Pandemic Evictions, MN Police PTSD, Student Visas, & SCOTUS Robocall Ruling (29m) – Episode 328

Episode 328 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: the looming evictions of 28 million Americans caused by government lockdowns; Minneapolis police officers filing for PTSD-related disability claims; ICE forcing student visa holders to attend university in-person or risk deportation; the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning the 2015 law exempting government debt collectors from the 1991 law banning robocalls to cell phones; and more.

Listen to Episode 328 (29m, mp3, 64kbps)

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Back to School? “No Thanks” Say Millions of New Homeschooling Parents

Next month marks the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year in several US states, and pressure is mounting to reopen schools even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Florida, for example, is now considered the nation’s No. 1 hot spot for the virus; yet on Monday, the state’s education commissioner issued an executive order mandating that all Florida schools open in August with in-person learning and their full suite of student services.

Many parents are balking at back-to-school, choosing instead to homeschool their children this fall.

Gratefully, this virus seems to be sparing most children, and prominent medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged schools to reopen this fall with in-person learning. For some parents, fear of the virus itself is a primary consideration in delaying a child’s return to school, especially if the child has direct contact with individuals who are most vulnerable to COVID-19’s worst effects.

But for many parents, it’s not the virus they are avoiding by keeping their children home—it’s the response to the virus.

In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued school reopening guidelines that called for:

  • Strict social distancing tactics
  • All-day mask wearing for most students and teachers
  • Staggered attendance
  • Daily health checks
  • No gym or cafetaria use
  • Restricted playground access and limited toy-sharing, and
  • Tight controls on visitors to school buildings, including parents.

School districts across the country quickly adopted the CDC’s guidelines, devising their reopening plans accordingly. Once parents got wind of what the upcoming school-year would look like, including the real possibility that at any time schools could be shut down again due to virus spikes, they started exploring other options.

For Florida mother, Rachael Cohen, these social distancing expectations and pandemic response measures prompted her to commit to homeschooling her three children, ages 13, 8, and 5, this fall.

“Mandated masks, as well as rigid and arbitrary rules and requirements regarding the use and location of their bodies, will serve to dehumanize, disconnect, and intimidate students,” Cohen told me in a recent interview.

She is endeavoring to expand schooling alternatives in her area and is currently working to create a self-directed learning community for local homeschoolers that emphasizes nature-based, experiential education. “There is quite a lot of interest,” she says.

According to a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll, 60 percent of parents surveyed said they will likely choose at-home learning this fall rather than send their children to school even if the schools reopen for in-person learning. Thirty percent of parents surveyed said they were “very likely” to keep their children home.

While some of these parents may opt for an online version of school-at-home tied to their district, many states are seeing a surge in the number of parents withdrawing their children from school in favor of independent homeschooling. From coast to coast, and everywhere in between, more parents are opting out of conventional schooling this year, citing onerous social distancing requirements as a primary reason.

Indeed, so many parents submitted notices of intent to homeschool in North Carolina last week that it crashed the state’s nonpublic education website.

Other parents are choosing to delay their children’s school enrollment, with school districts across the country reporting lower than average kindergarten registration numbers this summer.

School officials are cracking down in response.

Concerned about declining enrollments and parents reassuming control over their children’s education, some school districts are reportedly trying to block parents from removing their children from school for homeschooling.

In England, it’s even worse. Government officials there are so worried about parents refusing to send their children back to school this fall that the education secretary just announced fines for all families who keep their children home in violation of compulsory schooling laws. “We do have to get back into compulsory education and obviously fines sit alongside as part of that,” English secretary Gavin Williamson announced.

When school officials resort to force in order to ensure compliance, it should prompt parents to look more closely at their child’s overall learning environment. Parents have the utmost interest in ensuring their children’s well-being, both physically and emotionally, and their concerns and choices should be respected and honored.

After several months of learning at home with their children, parents may not be so willing to comply with district directives and may prefer other, more individualized education options. Pushed into homeschooling this spring by the pandemic, many parents are now going willingly, and eagerly, down this increasingly popular educational path.

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Krikorian’s “Category Error”

During our last debate, an audience member asked Mark Krikorian if his arguments for restricting immigration of foreigners were also arguments for restricting the child-bearing of natives.  You might think that Mark would insist that native babies are somehow better than foreign adults.  How hard could it possibly be to craft such an argument?  However, Mark adamantly refused to compare the worths of different kinds of people.  Instead, he informed the questioner that his question was based on a “category error.”

In so doing, Mark signaled high IQ, because smart people love to announce that someone has made a “category error.”  But precisely what is a category error?  Here’s a standard definition:

To show that a category mistake has been committed one must typically show that once the phenomenon in question is properly understood, it becomes clear that the claim being made about it could not possibly be true.

Here’s a more detailed discussion:

Category mistakes are sentences such as ‘The number two is blue’, ‘The theory of relativity is eating breakfast’, or ‘Green ideas sleep furiously’. Such sentences are striking in that they are highly odd or infelicitous, and moreover infelicitous in a distinctive sort of way. For example, they seem to be infelicitous in a different way to merely trivially false sentences such as ‘2+2=5″ or obviously ungrammatical strings such as ‘The ran this’.

Which raises a big question: How could the audience member’s perfectly intelligible question possibly be a “category error”?!  If you say, “We should restrict immigration because immigrants burden taxpayers,” what on Earth is wrong with responding, “In that case, should we restrict child-bearing if babies burden taxpayers?”  The answer, of course, is: Nothing at all.  Not only is the latter question in the same “category” as the former question; it is the textbook way to check the logic of Mark’s position.  And it starkly reveals the inadequacy of Mark’s original argument.  Whatever your views on immigration, Mark definitely needs to assert something like, “We should restrict immigration because immigrants burden taxpayers and only natives are entitled to burden taxpayers.”

This in turn shifts the argument over to the fundamental question: What is morally permissible to do to foreigners but not natives – and why?  Which recalls a previous Krikorian-Caplan dialogue.  I asked Mark: “Suppose you can either save one American or x foreigners. How big does x have to be before you save the foreigners?”  And Mark responded:

Another meaningless hypothetical.

Not only is this a meaningful question; it gets to the heart of what Mark needs to formulate a coherent position on immigration.  I’m confident that Mark, as an avowed Christian, thinks we have no right to murder or enslave foreigners.  And an avowed restrictionist, Mark clearly thinks we have a right to prohibit foreigners from domestic labor and residential markets – even though plenty of natives are eager to trade with them.  Why, though, does Mark draw the line there?  While it is rhetorically convenient for him to dodge the question by calling it a “category error” or “meaningless,” he intellectually doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

So why not face the question instead of stonewalling?  I stand by my previous explanation: Mark thinks like a politician, not a truth-seeker.  To make his position intellectually credible, he’d have to say, “Foreigners’ welfare is of near-zero value.”  Unfortunately for him, this sounds terrible – and like most politicians, Mark hates to utter anything that sounds terrible.  Occasionally bullet-biting is essential for truth, but it’s bad for winning popularity contests.

I’m never nervous when I debate Mark; he has good manners and reminds me of my dad.  In contrast, I would be quite nervous even to be in the same room as a white nationalist.  They seem like sociopaths.  In terms of intellectual rigor, however, leading white nationalists far exceed Mark.  I naturally think they’re deeply wrong.  Still, if you want to construct an airtight argument for immigration restriction, your best bet is to build on the twin premises that (a) almost all immigrants are inferior to natives, and (b) the well-being of these inferior people is of little worth.

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The Easy Road Does Exist, But It Is a Scam

Always be on guard when someone offers to make something easy for you. Run like hell. They are stealing away an opportunity for growth.

Of course, they aren’t promising you something that isn’t real. The easy road does exist. Most everyone takes it.

Learning that’s easy gets you mediocre knowledge. Training that’s easy gets you mediocre gains. A moral code that is easy yields unearned arrogance but not much character. Relationships that are easy yield shallow connection.

Meanwhile the people who have worked hard at these things are laughing at the people who take the easy road. If you go the easy way, you (ironically) make the harder way easier for them. Savvy? There’s less competition at the top if you voluntarily stay at the bottom – which is where “the easy way” will take you.

If you (like me) would like to break the habit of taking the easy road, it helps to remember this. There’s something about feeling like a mark that puts a chip on your shoulder – and there’s no motivation like a shoulder-chip.

Most people in a position to make things easy for you are people who either 1) had things made easy for them or 2) have done things the hard way and don’t care if you join them in the halls of glory. The first kind has not enough wisdom to make things easy for you (their way will make things harder), and the second kind will remain your superiors so long as you accept their offer.

Don’t.

It’s safe to assume that anything worth having takes work (this is the cliche) – and more work than you’ve planned on doing (this is the insight). Growing up in America we are given so many dreams at a young age that we assume they are all possible, and so we assume they are all easier than they really are.

This blog post is likely futile. You must take the easy road and come to the end of it (or see someone else do the same) a number of times before you realize. But a bit more suspicion of the people inviting you to take it might be in order. They are probably not consciously malicious, but their invitation will cheat you out of something you ought to work toward.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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School’s Out; Reactionaries Hate That

If there’s been one bright spot in America’s COVID-19 experience, it’s the near-complete shutdown of an expensive and obsolete government education system cribbed from mid-19th century Prussia.

Across the country, “public” pre-K thru 12th-grade programs closed their doors this spring. Some districts attempted to hobble along using not yet ready for prime time online learning systems. Others just turned the kids loose to likely learn far more than they would have in the combination daycare centers and youth prisons that pass for schools these days.

It was a perfect opportunity to scrap “public education” as we know it, perhaps transitioning entirely to distance learning as a waypoint on the journey toward separation of school and state.

Naturally, the political class hates that idea. Primary and secondary education constitute an $800 billion per year job and welfare program, with beneficiaries (read: voters and campaign contributors) up and down its extensive food chain.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran isn’t one to let a little thing like a pandemic derail that gravy train: He’s ordered the state’s government schools to re-open in August,  operating at least five days per week and offering “the full panoply of services” — from glorified babysitting to teacher pay to big agribusiness buys for school lunch programs — to those beneficiaries.

It seems likely that most states will follow Corcoran’s lead to one degree or another, naturally also seeking ways to blow even more money than usual on enhanced social distancing, increased surface disinfection work, etc.

That seems to be the consensus of the entire American mainstream political class, from “progressive left” to “conservative right.”

Yes, Republicans and evangelical Christians will bellyache about the teachers’ unions,.

Yes, Democrats and the unions will gripe about charter schools and voucher programs.

But they’re united in their determination to resuscitate the system as it existed before the pandemic, instead of letting that rotten system die a well-deserved death and moving on to better things.

There’s a word for that attitude.

The word is “reactionary.”

As time goes on, we’ll hear lots of agonized propaganda about how the pandemic has forced huge changes in “public” education. Those changes will be entirely cosmetic. The authoritarian infrastructure beneath won’t have changed at all.

By letting the political class pretend that history can be forced to run backward, we’re denying future generations the real educational opportunities that past generations denied us.

School’s out. We should keep it that way.

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Thaddeus Russell: Thoughts of a Renegade (1h11m)

This episode features an interview of post-academic historian and education entrepreneur Thaddeus Russell from 2017 by Nick Gillespie of the Reason podcast. Russell talks about discovering the Austrian School of economics only long after he left the academy, why actual Marxists hate postmodernism and why libertarians should love it, the insidious nature of America’s Protestant work ethic, and how the Democrats are reviving the Cold War.

Listen To This Episode (1h11m, mp3, 64kbps)

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