Paul Graham: essays

My son told me I had to read this guy’s essays – they were brilliant!

I have barely ‘scratched the surface’  – but I do agree with him.  His ‘news’ feed is also interesting.

Enjoy!

The ‘Tree Ring Circus’: what does ‘divergence of the proxy’ mean?

With the ‘leaked emails’ confirmed as authentic, many experts are sifting through the materials and analyzing them.

One thing which has been highlighted was the discussion about tree ring studies, from which the (now infamous – you can get T-shirts with it) ‘hide the decline’ phrase comes from. Here, I would like to explain what the ‘tree ring’ and ‘multi-proxy reconstruction’ thing is all about, and why it really, really matters.

When constructing the graphs of global temperatures, the scientists ran into a tiny little problem:  how do we know what the Earth’s temperature was like, say, 1 500 years ago? There were no ‘standardized measurements’…. So, how do we ‘know’?

Aside:  my explanation is going to be a simplification for the sake or clarity, which runs the danger of being an over-simplification.  Please, consider it to be a starting point for your own inquiry, not anything more.

The idea is that there are other ‘indicators’ of the Earth’s temperature than just ‘direct measurements’, like we can make today.

For example, ‘tree ring data’.  Each year’s growth can be measured on each tree, because tree-trunks grow radially outwards:  the latest year adds the newest (out-most) ring to the tree.  By looking at the rings, scientists can see which ones are thicker (meaning that the tree added ‘more growth’ that year) and which ones are thinner (meaning the tree grew less that year).

The reasoning goes something like this:

  1. The years when the weather is nice and warm, plants do well and grow more.
  2. Trees are plants, therefore trees do well grow more:  the warmer a year it was, the bigger the tree’s growth ring for that year will be!
  3. Therefore, looking back and comparing the size of tree rings will tell us when it was warmer and colder.

Sounds good, right?

So, that is what they did.

(By ‘they’, I mean the scientists who promote the ‘Anthropogenic Climate Change’ agenda and on whose scientific work the current political policies are based.  I shall refer to them as ‘the IPCC cabal’.)

They took core samples of very, very old trees and looked at their rings, counted the years and centuries, compared them, analyzed them, assigned temperature values to various ring thicknesses – and they came up with a nifty little graph. Because it does not measure the temperature directly, but uses a ‘proxy’ (a substitute) – the growth of trees – this nifty little curve was included on the graph they submitted to the IPCC report as one of the ‘proxies’ for actual temperature records from long ago.

Except that….

During the time period when we have had the most reliable, actual temperature readings, say, from 1960 to now, the tree ring growth did not correspond to the temperatures the scientists measured!

To the contrary:  while these scientists measured an in increase in temperatures, the tree ring ‘record’ from 1960 to now shows a DECLINE in temperatures!

The scientists did notice this divergence:  one set of readings went up, the other down. That can clearly be seen from the email exchanges between them – and from the graphs they exchanged, which I linked to above. Now, at this point, a real scientist would look at their data and say:  “We have actual, measured temperatures going up, while the temperatures reconstructed from tree-ring temperatures are going down!  Obviously, there are other factors at play here:  either some of our measurements are wrong, or the method how we are using to figure out temperatures from tree rings is wrong.  Therefore, either have to figure out what we are missing or figure out where we have made a mistake:  either way, this data cannot be used as is!”

Alas, that is not what happened.

Instead, they decided that since the first ‘divergent’ year that the ‘common data’ was available for both the actual measured temperatures and the tree-ring proxy temperatures was 1960nto now, they would simply stop showing the tree-ring data from 1960 on!!!

Then, nobody could tell that the tree-ring data showed something different than what they were claiming! This is hard to believe.  Please, consider the picture below:

get_th31.jpg get_th32.jpg

The bigger graph was what these people submitted to the IPCC thing.

The picture on the right (or below – depending on your browser and settings) is a close-up of the last few decades of the graph.  It shows the actual temperatures measured in modern times (black), and the ‘proxy’ temperatures as they were gleaned by the ‘scientists’ for the past dozen or so centuries.

The ‘tree-ring data’  – the temperatures they figured out the Earth ‘had to have been’ based on the thickness of the tree-rings from those years – is the pale blue line.

When one looks at the enlarged view of the graph, it becomes obvious that that line stops a few decades before the other ones do:  1960, to be exact…. And, the email exchanges show that the only reason that this data was excluded – why the line was not continued – was not because they did not have the data….it was because they did not like what the data showed!!!

And THAT is FRAUD!

By excluding the data, by stopping the blue line on that graph in 1960, even though the data since then exists, the IPCC Cabal of scientists PROVED they knew they were committing fraud!

And THAT is why so many respectable scientists are so very, very angry.

Disappointed, and angry.

Note:  the formatting of this post got ‘messed up’, so, I edited it to fix it.  Aside from formatting (and this note), the post has not been altered.

Feynman says: good science demands scrutiny!

Our policymakers have all been coerced, in one way or another, to ‘accept’ (or, at least, pay lip service to) the assertions that the Earth is getting warmer and warmer, and that we, humans, are the cause of it.

These policies are largely based on the UN’s series of IPCC reports on Global Warming/Climate Change which claim that there is a scientific concensus that the Earth is warming and that the increase of CO2 due to human activity is the cause.

Recently released documents (originally hacked, but since verified as authentic) have demonstrated that many of the scientists who produced the studies which demonstrated this ‘CO2 forced (caused) climate change’ have refused to release their data for scrutiny by other scientists:  they have even stated they would rather destroy their original data than permit other scientists to analyze it!

And, they have been caught hiding data which would contradict their official findings….

So, what would Richard Feynman – in my never-humble-opinion, THE most brilliant scientist to have ever walked this Earth – say about this?

Lubo Motl, of The Reference Frame, reminds us of Richard Feynman’s famous commencement speech at CalTech in 1974 , in which Dr. Feynman discusses ‘cargo cult science’ and how it is gaining a hold in our mainstream education and science….  The whole speech is an excellent read!  Still, this is perhaps the most salient point he makes:

It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards.

For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it:  other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.  Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can–if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong–to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem.  When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

 

And, Dr. Motl asks:

Do you think the e-mails indicate that the climate scientists have followed the same principles?

ACC scientists’ fraud fallout: the lawsuits are starting!

While much of the mainstream media (MSM) is still sounding apoplectic apologetic about the ‘Global Warming Guilt’ scientists being caught in large scale fraud and subversion of the peer-review process, the documents leaked last week from UK’s University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Climatic Research Unit (CRU) (I so do not want to use the term ‘ClimateGate’!), others are not so idle.

‘Watts Up With That?’, a well-regarded blog run by the outspoken and highly respected Anthony Watts, posted a story by Chris Horner of The American Spectator, entitled: ‘CEI Files Notice of Intent to Sue NASA GISS’.

Why, and how is it important?

CEI is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think-tank, which has focused on verifying whether or not ‘the government’ is releasing accurate statements, especially when it comes to issues with impact as pervasive as ‘Global Warming’ or ‘AGW’ or ‘ACC’ (whatever you want to call it).

NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (yes, the astronaut people) and GISS is NASA’s Goddart Institute for Space Studies.  And, in their own words, “Research at GISS emphasizes a broad study of global climate change.

Dr. Hansen heads up GISS, and is perhaps one of the best known voices on this side of the Atlantic pond (aside from politicians and celebs) calling for drastic action to save us all from the inevitable catastrophe caused by man-made ‘climate change’.

The article starts out:

Today, on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I filed three Notices of Intent to File Suit against NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), for those bodies’ refusal – for nearly three years – to provide documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

The information sought is directly relevant to the exploding “ClimateGate” scandal revealing document destruction, coordinated efforts in the U.S. and UK to avoid complying with both countries’ freedom of information laws, and apparent and widespread intent to defraud at the highest levels of international climate science bodies. Numerous informed commenters had alleged such behavior for years, all of which appears to be affirmed by leaked emails, computer codes and other data from the Climatic Research Unit of the UK’s East Anglia University.

So – this is why it matters:

‘Good scientists’ – even the CRU scientists know this, as per the leaked documents – always hand over the ‘raw data’ (that means, exactly as it was collected (along with the methodology used, conditions under which it was collected), before it was processed or ‘normalized’ (scientific meaning of the word) in any way-shape-or-form), what they did with it and why, and their results along with their hypothesis and conclusions when they submit their work for peer-review.

This is really, really important:  errors or mistakes (not to mention fraud) can occur at any point of the work.  It can occur at the very point of data-collection.  For example, if a thermocouple ‘x’ were used to measure temperatures at 5 out of 15 points, and thermocouple ‘y’ was collected for the rest, it will be necessary for any reviewer to read up on both thermocouples to make sure they behave exactly the same way under all conditions.

Simplification:  consider 2 thermometers commonly used to measure fever.  One is an old fashioned mercury one, the other is the modern, stick-in-the-ear one.  If one takes a child’s temperature using the ear thermometer, they may get a different temperature than if they use the old-fashioned mercury one under the child’s arm.  Therefore, one would have to document taking the child’s temperature simultaneously with both temperatures and record the readings.  Then, one would ‘analyze the difference’ between the readings to see what the difference in readings is.  Then, if one recorded 5 temperatures with the ear thermometer, and 15 with the mercury one, then one would have to ‘normalize’ one set of the readings (by adding or subtracting the ‘normal difference’ between their readings) before one could lump all 20 together as one dataset.

When doing peer-review of another scientist’s work, making sure there were no errors or mistakes in how the data was collected (like lumping together readings from the two thermometers in the example above), that there were no mistakes in making any ‘normalization’, and so on. And, since errors or mistakes can occur at any point from here on, all the ‘work’ has to be subjected to scrutiny by one’s peers.

‘Good scientists’ consider this to be a necessary part of any peer-review process.

Yet, the ‘leaked documents’ demonstrate that many of their studies, on which so much policy is being based, have been submitted for ‘peer-review’ without supplying any of their actual data to the peer doing the reviewing!

They even threatened to stop publishing in journals which demanded to see all of their data and work!

That means that their work was not FULLY ‘peer-reviewed’!

That means we ought not put much weight in that body of work!

But, even worse:  the leaked emails show that, in multiple instances, some of these ‘alarmist scientists’ stated they would rather delete their data than release it for scientific review!!!

That is NOT what ‘good scientists’ do!

Which  brings us to the point of the Notice of Intent to File Suit:

CEI, using ‘Freedom of Information Act’ FoIA, requested GISS to release much of the data it used to make its predictions of doom and cataclysms.  It appears that, for years, GISS has not released it.

In addition, CEI appears to have requested access to the records of ‘discussions’ between various GISS employees about how the data was collected, processed and analyzed.  It would seem that they requested sort of similar-type material like was leaked, except from GISS instead of CRU.  And, it appears that GISS has not released it, either.

And, though I am no lawyer and people ought to draw their own conclusions, but it does seem to me that CEI is citing the information from the ‘leaked files’ that this ‘cabal of scientists’ was willing to deleted information requested under FoIA (which might constitute a pattern of behaviour among this group of scientists) to put NASA’s GISS on notice that if they do not release the requested information (as the law demands they do), they will indeed face a lawsuit.

As they say, we do live in interesting times…

Why do people do this?

This is one of those tear-jerker stories I usually avoid:  it shows people at both our worst and our best.

About 150 km North-East of Ottawa, there once was a musher who bred Huskies as sled dogs.  Then the economy went bad….

This is the ‘worst’ bit….I will never understand how anyone, anyone can just leave animals tied up, without food or water….over a hundred of them!

I don’t know the full story, but my ‘educated guess’ is that the owner permitted rescuers to look after the dogs and eventually surrendered ownership to them in exchange for not facing charges.  Personally, I would find it difficult to be so generous with such a person.  The animal rescue folk are better people than I!

OK – here is the ‘best’ bit:  people are helping.  Complete strangers are opening their hearts and homes, and many others are opening their wallets. Looking after and protecting those who are not able to do it themselves (and, let’s not forget, in our society, we do not permit dogs to ‘look after themselves’!) is one of those best qualities we have.

My son brought this story home from school and asked me to blog about it, to make sure that as many people as possible learned about it. He proudly told me that his teacher was one of those good people who are helping.  And, he himself is dipping into his allowance…

Like I said – a tearjerker of a story!

IPCC scientists, hacked emails and largescale fraud

By now, most people are aware that the University East Anglia’s (UEA) Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has had their database hacked and tons of documents –  including emails between scientists (if one can use that term, in light of the ‘now confirmed’ information revealed therein) which contain some extremely incriminating evidence of scientific fraud, collusion to defraud the public and systematic efforts to subvert the scientific ‘peer review’ process and turn it from an objective assessment into partisan shill.

To me, the last one is the most serious.  But, first I have to ask:  how come this has not been the leading story in every newspaper and newsprogram everywhere?

Most people have only had a chance to come across a few apologetic articles, like this one in the New York Times, which present tiny snippets of the information unearthed (I condemn the means – let’s get that straight from the beginning – but now that the info is out there, we must assess it), without reasonable context, in order to explain it away as ‘harmless’ and thus diffuse any resulting criticism.  SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!

I first came across this at The Reference Frame, and I recommend it for the following reasons:  Mr. ReferenceFrame himself taught Physics at MIT.  Dr. Lubos Motl is a respected Physicist in his own right, with ties and connections with scientists all over the globe.  These, he put to good use himself, verifying whether or not the data the hackers leaked is genuine or not and whether what it reveals can be trusted.  As a Physicist, he is much more thorough in this than I would trust most journalists to be, he has the knowledge to evaluate ‘things’, and, let’s face it, as ‘one of them’, most scientists will be more comfortable and open discussing things with him.  (The corollary, of course, is that many ‘bad’ scientists will feel more threatened by him because he’s trained to detect any scientific BS!)

Plus, he is updating his post to include the latest bits…

AND, he has posted a comprehensive list of sites which are analyzing/discussing this. Again, I much recommend it… overall, I find his post to be a most useful frame of reference!

In case the absence of the mass media coverage on this topic has left you wondering what it is I am jabbering on about, here is the tip of the proverbial (and growing, not melting) iceberg:

If you would like to check through all the ‘leaked documents’, you can download them from Junk Science, or Friends of Science.  Or, look through the database Lubo Motl provides  on The Reference Frame:  it is excellent.  There are many well written blogs (as opposed to news stories(!)) that give the ‘scoop’ on this!

What the emails appear to have revealed:

  • data had been altered to ‘hide cooling’
  • data had been forged to demonstrate a ‘warming trend’
  • Scientists lamented that their data did not demonstrate the conclusions they wanted:  this is nothing new.  What is new is that they sought advice from each other how to fiddle the data in order to hide what it shows and instead conform to their desired conclusion
  • Scientists threatened to destroy data rather than permit other scientists examine the un-altered dataset on which their study is based (this is an essential part of the peer review process – without examining the raw data, another scientist cannot possibly assess if it had been processed ‘correctly’:  it is unthinkable that a proper peer review could possibly be done without examining the raw data
  • Scientists knowingly passed only  the data that supported ‘Global Warming’ on to the IPCC panel for evaluation, suppressing existing data that opposed it.
  • Scientists intentionally manipulated ‘impartial’ scientists performing peer review on studies which had findings which did not support AGW/ACC point of view, tricking them into rejecting non-AGW/ACC supporting studies…

All this is bad.  Very bad.  BUT – and this is, in my never-humble-opinion, is something so vile and unforgivable, I am having trouble wrapping my brain around it:  THEY COLLUDED TO SUBVERT THE SCIENTIFIC PEER REVIEW PROCESS!!!

Why is subverting the peer review process the thing that upsets me so much?

Because if people do ‘bad science’ – the peers reviewing it will, eventually, catch it and expose it.

Because if people are committing scientific fraud – the peers reviewing it will, eventually, catch it and expose it, and ruin the reputation of the scientist committing it.

Because if there is a group of scientists conspiring to defraud everyone – the peers reviewing it may take a while to catch on, but, eventually, they will catch it, expose it and make sure these conspirators never get near any science again!

The scientific peer review process relies on the honesty and integrity of scientists.  It is nothing more – and nothing less – than, when one writes up one’s experiment/scientific study, one submits BOTH the write-up AND all the supporting data and materials to other scientists who have expertise in this field.  These other scientists read the experiment’s/study’s hypothesis, then they examine the methodology used, data (the actual, physical data that was collected,  the method/means it was collected by, the ‘controls’ that were placed to limit other possible factors that might affect the data and so on, the methodologies and techniques used to analyze the data, and so on) and then they analyze whether or not the data, collected in the way it was, analyzed as it was, supports the hypothesis as proposed.

It is not an easy process – and it relies heavily on the integrity of the ‘peers’ doing the ‘review’!

That is why it is so highly valued!

There is no fame or fortune in it, yet it is hard (and necessary) work!  That is why most scientists take ‘peer review’ at face value!

By showing that this very process which is supposed to test (and thus assure) the integrity of scientific findings can be subverted, and subverted so easily, these people have ended the ‘age of innocence’ among the scientific community!

To sum it up – they have falsified science (and manipulated policymakers) in order to increase their own funding, they have subverted (and thus for ever destroyed the credibility of) the scientific peer review process and utterly destroyed the credibility of science and scientists!

I wish I could think of names vile enough to call them – but, there are none!  Their names will go down in history and become the worst possible insults a person can be called!

 

‘His real name is Nitely Melikson’

CodeSlinger: ‘The Comprachicos’ (Child Thiefs) by Ayn Rand

Some of the most popular post on this site are the guest-posts by CodeSlinger.  Lately, I have been ranting on about the dangers of segregating school-aged children based on some ‘visible’ criteria:  race, creed, sex, and the like.  This intro is followed by a guest-post by CodeSlinger.

Since a race-segregated school has opened as a pilot project in Toronto, there have been calls for segregating boys out of ‘mainstream  schools’ and into ‘boys-only’ classrooms or schools, run by male teachers (this latter part, of course, is contrary to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms), where the ‘goals’ set for the students would be ‘more achievable’ for ‘boys’.  In other words, ‘maleness’ was re-defined as a ‘physical disability’ for which specialized, dumbed-down classrooms were needed….

CodeSlinger has thought about this:  and, while he asserts that the current atmosphere in our public schools is very damaging to boys, especially when they are young, he has come to agree that the same people who have entrenched ‘Cultural Marxism’ in our classrooms cannot be trusted not to use their position of power and influence to ensure the ‘b0ys-only’ programs are not designed to be even more ‘toxic’ to boys than the current variety is!

As part of this debate, CodeSlinger has offered the following:

The Comprachicos

by Ayn Rand

[emphasis added by CodeSlinger]

The comprachicos, or comprapequeños, were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today …

Comprachicos, as well as comprapequeños, is a compound Spanish word that means “child-buyers.” The comprachicos traded in children. They bought them and sold them.

They did not steal them. The kidnapping of children is a different industry.

And what did they make of these children?

Monsters.

Why monsters?

To laugh.

The people need laughter; so do the kings. Cities require side-show freaks or clowns; palaces require jesters …

To succeed in producing a freak, one must get hold of him early. A dwarf must be started when he is small …

Hence, an art. There were educators. They took a man and turned him into a miscarriage; they took a face and made a muzzle. They stunted growth; they mangled features. This artificial production of teratological cases had its own rules. It was a whole science. Imagine an inverted orthopedics. Where God had put a straight glance, this art put a squint. Where God had put harmony, they put deformity. Where God had put perfection, they brought back a botched attempt. And, in the eyes of connoisseurs, it is the botched that was perfect …

The practice of degrading man leads one to the practice of deforming him. Deformity completes the task of political suppression …

The comprachicos had a talent, to disfigure, that made them valuable in politics. To disfigure is better than to kill. There was the iron mask, but that is an awkward means. One cannot populate Europe with iron masks; deformed mountebanks, however, run through the streets without appearing implausible; besides, an iron mask can be torn off, a mask of flesh cannot.

To mask you forever by means of your own face, nothing can be more  ingenious

The comprachicos did not merely remove a child’s face, they removed his memory. At least, they removed as much of it as they could. The child was not aware of the mutilation he had suffered. This horrible surgery left traces on his face, not in his mind. He could remember at most that one day he had been seized by some men, then had fallen asleep, and later they had   cured him. Cured him of what?  He did not know. Of the burning by sulphur and the incisions by iron, he remembered nothing. During the operation, the comprachicos made the little patient unconscious by means of a stupefying powder that passed for magic and suppressed pain …

In China, since time immemorial, they have achieved refinement in a special art and industry: the molding of a living man. One takes a child two or three years old, one puts him into a porcelain vase, more or less grotesque   in shape, without cover or bottom, so that the head and feet protrude. In the daytime, one keeps this vase standing upright; at night, one lays it
down, so that the child can sleep. Thus the child expands without growing, slowly filling the contours of the vase with his compressed flesh and twisted bones. This bottled development continues for several years. At a certain point, it becomes irreparable. When one judges that this has occurred and that the monster is made, one breaks the vase, the child comes out, and one has a man in the shape of a pot.

– Victor Hugo, The Man Who Laughs [Ayn Rand’s translation]

Victor Hugo wrote this in the nineteenth century. His exalted mind not conceive that so unspeakable a form of inhumanity would ever be possible again. The twentieth century proved him wrong.

The production of monsters—helpless, twisted monsters whose normal development has been stunted—goes on all around us. But the modern heirs of the comprachicos are smarter and subtler than their predecessors: they do not hide, they practice their trade in the open; they do not buy children,  the children are delivered to them; they do not use sulphur or iron, they achieve their goal without ever laying a finger on their little victims.

The ancient comprachicos hid the operation, but displayed its results; their heirs have reversed the process: the operation is open, the results are invisible. In the past, this horrible surgery left traces on a child’s face, not in his mind. Today, it leaves traces in his mind, not on his face. In both cases, the child is not aware of the mutilation he has
suffered. But today’s comprachicos do not use narcotic powders: they take a child before he is fully aware of reality and never let him develop that awareness. Where nature had put a normal brain, they put mental
retardation.

To make you unconscious for life by means of your own brain, nothing can  be more ingenious.

This is the ingenuity practiced by most of today’s educators.

They are the comprachicos of the mind.

They do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours.
They place him into a “Progressive” nursery school to adjust him to society.

And what do they make of these children?

Monsters.

Why monsters?

To rule.

So begins Ayn Rand’s essay, The Comprachicos, written in 1970. Since then, the comprachicos of the mind have had almost another half century to refine their technique, broaden the front of their attack, and make sure, in their own words, that no child is left behind.

Download and read the whole essay here:  Ayn Rand – The Comprachicos.

Then go do something about it!

Update:  the link to a pdf version of Ayn Rand’s essay has been added

Kindergarten: why this is bad for kids – and for society

This is not an easy explanation – please, indulge me.  I promise to make sense of it at the end.

For a century or so now, many experts have argued about what is more instrumental in determining a person’s fate:  their nature (genetic predispositions) or nurture (the environment in which they are raised).  Many experts today agree that there is some sort of a mixture of the two.  I am not attempting to determine where this balance lies:  I am simply making some observation that when very different social expectations are placed on young people, their very sense of ‘self’ – as defined with respect to society, how they belong, and so on, will be very different.  And, that these grown ups will have very, very different expectations of their role in society and the role of society in their lives.

Let me use some examples…

Imagine a life in a village.  Life is not so easy, and ‘everyone’ has to pitch in to help.

Most childcare is done through family:  depending on the birthrate, either through immediate (nuclear) family, or by extended family.  In these scenarios, the children would (usually) be in a group of 5-10 kids, either siblings, or siblings and cousins – looked after by their mother or a close female relative.  Within this group, there would be kids of varying ages:  from infants on up.  It would be unusual for this group to have ‘many’ kids of exactly the same age.

Because the kids are of varying ages, there are differing expectations placed on them:  the older ones are expected to help/be protective of/mentor the younger ones. This is very important, for several reasons.

It set up a ‘natural pecking order’ – one that was clear, obvious and acceptable:  the older kids were higher up the social ladder than the younger ones.  The expectations of them were higher – but, this went hand-in-hand with their increased prestige and social status within the group.  Yes, the kids were all expected to learn skills – from the adults, as well as from the older kids.  Not wanting to be surpassed in skills by the younger ones was an important motivator for learning and perseverance…

But, and this is perhaps most important, there were small, incremental successes.  Every time a child held a younger sibling or cousin to calm their crying, every time they would feed the younger ones, or change diapers, or teach them to throw pebbles at the birds eating the harvest, or how to make a whistle from a willow twig – this would be an accomplishment.

These accomplishments will each – taken separately – be very small.  But that does not make them unimportant!  Together, these accomplishments add up.  And

It is precisely through these small accomplishments that the person will self-define:  each one builds the child’s self-confidence, confirming their important role in their social group, giving worth to their membership in that group. It gives them a sense of ‘ worthy belonging’.

And let’s not kid ourselves – we all have a need to belong, we all feel better when we know we are needed!

Of course, if one’s skills in a particular field are great, that individual may ‘skip up’ a few rungs in the social order.  And, some societies only open specific roles to boys or girls, which may be detrimental to specific individuals.  I do not deny that, nor do I claim this system is ‘perfect’.  I simply comment on it, observing that in a small social group of children of varying ages, the social hierarchy/order is relatively easy to establish and learn for a young child, and that one’s expectations of ‘how to live and fit in’ are in accepting help/guidance from those ‘higher up’ the hierarchy, and in being protective of and being expected to help those lower down on that ladder.  This develops both a sense of worth and reciprocity towards the group, but also of empathy with the other kids who will grow up into one’s peers.

In other words, this child grows up expecting society where reciprocity is the social norm and each individual is expected to be an active participant in the giving and receiving and will have a healthy sense of self-worth and connectedness with their society.

Now, let us consider another child, growing up in a society which is structured very differently….

Parents are expected to work in a structured environment, away from home.  From an early age, children go to nursery school/kindergarten.

There, in order to facilitate ‘learning’ at ‘age-appropriate level’, they are grouped by age:  each group of 15-50 children of the same age are put together into a ‘class’ and assigned one or more ‘teachers’, possibly with several ‘assistants’ or ‘helpers’.  Thus, the adult-to-child ratio may be only slightly higher than in the previous scenario (it may even be the same), but the group itself is homogeneously composed of ‘peers’.

This sets up a very different social dynamic…

They are all peers!

There is no ‘easy’ way to establish a ‘pecking order’.

This, in itself, is rather disturbing to even young kids who generally need to understand where they fit in, socially.  Interacting with a large number of ‘peers’, introduced and maintained as equals, is not natural to our psychological development – at least, not at the age of 3-5 years!  So, this can be very, very confusing and instead of ‘age’ or ‘achievement’, social order in such a group (and there is always a social hierarchy in every group of humans) is decided by innate ‘dominance’ or ‘aggression’.

In addition, ‘mentoring’ or any attempt at ‘helping’ from one student to another is actively discouraged by the ‘teachers’ and their assistants as ‘bossiness’, ‘interference’ or even ‘bullying’ – even if it is offered with the best of intentions, in the most positive manner.

Instruction – of every student, in every aspect – is the exclusive domain of the teachers and their assistants, usually at a ‘common time’ and in a ‘common way’.  It is simply ‘not the job’ of any child to help another – and such empathy-building activity is discouraged or even punished.  Only ‘the teacher’ is permitted to ‘teach’, only ‘the teacher’ or ‘assistants’ are allowed to help!

This creates an environment where each child is a passive recipient of care and instruction.  They ‘receive’ – and are punished for any attempt to ‘give’.  Their self-worth is derived exclusively from their obedience to the adults in authority and their completion of ‘assignments’.  Even the skill level at which the assignment is completed is often not evaluated on the grounds that this would stigmatize the less-competent students and thus discourage ‘learning’:  simple obedient completion of the task, even in a sub-standard manner, in complete compliance with authority, is rewarded in todays kindergartens.

What is more – due to fears of accusations of sexual improprieties, teachers and their assistants are now (in Ontario Public School Kindergartens) not permitted to touch the students – even if the child falls down and is bleeding – beyond slapping on of a band-aid.  If the child is upset, no hug is permitted to help calm him or her down. It is truly ‘an institutional experience’!

How different an adult will this child grow up to be, from the one in the earlier example?

‘Common Sense’ is often defined as ‘everything we learn before the age of 16’.  Similarly, ‘everything we learn before the age of 5’ defines our ‘self-perception’, especially with respect to the society we live in, and our expectations of the ‘proper’ way to relate to it.

Thus, as the child who could expect protection and help from his/her older siblings/friends/family members – but who was equally expected to help and protect the younger ones – grows up, he or she is, on some sub-conscious level, expecting that in order to be good members of society, he/she needs to both take and give.  In return for this reciprocity, they feel needed and connected…they know how they ‘fit in’ – even if only on a deep, non-verbalized level.

Similarly, the child who grows up, from an early age, strictly as a passive recipient of instructions and who is expected to be rewarded for obedience, or ‘performing assigned tasks’ rather than actively interacting in a social give-and-take (often being severely punished for trying to establish a socially reciprocal relationship with other kids) has, at a deep, subconscious level an expectation that  they have to perform the minimum – and nothing beyond the minimum – designed tasks and that all else will be done for them.  This programming is so deep in the sub-conscious, it is not consciously perceived.  Rather, these are the ‘natural expectations’ children raised this way have.

At least, most of them do.

Which is why children raised in ‘kindergartens’ do not have the same perception of what constitutes their ‘self-worth’ as children raised in family or extended-family-type settings.  It is not that they are somehow bad or lazy:  just that from their earliest age, they were taught that reciprocity is punished and doing the minimum effort and passively accepting having all their physical needs taken care of is what society wants them to do.  And, being the social creatures we are, we get ‘primed’ this way – and it never even occurs to us that there is something to question….

To the contrary:  we see all people who behave in other ways as ‘needing to be punished’.  After all, when we tried to be different, to help others, to hug a friend, to be ourselves, to show we can do something better than everyone else around us – we were punished!  We were punished for ‘showing off’ or for ‘being bossy’ or for ‘not obeying’ or, just, for ‘not being passive’!

Is is any surprise that we have grown up into a generation which has strong feelings of entitlement – entitlement to be taken care of, to be passive recipients of care – and of great resentment towards anyone who tries to ‘show everyone up’ and succeeds?  And that we are not even aware that these are ‘programmed’ values, because they seem so ‘natural and ‘universal’ to us?

Yes, I have not expressed my meaning very eloquently, perhaps not even as accurately as I tried to.

Still, please, think about it….

Meep! MEEP!

One of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the USA are the ‘Salem Witch Trials‘.

The very home of one of the people executed for practicing ‘witchcraft’ , Rebecca Nurse, has been turned into a museum.  It stands in today’s town of Danvers, MA, which was originally settled as ‘Salem Village’.

It seems that, once again, trouble is brewing in this quaint little town.

This time, it is not the Devil who is afflicting young people, but none other than the lovable-appearing Muppet, Beaker!

The affliction of the town’s young people – which causes them to exclaim ‘Meep!’ without provocation – has become so severe that the administrators of the Danvers High School have been forced to resort to banning the word, both written and spoken!

So, when such a posession by evil (?)  Muppet begun to sweep through the youth population (some students even said ‘Meep’ AT a teacher!), how was the school to protect the students not yet infected into channeling this spirit?  Obviously, the school had to take the strongest possible steps!  According to news reports, the school instituted a rule (clearly communicated to all parents) that any student who utters this sound ‘Meep!’, or even wears an article of clothing with the word ‘Meep!’ on it, will face expulsion from school!  Oh, and the police will be notified, too…

After all, what else could they do?  Now, even MORE young people were affected than the LAST time – and they had to resort to ‘witch trial’ and executions then!!!

Could they learn a lesson from history?

Or, perhaps, educational professionals might have some of them ‘professional educational tools’ they could employ?

…don’t be ridiculous – that would mean actually doing their job!

They did what any authority in power these days seems to think is the ‘best’ way to deal with something they don’t like:  BAN IT!!!

Of course, this hit the blogosphere pretty fast:  I read about it on Dvorak Uncensored.  They carry a quote from a lawyer who says she sent an email stating ‘Meep!’ (the address is publicly available on the school’s website, right margin) to the principal, vice principal and administrator, only to get a reply from the VP that her email has, indeed, been forwarded to the local police department….

This is serious matter:  curbing the freedom of speech of students is nothing to Tinker with!  The only circumstances – according to the US Supreme Court – that a student’s right to free speech may be abridged on public school grounds is if the ‘speech’ is ‘sexually explicit’ or if it ‘promotes the use of illegal substances’….  Of course, I am no lawyer, but, in my never-humble-opinion, the word ‘Meep!’ does not do either!

Despite the clear rules of law, the school leadership has deemed this offensive word, ‘Meep!’, to be such a danger and such a disruption, no amount of force is unjustified in getting rid of it!

Welcome to the Salem Muppet Hunt!

When I told my own kids about this situation, both my sons shouted out (simultaneously) “Reason!” and “Common Sense!”  The point being, if the teens in Danvers High switched to saying ‘Reason!’ or ‘Common Sense’ in the same manner they are now using the term ‘Meep!’, would the school ban ‘Reason!’ and ‘Common Sense!’ ?

Some clever people (sorry, I lost the link) have suggested that, perhaps, the students might stop saying ‘Meep!’, but each and every one of them could, say, accidentally drop a textbook at 10:45 each and every day…. accidents DO happen….

Personally, I think they ought to continue the behaviour, but change ‘Meep!’  sound to ‘Baaaaaaaaah!’  After all, if the school WANTS them to behave like sheep, they might as well SOUND like sheep!

Now, I did not grow up with the Muppets:  right generation, wrong continent.  But, my husband did.  And, he likes Beaker!  He has the audacity to think that Beaker, contrary to the Danvers High administrators, is not actually evil!  He asked me to send them this message (I recommend you turn the volume down – the music is seriously ‘wussy’, to the point of ‘ear-bleed-causing’, but the video does make the point):  DON’T FEAR THE BEAKER!!!

Of course, there are those conspiracy-minded folk who think that the reason that the school had banned ‘Meep!’ is because during the 2008 US Presidential election, the Muppet Show endorsed Beaker for President – against Obama-Kermit!  And that this is just political payback by Obama-Kermit cronies…  Personally, I don’t believe a word of that!  Though, if you would like adirect  confirmation that this ‘conspiracy theory’ is ludicrous, perhaps you could ask the Danvers High School principal, Thomas Murray, directly.  His email is murray@danvers.org )

All I have to say to the pedagogues of Danvers High:

TEACHER!  LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE!!!!

Oh, and:  Meep! MEEP!