Class.

To whom it may regard
You’re probably wondering what it is that you’re holding in your hands. I gave my confession when I was arrested, and I made it clear that I don’t want a priest in my cell or attending my execution, so what is this if not a confession or a ‘come to god’ sort of thing? Well, the answer is pretty simple. I’m not letting anyone write the ending to my story except for me, and I’m certainly not going to allow the media’s narrative against me to go unanswered.

To set the record straight: I never said that I was anything other than one hundred percent guilty of all the charges against me. Murder in the first? Obviously true. Breaking and entering? Also true. Why go through the list? You all watched the court proceedings. So, what is there to clear up? Let’s start at the beginning.

 

I was born in a union household in St. Francis. Like most everyone else in the town, my parents were employed by Mr. Frederik’s company, Rodion Solutions. Times were good and St. Francis thrived. Property values were high, but not too high so as to keep middle class families from purchasing homes, and there were always enough jobs. We even saw the owner, Mr. Rodion, in town on a frequent basis. He insisted on being called by his first name, Richard, by everyone, even his employees, and patronized local businesses on a frequent basis. That isn’t to say that the man is a saint, but it isn’t my place to tell stories out of school. This is about me and Richard’s son, not me and John’s father.

We’d hear rumors now and then, about automation coming to Rodion Solutions, but Mr. Rodion swore that his factory would automate when it’s owned by someone else, and not a moment before. It wasn’t just talk, either, it was a stance that he stood resolute on. As a result, we had a beautiful and bustling main street, local scholarships, and a thriving arts community, proof that college towns don’t have a monopoly on culture. We’d hear rumblings about how unhappy John was with the state of his inheritance, or how deeply he disagreed with his father about his stance on automation, but Richard was resolute and firm. Due to Rodion Solutions being a privately owned company, with all shares owned by Richard, he had absolute control over how things were run. There was talk about making the company completely employee-owned, but…no one’s perfect.

Time went on. People moved, people came in, stores opened and stores closed, but Rodion’s gates were unlocked on weekdays and unemployment within St. Francis was all but completely unheard of. That is until Mr. Rodion ‘s health started to fail. It wasn’t as if we weren’t expecting it; he was a five pack a day smoker during downtime, and would be even worse during busy periods. Rather than spend the last few months of his life on chemo, only to get a trache and a lung removed, he chose to check into hospice to die as comfortably as possible in the town that he had built.

The change happened faster than any of us could believe. John was smart enough to know not to make any major changes while his father was still alive, so he waited until the day of Richard’s funeral for him to make Rodion Solutions into a publicly traded corporation. Within a month, the lay-offs started. The people of St. Francis did what they were able to, but the damage was done and could not be rolled back. All that needed to be done was for the right people to think the wrong thing about what happened to the jobs (immigration and outsourcing, not automation) and any effort to rally St. Francis against John Rodion was utterly undercut.

Unemployment exploded throughout the country and only got worse over the next two decades. With less middle class jobs, there was less money to spend in the area, which led to even more job losses. Soon enough, there were more boards across windows on Main Street than not, which resulted in an exodus out of the county. With less tax payers and lowering property values, our schools got worse and the Richard Rodion Excellence Award was dissolved, along with the rest of the philanthropic efforts headed by the fallen patriarch. St. Francis was a miniature of Detroit over an accelerated period of time. Quiet nights became filled with police sirens, and then when the local police station had to cut their budget, the sirens stopped by the need for police just grew.

I was luckier than most of my friends. We lost our house, of course, but we were able to sell to a manager that was coming into Rodion to watch over the new robots and to supervise the maintenance crew. As they were moving in and we were moving out, my parents (who were so maligned by the press, and who didn’t deserve any of their blame) drew me aside and told me not to resent them. I still remember my dad’s words as if they were seared into my mind, “Don’t blame them, kiddo. It’s not their fault, they need a job as much as anyone else, and they’re qualified to do it. It’s John Rodion and his stockholders who are to blame for this, not the people who were hired on after we were all laid off.”

That money helped us to stay afloat for awhile, but with store after store closing down in the area and major chains hesitating from opening up due to declining population numbers and household incomes there was a lot of hesitation. The press chose to paint my dad as a drunk, which was literally true, but such a term is only ever used as a character judgment which was completely unearned. It wasn’t his fault that he was totally unqualified for any other job after he worked at that factory since the day he graduated from high school. The darkest day of his life was when he took a position as a greeter for Wal-Mart. My father, the kindest, warmest and most intelligent man I’ve ever known, fell into a despair that he couldn’t climb out of after his first day in that uniform. My mom was a housekeeper for hire, and between their combined income, we were able to pay for everything but household necessities. My father cried when we had to apply for government assistance, like all of his friends eventually had to.

My parents kindly, but firmly, instilled into me a very strong work ethic as well as a large amount of respect for education and, as my dad called them, “The people who make the gears of the world turn” by which he meant public employees, retail workers, manufacturers, etc. The people who don’t wear a suit to work, unless it was bought at Goodwill. However, they never allowed me to take a job, telling me that my biggest responsibility was getting grades good enough to leave St. Francis and never come back. So, even after my dad finished off a six pack of Milwaukee’s Best, he still sat with me in the kitchen, both of our eyes straining because we only dared to turn on one light in the kitchen to keep the electric bill low, until I finished my homework. When he would have to work overnight, it was my mom that stayed up with me.

My friends were not so fortunate, though. Not everybody can stand up and stare down darkness like my parents can, and not everyone who needs chemical assistance to get through the day was able to stay themselves with their favorite substance flowing through their veins. There were adult suicides, teenage suicides, domestic abuse of every stripe and a surge of opiates methamphetamines into the area. Plenty of people did really well after our town disintegrated, just not any of the original citizens of St. Francis.

On the day of the eighth anniversary of the factory’s closure, I sent off an application to Chicago state for law, thinking that I would be able to fight for people like those hurt by the death of manufacturing, people like my parents. It wasn’t easy, between my father’s worsening alcoholism and my mom’s failing health due to the stress of cleaning every day, I wanted more than anything to return to help. To send them money. But my dad made it clear that he’d throw me out if I tried to come back. “You earned that scholarship, now do something with it.”

And so I did. Years of hard work, years of study. Years more of criminal defense so that I could set up my own practice eventually and all that I ever saw was more people like my parents, my friends and my parents’ friends all crushed by forces out of their control and merely trying to live, trying to get through their day. I put all of this out of my mind and put my nose to the grindstone until John Rodion stood in front of me, which set me on the course that I’m on now. The conversation that followed was a test of my mettle more than anything else as every class-shaming comment and remark he made served to make me angrier and angrier. That is until he made the job offer. He said I had a keen intellect, that I had risen out of squalor, that I beat all the odds and that I defied expectations when he made the squalor, when he set the odds on the table and when he decided that St. Francis’ expectations were only worth diminishing. What could I do but accept the offer?

With the money I made as a corporate lawyer, I was able to buy my parents a home and get my dad the help that he needed after AA failed him for the fourth time; he couldn’t bring himself to believe in a higher power after his best friend and my godfather died of a heroin overdose. Soon, that proved to not be enough. Even after donating most of my income to St. Francis’ public schools and doing everything else that I could for the community that created me, I still felt a hollowness that I couldn’t fill. I carried this hollow feeling with me for months, into the court, into meetings, into doc review and business lunches until I needed John’s signature on some contract or another, it isn’t important, and his secretary was away from her desk. I knew he was in his office, so I just let myself in and continued the chain of dominos falling when I saw his secretary on her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks as John Rodion, the son of a man who created a fabrication and manufacturing conglomerate out of nothing, pulled his pants back up.

I froze. What else could I do? I was reminded of when dad told us that he lost his job; my mind was unable to fully grasp what was going on in front of me. John told his secretary to go back to her desk and she passed me with my mouth wide open while he told her to close the door behind her. The ‘conversation’ that followed, he was the one that spoke while all I could do was nod or shake my head, was full of ‘it isn’t how it looks,’ as he assured me that ‘this can stay between us’ and ‘there’s no reason why any of this needs to leave my office.’ This impromptu ‘meeting’ ended with him, unbidden, doubling my salary and telling me to take the day off. To say that work never went back to normal was an understatement.

I deserve an award for not letting my façade slip over the next few years. John considered me ‘made’ after covering for whatever the hell was going on with his secretary. I felt like I was betraying yet another person for just ‘allowing’ her to think that I was complicit with whatever was going on, but it was necessary as I was allowed into John Rodion’s circle. I met his closest friends, I met his family and his children. I even met two of his mistresses. All for him to totally drop his guard around me, and to allow me to gather what I needed from him, slowly, bit by bit, to bypass the security at his house, and to know when his family will be out of his mansion. From there, it was a matter of time until my parents passed on. If that sounds morbid, it wasn’t meant to; I just didn’t want them to think of their only son, the person who they were more proud of than anyone else, as a murderer.

Finally, the time came. The guard allowed me into his neighborhood to ‘drop off some contracts that couldn’t wait until the office opened.’ Then I used the keys that I copied to get through his front door and the security code to keep the alarm from going off. Everything now depended on me taking my time, and making sure that he knew full well what was going on when I sent him to hell.

He was a heavy sleeper, which was highly conducive for when I slipped the first knife into his soft body. He screamed, because who wouldn’t, but with a totally empty manor that could fit three separate low-cost living apartment buildings in its environs there was no one anywhere near that would care in the least bit. The first knife was just a rude wake up call, as well as sending a ‘I’m not kidding’ message.

I’ll say this much for the dearly departed; he got the situation and was on the wagon right away. With a bottle of smelling salts in my pocket to keep him awake, and a hand on the first knife to twist, I let him know why I was there.
“St. Francis.” I said clearly, my eyes boring into his face.

His eyes searched all over me, unable to find anything to say.

“When your father was alive, the population was ten thousand higher than it is now, the schools were performing better and there was no crime, drugs or suicide to speak of. Have you been there lately?”

He didn’t reply, and I twisted the knife, which produced a cry of “NO!” He struggled to get his breath back, “You know as well as I do what a dump that place is.”

“Thanks to you!” I shouted, spittle flying in his face. “Thanks to you. Killing all those jobs has consequences, John, and I am those consequences.” The second knife slipped into him as easily as you would expect, as much as I paid for them. After he calmed down, I smirked down at him, “Funny thing about knives and stabbing, so long as the attacks avoids all major arteries and organs, it’s very hard to die from a knife attack. Not that you will, of course.”

“Killing me won’t bring those jobs back!” He yelled. “Nothing will! They’ll never come back!”

I couldn’t help but laugh at that, “You think that’s what I think will happen?” I leaned in close, as if there were other people in the bedroom. “This is revenge.”

“Revenge?” He coughed and blood drooled out of his mouth. “You hold yourself up as some avenger while leaving my wife and children without me! Just over a business deal?”

I couldn’t help it at that point. I just cut his throat open, “I’ll make sure to leave the phone numbers of your secretary and mistresses. Maybe they’ll help.”

 

You all know what happened after. The arrest, my confession, everything else. And here I am, waiting for my execution date. I know that this won’t fix anything, and I know no one’s shedding any tears when I go in the ground, but at least he didn’t get away with it. Now the hollow feeling is gone. Now I can sleep at night. That’s enough.

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Why are Schools Secular?

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This test has been making the rounds through the various ways of the internet, and now that it’s been confirmed as being real (http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2013/04/30/atheists-lash-out-at-a-christian-school/), I figure it’s time that I comment on it.

I don’t feel like it’s my place to criticize the school, as much as I do feel like they deserve it. It’s a private school, and so long as they receive no public funds, they can teach whatever they like. Of course, I have an issue with them teaching children information that is completely false, but I have as much business telling private schools how to run themselves as I do in telling any other business the best way to run things.

Instead, I think this test best presents me with a chance to talk about why our schools are secular, since this is an ongoing conversation and has been for a very long time.

To begin with, the reason why there’s such a big to do over this test is because of the heading of the test, ‘Science Quiz,’ when the information being quizzed has nothing to do with science. This all goes back to the purpose of science in the first place, which is to observe, test and inquire into the world around us. Science is basically a form of systematic inquiry with logic as one of our key tools. Much of the problem that many Creationists have with evolution is simply a misunderstanding of what science is (a problem that they share with Conspiracy Theorists), because so many of them conceive it as a conspiracy being waged against Christianity, which is, of course, patently false.

The thought then lines up with schools being in on this conspiracy and a front for it.

It’s actually fairly easy to understand their point of view, since schools are not in the business of pushing an agenda, which can then be confused as pushing an agenda contrary to that of a fundamentalist reading of a particular religion’s holy book. Fact of the matter is that this is the best way to conduct a school system, which is to say, a secular school system.

The reason why our schools are secular is simply that any organization that draws public funding cannot endorse any religion. The reason for this is easy to understand; a Christian wouldn’t feel comfortable funding a school that opens each day with Islamic prayers and vice versa. The same could be said for most of the world’s religions and most of the adherents of those religions. Schools are not in the business of teaching children what to think in terms of religion, they solely exist to educate students in the collected knowledge of human civilization and also the best ways to further that knowledge. Religion is then relegated to the home and to the church, which are the two best places to teach religion. After all, even within one single religion, Christianity, there are hundreds of different offshoots of that particular brand of Christianity, and then thousands of churches devoted to those particular offshoots and then thousands of families belonging to each church, all of whom believe different things and teach different things to their families. Even if your student goes to a class taught by a fellow church-goer, what’s the likelihood that teacher is going to be teaching something that directly lines up with what you personally believe and what you personally teach in your home?

The best approach is no approach. Schools adopt a hands off approach, which remains the best way for all people within a society to be free within that society. Free to believe and teach and worship (or not to worship) as they see fit. Any sort of adoption of any sort of religion is guaranteed to teach things that are totally contrary to most of the students in most of the classes in most of the schools believe. This all is true regardless of what is being taught in those classes, as well as its veracity.

It’s hard to accept sometimes, when you’ve held the top spot for so long, but a loss of privilege is not the endorsement of other visions of society. It just means that you’re on an even footing alongside everyone else.

Skepticism and Conspiracy Theories

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They had better bring Damian back soon, I’m going to run out of material before too long.

One of the things that conspiracy theorists describe themselves as is ‘skeptics.’ They don’t accept the ‘official story’ because the facts don’t line up! This is all well and good, or it would be, if their cases actually stood up to critical scrutiny, which they almost never do.

By no means am I suggesting that anyone should ever accept anything that smells fishy to them at first glance, but on that same hand, no one should continue to disregard anything once the evidence against their case starts to stack up. This is the problem with conspiracy theorists and this is why they shouldn’t consider themselves to be skeptics, since an actual skeptic can be swayed in one direction or another according to the evidence.

Take the 9/11 conspiracy. And I’m not talking about the conspiracy that’s been constructed By Alex Jones and his like, I’m talking about the conspiracy that was concocted by the pilots of the jets. One of the complications that are involved in talking about conspiracy theories is that there really are secret plans that are put together by confederates in darkened rooms. There are testimonies, passports and other pieces of evidence that link the people identified in the official story to the actual crimes. That’s one of the problems with conspiracies, is that their coordination and execution tends to create a lot of evidence that can then be used against them by police agencies and prosecutors. That’s what happened with Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, which was another conspiracy.

That’s the larger problem that conspiracy theorists need to contend with, that there’s often no evidence that connects the dots that they’ve created. Their cases often have to deal with problems that they see with the official story (one example is the hole in the side of the Pentagon building that they allege couldn’t possibly have been made by a jet and had to have been made by a missile) while they often fail to provide any actual evidence (and not just circumstantial evidence (like the Bush administration invading Iraq, even though Iraq had no connections to 9/11)). I say often because conspiracy theorists can provide evidence that gives the illusion of confirming their narrative, but that’s often due to a lack of inquiry into that evidence.

My heart goes out to conspiracy theorists though, which is one of the reasons why I’m so invested in them. I get where they’re coming from, because I have a natural lack of trust when it comes to official agencies. This is where they actually do have a point, because the absolute worst reason to believe anything is because someone else said that you ought to believe them. This is what’s often referred to as an argument from authority (you should believe in X because person Y says so). This is rather tricky though, because in order to find evidence, it has to come from someone. So, whenever anyone comes out in favor of evolutionary theory, they’re often accused of being ‘Darwinists,’ which carries the implication that people agree with evolutionary theory on the word of Darwin. It doesn’t matter who discovered whatever theory or whatever line of evidence, all that matters is that the theory or the evidence stands up to scrutiny. It’s the data that you need to follow, not any person or any agency.

A good example of this is the Popular Mechanics issue that was devoted to debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. It’s not a good idea to side with the evidence because it came from Popular Mechanics, but to side with Popular Mechanics because they side with the evidence.

At the end of the day, that’s a good rule of thumb to follow. Remain skeptical of claims until the person making those claims comes up with evidence that supports those claims. Then, only accept that evidence if it corroborates with other data that links persons or agencies to the crime. But, most importantly, be ready and willing to accept the truth whenever the truth is arrived at. That last bit is one of the most important, and one of the most often forgotten, because we all hate to be proven wrong, even when we say that we’d be ready to give up the ghost if we were shown to be in the wrong.

Boston Marathon and Conspiracy Theories

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Last week, according to the evidence that’s available at hand, a pair of Chechen immigrants (who, once again, according to the available evidence, both emigrated to America legally) used several bombs to attack spectators and runners in the Boston Marathon. Three people are, as a direct result, dead and many more are injured. We have since captured one of the bombers while the other was killed in their attempted apprehension.

All’s well that ends well, right? Unfortunately, there are certain elements in our society that will seize on anything in order to either pursue an agenda or to make a few dollars off of the credulous. Alex Jones is precisely one such person.

Mere moments after the attacks, he was using his Twitter account to espouse theories on what was ‘really’ going on, when there was little to no information available. This is irresponsible at best and destructive at worst. I try my best to take people at their words and believe what they’re saying as being their genuine thoughts and values. When it comes to people like Alex Jones, I really can’t do any such thing. He’s made a very successful career out of sewing discord, enmity and distrust by making incredibly paranoid and totally invalid opinions readily available to people who are ready, willing and openly desirous of having those opinions fed to them.

As I’ve said in previous postings, I love conspiracy theories. The reason why I love them so much is because of the opportunity that they present to learn more about how the world works. Take, for instance, the 9/11 Attacks and the conspiracy theories that surround it (theories that I won’t dignify by referring to them as they want to be, with the word ‘Truth’ attached). These theories operate on people not understanding the entire attacks, or being too ready to seize upon an anti-government mindset rather than being willing to suspend an opinion until they’ve weighed up all of the facts. Since researching the conspiracy theories that surround 9/11 I have learned quite a bit more about engineering, psychology and physics than I had before. It’s actually an incredibly interesting line of inquiry, if you’re willing to have some of your pre-existing opinions challenged.

That really isn’t the case when it comes to the Boston attacks, where the conspiracy theories rely on people already having an overwhelming sense of suspicion about everything that surrounds them. These conspiracy theories rely on people being ready to leap to conclusions and then rejecting any sort of evidence after having arrived at that conclusion. This is because there is no direct evidence, or any other kind of evidence, that lends their theories any sort of credence. These theories are built around drills being conducted in the area as well the presence of trained professionals at the site. From these facts, we then make any number of assumptions to then arrive at a conclusion that isn’t supported by any facts. As a rule, when it comes to critical thinking, we have to outright reject any sort of theory that requires us to make any assumptions, not just assumptions that aren’t supported by any facts. This is what’s required as magical thinking, where a theory starts with evidence A, adds it to assumption B to arrive at conclusion C. For instance. I go out to a restaurant and order a hamburger. I didn’t see the hamburger made in the kitchen, but the hamburger is in front of me. I walked into the restaurant with a conclusion that food that’s served at the restaurant is beamed into the kitchen from a flying saucer that has avoided detection. So, I have my conclusion (C), and then I get my burger (A), which I make my assumption about (B). Once I’ve formed that line of reasoning, even if I’m showed the kitchen, there are any number of justifications that I can make that will continue to support my unsupportable theory.

Now, the rejoinder to my thinking will of course be, “What’s the harm?” This is often said whenever anyone tries to debunk or dispel any sort of subject whose harmful consequences are not readily apparent (opposition to inoculations, astrology and homeopathy being three good examples). This is usually because we give an air of credence to any party that seems to be in an underdog position, because we don’t see a ready reason for why people would run contrary to the ‘official story’ if they weren’t right, or if there wasn’t an aura of truth to what they’re saying. The problem could run from feeding into a conspiratorial mindset that could then lead to disastrous consequences to people being swindled out of money. But sometimes the harm could be as simple as someone suspending their rational judgment to believe something that has no empirical evidence to support it. Whenever we suspend our rational judgment, we run the risk of that suspension forming a pattern that could be hard to break out of. Once you’ve started down the path of assuming something that we have no reason to assume, it becomes easier to continue to do that until we only have a passing relationship with reality.

Generally speaking, a doss of healthy skepticism and an incredulous mindset towards ideas and concepts that have no support will never lead you astray. After all, the real world is already a fabulous place to live in, and anything that expects you to believe ridiculous things will detract from your ability to absorb the wonder and the mystery of that real world.

Accountability

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One of the key issues in genuine school reform is the question of accountability as it applies to both students and teachers. It isn’t enough that a student is said to have learned something, it’s that the student is capable of applying and demonstrating that knowledge. Likewise, it isn’t enough for a teacher to say that they have taught a student something, it has to be proved that the teacher taught the student. With this in mind, the larger question is how do we hold both subjects, the teacher and the student, accountable?

Standardized testing has been the norm, and will continue to be the norm, and it carries with it a fair amount of problems that I believe are, at best difficult to address and at worst, impossible to address. The largest problem as it applies to teachers and to administrators is making a test that is equitable, which is to say, a test that every student in the district is capable of passing in an ideal situation.

So, take the best possible teacher. The teacher is capable of doing their absolute best for every student that they take in. The problem comes in when you accept that every student, regardless of district, comes from a very complicated set of circumstances. There is not going to be a single student in any district that can go through grades k-12 without any difficulties or problems, and is going to be able to apply themselves one hundred percent of the time, which is basically what standardized testing demands of students. This is the main problem with tests as they apply from the top to the bottom: that they are, basically, a rolling pin that goes over every student in an attempt to flatten them all out into a uniform shape. This is not possible.

Along with this comes the concept of competition being built into the structure of schools. Some will say that this is a positive, but this is mainly because the concept of competition is taken, prima facie (at first sight), to be a positive in American society. The problem with this is that, in any competition no matter how it’s constructed, there are going to be winners and losers. Lets use baseball as an example. On one hand, we have the New York Yankees. The Yankees are, historically, the team that is most able to gather the money to get the best teams, the best trainers and the best field. On the other hand, we take a team like the Angels, a team that is going to be able to gather a fair amount of money that can then be used to get a fairly good team, with fairly good trainers and a fairly good field. There’s going to be pretty good competition between the two teams, but the Yankees will have the advantage over the Angels more often than not and the Angels are going to lose more to the Yankees because of this advantage more often than not. And this is fine when it comes to baseball, because, despite how seriously some fans take the game, at the end of the day, it’s still just a game. When we start talking about education, we’re no longer talking about something frivolous. We’re talking about a situation that is deadly serious.

Using the baseball metaphor, we have school districts that are wealthy and school districts that are poor. The wealthy school districts, because of No Child Left Behind, are only going to continue to get as much funding as they possibly can, while the poor districts are going to continue to lose funding. Because of this, the wealthy school districts are going to be able to get better teachers, better facilities and are going to have a greater advantage over the poor districts that are not going to be able to get the best teachers or facilities. And, because of NCLB, the test scores are going to mean that, with every testing period, the wealthy districts will receive more funding and the poor districts will receive less.

So, the question then becomes, what are we to do? Unfortunately, individual citizens don’t really have that much power anymore (as was demonstrated this week with the failure of the gun control bill with a background check that enjoys more support among the citizenry than nearly any other factor of daily life). But, in an ideal world, the solution is fairly simple and fairly clean cut.

One of the ideas that’s sweeping across the country is electronic portfolios. Students upload their school work onto this portfolio, take tests and do other required school work on these portfolios that are then kept throughout their career in school. Now, as I’ve said in the past, greater reliance on technology is highly problematic when it comes to public education. However, when applied in the way that I’m suggesting, with in-class exams, school work and essays, this approach can be applied in an equitable way that can be used by nearly any student in nearly any school in nearly any district. This is not a perfect solution, but no solution is.

Portfolios have the advantage over standardized tests because it approaches every student as individual human beings, as opposed to merely numbers that are then entered into a system. These individuals are then measured in the way that individuals are usually measured: they get better over time, or they get worse over time, and there are attendant reasons that go along with that improvement or failure. Their improvement or failure doesn’t simply appear out of nowhere, but can be measured against other data as it appears in the system. This data is then made available to administration, teachers and other such figures in the district. And, because nearly every assignment is then entered into the system, the students are made accountable for their school work, and the teachers can follow-up as required with school work and other such assignments until those assignments are completed.

Not only is this a much more equitable way to approach school work, but it’s also a much less time consuming and much more affordable approach as well. Teachers will be able to devote more time to instruction and have more freedom over curriculum. In general, it’s a situation in which nearly all individuals in question win. It’s the solution that, at least to me, stands the best chance at actually turning out the desired end: every student having an equal chance at success.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The idea of a totally morally corrupt society is one that feels sort of alien to most people living in America in the twenty-first century. There’s a lot of problems that we have to contend with at the present moment, but it’s nothing like the systematized enslavement of our fellow human beings. Just because it’s morally repugnant doesn’t mean that it isn’t fascinating to think about, though.

The problem with a totally depraved society is the ability to actually recognize that it’s depraved, or what you can even do about it, and that’s the crux of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The main character, Huckleberry Finn, is one of the most beloved in American fiction, and for good reason too. It goes without saying that he’s one of the most complex fictional children in the canon, and for good reason. Like every child of Huck’s age, he’s always testing societal boundaries to find out what he can and can’t get away with so that he can create his own personal moral code to live by. He causes problems, he gets in trouble, but he doesn’t do anything that he can actually recognize as bad (for instance, he’ll steal things, but he’ll always justify it as ‘borrowing,’ with the full intent of bringing back whatever it is that he’s ‘borrowed’).

The trouble is when he helps his neighbor’s slave, Jim, run away from his mistress so that he can get back to his family. Being a good person at heart, Huck wants to help Jim get back to his family, but he also doesn’t want to do something as reprehensible as steal private property without any intention of bringing it back. The institution of slavery was so deep, and had such a profound hold on American culture that Jim, someone who Huck had always considered to be a good man and a friend, wasn’t even a person to Huck.

A morally depraved society isn’t evil in the sense that it’s without laws, but rather it’s a society where evil is considered to be moral. Slavery wasn’t just considered to be useful, it was considered to be perfectly within the rights of white people to enslave other people. For instance, there’s a scene early on in the novel where Huck’s father (a degenerate drunk, constantly looking for ways to take advantage of other people and live in a way that he can be comfortable without doing any work) sees a free black man walking down the street. The man is well employed, and a respected part of the community (despite the fact that there are other blacks in the community that are enslaved). But Huck’s father is so disgusted with seeing a free black man, that he considered kidnapping the man and taking him to another state for sale.

The journey for Huckleberry Finn isn’t just a trip down a river with Jim and then several associates, it’s a journey into manhood where he discovers his ability to make moral stands. It’s a profound moment when Huck makes the conscious decision to actually steal Jim away from people who had imprisoned him, even though those people were treating him very decently, just on the single principle that slavery is a moral evil. Even if every other scene in the book wasn’t fantastic and it was just this part of the novel and this part alone, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would still go down in history as one of the great American novels. Huck’s profound moral courage doesn’t just make him a good child, it makes him a good man and one well worth respecting.

Children in Society

Before I get to the subject matter of the video, I want to address the idea of ownership as it relates to children, which is something that I find very troublesome.

Whenever we talk about what’s best for a child, we often talk about the ‘rights of the parent,’ as if they somehow supersede the rights of the child. This may not be easy to digest for some, but whenever the topic comes up, it’s often the child who is totally forgotten and who is then treated as if they are the property of the parent. The discussion goes something like this, “As Johnny’s parent, I know what’s best for him,” which is then turned into an argument in favor of Johnny receiving abstinence only education, or being prohibited from learning about the theory of evolution or Johnny not receiving a vaccination. In all of these cases, and numerous others, the selfish whims and desires of the parent are the sole concern, while what truly is best for Johnny (robust sexual education, knowing and understanding the theory of evolution and being vaccinated) is totally forgotten as well as the concept of Johnny being an agent in and of himself. While it is true that minors lack the ability to make informed decisions, their agency ought to be remembered, as well as their ability to solve problems and think critically for themselves.

I’m probably wrong, since I’m not privy to every conversation about children and childhood that anyone has ever had or ever will have, but this point of view isn’t often brought up when we talk about what’s ‘best for children.’ And, as is typical whenever we talk about children, the moment that the above video was seen by the nation, a furor was kicked up with numerous different voices and opinions joining the fray. What I find distressing, however, is the voices of those who often use children as vessels that are waiting to receive views that are thrust upon them and then can regurgitate those views. The concern is that children are supposed to be the property of their parents, and not an active member of a local, national and global community.

This is often an issue when talking about children and childhood as it pertains to political concerns, and this is one of the reasons why I wrote the preface that I did. Mrs. Perry’s choice of words may be misconstrued or misunderstood, but the meaning is fairly clear, and its message is very much in the spirit of helping children to become active agents and future participants in a society that’s waiting for them. Whether we want to accept it or not, children are, in and of themselves, individuals and participants in society from the moment that they leave their parents home for the first time. Their impact may be small at first, but it reverberates outwards in ways that we may never be able to fully perceive. We cannot treat this participation, and we cannot treat the agency of children as if neither exist or matter.

We need to be able to look past our own selfish desires when it comes to children. We need to put away what we want to impress upon them, and we need to actually understand that these are not homunculi that are merely being rolled off of an assembly line, waiting to be filled up with the views of those who came before them, ready to pick up from where their parents left off. It may be desired for these children to become whatever their parents want, but that is often at clear odds with what the children themselves want, and that desire must not be put away and must not be forgotten. We need to consider what is actually best for these children, rather than mistaking what we want for them with what is best for them. This is, of course, a difficult task, but it’s one of the most important that anyone can take upon themselves.