Uncommon Sense

November 26, 2021


Filed under: Culture,Education,Philosophy — Steve Ruis @ 8:07 am
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I subscribe to a newsletter called “The Daily Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Life” Written in part by Ryan Holiday, I think, available at dailystoic.com. Stoic philosophy is a very pragmatic philosophy, over 2000 years old, and is quite pertinent today, since academic philosophers seem to have abandoned the public sphere.

Stoicism main concern was and is how to live a good life. Here is an excerpt from today’s newsletter:

“Because, as Marcus Aurelius wrote, those suffering humans are us, and we are them. To allow harm to come to them—through indifference, through callousness—is to allow harm to come to ourselves. It’s why the most magnificent moment of Marcus’s reign was the day he decided to sell off the palace furnishings to keep Rome going—to help those in need. Hierocles was a Roman Stoic who spoke of “circles of concern.” Our first concern, he said, was our mind, but beyond this was our concern for our bodies, for our immediate family, then our extended family. Like concentric rings, these circles were followed by our concern for our community, our city, our country, our empire, our world. The work of philosophy, he said, was to draw this outer concern inward, to learn how to care as much as possible for as many people as possible, to do as much good for them as possible. This is our obligation. It is our duty to help others. To serve others. To illustrate those virtues of courage and justice toward and for and through others.”

Nothing new under the sun, indeed. Obviously, we are slow learners or we have been taught poorly (through lack of recognition of what is really important).

October 19, 2021

What is a Corporatist Society?

(Sorry this is so long. It seemed warranted. Steve)

If you live in the U.S., just look around, you are living in such a society right now.

This country was founded as a republic, not a democracy, a republic being a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president with powers limited by law rather than a monarch. We created a government in which each of us was no longer the subject of some monarch; we were citizens, not subjects.

That is all fine and well, but we lost all of that a while back. We are now back to being subjects again. While there is no monarch there is a ruling clique of corporatists, meaning that our governments are run for the benefit of those corporations and subject to their desires and whims, rather than our own.

Consider the fact that our national government only pays attention to the needs of what is called “the donor class,” which you and I know as the filthy rich. If you are a substantial donor to a political party, your needs are attended to. If you are middle class or poor, you have zero chance of getting any attention, even from those elected to represent you. And “zero chance” is not hyperbole, that’s what the research showed.

So, the very rich are running the federal government and most of the state governments in the same fashion. So who are these “very rich” people? We used to think of the very rich as those with inherited wealth, but those days are past. Sure, there are a few very wealthy people who inherited their money and they got inheritance taxes reduced to zero so they can pass it all onto their children, but they are a small minority now. The very rich are now typically corporation executives. And they have corporatist mindsets.

A corporatist mindset is believing that corporations are the best structures to govern human activities. Did not a corporation recognize their personal qualities and reward them mightily. How could they be anything but perfect? You will have heard from these people that “government should be run like a business (aka corporation)” and “schools should be run like businesses/corporations,” etc.

These people have gotten the courts they purchased to establish that corporations have the rights of citizens, making the transition from imaginary person for business purposes only to political person in one court ruling. The rights of “corporations” to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns was established recently. Oh, and if you thought that the employees or even the shareholders of a corporation got to determine where its “campaign donations” went, dream on. Those decisions are made by the executives of those corporation, aka the filthy rich.

Now you may be thinking that this is all a bit much, but if you take a step back and look at the life experience of just any old citizen, you will see what is involved. For example, when a child is born, whether their mother got good medical care depended upon whether they had good insurance. Poor pre-natal medical care is part of a pattern that results in skimpy lives for the children. And good insurance is a fringe benefit associated with a shrinking number of jobs and are controlled by the employers (aka corporatists). So, you are born and grow up and then attend school. So, what are you taught in school? Increasingly, and all the way up and down the ladder, that education is focused on acquiring a “good job” when you become an adult. Recently education reformers wanted you to be asked to read more “informational texts” and less classic literature. My home state of California used to have a series of “readers” for each grade level. The works to be read were challenging and included extracts from Mark Twain, the Bible, James Fennimore Cooper, Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and more of their ilk. Obviously those California State Readers tended be supporters of the status quo, patriotic, and so on but none of them, to my recall, involved a shop manual for a Ford pick-up truck or a treatise on writing contracts. But now that the corporatists are in charge they want to make sure you can fix the department’s printer when it jams. They have no need for humanist texts that allow us to see one another more clearly and see the virtues that make a society that makes for happier and safer citizens, no need at all.

The corporatists now in charge have a Taylorite view of humanity that makes each of us a cog in their mechanism. So, if our growing citizen goes to college they will find that more and more the programs there are tailored, pun intended, to jobs they might get. If you ask students what their goals are, the majority will respond with “to get a good job” or “a job that pays a lot of money.” They are not stupid, they got the message.

So, they graduate, or not, and they seek and acquire a job. Who in that job has the bulk of the power: the employer or the employee? Analyzed economically, there should be a 50:50 power balance there. This is what free markets create, or so say the corporatists. The corporatists absolute hate free markets. But they recognize the propaganda power of the word “free.” The markets they like are those they can manipulate and dominate, and dictate to. A “free market” is a level paying field and only chumps play on a level playing field.

The corporatists used their political power to not only expand their own power but to limit the powers of their opposition. Labor unions, for example, were quite powerful after WW2. Have you notice them lately? No? That is because the corporatists used the political power their money bought to crush them. While the private sector used to have about 33% of its jobs covered by a union contract, that is now about 6%. Crushed. The only remaining institutional power that can oppose the wills of the corporatists is government and the corporatists have bought enough politicians to make that source opposition neutered.

So, who has the power in the employee-employer relationship? The employers. And they use it. They arbitrary transform their employee’s pension plans into plans that cost them much less and pay their employees much less in the process. They change work rules as they see fit. They ship entire factories overseas and if they keep you on as an employee, it is only to train your less expensive replacement.

So, you work and you work, then you are fired so they can hire a cheaper replacement. Corporatists are so addicted to that power that they often fire people critical for their corporations or fire so many support staff that their critical people look for other employment because of that. Basically, if they meet their stock market goals and retire before it all falls apart, corporation executives are good with that. Golden parachutes make for soft landings.

So, you skimp along or are “comfortable” in your retirement and are no longer of interest to the corporatist, other than as a voter. Old people vote, so the corporatists have massive propaganda machines that use fear and other levers to get you to vote in alignment with their interests. They also trump up phony issues to keep you riled up and distracted.

Then you die, your whole life having been dominated by corporate interests. You served “your country” well, were a good provider for “your family,” and a pillar of “your community.” Now replace all of the parentheticals in that sentence with “your corporation(s)” and you will have it about right.

Please do not mistake my intent. I am not claiming there is a cabal of corporations or some Big Brother Corp. running the show. No, it is people with corporate mindsets, acting independently and occasionally in concert who are doing this.

And we let them and continue to let them by buying into the way they see the world.

The COVID pandemic is showing the corporatists what is in their future. People are not returning to the bullshit jobs the corporations created. People are figuring out different ways to live. People are starting their own businesses which are not part of the cabal.

It is a start but a lot more needs to be done.

If you are interested in this topic please read “The Unconscious Civilization” by John Ralston Saul. I dog-eared so many pages that I gave up on a book report. I will just weave what he saw into my writing more and more.

September 16, 2021

Fact or Fiction: The United States Are Controlled by Satan-Worshiping Pedophiles Who Run a Global Child Sex-Trafficking Operation?

This sounds like a SNL skit or an article for The Onion, but according to a newly released survey, 15 percent of Americans agree with the false premise central to the QAnon movement that government, media, and financial worlds in the United States are controlled by Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.

The finding is contained in a Public Religion Research Institute study released last Thursday based on interviews of more than 5,000 U.S. adults in March.

Polling that relies on agree/disagree questions can overstate the extent to which respondents actually hold such beliefs, but the survey nevertheless underscores that the allegations of the QAnon movement have been embraced by a significant number of Americans.

In the survey, 23 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement. By contrast, 8 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of independents agreed with the statement.

Well, those data would be concerning if you assumed that the respondents are serious. Currently I do not.

Americans currently contain a large component which wishes to throw a monkey wrench into “the system” as it currently is, and that system includes the all too haughty polls conduced by “pollsters.”

For example, I feel that political polls turn our elections into contests, the most used term is “into horse races.” Consequently when I receive a phone call or an email message asking for me to share my opinions, I decline. “Thanks, I don’t do polls.”

A less passive response would be to answer their questions and give the most effed-up responses one could dream up and this is what I think is going on.

This is, I suspect, in response to the government using lies and propaganda to “control the population” to the point that it has little to no credibility left.

Take the UFO issue as an example. We now know that the government/military set up programs to obfuscate, lie, and mislead the public over and over and over. When this was finally admitted, was anyone really surprised? Were you surprised?

The lying has become so brazen that politicians will say one thing yesterday and the opposite today and when this is pointed out to them, they shrug “Fake news!” We’ve been getting gaslighted by our own government for so long it no longer causes outrage or even draws comment.

The Apostle Paul vehemently said, in his own writings (we think), that “I am not a liar!” Apparently back then, being a liar had consequences. Now it seems to be only a qualification for becoming a politician.

Footnote on Irony It is now recognized that fear is the strongest lever in the propagandist’s toolbox. So, why was the lame excuse used in all of those UFO sightings, that the public wasn’t ready for the truth. I can’t think of any better lever for the ruling class to use than the fear of aliens. Turning human politicians into “Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation” seems peanuts compared to what one could claim to be the “alien threat.” Imagine the fears: They eat human babies! (They must be atheists.) They claim to have proof that their gods exist! They want to move here! They are fleeing a way more powerful alien species! Their penises are enormous and their sexual appetite for human girls is unbounded! . . . and on and on.

Controlling that narrative would be easy. The “authorities” could spend money up the yin-yang to deal with the alien threat. Military contractors would be sending their neighbor’s kids to prestigious colleges, they would be so “rolling in it.”

Funny they didn’t think of that then, but maybe their new “transparency” on the issue is just the first salvo in such a campaign, finding that the old levers aren’t as effective as they once were.

August 19, 2021

Could This Have Actually Happened?

Filed under: Education,Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:14 am

Creationists are desperate to get the Biblical account of the creation of the Earth and universe into school textbooks and to be accepted as a rational thing to believe. So, taking them seriously, is it?

Here is the account from a high quality English translation of Genesis and this is just a snippet because more was not necessary to make my point.

The Creation of the World
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. The Earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called seas. And God saw that it was good. (Source: Genesis 1 from the English Standard Version)

Okay, got that? Let’s unpack it.

Beginning with “The Earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” there seems to be some confusion here. “The Earth was without form and void.” Hmm, “void” means 1a opening, gap. b: empty space emptiness, vacuum, at least to Merriam-Webster. So, the Earth had no form and it had no vacancies, either. It was without “void.”

But then . . . “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Presumably the “face” of the waters was it’s surface. But that is a form, no? If the Spirit of God was in a place, presumably that place could be described, but since the Earth had no form, that place couldn’t be the Earth.

Is great puzzlement.

Also, what is the Spirit of God? To accept this as a factual description, do we have to believe in ghosts? That’s a pretty big ask and we aren’t even out of the first chapter.

Let’s move on to “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven.” An “expanse,” again thanks to Merriam-Webster, is “an area of something, typically land or sea, presenting a wide continuous surface” so this sounds like a description in which the waters, presumable upon Earth, but not necessarily so, were cleaved into two, a gap was opened between the “waters above” and the “waters below.” This expanse or gap is where Heaven is, or is Heaven according to the text.

Why all of those waters above Heaven are needed is not explained. Certainly it is not the source of rain and snow and other aqueous forms of precipitation as those waters would have to travel through Heaven to fall out the other side. Plus we have traveled in spacecraft all the way out of the atmosphere and even as far away as the Moon (later on we learn that all of the “heavens” are this side of the Moon’s orbit, or so it is claimed), and no such collection of water molecules has been observed. Did God make this water invisible, or shift it to another dimension for storage? (Even if invisible that amount of water would expose itself from gravity itself.) The text doesn’t say, so this is mysterious and one must ask why it is in this story as it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with, well, anything. Except . . . if you take into account that the story of the Great Flood was written before Genesis was, maybe the authors were trying to provide a source of water for the Great Flood, because the amount of water needed for that description to be true is truly immense, far greater than the amount of surface water we can see and plumb.

Now we come to “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’” I have to ask “the heavens”? What is this in relation to Heaven? God created the Earth and “the heavens” . . . so I must assume that “the heavens” refers to everything we can see in the night sky, i.e. other stars, planets, etc. So “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place . . .”  would refer to the waters above and the waters below, both? But those waters wouldn’t have been separated only to be brought back together a short time later, would they? So “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place” must only refer to the “waters below.” But then is Heaven plural (the heavens) or singular? If “the ehavens” is “Heaven” then when did all of the stars and whatnot get created? Or is that term, the heavens, being used like one of those housing tract fancy names, e.g. The Mews, The Heights, etc.?

And, the Dutch can explain this better than anyone, you don’t gather water all in one place to create dry land, you actually have to remove the water to another place to make dry land, you know with dikes, windmills, pumps, and levees, etc. So, as engineers go, this creator god isn’t very bright. He should have shooed the water away and raised the dry land before allowing the water back to lap on the shores of the dry land.


We haven’t got very far into this process. We have only gotten through a couple of days of this six day process, nor have we gotten to the second description of creation which is different from this one.

The school kids will be allowed to ask questions, right? This will be taught in schools, not churches, right? Questions, anyone?

July 22, 2021

I-mag-i-na-ay-shun . . .

Filed under: Education,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:57 am
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Here is an excerpt from an interview of Brian Greene, a science populizer (specifically physics), on the PBS program NOVA:

NOVA: Well, for example, most people have trouble envisioning a fourth spatial dimension. Can you?

GREENE: No. I cannot envision anything beyond three dimensions. What I can do is I can make use of mathematics that describe those extra dimensions, and then I can try to translate what the mathematics tells me into lower dimensional analogies that help me gain a picture of what the math has told me. But the picture is certainly inadequate to the task of fully describing what’s going on, because it’s in lower dimensions, and in higher dimensions, things are definitely different.

To tell you the truth, I’ve never met anybody who can envision more than three dimensions. There are some who claim they can, and maybe they can; it’s hard to say. But it’s very hard, when your brain is involved in a world that appears to have three dimensions and is well suited to envisioning that world, to go beyond that and imagine more dimensions.

The discussion was about understanding Einstein’s view of physical reality, so I found this strange. Einstein was the inventor of “space-time” that is four dimensional “space” in which three of the dimensions are spatial and the fourth is time. Basically Einstein claimed that these four dimensions are interdependent.

Note that no fourth spatial dimension is mentioned.

It is easy to think in four dimensions. Imagine a small ball hanging in space. Its position is determined by three “dimensions” being up-down, left-right, to and fro and one can be time, it being 10:47 AM CST as I type this. We can add another dimension to make five: temperature. We can specify that this ball is 22.2 Celsius. We can add another dimension by adding color: the ball is blue. We are now up to six dimensions and you are having no trouble keeping up, right?

Trying to imagine four dimensional space would be quite a trick. If you have read the book Flatland, you have imagined one dimensional space (weird) and two dimensional space (intriguing but limited), and we all are quite versed in three dimensional space, but what about four dimensional space?

Uh, uh . . . has anyone ever succeeded at this? I would love to hear about them is they have.

July 3, 2021

Education is Not What They Think It Is

Filed under: Culture,Education,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:32 pm
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I was intrigued enough  to read the following offering on the Medium.com website: Here Are The Jobs That Will Disappear In The Next 10 Years.

One of the jobs that will be eliminated or greatly reduced, according to this guy, is “Teachers (expect more and better online schools like iTunes U)”

Once again, the idea that an education is merely the acquisition of knowledge is promoted. Any tiny amount of thought about this would show it to be nonsense. For example, I used to draw a number line on the board in my beginning chemistry classes. The whole line represented 100% of chemical knowledge. Right next to the 0% end, I put a mark which represented their acquisition of knowledge. Just past that mark, getting close to 1% on the line, I put another mark. That mark represented my acquisition of chemical knowledge (which was prodigious). My point was that no one has even a tiny fraction of all of the chemical knowledge in their mind. And, since I retired, the total amount of chemical knowledge has doubled, probably twice.

At the very same time, students were becoming aware of the prodigious amount of knowledge available online. Their whine (it was not a lament) was “I don’t need to learn all of this stuff, I can just look it up online!” My response was to ask how do you find the spelling of a word if you can’t type it into your computer. (This was the same complaint about looking up spellings in dictionaries; to find something in the dictionary, you needed to be able to spell it.) And, as more and more stuff is available online, more and more stuff can be found, but the trustworthiness of what is found is more and more in doubt (Fake knowledge, fake knowledge! Quiet, please, Mr. President.).

So, what are we teaching if not knowledge?

I contend that education is a social process, one in which we learn how to learn and learn how to work together. Teamwork makes the dream work is the operative aphorism. No one is preaching a “you can go alone and make it” approach to modern work. We work in teams, with each team member having different resources, but all needing to learn and work together.

While there is some store of knowledge that is transmitted during an education, that is not the primary focus. We ask that students learn something, but there is complete lack of agreement as to what that knowledge is. If that knowledge were so important, you’d think there would be some agreement as to what it is. There isn’t.

Back in the last millennium, I was part of a team of professors from the three major public higher education systems in my state and we needed to find what the education standards for high school science courses were. The state provided guidelines but did not mandate them, so each county had its own version of those standards, so we had 58 sources and no one had thought that having all of these summarized in one place would be a good idea. Even though these resources are now available online, I still do not think there is any place that gathers them together to simplify comparisons, etc.

And then there are the other 49 states.

So, what are we teaching if not knowledge? We are teaching how to learn and work together in a social context. If you think online “social media” is a valid social context for this purpose, think again. Social media are currently distorting our society rather than reflecting it. (Think of the forces trying to profit from the existence of social media and what they are doing to reap those profits.)

Social media leave out the majority of the interpersonal communication individuals have in face-to-face encounters. When you speak to another face-to-face and deeply offend them, they might haul off and punch you in the face. That does not happen online. Any equivalence between online relationships and face-to-face relationships is minor.

We need to get students together to learn to interact with one another and learn how to learn and work together. Having a human guide for this purpose, a teacher, will not be going away any time soon.

What I fear is that the rich have an agenda and they are fine with us proles getting an “education” online, while they will still pay to have their kids taught by real, live teachers. Think how much money we will save! Yes, I am being sarcastic; a comment necessitated by the inability of this computer to deliver affect, possibly the biggest source of information between two humans communicating face-to-face. (If you want a lesson in affect, view the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” especially the part where the court clerk quotes Vinny saying “I did it.”)

June 5, 2021

Meditation: It’s a Business Opportunity, I Guess

There seems to be an entire cottage industry devoted to teaching one how to meditate. Once again, something that is simple and straightforward needs teachers, books, workbooks, seminars, retreats, paraphernalia, and on and on, all quite reasonably priced, of course (Not!).

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes everyday — unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
Sukhraj Dhillon

Allow me to explain meditation and how to do it, where to do it, etc.

Have you ever been alone with your thoughts? Sitting on a park bench or waiting for a bus, or peeling potatoes while making dinner? Just you and all of the things running through your head.

Meditation is being alone without your thoughts.

You do not need to be sitting, standing, squatting, or running. You do not need to be in any special place. You do not need a focus for your non-thoughts.

You just need to allow your thoughts to drop away so that you are not thinking things consciously.

That’s it.

No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can meditate and it is quite refreshing.

Oh, there is one technique I employ. Some of my thoughts are quite tenacious and do not just fall away easily. For those I use a shooing motion with my hand, much as if you would shoo away a bothersome fly. That’s it.

All of my mediation secrets in one place, and for zero dollars!


March 31, 2021

Let Them Do It How We Had To

Filed under: Business,Education — Steve Ruis @ 10:32 am
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In Diane Ravitch’s blog she reports that “Over the opposition of Joy Hofmeister, the state superintendent, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-3 to allow charter schools to have a share in property taxes and motor vehicle taxes that previously were reserved for public schools.

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the settlement could violate state law and have ‘seismic’ implications by redistributing school funding.

“Today’s board action circumvents the will of the people of Oklahoma and the state legislature by unilaterally determining how public education is to be funded,” Hofmeister said in a statement Thursday evening. ‘I fear this action knowingly violated Oklahoma statute and the Oklahoma Constitution.’

“The original promise of charter schools when they started thirty years ago was that they would cost less than public schools because of their lack of bureaucracy. That pledge has long been forgotten as charters fight to have equal funding–or in some states, like Texas–more funding than public schools.

“This decision will mean less money for Oklahoma’s underfunded public schools.

The Charter School Business in this country is so far off base that it is undermining public education as a whole. There is a solution, however.

Whenever school districts wanted more funding in the past, they floated a “bond issue” to pay for it and then the people decided whether or not they wanted to pay for it. Most often, they did not.

In Oklahoma, as elsewhere, public schools are massively underfunded (by their own standards, not mine) and clawing back a large segment of those funds is defensible only if what they are being used for replaces what those funds used to pay for. And, basically, they should do that task better, otherwise why make the change?

Charter schools have proven to be no better than our current public schools and in more than a few cases are much, much worse, even to the point of being total frauds.

So, here is how we fix this mess. In the past public schools made a pitch to the people or the legislators representing them to fund what they do. If a charter operator (more and more these are large organizations, far from Mom and Pop efforts) wants to open a charter school. let them float a special bond issue and see if the public is willing to pay for it. Currently legislators are making this decision and charter operators are allowed to make “campaign donations,” aka bribes, to those legislators (often using funding supplied by the state) whereas the public schools are not. And is it not obvious that those who come bearing checks to our legislators get better treatment than those who do not?

If we have a democracy, let the people decide. A special tax issue for every charter school or group of charter schools can be voted up or down and then you will know whether “the people” actually do or don’t want those schools to be created.

March 25, 2021

The Esteem of Teachers

Filed under: Education,History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:12 pm
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I have been reading Milton Mayer’s book “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945” and I ran across this:

In the years of the rise the movement little by little brought the communities attitude toward the teacher around from respect and envy to resentment, from trust and fear to suspicion. The development seems to have been inherent; it needed no planning and had none. As the Nazi emphasis on nonintellectual virtues (patriotism, loyalty, purity, labor, simplicity, “blood,” “folkishness”) seeped through Germany, elevating the self-esteem of the “little man,” the academic profession was pushed from the very center to the periphery of society. Germany was preparing to cut its own head off. By 1933 at least five of my ten friends (and I think six or seven) looked upon “intellectuals” as unreliable, and among these unreliables, upon the academics as the most insidiously situated.” (p. 112)

I am quite aware of Godwin’s law (Invoke the Nazis and you’ve lost the argument.) but I plow on fearlessly. The Nazi’s were a totalitarian authoritarian bunch. And if you are just going to rule by giving orders, you do not want a bunch of credible naysayers arguing the other way. Fascists just don’t like opposition, so they either eliminate it or marginalize it.

Fast forward to today and we see some startling parallels. When I was young, teachers were held in high esteem, but over the past twenty or so years, teachers have been criticized as being pigs at the public trough, earning way too much money. They have been criticized as being the reason for failing schools. They have had collective bargaining rights stripped from them. Their unions have been demonized. Their role in the classroom undermined by “systems” that insist on approved classroom scripts being read instead of anything the teacher might have thought would be helpful. And when testing results of their pupils do not show progress, they are blamed as the sole cause.

I must also point out that during the social unrests of the 1960’s and 1970’s college students and teachers were much to the forefront. The revision of the bankruptcy laws disallowing student loans from being discharged (with no evidence for the claim such loans were being abused) has effectively chained students with a ball of debt they drag around with them through much of their working lives. Such people do not jeopardize their careers by falling behind on their debt payments, so they keep their heads down and just keep doing what they are told.

So, now that teachers and students have been defanged, we see a veritable war on science and the pointy-headed intellectuals behind it. We have become suspicious of experts, you know the people who kind of know what they are talking about. Gosh, would any American political party find this acceptable? Apparently both do to some extent. Joe Biden was a major force behind the student loan bankruptcy legislation. And the Republicans have been full bore on a “Let’s Get Ready for Fascism” campaign.

March 21, 2021

Delayed Miller Time

Filed under: Culture,Education — Steve Ruis @ 9:45 am

When does the weekend begin? Since I am now retired, aka work form home, I often miss weekends entirely in that one day is pretty much like another. I don’t have to commute to work, show up at an office, etc. so I work a little every day.

But if you do work for a living, when does your weekend begin?

I threw this question at the college freshmen and sophomores I taught many times over during my teaching tenure. Many college students have very few classes on Fridays and often they are in the morning, so their school week ends on Friday morning, noon at the latest. So, officially “Miller Time” begins at noon or even earlier on Friday. (If you do not remember “Miller Time” it was an advertising ploy to stake a claim on people’s attention when they got off of work. You know, “stop on the way home and have a Miller beer to make your day that much better,” kind of messaging.

But if you examine what these young people did with their time on Friday afternoon, it was more like Watching Reruns on Cable TV Time or Binge Watching Old TV Shows Time (“Whoa, Dude, have you ever seen Hogan’s Heroes?”), or “Diddling Around on the Internet Time” (Like, like, like, like . . . busy day, busy people!).

As a foray into time management, I encouraged my students to use Friday afternoons to create actually free weekends by doing all of their homework needed for Monday then. Basically I was recommending Delayed Gratification Miller Time.

The benefits were, I taught, immense. If you manage to get all of your work done, then “the rest” of your weekend was truly free. Contrast that with having the thought “Oh, I have to write that paper for History or English” and then thinking “I’ve got plenty of time.” You then have this same thought and same response Saturday morning, Saturday evening, Sunday morning, and then Sunday evening you are at “I have to write that damned paper!” and feeling pressure because if you don’t get it done, you are out of time. If you do the paper on Friday afternoon and need more time, you have two days of it, a much less stressful situation. Plus you don’t have to spend the entire weekend nagging yourself about that task.

The basis of this attitude was the rather straightforward question: if you are going to do “x hours” of homework, when is it to your advantage to actually do it? Noting that Friday afternoons often get sucked into a black hole of absolute nothingness, that was the best time to do it.

Now I am a procrastinator, always have been, but sometimes the obvious (such as the advice above) gets heard and followed and, I will attest, it does work even for me, not that I always operated this way.

I remember returning to my office around 3 pm on a Friday afternoon and there was a student sitting at the table outside of my office. When he saw me coming, he got up and moved rapidly my direction, eyes a bit wild: “Mr. Ruis, Mr. Ruis, I took your advice and . . .” I was struggling to remember who this kid was and finally I realized he had been in my Chem 100 class the previous semester. I recalled that he was a good kid, good student, typical of so many. But he was excited, because he was doing his homework when I was in my meeting and had adopted this practice steadfastly. He also was acing his classes and wanted to thank me. So, realizing that he was not another drug crazed youth spouting nonsense and that I had actually helped someone, I went home on a kind of high that day . . . and watched reruns on TV (I don’t really know exactly what I did, but I didn’t do my homework). I learned more time management techniques but in that regard I was a slow learner.

It still is the case in my life that when I do something is almost as important as that I do something. This last summer we published four new books. At this stage of my life when I get up a head of steam, I ride it as long as I can, because my Miller Time can last weeks.

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