Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Why do things cost so much?

February 17, 2017

cost_putoff

Scott Alexander, a physician in the Midwest, points out on his blog that during the past 50 years—

  • U.S. housing costs have increased about 50 percent.
  • U.S. education costs have increased 100 percent
  • U.S. college costs have increased 400 percent.
  • U.S. subway fares have increased 400 percent or more.

All of this is adjusted for inflation.

  • Health care in the United States costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries
  • U.S. subways costs about eight times as much as equivalent subways on other First World countries.

The wages and salaries of public school teachers, college professors, nurses and physicians has meanwhile remained relatively flat.

As Alexander points out, this is strange.

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Ruby K. Payne on understanding poverty

October 27, 2016

hidden-class-rules0001

Ruby K. Payne is a teacher who thinks that middle class teachers often fail to understand poor children because they don’t understand that the poor operate by different rules than the middle class.

In her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, she says that holding on to poverty’s survival rules will hamper you if you try to function in the middle class.

It is not that one is good and the other is bad.  It is that their situations are different.  If you don’t know from one month to the next whether you’re going to be able to pay the rent, for example, you aren’t likely to planning your career goals for 10 years from now.

Social class is a taboo topic among Americans.   So long as we can see somebody below us on the social and economic scale, and somebody able us, we think of ourselves as middle class, even if we’re in the lower 10 percent or the upper 10 percent of income earners.

Thinking of ourselves as all “middle class” binds us Americans together.  As Ruby Payne points out, it also blinds us to real differences.

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The hidden rules of social class

October 27, 2016

Could you survive in poverty?  A checklist

_____1. I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.

_____2. I know where the nearest food bank is and when it is open.

_____3. I know which grocery stores & garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.

_____4. I know how to get someone out of jail.

_____5. I know how to physically fight and can defend myself if necessary.

_____6. I know how a person can get a gun even if they have a police record.

_____7. I know how to keep my clothes from being stolen at the Laundromat.

_____8. I know what problems to look for in a used car.

_____9. I know how to live without a checking account.

_____10. I know how to get by without electricity and without a phone.

_____11. I know how to use a knife as scissors.

_____12. I can entertain a group of friends with my personality and my stories.

_____13. I know what to do when I don’t have the money to pay my bills.

_____14. I know how to move my residence in less than a day.

_____15. I know how to feed 8 people for 5 days on $100.

_____16. I know how to get and use food stamps.

_____17. I know where the free medical clinics are and when they are open.

_____18. I am very good at trading and bartering.

_____19. I know how to get around without a car.

_____20. I know what day of the month welfare and social security checks arrive.

Source: Knowledge of the Hidden Rules of Social Class: A Questionnaire

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A left-wing critique of political correctness

July 22, 2016
Paul Street

Paul Street

Paul Street, a smart, marginally-employed left-wing writer, wrote a good article for Counterpunch on why people like him oppose so-called “political correctness.”

He gave a number of examples, but I’ll just quote one of them.

… I have started to become at least mildly irritated by the ever-increasing number of Chinese university students in Iowa City at and around the University of Iowa.  Why?  Because of racism and nativism.  No. Not at all.  It has nothing to do with racism or nativism.  I’m anti-racist and anti-nativist.

It’s about class, politics, and the ever-skyrocketing cost of college tuition in the United States. The young Chinese showing up all over campus town America are very disproportionately from the upper slices of mainland Chinese society. Their parents have accumulated enough wealth and income to send their only children to college overseas and often in very high style.

This wealth is culled from the massive state-capitalist super-exploitation of a giant Chinese working class that has been forced into a vast industrial complex of global capitalist production.

That is the source of the money that is passed on to the privileged class progeny of Chinese “Communist” Party elites who can be seen driving around in BMWs and living in pricey condominium apartments in Iowa City, Iowa, Madison, Wisconsin, and countless other U.S. university communities today.

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Neoliberal US colleges prefer rich foreigners

July 1, 2016

I came across an article in the Washington Monthly from a few years back as to how many U.S. universities are recruiting rich Chinese and other foreigners who can pay high tuition that middle-class and working-class Americans cannot afford.

This fits the neoliberal philosophy, which measure merit in terms of revenue (in this case, tuition X enrollment) and profit.

LINKS

International Students: Separate But Profitable by Paul Stephens for the Washington Monthly (2013)

How Chinese Students Saved America’s Colleges by Justin Fox for Bloomberg News.

Why New York state should pass the DREAM Act

June 19, 2016

The proposed New York DREAM Act would allow unauthorized immigrants who’ve earned high school diplomas in New York state to apply for tuition assistance to attend state colleges and universities.

The documentary film profiles six hard-working young people who might benefit from the new law.

State law doesn’t not protect them from deportation, but it gives them the same right to attend public school as citizens and legal immigrants. The proposed law would give them an equal right to apply for financial aid.

An estimated 4,500 undocumented students graduate from New York high schools each year.  An estimated 90 to 95 percent of them do not pursue higher education.

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Why sex is like a cup of tea

April 30, 2016

Hat tip for this to my friend Julie Todoro.

Can college education be free for everyone?

March 25, 2016

I think it is feasible to provide college education with free or affordable tuition, as Bernie Sanders advocates.  Foreign countries do so, and the United States once did, too.

I have long been in favor of free or affordable college education for everybody who has the desire and ability to do college work, but this is different from providing free tuition for everybody.

collegekids97944673-copyRon Unz, the maverick political editor and writer, has proposed that Harvard University offer free tuition.  As he says, it can easily afford it because of the tax-free revenues of its huge endowment fund.  He also advocates for a fairer admissions process, especially for Asian-American students.

Those are excellent proposals.  But they wouldn’t get everybody who wishes into Harvard.

Sanders’ plan is for the federal government to pay for two-thirds of the cost of college education at state universities that offer free tuition and meet other conditions.  I expect that many state governors would turn down this generous offer.  Most states are cutting the budgets of their state university systems.  And after all, many states refused to expand Medicaid even though the Affordable Care Act offered to cover nine-tenths of the cost.

Germany is frequently cited as an example of a country that provides free college tuition for everyone, including foreigners, who can pass an entrance examination.

But only about 28 percent of young German adults are college graduates, compared to 43 percent of Americans.

During the golden age of American public higher education, college education was much less common.  As recently as 1990, only 23 percent of young American adults were college graduates.

Higher education in Germany also is much more bare bones than it is in the USA.  German colleged generally offer a rigorous academic program without the extra-curricular amenities that Americans typically regard as a part of the college experience.

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A whole new meaning for ‘trigger warning’

February 29, 2016

A new Texas law gives college students the right to carry guns.  College administrations are allowed to establish “safe zones”, but these cannot include classrooms or dormitories.

Below is an advisory by the University of Houston faculty senate to its members.

houstonpp.png.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

Peter Van Buren wrote on his web log that it might also be advisable for Texas faculty to wear Kevlar vests and put bullet-proof transparent screens in front of their lecturns.

I don’t think the warning is far-fetched.  There is such a thing as road rage, and there is such a thing as people flying into a rage at hearing ideas they think are reprehensible, or even not being called on when it is their turn.

It is a statistical certainty that someday some armed student will fly into a blind rage about something.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution affirms the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, but, as the late Justice Antonin Scalia once remarked, that right is subject to reasonable limitations that are consistent with its purpose.

As Van Buren pointed out, even the U.S. military, whose members have all received weapons training, keep firearms locked up except when necessary for training or combat.

LINKS

Texas Academics Told to Avoid ‘Sensitive Topics’ to Prevent Angering Armed Students by Peter Van Burn on We Meant Well.

University of Texas President Hates Guns on Campus, But Will Have to Allow Them by Jeff Herskovitz for Reuters (via Huffington Post)

 

Why school segregation is so hard to overcome

February 19, 2016

schoolsegregationIMG_5031_blur.0.0

Photo Credit: Vox.

In the American educational system, the students who are most in need of good teaching are the ones most likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers in rundown classrooms with old teaching materials.

In the American educational system, the students who are most in need of good teaching are the ones most likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers in rundown classrooms with old teaching materials.

This system perpetuates itself because most parents who live in a poor school district will try to get out if they can.  That means the concentration of poor students, especially poor black students, will steadily increase.

Amy Piller, a New York city school administrator, wrote a good article for Vox about how this works and her struggles to help poor and disadvantaged students.

She is making some difference, as you can see by clicking on the link to her article.  She is not making a fundamental change in the system.

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College students who can’t write correct English

November 18, 2015

Alex Small, a physics professor, is frustrated with white, middle-class college students who can’t write grammatically correct English.

I’m in a dark mood from grading.  If I have to constantly correct errors of subject-verb agreement in papers written by native English speakers from the majority ethnic/racial group, then higher education is pretty much doomed. I’m emphasizing their ethnic majority status because we can’t blame this on some sort of disadvantage.  [snip]

Alex Small

Alex Small

The dominant group will periodically allow some sort of largess by which “those people” get their “special program” and if they still don’t succeed then the dominant group can write them off with a clear conscience.  And if they do succeed, the dominant group can put an asterisk on their success, because they obviously only got there thanks to the “special program” (an asterisk that will make some seethe with resentment while others pat themselves on the back).

However, the dominant group will never tolerate their own kids being treated with benevolent condescension.  Good middle-class kids from the dominant group can’t possibly be failing, because their kids are (by definition) the measure of success for the mainstream.  Their kids will get degrees.  Period.

Source: Physicist at Large

I usually dislike the term “white privilege” because it implies people getting something they shouldn’t have.  Not being scared when you’re stopped by police isn’t a privilege.  It’s how everybody should be able to feel.

But the term does apply here, although maybe “upper middle-class suburban privilege” might be more exact.

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Do kids nowadays need to be taught how to play?

October 14, 2015

When I was a child, I learned how to play games from other children.

No adult taught me how to play tag or dodge ball or Quaker meeting [1] or hide and go seek or even baseball.  I learned them all from other children.

I learned the rules of fair play from other children.  All games have rules.  If you didn’t play by the rules, other kids wouldn’t want to play with you.

Playworks supervised play

Playworks supervised play

Now I learn there is a company called Playworks that offers services as a “recess consultant.”   It organizes school recess to create “more inclusive and structured playtime” to create a “quality playtime experience” that will enable children to be more successful adults.   I am not making this up.

I see two possible ways to look at this—one bad and one worse.

The merely bad possibility is that this is a typical bureaucratic scheme to take all the spontaneity out of life.

The worse possibility is that companies such as Playworks actually are needed—that adults organize children’s time so thoroughly that they literally don’t know how to play, only how to take part in organized activities.

That’s why so many kids nowadays are devoted to their Smartphones.  The Internet is the only realm where they can be free of adult supervision.

Now I don’t see any evidence of this on my street.  I see hopscotch chalk marks on the sidewalks, the same as when I was a child.  I see kids playing ball and doing other normal kid things.

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Increased ‘productivity’ in education

October 5, 2015

TeacherJobGap5xnfRJSource: Economic Policy Institute.

Blogger Duncan Black thinks these figures indicate that Americans should stop cutting public school teachers’ wages and benefits, reducing their job security and making them scapegoats for all the ills of society.

But according to the neo-liberal philosophy that prevails in U.S. industry, the decline in the number of teachers is a good thing, not a bad thing.

A neo-liberal would tell you that fewer teachers with lower salaries teaching larger classes is by definition an increase in productivity (but that the best way to achieve this is through privatization).

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The passing scene – October 4, 2015

October 4, 2015

Roger Millikin: The Man Who Launched the GOP’s Civil War by Jonathan M. Katz for Politico (hat tip to naked capitalism)

Roger Millikin, a right-wing textile magnate, was a driving force in transforming the South from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican, and the Republican Party from the party of Lincoln into the party of Strom Thurmond, Jessie Helms and Trent Lott.

If not for him, or someone like him, Rick Perry might still be a Democrat and Elizabeth Warren might still be a Republican.

The Invisible Poverty of ‘Poor White Trash’ by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

I never use expressions such as “redneck” or “white trash.”  The word “redneck” originally to poor white farmers who worked in the hot sun in long-sleeved shirts.  It was a term used by educated people to express their contempt for manual labor and lack of schooling.  The term implies that poor white people are more racist than affluent white people, which in my experience has not been the case.

One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the U.S. Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.  (Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack).

Bubbles Always Burst: the Education of an Economist by Michael Hudson, author of Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy.

Debacle Inc.: How Henry Kissinger Helped Create Our “Proliferated” World by Greg Grandin, author of Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman.

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Glimpses of Asia – October 1, 2015

October 1, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

Go Delhi Go | Hyperlapse (2 min)

Colonial Photography in British India
http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/12586

Where Do Languages Go to Die? – The tale of Aramaic, a language that once ruled the Middle East and now faces extinction
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/aramaic-middle-east-language/404434/

Mount Everest to be declared off-limits to inexperienced climbers, says Nepal
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/28/mount-everest-to-be-declared-off-limits-to-inexperienced-climbers

Map: Where the East and the West meet
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/28/map-where-the-east-and-the-west-meet/

Zen and the Art of Bonsai Maintenance
http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2015/09/20/stephen_voss_photographs_bonsai_trees_at_the_national_bonsai_penjing_museum.html

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Free speech on and off the campus

September 4, 2015

When I reported on business in Rochester, NY, for the Democrat and Chronicle in the 1980s and 1990s, I found that most people were terrified of saying anything that might offend an employer or potential employer.

People could be fired or not hired for having a bad attitude, let alone saying or doing something that was out of line.

The only people I knew who were unafraid to speak as free Americans should were self-employed crafts workers and professionals, civil servants, tenured college professors and union members with good contracts.

AFDLogoSo-called “political correctness” in universities is a minor subset of a much bigger problem.  It is not as if it were the only threat, or even the main threat, even to academic freedom.

But two wrongs don’t make a right.   I take “political correctness” seriously, even though I have never been a member of academia myself, for the same reason I take killings by police more seriously than I take killings by criminal civilians.

The university community, and the scientific community, should embody free inquiry.  And liberals and progressives should be in the forefront of those defending free inquiry.

I attended the University of Wisconsin as an undergraduate in the 1950s, and I believe in the famous UW Regents’ statement of 1894 of its commitment to “that fearless and endless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

You can’t have free inquiry when people are afraid to say what they think, or even to tell a joke.  Click on the links below for examples of what I mean.

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 I am triggered by people who fear books and speech by Alex Small for Physicist at Large.

The Timothy Hunt Witch Hunt by Jonathan Foreman for Commentary.

What Happened to a Govt Scientist Whose Findings Stood in the Way of Big Oil’s Plans for Arctic Drilling by Kamil Ahsan for AlterNet.

The passing scene – August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

Here are some links to article I found interesting, and perhaps you will, too.

How Close Was Donald Trump to the Mob? by David Marcus for The Federalist.

Maybe there are innocent explanations tof Donald Trump’s business connections with known Mafia bosses in New York City and Atlantic City.  If such exist, we the voting public deserve to hear them.

Katrina Washed Away New Orleans Black Middle Class by Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight.

Black homeowners and business owners lost the most in Hurricane Katrina.  Black professionals such as physicians and lawyers have moved on.  And black school teachers are losing their jobs to supposed school “reform.”

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Hat tip for the following to Bill Harvey—

The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor? by Alan Nasser for Counterpunch.

The United States was the first country in which a majority of the people were taught to think of themselves as middle class.  In Victorian English novels, the middle class are the doctors, lawyers and other professionals who aren’t working class, but not truly upper class.

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An important message about education

August 25, 2015

huck4

Higher education’s cult of leadership

August 24, 2015

American higher education has been taken over by “neo-liberalism,” which is the idea that all institutions in society should pattern themselves on profit-seeking corporations and serve the interests of business.

So argues Willliam Deresiewicz, in a good article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine.  The old idea of higher education was to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, he wrote; these have been pushed aside by corporate buzzwords.   As an example, he cited a liberal arts college’s mission statement – leadership, service, integrity, creativity.

He said integrity nowadays means nothing more than “not cheating”.   As for the rest—

HarpersWeb-2015-09-cover-302x410So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity?  What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neo-liberal assumptions.  Neo-liberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen.   That’s what “leadership” is finally about.  There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people.  Leaders get things done; leaders take command.  When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

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The fate of the arts and sciences

August 15, 2015

Everybody knows that the percentage of [college] students majoring in English has plummeted since the 1960s. 

But the percentage majoring in the physical sciences—physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy and so forth—has fallen even more, by some 60 percent.

As of 2013, only 1.5 percent of students graduated with a degree in one of these subjects, and only 1.1 percent in math.

At most colleges, the lion’s share of undergraduates major in vocational fields: business, communications, education, health.

But even at elite institutions, the most popular majors are the practical, or as [David] Brooks might say, the commercial ones: economics, biology, engineering and computer science.

It is not the humanities per se that are under attack.  It is learning: learning for its own sake, curiosity for its own sake, ideas for their own sake.

==The Neoliberal Arts by William Deresiewicz in Harper’s magazine.  Available to subscribers only.

The passing scene – August 14, 2015

August 14, 2015

Will Trans Pacific trade deal go up in smoke over anti-tobacco proposal? by Adam Beshudi for POLITICO.

The latest word is that Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators have agreed to exclude the tobacco industry from provisions giving corporations the right to sue governments before private tribunals.  Tobacco companies have successfully sued countries under other trade agreements over restrictions on cigarette sales and advertising.  This is a deal-killer for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and others from tobacco-growing states.

Torturing Chelsea Manning in Prison by Stephen Lendman for Counterpunch.

The imprisoned whistle-blower is being repeatedly put in indefinite solitary confinement.  His offenses include using a tube of toothpaste past its expiration date.

The 10 Trump Rules by Barry Lefsetz for The Big Picture.

Donald Trump understands how American politics has changed, and the other candidates don’t.

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Flaws in the student loan repayment plan

August 14, 2015

studentloansvsotherloans6a013

The federal government has an income-based repayment plan to help college graduates with student loan debt keep their repayments within manageable limits.

The problem, according to Jonathan Garber of Business Insider, is that some people who use the plan could wind up worse off than they otherwise would be.

Under the plan, borrowers could limit their payments to 10 to 20 percent of their discretionary income, and then have the whole loan forgiven after 20 to 25 years.

Although this sounds good, Garber pointed out that when the repayment is less than required to service the debt, the total debt will increase.  Will that matter if the debt is forgiven in the end?  Yes, he wrote, because the forgiven debt is taxable income.  He gave a hypothetical but reasonable example in which someone with a moderate income could have $19,000 added to his or her tax bill.

Subsidizing borrowers does not solve the real problem, which is colleges charging tuition based on what the traffic will bear.  Easing the debt burden increases the amount that the traffic will bear.

The solution, in my opinion, is for community colleges and state universities to provide free or affordable education, as they once did.  Private universities would either have to match this or to show they provide extra value.

LINKS

Problem with government offer to forgive student-loan debt by Jonathan Garber for Business Insider.

The right not to have one’s feelings hurt

August 12, 2015

I read a lot about the new intellectual culture on college campuses, and how it is becoming dangerous to say anything that will hurt the feelings of any member of a well-organized minority group.

I don’t know how seriously to take this.  I have friends who are college teachers, and I never hear them speak about any of this stuff.

But to the extent that such attitudes exist, as Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt point out in The Atlantic, it does not help students prepare for the rough and tumble of life after graduation.  They note that the federal government has defined freedom from “unwelcome” speech as a civil right.

Federal anti-discrimination statutes regulate on-campus harassment and unequal treatment based on sex, race, religion, and national origin. 

Until recently, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights acknowledged that speech must be “objectively offensive” before it could be deemed actionable as sexual harassment—it would have to pass the “reasonable person” test. 

Source: Reason.com

Source: Reason.com

To be prohibited, the office wrote in 2003, allegedly harassing speech would have to go “beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive.”

But in 2013, the Departments of Justice and Education greatly broadened the definition of sexual harassment to include verbal conduct that is simply “unwelcome.” 

Out of fear of federal investigations, universities are now applying that standard—defining unwelcome speech as harassment—not just to sex, but to race, religion, and veteran status as well.

Everyone is supposed to rely upon his or her own subjective feelings to decide whether a comment by a professor or a fellow student is unwelcome, and therefore grounds for a harassment claim.  Emotional reasoning is now accepted as evidence.

via The Atlantic.

Without knowing specifics, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of the universities who protect students from “unwelcome” speech also make the same students pay sky-high tuition and have the students taught by underpaid adjuncts.

Source: Sirandal

Source: Sirandal

Nor would I be surprised if certain big corporations decided to protect employees from “unwelcome” speech while at the same time paying substandard wages, fighting all-out against unions and buying supplies from foreign sweatshops that employ child labor.

In fact, speech codes could be an effective weapon against union organizers and other malcontents, especially those who come from rough backgrounds and never learned the new etiquette.  Nearly everyone has said something “welcome,” or can be accused of having said something “unwelcome.”

LINKS

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt for The Atlantic.

Microaggressions & Mind-Forg’d Manacles by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

‘Microaggressions’ and ‘Trigger Warnings,’ Meet Real Trauma by Chris Hernandez for The Federalist.

College is unaffordable because it is necessary

August 5, 2015

blog_higher_ed_costs

When I was a college student, it was possible for a middle class family to save up enough money to pay college tuition, and it was possible to work your way through college without accumulating a burden of debt.

In that era, it also was possible for a hard-working high-school graduate to earn enough to support a family.

Now college is both unaffordable and necessary, or at least it is believed to be necessary in order to get a good job.  Education might be affordable if it wasn’t necessary, and college administrators were not in a position to charge what the traffic would bear.

As Kevin Drum of Mother Jones shows in the chart above, it does little good for the federal government to give aid to students if colleges merely raise tuition and fees accordingly.

This increased tuition and fees is not going to pay for better instruction.  More and more college teaching is being done by low-paid adjunct faculty.  Rather the revenues are going to pay administrator’s salaries and to pay for amenities intended to attract the children of the rich.

Education should be regarded as a public good, not as a article of commerce.  It should be regarded as a way to deepen knowledge and understanding, and not as a way to give certain Americans a credential that will give them a competitive advantage over other Americans.

State universities and community colleges should lower tuition so that higher education is as affordable as it once was.

And if there was a full-employment, high-wage economy, employers would hire people based on their ability to do the work rather than their credentials.  If college education was not a perceived necessity, it would be affordable.

LINKS

As Federal Aid Goes Up, College Costs Rise Enough to Gobble It All Up by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Best Sixteen Years of My Life on Gin and Tacos.

The world outside our heads

July 31, 2015

Matthew Crawford’s new book, THE WORLD BEYOND YOUR HEAD: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction, is a good follow-up to Taylor’s Modern Social Imaginaries.

Crawford attacks what he calls “freedomism”—the idea that individuals can or should be free not only of external coercion, but of external influence of any kind.

This is the philosophy of thinkers such as John Locke and Immanuel Kant, who sought to free people from the moral authority of kings and priests.

51YMx.crawford.worldbeyondyourheadThe fact is, Crawford said, is that human beings are born into a world of people and things which are objectively real, and which can be understood only after a long period of learning and apprenticeship.

The fact that one’s individual desires do not, in and of themselves, change things is the first thing a baby learns, but which 21st century Americans sometimes forget.

Crawford makes custom motorcycle components as a business.  His work involves individual creativity, but is based on mastery of pre-existing knowledge of materials and technique, and is expressed in solving real-world problems.  He feels validated only when a customer—especially one who understands motorcycles—willingly pays his bill.

In different parts of the book, he discusses techniques by which people master arts and vocations—hockey player, martial arts fighter, short-order cook, glassblower, motorcycle rider, racing car driver.

Masters in all these fields have the ability to focus their attention on what is important, and to train their reactions, in ways that can’t necessarily be articulated, so that they respond appropriately to the situation at hand.

For Crawford, we are what we pay attention to.  Freedom consists in the right to choose to focus our attention on worthy objects.

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