Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gay rights group compares Frankfort demonstrators to Ku Klux Klan

Herald-Leader? Courier-Journal? Are you there? Are your hypocrisy meters turned on? Once again gay rights advocates, who make a big show of opposing hate, are spewing hateful rhetoric.

Here is the Kentucky Equality Federation on today's rally at the Capitol against taxpayer-funded health benefits for live-in sexual partners of state university staff:
The Family Foundation of Kentucky, our 'KKK members with church clothes on' are holding signs deliberately bringing religion into government even though it is prohibited by the Commonwealth's Constitution.
Is there a better example of hate than comparing someone to the Ku Klux Klan? What exactly did the demonstrators--who are supposed to be so hateful, according the "Equality Federation"--say that even compares to it?

Of course the state media will completely ignore this most recent example of hate speech by gay rights groups. They get a free pass on this behavior by a media that thinks they can do no wrong.

Then there is this little gem from the "Ditch Mitch" blog:
What makes the rally so disgusting is that their protest runs much deeper than even homophobia – it’s simply a pro-hate rally.
Now the Ditch Mitch people know hate when they see it. What constitutes hate for these people? Hate, they argue, is when anyone would not be willing to force taxpayers to pay for anyone and everyone's health care:

Right here in America, nearly 18,000 people die every year simply because of a lack of healthcare coverage. With nearly 1 in 6 people in the country living without access to healthcare, we should all be rallying in favor of anything that helps cover more Americans. Anything less is simply unconscionable.

In other words, anyone who opposes universal health coverage is guilty of hate.

Well, if anyone ever wondered why civil discourse has gone down the tubes, they need look no further than groups like the Kentucky Equality Federation and "Ditch Mitch," which can't acknowledge that anyone who disagrees with them is anything but evil.

It must be hard to live in a world where you think that anyone who disagrees with you hates you too. Maybe we shouldn't be indignant about them after all. Maybe pity is more appropriate.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Seven things I still believe

Several websites (several of which are conservative) have printed lists of beliefs they had before the Iraq War that had to be abandoned because of it. A number of blogs, including Eunomia (Daniel Larison's blog), The Daily Dish (Andrew Sullivan), Crunchy Cons (Ron Dreher), and In the Agora, have all spoken on what they no longer believe. Being a paleo-conservative skeptical from the outset, here is my list of beliefs that have been confirmed over the course of the War:
  1. Western democracy cannot simply be imposed on an eastern culture that has no democratic traditions and no institutions to support it. The idea that we could impose representative democracy on a country with an authoritarian history and a diverse religious population is simply misguided. Iraq was held together by a strongman with dictatorial powers: that is its history, and its future (if it has one) as a single nation. In order to bring about order in Iraq with the Sunni and Shiite factions at each other's throats would require a degree of cruelty that we are unprepared and unwilling to exercise--and rightly so. But we should have known this is what it would require, and, being unwilling to engage in it, we should not have acted as if we were.
  2. Democracy should be seen as one of many legitimate forms of government, and should not be viewed as a religion. Just because we are a democratic republic does not mean that everyone else has to be. We should acknowledge Winston Churchill's assertion that democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by man--except for all the others that have been attempted throughout human history. Even if we believe that republican democracy was the best form of government, we are not therefore obliged to demand that every other country practice it. There are other forms of government that we ought to see as acceptable and legitimate, and to think anything else is utopianism. The messianic political rhetoric of the Bush administration in this regard is a recipe for foreign policy disaster.
  3. America should strive to be a republic and should avoid thinking and acting like an empire. We are not the world's police force, and we need to get over it. American political leaders should have one objective and one objective only: the interest of the United States. Imposing democracy on the world doesn't accomplish this end and only detracts from it. We should help our friends and penalize our enemies, and when we do the latter, it should take some other form than invading them--unless they are on the verge of invading us. The only way Iraq could have done that to us was with weapons of mass destruction, which they didn't have.
  4. Military action should be swift, severe, and short-lived. If there was evidence that someone in Iraq was involved in 9/11, then we should have taken them out and gone home. As it stands, there is little hope of stabilizing Iraq in any short period of time, and we are in the dilemma of either making a long term commitment that is politically unfeasible or leaving the country in chaos and the middle east in instability. When you try to own a country that isn't yours, it ends up owning you.
  5. The United States should never try to run another country. We have our hands full trying to run our own. The war has sapped our resources and left us less capable of dealing with problems in our own country--and less able to be flexible in dealing with other foreign policy crises that could easily and quickly arise. North Korea, which is far more of a threat than Iraq could ever have been, might need our attention, and there still exists the possibility that mainland China could attack Taiwan. Our military presence in Iraq renders us incapable of dealing with either of these problems.
  6. The American military should be seen as a military, not a political tool. Although some people blame the military for Iraq, they need to remember that it was politicians, not the military, that made the decision to invade Iraq. When you ask a military force to perform a police function, you shouldn't be surprised when it doesn't turn out well, and when it doesn't, you should blame the people who made the decision to use them--not the ones who are being used--in this way.
  7. Misguided foreign and domestic policy leadership by the head of a political party can haunt that political party for a whole generation. The previous generation of Americans judged the political parties by two leaders: Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. The identity of Republicans and Democrats was based on the American public's opinion of these two presidents--to the benefit of Republicans and the detriment of Democrats. Whoever is identified with the Democrats (possibly Clinton), this generation will see the Republicans in light of the Bush administration. His hubristic foreign policy, his lack of fiscal restraint, and his abandonment of small government conservatism has squandered the Reagan legacy, and the result could be many years in the wilderness for the Republican Party. Republicans will spend many years trying to reclaim what they have lost. They may be given plenty of time to work on it.
These are all views I had before the Iraq War, and events since 2000 have only confirmed them.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A research finding on childcare that we shouldn't need a research finding to know

Let me say that I am of the firm opinion that we are so soaked and steeped in scientism that we tend to think that we need a study to establish our beliefs in even the most basic, intuitive truths. This tendency has the consequence that we are at once overly cautious about articulating the most basic, common sense notions on the one hand, and are overly credulous about preposterous claims made in the name of science on the other.

An example of the first would be studies you see reported every now and then claiming to establish that men and women are different in some basic respect. Of course, most people outside social science departments in our universities already know this, and don't need pointy headed experts in an ivory tower somewhere with a study to tell them this. Any normal person has already established this fact to his own satisfaction by getting married or having children. I would include the practice of quoting statistics or scientific studies showing why you should believe this or that about homosexuality, sexual restraint, or abortion in this category. If you can't figure out what you should think about these things without statistics, then your problem extends a whole lot further than just a lack of information.

An example of the second would be the tendency among some to believe something that violates common sense simply because of some piece of research they have been told supports it. The recently deceased cultural critic Neil Postman relates an experiment he has conducted among his university colleagues. Postman will run into a fellow professor in the hallway--early in the day, before he or she is likely to have read the morning paper--and ask him or her if they have seen the study in that day's New York Times showing that, say, jogging is bad for you. Without exception, he says, the experiment results in the colleague believing there might be something to it. Kinsey's research purporting to show that deviant sex, including sex with children, is normal goes into this category, as well as those ridiculous reports that animals think or communicate like humans in any significant way.

All of this is a just a long introduction to my letting you know about a new study showing that non-maternal childcare is bad for children that has been posted over at The Evangelical Outpost:
Children in first grade who had spent more time in non-maternal care from 3 to 54 months had more conflict with teachers and showed lower levels of social skills than their peers who spent less time in child care according to teacher reports.
This is nice to know, and I'm sure we should be gratified that there is some researcher somewhere willing to scandalize his socially constructivist colleagues by being willing to publish it, but shouldn't we know this already? Have human beings not been on the earth long enough to establish that children need mothers?

Family Foundation has not taken a position on the Sanders nomination

So far two sources have incorrectly reported that The Family Foundation of Kentucky is pushing former Office for Education Accountability director Penney Sanders for Education Commissioner. WHAS-TV's Mark Hebert reported it, and so did Richard Day on his KY education blog. Well, sorry folks, but The Family Foundation has not taken a position on the commissioner's position. The report was based on a post on my blog.

Although I often post official press releases and other relevant things from The Family Foundation, my blog is not an official organ of the organization. It is my opinion only. I used to have a disclaimer on this blog somewhere, but I guess I have taken it off. Maybe I need to put it back up again.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory

John Peterson graciously responded to my response to his piece in an earlier post on whether Chesterton should be used to gain answers to specific questions, which I will bring out onto the main page:
This is well said. I am tempted to leave the field of valor in disgrace. Still, I too have the index referred to and I have used it often, although I confess it has been some years since I felt the urge to learn GK's position on a given topic from that source. All I need do is ask Peter Floriani and - Presto! - he supplies all the references in AMBER, which is a more comprehensive resource.

I do not want to judge Chesterton the way he judged other authors becuase I have always thought Chesterton unique. And the thought that has always blown me away is his command of informal logic, blowing away HIS opponents' claims and arguments with dazzling fireworks of logic. I don't go to him to learn that Dickens was a fine author, or that Christianity is the Way, or that Rerum Novarum was an earthquake encyclical, because these ideas are well known anyway. But I do steal his ways of criticizing literature, his ways of defending the faith, and his ways of interpreting meaning in history. Maybe the answer is that I am well along in my seventies, and I have forgotten that much of what I know I learned from Chesterton, having breathed the man in and out since high school.

My problem comes down to this: traveling in Chestertonian circles, I have too often encountered the argument that Chesterton believed so-and-so, and thus the matter is closed to discussion. That's really all I am objecting to. But it is a very big and widespread abuse.
~ Gramps
He has been in possession all these years of a better reference source for Chesterton than I have had! What can I do but raise the white flag?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who does Socrates meet next?

I had the opportunity to chat with Peter Kreeft at the recent Society for Classical Learning conference. Kreeft is one of the most clear and cogent thinkers I have ever come across. A philosophy professor at Boston College, Kreeft has written a series of dialogues in which Socrates is somehow allowed out of his historical dimension (and, apparently, given some time between life and death) to discuss great ideas with various great thinkers.

So far, the series includes Socrates Meets Marx, Socrates Meets Machiavelli, Socrates Meets Sartre, and, my favorite, Socrates Meets Jesus (in which our hero meets Jesus, but only in the figurative sense through various modern people with whom he talks).

So when I saw Kreeft, I pulled him aside and asked, "So who does Socrates meet next?" "Oh," he told me, "Socrates has just met Descartes--I think that book is out now. Then he meets Hume, and then Kant, and then me meets Kierkegaard, at which point he is converted."


These books are not only full of great thinking, but of great wit--all in Kreeft's disarmingly simple style. I highly recommend them.

Monday, July 23, 2007

KY ACLU Director leaving state

The good news is that the Kentucky ACLU is losing its executive director. The bad news is that there will be a replacement.

Hiring process? What hiring process?

The Kentucky School Board, which failed to hit the target in its first attempt to hire an education commissioner, thinks it can improve its aim by firing more quickly. We suggest that everyone stand back.

So what is it that is wrong with the process of selecting a chief state school officer in Kentucky? Let us count the ways. After the Kentucky State School Board completely mishandled the Barbara Erwin hire, one would think the lesson it would have taken away from the experience was that it needs to be more careful and deliberative in the hiring process. Well, two recent reports indicate that we need to think again.

According to comments made by several Board members in a working Louisville Courier-Journal story reported recently on Richard Day's blog, the Board plans, not on exercising more caution, but on throwing it to the wind.

This probably explains the recent report by Mark Hebert, Frankfort reporter for WHAS-TV, who reported that Leon Mooneyhan, a retired Shelby County superintendent, has been "negotiating with the state school board to be the interim education commissioner" since last Tuesday.

Has anyone noticed that the posting for the open position and the call for applications was posted on the same day that Board Chairman Keith Travis began "negotiating" with Mooneyhan for the position--Tuesday, July 17? Maybe we've struck on just why it is that the State School Board is starting to look like the Keystone Cops in the process of finding good talent to fill the post at the helm of Kentucky's schools.

Is it really a good idea to limit your options while you are looking for the right person? What does this do for the other well-qualified candidates we ought to be taking a look at out there who might otherwise consider the job now that they have found out that it was done deal from the get go? Do you think these people are going to go to the trouble of applying now that they know the Board has probably already made its pick? And if we knew who we were going to hire, then why did we make the posting in the first place? If there is a process that is supposed to be followed in the hiring of the interim commissioner, why aren't we following it?

I suggest changing the posting over at KDE's website to the following:
The Kentucky Board of Education is seeking applicants for the positions of interim and full-time commissioner of education. Information about the positions and how to apply are available upon request, but applicants should be aware that although we are posting this today, we already have a particular person in mind so it would probably not be a good use of your time to go to all the trouble of filling out the application forms and writing an application letter, and if you do, we will have to question your ability to interpret the bureaucratic body language around here by which we are trying to tell you that, although we have to do this so we can say we got the best person for the job, we really want you to get lost.
That would at least save other potential applicants the trouble.

Oh, and what does it say about Mooneyhan's judgment that he would spill the beans to a reporter at one of the largest stations in the largest television market in the state, when he should have known that this would publicly embarrass the Board--what with people like me out there to criticize it?

I served with Mooneyhan on the Assessment and Accountability Subcommittee of the Governors Task Force on Education Reform, the group convened by Gov. Paul Patton to look at changes in KERA a number of years ago, and there were a few people on the committee willing to look at common sense changes to the controversial KIRIS tests at the time, but Mooneyhan was not among them.

For the Board to appoint Mooneyhan to head the state's schools for even a short period of time--and to do it so hastily--would be a signal that, not only has the State Board learned all the wrong lessons from the Erwin episode, but that they want to maintain the status quo intact. The only way Kentucky's schools have any hope is for us to move forward. Will the hiring of Mooneyhan send the signal that we are moving forward? I doubt it.

The Erwin fiasco happened because there were things about Erwin that Board members should have known, but didn't. Exactly how does moving more quickly in the hiring process help to solve that problem? Doesn't it, in fact, actually increase the chances of that kind of thing happening again?

If we are interested in increasing the chances of learning in our schools, the people who run them are going to have to show that they are capable of learning too. But, so far, that doesn't appear to be happening.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Education in Kentucky has met its enemy, and he is us.

The State Board seems uninterested in substantive change, and the
Herald-Leader wants to turn back the clock to the early 1990's. So why is it again that we can't move forward?

In the Lexington Herald-Leader's lead editorial today, "Education reform going downhill," the editors, with their usual aversion to reality, say that the reason the best and the brightest educators are being repelled from the schools top schools job is that Kentucky "is no longer seen as a leader in trying to raise education levels." This is code language for saying that Kentucky is no longer recklessly trying to turn schools upside down in order to impose the latest education fads, which is what it did in the 1990's.

Yeah. That attracts professional educators, alright: but the wrong ones.

The Herald-Leader points to Tom Boysen as the kind of educator we need to attract as head of today's Kentucky schools. Are they serious? Boysen was the first person to occupy the post of Kentucky Commissioner of Education after the elected post of State Superintendent was effectively eliminated by the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA). And he was a disaster. Here was a man who tried to run the entire state school system from his Frankfort office, and whose imperious attempts to force schools into abandoning basic skills by trying to bring back the "open classrooms" of the 1960's ("non-graded primary program" in KERA parlance) risked an entire generation of Kentucky children.

Of course, the Herald-Leader was one the voices cheering him on in these efforts--a safe thing to do, if, like editors of large newspapers, you can afford to send your kids to private schools when it doesn't work.

So now we have the State School Board looking at Leon Mooneyhan, a retired Shelby County Superintendent, for the interim commissioner's position--a sign that it wants to keep things the way they are, and we have the Herald-Leader pining for a return to the 1990's--a decade in which they were pining for a return to the 1960's. The State Board want to prop up the status quo, and the Herald-Leader wants to return to the status quo ante.

With friends like this, Kentucky school's don't need any enemies.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chesterton the Propagandist: A Response to John Peterson

I don't remember who said it, but it was worth saying: if you want to know what to think about something, just consult Chesterton. You can always count on him for common sense. I have always considered this sage advice--so much so that one of my prized possessions is a volume titled An Index to Chesterton, by Joseph Sprugg, published in 1966. It is a little known book, I imagine, even among the most avid Chesterton aficionados, and I guard it with my life. I have many friends whom I hold dear, but if any of them asked to borrow it, I would greet their request with a cold stare, and show them to the door.

But this practice of consulting Chesterton for philosophical wisdom and practical advice--of using Chesterton as a sort of philosophical Dear Abby--has now come into question. According to John Peterson, in a paper presented to the Chicago Chesterton in 1987 but recently posted at The American Chesterton Society's very excellent blog, this practice constitutes a sort of abuse of Chesterton. He challenges the "habit of using Chesterton as an encyclopedia—asking for the great man to supply us with definitive answers to highly specific questions."

"Does Chesterton teach us," he asks,
the meaning of cheese or beer or student ragging and rioting? Or does he teach us how to see cheese and these other things in order that we ourselves may be able to find meaning in them? Does he give us meanings or does he show the way to find meanings?
It is a nicely asked question, and one which Peterson answers by denying the first disjunct. But I would submit that Peterson's analysis is one that Chesterton himself would have not only have disagreed with, but found disagreeable. That Chesterton would have found the idea that he was chiefly valuable not for his wisdom but for his method should seem doubtful on the face of it for anyone who is familiar with his thought. Chesterton, Peterson seems to say, should be valued chiefly, not for his tenets, but for his technique; not for his mind, but for his manner.

I am convinced, in fact, there are few things that Chesterton himself would have found less satisfactory than this approach to his writing.

Peterson's argument is based on a few examples of essays in which Chesterton drew a moral from an event, and did not judge it. He quotes several of Chesterton's Illustrated London News essays. Now I suppose I should be wary, thinking I can match Peterson, who is one of the few people who have taken the trouble to read the ILN essays, quote for quote, epigram for epigram. Call me wreckless, but I think I can. I too know the ILN essays--or many of them anyway, having read all of the weekly articles from 1908, when he began writing them, to 1915. But there are his other writings too, and they provide the most decisive refutation of Peterson's claim.

In saying that we cannot or should not go to Chesterton for meaning we may be conveying a truth (although I doubt it), but we are certainly not expressing a belief that has any relation to Chesterton's own thinking on such matters.

The first point is this: it seems to make sense that, if we are Chestertonians, we should judge Chesterton--whose trade was, in part, judging other writers--in the same way as Chesterton himself actually judged writers. But when we look at how he judged other writers, we do not find him, as Peterson proposes we do with Chesterton, valuing them chiefly for how they teach us to think. He judges them rather by the truths they teach. Not only that, he warns against doing anything else.

When Chesterton spoke of writers, he spoke of their "great truth and passion." For Dickens it was his "sense of joy in things," for Thackeray, a "sacred ... sense of pathos" in them; for Hawthorne, the sense of their "weird significance."

Chesterton was certainly concerned with matters of style and literary technique, but he was more concerned with what a writer had to say than with how he said it. Not only did Chesterton judge a writer on this basis--that of the truth that was expressed, but he judged what was literature at all by the very same criterion: "Literature," he says, "is only that rare sort of fiction which rises to a certain standard of objective beauty and truth."

In fact it could be truly said that one of the distinctions of Chesterton's approach to literature was precisely this: that he judged a writer primarily by what he said, not by how he said it; by his meaning, not his method--that it is a writer's dogma, not his disposition, which we should read and assess. Indeed I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that Chesterton wrote his book Heretics as a refutation of the very approach with which Peterson suggests we judge Chesterton.

"Man," he says, "can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas":
As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.
In all the criticism he makes of those he has found to be heretics in the book, one of the things he praises them for is the fact that they say something definite, and ask their readers to accept it:
Now of all, or nearly all, the able modern writers whom I have briefly studied in this book, this is especially and pleasingly true, that they do each of them have a constructive and affirmative view, and that they do take it seriously and ask us to take it seriously.
In fact, Chesterton not only rejects the idea that he is not being dogmatic, even propagandistic in his writing, but spends a good part of Heretics criticizing people who claim they are not, pointing out that in doing so, they are. This was the difference he saw between himself and George Barnard Shaw: "I hold that I am dogmatic and right," he said, "while Mr. Shaw is dogmatic and wrong."

Furthermore (and this I take as the definitive point against Peterson's thesis) Chesterton questions whether great art can exist outside propaganda. "The fiercest dogmatists," he says, "make the best artists":
In the fin de siecle atmosphere every one was crying out that literature should be free from all causes and all ethical creeds. Art was to produce only exquisite workmanship, and it was especially the note of those days to demand brilliant plays and brilliant short stories. And when they got them, they got them from a couple of moralists. The best short stories were written by a man trying to preach Imperialism. The best plays were written by a man trying to preach Socialism. All the art of all the artists looked tiny and tedious beside the art which was a byproduct of propaganda ... The men who have really been the bold artists, the realistic artists, are the men who have turned out, after all, to be writing "with a purpose."
Chesterton wrote for the same reason as he said Shaw wrote: "to convince or to enrage us," and to have any other reaction to his writing, including gleaning "ways to think" as opposed to "what to think," Chesterton believed was an insult to the writer. "If a man comes to Hyde Park to preach it is permissible to hoot him; but it is discourteous to applaud him as a performing bear."

I said that it was the connection between dogma and art that was the definitive point against Peterson's theory, but I should perhaps come clean, and confess that it is not. I have actually saved my most crushing and decisive blow for the last, and this is it: I have assailed him with the weapon he should fear the most. I have devised my entire case against Peterson by consulting my Index to Chesterton. My entire argument opposing his case against the encyclopedic approach to Chesterton was conducted by means of an encyclopedia.

I cannot, of course, lend him my copy. I can only hope that I have at least made him want one.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Penney Sanders for State School Commissioner

While the State School Board was scouring the country looking for someone to fill the post of State School Commissioner, they apparently didn't notice (or chose to ignore) an obvious candidate.

After the Barbara Erwin fiasco, maybe one of the things they need to do anyway is look a little closer to home. Penney Sanders, the former head of the Legislative Research Commission's Office for Education Accountability, would be an excellent choice for this position.

Here are some reasons for considering Sanders for the post:
  • She knows the educational lay of the land better than any other candidate the Board could find
  • She has established relationships with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, many of whom know her well
  • She is not afraid to take on the educational establishment when she needs to
  • She knows not only the policies of Kentucky education, but the politics
  • She not only hasn't padded her resume, but doesn't need to
  • She's available
Sanders was the first director of the Office for Educational Accountability in the early 90's, an office created under the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA). Her tenure there earned her the applause--and the criticism--of many. Some knew her as the "Dragon Lady" for her willingness to face issues that needed to be faced head on, and for her tenacity in doing what she thought was right. But there wasn't anyone who didn't respect her.

I was one of those who publicly applauded, and criticized, her. Sanders is not someone who would do everything I would want her to do. She was, after all, the chief enforcement officer for KERA, a policy initiative of which I was probably the chief public critic. But unlike so many others who viewed KERA as some sort of educational panacea, Sanders, while remaining supportive, was willing to admit that there were common sense changes that needed to be made, and was willing to work with groups across the political spectrum to try to accomplish them.

Why would anyone not want Sanders in the position? She is on record as supporting school choice, that's why. But the opponents of school choice need to get over it. Sanders was speaking as a Catholic school official, a post she occupied after leaving the OEA. And that's one of the things that Catholic school officials do: they talk about school choice.

If those of us who opposed KERA are willing to swallow hard about that issue in considering an excellent candidate like Sanders, then the anti-choice people ought be able to do the same in regard to school choice.

It would be ironic for the Board to repeat its mistake of overlooking Sanders, since Sanders knows Kentucky education better than any member of the Board--or, for that matter, all of the Board members put together. The question is, do the Board members know enough to know this? If they choose to ignore her again, then the answer to that question will be obvious.

The real lessons to be learned from the Barbara Erwin episode

There are a lot of lessons to be drawn from the Barbara Erwin debacle. Erwin was the short-lived Kentucky School Commissioner who never even served her first day because she was run out of town for padding her resume. Among these lessons are:
  • It's a good idea for a school board to hire a search firm that actually does background checks of candidates
  • It's a good idea for a governor to appoint a school board that acts swiftly when it's clear it needs to cut its losses
  • It's a good idea for the governor to exercise his will over his own appointees
In regard to the first, the search firm simply didn't do its job. Fire them, and hire someone else. In regard to the second, there seems to be a lack of firm leadership on the board. Hopefully, the board has learned a lesson and will know better next time. In regard to the third, the Governor needs to start being a little more directive with his appointees. He didn't do this with his university trustees on the domestic partner benefit issue (as his opponents have rightly pointed out), and he apparently failed to do it with the State School Board on the Irwin issue. He needs to start doing it before more people start noticing that it isn't being done.

But listen to this somewhat less than perspicacious observation from the Courier-Journal:
It [the Erwin episode] leads one to believe the speculation that Gov. Fletcher was focused on appointing a board that would quietly share a right-wing fundamentalist school agenda, not one that could function properly.

To say that this observation comes from outer space would be an insult to extra-terrestrials everywhere. How could you possibly derive this observation from what has happened? In fact, how could you conclude this from anything the board has done?

The only action the board has taken that could be considered evidence for this thesis is its vote against a state education document that changed the traditional AD/BC dating designations to the secular CE/BCE last year. But the only reason they voted to do that was because they voted to approve it in the first place.

What other evidence is there that this is a "right-wing" board--in the Erwin episode or anything else?

The real problems with the selection of state school commissioners are these:
  • The State School Board that appoints them is not directly accountable to any elected official
  • There are few if any candidates available who are willing to shake up the establishment anyway.
Yes, the members of the State School Board are appointed by the Governor and rubber stamped by the General Assembly, but after that they serve out their terms far from the reaches of anyone who can rein them in. And even if this weren't a problem, where exactly is a board supposed to find a person in the current education establishment willing to defy that same establishment--the only way any real improvement will ever be made?

The only thing appointing a new state school commissioner accomplishes is leading people to believe that the public education establishment is doing something meaningful when, in fact, it's just shifting chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Postmodern Sex and Orifice Confusion

Okay, I'm thinking about how nice it must have been in better times to open up the newspaper and read about the latest good deeds of the local women's charitable society and all the nice things it was doing for foreign orphans or something. But thanks to things like the debate over the Holsinger nomination, we find ourselves opening up the pages of the local gazette and being treated to the latest apologetic for the legitimacy of trying to use the digestive system as if it were the reproductive system by those who seem to hold the dictates of biology is extremely low esteem.

Gee. I actually got through that whole paragraph without saying what I really would rather not talk about but can't seem to avoid because certain people want to talk very publicly about what they keep insisting, in the same breath, everyone ought to stay out of because it is their own private business.

"O shame, where is they blush?"

But there it is: prominently displayed on the editorial page of the Louisville Courier-Journal. We're arguing about anal sex. Ugh. It's enough of an indignity to have to talk about it in the first place, but do we really have to endure pious sermons on why it's a sin to consider such peculiar activity abnormal?

Here is Michael Cornwall, waxing eloquent (but not particularly logical) on why homosexuals should not be distinguished by their homosexuality despite the fact that that is, literally, their only distinguishing feature:
Gays and lesbians cannot be reduced to STDs and abnormal sex. Gays and lesbians enjoy an ample culture, in spite of the roadblocks placed in their way, complete with fulfilling, loving relationships.
In other words, we have a whole group of people who define and distinguish themselves by a particular act who are now complaining that everyone defines and distinguishes them by this act. Well, if their actions are not peculiar, their arguments certainly are. "'Normal' sexual expression cannot be characterized by intake and expulsion orifices," Corwall, who is apparently confused as to which orifice is which, assures us.

Then there is this logical specimen from Todd M. Read of Jeffersonville, Indiana:
According to his logic [the logic that says that certain orifices have certain purposes], the duality of the female vagina as an entrance and an exit should confuse the human race so as there would be no reproduction. I mean, if we are all "normal," wouldn't this conflict of interests end civilization as we know it?
I don't know who Todd M. Read is, but let's just hope, for the sake of the people of Jeffersonville, Indiana, that he's not an OB/GYN (or for that matter, a plumber). One supposes that in medical school, unlike certain lodgements in Jeffersonville, Indiana, there is little confusion as to which orifice is to be used for what purpose.

And speaking of plumbers, would anyone hire a piping professional (they're not calling them that now, but I give it five years) who didn't think it out of the ordinary to hook up the sewage pipes to the water pipes? Didn't think so.

And it only adds to the indignity of having to listen to all this that these people who are arguing for the normality of the multipurpose use of orifices (and that's the last time I'm ever going to use that word--I promise) don't even believe in normality in the first place. In the postmodern world, nothing has any purpose except that to which it happens to be put. You can't really apply that idea to anything practical of course: a 11/16" socket only fits an 11/16" nut (which is one reason you find so few postmodern mechanics). But, for some reason, there are people who think all this makes perfect sense when it comes to sex.

You just can't argue that something is abnormal with people who don't believe in normality at all, any more than you can argue with someone that a stick is crooked when they don't believe in such a thing a straight stick.

But I believe in such a thing as a straight stick, even though there are some people who apparently think that is controversial.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Russell Kirk and "crunchy conservatism"

William F. Buckley once said that "all the philosophical action is on the right." I don't know, however, if that could be said today. Most of the noise you hear on the right sounds suspiciously like bleating. One of the few interesting voices on the conservative end of the political spectrum is Rod Dreher, and the excellent blog "Right Reason" has done everyone a great favor by printing Rod Dreher's recent speech on Russell Kirk and "Crunchy Conservatism".

Now although I am one of Dreher's biggest fans, I wince every time I here the label "crunchy conservatism". There's just something about it that makes the concept sound a bit lightweight, when, in fact, it has a heavyweight history. Of course, I think the title was affixed before even Dreher could do anything about it. I know he's heard this criticism before, God bless him, and I know he takes its in stride.

I prefer the term "traditionalist conservatism," or even "cultural conservatism" as the title for the old or "paleo" conservative tradition, the modern form of which derives from Edmund Burke. There are many people who have no idea that there is any other form of conservatism than that propounded by Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol—two proponents of the type of conservatism known as "neoconservatism."

Dreher's essay is good primer on the older tradition. And when you get done with that, read Kirk's own history of it, "The Conservative Mind".

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wendell Berry on technological tyranny in our universities

Bellarmine University has posted the text and video of Wendell Berry's commencement address this past spring. Berry gave it partly because his granddaughter Virginia was in the graduating class. Virginia was one of my students at Highlands Latin School, where Berry gave the commencement address in 2003, and where he is a visiting instructor in English. Berry's observations on the modern technological tyranny and its dominance over the curriculum of the modern university are, as usual, right on target.

Here is a choice selection:
And yet by all this fuss we are promoting a debased commodity paid for by the people, sanctioned by the government, for the benefit of the corporations. For the most part, its purpose is now defined by the great and the would-be-great “research universities.” These gigantic institutions, increasingly formed upon the “industrial model,” no longer make even the pretense of preparing their students for responsible membership in a family, a community, or a polity. They have repudiated their old obligation to pass on to students at least something of their cultural inheritance. The ideal graduate no longer is to have a mind well-equipped to serve others, or to judge competently the purposes for which it may be used.

Now, according to those institutions of the “cutting edge,” the purpose of education is unabashedly utilitarian. Their interest is almost exclusively centered in the technical courses called, with typical ostentation of corporate jargon, STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The American civilization so ardently promoted by these institutions is to be a civilization entirely determined by technology, and not encumbered by any thought of what is good or worthy or neighborly or humane.
He goes on to urge the graduates to join a resistance to the technological tyranny that now dictates the policies of large universities:
You will have to avoid thinking of yourselves as employable minds equipped with a few digits useful for pushing buttons. You will have to recover for yourselves the old understanding that you are whole beings inextricably and mysteriously compounded of minds and bodies.

You will have to understand that the logic of success is radically different from the logic of vocation. The logic of what our society means by “success” supposedly leads you ever upward to any higher-paying job that can be done sitting down. The logic of vocation holds that there is an indispensable justice, to yourself and to others, in doing well the work that you are “called” or prepared by your talents to do.

And so you must refuse to accept the common delusion that a career is an adequate context for a life. The logic of success insinuates that self-enlargement is your only responsibility, and that any job, any career will be satisfying if you succeed in it. But I can tell you, on the authority of much evidence, that a lot of people highly successful by that logic are painfully dissatisfied. I can tell you further that you cannot live in a career, and that satisfaction can come only from your life. To give satisfaction, your life will have to be lived in a family, a neighborhood, a community, an ecosystem, a watershed, a place, meeting your responsibilities to all those things to which you belong.
Berry's warnings are largely motivated by his view of stewardship. If you read his writings you will find him constantly contrasting two models for dealing with the world: the husbandman and the exploiter. He is right in seeing our supposedly great institutions of higher learning firmly in the grip of the latter. University administrations are no longer interested in the common good; they are interested in grant money.

I'll give just one first hand example of this. Several years ago, I was called in by a state senator to try to broker a deal between a state representative who had sponsored a bill barring the cloning of human embryos and representatives of the state's two largest universities, which strongly opposed the bill.

Despite my best efforts, negotiations finally broke down. The universities used all the power at their disposal (which is substantial in the state legislature) and managed to defeat the bill by just a couple of votes in the state senate. But during the negotiations, it became very clear to me that these people had no interest in whether or not what they were dealing with was human. They cared for one thing and one thing only: money, specifically, how much their research programs would be giving up if the bill passed.

These people lied in committee testimony about what they were doing, lies which became very evident during the testimony. If you want to see dissembling in its most quintessential form, just go back and order the video tape of the senate hearing on the cloning bill (I think it was 2002).

And by the way what ever happened to the liberals who were concerned about the effects of greater control by big corporations? Are they now an extinct species?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Holsinger's testimony proof he's perfect for Washington

Kentuckian James Holsinger is looking more and more qualified for life in Washington should he be approved by a Senate Committee that is now conducting a show trial on his nomination as U. S. Surgeon General. He announced, as everyone expected, that he disavowed the now controversial report he wrote as a member of a United Methodist task force in 1991 that found certain homosexual sexual practices were unhealthy.

This shows that he is willing to bow to political pressure to secure his position. This is an essential skill one must master in the nation's capitol in order to survive politically.

Furthermore, after bowing to political pressure, Holsinger announced that, if approved as U. S. Surgeon General, he would never bow to political pressure. This is also a promising sign. This shows his willingness to engage in hypocrisy with a straight face. Even some seasoned political operators have not completely mastered this skill. To be able to look straight into a camera and claim that you are not going to do what you are, in fact, even at that very moment, doing will come in handy in Washington.

Surely Ted Kennedy, of all people, should appreciate this quality in Holsinger.

The other members too should see in Holsinger a characteristic they all ought to admire, since they possess it to such a large degree themselves. After all, none of the medicine has changed since the report was written, but the politics certainly has. And these senators, who at the time would undoubtedly themselves have agreed with the report's findings (remember, this was 1991, when almost everyone agreed with what Holsinger wrote in his report), are indignant that anyone would have believed then what they themselves surely believed at the time.

But for some reason, many of the members of the committee, who want to ensure that the U. S. Surgeon General's office remains above politics by forcing nominees to bow to politics, remain unimpressed.

Here is a committee of politicians who want to sacrifice science to politics while it is saying that it doesn't want science sacrificed to politics, and it has a nominee in front of it who is willing to sacrifice science to politics and bold enough to tell the committee that he would never do such a thing, and they're going to let the opportunity go by?

If they do that, someone is just going to have to start questioning their integrity.

Higher Indoctrination at Kentucky's Universities: Part II: Reinterpreting the Birds and the Bees

Last time in our continuing series about the fun ways in which our state's institutions of higher education spend the tax money of conservative Kentuckians to fund left-wing ideology, we featured a course offering from the "Women's Studies" department at Lee Todd's University of Kentucky. But just so we aren't accused of special favoritism toward UK, let's take a look at the "Women and Gender Studies" department over at James Ramsey's University of Louisville.

Lest we worry that only UK students have access to indoctrination in special interest politics (and that would, of course, be inequitable, which is bad), we can comfort ourselves in knowing the following course is available to U of L students:
3516 201-01 Women in Amer Culture H CD2 (Hum), SAT 10:00-1:00, Heinecken, LF 130
3816 201-02 Women in Amer Culture H CD2 (Hum), TTh 2:30-3:45, Heinecken, DA 202

This class will introduce students to some of the major concepts and theoretical frameworks of feminism. We will investigate gender, race, class, and sexual systems through examinations of everyday culture. The course readings briefly outline the history and guiding concepts of contemporary feminism (s) and move into an investigation of the social realities currently affecting women in US culture. We will investigate the concepts of discrimination, oppression versus privilege, and domination and subordination. The readings stress the systemic nature of oppression, emphasizing the ways that race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, and gender intersect in our lives. We will also examine some consequences of inequalities including the wage gap, violence against women, racism and sexism in education, and the representation of women in the media. The course will further examine some of the proactive ways in which women have resisted and responded to these systems.
This class, of course, is the opposite of the other course U of L offers from a conservative perspective called,... oh, wait. I forgot. There isn't one.

What was I thinking?

Of course we could ask where this group of radical feminists, with a comfy perch at the university and a virtual ideological monopoly, gets off talking about being oppressed. They get a whole department to themselves, after all.

But if there isn't a course from the opposing perspective, wouldn't that mean that there was no diversity in the course offerings at U of L, and isn't diversity what U of L is all about? In fact, I could have sworn that U of L President James Ramsey used the word 'diversity' at least 672 times in his testimony before the House Health and Welfare Committee last March when he falsely claimed to legislators that U of L was not subsidizing its domestic partner benefit plan when it turned out that that's exactly what it was doing all along.

And didn't he say, somewhere in the midst of all those false statements, that U of L needed to be a diverse place in order to attract good talent? And surely we could trust him, since it would defy statistical probability for there to be that many false statements from one university president during the short time he was at the committee table.

It's all so confusing. But hold on. There may be cause for hope in this class, called, "Sociology of Gender":
11538 313-01 Sociology of Gender (Ssci), TTh 9:30-10:45, Marshall, HM 106, Soc 327-01
11540 313-02 Sociology of Gender (Ssci), Th 11:00-12:15, Marshall, HM 106, Soc 327-02
How were women imagined in Renaissance England? What criteria did people use to distinguish between “women” and “men”? In what ways were ideas about gender and sexuality related to other cultural discourses at this time? This class will explore these kinds of questions by analyzing the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. We will focus our attention primarily on literary texts by and about women, but we will also survey a range of other materials such as anatomy books, religious treatises, legal documents, and popular pamphlets. In addition to formal essays and/or exams, students may be expected to post informal analytical response papers to an electronic course listserv on a weekly basis. Active class participation is a must.
Now most people do not know that, in Elizabethan England (that is the period of history when England was ruled by Elizabeth I, who, some speculate, was a woman), people apparently did not know how to tell the difference between boys and girls. But the crack historical detectives in U of L's "Women's Studies" departments are not letting their own belief that gender is socially constructed get in the way of helping the Elizabethans out.

Although some would argue that modern feminist ideologues, who think that boys are boys because their parents made them play with trucks, and girls are girls because their parents made them play with dolls, are probably not the best bunch of people to be offering advice to anyone on how to distinguish between the genders.

But this looks promising. They have apparently discovered anatomy books. Maybe there's hope yet.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Keeling's surprising discovery

Some Kentucky journalists continue to be shocked that politicians are being political. Larry Dale Keeling has just now noticed this curious and apparently brand new phenomenon of politicians acting like politicians. Keeling, a political journalist at the Lexington Herald-Leader (and I use the term 'journalist' in its technical sense as someone who writes on the back of advertisements for a living), apparently had not noticed it before.

This epiphany has come upon Keeling as a result of observing Gov. Ernie Fletcher's actions in calling a special session, about which he (Keeling) is up in arms. Of course, Keeling's whole career consists of being up in arms about Fletcher. This is what he does. He eats, sleeps, and breathes being up in arms about Fletcher. It just isn't a good day if can't wake up in the morning and spit out his coffee at some new Fletcher outrage.

And this morning he apparently spewed his coffee even farther than usual at the blinding discovery that the Governor was, horror of horrors, acting like a politician. It must have taken a lot out of him (wit not being one of those things, since, the evidence suggests, it wasn't there in the first place).

Okay, so he's a little slow on the uptake. But remember, he's a Herald-Leader editorialist.

The next thing you know, doctors will be trying to cure people, accountants will being auditing accounts, and lawyers will start suing people.

I can't wait until the day Keeling all of a sudden makes the discovery that not only do Republican politicians act like politicians, but so do Democratic politicians. But that will only occur when journalists start being journalists.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New issue of "Classical Teacher" now online

The summer issue of "The Classical Teacher," of which I am managing editor, is now online. Articles include:

The Conservative Purpose of a Liberal Education by Russell Kirk
Liberal education is conservative in this way: it defends order against disorder ... Liberal learning enables those who benefit from its discipline to achieve some degree of harmony within themselves.

The Classical Education of the Founding Fathers by Martin Cothran
The Founding Fathers possessed two characteristics that distinguished them from other men of their time—and most men in any time: wisdom and virtue.

Letter from the Editor - Spring 2007 Martin Cothran

Why Study Latin and Greek by Andrew Campbell
The practical, cultural, and formative reasons to study classical languages.

Getting Beyond the Lord of the Rings by Martin Cothran
How to parlay an obsession with the Lord of the Rings into an interest in English literature.

A Short Lesson in Memorization - Disappearing Line Technique by Leigh Lowe

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Gay rights group lauds Jody Richard's adjournment of special session

The "Kentucky Equality Federation," a gay rights group based in Kentucky, is praising Speaker of the Kentucky House Jody Richards for adjourning the House on the first day of the special session called by Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Obviously, the group supports the action because it would halt consideration of legislation to halt domestic partner benefit plans at state universities. The group also criticized Fletcher for including the issue of domestic partner benefits in the session call.
Kentucky Equality Federation praises the wisdom of House Speaker Richards and the entire House of Representatives for immediately adjourning the special session called by Governor Fletcher. The House of Representatives voted to end a special legislative session called by Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher an hour after it started.

"The House of Representatives did what was right for Kentucky families and taxpayers," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "Governor Fletcher apparently has no core beliefs of his own, his decisions seem to be nothing more than a calculation of how he can stay in office."

Governor Fletcher added a ban on domestic-partner benefits at universities and public agencies to the agenda of the special session that could have cost taxpayers $60,000.00 per day to hold.

Kentucky Equality Federation supported Governor Fletcher's original statement that universities should determine their own policies. But the Governor changed his mind in the middle of an election year and added it to a 'laundry list' as a reason to call the General Assembly into session.

Several Kentucky universities and public agencies offer affordable health insurance to both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Higher Indoctrination, Part I: Building a Bridge to the 1960's

As UK President Lee Todd and U of L President James Ramsey push programs that, to one extent or the other, use taxpayer and tuition resources to fund the health care benefits for the live-in partners of their staff, it is instructive to look at what else their universities are doing to try to build a bridge to the 1960's.

One interesting place to look is in the "Women's Studies" departments. A now common pseudo-academic fixture on college campuses, these programs have provided a beachhead for aggrieved feminists and neo-Marxists to push their special interest political agendas--all at government expense. Here is the course description for a class offered at the University of Kentucky, called "Feminist Philosophy," just one of many such courses:
PHI 540-001 Feminist Philosophy. This course will introduce students to some of the major contributions of feminist theory to philosophy. Although feminist theory is not monolithic--feminists disagree about many, many things--feminist theory always begins with the insight that women have been and continue to be in a subordinate position, and feminist theorists offer accounts of how this subordination is maintained and suggestions for how it can be overcome. It is also the case that feminist theorists today tend to recognize that the subordination of women is one form of subordination in an interlocking system of oppression. Thus, feminists writing today tend to be alive to the interlocking nature of racial, classist, regionalist, ageist, sexist, heterosexist, and ableist oppressions that are all to often inseparable--sometimes conceptually, and nearly always in the lived world. In this course, we shall be interested in seeing how feminist philosophers have contributed to these realizations by doing feminist work in the traditional branches of philosophy as well as in areas of inquiry not so tightly bound by traditional categories. We'll acquaint ourselves with these contributions by looking first at some different types of feminist perspectives and then by looking at feminist contributions to philosophical methodology, metaphysics, epistemology, and moral philosophy.
TR 12:30-1:45, Instructor: Joan Callahan. This course counts toward the GWS Minor, GWS Topical Major, or the GWS Graduate Certificate.
It's a frightening world for feminists, what with all the "racism", "classism", "regionalism", "ageism", "sexism", "heterosexism", and "ableism" surrounding them. And the people in third world countries threatened with starvation and violent death think they have problems! If they only knew how it was in the patriarchal West, they'd be happy with their lot.

That one political faction not only gets to teach classes at a publicly-funded university, but is provided with the platform of a whole major to expound its extremist doctrines is rather disturbing. It's tempting to wonder if there are any courses in UK's curriculum that treat the political conservative movement in a similarly flattering light. It's a temptation that anyone concerned with balance and integrity probably ought to avoid, if for no other reason than to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I'll see your politics and raise you

State Rep. Kathy Stein (D-Lexington) is threatening to convene hearings to investigate allegations made by Former Transportation Cabinet Secretary Sam Beverage that politics was involved in road projects awarded by the Fletcher administration.

Democrats first accuse the Fletcher administration of convening a special session for political purposes, and then turn right around and announce that they're going to use it for political purposes.

I would point out that this is a blatant contradiction if I didn't think the concept would be completely lost on Rep. Stein.

Oh, the trials and travails of applying logic to politics.

Politicians being political: Oh my!

Democrats are accusing the Fletcher administration of being political. And they are shocked, so shocked. Why, this is unprecedented. It's unheard of for a governor to be political. And during an election season too! Isn't there some law barring politicians from being political during an election season?

In fact, one wonders why, if the Democrats are so shocked by politicians being political in an election season, they are not shocked at themselves for publicly expressing shock about a Republican governor being political, since such an action is itself political.

Maybe legislators could take up this issue--the issue of politicians being political--during the special session, which the Democrats insist is being convened by the Governor for political reasons. But wait: that would be political too, wouldn't it? And the Republicans could point that out--that taking up the issue of politicians being political is political. But that action too would be political, and then...

Oh, nevermind.

It just goes to show: it's a dangerous thing to apply logic to politics.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mendaciter loqui

After noticing the post on Frank Lockwood's Bible Belt Blogger that his blog had received a "PG-13" rating from another website, I visited the same site to see what the rating for this blog was. Ready? "R". Why? Because, it said, of the use of the words 'gay', 'dangerous', 'death' and 'gays'. Remember what I said about the degradation of good words? Here is empirical proof.

Oh, and the site that gives these ratings? Why don't I mention its name? Well, it's an online dating service of some kind. It looks innocent enough, and apparently is using this little gimmick to get people to its site (probably successfully, after all, it got me there). But including its name in my blog could get me an even worse rating.

To sue or not to sue? Is that even the question?

I just noticed another article, in addition to several in the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal that quotes me as saying that The Family Foundation is considering suing the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville over their unconstitutional domestic partner benefit plans, this one at Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

And by the way, it does appear as if the word "diverse" is becoming as unusable in its traditional sense as the word "gay", another literary victim of the politicization of language. Where is George Orwell when you need him?

It might be good to explain however, how this line got started--the one that says that The Family Foundation has its finger on the legal trigger. It is the result primarily of reporters insistent questions about whether The Family Foundation was, in fact, considering such action. The answer I gave was that the Foundation, as has been the case since the beginning of the whole debate, was not excluding that possibility, and that it was, to use the philosopher William James's phrase, a "live option," which is just another way of expressing the principle: never say never.

This somehow got translated into the announcement that the Foundation was ready to file suit. The Attorney General then came out, after we had filed a request with him to review UK's new version of domestic partner benefits to see if it met the requirements of his earlier ruling, and said that he couldn't do that because the Foundation was considering legal action.

Two points:
  • Assuming the Foundation was actively considering filing suit, since when did it become so easy to stop the Attorney General from doing his job? Is that all that you have to do to neutralize him? Threaten to take legal action? So all it takes to prevent the Attorney General from acting to uphold the constitution is to point your lawyer in somebody's general direction? That has interesting implications.

  • Then there is the fact that the Foundation was no closer to taking legal action at the end of June than it was when the AG came down with his original ruling. That being the case, why would the AG be any less able to take action at the end of June than it was when it made its initial ruling?
Of course, all this could be considered moot with the Governor's announcement of a special session starting on Thursday that includes the domestic partner benefits issue in the call. It could, however, become very relevant if the Democrats decide to adjourn without action later this week.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Governor puts domestic partner benefits on the special session call

Governor Ernie Fletcher has placed the issue of domestic partner benefits on the call for a special session to begin this Thursday.

The Education Gods that Failed: A Response to Richard Day

In Richard Day's response to yesterday's "The 'B' Word" post, in which I hailed the U. S. Supreme Court's decision striking down forced busing as the simple application of common sense, he asks, "What would Jesus do?"

Now I have searched my Bible concordance, and I am having a heck of a time finding the word "busing" in the Good Book. But apparently there is some sort of religious imperative to put children on buses for long rides across town so they can be in the same geographical vicinity as other children in some other part of town, while the children from that part of town are bused to the part of town where the first bunch of children were bused from so they can be in a different geographical vicinity than the first bunch of children before they were bused from that location themselves to be in the same geographical vicinity as the others.

I mean, it's obvious isn't it?

But wait: I thought religion had no place in public schools? Does this mean we can we start Bible classes now too?

If busing contributed to better education, then, after instituting busing, shouldn't we have seen evidence of children being better educated? Well, we instituted busing. So where is this boom in educational achievement following the court order? In fact, hasn't one of the big stories about education in Kentucky (including Jefferson County) been the achievement gap between black and white students in recent years? How can this be after all these years of forced busing?

Could it be, perhaps, that busing HAS NO RELATION TO BETTER EDUCATION?

Now if busing does not actually improve education, what does it do? What busing does is make liberals feel better about themselves because they have Done Something. It doesn't matter what they have done, or whether what they have done actually does any measurable good, or even whether it is positively detrimental. No. All that matters is that they have Done Something. And once they have Done Something, then they not only feel better about themselves, they can also look down on other people, especially those people who oppose busing because it HAS NO RELATION TO BETTER EDUCATION.

One must say these thing several times for the educational establishment, which can be very hard of hearing.

So what is the Something that makes liberals feel good about themselves? It is the bringing about of Equality and Diversity. At the altar of these two things that you can count on liberals to sacrifice everything else. You can destroy the community of whole neighborhoods by taking away their neighborhood schools. You can you can even put students at risk--physically and educationally (for quite a number of reasons)--by placing them on buses for hours a day--all because of Equality and Diversity.

Equality and Diversity not only trump community, education, and safety, they even trump good government. Why was it exactly that judges had the authority to do this in the first place? Was there a Constitutional mandate for such things? Did a court even have a right to mandate it? Wasn't this the legislature's prerogative? Isn't there such a thing as separation of powers?

But these are all Constitutional questions, and the Constitution, like so many other things, has found itself hauled to the chopping block to be offered up in pieces to the gods of Equality and Diversity.

Where is the evidence that forced busing increases academic achievement? Not some goofy study with a handful of anecdotes that passes for scholarship in teachers colleges, but real honest to goodness research evidence that students get better grades or test scores when they are taken out of their neighborhood schools and set down in some other part of town whether parents like it or not.

Where is it?

Forced busing in Louisville did have one good result: it created a burgeoning private school community that thrives to this day. Of course, most of the students who attend private schools are from families who can afford it, leaving most of the kids from families who can't afford it in failing public schools. This could be changed, of course, by implementing school choice programs to make it more affordable for these families to take advantage of the better private schools, but the education establishment opposes this too. It's too bad that in their Equality and Diversity zealotry, liberals have harmed the very people they feel so good about having helped.

If we're really concerned with improving education, we'll do things that have been demonstrably successful. I was at in the Capitol Annex in Frankfort one day several years ago on the day that a round of CATS scores were being announced by state education officials. They were particularly proud, they said, about Lincoln Elementary School, which had increased its reading scores by about 65 percent, and its science scores by about the same amount. This, they said, was evidence that the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was succeeding.

Now Lincoln Elementary is not known as good school. What had happened here? I walked out of the committee room and into the hallway. I called Lincoln Elementary and got through to the lady in charge of the reading program and asked, "What are you doing down there?" "We are doing Direct Instruction," she said. "We are teaching systematic, intensive phonics in our reading program."


Direct Instruction? Phonics? These things were anathema to the KERAites. Schools were being told to do exactly the opposite of what Direct Instruction called for. I heard officials testify before legislative committees running down traditional techniques like Direct Instruction, and attended some of the in-services where they were ridiculed. My oldest son was also in a "model KERA classroom" where the alternative ideas, like whole language and "best guess" spelling, were practiced (until we finally, like so many other parents, pulled him out).

But the fact that they had opposed the very programs that were the reasons for Lincoln Elementary's success wasn't preventing state officials from taking credit for it anyway.

Later on, I found out that Lincoln Elementary was one of three schools that had gotten a grant from the Jefferson County School District to implement Direct Instruction programs. That was big of them, I thought. As it turns out, the legislator who had managed to get the grants, Sen. Gerald Neal, had had to do everything but threaten the district (actually, I think he did that too) to get grants. Pulling teeth without Novocaine was apparently a less painful procedure for district officials than implementing a demonstrably good educational program.

Then just as quickly and quietly as the program had come, it apparently left, the victim of indifferent and even hostile district officials. Last I heard, they were talking about closing Lincoln Elementary. A program that actually worked, and they let it go. What does that say about our schools and the people who run them?

Well, if you look at KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990), you see the same idols: Equality and Diversity. Remember the nongraded primary program? We had to have young students of different ages and ability levels all mixed together in one class. Diversity. And we had to make sure that all students succeeded at the same level, even if the older ones had to take time out from learning themselves to help teach the younger ones. Equality.

The tragic thing about it all was that, as a result of this nonsense, ESS (Extended School Services) participation in 4th grade--after the nongraded primary had done its damage-- skyrocketed. What did the geniuses in our education establishment do? They hailed it as a success. That's right. More kids were now getting help. That was a good thing. Of course, they had been to education college, the academic equivalent of receiving a lobotomy, so they missed the fact that more kids now needed it, a sign that something had not worked.

The nongraded primary seems to have died a slow death, but that won't prevent the education establishment coming back with more ridiculous ideas any time now, undoubtedly founded on the same failed ideas.

That any children get a decent education in public schools at all in a system like this is a miracle. Some actually do get a good education, somehow escaping the ritualistic sacrifice demanded of so many at the liberal altar of Equality and Diversity, probably because of a few good teachers and administrators who still, despite the fact that they pay verbal obescience to the false gods of education, care about children and have some clue of what actually works.

My understanding is that Day was one of these, and that he somehow succeeded at Cassidy Elementary in the face of the KERA nonsense. As I recall, he was one of the few voices within the establishment brave enough to point out, on the issue of the nongraded primary, that the emperor had no clothes.

One only wishes, on the issue of busing, that he saw as clearly.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Excuses, Excuses

I was quoted in three articles on the Attorney General's failure to make state universities comply with his ruling on domestic partner benefits:

"State won't issue new opinion," The Louisville Courier-Journal (7/1/07
"Family Foundation pushes Stumbo to act," The Lexington Herald-Leader (7/1/07)
"Group pushes for legal action on UK's benefit plan," The Lexington Herald Leader (6/30/07)

The AG is saying that because the Family Foundation is considering legal action, he can't do what he said he was going to do when he rendered his original opinion; namely, enforce it. In other words, he is saying that you can actually prevent law enforcement officials from enforcing the law simply by threatening a lawsuit against the people who have broken it.

That's a novel view of the law.

In fact, The Family Foundation has always viewed legal action as an option, but it is no closer to taking it now than it was when the AG issued its first opinion. If it was able to issue an opinion then as to UK's original plan, why can't it do it now on UK's newest plan?