In the Q&A after giving my speech on homeschooling at the Let’s Talk Tulsa event, I had a conversation with a Dad about school assignments in public schools that teach students to forego moral reasoning. As a followup to that, I wrote an article about it in Tulsa Today. Enjoy!
I am supposed to give a talk tomorrow on why I homeschool, and it is supposed to be under 3 minutes. Here is my planned talk:
My name is Jonathan Bartlett, and I am a homeschooling Dad. In Oklahoma, the homeschooling movement is growing by leaps and bounds, but some people on the outside are curious about what motivates us. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful for me to take a moment and share a bit why our family does homeschooling, and I think many of these reasons are shared by a large number of homeschooling families.
To begin with, I should say that I graduated from Union Public Schools, and at the time it was one of the best schools in the region, and probably still is. I had great teachers and great classmates. However, after graduating, I started to realize that there were problems with my education. These were structural problems – problems that are innate to the very way that public schooling is organized.
First of all, my own first goal with education is teaching my children the family’s values and morals. I hold this goal much higher than the intellectual education itself. However, as a public institution, schools are not permitted to instill deep values in the pupils. They can instill some surface ones, like don’t cheat and don’t steal, but they are systematically incapable of shaping students to the values of the families they belong to.
Along the same lines, each subject is missing many important aspects because of the need for being secular. Philosophy, morality, aesthetics, human nature, and the design inherent in nature are integral parts of EVERY subject, but are systematically left out of a secularized education. The lesson to children is implicit but quite clear – nothing except the material aspects of subjects are really worth knowing.
Another issue is with family and community. Public schools minimize the importance of both the family and community. After taking the bus, spending time at school, and staying after school for sports, your family becomes just a group of people you happen to eat dinner with. Homeschooling, instead, puts family membership at the center of children’s lives. It also exposes children to more people outside their own age group – younger kids, older kids, the elderly, professionals, and homemakers. It puts them in the center of a much wider community than is available in an age-segregated school, to allow them to see and experience the wide variety of gifts and needs that different members of the community have.
A final issue is that I think that all of our children deserve special attention. The fact is, in any class, there will be kids who make trouble. The only option that teachers really have is to minimize the damage that these kids do. But is that the best option for those kids? When homeschooling, parents can know the problems that their children are causing and actively work to solve them without worrying how that impacts twenty other students.
Thankfully, Oklahoma is the best place on earth to homeschool, both from a legal and social perspective. There are a number of co-ops, support groups, and organizations to help you get started and stand with you in troubled times. Our family takes part in organizations like Classical Conversations, AmbleCommunity, and OCHEC, and these are just a tiny fraction of the groups available to help you connect with other families who have the same issues you do. We are all families working to make our kids productive parts of the community. That means something different for everyone, which is another benefit of homeschooling – you have the freedom to do what works for your family.
I’m from Oklahoma, and many of my fellow Oklahomans are droning on and on about how embarrassed they are to be an Oklahoman, and how this is such an embarrassment to Oklahoma, and how we should feel bad about being Oklahoman because of this incident.
Frankly, I can’t possibly understand this sentiment.
Here’s the deal. Everywhere on planet Earth there are stupid, bigoted people. It is clear that if they have a full chant, the OU SAE is probably not the only SAE chapter to be racist. However, it is only in Oklahoma where (a) a member of the student body had the fortitude to expose their behavior, and (b) the president of the University bothered to do anything about it.
In addition, the way in which it was handled was fabulous. They shut down the fraternity immediately. This made the clear message that this was simply incompatible with the University. Second, they did not (to my knowledge) punish the students. First, students should be allowed to hold ridiculous opinions without retribution. However, the University should not endorse organizations that are clearly anti-social, and, fraternities are such endorsed organizations. Second, clearly, the students are in desperate need of an education.
So, in short, there are ignorant people and organizations in every University, and SAE chapters dotted across the United States, but only in Oklahoma was something done about it.
Now let’s compare this with another state, say, Illinois. In Illinois, they are openly promoting segregation by the state-sponsored schools and nothing is being done about it.
Yep, I’m proud of Oklahoma. You should be too.
If you aren’t proud of Oklahoma today, I’m not sure what you are smoking.
One thing that I noted in MicroSecession is that guns tend to have the opposite actual effect of what is claimed. A lot of people think that guns lead to bloodshed and destruction, but, more often than not, guns prevent bloodshed and destruction.
In the book I point out that during the LA Riots the Koreans kept the peace at their places of business with guns. Here are two YouTube videos depicting that:
In the first video, they say, “they certainly have all the ingredients for a confrontation.” Actually, news guys, they have precisely the ingredients needed to avoid confrontation. The Koreans who protected their stores with guns were the only places in the city where there was peace.
A similar thing happened in the Ferguson riots.
So what happens? As Robert Heinlein once said, “An armed society is a polite society.”
I should also point out that this shows that communities are well able to take care of themselves if they choose to do so. We all need to focus more on our communities, and building bonds big enough to protect one another when necessary.
Many people get into socialist activity because they think that it is the best way to improve the world. However, history has shown, time and time again, that coerced giving is not giving at all, and it actually breeds contempt for true acts of selflessness. This has been shown over and over again in the U.S. by regulations that actually prevent people from helping their neighbors. Take for instance the time when health workers too deer meat donated to the homeless by hunters. It was packaged by a state-approved processor, and no defects were found in the meat. What did the health department do? They destroyed the meat! They poured Clorox on it! What in the world would cause someone to destroy $8,000 of valuable, defect-free meat that was given to the poor straight from the people who hunted it!?
And the end of the article is even better. It says, “The department says it is now working with hunters in ways to donate extra game to homeless shelters.” Oh, that’s great. So what the real problem was wasn’t that they were providing deer meat to the poor, but rather they hadn’t asked the right people permission ahead of time. In addition, the department decided to work with hunters after it destroyed the food. It could have done that before and found a way to keep it. But no, when doing good is a government service, they do not allow anyone to do good without checking with them first.
A recent example comes from Northern California, where an 8th grader got detention for sharing his lunch with a friend. Why? Because the food was brought from home, and therefore, to guard the safety of the student receiving the lunch, the kid had to be thrown in detention. This is ridiculous! This is a simple, easy way for people to learn and practice loving each other. But it is banned.
This brings to mind a book I read a long time ago. It was called Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War. The book was a first-person account of the Vietnam war by Buddhist nun Sister Chan Kong. While Sister Chan would claim no political affiliation for herself, and the left seemed to love her (at least for a time), I actually think what she practices is basically conservatism. Here are some examples:
- Unlike many modern people who want “universal health care”, Sister Chan actually worked to provide real health care to real people.
- Unlike many modern people who are concerned about jobs, Sister Chan actually worked to create real jobs for real people, and create new income streams and real productivity for the poor, and not makework jobs just to keep people busy. At the end of the day, the people that Sister Chan helped were whole – they didn’t depend on Sister Chan for their daily needs, but instead were able to provide for them themselves.
- Sister Chan worked almost exclusively through volunteer organizations. That is, she never forced anyone to give anything, but instead allowed people to give generously to make a difference in people’s lives.
In addition, you can see the true effect of socialism based on what happened to her organization after the socialists took over. Throughout the book Sister Chan documented lots of egregious problems she had with the Nationalist government. However, all of that paled in comparison to what happened after the socialists took over. She was simply forbidden from helping anyone out at all. All of the fears of what socialism would bring if the North took over actually came true when they did. The introduction of socialism, which is supposed to be for the improvement of the people, especially the lower class, actually prevented anyone who wasn’t government-approved from participating in any help. What happens in such a situation? If people can’t help their neighbor on their own, how are they going to learn to do so? Then, pretty soon, you are overrun with people in the government who don’t actually know how to love their neighbor, so the government becomes directly opposed to helping your neighbor, in the name of helping your neighbor. This happens. Every. Time.
I know a lot of people get into government, government social work, charitable social work, and insurance to help people. Because that is the way modern society is set up, I understand this thinking entirely, and am not opposed to the individual efforts. However, I will make a plea that, in your position, you have as a goal to foster more people to help each other for themselves as individuals, rather than trying to channel every eventuality through the system. Find more ways for people to help each other on a natural, daily, individual basis, and not through organizations. There will always be a need for some organizations and some amount of help through there. However, the organizations should have as their priority the empowerment of the people they help (not their dependence), and the empowerment of other individuals to help their fellow man without going through an intermediary of any sort. I shouldn’t have to check with an expert to validate good works. The government is not God, and should stop acting like it.
Side Note – the parent of the 8th grader said, “By all means the school can teach them math and the arithmetic and physical education, but when it comes to morals and manners and compassion, I believe it needs to start at home with the parent.” I used to think this way, too. However, I’ve come to realize that morals and manners and compassion are an integrated part of learning. The real problem is that the schools are teaching them poorly and incorrectly. This kind of thinking says that manners and morals and compassion are entirely subjective. However, I believe that while they are not coerceable, they are in fact objective and can be taught as such. However, when people like Peter Singer are running ethics departments and heading up journals, the quality of moral education on the ground goes to zero. The problem is not that they are being taught, but that we are teaching bad morality. It’s just the same as if we were teaching bad science or bad math or bad history.
Side Note 2 – this is also one of the evils of insurance (insurance is largely voluntary socialism). Once everyone believes that they should be insured against every calamity, we start having our lives run by insurance agents. In a subject that will probably get its own post soon, the churches are starting to implement anti-family policies because their insurance companies are requiring it. The Churches fear the insurance companies more than they fear God.
UPDATE another case in point. Police stopped people from saving a woman from drowning who was trapped in a car. The police themselves did not help, and the woman died.
From Live Free or Die Hard:
Farrell: I’m not like heroic or anything. I’m not brave like you are.
McClane: I’m nobody’s hero kid. Just doing my job, that’s all. F. being a hero. You know what you get for being a hero? Nothing. You get a little pat on the back, blah-blah-blah. That-a-boy. Get divorced. A wife that can’t remember your last name. Kids don’t want to talk to you. Get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.
Farrell: Then why are you doing this?
McClane:Because there’s nobody else to do it right now, that’s why. Believe me, if there was somebody else there to do it I would let them do it, but there’s not, so we’re doing it.
That’s it. He doesn’t get the glamorous life at the end. He basically returns to squalor between each episode. But the fact is, whatever is put in his lap to do, he’s going to do it, even if it means sacrificing himself. Why? Because he is the one there to do it. He’s going to do his duty. No one asked him to, in fact a lot of people asked him not to do it. There’s no million dollars at the end of the rainbow. His wife isn’t going to come back to him. But he is in a situation where others depend on him, and he is going to do what it takes to get it done. He’s not clean. He’s not nice. He’s not likable. He has every flaw you can imagine. But he is going to give himself on behalf of everyone he cares for, and even everyone he doesn’t.
Society doesn’t need perfection. It doesn’t even really need nice people. Society needs people who look to the needs of others before themselves, and are willing to do the right thing even when there is no candy at the end of the rainbow.
MacLeans has a really interesting article out about the problem of social isolation that is creeping on the US and Canada. In it, the author argues that one of the roots of personal, social, and political unrest is the fact that we have largely forgone seeing other people on a regular basis, and, when we do, it is always someone whom we meet by choice.
There has been a lot of talk about “white privilege”. While there are certainly things in modern society which could probably be linked to such a privilege, what is absolutely hysterical to watch is the rewriting of all human and societal interactions into “white privilege” or “male privilege”. In fact, it would be quite entertaining just to listen to if it weren’t for the fact that the people espousing these things often have access to power of their own. I should expound on this more when I have the time, but a lot of the things that are being touted as “male privilege”, I know from experience, are actually instances of males depriving themselves of privilege for the sake of others. As I said, it would be funny if it weren’t so sad, and if the privilege whiners didn’t have the ability to influence political pressure.
The current amusement-of-the-moment comes from idiots posting about the idea that Holocaust survivors are part of the privileged group. This is a ridiculous notion. Holocaust survivors were not just discriminated against, they were marked for death. The countries that allowed them to be saved were countries that only discriminated against them. The US is partially on that list, except that we severely limited the number of them we even let into the country. So, in other words, they were so privileged that we weren’t sure that we should let them not die.
Why did the Jews prosper? Simple. Cultural values. Jewish culture esteems community, industriousness, and personal morality. It is simple to see how these work together. Community gives you a natural group of people who you can be safe with. Is “privilege” working against you? Well, if you have a strong community, you just made your own privilege. You are part of a privileged group – you’re own community! When people complain about “privilege” in other groups, a lot of times what they are really complaining about is the lack of community that they see in their own groups. So, rather than build up community, they whine. This is also called envy. There are always times when this group or that group unjustly works against another group, and those should be called out and fixed. However, what sets apart the groups that prosper is that, because of the strength of their own community, even in the face of injustice, they are able to make good of the situation they are in.
The next value is industriousness. There is no one (or at least very few) who have literally nothing. We have our own hands and feet, and can work industriously to generate new wealth. This works with community, because by having a strong community, we have a group of people who we can work for who will not exploit us, but help us move forward. This goes along with the next value, which is personal morality. Basically, keeping the 10 commandments. Why would someone work to earn or keep something if they believe it will only be stolen from them? If everything you have you think will be stolen or envied by someone else, then your best option is to never save up, and get rid and make the most of everything you have right now. If, on the other hand, you are secure in your possessions, then you know that if you save up, it will not be stolen from you. It also means that you have to spend less guarding what is yours. If I am worried about my money being stolen, I might buy a safe – but that reduces my wealth. If I am not worried about this, then my costs go way down.
If you own a restaurant, if your employees are moral, you do not have to spend the time to add checks and balances to make sure that no one steals the money. You also don’t have to check on them to make sure they are working. If they are moral, these things are taken care of automatically. When they are immoral, they must be checked up on, and that reduces the wealth of both the owner and the employees and society at large.
Community gives you a non-exploitive environment. Industry builds wealth. Morality allows you to keep wealth without penalty. By having these virtues, the Jewish people have been able to go from a persecuted and murdered minority to a group that some idiots call a “privileged” group. Sure, it is a privilege to grow up among virtuous people. The solution to this is more virtuous people, not denigrating those who are.
One last thing – bitterness. I have noticed that many of my friends on the left are extremely bitter when it comes to issues like this. I would argue that bitterness is the most unhelpful of dispositions. What bitter people want is for the person responsible to pay, pay, pay. It is certainly an understandable position, but it is also one that is both un-Christian and ultimately detrimental to yourself. Should wrongs be corrected? Certainly. But if you want healing, the bitterness has to go. Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the opposite of bitterness. What happens when we are bitter, is that we are consumed by the guilty party. That is literally when they have the most control over us. You can see this in bitter people – they rewrite the entire story of their lives to be about how they were wronged. It literally becomes their identity. This is where the ludicrous positions of “white privilege” stories come from. It’s because they have become so entrenched in their own bitterness that they are literally rewriting reality to suit their bitterness, and can no longer see reality honestly. Their entire lives are being focused through their pain. It is only when we can let go, when we can forgive, when we can be joyful in spite of them, that their power over us ceases. It is easy to find friends who will tell us the easy things about how we have been wronged and how the other guy needs to pay, and then go on and blame them for everything else too (including our own faults). But what we truly need are people who will tell us the hard truths about how to overcome, and even perhaps the parts where we may be guilty ourselves.
One more last thing. Again, I am not saying that there aren’t instances of injustice we should seek to eliminate. But no one should imagine that these are what are holding down entire groups of people. What is holding them down are the race baiters who tell them that such values are irrelevant, and it is always someone else who is the problem. Even when that is true, the thing that actually helps the situation is increasing community, industriousness, and morality, and I would also add joyfulness, even in the face of persecution. That is the example of the Jewish people. That is their privilege.
There are many aspects of Libertarianism which are very compelling, such as their desire to remove waste, to acknowledge the power of government to do evil, and to show the power that freedom gives people to overcome their problems. However, when taken too far, Libertarianism tends to denigrate humans, and what it means to be human. The pushing of contract law as the only rational type of law points to a flawed misunderstanding of people. The restriction of the definition of “harm” to “physical harm” misunderstands the breadth of humanity – moral harm is possibly worse than physical harm, but Libertarianism doesn’t allow for that.
In a similar vein is the doctrine of the “sovereignty of the individual.” It sounds good – we all want to be our own masters, don’t we? What does this, specifically, state? It says, according to G. A. Cohen, “each person enjoys, over himself and his powers, full and exclusive rights of control and use, and therefore owes no service or product to anyone else that he has not contracted to supply.” The problem is that we do owe services, and maybe products, to others that we have not contracted to supply.
The big question is this: can you be bound – both morally and legally – to obligations duties that you did not agree to? My answer is a strong, definitive, “yes.” In fact, life is mostly about fulfilling obligations that we did not choose.
Family is the place where this is most obvious, but it applies elsewhere, too. We all have an obligation to our parents. The 10 commandments, in addition to telling us not to murder and steal, also tells us we have a basic duty to our parents. We also have a basic duty to our children, whether or not we specifically chose to have them. Abortion in all cases where the life of the mother is not also at risk is wrong, because of the duties and obligations we owe to our children, even if they were conceived in violence against our will. If a stranger drops a baby on my doorstep, I have a moral obligation to that baby to at least make sure it makes its way to another’s hands, or, if none other will take it, the obligation becomes mine. If someone is drowning next to you, and crying out for help, and you decide not to help them, you are liable for their death, and rightly so. You have obligations to others which you do not choose, and the government has a rightful role to enforce at least some of these.
Therefore, I am against the sovereignty of the individual as a general concept. However, I do think there are ideas which serve similar purposes which are not as problematic. For instance, it is problematic for the government to serve as mediator in most of these obligations. That is, if someone drops a baby on my doorstep, I am morally required to help it out. If I do not, I should be held liable. What I shouldn’t have to do is to contact the government at any point in the process as long as I am fulfilling my moral duties. The government should only invoke action if they have a legitimate reason to think that I am failing to do one of my moral obligations. So, as long as I am fulfilling my moral obligations, there is no reason for the government to mediate the operation. This gets rid of a lot of the busy-bodying that government does, without weakening the morality of the law. In addition, I would also agree that all governances should be exercise extreme caution when legislating a duty or service that we have not contracted to supply.
This is part of what I call the diminishing return of laws in MicroSecession. Part of what law does is help teach us the standards and morals of society. When that list becomes large, then the effect of each law becomes less. There are so many laws about so many things that all law is now viewed as a burden. Law can be a gift, but when done in excess it becomes a burden. Part of this is a failure to recognize the larger moral obligations to God and each other, which Libertarians usually want to get rid of. But, as G. K. Chesterton warns, “When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.” The overabundance of rules that we have is because we have forgotten the big laws, and now must be ruled by a tyranny of small laws.
In any case, while the “sovereignty of the individual” can sometimes serve as a decent heuristic, it falls flat as a general theory of governance.
Strong communities help everyone, and are an essential part of MicroSecession. Building our own communities stronger is one of the key aspects to becoming independent.
A new organization is launching, called Hood Conservatives, with the goal of reaching the inner city with conservative values and ideas. The fact is, if done right, this will probably do more to help the inner city than all of the government programs combined. They have a five-part plan, and I think it is great:
- Gun Education and Training
- Financial Independence
- Rebuilding the Family
The only thing I would add is that they must first rebuild the spiritual and moral foundations if this is to work properly.