Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quotation Of The Day: Intelligence, Education, And Insults Edition

Indeed, the biggest insult to the intelligence of American teachers is the idea that their intelligence doesn't matter. “The teaching of A, B, C, and the multiplication table has no quality of sacredness in it,” Horace Mann said in 1839. Instead of focusing on students’ mental skills, Mann urged, teachers should promote “good-will towards men” and “reverence to God.” Teachers need to be good, more than they need to be smart; their job is to nurture souls, not minds. So Garret Keizer’s first supervisor worried that he might have too many grades of A on his college transcript to succeed as a high school teacher, and Elizabeth Green concludes her otherwise skeptical book with the much-heard platitude that teachers need to “love” their students.
Keizer is offended by comments like that, and he has every good reason to be. Do lawyers have to love their clients? Must doctors adore their patients? What American teachers need now is not love, but a capacity for deep and disciplined thinking that will reflect—and respect—the intellectual complexities of their job. It won’t do to simply strip away our insipid accountability systems and leave everything in the hands of present-day teachers, who are mostly unprepared for the tasks we have set before them. The US badly needs to design and develop an entirely different system of teacher education, stressing cognitive skills above all else. Anything less will leave our teachers languishing in “intellectual stagnation,” as Elizabeth Cady Stanton told Susan B. Anthony, and our schools mired in mediocrity.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wars And Rumors Of Wars: It's Still The Economy

I've just finished teaching a short Norse myth unit. Ragnarok is fresh on my mind. Coincidentally, PNR has an interesting post contending that Obama's foreign policy ensures a 21st Century World War. I have little doubt that there will be another war before my 80th birthday. Laying the blame on Obama's foreign policy which, by and large, is a continuation of the policies of previous administrations means that one should also blame every post Cold War President including Bush I, Bush II, and Clinton.

The reason for war will not be foreign policy. Writing a short post for The Week, William Falk sums it up well:
Wage stagnation — and the resulting erosion of the middle class — is this country's biggest problem. When hard work no longer produces upward mobility for workers who lack elite skills, America's implicit promise is broken. At National Review, conservative Maggie Gallagher complains that "for more than a decade Americans have been losing ground financially, and the GOP has yet to address the issue." In The Washington Post, liberal Harold Meyerson grouses that "the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to re-create…widely shared prosperity." Perhaps that's because the standard liberal and conservative nostrums (Tax the rich! Eliminate regulations!) won't address the fundamental problem: Globalization and technology have devalued both labor and workers, and made companies more ruthlessly competitive. Here's a scary thought: Neither party is offering a remedy because there isn't one.
When hard work produces disillusionment not advancement, governments will distract the populace with foreign adventures. Given that nations' economies are becoming entwined in a Gordian Knot, the distraction will be monstrous.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Minor Musing For South Dakota's Democrats

Over at Madville, Cory has spent a lot of time working through strategies for the Democrats to regroup and grow. Pat Powers has shed a few nostalgic crocodile tears about a time when Democrats were competitive. I'll add my two cents to the discussion.

First, to play Captain Obvious, elections matter. Legislative elections during sessions that determine redistricting matter more than most. Republicans won elections and did a great job of creating districts that marginalized Democrats. Democrats need to win elections that will allow them to control either the state senate or the state house before the next redistricting.

Second, conservatives in 2014 are more conservative than Ronald Reagan and liberals in 2014 are more liberal than George McGovern. Moderates in 2014 are an endangered species unless one counts pragmatism or the overhyped political term triangulation as a moderate principle.

Third, Matt Varilek and Rick Weiland prove that former staffers will likely not win.

Fourth, campaigning on education is a fool's errand. Voters may claim to care about education. They may actually care about education, but in the voting booth other issues dominate.

Fifth, winners win. Right now, Democrats have won about twenty legislative seats, a Sioux Falls mayor, and a former congresswoman whom the party may or may not wish to reject. Democrats need to win city, count, and school board elections. (Let's leave aside for the moment the fiction that those elections are non-partisan.)

Sixth, politics is played by competitive people. If Democrats provide no competition, Republicans will turn on themselves. That event, while entertaining, is also likely to produce some terrible policies.

I don't have any real answers for Democrats, but it took them a long time come to this state, It will take them a long time to rebuild.

Monday, November 3, 2014

2014 Election Night Over/Under Line

It's going to be a depressing night. South Dakota voters will grant Republicans more job security than the Soviet Union gave to members of the Politburo. I'd feel the same depression if South Dakota were a blue state, and Democrats were going to sweep. Single party rule is a disaster waiting to happen.

The only race that might prove interesting the United States Senate race, but even that race indicates that Republicans have come together to ensure a Rounds win. The real question is the voter margins with the following numbers

In the gubernatorial race, I'll set the number at 67.5% for Daugaard. 

In the disaster that is the U.S. House race, the number is 73.5%.

The most interesting race is the the United States Senate Race. I think Rounds will win. The number for the over/under bet is 45.9%. I know Bob Mercer has opined that Rounds will get 50%. As noted earlier, he Republicans are coming home to back the boy wearing an R on his jersey, but I don't think it's going to be enough to put Rounds over 50%.

The Secretary of State race should have been close; it won't be. The number here should mirror the U.S. House race. 73.5%.

The Democrats didn't nominate anyone for attorney general. Chad Haber is, well, he's Chad Haber, the husband of Annette Bosworth. I don't believe anyone will get over 90% in a general election but Jackley could come close. I'll set the number at 87.8%.

The rest of the constitutional offices share a 69.5% number.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Scripture And Song For The Week: I Samuel 8 Edition

1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

Friday, October 31, 2014

Quotation Of The Day: Governor Daugaard Should "Stop Making Fun Of Philosophy And Read Some Philosophy" Edition

The quoted part of the post's title comes from this Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry piece in The Week The guts of the argument:
And at the level of our society, there is a dramatic pragmatic stake in philosophy. We live in enormously complex, technologically advanced societies where we have the power to do a great deal of harm and a great deal of good. Our societies are built on complex institutions (such as "democracy," "the free market," and "science"), which are in turn premised on ways of looking at the world and on ideas about the world and humanity — in other words, on philosophy.
But we have become like people in a Star Trek episode whose planet is ruled by a benevolent artificial intelligence, and who live such charmed lives as a result that, over generations, they have forgotten how the computer works, so that when it breaks down, they are completely powerless to repair it, and have to call the Enterprise for help. Our entire civilization is built on technology called "philosophy" that, in many ways, we are losing a basic understanding of. . . .
. . .
Serious philosophy is valuable in itself. It is worth studying for its own sake.
But it is also the case that our society is built on ancient philosophy, and that if we forget how it works, very soon, we will break it — or it will break us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Republicans Will Likely Sweep On November 4. So What?

South Dakota voters will likely give Republicans the key to every statewide office on November 4, 2014.  The Democrats will continue to hold a few seats in the legislature but are unlikely to make any measurable gains. For the foreseeable future Republicans will have complete political power within South Dakota. Although the political landscape may change dramatically, it's likely that Republican Senator John Thune and Republican Representative Kristi Noem will will re-election in 2016.

Republicans have no real reason to celebrate. The R next to their names on the ballot provided an automatic advantage. Democrats ran no one for attorney general. Susan Wismer's campaign was lackluster. Corinna Robinson's campaign for the House of Representatives and Angelia Schultz's campaign for South Dakota Secretary of State were nonexistent. Mike Rounds should feel a sense of relief because he dodged the consequences of his actions as governor, but he can also feel a small sense of satisfaction that he defeated Rick Weiland who ran a first-rate campaign

Human nature has not changed since the factual or metaphoric Eden. Lord Acton was correct: power corrupts and absolute power corrupt absolutely. Single party dominance means South Dakotans will continue to see sweetheart deals like those of EB-5 that stretch the law beyond recognition. It will be like the South during Long era. The Longs had the virtue of being characters; their South Dakota equivalents will be no less corrupt but much more boring.

Another fact that history illustrates is that concentrated power tends to breed inertia. South Dakota is famous for granite faces and low wages. That situation will remain constant for the foreseeable future.

Finally, I will keep blogging about politics. It's a great way to vent. That said, I agree wholeheartedly with this Rod Dreher sentence on his blog at The American Conservative: “I no longer believe that politics is capable of addressing the core of our social and cultural problems.” I also agree with this Ryan Booth statement from the same post.

As a former GOP political operative and activist who has come to the same conclusion, I am now trying to come with new standards for deciding whom to vote for. One thing that I have decided is that I don’t want to vote for any “Christian conservative” who expresses hatred for liberals, as I now believe such people hurt my witness as a Christian. If someone is running as a Christian, I want to see evidence of Christian love. So, my witness now comes first.
On social issues, I see a very interesting dynamic emerging. Whether they admit it or not, the GOP (and especially the Religious Right) has basically given up on America. Their idea of America has nothing in common with the depth of community Tocqueville found. It’s rather a vision of a lone family, left alone by government and everyone else, in the woods with their guns.
I suspect South Dakota politics will see much more of the latter paragraph before it sees any of the former.