Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

On this 4th of July, as we observe the continuing collapse of our economic system and the incipient socialist takeover of the United States, let us try to remind ourselves of the meaning of Independence, its principles and necessity.

"Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgement and nothing can help you escape it -- that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life." -- Ayn Rand

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers." -- Ayn Rand

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel." -- Ayn Rand

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." -- Thomas Jefferson

"He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions." -- Thomas Jefferson

"A man's moral sense must be unusually strong if slavery does not make him a thief." -- Thomas Jefferson

"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all." -- Thomas Jefferson

"A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends, and that the most liberal professions of good will are very far from being the surest marks of it." -- George Washington

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness." -- George Washington

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action." -- George Washington

"Power always sincerely, conscientiously, de très bon foi, believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak." -- John Adams

"We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form." -- John Adams

The Declaration of Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Montessori Classroom Part II: Sensorial

For Part I: Practical Life, click here.

The Sensorial area focuses on the isolation and identification of essential characteristics of physical reality to increase a child’s perceptual range and introduce skills for ordering one’s thoughts in a manner conducive to supporting later explorations in mathematical reasoning and language development. It follows introduction to the Practical Life area but may be explored concurrently after the basic prerequisite skills are acquired by the student. This essay will attempt to summarize the purpose of the Sensorial curriculum area, its relevance to the curriculum, the nature and theory of the material design and sequence, the principles active in presenting the work to a child, the concept of the ‘Three Period Lesson’, and how Sensorial prepares the student for future studies in math and language.

The Sensorial area is designed to expand the range and depth of sense perceptions by a child. Percepts are composed of sensory data refined into algorithms of experience. That is to say that the creation of any perception is composed of the repetitive observation of certain sensory characteristics. When a particular sensory experience has been repeated so much that it becomes automatically identifiable, then it becomes integrated into a percept. Percepts are what we access when we perceive something. It is an awareness of a certain quality of an object as opposed to other qualities. Our perception expands as our distinctions in sensory definition become more subtle. For instance, a newborn baby most likely has access only to a very confused array of sensory impressions. As the baby gains experience in noticing differences between these sensations, the baby gains the ability to integrate certain senses into percepts. For example, length, color, size, weight, and so on. The more experience the child obtains, the more refined that child’s perceptual distinctions become. The child becomes aware of graded differentiations which aid its mind in ranking and ordering the attributes of objects in its environment. Children move through this progression naturally. There are sensitive periods that the child passes through which are like windows of opportunity for the child to acquire a wide variety and depth of skills. When a child is in the sensitive period for the development of a particular skill or perception, that child can show amazing command of concentration and repetition for mastery. As the child acquires more depth and variety of perceptions and builds their experience, the child eventually acquires the ability to integrate those perceptions into concepts. This is the child’s first foray into abstraction and opens the door to all later conceptual knowledge. As such, the ability to make unit-based discriminations with various sense perceptions would seem to stand at the very base of human knowledge.

The Sensorial area encourages the refinement of this skill by making available to the child sets of materials which isolate one sensory characteristic and requires the child to master the grading, matching, and distinction of that characteristic. For example, the Red Rods are a series of red rods of various lengths, all graded in differences of 10cm. The shortest is 10cm, the longest is 1m. Through the mastery of this material, a child will gain a refined perception of length measurement based on accepted and functional units. Repetition is built into the design and layout of the materials to encourage mastery and internalization. The Red Rods are ordered once on the rug and then returned to the same order on the shelves. Other Sensorial materials provide similar experiences with other perceptions. Children have a sensitive period for ordering their environment and the activities in Sensorial appeal directly to this predilection. The controlled practice of these skills is also intended to help children reorganize and classify information that they have already internalized. In some cases, a child may have internalized a distorted or inaccurate sense of length or size or some other perceptual faculty. Attention to organizing the materials in a carefully graded unit sequence will enhance their appreciation of perceptions in context and help them correct mistakes in percept integration and the organization of those perceptions in their mind. Furthermore, the fact that all introductory materials isolate one sense perception acts as an early warning system to alert the teacher of any potential disabilities which could impede the child’s progress. This diagnostic function makes it easier for the teacher to quickly assess the needs of the children and offer such support and intervention as would be required. Additionally, the Sensorial materials utilize a child’s need to move, develop muscular control and tactile memory, and help prepare the students for later studies in math and language through developing appreciation of 1:1 correspondences in the matching of identical sets of variegated degree. An example of the latter would be the Thermic Tablets, where the child must find the tablets of matching surface temperature. There is only one tablet of each material, there is only one answer, and the child need not be corrected by the teacher for the differences are self-evident. A more in-depth discussion of how Sensorial prepares children for math and language will follow later. However, it would first be proper to provide an explanation of what exercises are included in the Sensorial area, how are they arranged, and what is the underlying rationale for their design.

The Sensorial area is divided into sections based on each of the five senses: visual (sight), muscular-tactile (touch), auditory (sound), olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste). The primary sensitivities of young children are to the visual and muscular-tactile senses. Because of this, the greater part of the sensorial materials focus on these two senses, and between these are predominantly based on visual discrimination. The progression of the materials follows a logical chain of building complexity which seeks to develop a series of sense perceptions focusing on just one aspect at a time.

The first materials in Sensorial are dedicated to refining a child’s visual sense of size. The Knobbed Cylinders are a series of 4 similar works. Each one is a block of wood with ten cylinders cut out. Each cylinder has a knob on top by which to be grasped. The cylinders themselves vary by one dimension (either diameter or height) and later a combination of two dimensions (diameter and height). The child practices removing and replacing the cylinders to refine their perception of these differences. These are followed by the Pink Cubes, which are stacked from largest to smallest to develop a sense of order and refine perception of size and height. Next are the Brown Quadrilateral Prisms, which are sequenced horizontally from thickest to thinnest. These refine the perception of thickness. The Red Rods, as stated previously, develop perception of length. Finally the Colored Cylinders are the twin of the Knobbed Cylinders except they are color coded, have no knobs, and have no accompanying wood blocks to serve as a control of error. These represent a step into the abstraction of the previously introduced dimensions from a highly controlled relationship into recognition in the environment—that is, where the control of error is only evident if the dimension being graded is perceived by the child. Previously, the control of error would depend on whether or not all cylinders fit flush into their holes. Once the Colored Cylinders are introduced, the child can now sequence the cylinders based on their visual perception of the graded variation in size. This concept of control of error is a critical point in the design strategy of the materials. Every set of materials must isolate one aspect of sense perception and, for each set, error must be instantly recognizable by the child as they work.

The next sequence of materials focuses on building the perception of various forms. These start with a series of works which expose the child to a broad representation of geometric shapes in two and three dimensions. These are followed by the Constructive Triangles, which are a series of boxes of triangles which are used to construct various geometric shapes from equilateral triangles to rhomboids and trapeziums. Next comes a series of three-dimensional cube-shaped puzzles. Each one focuses on developing visual awareness of an algebraic concept as a concrete spatial relationship years before it would be reintroduced in abstract mathematical form. These are followed by the Square of Pythagoras, which introduces the visual perception of the difference of squares, and the Leaf Cabinet, which introduces children to the study of more abstract geometric forms and prepares them for the study of biology.

The last sequence of materials developing visual perception focuses on defining distinctions of color, and tint. The first of the Color Boxes contains only a set of pairs of primary colors. The six tiles are simply randomized and paired up. The other boxes increase the depth of a child’s distinctions by providing greater variations of color and requiring the child to organize and match them accordingly.

After the visual works come the other four senses. First is the Muscular-Tactile sense. The Fabric Boxes and Tactile Boards develop a child’s sense of touch and texture. The Baric Tablets refine the perception of relative weight. The Thermal Tablets and Cylinders require the matching of materials based on surface temperature. The Auditory, Olfactory and Gustatory senses are refined with primarily stand-alone materials. The Sound Cylinders are used to refine the sense of hearing by requiring the child to match like pairs of cylinders which generate different sounds when shaken. The Smelling Cylinders refine the sense of smell by likewise requiring the child to match like pairs of scent. The Tasting Bottles also require the matching of like pairs based on different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, spicy, or bitter.

All the materials above follow a consistent strategy in design. All the materials involve the grading or matching of variations in a specific, isolated quality. All include a self-evident control of error. All support the development of gross motor skills by requiring the child to physically move the materials a fair distance, assemble them, and then return them to their original place and orientation. They also proceed in the necessary logical sequence of moving from concrete realizations of the perception involved to more abstract realizations. Just as with the Knobbed and Colored Cylinders, the work with geometric shapes moves from handling real objects in the Geometric Cabinet to identification of abstract representations of shape in the form of line drawings on cards. There are also certain guidelines in the presentation of the materials during a lesson which ensure that attention is drawn to the essential characteristics concerned.

First, the teacher must decide when it is appropriate to introduce a child to a given work. Has the child mastered the skills required to handle the materials? Are their fine motor skills sufficiently developed from exercises in Practical Life? Have they indicated an interest in the materials? Have they already had sufficient experience with the preceding materials? Is their maturity such that they can be entrusted with carrying large or delicate objects and treat them with respect? Have the ground rules for showing respect for their peers and the environment been properly established? If the teacher is confident that the answers to these questions are positive, then the next step is to invite the child to a lesson on the proper use of the new material.

The form of the invitation communicates an undercurrent of meaning. This meaning is highly relevant to the child’s perception of the teacher-student relationship and the social dynamic of the educational environment. If the invitation takes the form of a command, the child may interpret this as an authoritarian interaction where the teacher is trying to impose their own will upon the desires of the child. It is because of this that this step is called, “invitation”. If the student asks the child to come and learn this work, the child feels they have a choice and will be less likely to resist instruction. Also, this can serve as a check to see if the child is ready to engage the work for any number of reasons from lack of confidence to lack of normalization. Either way, even a “no” answer would be informative and direct the teacher to assess possible reasons for the hang-up or delay. Forcing the lesson would have no effect. You can put information, in any form, in front of a person’s eyes, but their mind must be actively engaged in the material to learn. The child will learn when the time is right.

When the child is ready and accepts the lesson, the teacher names the material. The names may seem arbitrary but they actually represent the distinguishing characteristic of the work to the child and expose them to the actual vocabulary that they will need in later academic pursuits. For example, “the Pink Cubes” are called the “Pink Tower” in AMI teacher programs, or they could be called the “Pink Blocks” or “Wood Blocks”. The difference is that while being pink and cube-shaped, they could still be arranged in a variety of patterns. Therefore, the name “Pink Cubes” represents more their essential defining features than “Pink Tower”. Also, the word “cube” is an academic word useful in geometry and mathematics. It is better to use these words as soon as possible and in a concrete and physical context. Early exposure to academic language helps children to adopt precise vocabulary without having to comprehend the abstract reasoning for the distinctions. Even better, such attention to precision of language allows children to mentally arrange, with clear distinctions, a variety of subtle concepts—and this without later having to untangle them from vague and imprecise terminology. An added benefit is that the use of these mysterious sounding words from the adult vocabulary will help to entice the children to be curious about the materials and give them an added sense of pride and accomplishment when they have mastered them. Imagine the glint in a child’s eye as they boast that they have mastered the quadrilateral prisms.

The next series of steps helps the child understand how best to prepare the materials for work. The teacher must clearly indicate where the materials are stored in the classroom and he should be familiar with its initial orientation. This is so the child can be successful in finding, retrieving, working on, and then returning the materials properly. Likewise, the teacher should always carry the materials in the manner that they desire the child to carry them. Children learn by watching. Also, some materials are quite large compared to a child’s frame and careful forethought about how best to hold the materials is essential to classroom harmony. Before this, however, the teacher must decide if these materials should be used on a rug or at a table. Some materials will be too large to use at most any table in an average classroom. Some may be small, but have a large number of pieces that must be laid out over a large space. The child, too, is a factor. A sufficiently normalized child who can focus on their work may be well able to handle a complex set of materials on a rug without incident. However, a less focused child may need the visual and physical order and boundaries imposed by the limits of a table and chair.

Once the material has been brought to the rug or table, the physical position of the teacher in relation to the child becomes an issue. Most material instructions assume a right-handed teacher teaching a right-handed student in a one-on-one situation. In the event of a group lesson, the teacher may want to sit opposite the group and reverse the presentation, although this runs the risk of the children reversing the procedure in their minds and doing things backwards. The teacher may be left-handed, or the student may be. Depending on the essential nature of the work it may be necessary to reverse hands or seating position so that the line of sight is not blocked by arm and hand position. Once these issues have been resolved, the lesson proper may begin.

The activity, or principal action of the presentation, must be clearly named. For example with the Red Rods, the teacher would say, “I am going to grade the red rods from longest to shortest.” The teacher should state the action before it is begun. This is closely connected with another aspect of a lesson, which is the arrangement of the materials prior to the principal action. Once again with the Red Rods, they are usually brought to the rug in a certain sequence dictated by their initial position in the classroom and then placed on the rug in a random orientation. Once this is completed, the teacher would name the principal action as stated above and then proceed to arrange the rods in the stated sequence. The random orientation is usually consistent throughout the manipulatives and thus aids in handling new materials. For instance, matching or sorting lessons usually require the materials to be laid out in a line above the work space before they are matched, sorted, or reassembled. The teacher must also decide when, how, and to what extent the child should be allowed to actively participate and to engage the materials during the progress of the lesson. It will be easier to retain the focus of some children by allowing them to touch the materials. Although some lessons will require being shown to completion before the child will be able to appreciate what must be done. The teacher must decide based on experience and familiarity with the given student. Finally, the teacher must demonstrate how to return the materials to their original condition and place in the classroom. Reversing procedures is not something which comes naturally to some children, so it is best to demonstrate the full clean-up process.

Now that the main principles for presenting the materials have been discussed, the method of actively teaching nomenclature must be addressed. The model used by Montessori is based on Seguin’s Three Period Lesson. The Three Period Lesson is presented after the child has already been introduced to a set of materials and had ample opportunity to manipulate the materials for themselves. The rationale is that the child must have had enough experience to develop the ability to perceive the essential characteristics of the materials necessary for their manipulation before they hope to attach a name to that characteristic. Learning to subsume those percepts into the concept of a word describing essential characteristics is the fundamental operation of conceptual abstraction.

In the first ‘period’, the teacher isolates two objects from the materials which differ the most. The teacher then presents those materials in juxtaposition to emphasize their essential difference. At this point the teacher names that difference. For example, with the Geometric Solids, the teacher would place the cube and sphere next to each other. They would say, “This is a cube” while pointing to the cube. Then the teacher would say, “This is a sphere” while pointing to the sphere. Depending on the level of the child, the teacher could perhaps then introduce some other forms such as cylinder, prism, pyramid and others. Generally, though, it is best to keep the first lessons as simple as possible. Also the same set of materials can sometimes be used to introduce various concepts. The Pink Cubes can, for example, be used to introduce the distinction between highest and lowest as well as largest and smallest or even ordinal numbers like “first, second, third”.

In the second period, the teacher tests the child for recognition of the vocabulary taught in the first. The teacher could use a sequence of simple commands to see if the child is properly recognizing the terms. Once again using the Geometric Solids as an example, the teacher could say, “Point to the cube.” If the child correctly executes the command, then the teacher would move on. “Put the sphere under the rug.” If the child happened to select the cylinder by mistake, the teacher would correct in a positive manner. “That is a cylinder. This is a sphere. Put the sphere under the rug.” As long as the child fails to properly recognize the commands with verbal cues only, the teacher continues with the second period. It is important to note here that the teacher never corrects sternly. The teacher must always maintain a calm and nurturing disposition. This process can continue as long as necessary and can be built on in later sessions to further develop vocabulary. Once the teacher is confident that the child can respond to verbal cues, instruction enters the third period.

In the third period, the teacher prompts the child to produce the vocabulary taught in the first two periods. To test the child’s retention of the vocabulary, the teacher makes sure to use no verbal cues. Pointing to the cube, the teacher simply asks, “What’s this?” If the child says, “It’s a cube!” then the child has successfully demonstrated their knowledge and no further guidance is necessary. If the child cannot answer, then the teacher knows that further assistance is necessary and should return to the second period.

The method of applying the Three Period Lesson after the experience of developing perceptual awareness is highly effective in preparing children for work in Mathematics and Language. That the process teaches children technical nomenclature has already been discussed. Almost more important is the series of foundational principles that work with the Sensorial materials helps children acquire. Children not only learn to name objects but to perceive subtle similarities and differences between forms. This is a critical skill in developing the ability to differentiate between written characters—a fundamental reading skill called letter recognition. This is also helpful in helping children recognize the differences between written numbers—a prerequisite skill for all formalized mathematics. Sensorial also prepares the children for comprehension of the base-10 decimal system. All graded materials such as the Pink Cubes and Colored Cylinders have ten pieces to be removed and replaced in a set sequence. They also prime the children for unit measurement because all materials differ in unit differences based on the metric system. This means that as they develop their awareness of the qualities of the materials, they develop a physical appreciation of the unit multiplication of surface area and volume. The Constructive Triangles help prime children for later explorations in formulating geometric proofs and the Knobbed Cylinders help children develop an appreciation for 1:1 correspondence, the awareness that one number corresponds to one thing. Once children realize this, it opens them up to be able to combine numbers through adding, removing them through subtraction and then on to other higher functions. The Knobbed Cylinders can also be seen as introducing the children to the concept of an empty set, or zero. The sight of the wood block with all pieces removed is a perfect visual image of a null set placeholder.

Children are also primed for studies in Language through use of the Sensorial materials. The grading and sequencing of parts is always conducted left-to-right and top to bottom. The layout of the materials on the shelves follows the same pattern. This is because it is the standard pattern for written English and most other European languages. It is interesting to note, that this sequencing and layout can be adjusted in countries where the standard layout is right to left or top to bottom. Children engage in basic problem solving skills like trying to determine logical sequencing and gradation, finding the missing piece, memorization, deconstruction and reassembly. These are fundamental skills used in reading to fill-in meaning from contextual clues, to remember sight words, and to blend together phonetic compounds. Comparing like parts to a larger whole is also integral to breaking apart compound words and longer words for easier reading and comprehension. Finally, the independent, one-on-one nature of the Sensorial materials enables children to develop a sense of self-motivation and a positive attitude towards self-correction. These are necessary for maintaining a positive and productive future attitude in the study of any academic discipline. Nonetheless, the potential for group learning and peer mentoring ensures that if the child has the inclination, they can be fully supported by friends working together to mutual advantage.

The Practical Life area prepares the children for meaningful exploration and participation in their environment and daily lives. Sensorial helps children expand the breadth and depth of their perceptual apparatus and helps prime their minds for the patterns of order and scale which form the foundation for later studies in mathematics and language. Sensorial also introduces students to technical terminology in geometry, mathematics, and biology. The hands-on, individualized paradigm introduced in Practical Life is further developed in Sensorial and helps instill a heightened sense of concentration, independence, and confidence—all skills necessary to ensuring that future explorations of academic disciplines are self-motivated and fulfilling.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

John Allison - A Living Example of the Objectivist Ethics

I saw this video lecture today and I was captivated. Allison perfectly synthesizes the Objectivist ethics into a practical, matter-of-fact, and easy to understand presentation. I highly recommend this, especially if you're a new-comer to Ayn Rand's work and are having difficulties understanding what she's really all about. But I also think it would be refreshing for veterans in the philosophy as well. As always, why not check it out and decide for yourself?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Health Care Debate: Splitting Families Down the Middle

This is an exchange between me and my sister. I've posted it here because I feel it represents clearly the split in the nation on healthcare. Also due to the way she has handled our differences and her choice to cut all ties and continue to denounce me in forums where I cannot defend myself and behind my back, I have decided to end all connection with her.

I'd like you to note the tone of contempt with which she starts out and then notice as she gradually becomes more and more blatantly abusive the more I try to debate the points she brings up. She accuses me of not being civil, but I maintain that all I have done is restate exactly what she has claimed. The exchange ended with her defriending me and severing all contact, which I assume gives me full license to reproduce this conversation on my page so that she doesn't have free-reign to distort the issue any further. If you're interested, please feel free to read this and comment freely. I would be interested in other perspectives on the exchange. You be the judge--who was being rational? Who was flying off the handle with vague accusations?

[Further note: she decided this was hilarious enough to repost this on her page as a note with the heading: "Call me a liberal, but I thought this conversation was fun enough to share...", that was right before I responded with "Well, at least you're being a little more honest now" Let's just say she lost her sense of humor soon after that.]

[Names have been removed to protect the identity of those involved--a courtesy she did not extend to me.]

AmericanAntitheist joined the group WE THE PEOPLE will NOT COMPLY with SOCIALIZED HEALTHCARE!


Some of us people want socialized healthcare.


Also you've never lived in a country with socialized healthcare :S


True, but there should be a public option because it is the only way to actually control costs. Today, a given portion of the population is not covered by insurance, these are the same people who both lack preventable care, and will wait until they are sicker before going to the ER and hence need more treatment and more expensive treatment. The hospital can try to bill them, but may not suceed, causing the hospital to absorb costs. The hospital in turn raises thier fees, which causes the insurance to raise thier premiums. Fact is, we are already paying for the uninsured's treatment, just ineffectively.


Cost control doesn't work. It just drives down quality. You're ignoring the fact that one of the major reasons insurance and health care expenses are so high is because of the confused nature of and depth of government presence in the health care industry already. Inconsistency in application of malpractice law has driven malpractice insurance through the roof. In the absence of any transparent and explicit guidelines, doctors often feel they have to assign extra tests just to cover their liabilities. This drives up the premium of general diagnostic care. Other hidden costs associated with corporate and small business taxation drive up the cost of employment so that more and more companies shoulder less and less of the benefit cost. Add to this that federal law prohibits insurance companies from competing across state lines and thus eliminates the possibility of developing an economy of scale. Also, one more thought...if socialism worked so great, then wouldn't soviet doctors have been the best in the world? Oh, that's right, most of them risked life and limb to get out. Over regulating the medical industry creates the very serious risk of driving skilled professionals out of medicine and into other fields, or of creating "bubbles" of certain kinds of practitioners. Japan is constantly dealing with these problems. Not enough maternity specialists, so pregnant women die in the ambulance as it runs round in circles for hours trying to find an open maternity ward. Not to mention the complete lack of preventative care. Doctors can only claim a certain amount from the national insurance per visit, so they have to drag out your care as long as possible. I had to go to the dentist 5 times before one would actually pull my wisdom tooth. I get back to the US and my dentist takes care of everything in a couple months. Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.


They call it an option because it is optional - you can still get regular insurance if you want it. And nobody's saying cold-war Russia was better (tell me you aren't a tea-bagger, please tell me that). But, one way or another, we the people are still shouldering the cost. Do you really think that the insurance companies aren't also driving the MDs out of their fields with pre-authorization clauses and deny-first policies and endless phone trees just to get paid for a single office visit? Why do office visits cost a 120$? Because you see the doctor for 15 minutes, and it takes an additional 1.5 hours of work to get the claim paid. And, it's almost always for profit. So every dime the insurance company can take and not pay out, goes into a golden bucket for the CEOs, whose greed is usually limitless and guilt-free. It is therefore not in their own best interest to pay your claims, it is in their best interest to cancel your policy if you are *too* sick. Once you are retroactively canceled on a technicality, you are well and truly screwed, because your hospital stay was twenty thousand dollars and since you weren't technically insured to begin with, now a pre-existing clause applies on any new policy you try to purchase - meaning they will not cover any future expenses for your illness. Now, you must claim bankruptcy, assuming you are alive, and the burden of that cost goes back to the hospital who passes it on in a never game of hot potato. All I'm saying is that since we are shouldering the cost anyway, and since it isn't truly a free market, but is instead nearing a monopoly, we may as well have it regulated and standardized. Besides, there is medicare and social security and the ER but if you are not old enough and neither sick enough nor poor enough, you fall between the cracks because these programs do not cover everyone. I'm looking out for my own best interests, when I say let's get a public option in place before the potato lands on me.


I'm not a tea bagger in that I've never been to one of the tea parties, but I am an Objectivist, which means that I hold that the responsibility of the government is to protect individual liberty and little else. The notion that somehow the government has the ability to magic health care to every body at no cost is ridiculous. Health care is not a right. Insurance is not a right. We cannot be entitled to services which require a living being to bestow them. We can only negotiate terms to mutual advantage. The notion that somehow we will be saving money by having the government handle it for us ignores the reality that every single government entitlement program adds a the burden of running a new bureaucracy to the real cost of all the services involved. It also ignores that evry single government move into the provate sector has had negative repurcutions across the economy. Is the current system corrupt? Yes. But the reason is not the unfettered greed of private corporations, the reason is the stinking cronyism of corporations propped up by government bailouts who are endorsed and subsidized into continuing unprofitable activities and who then pass that loss onto the consumer. Just as public education drives up the cost of private education and provides a mediocre product, you can expect the presence of a public insurance program to drive up the costs of private insurance even more and to manifest itself in all sorts of hidden taxes (i.e. the value of our currency, inflation, and the other possibilities I stated previously.) Is reform needed? Certainly. But the reform we need is to move away from the statism socialist society into which we seem to be slipping and back towards our laissez-faire roots.


I'm not going to go into the objectivism thing with you, I already know that you vehemently believe whatever you believe.

It is not by virtue of it being government run that makes the public option magic. It is by virtue of having the burden of the sick, which I firmly believe we are already paying for indirectly, spread more evenly across the population. All insurance is by nature already socialist - it's just socialist on a per company scale. Short version is that as a healthy worker you are likely to pay more into the insurance program via premiums per year than you are to withdraw via claims (and the employer often subsidizes this to help keep it affordable). But, if an employee has a severely ill child, they are likely to take out more than they put in, and if it's a small company, may take out more than the entire company puts in. If at any time insuring a company is costing more than they are bringing in, then the insurance simply says - pay a higher premium or cut your benefits. Paying a higher premium just distributes the costs across everyone, however, if a company cannot afford to do that, then they may just cut benefits. Cutting the benefits is great because in addition to the $2400 premium each year, a healthy worker now cannot see any payout until they've met the $1000 deductible. If you are relatively healthy, you may not meet the deductible at all. Meaning, that you are paying into a system which does not benefit you one dime on a yearly basis - but we all do it because we fear being the one who is sick. Where the burden of one sick child can astronomically increase the cost of insurance for a small company, larger companies are able to shoulder this burden better because they have more people paying in to the system. A larger base to draw from, means a lower expense to everyone. If said system were nationwide, the base to draw from would be much larger. Hence, why a public option would help small businesses (and sick children with little puppies). The current system is already socialist, it's just uneven in it's distribution, placing a higher cost on small business and a lower cost to conglomerates. Bureaucratic costs will always exist - the question is, do the costs outweigh the benefits of having a public option? No, I don't think they do.


It's curious to suggest that more of a bad thing will somehow make it better. As for the nationwide economy of scale, that could be realized through free-market principles as well, were it not made illegal by the very same government that you suppose will make it all work out. I am well aware of how insurance works. Insurance is not socialist by definition. There are free-market solutions to these problems. I don't see how you can support further government control of these systems when you already concede that the system (which is already heavily government controlled) is contradictory and wasteful. I have never seen a government organization which was not so. Do you seriously think that an insurance company simply run under the government's name will be more respectable, trustworthy and less prone to abuse and "unfettered greed" than a private company? If you haven't noticed, the government doesn't seem to have a lot of money left to fund these things. Perhaps you didn' notice that the very greed mongers that you berate are those companies propped up by the government already. Remember AIG? How much money did we sink into floating that organization and for what?


Now, now, don't get angry just because I'm challenging your assumptions. I'm only discussing a public option, not whatever other stupid things the government has been doing lately. I'm expecting you to counter me with logic. Try to educate me as to why your path is better, rather than just saying blanket statements that a free market would solve everything and that the government is evil.

Insurance is socialist on a small scale because it is a system where a bunch of people pay into it and only those who need it withdraw out.

A free-market does not work in this instance because it is not in the insurance industry's best interest to insure everyone on thier own, even if they did compete accross state lines.

You are very quick to try to shoot down the public option, but haven't told me your solution. I mean, a practical solution that could get through Congress and make improvements in the lives of the uninsured or underinsured. Obviously you aren't going to overthrow our existing governmental system any time soon, so what solution do you support? Keeping the devil you know vs the devil you don't?


Well, I did say. Withdraw governmental controls on the insurance and banking industry, stop bailing out failing businesses and financial institutions, allow insurance companies to market across state lines thus developing the same economy of scale, dismantle the FED and return interest rates and currency to a real standard rather than arbitrary political manipulation. (For starters...) All of these things have been changes mandated by government which created the problems we are now experiencing. It is just as simple to unmandate them.

Insurance is a VOLUNTARY enterprise. This is not socialist. Socialism is by definition "a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole."

Insurance companies are private businesses which set the terms of coverage and collect premiums to fund that coverage in the event it is needed. It is funded by voluntary contributions to the whole and is paid out along the terms mandated in the insurance contract. If insurance companies are not meeting the terms of those contracts, then it is within the province of governmental authority to hold those companies accountable to the terms of their contract under existing fraud laws. Insurance prices are driven by the risk and reward generated by market, legal, and political conditions. It is the presence of government guarantees to failing megacorporations which incentivizes unprofitable activities. It is the support of those corporations which pass the costs onto the taxpayers.

A socialist insurance system would be one where the insurance is owned and managed by the government, where it is funded or at least partially supported by government through taxes on the people and the government establishes the terms of payment. Interestingly enough, social security and medicare were intended to be socialist insurance paradigms and they're going bankrupt. I wonder what is to keep this new mandate from following the same path? It seems very noble to suggest that a socialized insurance option will somehow make healthcare available and affordable to all, but it doesn't explain how it will be paid for, and it fails to make an accounting of the numerous side-effects that the introduction of such a program will have on the cost of health-care and private insurance.

Also, since the government is in the business of enforcing contracts, it seems like a conflict of interest to have the government so tightly entwined with the insurance industry. The reason being is that if the government decided to change the terms of the coverage due to fiscal insolvency or political maneuvering, who will enforce the contract? It will be exactly like social security where the government can shift the terms at will with impunity, after of course it has already collected all the payments and spent the funds. When an insurance company goes bankrupt, there are legal procedures in place to dissolve the assets and pay back the investors (as well as the aforementioned legal procedures for determining fraud). At least that was until Obama decided that bondholders don't have any rights and that the taxpayers should be burdened with propping up zombie corporations.

It is not the business of insurance companies to ensure 100% of the people. They offer insurance on the terms of risk they are willing to accept. It is unprofitable to insure high risk cases, just as it is unprofitable to make loans to high risk clients. Incidentally it was exactly for this reason that the housing crisis occurred which started this whole mess. A complex tangle of government regulation mandated that banks lend to high risk borrowers. Obviously they couldn't pay back and it sparked a chain-reaction throughout the financial system. The same thing happens when you insure regardless of risk, too many inevitable payouts and before you know it the system is bankrupt. You may think that worrying about how we are supposed to pay for this is incidental but I insist that it is fundamental.

Inevitably, those who produce more, who have less need of insurance will be burdened with maintaining the depleted reservoirs of the needy. The disincentive to productivity this will incur is profoundly socialist and flies in the face of everything a society based on individual choice and responsibility stands for.

You seem very quick to shoot down the free-market option, and yet you have not explained how this public option will be maintained. You also seem to resist the challenging of your assumptions. I have explained that I do not assume that it is the obligation of insurance companies to insure everyone regardless of risk and in spite of taking a loss. And yet you seem to assert that the public option will guarantee coverage of everyone regardless of risk. I think that makes it incumbent upon you to explain how this principle can be maintained in reality. You are after all supporting a large fiscal commitment on the part of the government, which btw is an imposition on all of us who pay taxes. I am simply advocating that people pay their own way.


Your "free market option" isn't an option at all. It doesn't insure everyone, which is what we're discussing, and no amount of deregulation and free competition would make them. So, your way of insuring everyone, is to... not. It costs too much.

I think healthcare IS a right. Surely "life" is one of our unalienable rights. What you fail to understand is that no man is an island, we all live within a community of people, not all of whom can afford healthcare. The bus boy(/self employed designer/ recent college graduate/ homeless person in the bus/ fast food worker/ etc)'s health is very much my own issue if only because of physical proximity. One sneeze and I get swine-flu.

I refuse to believe the money doesn't already exist - we all know about government pork, which could be eliminated to pay for healthcare. Even if not, I wouldn't mind paying a little more on taxes if I felt I was getting a tangible benefit from it, like healthcare for all (of course adding a commuter train system locally would also be nice). I definitely wouldn't mind a tax on those earning over 250,000 a year to pay for it - even if some day I earn that much.

"It takes a neighbor to raise a barn", no one is completely self-sufficient, and no matter how much you'd like to believe otherwise, we are all in this together. The common good doesn't just benefit someone else, if benefits me, too. Someone who is in good health is less likely to burden other programs which already exist (welfare) and is more likely to work for a living - a better life for them, means more income into the program. I fail to see how healthcare for all does not benefit us all.

American Anitheist

(I'm copying my reply to this last bit here just in the interest of keeping this fair)

[Note: At this point she had decided to repost this discussion as a note where she would have the ability to delete the entire conversation at her sole discretion]


Well, at least you're being a little more honest now. You DO advocate a socialist state then. You think it is fine to appropriate the labor and productivity of all to give to a few. You see doctors,bankers. insurance providers, not as humans with the right to the fruits of their own productivity but as reservoirs to be tapped to fulfill your wishes... See More. I am interested to see how you would feel, were someone lower on the food chain to propose that your freedoms should be sacrificed to provide them with more. But at least I think we understand each other. Don't pretend to want to live in a free society and then suggest that "other" people are resources to be stolen from at will (taking without consent is stealing) and distributed as you wish. I maintain that social rights cannot exist in the absence of individual rights--a society is simply a group of individuals, if individuals have no rights to their earnings, then the society doesn't either. And that is socialism.

This is why it is impossible to debate this without getting into the deeper moral issues--and that would mean getting much deeper into Objectivist morality. If you are sincerely interested in learning more about it, then I would be glad to talk with you on it. If not, then there's not much more to be said. I believe that socialism is immoral. We could get into a deeper discussion on why if you're game, but it would require a sincere interest in reading some of Ayn Rand's philosophical work to get a full and honest picture.

PS: The fact that you wouldn't mind pitching in to help others is not the point at issue. The problem is that you're taking that as moral vindication to steal from others to support your goals. How do you justify stealing from people? You claim the greater good as your justification. So did Stalin, so did Hitler. How is this any different?


Who is stealing? If we voted Obama in on a platform of healthcare reform, that means that most of us want it. If we are consenting, then how is it stealing? We all knew what we were getting in for during the election, and I'm sorry, but one side has to loose. If you don't like the electoral process as created by the framers, leave. Go somewhere where your ideals are being upheld. Where everyone must work for every single service they have and any random chance accident or illness could mean failure, starvation, and death. Let's call it Isla de You, current population 1.

Thankyou for your kind remarks upon my character, they were perfectly logical and not incendiary at all. Why I sure hope the cops aren't coming for me! You don't seem to understand that a person can be both free and conscientous. Just as you don't understand that a person can be moral and disagree with you. You are an extremeist, yes, every bit as extreme as the far right, the anti-abortionists or the al Quaeda. There is no middle ground for you. And because of that... Have you ever gotten a book from the Library? Surely a free and public library would not exist in your philosophy since there is no financial incentive to running a service like that. Have you gotten a free and public education? It may have been mediocre, but at least you got an education adequate enough to get you elsewhere. Have you driven on a public highway or ridden on a public transit system? Have you been to a public park? Have you received mail? When you retire, if social security is still available, will you take that money and live off it? Will you take medicare, too? For all of these things that you have recieved by your own definition, you, yourself, are a theif for you took them from the pool of available socialist resources, and then you went to Isla De You from whence there is no return.

Yes there is government waste, yes there are problems with our current government, and yes, I do want a free society. I think perhaps our definitions of freedom may differ. You seem to like a sheriff-less laissez-faire (from the french meaning do nothing) wild west town where everyone can be free to exploit each other at will. You see I'd like to be free to do what I want within the law (which I currently can) and not live in fear of loosing my insurance (which I currently cannot). The way I see it, we are being held hostage by the insurance companies, because there is no alternative to them. It's either insurance or steep debt. Isn't the public option in that sense providing much needed competition into the market? If the insurance companies then go under, wouldn't that be because they failed to offer a better product at a better price?

You have found an excellent way of writing off all personal responsibility towards your friends, neighbors, colleages, and yes, strangers. But luckily you live in a place where your freedom to be an ass is protected. So quit whining about stalin and hitler - there is simply no comparison there. Adding healthcare to the list of currently available services would free people from the unrelenting weight of private insurance coverage. It would not turn the country into a fascist regieme. Or is Canada fascist now? It's so hard to tell.

And, finally, you know you have a problem when you find yourself on the side of Glen Beck.


I didn't vote for Obama, a lot of people didn't either. Simply having a majority of people decide to steal from a few isn't rule of law, and isn't consent. Unfettered democracy was not intended by the framers of the constitution. They understood it leads to exactly one thing...mob rule. That is why we are a Constitutional Republic and not a Democracy.

Why were my remarks incendiary? If you believe that socialized healthcare should be enacted regardless of opposition because you have the "might" to make "right" then I don't see my remarks as anything other than stating the facts of your viewpoint as you present them. You ARE advocating stealing from people. You simply don't want to use just those words. You are entitled to your belief, but at least let's be honest about what socialism in any form means.

I do not advocate for socialism. I am not asking for socialist programs. Simply because they force them on me does not make me an active participant in their realization. That is why I actively oppose these programs (including public education, public welfare, public ownership of property), because I realize that if I were actively involved in creating these programs then I would be morally responsible for their effects on other human beings. You ARE actively advocating for these programs so you ARE morally responsible for their outcomes.

Some things do not have a middle mathematics. Like life and death. When we are talking about life and death it is a very black and white issue. Any amount of death injected into the social system is bad. Period. Every penny that the government takes from people makes it that much harder for those very same people to improve their lives. The government is less efficient than the market at providing services for an appropriate cost. But beyond that, the government (i.e. any mass of people) does not have the moral right to take by force the earned product of a person's labor.

I do not advocate anarchy. And I am not a fan of Glenn Beck (he is far too religious). I advocate the terms of a Constitutional republic wherein are guaranteed the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But the right to life is not a guarantee of life itself and cannot exist without the right to liberty and property. By surrendering the latter you do, indeed, surrender the former. They are inseparable.

And no, I do not write-off helping people who need it, whom I am within my power to help and who I deem worthy of such help. But it is MY choice who to support with my labor, not yours. It is MY choice how much to give and when and under what conditions. If you presume to suggest that you have any right to dictate by force of government how any other person should dispose of their assets then you ARE in point of fact and by DEFINITION advocating thievery. The responsibility of social reformers in a free society is that of argument, of convincing people to donate their assets to a given cause. It does not entitle anyone to just take them by force or fiat.

If you are upset with the label, then perhaps you are the one who should reassess their values more closely. You haven't demonstrated at all how my assertions are in error. If you remember, YOU were the one who started attacking my beliefs in this matter. I have shown just what the systems you support lead to. If any of this is in error, please address the point in question. And no, Stalin and Hitler are very much still relevant. They ruled on the basis of imposing government controls and appropriating private assets for the "greater good". Simply because that is what statists assert will happen, it doesn't make it so. You tell me how I am supposed to trust our government with the same powers and ill-fated philosophy of those other regimes. If the philosophy is different, then tell me where. Are you suggesting "it can't happen here?" I would remind you that Hitler was elected. The suggestion that America must be free by definition is naive in the extreme. People can be legislated into slavery just as surely as they can be conquered into it. Are you suggesting that "but this time it'll be different?"


Sorry, are you still talking? cause I stopped listening once you called me a thief. Sorry, not even gonna read your post, nope. Don't care, you're an ass. Your opinion is meaningless because you can't even discuss it with civility. So, bite me.

[An interesting addendum, is that Sis couldn't calmly defend her views in our discussion, had an emotional fit, and then severed all contact...only to then write a scathing bit of character assassination on her personal blog where I presume any defense of mine will also be ignored. It's interesting that she accuses me of refusing to see things from anyone else's standpoint, but I am actually the one trying to explain my views and asking her to defend hers. She's the one who has cut off contact so that she can villify me with impunity. I'd link to her blog entry, but she also doesn't have the courtesy to anonymize personal conflicts in public. In the interest of protecting my family from potential wackos who may take umbrage at my anti-theist views I cannot publish my identity openly like that. Too bad, it's some really one-sided stuff, published in a venue where I cannot debate or defend myself. It's just like I've always said, it's very difficult for liberals not to resort to ad hominem and character assassination, because they really don't have a logical, rational argument to support their stance.]

Friday, March 19, 2010

Obamacare and the Silencing of Dissent

I am livid today after I became aware of an obvious ploy to silence XCowboy2(Richard Gleaves)'s "This is John Galt Speaking" video series on Youtube. A company just issued copyright complaints against all 28 videos of the new and old series. They have also effectively wiped out 2 full years of view counts and discussion attached to the videos. That is 2 years of people questioning Objectivist issues and being debated or tutored by practiced Objectivists in the youtube community. Also, the videos were targeted on the very same day that Richard came out with this little parable about the nature of the current health care debate:

The Parable of the Octopus Man

Coincidence??? I'm sure it will all have been a be cleared up after the vote goes through. But the tragedy is really the loss of that corpus of open, free Objectivist discussion. I find it ironic that the liberals claim to be champions of liberty while they seek to silence any opposition by whatever means.

"If the "liberals" are afraid to identify their program by its proper name, if they advocate every specific step, measure, policy, and principle of statism, but squirm and twist themselves into semantic pretzels with such euphemisms as the "Welfare State," the "New Deal," the "New Frontier," they still preserve a semblance of logic, if not of morality: it is the logic of a con man who cannot afford to let his victims discover his purpose. Besides, the majority of those who are loosely identified by the term "liberals" are afraid to let themselves discover that what they advocate is statism. They do not want to accept the full meaning of their goal; they want to keep all the advantages and effects of capitalism, while destroying the cause, and they want to establish statism without its necessary effects. They do not want to know or admit that they are champions of dictatorship and slavery. So they evade the issue, for fear of discovering that their goal is evil." --Ayn Rand

[Update 3/25/2010: It would appear that WKH didn't really have anything to do with it at all. As such I took out the link to their YouTube page and removed direct references to their company name. It appears that some computer hack was filing claims under their name, probably some automated attack. The videos were attacked by a different publisher soon after the other complaint was taken down. Some automated hack that relies on targeting chained videos? Anyways it DOES seem that some liberal with an axe to grind is probably behind the attacks. So I'm leaving the informative part of the article up and cutting out my invective.]

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ayn Rand Smears Still Popular with the Left

It would seem that the left still enjoys painting Rand and Objectivists as giggling baby-eaters. A recent spate of disinformation pieces have been circling the internet here and here. The basic gist is that they drop context on some lines taken out of Ayn Rand's personal journals in which she comments on the William Hickman kidnapping murder of a young girl in the 1920s. It's funny too, because they're really just plagiarizing the same drivel that was passed about a few years ago with an 2005 article here. The response should be the same as the response it got the big red x in the upper right of the window. A brief discussion on the Objectivism Online Forum should help clarify how the argument is specious. I've included a link to that discussion here.

I quote the very eloquent summation of one poster, Dismuke:

"To summarize - that article drops several bits of very important context.

1. The fact that the journal entries were PRIVATE, not intended for publication and, therefore, the contents were not written for the purpose of being objective to any audience other than Ayn Rand's own eyes.

2. The entirety of Ayn Rand's explicit philosophy which was consistent across volumes of works written over the span of many decades - including her philosophy's contempt for those who initiate force.

3. The fact that Ayn Rand herself dismissed it all as probable "idealizing."

4. The fact that, Ayn Rand, unlike the author of the article, did not equate self-interest with "walking across corpses" and, therefore, did not regard an out-of-context admiration for certain attributes of a brutal murderer's statements and demeanor as having possible negative implications for a morality of self-interest worthy of giving serious consideration to in the mental exercise the journal entry documents.

Now, if someone who was very familiar with the William Hickman case but had never heard of Ayn Rand before somehow stumbled across that particular journal entry, I can fully understand why he might properly conclude that Ayn Rand must have been some sort of strange, sociopathic kook not worthy of looking into further. But the author of that article very clearly IS familiar with the larger context of Ayn Rand's work and her personal history - so my conclusion is the article is nothing more than a cheap and sleazy "hit piece" designed to smear Objectivism. Don't be too surprised if it is embraced by the likes of David Kelley and Barbara Branden as more "proof" that Ayn Rand was indeed nothing more than a malevolent neurotic kook who somehow, nevertheless, managed to make a few good philosophical points here and there."

I can't think of anything more to add to this, except to express my sincere hope that trash like this will stop popping up in the news results for Rand on the right side of this blog. It is increasingly clear that the Left has no rational refutation of Rand's philosophy and can only resort to character assassination and ad hominem flubbery. Context is everything. ANY quote taken out of context can be read to mean anything you want it to. That is why the process of contextualization is so important in all written forms of exposition and especially literary, scientific, and philosophical exposition. Ayn Rand's journals were none of these, simply personal notes and notations meant to guide her own thought process.

If a man were to find admirable qualities in Obama, it would not make him instantly an Obama acolyte. If a man were to find admirable qualities in Reagan, it would not make him instantly a Reaganite. One can admire certain qualities of a person without admiring their motivations or actions, hence the restriction to certain qualities. Some people admire Rommel, despite the fact that he was a Nazi. They can admire his intelligence and skill without admiring his political ideology. Some people admire Clinton despite his philandering. It doesn't mean they admire the whole person, just some things that he did or said. The only way to be certain of why, in what way, and under what conditions that admiration existed, is to have a properly contextualized account of that admiration. The reasons, the exceptions, the moderations...these elements are essential to understanding the meaning of any given utterance in the English language. Without this account, irresponsible accusations slapped onto decontextualized cherry-picked quotes say no more about the character of a person than graffiti on the wall of a bathroom stall--the very place where such "journalism" the toilet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Searching for Fascism in Atlas Shrugged

I thought this might be of some interest to fans of Atlas Shrugged of a more academic bent. I stumbled across it in my internet wanderings. It appears to be that a linguist at the University of Birmingham did a study of Atlas Shrugged to try and objectively examine the charges of fascism that we hear so often on the net. It's more than a little dry and very heavy on the linguistic terminology but it makes for an interesting intellectual read. Here's a link to the site it's on:

Corpus Tools and the Linguistic Study of Ideology: Searching for Fascism in Atlas Shrugged