Tuesday 10/4/16

  1. No Candidate for Homeschoolers
  2. What if Johnny never got his gun?
  3. Citizen or mere Taxpayer?
  4. Flunking Civics in the Ivy League
  5. What business must learn from Wells Fargo

1

The threats to Homeschooling are threats to any truly countercultural schooling, including Classical Education, so I perk up my eyes at things like No Candidate for Homeschoolers:

If you’re a progressive, you know in your bones that homeschoolers are up to something. Homeschooled kids are invisible to the authorities. To the average Democrat, this feels like something that shouldn’t be allowed. While most prefer not to believe that nearly 2 million homeschooled children are being abused by their parents, how can we be sure? How can anyone be sure that homeschoolers aren’t filling their children’s heads with gibberish if the state doesn’t check in once in a while?

“Homeschooling is well and good, but you should be monitored.” It’s a common refrain on the left.

For his part, Donald Trump hasn’t given the question more than a moment’s consideration. Earlier this month, he tossed off a reference to homeschooling—his first of a 16-month campaign—during a speech about vouchers and charter schools. “School choice means that parents can homeschool their children,” Trump said. “100 percent.”

Fine enough, but as with so many of his pronouncements, this comment leaves Trump’s grasp of the issue and his commitment to the underlying principle hard to ascertain. If I had to guess, I’d say that he’s moderately opposed to the idea of kids’ not going to a regular school, but thinks he has to say otherwise in order to pass as a Republican. In the final analysis, he’s a New Yorker. He probably hasn’t met or associated with many families like mine.

There is one 2016 presidential candidate who has put “leaving you alone” at the center of his campaign, but Libertarian Gary Johnson so far hasn’t touched the homeschooling issue either. In fact, he and his running mate seem to be going out of their way not to win the support of families like mine. They’d rather have the allegiance of potheads and bisexuals than the votes of a couple million liberty-loving homeschoolers.

Bottom line: “The Home School Legal Defense Association … hasn’t endorsed a candidate for president. That’s rare. Usually one candidate—typically the Republican—makes an explicit pitch. I guess this isn’t our year.”

It may not be their year again ever, though I assume some pattern will emerge again after this year of unprecedented electoral chaos. But here’s what they’re up against:

Just as communism was not possible with families adhering to the feudal-patriarchal system, so liberal democracy is believed to be incomplete and unsuccessful with schools respecting traditional moral and cultural authoritarianism. The arguments are analogous. Just as a person coming from a noncommunist community could not become a full-fledged, dedicated, and efficient citizen of the communist state, so a graduate of a traditional school will never be a faithful and reliable citizen of the liberal-democratic state.

(The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies)

2

If Dalton Trumbo had been scared off of describing being trapped in a body with no arms, legs, or face because he was not personally disabled—because he had not been through a World War I maiming himself and therefore had no right to “appropriate” the isolation of a paraplegic—we wouldn’t have the haunting 1938 classic, “Johnny Got His Gun.”

If identity politics reaches its absurd conclusion, Ms. Shriver said, “all I could write about would be smart-alecky 59-year-old 5-foot-2-inch white women from North Carolina.”

(Lionel Shriver, inveighing against the preposterous agitation against “cultural appropriation.”)

If the allusion to Dalton Trumbo eludes you, or if you don’t read, there’s a movie circa 1972 named Johnny Got His Gun and based on the book. I felt transgressive watching it because Trumbo was on our ’50s blacklists.

3

I thought David Brooks was just going to pile on Trump, but I believe he did better than that:

A healthy nation isn’t just an atomized mass of individual economic and legal units. A nation is a web of giving and getting. You give to your job, and your employer gives to you. You give to your neighborhood, and your neighborhood gives to you. You give to your government, and your government gives to you.

If you orient everything around individual self-interest, you end up ripping the web of giving and receiving. Neighbors can’t trust neighbors. Individuals can’t trust their institutions, and they certainly can’t trust their government. Everything that is not explicitly prohibited is permissible. Everybody winds up suspicious and defensive and competitive. You wind up alone at 3 a.m. miserably tweeting out at your enemies.

(David Brooks, emphasis added) This, too:

In a lovely society everybody practices a kind of social hygiene. There are some things that are legal but distasteful and corrupt. In a lovely society people shun these corrupt and corrupting things. The tax code is a breeding ground for corruption, so they don’t take advantage. The lottery system immiserates the poor so they don’t contribute to its acceptability by playing.

4

A court

…. Is an independent body and must make a decision based solely on the evidence before it. It cannot be swayed by emotion or public opinion. After the preliminary injunction, this Court was deluged with emails resulting from an organized campaign to influence the outcome. These tactics, while perhaps appropriate and effective in influencing legislators or officials in the executive branch, have no place in the judicial process. This is basic civics, and one would think students and others affiliated with a prestigious Ivy League institution [like Brown University] would know this. Moreover, having read a few of the emails, it is abundantly clear that the writers, while passionate, were woefully ignorant about the issues before the Court.

(Chief Judge William E. Smith of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island after being bombarded with email from Brown students to influence a pending case wherein a student accused of sexual assault was challenging the procedures and seeking reinstatement.)

5

Of Wells Fargo, but also generally applicable:

Employees were given impossible sales quotas to reach, and berated or even fired for not meeting them. And so they cut corners.

This is a parable for any business, even those that have nothing to do with finance. It’s an extreme version of a very basic — perhaps the most fundamental — quandary of management: How do you measure, evaluate, reward, and punish employees?

“Good work” can never be reduced to any one metric, or set of metrics. It always involves a series of choices and tradeoffs. If you give people impossible, or contradictory goals, then something will give. Salespeople will resort to fraud, or aggressive sales tactics that will hurt your brand (“Managers suggested to employees that they hunt for sales prospects at bus stops and retirement homes,” reports The Wall Street Journal), or something else. If, let’s say, a news website gives employees pageview targets, they will churn out clickbait trash. But if the website doesn’t care at all about pageviews, it will go bankrupt. There is an example like this in every industry. And if the tactic gets too extreme, yes, people will either burn out or resort to fraud.

Financial regulation cannot prevent this kind of scandal — forging signatures is already illegal. At the root of this problem is human nature: Mutually exclusive, high-pressure demands will cause people to break.

(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.