Friday, April 6, 2018

Profanity + Podcasters

 On the growing propensity for profanity among professional podcasters, I have these thoughts ~

I listen to a great number of podcasters.  While I am driving, cooking, or walking; I am dialed in, listening to many motivating researchers. My favorite topics are nutrition science, strength/fitness, brain science, productivity, and human potential.  If you are a podcast patron, then you might be able to guess some of the people to whom I lend an ear.  They will remain unnamed in this essay, as I have no desire to throw anyone under a bus.

I like to listen to smart people.  I like to ingest complex thoughts and original thoughts, especially ones which are artfully presented.  It is rejuvenating.  It is remarkably educational. If someone introduces a new idea on one of my favorite topics, I can almost feel my brain expand.  It is wonderful, really.

The problem I have run into lately is the increasing use of profanity from my favorite podcasters.  I hate to sound like an old coot, but I don’t get it.   It adds no value whatsoever to their overall presentation.  In fact, it cheapens the message.  Limiting words equal limiting thoughts, and four-letter words are dramatically limiting.   Moreover, they sideline quality thinking. Four-letter words are the equivalent of air-horns in the middle of a symphony.  Distracting.  Obnoxious. And, yes, uncivilized.  Peppering insightful propositions with foul language sullies the entire offering.  Why do they do it?

I do not want to sound judge-y.  I am not a stranger to swearing.  My husband and children will attest to the fact that every once in a while, I succumb, and out of my mouth flies a nasty word.  Not often, ok, but like everyone else, I have my moments.  But, that is what these should be – rare moments.  Sometimes life throws us a serious problem, a painful curve ball, and on those rare occasions everyone can excuse a slip – maybe even appreciate it.  Sometimes, when we reach the end of ourselves and are in a grave, apoplectic state, the only thing left to do is belch up a four-letter word.  In these rare moments, it actually seems to have some cathartic value. But, when every other sentence has an f-bomb?  Well, frankly it is boring. It simply cannot be necessary and the speaker must know that it potentially offends (therefore, evidently,  the speaker must not care), and it limits the audience – people will tune out.   

Constant swearing tells me that this speaker has limited access to words which would adequately express the emphasis he seeks.  Limited vocabulary is something I would rather not associate with my favorite podcasters.  Finding just the right words, just the right metaphors, just the right examples - is something listeners deeply appreciate.  It is harder.  It is the high road.  I think that professional podcasters ought to work a little harder to find more inventive ways, using the tools of their trade (good words!), to drive home their central message.   I do notice that when they are speaking on behalf of the advertisers on whose income they rely, they never swear.  When selling some new brand of tea or coffee or exercise gimmick or educational supplement, they sound different.  They provide good details, examples of how these things have worked for them or others, and they do not swear.  Frankly, a professional who is in the business of selling – and I don’t care what you are selling – ought not to swear.  Period.  

Podcasters, hear this:  You are listened to and admired by thousands of people, many of them young and still impressionable.  If they hear you debase your own speech with ugly idioms maybe this is what they will try to do …. on an interview or at a dinner party.  Bad idea.  You do have a responsibility to your listening public.  Why not help civilization raise the bar?  Why not stay on the high road when you are speaking to thousands and thousands every day? Choose to do what is harder - find the right words to communicate your important ideas.  Turn away from the easier, lazier thing -  end the constant cussing.  If you are going for that cool, informal sound of youth, then I think you need to come to terms with the fact that the great majority of you are not 21, and your young listeners know this.  Please do not sink to the depths of a bloviator from a barstool.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Home Education is Not the Problem

The Center for Home Education Policy – A Solution in Search of a Problem

I was with great interest that I read The Washington Post Magazine’s article, by Lisa Grace Lednicer, on this new enterprise – The Center for Home Education Policy.

The young people who run this organization were homeschooled and their goal is to help those who do not like the homeschool life their parents have designed for them.  The Center for Home Education Policy wants to help young men and women “escape” their homeschools, and, rather presumptuously, will offer some basic life skills support in the process.

Sarah Hunt and Carmen Green are rather accomplished young people (Rhodes Scholar candidate and Georgetown Law).  They have an outstanding command of the king’s English, did well at college, and clearly know how to get a job done.  This  puts them head and shoulders above most of their brick-and-mortar-schooled peers.  They are not poster children for some backwoods, Bible-thumping, slop-‘dem-hogs-or-else kind of parenting.  I bet that the parents of these enterprising young adults are exceedingly proud of them, as well they should be.

The goal of The Center for Home Education is more government regulation of home education, but as this essay will point out, there are errors and omissions in their petition.

The Center for Home Education Policy zooms in on fundamentalist Christianity as a culprit while ignoring other forms of religion-motivated, segregating, educational options.   This is troubling.  If The Center for Home Education Policy truly cares about the isolating and rigid circumstances which can be found in some extremely religious homes, and if they care about how hard it is for the young lives trapped there, then it would definitely need to put a wide-angle lens on the camera.  Christians are not the only home educators out there.  What about the solitariness of Amish children?  What of the detachment of children in conservative, orthodox Judaism?  Finally, what about the confinement, oppression and degradation of young Muslim girls?  These cultures represent huge homeschool communities -  why doesn’t the Center for Home Education Policy “go there”?

I think it is because they would not feel comfortable stomping around the sacred grounds of a culture they do not know, even if it does have practices which offend their sensibilities.  Maybe they have more respect for the rituals of these religious cultures than for their own?  Regardless, their approach to helping home educated youth seems biased.  They appear to be on a targeted witch hunt, and it robs their goals of integrity and sincerity.

On the claims of abuse and starvation in these fundamentalist homes, it is imperative to point out the difference between families who are truant and families who home educate.  Truant families do not send kids to school.  Neither do they homeschool.  They do nothing at all because they are bad people.  Legislating home education will do nothing at all to save kids from bad parents and creating a police state where kids are checked up on regularly steps into a very menacing space.   The corruption in large government, bureaucratic departments which aim to “help children” is legendary.  Relying on any agency to verify the integrity of a homeschool (against whose standards?) has a distinctly Orwelian stench.  Bad people who fail to send their kids to school ALWAYS claim to be homeschooling.  Hunt and Green have erroneously conflated these two groups.

Think.   How many public-school kids suffer at the hands of bad parents?  Tragically, too many to count.  Why don’t we blame public education for this?  Why don’t we seek some oversight in these families?  If a few of the 1.8 million homeschool kids are mistreated in their homes, this is a terrible thing.  But here is a much worse statistic – thousands and thousands of kids, who are not homeschooled, are mistreated in their homes each year. Thousands of kids who attend public schools are victims of abuse.   Kids who attend public school are also much more likely to be murdered - while AT the school.  Child abuse is ghastly and heart-breaking and for the sake of those victims, I think we should interpret the data correctly.

Hunt and Green explain that many kids who were homeschooled in isolating circumstances need very basic life skills training and academic remediation as well.  I have caught one or two rare glimpses of this, so I do not disagree entirely.  But it is very disingenuous to suggest that this is common in home education.  It is not common.  It is rare.  It is, however, very common to meet a middle schooler who attends a public school and who still cannot read.   Of the young people who fill our prisons and who drop out of high school or college, the overwhelming majority went to a public school.  That is a very scary outcome.

You see, the question that does need an answer is this:  Why are so many young people who come out of our nation’s public schools not prepared for college, for life, and for self-sufficiency?  This is a problem that needs a solution, but it is not a problem generally found in homeschool homes.

More importantly, today’s headlines have revealed how public school students are narrowly formed around a bubble of progressive, politically-correct, left-of-center orthodoxy.  The shocking events on our nation’s college campuses show us how very intolerant and viciously protective that isolating piece of society can be.  (Here, I am referring to the isolation which public education molds.)

Now  -  take a look at the Nation’s Report Card 

THIS is terrifying.  None of the kids represented in these statistics were home educated.  This is a crisis, a tragedy, and a terrible injustice.  On a GRAND scale.   How can one point fingers at a very few ill-prepared homeschool children, when an entire nation is facing an academic extinction event brought to us compliments of ….no, not home education…. but that wondrous alternative known as public education?  The author of this article, Lisa Grace Lednicer, failed to show the Nation’s Report Card or the Homeschool Report Card.   Such an omission is not cool.

The numbers and the research speak volumes.  This is why I think that The Center for Home Education Policy is a solution in search of a problem.  Home education builds better citizens.
The problem is public education.

In the Washington Post article, Sarah Hunt explains that some homeschoolers do not even know what the SAT is.  The direct opposite has been my experience.  I have heard the same things, year in and year out, from homeschool teens who take the SAT or ACT.  Homeschooled teens come away shocked at how oblivious the other students are about these tests.  During the test breaks they listen to bewildered comments from the school kids, many of whom do not even know why they are there. These public school students are shocked to find out that the test is 3.5 hours long.  They are shocked to learn that they must write an essay.   They are shocked to learn that they must know Geometry to do the math portion.  My own four kids (each took SAT 2 to 3 times in total) were flabbergasted at how unskilled and vulnerable these kids seemed.  And they felt pity for them.

As someone who consults with parents during the college application process - parents of homeschoolers as well as parents of public school students – I can tell you that there is a huge difference between the two.  Homeschool parents are much more aware of the requirements for graduation and the criteria for admission to college.  For many homeschool families, the proof of the pudding arrives during the first year in college.  This is when homeschool kids truly shine.  Colleges are eager to have them and they thrive, while many of their public schooled peers do not. 

I think that Hunt and Green have focused on the wrong data.   To illustrate this point - imagine you are in a room where there are 100 young people who were very poorly educated and who come from wacky families.  Now, imagine that 3 of them were home educated.  How can you hope to be taken seriously when your take-away from this is that more regulation is needed in home education, when the real problem is in the BIG numbers … the 97 other people?  It does not make sense.

The timing of this article and, indeed, the timing of the whole “homeschool monitoring” message is suspicious, given the present political climate.  There is an elephant in the room, which may be the real reason for the howls for “home education monitoring”.  It is this - the inevitable a la carte approach to education.  If the US moves toward a voucher model for education then home education will grow even more.  So, best to start the bleating and barking for more controls now, right?

I wish The Center for Home Education Policy well but remain convinced that they are a solution in search of a problem.  I hope they turn their well-formed minds to the real problems in education, where they might rescue countless children lost in an intellectual and cultural wasteland.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Race Politics Rescue?

How Race Politics Tempered Republican Rhetoric
(and maybe saved them from self-immolation)

These are days of unprecedented public displays of hate – we have born witness to four months of lunacy and political violence from the left and it has most citizens on edge.  What is going to happen next and how will it end?

Only a few lone voices predicted the Trump triumph in November – true.  However, I don’t think anyone at all predicted the unhampered hurricane of hostility from the Democratic Party.      While catching my breath in between reports of physical assaults and property damage, and while trying to escape the scathing rants against President Trump and his family members, I found myself reflecting on the anger of Republicans over the past 8 years.

I recall how infuriated I was when Obama cancelled my medical insurance, but the peak of Republican rancor during the Obamacare debacle was found in a filibuster, via 21 hours of a talking Ted Cruz.  There were no riots.  No one ever imagined attacking Democrats who were sporting Obama hats, and no one launched savage personal attacks on Barrack, Michelle or their daughters.

Maybe conservatives are more even-tempered.   But, consider this possibility:  The strident political rhetoric of the Obama years was kept in check because no one wanted the public to confuse scorn for Obama’s collectivism with racism. 

I remember the worst times for conservatives during the Obama years.  They included rage over multiple lies surrounding Obamacare, the arbitrarily altered deadlines, inclusions and exclusions, and the enormous increase in premiums for the middle class.  The umbrage also rose when he violated the First Amendment right of internet service providers, when he failed to prosecute the IRS scandal, when he ran lemming-like into the transgender bathroom bungle, and when he repeatedly ran the country like a king, usurping legislative power by way of one executive order after another.   

Where were the barbaric attacks on his supporters at our college campuses and on our city streets?   Where the personal impugnments - the personal denigrations?

These did not happen.

The fact that Barrack Obama is African-American and that he was our country’s first black president curbed the language of hate (and I am glad for this).  Of course, Republicans did not have disregard for Obama because of his ethnicity.  They detested his Euro-socialism and his disdain of American values.  Rather than have anyone mistake biting criticisms of his policies for racism, the sharpest words of the conservative’s ire went unuttered. 

So, instead of devolving into the often violent, sandwich-board lunatics we now see in the news daily, the GOP carries on, with its self-regard fully intact.    The race-motivated restraint exercised by the Republicans stands in stark contrast to the present unrestrained brutality of the left.  That is why, in just four months, the Democratic party is in a mess and the GOP, while flawed, is intact, albeit changed.