Monday, August 25, 2014

The Whistleblowers: An Indictment of the Mixed Economy and Bureaucracy

Socrates was an early whistleblower. He exposed many leaders of ancient Athens as hot-air know-it-alls and was executed for his efforts.

Today, whistleblowers usually avoid execution, though the enemies of Edward Snowden would like to bring the death penalty back for him. Most whistleblowers are harassed, labeled as troublemakers and, perhaps, as unstable; they are demoted, fired, prevented from collecting unemployment insurance, blacklisted from obtaining new employment in the same field, and sometimes sent to prison.

This is the reward they get for exposing the sleazy, dishonest practices of their superiors in the political-power-laden bureaucratic management of government.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets

In 1964, Minnesota Vikings football defensive end, Jim Marshal, picked up a fumble and ran 66 yards the wrong way, into his own end zone, causing his team to suffer a safety, or loss of two points.

To many, a faux pas such as this could result in humiliating embarrassment and a devastating blow to self-esteem. Marshall, however, realized he had a choice: either sit in his misery or do something about it. In the second half of the game he caused a game-winning fumble that was picked up by his teammate and carried to the correct end zone for the score.

This incident in essence illustrates the difference between the two mental habits or, more technically, psycho-epistemologies, described in psychologist Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Neoconservative’s Defense of Pseudo-Honor

The origin of the concept “honor,” along with its two historical meanings, can probably be traced to battle.

James Bowman in Honor: A History cites a line from the movie Black Hawk Down that suggests this. When the bullets start flying, paraphrasing a key character, politics and everything else go out the window. “It’s about the men next to you.”

The two meanings are the praise, respect, fame, and glory that derive from your peer group (the men next to you) or the value you place on human life—yours and the men’s next to you—such that your egoistic pride propels you to do whatever is required to accomplish the objective of battle, namely, to kill the enemy before he kills you.

In such a situation, it would be nice to have others at your side who share the same value. But your honor does not derive from the good opinion of your foxhole mates.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Role of Honor in Moral Revolutions

In her 1974 West Point Military Academy address, Ayn Rand said, “Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.” It is a sense of worthiness and competence that others can see in one’s deportment. It is not pseudo-self esteem that requires praise or respect from others lest an affront occur that demands satisfaction. It is not psychological dependence.

Yet that is precisely what Kwame Appiah in his book The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen means by honor. The book is interesting because it chronicles the role of honor, or at least what certain cultures have understood to be honor, in supporting and eventually eliminating the practices of dueling, footbinding, and slavery.

Appiah also suggests a desperately needed role for honor in bringing about an end to the modern, horrific practice of honor killing.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thoughts, Not Environmental Conditions, Cause Criminal Behavior

For over forty years, clinical psychologist Stanton Samenow has been interviewing criminal offenders for the courts (1, 2, 3). His conclusion is that criminals are not criminals because of their upbringing or environment, or because of what they see on television or in movies.

Criminals are who they are because of the thoughts they hold, and have held, in their minds from an early age.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Filling the Swiss Cheese Holes

A major problem with our current one-size-fits-all education is the gaps that occur in learning. Thirty or forty kids are presented with material at one time. They may work on some problems or research one topic, but then the instructor moves on. Those who don’t get it fall behind. Even those who do get most of the material, move on with what Salman Khan calls Swiss-cheese-like holes in their learning.

Khan has the solution for filling the holes. It is a technological solution, as many before him have promoted, but this one may stick in certain subjects.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Plagiarism—Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged, intentionally deceptive use of another’s words or ideas. It is not easy to prove.

Those who seek to punish guilty parties—teachers, in particular—need to be aware of the difficulties of proof, lest they become guilty of committing injustices to their students.

The mere fact that a paper “looks better than it should be,” considering the student who wrote it, or “looks like it was copied from someone else’s paper” does not provide prima facie proof of wrongdoing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

How the Government Kills Industries

Growing up in a small midwestern town in the 1950’s, I had two fantasies: traveling the country someday as member of the saxophone section of a big band and traveling to far away places on sleek, swift passenger trains. At some point in my adolescence I came to the considerably disappointing realization that both industries were dying, if not already halfway in the ground. As a result, I felt compelled to switch interests to other areas.

The government played no small part in destroying both the big bands and railroads, especially the passenger trains.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Parents: Be Your Children’s Friend—Give Them the Easy Life

“It's not our job to be our children's friend and make life easy for them,” so states a mom blogger recently. She is apparently responding to the modern disease known as “helicoptering,” the parental behavior of hovering over one’s children to make sure they suffer no pain in life.

Many issues are raised in the above false dichotomy. Let me focus on friendship and the easy life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Evita: Why We Love That Musical about a Dictator

Facts don’t matter . . . in art.

I recently attended a touring performance of the musical Evita by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice. The production debuted in London’s West End in 1978 and on Broadway in 1979. The show loosely chronicles the rise and short political life of Eva Peron, wife of Argentinian dictator Juan Peron. It is an operatic rags-to-riches love story that ends with cathartic tragedy when the heroine dies of cancer at age 33. The production comes complete with Greek chorus in the form of the character, narrator-critic Che.

Heroine? Therein lies the debate. Can the wife of a dictator be admired, and therefore her artistic portrayal enjoyed, while a talented, professional cast sings and dances to beautiful music in her name?

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