Each May and June, American Colleges and Universities hold commencements to graduate large numbers--now in the millions--of those who have successfully completed various courses of study. Opinions may differ as to the actual level and value of the educations obtained by such graduates; but almost all, who have ever been there, will remember the surge of varied and contrasting emotions that accompanied that moment; the sense of the most profound nostalgia--an end to childlike identifications and the self-images of early awareness--coupled with elation in unfettered vistas for the fulfillment of aspirations, not yet tarnished by successive disappointment, nor dimmed by the inevitable distractions of modern life.
What is most significant at this juncture in the life of the new college or university graduate, of endings and new beginnings, is that there is a heightened awareness of the context of things that are, or have been or can be. It is, then, one of the best times to introduce important concepts which go to the relationship of that individual to his society, and to the various institutions of his time. Thus, our feature for June is this letter:
This web site exists as a reflection of the values of your host. But our motivation from the very start has been to challenge the prevailing dogma of the modern Academy. This site exists for you, and those who will follow. Our hope is that you will visit often, to consider a point of view, a perspective on political and social values, largely ignored on 99+% of the campuses of 21st Century America. We believe that you will find that it better conforms to--is more consistent with--many of the things which are important to you, in your daily activities, associations and personal reflections, than much of what has been offered in the formal education, you have just experienced. The obvious question is, why should you take our word for this?
Let us offer you reasons; reasons clothed in the language both of context and promise:
Did your undergraduate experience persuade you to doubt you own first impressions? Here, you will learn that some, at least, of those impressions may have afforded a truer benchmark for the measure of reality, than the verbalized rationalizations of your professors in the "Liberal Arts" and "Social Sciences." And, in the process of learning to better trust those non-verbal first impressions, we will help you to find, within yourself, the verbal arguments for which they have no answer.
Reflect on the concept of human reason, its capacity and how it operates. It is the key to understanding the limitations on neat academic theories. You and each of your classmates have had a lifetime of experience--real experiences, not verbal descriptions of other peoples' experiences or thought patterns. Those experiences provide a personal data bank to use in assessing phenomena. You may not have thought of the process from that perspective, but consider what actually happens, when you see or hear something unusual, whether driving down a familiar neighborhood street, that you have traversed a thousand times before; or performing a task that you perform every day. You realize that something is unusual, or out of place, or odd in the context of its surroundings, because you have the ability to instantly access that lifetime of experience.
In the fraction of a second, your brain performs as a molecular computer, scanning millions of images to determine what fits a familiar pattern, and what does not fit that pattern. It all happens so rapidly and effortlessly, that few people ever stop to realize what has, in fact, happened. The point is not to challenge every thing you were taught in school. The point is that you must never sell your own analytic abilities short, never discount what you perceive because it is not fashionable among the verbally defined norms and values of the Academy. (Remember, always, that understanding and explaining, involve different processes.) And there is another point, here, also.
While the mind can instantly sift what fits a pattern and what does not fit a pattern; rationalization is a far slower process. It takes much longer, for the self-deceiving person to devise reasons for not believing, what starts out as seeming obvious, when he perceives an interest or purpose in altering reality. Rationalization takes many forms, but they usually combine wishful thinking, with verbal sophistry. The latter involves first, mislabeling, and then slowly twisting that wealth of dynamic impression, drawn from personal observation and experience, until the only phenomena deemed worthy of keeping in any sort of focus, are those which fit such preconceived purpose.
The most familiar examples of rationalization, are those where someone finds a reason to do what he or she had wanted to do in the first place, even though most objective evidence suggested that it was a mistake. But in the academic world, we frequently see rationalization to serve an ideological bias. We also see rationalization on top of rationalization. Much of the "liberal" bent of College faculties reflects just such a compounding of rationalization. Let us be more specific. Why do so many college professors seem addicted to not actually analyzing certain "sacred cows?" Is it simply a hesitation to invite ostracization by seeming to challenge contemporary academic dogma? The untenured faculty usually fear to challenge the "tenured," for obvious reasons.
Yet, after that obvious inducement to rationalize conformity, the question remains just what are so many, so bent on conforming to? Again it is no mystery. The very term "politically correct," which started out as a joke for most Americans, truly captures the Academic bias. But that bias can only really be understood by considering its specific manifestations. Let us examine a current example: The Harvard apology for its new President's comment, last year, when he dared to suggest that women just might, on average, have less aptitude or inclination for Math & Science, than have men. That stirred a predictable outcry from those who insist that no one must challenge the egalitarian mantra, the contrived myth spawned by compounded rationalization out of imbedded bias, which denies any significant difference in basic aptitude on the basis of sex, race, tribe, social class or family.
The result was that two weeks ago, Harvard announced an intent to spend $50,000,000 to entice more women into the Science and Math curricula. Will this prove a wise expenditure? Was the decision altruistic? We would suggest that a scan of your, or any one of your classmates', individual data bank of personal observation based impressions, would indicate the precise opposite:
A. That, on average, women are less attracted to pursuits in Math and Science than are men; that they display less aptitude for those pursuits.
B. That there are notable exceptions, such as Madame Curie; who have been held out as models to stir young women's interest for over a century.
C. That most girls, who were well adjusted in the schools that you attended, were not obsessed with proving that they were as good as the boys in mathematic or scientific problem solving; that many even bragged about their disinterest; indeed were quite content to be themselves, and pursue development in areas in which they had the better skills.
D. That people who make a cause out of denying reality--here, even spending a large sum of money to deny reality--are neither wise, nor trustworthy. Nor are they driven by noble purpose, however much they may seek to rationalize compulsive behavior.
We have selected the Harvard denial of experienced reality, here, because it is recent. But one could point to a considerable array of similar displays--efforts by those trying to force our perception of nature into an egalitarian mode that simply does not exist in the natural order, via ex cathedra pronouncements and tortured verbal gyrations. These may be seen in the area of differences in performance between men and women, in differences between this or that racial or ethnic group and another, between this or that economic class. There is practically no one, however, who has not observed that real differences do exist between each of us. The graduate with brothers or sisters will have observed different aptitudes in his own home; every graduate, the different levels of effort that were required by different classmates to achieve even a roughly similar level of achievement; different personality traits, which may have been constructive or harmful, in particular pursuits, etc., etc..
What should be clear, in all of this, is that the parrots of a "politically correct" dogma, do not really respect those they claim to defend. The patronization of women, which displays an emotional need to deny the observed reality that they tend to be less inclined to mathematics than are men, has created a ridiculously false basis for estimating female worth. Instead of focusing on areas where women may actually excel, they force an issue over skills, where anyone trusting his or her own observations, will know that they do not. Only one operating under a compulsion--whether from fear to differ with a prevailing orthodoxy, or from fear of the actual realities of Nature--would adopt such an issue as an object for contention.
This is a far better subject for satire than debate. (If we had better satire, perhaps more people would wake up to how stupid some folk with pompous sounding academic credentials can manage to make themselves.) Unfortunately, "politically correct" dogma also obtains in Hollywood. However, there are chinks in the uniformity of approach, which may tell us something about the psychology of some of the players. Consider, for instance, the movie, produced some years back--in something of a "Saturday Night Live" bent of humor--entitled "White Men Can't Jump." In it, as we recall, a young White man with good basketball talent and his Black friend, hustle competition with basket shooting Blacks at various inner city neighborhood playgrounds; playing on the prevailing assumption in the neighborhood, that White men can't jump, to pick up a bit of cash via advantageous wagers.
The movie was funny--good comedy--and fell into an accepted exception to the general taboo against focusing on the natural differences between definable groups, in the academic and media communities. If we can understand why, we may be able to shed more light on the actual nature of egalitarian compulsion.
Here, the vehicle for comedy was an assumption that race was a determinant of aptitude, which in the case of the White star, proved misleading--thus apparently demonstrating that assumption to be a "prejudice"--something both Hollywood and Academia always try to make very clear that they oppose. Moreover, the pseudo-intellectual Left (those members of the faculty at any College or University, who feel the need to parrot "politically correct" drivel) do not consider differences in athletic ability, whether caused by nature or nurture, particularly important. Quite unlike much of the general public, they would be far more inclined to wring their hands over the possibility of a greater genetic determinant for scientific aptitude, than for jumping aptitude. That reflects a fairly typical bit of professorial and artistic "prejudice." But what is really relevant in this?
The human comedy aside, there is little question, but that the contemporary American Negro population, originally of West African lines of descent, produces a higher proportion of good jumpers than does the contemporary American Caucasian population of European origin. This is obvious in the domination by the former in track and field events involving jumping, as well as in a heavy preponderance in the higher levels of competitive team basketball. It is also, true, however, that some White men are good jumpers, even great basketball players. We have, then, parallel phenomena to those present in comparisons of male & female scientific aptitude. Yet, neither set nor complex of phenomena affords any factual basis for any reasonable person to become upset. Again, no two of us are perfectly alike; it would be a boring world if we were; nor is there any reason, in nature, to expect that there would not be significant differences in the incidence of particular levels of specific ability in any comparison of definable types.
Historically, human differences, whether of sex, race, community, or class, were all legitimate sources for humor. What makes the racial question involved in a comparison of the frequency of athletic skills still acceptable as a subject for humor, whereas fanatical outrage ensues at the mere suggestion of a sexual factor in academic ability, is not that the conceptual principles are different. The problem is entirely in the minds of those venting outrage; and the epithets they hurl at those who dare to state the obvious are not induced by reason, but in an effort to end discussion--an implicit admission that the outraged have no argument.
At this web site, we look at the folly of those who would even imagine that the net worth of anyone or any class of beings should be determined by a comparison with someone else or some other class of being, over a criterion where the party or class, being evaluated, is at a natural (biologically or genetically determined) disadvantage. No rational person would form a definitive conclusion as to any woman's worth, based solely or even primarily upon her skill at mathematics. Mankind was not divided into sexes for the purpose of mathematic competition!
Of course, to recur to the referenced movie, what we got out of the movie may not have been quite what the writer and producer intended. Frequently the public gets a different message from a Hollywood production than that intended--which opens up an entire other subject. Perhaps, we will address that point sometime. (Admittedly a bit too involved for general interest, the Chapter on "Perspective & Focus," in our Debate Handbook, has probably been the least read.)
As an under-graduate, did you come to doubt your own sense of fairness, or some of the family values you had grown up with, with respect to a social, political of philosophic judgment, which was challenged in College? Impressed, not because you were truly convinced of a verifiable truth, but because of an appeal to "authority" in the form of this or that article or study by someone whom you were told was an "expert?" Perhaps by words to the effect, that all knowledgeable scholars were agreed on a certain conclusion? Here, you may find reason to reexamine the question from a more confident perspective; to reach a conclusion with which you may personally be more comfortable. If you came to doubt your own common sense, you will, at least, be able to improve your self-image.
Perhaps you were never bothered with self doubt. Were you taught to be apologetic for some aspect of your family history, or your parents' success;--or of American history? Or ashamed of your race, ethnicity or lines of descent; or convinced that it was somehow wrong to be proud or happy about things which made you different or unique? Were you ever convinced that those who prosper have somehow wronged those who fail; or that individual failure is somehow society's fault; persuaded that "diversity" means trying to eliminate human differences--that is actual diversity--by bringing all of humanity into a common value system, or by pretending that we were all alike; or that we are all just so much putty in the hands of those able to manipulate our social environment?
Here you can respect and appreciate the actual variation in human types, to understand why human societies are not all alike, and should not be forced into a common mold; to treat others with respect, but never the pretense of uniformity; to see that in seeking to benefit your own family and community, you are conforming with the natural laws of existence; that seeking to benefit your own, does not necessitate arrogance or cruelty towards others. Here, you will see that in recent centuries, the cruelest atrocities between peoples have come, not from those who seek to preserve their own unique traditions and ethnic values, but from those who seek uniformity in the human condition; those suffering from the very compulsion, that has increasingly gripped the Western Left, throughout your lifetime.
Almost all of the world's educated peoples, including those leading nations still governed by Socialist parties, have come to accept the supremacy of the market driven economy. Nationalization of industries has been reversed, and privatization has become the rule. But few, whether Conservative or Socialist, seem to completely understand why the market driven economy--why free enterprise--will always out achieve any planned economy, nor the applicability of the same principles to other aspects of social policy. While the human dynamics of the market are basically the same as the human dynamics involved in other interactive forms of social behavior, few seem to grasp the implication; because even fewer have grasped the essential feature, which makes the market economy work.
Perhaps it is in part an ego thing among the would-be planners and social engineers. The market economy works, simply because in not being planned, by involving every productive person, challenged to find what talent he has that is most useful to others--the clue to obtaining the maximum reward for any action--to put forth an effort motivated by an expectation of personal benefit related to that effort; the market economy unleashes the creative dynamism of the whole population. No planned economy, no committee of economists or bureaucrats running a planned economy, can ever unleash a similar force; can ever duplicate the utilized aggregated brain power of a productive people, where each individual is personally responsible for his own success or failure.
Understood, it would only be expected that the same engine for utilizing individual effort must work in education, in public safety (a well armed population having far less crime than one where the law-abiding have been largely disarmed, and only the criminals and police have firearms), and in other aspects of social interaction. But this understanding would reduce the academic in the Social Sciences to mere student and reporter of the social fabric. The would-be "problem solver" becomes little more than spectator, except as to his or her own life. Thus, institutions of "Higher Education" remain full of those to whom individual poverty, health care, and education, still demand the attention of a powerful central authority, able to launch grandiose projects, and expend enormous sums of money. And, to be sure, the would-be designers of such plans have only disparagement for the "selfish" individualists, who do not believe that they should be taxed from the fruits of their labor and initiative to pay the bills, those designers would engender.
Just as you, and each of your classmates, have within those personal data banks of observed reality, the ammunition to understand the differences between boys and girls, and men and women, including the different relative aptitudes of each; you will also find a great wealth of material, from which to judge the notion that a centrally planned society--where bureaucrats deal with ordinary individual needs--can work better than a free society, where individuals direct their own approach to life. Consider many of the areas, today, where we witness a Federal Government spending almost incomprehensible sums of money to address personal problems, with full blessing of the Academic moderates, while the more Socialistic complain that not nearly enough has yet been done:
At this web site, you will find essays which deal with Federal intrusions into such areas as health care and education. But each of you should know very well, from those inner resources, just how foolish is the idea of solving educational problems from a distant Capital. Indeed, if you are in touch with your own experiences, you are probably better prepared to see that folly now--at a time when you have just completed that part of your life in which education was your principal mental focus;--when you should be more aware than you will ever be again, what works and does not work across a wide vista of education related concepts.
Even as the free market, by putting every individual on his mettle, while affording maximum incentive in the form of market directed rewards, unleashes a greater proportion of the potential in each of us; so too, must an education directed, to the extent practicable, towards the unique qualities of each child, prove that most likely to obtain the best result. On the other hand, is there anything less likely to unleash maximum individual potential, than arbitrary educational norms, decreed by a committee in Washington? You have seen first hand, how in the real world, individual learning problems are solved. It is never by a neat formula; seldom by any form of checklist. Perhaps you had a problem with a particular course of study at some level of your education. Perhaps a parent helped you to better handle the challenge or frustration. Perhaps a good teacher, in a "one on one" situation after school. Perhaps a fellow student, or a brother or sister. Perhaps you were the one helping another.
One could go on and suggest a great many scenarios in which you probably at some time or another participated--whether as the one struggling or the one assisting; many more, that you witnessed, where a good friend was the participant. If you will but scan your own retained images, you will see how truly maximizing educational potential involves a combination of things uniquely individual. First there is the level of aptitude any particular student has for a specific subject, or in a particular area of concern. Then there is the level of motivation that student has. Then there is the question of how well the educator, mentor or instructor, whether a teacher, parent, friend or acquaintance, relates to the unique combination of factors relevant to that particular individual's immediate situation.
Of course it is not possible to assign a teacher to every pupil. But with maximum flexibility at the local school level, there is much that a good teacher--even with a large class--can do to provide individualized help for the student who will benefit from same. Perhaps a meeting after school; maybe encouraging a friend, who has the subject down "pat," to mentor the one seeking help--whatever. Such cases are far more susceptible to beneficial treatment, where the decisions are made on a case by case basis, in a local school not answerable to a distant committee.
You know, also, from that data bank of observed experience, how people with different aptitudes interact. Those experiences will run a gamut from those who can laugh at their problems with certain subjects, to those who develop defensive mechanisms, which close their minds to the subject, or perhaps to formal education itself to become school drop outs, with a huge variation of human reactions in between. You may remember classmates who worked very, very hard to overcome their problems in a particular subject. You may remember others who cheated--and some of the variety of methods that they employed. You probably have images of which recourse helped develop character and which tended to destroy character.
But again, the problems, whether the original ones, or ones arising from how the original ones were addressed, were best handled by those immediately involved. Surely, in this whole scan of personal observation, you will have come to realize that the Bipartisan Federal Act, "No Child Left Behind," was little more than calculated demagoguery. In your own family, you know that not everyone has the same educational potential; that, whether compared subject by subject, or evaluated in terms of some sort of a composite, not everyone can keep up with everyone else.
Now this does not mean that it is a bad idea to agree on overall standards; to try to determine just what level of education is comprehended in a 9th grade education; what level of education is represented by a High School diploma. Interestingly, while there is no provision in the Constitution, which would suggest a Federal role in local education, Congress is specifically authorized to "fix the Standard of Weights and Measures" (Article I, Section 8). Arguably, the effort to standardize educational goals, accepted for the limited purpose of clarifying benchmarks, may be the only aspect of the present Federal intrusion into local education, that is Constitutional. Yet clarifying the definitions of educational levels would not empower Washington to fund anything, or penalize anyone because of the particular aptitude or achievement level in any school, or justify raising false hopes in any family. Nor is it likely that adding another layer of educational bureaucracy will do anything but waste the fruits of productive labor.
Federal involvement in health care may not have been challenged during your academic experience. Indeed, if any of the faculty even discussed such concepts as the "Police Power," the power of a society to deal with the health, safety and morals, of its members, with specific reference to the separation of powers and functions in American forms of Government, you were probably a fortunate exception among those to just graduate. But the basic division is this: The Federal Government was given considerable power with respect to Defense and dealing with foreign nations; with respect to the tools for an open market among the States; with respect to dealing with the inevitable problems that might arise between the citizens of the respective States, in a Federation involving as much diversity as that created in 1787 to 1789. However, the "Police Power" and functions (health, safety and morals), were fully retained by the ratifying States.
Thus relatively 'straight laced' Connecticut and Massachusetts could police their citizens according to their traditional social needs and lights, and the more easy going 'Cavalier' patricians, in Virginia, could police the citizens of the 'Old Dominion,' in the manner that best suited their needs and values. The people of each State dealt with public health issues and perceived needs in their own way. Yet whether Puritan or Cavalier, New York or Georgia, no one looked to Washington to solve the problems of any citizen who could not afford medical care. That concept was totally outside the Constitutional framework. Unfortunately, the intended confines of the Federal structure depended upon a degree of honorable commitment, no longer found in many of our elected officials.
With the extension of Federal medical involvement into the field of prescription drug coverage for Americans over 65, next year, the advocates of Government as an individual problem solver will open what is potentially the worst 'Pandora's Box' in the history of the Republic. Again, scan your observations of the reality of human behavior. Note what you may have observed of the use of drugs, legal and illegal: Drugs as a crutch, drugs for the whole gamut of reasons people take drugs. Have you observed those, who used drugs to escape aspects of reality? Did you know any young women, who found a Doctor with a reputation for prescribing tranquilizing drugs, on a patient's mere representation that she was suffering from anxiety? Are you acquainted with such practices? Did you think that such usage was conducive to anything in anyone's true interest?
Consider what might happen in the same circles, where you may have observed less responsible contemporaries getting "stoned" for recreation, if, suddenly, the drugs being employed were free? To be sure, you are a long way from 65, and there are drugs and there are drugs. Not all drugs are mood enhancers, or anxiety suppressers. There are drugs which treat various pathogens which, untreated, could kill. There are drugs which can speed healing. But is this really an area, where the Federal Government of the United States should be involved? There is, of course, the tremendous expense--and as we show in an essay on the subject at this web site, an expense likely to explode upward with every passing year--which your generation is going to have to find a way to manage. But does anything in your experience with human nature, really suggest that such remote funding for the care of local patients, is the best way to address all of the complex and varied factors involved?
The reason distant Government gets involved in local problems and personal dilemmas, is that politicians seek to induce support, by promising solutions to what is not necessarily soluble. The reason professors hatch theories, which suggest that centralized problem solving will work, are similar to those which induce them to be "politically correct." For precisely the same reasons that the market economy works, the Welfare State fails. It tends to diminish the incentive of each "beneficiary" to maximize his or her own efforts, to develop inner strength. Thus centrally planned attacks on poverty, tend to actually increase poverty--a crutch that hobbles rather than a quality that sustains. But there is another downside, parallel to, but clearly not the same as, the factor that destroys incentive to improve. There is in most of the programs, an inducement to corrupt.
The ADC program was inaugurated in the 1930s, to help single mothers cope with the burden of raising children without a husband. It did two things. It provided a per child financial benefit, and it took away the stigma in bearing children out-of-wedlock. Observe what has happened, since, to the percentage of children born out-of-wedlock! For every child being raised without a father in 1938, there are now ten. The theorists' crutch in what were seen as difficult circumstances, became instead temptation among the less intellectually gifted elements of society.
If you look behind the altruistic headlines over many Federal programs, you might be surprised at who actually benefits. (But then, perhaps, if you have learned to fully employ that data bank of experienced reality, you might not.) For example, consider again the Federal involvement in civilian health care, and recurring news items, reports about Nursing Homes under investigation for ill treatment of patients.
No, it is not a daily occurrence. But it happens often enough--in enough different communities--to remind us that all people in the health care field are not equally credible--anymore than are all college professors, or all news reporters, or all trial lawyers. Creating enormous funds, from a distant source, creates enormous incentive for the less than honorable in what is now a business, to exploit the obvious possibilities to run up bills by misuse of unfortunate patients, no longer adequate to actually assess whether they really need or are benefitting from aspects of the Federally funded care, they are receiving--at least on paper. What is most repulsive to decent people, are the tragic cases where, instead of benefitting, someone has simply been shelved, tranquilized out of meaningful participation in their own lives--and away from any ability to even protest--while the "care givers" reap the harvest from an ill conceived program.
We could go on. But the point should be clear. Government, as an individual problem solver, does not work, for all the reasons that the market economy does. The principle of putting the individual on his mettle is the best formula for life in general. And for those concerns, where public authority has a necessary role, that role is best served by that level of public authority closest to the immediate situation. All common sense suggests that imposing layer upon layer of supervisory bureaucracy over a local agency, is conducive only to confusion and "buck passing," never a more efficient administration.
Yet the purpose of this letter is not to persuade you that all Federal programs are ill conceived. Most of those intended to solve problems, which were deliberately not entrusted to the Federal Government, are indeed ill conceived--as well as being Unconstitutional--but that is not our point. Actually we have two points: The first is to inspire better confidence in your own internal resources; to demonstrate that you have, within yourself, the answers to much of the political and social nonsense being spun in Government and in the media, or being instilled in some of the lower classmen, who will follow in your College footsteps. The second is that we remain here as your resource. Please return when you have a few moments; whenever you wish to consider the major issues of our time from a Conservative perspective. Our hope is that, after you have thoroughly analyzed those issues, you will choose to join in the battle to restore and preserve the unique values of the American tradition.
Finally, here is to your future! May it be full of promise. As a Great Uncle wrote immediately after our own Commencement, many years ago: "Now, let us see you commence!"
Good Luck! God Speed!
William Flax, Cincinnati, Ohio