff authorized to defend themselves and others from attack.
  2. These predators aren’t shooting up police stations, gun shows, or biker bars; they are generally attacking places full of unarmed women (mostly) and children – so stop telling them where the prey is! Even if your jurisdiction prohibits teachers from carrying firearms, you don’t need to advertise that fact to potential murderers by virtue signaling (i.e., bleating) that your school is a gun-free zone! Instead, harden your facilities. For instance: Install mechanisms to simultaneously lock all the doors and lower steel shutters. Install bullet-resistant glass and furnishings. Install “active shooter” alarms (Like fire alarms, but they sound at the police station).
  3. Stop giving publicity to the perpetrators. Some of them are after notoriety; don’t encourage them by offering it.
  4. Conduct well-designed research into mass murderers and antidepressants or other psychotropic medications. If a genuine link is found, take appropriate action to curtail their use.
  5.  Restrict dangerously incompetent people from un-escorted access to the public.

 

Rigghhhht.

By Mike Cronin

Lefticles have created a culture that treats minority identity as a badge of courage, masculinity and reason as toxic, and boyhood exuberance as a disorder. They disdain the enforcement of immigration laws, election laws, classified information laws, privacy & spying laws, drug laws, tax laws, free speech protections, or existing gun laws. Lefticles hate and/or disrespect the Constitution, the police, the military, and the flag, and think our current president is an idiot or another Hitler in cahoots with the Russians (or both). But now they are demanding the people they hate trample on the charter they hate in order to further restrict the right they hate most of all. Rigghhhht.

IT MAY BE VULGAR, BUT IS IT INACCURATE?

By Mike Cronin

The commentariat are in an uproar over President Trump’s alleged use of the term “shit-hole” to describe Haiti and parts of Africa.  They say it’s a racist slur.

If the president did indeed use that word in a public setting, it’s noteworthy for its vulgarity, but is it really a racial slur? Is it even wrong?

Let’s consider Haiti. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  Right next door to Haiti – on the very same island – the Dominican Republic has the largest economy in Central America and the Caribbean, and it enjoys a much better standard of living. Why?

When the January, 2010  7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, nearly a quarter of a million people died because something like 60-70% of all the buildings were severely damaged or collapsed outright, including the presidential palace.  Compare that to the exponentially more powerful earthquake that hit Chile that same month, where less than a thousand people died.  What accounts for the different results?  Form of government, property rights, building codes, and insurance. Chilean citizens have a semi-capitalistic country, a decent economy, property rights, and insurance, so they built their buildings to be earthquake resilient – and survived the more powerful quake in much better shape.

What is now Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola, was the first place Christopher Columbus landed during his first voyage in 1492.  Within the first decade, the Spanish began bringing in African slaves, and within 25 years, much of the natives were either enslaved by the Spaniards or killed by diseases brought by them…and the Spaniards were themselves being killed by tropical fevers. Before long, the Spanish were more concerned with conquering the mainlands of North and South America, and began to lose interest in Hispaniola. Haiti became a haven for pirates in the interim, but by the late 1700s, France was a power, and Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to the French. (To this day, Spanish is spoken in the Dominican Republic, while French-influenced Haitian Creole is spoken in Haiti.)  Napoleon sent French troops to enforce French rule, but many of them succumbed to tropical fevers, and in 1804, after a successful revolt against the weakened French forces, the slaves declared themselves free and named their nation Haiti.  It was one of the few bright spots in the history of this place.

While Haiti began as the first nation founded by slaves who had “freed” themselves via revolt…they never truly freed themselves. The leader of the revolt, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, declared himself Emperor Jacques I in 1804. The first “free” Haitians simply traded their physical chains and European masters for a succession of Haitian masters and the chains of varying degrees of dictatorship. Except for a brief period around the last two decades of the 19th Century, Haiti has never been a prosperous country, partly because Haitians themselves have never maintained the kind of rights-respecting government that allows prosperity, and partly due to massive foreign debt.

Indeed, at the behest of US banks to whom Haiti was deeply in debt, the US military occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. The US occupation had mixed results.  There were some republican reforms to the government and much improved infrastructure, which was often accomplished by impressing locals into labor gangs in lieu of charging taxes, which of course generated resentment and resistance from the local population. Between the end of the US occupation in 1934 and now, the history of Haiti amounts to a succession of “presidents” with dictatorial powers enriching themselves and their cronies on the backs of the Haitian people and at the expense of Haiti’s natural resources, peppered with coups and revolts and foreign interventions.

The history of Haiti is one of slavery, disease, dictatorships, piracy, environmental destruction, foreign intervention, abject poverty, neglect, exploitation, corruption, and natural disaster. Shit-hole may be a rude word to describe it, but is it inaccurate? And how is it racist?

Battlefield Christmas

xmas battle

By Mike Cronin

Note: This piece was first posted in 2015. I’ve edited it a bit since then.

Like many wars, the so-called War on Christmas is senseless. The flames are being fanned by ogres on both sides.

To hear non-Christians tell it, Christians are trying to impose their religion on everybody else with the greeting “Merry Christmas,” nativity scenes, and the like, or they say that the predominance of Christian trappings are offensive to non-Christians, and that any such displays set on government property constitute an official “establishment of religion,” in violation of the First Amendment. The most vocal anti-Christmas militants are just looking for attention more than resolution.  If this argument were settled, they’d be stirring a different pot.

The most strident Christian voices aren’t any better. They’re driven by the same motivation as the anti-Christians.  To hear them tell it, they are being persecuted for their beliefs. They argue that the true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the son of the one true God, who is acknowledged (at least as a prophet if not the messiah) in Judaism and Islam; thus Christmas should be no more offensive to adherents of those faiths than Hanukkah or Eid al-Fitr is to Christians, and that accommodation to atheists, pagans, and other non-believers is not a factor due to their relative scarcity in our society.  Extremists argue that Christian decorations on government facilities do not violate the First Amendment because the adornments acknowledge the most prevalent belief system of the people, but do not compel anyone to adopt those beliefs.  If they won this battle, they’d be tilting at a different windmill.

Let’s see if we can shed some light into this dark corner.

The termChristmas” certainly does pertain to the birth of Jesus Christ. But humans have been having winter solstice festivals with lights, gift-giving, gathering to make merry, and breaks from labor since before the current calendar existed and even before Jesus was born.  Our ancestors were celebrating the end of the fall harvest and chasing away depression during the darkest time of the year.  The Romans called these seasonal celebrations Saturnalia or Natalis Invicti. Norsemen celebrated jól (Yule), a similar pre-Christian winter solstice festival, and origin of the seasonal term “Yuletide.” There are a host of other winter solstice traditions and festivals around the world.

The fact that winter solstice festivals pre-date Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Jesus is not seriously disputed by Christian scholars.  Christians that insist that Christmas pertains only to the birth of Christ and, by extension, that the true meaning of Christmas commemorates his teachings, are right about the term “Christmas” at the literal level and wrong about the celebration at the historical level. They are evading the larger fact that there is no hard evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th (or any specific date, for that matter). They are also evading the evidence that the Church has a history of absorbing and re-purposing the festivals of other groups, including solstice celebrations, renaming them, and calling them holy days (i.e. “holidays”).

Yet the mystery of the exact date of Jesus’ birthday predates this phenomenon. The bible does not give a date for Jesus’ birth.  According to biblical historian Andrew McGowan, celebrations of Jesus’ birth were not recorded until about 200-300 years after his death. In fact, early Christians avoided attempts to celebrate Jesus’ birth because they associated birth celebrations with paganism.  Even today, exact date placement varies among various Christian sects.  For example, Eastern Orthodox Christians still celebrate Christmas on or near January 7th.  Western Christians refer to this date as the Epiphany and place it on January 6th. There are 12 Days of Christmas between the December 25th and January 6th!

Specifying December 25th as the precise date of Jesus’ birthday was more likely an attempt by the earliest Christians (who were being persecuted) to either rationalize joining in the existing celebrations and/or to use those celebration to provide “cover” for their own. Constantine converting to Christianity in the mid fourth century marks the time when Christianity began to gain supremacy as the religious tradition of the west, and pagan festivals and feasts were subsequently “Christianized” as a matter of policy. In this way, strident Christians are susceptible to the accusation that their religion re-branded solstice festivals as Christmas and bent it to their own ends.

G vs S

The so-called war on Christmas is being waged in ignorance – from both sides. Anti-Christian scrooges would have us believe Christian greetings, decorations and sentiments are offensive and even illegal. Christian grinches would have us believe Christmas only exists to celebrate Jesus’ birth and teachings, and all other interpretations are wrong, offensive to Christian values, and even heretical. Both are right…to a very shallow point.  The power behind each side’s argument is not derived from superficial facts that evade historical context, it is generated by your willingness to listen uncritically and act on their messages.  I choose not to do so; I’ll be too busy celebrating the season with friends and family.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!