One of the great dilemmas, for me anyway, some people do not seem to give it much thought, is the degree to which a person can be themselves versus conforming to societal norms and expectations. Many people seem to buy into the east labeling – with cultural icons and their persona used as convenient shorthand. A new actor is a rebel, the new James Dean. Someone recently besides right-wing conservative Catholic Rick Santorum as a rebel – willing to “tell it like it is”. It does seem the Rick is willing to push aside over 300 years of human progress in science, personal liberty, individual rights for women and people of color, the use of logic and reason to parse out some essential truths. In some circles that does indeed pass for being an insurgent. A rebel with a cause of dubious morality, but still a rebel. Others might look back and review the injustices of systems of government and thinking and he him as a tired relic of the worse of humanity’s past. There is a place for using the pressure of social norms to get people to do the right thing. There is that old saying, live and let live as long as whoever it is does no evil. That last bit about evil is much larger in reality than it’s small space in a sentence would signify. If there were absolutely clear, unmistakable lies between good and evil, doing away with evil or just plain bad behavior might not be easy, but at least having societal codes in place would be. How have we gotten as far as we have – in western democracies we would not threaten someone with torture on the rack if they claimed the earth, despite official edits otherwise, does indeed revolve around the sun, not vice versa. We have arrived at this place in our cultural progress through critical thinking. We mentally test statements to see if they are true based on knowledge, lessons from history and experimentation. If we have decided on ethical norms based on knowledge we enforce them through social pressure – the opinions and good thoughts of our cohorts: family, co-workers, friends or people who we may not know, but are experts we respect…and our own toolbox of analytical tools – some people do not have much of a tool box, but they do use what they have. While bullying can be the dark side of what our cohort thinks, keeping us from stealing lunch money from poor children, stopping us from dumping toxic chemicals in the local river, not listing ourselves as killers for hire on Craigslist are among the up sides. Study Posits a Theory of Moral Behavior
Bankers, stock brokers, and mortgage lenders who caused the recession were able to act as they did, without shame or guilt, perhaps because their moral identity standard was set at a low level, and the behavior that followed from their personal standard went unchallenged by their colleagues, Stets explained.
“To the extent that others in a situation verify or confirm the meanings set by a person’s identity standard and as expressed in a person’s behavior, the more the person will continue to engage in these behaviors,” Stets said of the theory of moral identity she and Carter advance. “One’s identity standard guides a person’s behavior. Then the person sees the reactions of others to his or her behavior. If others have a low moral identity and others do not challenge the illicit behavior that follows from it, then the person will continue to do what he or she is doing. This is how immoral practices can emerge.”
One of the reason that Rick Santorum and other conservatives not only embrace immoral behavior, but believe it to be moral is because they live inside the echo chamber of their peers. That alone would not always be enough, but add in the deep lack of critical thinking skills and you have an historically great recipe for vile behavior wearing the mask of morality.
Public education is a great ideal. I could probably do as well as the most viscous critics on the far Right in detailing how it good be better. We would only differ in the details. Still as an institution it is one with a accomplished history and one worth saving. The way the Right looks at public education is a head spinner in light of how they view the perfection of organized religion – their organized religion anyway ( Santorum thinks mainstream Protestants are accessories to evil). I would suggest they go to the used book section of their local university book store and read about the history of organized religion in the west. That history is bloody, cruel frequently dictated to the worse impulses of mankind. Rick can just skip to the history of Catholicism if he likes. It reads like a Blood curdling horror story. There is some good in there as well. An objective evaluation would say that Catholicism or Protestantism or Islam is a mixed bag of good and evil at best. If religious conservatives can look back at their unvarnished history ( I remember that Fox wing-nut in residence Michelle Malkin dismissed the deaths caused by the Salem Witch Trials as no big deal) and still think they believe in something worth preserving why can’t they look at the admittedly flawed public education system – which has much less blood on its hands – and think there is something essentially good there worth saving. Who Needs Public Education?
At a weekend appearance in Ohio, Rick Santorum said this about public education, according to the New York Times:
[T]he idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools [italics mine], is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home-school or have the little neighborhood school, and into these big factories, so we built equal factories called public schools. And while those factories as we all know in Ohio and Pennsylvania have fundamentally changed, the factory school has not.
Where to begin? The idea that the government should be running schools goes back to the nation’s founding. Its principal advocate was Thomas Jefferson, who proposed (in Notes on the State of Virginia) that every child be entitled to three years of schooling free of charge (after that, parents had to pay). Horace Mann acted and expanded on Jefferson’s idea starting in the 1830s through his energetic advocacy of publicly-funded education. Mann was appalled by the quality of the “little neighborhood schools” that Santorum rhapsodizes about and he fought to raise standards for the teaching profession and to abolish religious sectarianism from public schools. Prior to the 20th century more than 90 percent of American teenagers didn’t go to high school, and whatever “home schooling” they received on the farm was typically limited to learning how to tend animals and plant and harvest crops.
The spread of government-funded high schools during the first half of the 20th century, far from violating some pastoral ideal of the little red schoolhouse, made it possible for the first time for most Americans to receive any kind of education at all. With electrification and the rise of other technologies, a high school education became essential not only to holding many factory jobs but also, with the rise of new agricultural techniques, to managing a farm.
Compared to some other western countries the U.S. was not doing terribly in term of literacy – most estimates – like the one cited in that article put adult illiteracy at about 20%. Considering that Native Americans were generally not allowed in what schools there were and slaves were usually not taught to read, as a nation we were not doing all that bad. Still to claim there has been no progress from the late 1800s in terms of reading comprehension and analysis, math, science, technology, familiarity with U.S. and world history, most high schools now require an introduction into formal logic – well Rick is factually challenged. Also a little insulting to millions of Americans. here again we have a conservative – America can do no wrong according to conservatives – except the wrongs they point out. Which do not seem to follow any path of thought which does not eventually curl back around to eat its own tale. If the Right would care to check the stats we would be in awful shape in terms of being an advanced civilization if we only relied on $40k a year private colleges to produce our professional class – dentists, engineers, programmers, biologist, teachers, etc.
Mark Twain Captured on Film by Thomas Edison (1909)
The great inventor Thomas Edison visited the home of Mark Twain in 1909, and captured footage of “the father of American literature” (says Faulkner) walking around his estate and playing cards with his daughters, Clara and Jean. The film is silent and deteriorated. But it’s apparently the only known footage of the author who gave us Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Twain would die the next year. Quite the find by @ebertchicago
COPELIA (Main Titles). This is another movie title sequence that I especially liked.
The opening for Momoco’s 21 minute film which featured in 10 international festivals. This multi-award winning dark but beautiful fantasy stars Ralph Brown, Vincent Regan, John Standing and Olivia Williams. Designed & Directed by Nic Benns