Archive for July, 2011

31
Jul
11

hugo & evita

Since I put up that picture of Eva Peron’s embalmed corpse yesterday, I have been thinking of my long-dead friend Hugo Ryan. He was from Argentina and it was he who first told me about Evita.

When I was a young boy, we often hosted Notre Dame football players and coaches in our home (following in the tradition of my great-grandfather). The first of these was Hugo, a Notre Dame athlete you’ve never heard of. We met at the hospital when I was nine years old. I was in for an appendectomy; Hugo was in for a torn tendon or ligament that finished his football career before it had even started.

Hugo was still on crutches when we picked him up on campus for Sunday dinner a week or so after we’d both been released. Funny what sticks in one’s memory after so many years: Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” was playing on the car radio. Hugo had become like a big brother to me in the hospital, and my heart was bursting with admiration for him as he got into the car. He was handsome and charming, and I was smitten as only a young boy can be to be the focus of the attentions of an older person whom I viewed as a hero who had chosen me as his best friend. The guy walked on water.

It was the first of Hugo’s many, many visits to our home, and I distinctly remember the day Hugo told me about Eva Peron. It was a rags-to-riches story that somehow paralleled Hugo’s own story and for me became the same story. He told me how the masses of poor people, the “shirtless ones,” had adored Evita and were devastated when she died. She had been a patron to the masses and created hospitals, housing, and other charities for them; Hugo was attending Notre Dame because he, too, had a wealthy patron, an Argentinean movie star. Hugo had been one of the millions who had thronged the streets for Evita’s funeral. Hugo said she was the patron saint of Argentina’s poor. She was only 33 when she died of uterine cancer. Without Evita at his side to beguile the masses, Juan Peron lost power when the economy faltered, and he became an exile in Spain.

After Hugo graduated, he married a beautiful Canadian girl who had been a French teacher at a private school in South Bend, and they moved to South America where he found a career with a mining or industrial company. We received word a couple years later that Hugo had been killed in a car crash in Brazil. He couldn’t have even been 30 years old when he died—another parallel that further entwines his memory with Evita’s.

I still have and cherish a book by Khalil Gibran that Hugo gave me more than fifty years ago, in which is written: “A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?” 

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Madonna performing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”

30
Jul
11

I see… dead people

Since the time I was a kid, I have always been attracted to the macabre.

It weirded out my mother so much, when I was ten she and my dad rationed my intake of horror movies to just one a month (which, of course, only intensified my passion for the forbidden fruit). The restriction didn’t last for long.  

I have continued scratching that itch without developing any of the psychological scars and disorders my mother had feared.

Anyway, I’m in the doldrums right now and not much in the mood to write. So here are some images I have collected along the way while indulging my taste for the ghastly and grisly.

These images are presented only as cheap and tasteless entertainment; this is not a serious post. 

Mummy of Rosalia Lombardo (died 1920 at age 2)

Palermo, Sicily

 

Ceiling Medallion made with Human Bones

Capuchin Crypt, Sicily

 

 

Mummy with Bandages Removed

Egypt

 

 

Tollund Man (died 1500s, preserved in bog)

Denmark

 

 

Mummies

Capuchin Crypt, Sicily

 

 

 

Lenin’s Mummy

Moscow, Russia 

 

 

 

Eva Peron’s Mummy

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

 

 

Capela dos Ossos

Portugal

 

 

 

Capela dos Ossos (detail)

Portugal

  

 

 

Chachapoya Mummy

Peru

 

 

 

The Best Mummy Ever

Boris Karloff (1932)

 

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Junior Brown performing “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead”

28
Jul
11

black sun

“I wish you wouldn’t run down my state,” Henry said during our weekly call last Sunday. Henry lives in Orlando and loves his adopted state. He’d just seen my post “Fascist Florida and Free Russia,” and he didn’t like it.

“Most of my best memories have happened in Florida,” he said. Images of him as a kid posing with Goofy at Disney World and boating in Vero Beach come to my mind. I see Henry in his graduation robes at the University of Miami; I have a “U of Miami Dad” cup on my desk, stuffed with pens, pencils, etc.

I, too, have many happy memories of Florida, of family vacations on Captiva Island or at my mother’s home on Longboat Key. The greatest mentor in my life was a Floridian. I will never forget receiving a private tour of Thomas Edison’s home in Fort Myers because of him. My grandmother had a cousin, “Aunt Billie,” who owned a famous orange grove in Fort Lauderdale. She came to visit us once in the ‘50s in a big pink Cadillac. As a ten-year-old I was photographed at a Florida roadside attraction with a big snake draped over my shoulders; I have never been afraid of snakes ever since.

As a family we have much for which to thank Florida. But since I’ve become involved with Derek and Alex King, I’ve been seeing another side of Florida and I don’t like it at all. It’s the ugly side of Florida one sees in its courts, jails and prisons.

It’s a white-trash place populated by guards like:

• A 45-year-old Polk County deputy, Robin Pagoria, arrested in late May for forcing two young female inmates on different occasions to remove their clothes before handcuffing them to a table and administering as many as 62 lashes in what is being called “sadomasochistic spanking.” She videoed the abuse to share with a boyfriend she’d met on a spanking-fetish website. 

• Or the six guards and supervisor who allowed 18-year-old inmate Eric Perez to die at the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center earlier this month. Guards found him on the floor, vomiting. No one called 911. He was not seen by a nurse because there was none on duty. It is an example of persistent “incompetence, ambivalence and negligence on the part of the administration and the staff” (to borrow the words of a Florida grand jury that investigated a remarkably similar death in 2003).

• Or Okeechobee County sheriff’s sergeant Tommie Joe (T.J.) Brock, who was fired a couple years ago for coercing sex from a 39-year-old female inmate and got off with only 5 years’ probation and the loss of his pension instead of the 30-year prison term he deserved. The Okeechobee County Jail is so oppressive, two inmates (including a teen) have committed suicide there in the last couple years. This is where Alex King was held for a couple months before he was returned to Escambia County to face the traffic charges the state has inflated into a probation violation and has now escalated from a misdemeanor to a felony because Alex has insisted on his right to a trial.

Having witnessed the way the State of Florida has treated Alex since his February accident, I have lost faith in every level of Florida’s justice system to conduct itself in a just, reasonable, and ethical manner. The system, hidden like the subterranean world of Disney World, is indecent.

Despite recognizing that Alex had been complying with the terms of his probation so admirably that she had suggested an early termination of probation, Alex’s probation officer Melissa Cornelius acceded to pressure from higher-ups to file a Violation of Probation before any of the facts of Alex’s February 19th traffic accident had even been investigated. Unaware that Alex had a valid prescription for a pain-killer he took for a cracked or bruised rib sustained in the accident, Cornelius released information to the media that “opiates” had been detected in a urine analysis the day following the crash and created the erroneous public impression that Alex had been “under the influence” at the time of the incident (and that this is why he fled on foot). When I confronted her with the truth and told her Alex’s reaction is more reasonably interpreted as PTSD, she cut me off and said that FDOC was leaving it to the courts to sort out.

To date, this irresponsible decision by Alex’s probation officer has already cost Florida taxpayers approximately $9,500 in incarceration expenses, plus the additional costs and wasted time of public defenders, prosecutors, judges, court clerks, and drivers shuttling Alex the 546 miles between the Okeechobee and Pensacola courts and jails. It has cost us approximately $2,000 so far in phone calls, commissary charges, and other expenses necessary to support Alex through this ordeal. So what is the real total cost of the state’s vendetta against Alex? I wouldn’t be surprised if it has already hit $20,000—and the process hasn’t even reached the half-way point yet.

But can Alex get a fair shake in the courts? The prosecutor—a special prosecutor appointed by the governor—has just elevated the traffic charge from a misdemeanor to a felony only because Alex would not agree to being arm-twisted into accepting a guilty plea which may have sealed his fate on the Violation of Parole charge, which is itself so unfair and absurd. Everyone’s hands are dirtied in this outrageous affair: the governor, attorney general, special prosecutor, department of corrections secretary, probation officer, etc.

Alex had been on the President’s List at his college, for heaven’s sake. He has committed no criminal act. He has not violated the spirit of his probation terms. Alex is an extreme straight-arrow. He only got into a traffic accident on a foggy night, and the state is using this as an excuse to derail a promising young life—and for what?

Retribution and vengeance.

The “Sunshine State” is surely now ruled by a black sun that is a countervailing force to the good people and light that I used to know.

Alex belongs in school, not jail or prison. His experience convinces me that Florida is no place in where I would choose to raise children or to even visit if I didn’t have to. I dislike what Florida is doing to Alex so much because it is crowding out everything about Florida I have cherished for so long.

Henry won’t like me saying this, but the best thing about global warming is that Florida will be one of the first places in America to sink into the sea. God must think it an apt punishment for a place that has morally sunk so low.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Gillian Welch performing “Black Star” 

 

If you have friends in Florida who care about honest justice and are fed up with heartless politics, please tell them about Alex and consider sending them a license plate to display on their cars:

This license plate is now available for sale for $25 from http://www.kingbrostrust.org. Please enter "license plate" as a note. $15 of the price will help defend Alex King against this injustice.

Readers have also suggested that we write to these people to tell them what we think of Florida justice as it is being applied to Alex King’s case. Please ask your Florida friends to write, too:

Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Attorney General Pam Bondi
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050

Special Prosecutor Brandon Young 
Assistant Florida State Attorney’s Office 
PO Box 787  
Bonifay, FL 32425

Secretary Edwin G. Buss 
Florida Department of Corrections
501 South Calhoun Street 
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2500

Deborah B. Brown   
Circuit Administrator – FDOC   
3101 North Davis Highway  
Pensacola, FL 32503

27
Jul
11

money talks

In 18th and 19th century America, citizens had freedom of choice in education.

Schooling in that early time was plentiful, innovative, and accessible to nearly all. Large numbers of children from all classes of society received several years of education of a quality and quantity that did an excellent job of preparing young people for productive lives that are today the stuff of legend. America became a great nation—a beacon to the world—based on the foundation of free-choice education and its intellectual and cultural outcomes.

It began to change in the mid-19th century when the banking and industrial elites decided there was too much freedom in America. They wanted to control society by transforming America into a capitalists’ utopia that had a low-wage workforce which was skilled, malleable, and obedient to their socioeconomic “betters.”

People who thought too much, who thought for themselves, did not fit into the world of industry and commerce that was taking shape under the leadership of financiers like J.P. Morgan, a front man for the Rothschild banking interests; industrialists like Henry Ford, the developer of the assembly line and other efficient production systems; and labor theorists like Frederick W. Taylor, who pioneered time-and-motion studies and “Scientific Management” (industrial engineering schemes that transformed people into cogs in a machine).

As State University of New York professor of education Joel Spring has written, “The primary result of common school reform in the middle of the nineteenth century was not the education of increasing percentages of children, but the creation of new forms of school organization” that reflected the models and theories that were driving developments in the emerging industrial economy.

It is significant to note what Henry Ford famously said about his Model-T: that the people could “have any color they want, as long as it’s black.” In the formative years of the industrial economy, the strategic paradigm was long production runs of identical products that could be affordably priced for mass markets because of product uniformity. This same thinking was implemented in the establishment of the Prussian-model schooling system in America.

It should be obvious that the school systems were not set up to serve the poor. As Milton Friedman stated in Capitalism and Freedom (a 1962 book in which he postulates that if parents could “shop” among a wider number of choices in schooling, public schools would have to improve in order to attract student enrollment and tuition): if the only motive for establishing state monopoly compulsion schooling were to help people who could not afford education, advocates of government involvement would have simply proposed tuition subsidies. After all, when proponents of government activism wanted to use the state to subsidize the purchase of food, they did not propose that government build a system of state grocery stores. They instead created food stamps. So the question is: Why are there public schools rather than “school stamps” or vouchers? 

The unavoidable conclusion is that the powers-that-be wanted to restrict freedom of choice in education and apply a one-size-fits-all standard to the majority of American young people. This was, after all, the age of monopolies in business: the railroads, the oil companies, etc. It makes perfect sense that the organization of schools would mirror the organization that was being applied to the industries and businesses of the age.

In fact, John D. Rockefeller, the greatest monopolist of the time, took a role—some would say a controlling role—in the establishment of Prussian-style schools in America. Rockefeller had became the first American worth more than a billion dollars, the world’s richest man and, adjusted for inflation, the richest person in history. Rockefeller spent the last 40 years of his life in retirement, and used his fortune to create the modern systematic approach of targeted philanthropy with foundations that that played a decisive role in shaping medicine, scientific research, and education.

He was the founder of the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University. His General Education Board, a philanthropic foundation established in 1903, was created to promote the new schooling at all levels everywhere in the country. The General Education Board helped to establish high schools throughout the South by providing free professional advice on improving instruction and education. The effort was a cooperative one, and local money was used to build the high schools.

In 1906 the General Education Board put out their first mission statement, which read in part: “In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is simple…We will organize children…and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.”

The real purpose of modern schooling was announced by the sociologist Edward Roth in his 1906 manifesto called Social Control: “plans are underway to replace family, community and church with propaganda, mass-media, and education (of course he meant schooling)…people are only little plastic lumps of dough.”

In 1917, the Carnegie Foundation for Peace came to the conclusion that if there were to be no reversion of American life as it had existed before 1914, education needed to be controlled by the elites. So they approached Rockefeller’s foundation and said, “Will you take on the acquisition of control of education as it involves subjects that are domestic in their significance? We’ll take on the basis of subjects that have an international significance.”  And it was agreed. These powerful foundations, as fronts for their benefactors, determined a key to social control was the teaching of American history, and that they must change not only how it was being taught, but its content.

According to educationalist John Taylor Gatto, by 1917 “the major administrative jobs in American schooling were under the control of ‘the Education Trust’: representatives of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harvard, Stanford, University of Chicago, and the National Education Association. The chief end, wrote Benjamin Kidd, was to “impose on the young the ideal of subordination.” Gatto calls Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford “The Four Architects of Modern Forced Schooling” who thought that modern industry needed “workers who know nothing.”

Using Rockefeller money, in 1919 John Dewey, by then a professor at Columbia Teachers College (an institution heavily endowed by Rockefeller) founded the Progressive Education Association. Through its existence it spread the philosophy which undergirds welfare capitalism— that the bulk of the population is biologically childlike, requiring lifelong care.

The American public and its children were increasingly viewed not only as a vast labor pool that could be dumbed-down and be transformed into compliant automatons, but as consumers in a new economy based on dependency. All self-reliance had to be bred and schooled out of them.

A major milestone in this agenda happened on January 5, 1914 when Henry Ford announced his $5-per-day program, raising minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5. His program of simplifying (dumbing-down) assembly line jobs had created an unintended backlash: high turnover. In 1913 his company had to hire 963 workers for every 100 it needed to maintain production—and Ford needed a workforce of 13,600 employees in his factory. This meant that Ford was hiring 131,000 new workers a year, training them and providing benefits until they quit. It was expensive and unsustainable and undercut the value proposition Ford was trying to embody in the Model-T car.

Ford’s solution of raising the minimum wage was the talk of towns across the country; Ford was hailed as the friend of the worker, as an outright socialist, or as a madman bent on bankrupting his company. Many businessmen—including most of the remaining stockholders in the Ford Motor Company—regarded his solution as reckless. But he shrugged off all criticism. Ford knew that retaining more employees would lower costs, and that a happier work force would lead to greater productivity. The numbers bore him out. Between 1914 and 1916, the company’s profits doubled from $30 million to $60 million. “The payment of five dollars a day for an eight-hour day was one of the finest cost-cutting moves we ever made,” he later said.

There were other ramifications, as well. A budding effort to unionize the Ford factory dissolved in the face of the Five-Dollar Day. Yet most cunning of all, Ford’s new wage scale turned autoworkers into car customers. The car purchases they made returned at least some of those five dollars to Henry Ford and helped raise production, which in turn helped lower unit costs. When other businessmen followed Ford’s lead, it was the beginning of a worldwide consumer economy that Ford envisioned.

Over the next decades and up to the present day, these Four Architects and their foundations relentlessly furthered their agenda of creating malleable workers and consumers. The milestones are too numerous to detail here, but here are a few: In 1925 the Rockefeller Foundation set up the International Bureau of Education, which later became part of UNESCO; In 1933 the Rockefeller Foundation began a comprehensive national program to develop technology for “the control of human behavior.” Public education would figure prominently in the design; In 1936 the Ford Foundation was chartered in Michigan by Edsel Ford and two Ford Motor Company executives “to receive and administer funds for scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare.”

Focusing on Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford philanthropies, Edward Berman, in Harvard Education Review concluded that the “public rhetoric of disinterested humanitarianism was little more than a facade” behind which the interests of the political state (not necessarily those of society) “have been actively furthered.” The rise of foundations to key positions in educational policy formation amounted to what Clarence Karier called “the development of a fourth branch of government, one that effectively represented the interests of American corporate wealth.”

In 1946 the Carnegie Corporation funded the Educational Testing Service of Princeton NJ, which controls most of the required tests of educational performance.

In 1954, a congressional investigation of foundation tampering (with schools and American social life) was attempted, headed by Carroll Reece of Tennessee. The Reece Commission quickly ran into a buzzsaw of opposition from influential centers of American corporate life. Major national newspapers hurled scathing criticisms which, together with pressure from other political adversaries, forced the committee to disband prematurely—but not before there were some tentative findings including:

“The impact of foundation money upon education has been very heavy, tending to promote uniformity in approach and method, tending to induce the educator to become an agent for social change and a propagandist for the development of our society in the direction of some form of collectivism. In the international field, foundations and the Interlock, together with certain intermediary organizations, have exercised a strong effect upon foreign policy and upon public education in things international. This has been accomplished by vast propaganda, by supplying executives and advisors to government, and by controlling research through the power of the purse. The net result has been to promote ‘internationalism’ in a particular sense—a form directed toward ‘world government’ and a derogation of American nationalism.”

Through their foundation fronts, the wealthy elites thus steadily advanced the reduction of school choice and the dumbing down of public schools that are available to choose from. Through the schools, they created a compliant worker/consumer class and made important attacks on family integrity, and personal and national sovereignty.

Money talks… but for the time being, there is still freedom for us to talk, too, and regain control over how we will educate our kids.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Devo performing “Freedom of Choice”

25
Jul
11

cynicism justified

I had to take the day off from everything yesterday. For the first time in over a month I fired up the DVD player and watched movies, and talked to family and friends on the phone. It was my first vegetative day since the Summer Solstice.

I am back to work this morning researching the schools—this time with a money slant. Seems appropriate as the intransigent nimrods in Washington continue to erode worldwide confidence in the US economy. This morning gold is at an all-time high $1,616/oz; silver is at $40.37/oz. (The higher these numbers go, the lower investors’ confidence in the Fed’s fiat currency is shown to be.)

I’m prepared for a dishonest “solution” to the debt ceiling impasse to be enacted in Congress. If you followed the state government shutdown in Minnesota, you have already seen a harbinger of things to come in Washington.

In Minnesota the politicians are balancing the state budget on the backs of children.

They are delaying state payments to the schools into the next budget year. The Republicans met their pledge to create no new taxes, but have forced the state’s school districts to borrow heavily (and raise school taxes at the local level to cover the extra borrowing costs).

In addition, they decided to issue bonds on future payments to the state by the tobacco companies—more borrowing.

Last week a former Minnesota state finance director was interviewed on the radio and said that the annual tobacco money (which is to be paid in perpetuity) varies based on a formula that includes tobacco sales.

In other words, the state has a money incentive to keep sales up so their payoff from the tobacco companies (best seen as a rebate) remains high. Now that the politicians are mortgaging future tobacco payments, they have a bigger incentive to assure future growth of tobacco use, even to young people. They’ll have all that extra interest to pay to banks and bond holders.

There will be a duplicitous game played by the Washington politicians, just as in the wars on drugs and terror as well as the shameful Minnesota “solution.” With a showy hand they’ll do one thing to allay the credulous public, and with a hand hidden under the table they’ll do the opposite.

How stupid do these politicians think we are? Unfortunately, their cynicism seems to be justified.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Green Day performing “American Idiot”

23
Jul
11

fascist florida & free russia

Yesterday was a day of extreme highs and lows for me.

This license plate is now available for sale for $25 from http://www.kingbrostrust.org. Please enter "license plate" as a note. $15 of the price will help defend Alex King against this injustice.

If you have been following the postscripts added to Wednesday’s post “Redemption” (July 20), you already know that the Florida State’s Attorney is raising the charge for Alex King’s panicked flight from the scene of an accident from a misdemeanor to a felony—and only because Alex insisted on his right to a trial and would not accept a plea deal.

This latest move by the prosecution confirms what I have been saying all along: that the State of Florida is not pursuing justice, but a vendetta. It’s pure vengeance.

It defies morality and logic that a single act can be a misdemeanor in one moment and a felony in the next. The only thing that had changed is Alex insisted on his rights under the law to a trial. Didn’t the State’s Attorney take a solemn oath to uphold the law? Apparently in Florida this oath only applies when it suits the state and its functionaries.

Anyway, learning this news was the low-point of the day.

The high point for me was receiving a letter from a man who is the head of the board of directors of a child protection foundation in one of Russia’s largest cities. He said he had been hearing reports about Colt Lundy and Paul Henry Gingerich, and was dismayed by the news of how American justice is administered for kids. “Earlier I read about Jordan Brown, but I thought that it was some kind of legal misunderstanding, and that, finally, he would stay in prison only until the age of majority. I was completely shocked,” he said, “that an 11-year-old boy could get life without parole. It is impossible to believe.”

“Even in my country a child of such age at maximum could go to the special school for no more than 3 years (actually it’s, of course, a child prison). A child of 14 could be given no more than 10 years of prison (in a juvenile prison until 18, and later he/she could be transferred to an adult one).”

He then said he began combing the media in order to find people like me. “It was impossible that nobody in the United States would try to defend this boy, that everybody would think that this enormous, loathsome cruelty is normal. You were the test for me about your country. I knew that someone like you must exist, and I am happy that I was not mistaken.”

Me?! The test? If this were the case, our country would be in deep doo-doo.

I am just one old man living in a mud house in the wilderness and expressing my views. I can offer only small comforts and services to the kids—and from a great distance, at that.

When faced with the enormous power of the states of Florida, or Indiana, or Pennsylvania, or Tennessee, I feel very small indeed. When confronted by the evil of just a single prosecutor bent on retribution and loathsome cruelty, I feel out of my depth. Already I am under legal attack by one individual (not a prosecutor) who seems intent to shut down my work for kids because he sees it as an affront to his sick perspectives.

The only thing that gives me the courage to face the Beast is that you’re covering my back. Your material, moral, and financial support make everything possible. Because of you, I even dare to think that we might just succeed in defending kids and redeeming their lives.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Datura Posaunen Quartett performing Jens Gagelmann’s “The Battle Between David & Goliath”

22
Jul
11

secret agenda

To understand why our modern schooling system first came to be, you have to understand the connection between two separate things our school history books hardly ever put together. The first is Immigration, and the second is Industrialization.

The 1840s saw the first great surge of immigration from Europe to the US, to a great extent due to the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1847-49. The so-called famine killed over two million people by starvation, and caused another million to flee, mostly to the US, with more following. By 1900 2.8 million Irish had immigrated to the US.

What the history books don’t tell us is that Ireland was a food-exporting nation during the whole length of the crisis. Only the potato crops, which were grown on Ireland’s poorest soils, had failed. Wheat, rye, barley, corn, and other staple foods were exported from Ireland to England in more-than-adequate quantities to have fed Ireland’s starving millions each and every year of the famine. Because more than 95% the land in Ireland was controlled by wealthy English bankers and landowners, this land was kept under productive cultivation and the landless Irish peasants were forced by threat and desperation to harvest the export crops and load them onto ships bound for England.

Because it was primarily their wives and children and relations who had been deemed expendable and died, the Irish workingmen who were arriving in America were already radicalized against the power elites. This scared the hell out of America’s burgeoning elites, the most powerful of whom were behind America’s Industrial Revolution—often with the help of the same English money interests that had callously allowed the Irish “famine” to play out as it did.

Millions of Irish Catholic immigrants poured into Boston and other eastern cities where they lived in poor ghettos and found employment constructing railroads, canals, and roads; as unskilled factory workers (including children) in the mill towns of New England; and as a major part of the labor force for the building and related trades in the expanding cities.  Skilled weavers were the most prevalent of skilled Irish tradesmen, and because they could speak English, young Irish women came as indentured domestic servants to work in the homes of wealthy second- and third-generation Americans. War with Mexico and the Civil War afforded new opportunities for salaried work for Irish males.

However, the burgeoning numbers of these Irish Catholics also threatened the Protestant power structure. The Irish had been quick to become active in local politics, and their leaders provided assistance to constituents when few social programs existed. In some Eastern cities like Philadelphia, there were violent confrontations between the Irish and so-called Nativists, and factory owners and other major employers worried that trouble with these newcomers could easily spill over into workplace unrest.

In the 1830s railroad and coal interests in New England backed an ambitious young politician named Horace Mann to carry out their plan to gain control of the situation. Mann was a poor farm boy who became a lawyer and then a “political reform” leader. Mann saw public education as a vehicle for building support for republican and Protestant values. To accomplish his vision, it would be necessary to create a State Board of Education to replace local school boards, a task accomplished in Massachusetts in 1837, and Horace Mann was installed as its first Secretary. Texts would be picked from a state-approved list rather than through local choice. Teachers would be trained at state normal schools rather than attending colleges and academies, and they would have to be licensed in order to be considered qualified to teach. Mann promoted his idea that “the state is the father of children.”

One of Mann’s chief opponents, Orestes Brownson, did not fear “social disorder and moral decay,” but like Thomas Jefferson, saw the public education system as a means to prevent tyranny. Brownson disputed the idea that Mann was “advocating education for religious and republican virtue” and argued that he really wanted to institute “a system of schooling for social control.”

Mann was able to draw the Big Money to his side of the debate. Banking, manufacturing, and mercantile interests thought Mann’s ideas promised the best long-term benefits for them. For them, the purpose of the public school monopoly was to turn out “human capital” suitable for staffing America’s industrial plants and bureaucracies. Its mission was to mold sovereign individuals into followers who would faithfully comply with orders and instructions, perform their designated tasks without question or complaint, and obediently accept the judgments and authority of those higher in the socio-economic hierarchy. It was always the power elite’s intention that the schools should suppress creativity, self-reliance, and independent, critical thinking. And later, as our consumer economy was first conceived in the early twentieth century and has been shaped into its present state, the schools’ purpose was broadened to turn out individuals who would think and behave as needful, dependent consumers.

Mann convinced working class parents to accede to the elite’s plan by telling them that their children would receive a better education and gain a better chance of becoming upwardly mobile. Because he mandated religious instruction and removed this choice from each locality, most Protestant religious groups supported Mann.

With support from his patrons, Mann traveled to Prussia in 1843 to observe that nation’s compulsion schooling system, and he returned home and immediately began lobbying the Legislature for passage of a law that would transplant and enforce a radical new system of state-run compulsion schooling in Massachusetts based on the Prussian model. With pressure from Mann’s wealthy and powerful industrialist friends, and in part to break the back of the growing Catholic power base in the Boston area, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a forced-schooling law in 1853—the first in America.

While the elites promoted the myth of an American Dream in which any poor schoolboy could rise to become President, the elites imported this tested schooling system from Prussia which methodically frustrated coherent intellectual growth and character development. It did this by atomizing and compartmentalizing knowledge into many less-comprehensible bits and segregating students into age cadres which would prevent younger children from learning from the older ones.

Whole “pictures” of knowledge were thus broken into jigsaw pieces to make them and their connecting pieces harder to see. Children were segregated out of society and away from their families—their former “classrooms” and “teachers”—and purposely subjected to mind-numbing pedagogical techniques that had been perfected in totalitarian Germany.

Contrary to the mythology about public schooling that has been promulgated since then, the people of Massachusetts did not accept the new schooling system without a fight. Over the next six years many parents were jailed and thousands of children were marched off to school by the state militia. Entire towns were militarized when they refused to take their children out of their locally-run schools or home-schools and place them in the state-run, state-controlled institutions. The last town to fall, Barnstable, Massachusetts, capitulated in 1858 after a massive invasion by police and the state militia.

Resistance to state-run schools was so widespread and passionate, it was not until thirteen years after passage of the Massachusetts law that other jurisdictions began falling into line.

Horace Mann’s sister Elizabeth Peabody of the Peabody Foundation saw to it that after the Civil War the Prussian Model was imposed upon the conquered South. Thanks in part to industrialization and the political changes brought about by the Civil War, by 1900 most states had passed compulsion schooling laws and had installed the Prussian system under one guise or another. Finally in 1918, sixty-six years after the Massachusetts forced schooling legislation, the forty-eighth state, Mississippi, enacted a compulsory school attendance law.

Everywhere along the way, forced schooling was met with strenuous opposition.

If you need any further proof of the social-control purpose of compulsion public education, you need only consider the influence of William Torrey Harris, US Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906. No one since Horace Mann ever had as much influence on American schooling as Harris, who standardized and Germanized the schools and gave America scientifically age-graded classrooms to replace successful mixed-age school classrooms.

Consider these revealing quotes from Harris’s The Philosophy of Education, published in 1906:

“Ninety-nine (students) out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”

“The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places…. It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.”

Harris believed that children were property and that the state had a compelling interest in disposing of them as it pleased. Some would receive intellectual training, but most would not. Because he had social access to important salons of power and substantial political influence, Harris assured that parents or local tradition would no longer determine the individual child’s future.

Thus, more than a hundred years ago, this leading schoolman believed self-alienation was the secret to successful industrial society and exerted a defining influence on the purpose and underlying structure of the schools as they exist today.

Over his long career he furnished inspiration to the ongoing obsessions of Andrew Carnegie, the steel man who first nourished the plan of yoking the entire economy to cradle-to-grave schooling. Harris was inspired by the notion that correctly managed mass schooling would result in a population so dependent on leaders that schism and revolution would be things of the past. The key was to alienate children from themselves so they couldn’t turn inside for strength, and to alienate them from their families, religions, cultures, etc., so that no countervailing force could intervene.

Carnegie used his own considerable influence to retain Harris as the US Commissioner of Education for sixteen years, long enough to set the stage for an era of “scientific management” with its multilayered bureaucracy in American schooling.

Since 1853 in Massachusetts, and by 1918 in the rest of the US, a consortium of private foundations drawing on industrial wealth began steadily working toward a long-range goal of lifelong schooling and a thoroughly rationalized global economy and consumer society. Their work continues to this day.

Through the influence of these wealthy elites, the states have ever since been engaged in a steady, relentless, and deliberate secret agenda of alienating children from their families and shifting the locus of parental control to the state through compulsion schooling.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Stephen Marley performing “Mind Control”

21
Jul
11

compulsion schooling

The American public schools are a state monopoly which is imposed on all families with children through laws compelling children’s school attendance. If you do not send your children to school—or if you do not comply with homeschooling regulations and standards in those states which permit homeschooling—Child Protection Services can and will remove your children from your home and sever your parental rights. You have no choice in the matter.

The rise of public (or government) schools in the 19th century was not a response to an inability on the part of society to provide for the education of its children. Up until the mid-to-late 1800’s a good education in the United States could be obtained without government interference, oversight, or coercion.

In 18th and 19th century America, private education was in great and wide demand, and the private schools were remarkably responsive to that demand. In the hands of private schoolmasters the curriculum expanded rapidly. Schooling in that early time was plentiful, innovative, and well within the reach of the common people. Large numbers of children from all classes of society received several years of education that did an excellent job of preparing American youths for productive lives and success.

The first public schools were established in Massachusettsin 1852. Before then, families were on their own in seeing to their children’s—and their own—educations. What kind of job did these families of yesteryear do?

The short answer is: Better than the public schools have ever done! The schools have actually degraded the general level of education ever since then.

As George Mason University professors Jack High and Jerome Ellig have written, “In colonial times through the early Republic period, when private schools were the rule, a great many people were educated, despite the relatively low living standards of the day.” They noted that 80% of New Yorkers leaving wills could sign their names. Through other data they showed that from 1650 to 1795, male literacy climbed from 60% to 90%, and female literacy went from 30% to 45%. Between 1800 and 1840, literacy in the North rose from 75% to between 91% and 97%. During the same time span in the South, the literacy rate grew from 50%-60% to 81%.

Another indication of the high rate of literacy in early America is book sales. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense sold 120,000 copies in a colonial population of 3 million (of which 50% were indentured servants and 20% were slaves)—the equivalent of 10 million copies today. In 1818, when the population of the US was approaching 9 million (including 1.5 million slaves), Noah Webster’s spelling book sold over 5 million copies, an amazing market saturation rate. Between 1813 and 1823, Sir Walter Scott’s novels sold that many, too, which is the equivalent of selling 60 million copies today. The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. also sold millions of copies. (By today’s standards, neither of these books is exactly easy reading.) Says Carl F. Kaestle, Brown University professor of education, history, and public policy: “Literacy was quite general in the middle reaches of society and above.”

The office of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy issued a paper stating that the literacy rate in Massachusetts had never been as high as it was before compulsion schooling was instituted. Before 1852, when Massachusetts became the first state in the US to force children to go to school (and had to call out the militia to force the issue), literacy was at 98%. When Kennedy’s office released the paper, it was just 91%. 

European visitors to early nineteenth century America including Alexis de Tocqueville and Pierre du Pont de Nemours marveled at how well-educated most Americans were.  By 1812, when the US population was about 7 million, DuPont wrote in Education in the United States, that out of every 1,000 persons fewer than four can’t read or do numbers.” He attributed this to traditional dinner table debates over passages read from the Bible. Children learned how to read with an understanding of what they were reading. Children understood numbers. Their education took place at home or in one-room schoolhouses (“Dame Schools”) taught mainly by women. The children who came out of these schools grew up to be industrious, self-reliant, and individualistic.

As the historian Robert Seybolt wrote of early American private schooling: “Their schools were commercial ventures, and, consequently, competition was keen…. Popular demands, and the element of competition, forced them not only to add new courses of instruction, but constantly to improve their methods and technique of instruction.” They were doing a great job.

One of the things one often hears from proponents of today’s state school monopoly is that, before the establishment of the compulsion public schools, students received fewer years of schooling—and this is technically true. The implication is that more time spent in school is better. Yet what those people usually do not tell you is that pre-public-school schools delivered a better education in a shorter time than today’s schools.

If you need proof of this claim, just take a look at an 1895 eighth-grade final exam which I have posted as a comment to today’s post. I would question the ability of most of today’s college graduates to pass it!

So all these facts drive us to the obvious question: If the levels of public literacy and education were already so high, if large segments of society were already being well-served, if the students were going on to live self-reliant, industrious and productive lives, why were the public schools even established?

They weren’t created to remedy people’s failures to learn to read, write, do arithmetic, and acquire knowledge of other subjects. They weren’t created to address any deficiencies in society’s ability to satisfy its educational requirements.

As we shall see in tomorrow’s post, state monopoly compulsion schooling was established for another purpose entirely. 

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Tammy Wynette performing “Don’t Make Me Go to School”

20
Jul
11

redemption

I am sitting at the keyboard today preoccupied with what is happening in Pensacola. Alex King has a court appearance and, with the help of his attorney Adam Ellis, will try to help the court understand why he ran on foot from the scene of a traffic crash on February 19th.

The Florida Department of Corrections has ginned this into a violation of probation charge for which Alex has been held in jail for five months—three months longer than the maximum sentence for the incident that is being adjudicated. In other words, we are still awaiting word about whether the court will judge Alex guilty or innocent of fleeing the scene, yet he has already served a sentence that is 2½ times longer than would be possible in the worst case.

But this is no ordinary case, and at this point it no longer has anything to do with justice. The Florida state bureaucracy has focused on Alex as an object of persecution because it failed in its initial bid to give Alex a sentence of more than 20 years for his role in the death of his father when he was 12. It is about retribution, pure and simple.

The bureaucrats will of course say that this has nothing to do with the murder of Terry King; that the violation of parole is connected to an “escape attempt” dating back to the time that Alex was incarcerated at the Okeechobee Juvenile Offender Corrections Center (OJOCC), a private for-profit prison operated by a British company, Securicor (now G4S). I visited there. The place was so grim, my first reaction upon hearing about the escape attempt back in early 2005 was, “If I were in that place, I’d want to escape too.”

The only problem was, Alex came under the influence of another kid who convinced him they could get away with an escape and they attempted it. Alex was so desperately unhappy at OJOCC, he probably felt he had nothing to lose, plus he was ill-equipped to resist the other boy’s influence. Because of his authoritarian upbringing in both his family and in prison, Alex has had a tendency drummed into him to comply and follow, and (as he has become more independent) to “go along to get along.” He never had the opportunity as a youngster or teen to learn the dual lessons of freedom and self-responsibility through the normal trial-and-error most of us took for granted in our own lives.

Yet he makes no excuses for himself. As Alex told me a couple months ago, “I don’t have the luxury to make small mistakes.”

Anyway, back on March 5, 2005 both boys ended up spending the night in a classroom instead of their cells—nothing of practical consequence. But Assistant Attorney General Daniel P. Hyndman saw it as an opportunity to come down hard on the kid, and the court proceedings dragged out over a period of years and cost us over $30,000 in expenses plus hundreds of hours of effort by his pro bono attorneys Jayne Weintraub and Steve Potolsky. Weintraub and Petolsky won Alex a sentence of five years’ probation, while the other boy (who had instigated the attempt) got an extra three years in prison.

It remains to be seen which of the boys got a better deal. Serving the full term of a prison sentence in some ways offers a cleaner outcome. When the sentence has been fully served, the state no longer has its hooks into you. By contrast, probation and parole are set with all kinds of trip-wires which, as we are seeing in FDOC’s arbitrary decision to treat a traffic offense as a probation violation, is not a safe or predictable situation. Until the traffic accident, Alex had been fulfilling the conditions of his probation perfectly. He had been getting excellent grades in school and had avoided any unlawful or prohibited activity whatsoever. The state’s decision to file a Violation of Parole (VOP) against Alex for a traffic infraction demonstrates that this matter is not being fairly handled by the state with any reasonable sense of proportion. It shows the state’s main focus is relentless, unforgiving retribution. It shows the state has little interest in Alex’s ultimate redemption and prefers to keep him in bondage.

The Latin word redemptio means  a “ransom-price.” The English word redemption means “repurchase” or to “buy back.” In Exodus 21:8 of the Old Testament, “redemption” refers to the ransom of slaves into freedom. In the New Testament, “redemption” refers both to deliverance from sin and freedom from captivity. There is thus a metaphorical sense in which the death of Christ is believed to have paid the price of a ransom, releasing Christians into liberty from bondage to sin and death.

The idea of redemption is so powerful (and so opposite from the norm of American justice today), we have decided that the work we do collectively for Alex and for all other young people will hereafter be happening under the moniker of “The Redemption Project.”

Whether you want to read into the name Christian values, or the values of other world religions including Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc., the basic idea is that we can buy back kids’ freedom through our own sacrifice, that our ultimate goal is a young person’s redemption.

As we are learning through the experiences of Alex and other kids who have aged into young adulthood, winning one’s redemption is a lifelong challenge. Anyone with a felony record finds liberty very difficult to attain  in our unforgiving society, no matter how much time passes, no matter how admirably one has lived over the years.

As I was doing research the other day in connection with James Prindle’s pending sex charge, I was dismayed to learn that a Republican congresswoman, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, even wants to bar some people who have been labeled as “sex offenders” from being buried in national cemeteries. Not content to see some offenders persecuted beyond their prison sentences, Hartzler apparently wants to hound and humiliate them even beyond death. Hartzler is calling her bill the “Hallowed Grounds Act.” But there’s nothing holy, Christ-like, or Godly in what she’s promoting. Statutory rape laws and prosecutions have become so extreme in some jurisdictions, an estimated 20% of all teens who engage in normal sexual activity are at risk of being so labeled and ruined for life.

It is high time that we bring a new spirit to justice in America. Our current era of retribution must come to a speedy end. Now is the time for compassion, forgiveness, love, and redemption—especially for kids.

If no one else will take the first step, we must.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Johnny Cash performing “Redemption”

 

(postscript)

I heard from Alex, and Wednesday’s court appearance was a “plea hearing” where Alex and his lawyer informed the court they were ready to go to trial. His next court date is August 1st, which will be devoted to jury selection.

He told me the prosecutor had pressured him to accept a plea deal, and even threatened to raise the stakes if we went to court. Alex said our original strategy calculus still held, and that defending ourselves in Pensacola against the traffic charge is still the best place to stand and fight. Plus we’re prepared for it.

Alex held his ground and basically said, “See ‘ya in court.”

(post-postscript)

July 21, 2011

The State Attorney’s Office has filed a “Nolo Prosequi” motion that was posted to the court records at the end of today’s business day.

I haven’t talked with anyone in Pensacola since the motion appeared, so I can offer little insight. But it looks like the state has chosen not to prosecute the case and is dropping the charges.

Right now I’m feeling grudging appreciation for the prosecutor’s good sense (and hope I lose the grudge tomorrow or the next day).

For Alex, of course, I feel elation for the outcome and admiration for the calm and thoughtful way he has been handling the process.

We are not home-free yet, but at least we can now return to Okeechobee without baggage.

(post-post-postscript)

July 22, 2011

I guess the victory lap last night was premature. I also have to take back what I said about appreciating the State Attorney’s good sense. He doesn’t have any.

We are continuing to watch the court records and it now appears the State Attorney is going to charge Alex with hit and run. Alex is to be arraigned on August 19, 2011. That is why they dropped the charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

The State Attorney has made good on the specific threat he made for no other reason than Alex refused to accept their plea bargain deal. Let me ask you this: how can the same behavior be both a misdemeanor and a felony? Logically it cannot be both, and cannot be changed by subsequent behavior.  Obviously the law in this case is just a tool of state  intimidation and coercion. It does not relate to objective truth.

Hit and run is a third degree felony and could include added time as a habitual criminal since it occurred while Alex was on probation and/or less than 5 years upon release from prison.  The maximum sentence is up to 5 years in prison.

Alex told me all of this before. We’re still ready.

This confirms my premise that this whole affair has turned into a vendetta against Alex King. It has nothing to do with justice.

19
Jul
11

alienation & revolution

Because I have filled my life with young people for so long, they have infected my view of the world.

Their music became my music. Their landmark books and films became my landmarks. In my mind I became one of them, and they have accepted me as such.

As I see members of my own generation screwing things up as bad as our own parents did (if not worse), I often see my contemporaries as an alien generation (as if through the eyes of a 20-something). I feel a pulse of impatience, exasperation. The lameness of all these clueless adults!

I think again: “Surely we’ll do better when we get our chance,” and then I catch myself and realize this is not 40 years ago. I am an old man now. My peers flubbed our chance, and I did too. The Woodstock vision fizzled. We sold out and turned into our parents long ago.

We were seduced by the big houses, cars, toys, and easy credit… the prospect of enjoying success without earning it. We became workaholics and multi-taskers and zoned out in front of our televisions. We neglected our families and abdicated our responsibilities to “experts.” We’ve alienated our kids.

A study called Breaking Schools’ Rules has just been released by the New York based Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC). It is a huge study that looked at individual school records and tracked all seventh graders in Texas—1 million of them—for six years.

Even veteran educators were surprised by one finding: that 60% of all the students were suspended or expelled at least once between their 7th-and 12th-grade years. According to CSGJC’s Mike Thompson, this reflects a 20-year trend that has seen the rate double nationally.

Of the million Texas students tracked, 15% were disciplined repeatedly, 11 times or more. Half of these kids ended up in juvenile justice facilities or programs for an average of 73 schooldays. These kids were likely to have repeated a grade and not graduated from high school. “African-American students and those with particular educational disabilities experience a disproportionately high rate of removal from the classroom for disciplinary reasons,” Thompson said.

Listen to today’s story about the study by Claudio Sanchez on NPR’s “Morning Edition”

This is crazy. It’s “Zero-Tolerance” feeding the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.” It’s also zero thinking which is oblivious to future consequences—not only of the unintended kind, but outcomes which are the opposite of why we say we have school discipline. We sort our kids by age and practice a kind of age apartheid that not only alienates kids, but tends to radicalize them. We treat our nation’s young as if we are afraid of them and cannot trust them, and in the process, we turn many of them into people with reasons for us to fear and to not trust.

Their alienation is reflected in, and intensified by, our popular entertainments.

Three films stand out for me as representing the suspicions many young people harbor about the world their elders have created: The Matrix (1999), Fight Club (1999), and V for Vendetta (2006). For many of the kids in my life, these films seemed to confirm and explain the unease they were feeling about the world. These films touched a nerve and were extraordinarily influential in helping to shape my kids’ thinking and establish a framework for perception. (Because these movies appear in so many “Top 5” and “Top 10” lists, their influence is certainly much greater than among just the kids who self-selected to become my friends and family.)

These films reinforce a belief that we are being manipulated and programmed by malevolent “powers-that-be.” The story lines draw upon the science and techniques of mind control, which center on the concept of inverted reality and illusion,  where nothing is at it appears to be, where up is down, yes is no, pain is pleasure, and reality and dreams are blurred. As we know from revelations of government-sponsored programs like MK-Ultra, not being able to differentiate between reality and illusion is, in fact, a key device used in mind control to get subjects to disassociate from reality and succumb to brainwashing, programming, and suggestion. From their inception in the 19th century, the public schools have always provided a cornerstone for mind control and social engineering.

I came of age in a time when one of my generation’s watchwords was, “Don’t trust anyone older than thirty.” I wish I could claim that my distrust has diminished with age and experience. But I cannot. If anything, my distrust of the system has intensified as I’ve learned more. In the final analysis, you can only trust yourself and your own perceptions. In the end it all comes down to you.

In V for Vendetta, the central protagonist “V” said it best in his televised speech, which was the fulcrum-point of the whole film:

“The truth is that there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? If you look about, you witness cruelty, injustice and despotism. But what do you do about it?  What can you do?

“You are but a single individual. How can you possibly make any difference? Individuals have no power in this modern world. That is what you’ve been taught because that is what they need you to believe. But it is not true.

“This is why they are afraid and the reason that I am here; to remind you that it is individuals who always hold the power. The real power. Individuals like me. And individuals like you.”

The kids are listening and, in my opinion, it is a good thing.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Tracy Chapman performing “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution”