“China Lied, People Died?” Look Who’s Talking!

“The costs of the pandemic keep piling up,” writes Marc Thiessen at the Washington Post. “Somebody has to pay for this unprecedented damage. That somebody should be the government of China.”

And why, pray tell, should China’s government be punished? For “intentionally lying to the world about the danger of the virus, and proactively impeding a global response that might have prevented a worldwide contagion.”

Sounds fair, doesn’t it? If a government lies and people die as a result, that government and its functionaries should be held responsible, right? Good enough for me.

But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, so if we’re having Peking Duck this week, I’d like to know when Thiessen plans to cough up his share of US government’s tab.

As a speechwriter for US president George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the first decade of this century, Thiessen was directly responsible for pushing lies that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Humanity is still paying a steep price for fairy tales about weapons of mass destruction and cries of wolf that “the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud” — fairy tales and cries of wolf that Thiessen helped draft and craft.

In fact, he’s got a lot of nerve pretending that he’s even on the same moral level as Chinese government actors who may have lied about COVID-19, let alone in a position to lecture them.

Those Chinese actors were, at worst, trying to save face for their regime, and at best trying to keep themselves out of jail (the Chinese Communist Party has a reputation for harsh treatment of people who embarrass it).

Thiessen was shilling for an unprovoked war of aggression in Iraq by his regime, and he could have quit that job any time he chose without fear of being dragged off for “re-education.”

Governments collectively, and the people who comprise them individually, lie. A lot. About all kinds of different things and for all kinds of different reasons. And often, as a result, people die. I’m all for holding them accountable, but accountability starts  at home.

Let’s be honest about what’s going on here: Republican flacks like Thiessen are trying to shift blame away from their party’s own policy failures by re-premising the same old anti-China campaign they’ve been waging for years.

Don’t forget to tip your server, Marc.

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Government-Supremacist Assumptions

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass. Government-supremacists are easy to spot by the bad assumptions they naturally make and wave around in public.

They’ve always argued over how to spend “tax” money; they won’t consider the fact that “taxation” is theft.

They’ve argued over what should be taught in government schools, but never questioned government control over (and destruction of) education.

And now they argue over whether it was the right move to issue stay-at-home orders and cripple the economy, but they never consider that no one has the right to do so.

It’s not government’s place to decide to shutter the economy to “save” lives from coronavirus or anything else. They don’t have that right and they shouldn’t be allowed to have the power.

It’s never an “adult decision” to govern other people (the political means) rather than letting them work it out for themselves (the economic means/the market). It’s the most childish thing anyone can do. No one should be allowed to make those decisions and decide for you what you will be permitted to do with your own life.

They also substitute government-supremacism for thinking in other ways.

If you are making the dishonest argument that to fail to sufficiently cripple the economy on account of the coronapocalypse is going to kill 50,000 additional people (or whatever your number might be), without taking into account those who will die because the economy is being destroyed, you aren’t contributing anything useful.

You can’t know how many the virus will kill, nor do you know how many will die from the effects of a shut-down. The number of dead from the shut-down could well vastly outnumber those who die from the virus, making the “net deaths from coronavirus” being tossed around a completely fake number. Any discussion of “net deaths from coronavirus” without taking those a shut-down will kill into account is– as of now– a lie calculated to limit the discussion to government-supremacist answers.

To pretend that someone has sufficient information to make such a decision, or the right to impose it, is to be dishonest. It’s what makes one a government-supremacist.

Government edicts and orders are the opposite of responsibility. You have the responsibility to not violate the life, liberty, or property of anyone else. Government-supremacy is explicit irresponsibility and is shameful. No matter who exhibits it or what excuse they grasp at to justify their violations. I have no respect for government-supremacists; they deserve none. They’ve worked hard to prove that.

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Cultural Diversity Requires Cultural Homogeneity

It is a mistake to view cultural diversity and cultural homogeneity as enemies – in fact, they need each other.

The diversity of a city like New York has historically come not from “diversity training” a bunch of diverse people, but by bringing together a bunch of very culturally-distinctive people: Italians, Irish, English, Puerto Ricans, Eastern Europeans, Jews, African-Americans, Germans, Chinese, and so on. None of the real people who created the initial conditions for cultural diversity were themselves hailing from diverse environments.

These immigrants who shaped New York as the gold standard of cultural “melting pots” all came from strongly homogenous cultures, in which people shared stories, music, history, grievances, beliefs, genetics, and traditions. They were more strictly Italian, Irish, German, etc. than any Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, and German-Americans can claim to be today. They were more different from each other in very real ways, because they adhered to very different cultures. And while it’s a credit to New Yorkers that they found ways to live together, diversity wasn’t always appreciated and wasn’t always easy.

In terms of their beliefs, modern Americans probably do value diversity more (and that’s a good thing). However, they also probably value (and know) their ancestors’ cultures less. The sad result of this is that there is less diversity and less diversity there to value.

The modern Americans who have descended from the early immigrants of New York (and other parts of the country) now have few cultural distinctives from each other. They probably don’t speak Italian, or German, or English with an Irish brogue. They probably don’t know the old stories or songs or places. And in the common educational narrative about diversity (a multicultural one), this isn’t actually a bad thing. When all cultures are treated as equal and all cultures exposed equally (i.e. not very much) to children, there’s not likely going to be any particular attachment to any cultural distinctives in particular.

I really think we could make America – and the world – a more interesting and more diverse place for everybody to enjoy a little more. But we each have to be OK with spending part of our lives deeply immersed in one or two *particular* cultures. And to do that, we have to be attached to that one culture in a way that isn’t culturally chauvinistic, but isn’t multicultural-egalitarian either.

For example, I’m better able to both appreciate and contribute to the diversity of the city I moved to because I was born and raised among people of roughly the same ethnicity (Anglo), religion (Protestant), political preference (conservative), dialect (Southern), and environment (rural) etc. People who are different from me are interesting precisely because I never met Buddhists, Russian-Americans, or urban planners in my early life. Now because I was raised that way, I’ll probably always value rural life more than I like the city. But that particularism also means I can bring the gifts of my upbringing and culture to people who don’t have them, and receive their gifts in return.

It is possible to love one’s own culture and to love the cultures of others. But the end of cultural diversity in fact requires cultural homogeneity – at least in early life. There’s a balance to be struck, but the common answer of generic multiculturalism seems to be more oriented toward breeding a stale homogeneity in the end.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Are Kids Learning More at Home During COVID-19?

More than one billion students around the world are currently missing school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several US states have already canceled school for the remainder of the academic year, turning to online learning when possible, and other states are likely to extend their school closures soon. Some educationists panic about learning loss while children are at home with their families, and headlines abound about how “homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children.”

Learning Outside of a Classroom

Rather than focusing on the alarmist narrative of what is lost during this time away from school, it is worth emphasizing what is gained. There is so much learning that can happen this spring, within families and outside of a conventional classroom.

In many school districts across the country, any assigned coursework has been deemed optional, compulsory attendance laws have been relaxed, and annual testing mandates have been removed. This regulatory respite can provide an opportunity for parents to regain control of their children’s education and expand knowledge using the abundant online learning resources now at our fingertips. Free from state and federal curriculum and testing directives, parents can nurture their children’s education and development, helping them to explore new interests, dive into self-directed projects, and reveal passions and talents.

Whether it’s taking a virtual tour of one of 2,500 museums around the world, listening to a live concert, learning in-demand technology and coding skills for free, engaging in livestream story or art time with renowned authors and artists, or just enjoying special, slower moments together as a family, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to disconnect from standard schooling and discover how much learning can really happen.

Some worry about children’s learning slipping away during this time at home. Writing recently for The Washington Post, former Tennessee education commissioner Kevin Huffman notes the alleged “summer slide” phenomenon when students purportedly lose during summertime much of what they learned during the academic year. He suggests several strategies for combating the learning loss that he says will occur during the pandemic, including adding “more instructional days next year and beyond,” and “opening schools in the middle of the summer, lengthening the school day and the school year, or potentially eliminating summer vacation for the next couple of years.”

Does Learning Loss Occur?

But as I’ve written previously for NPR, we should be skeptical about the overall idea of “summer slide,” or learning loss when children are away from school. If learning is so easily lost when a child’s school routine is disrupted, did they ever really learn at all? They may have been effectively schooled—that is, trained and tested on certain material—but they likely never learned.

Now, children and their parents have an unprecedented opportunity to learn without school. While this is a stressful time for all of us, as our routines are altered and we are mostly stuck inside, distanced from our larger community, it can also be a time to use the enormous, and mostly free, digital resources that are sprouting daily to support learning and discovery. It can be a time to nurture and rekindle our children’s natural curiosity and creativity, qualities that are so often dulled within a mass compulsory schooling system focused on compliance and conformity. It can be a time to get to know our children in ways that might have been difficult during our previously packed, always-on-the-go days.

Most parents will eagerly send their children back to school when this is all over, but some parents will be surprised by what they discover during this break from ordinary life. They may see how much calmer their children are and how school-related ailments such as ADHD are less problematic at home. They may see that their children’s mental health has improved, particularly for teenagers who report the most unhappiness at school.

Parents may see their children’s love of reading and writing reappear, when they are allowed to read books and write stories that are meaningful to them and not tied to an arbitrary school assignment or grammar lesson. They may see a strong interest in science and technology emerge, as their children want to know more about how viruses work and what inventions are being created to help fight the pandemic. Parents may see real learning happen and decide not to send their children back to school.

Fortunately, there are now so many more ways to facilitate education without schooling, including hybrid homeschooling models, virtual learning, microschools, self-directed learning centers, and co-learning spaces. With more demand from parents for innovative, out-of-school learning options, more entrepreneurs will build experimental K-12 education models that will expand choices for parents and learners. Opting out of conventional schooling has never been easier or more worthwhile.

Rather than dwelling on the schoolwork that isn’t getting done this spring, let’s celebrate the immense learning that is occurring, in our homes and with our families, as we experience this historic event together. Let’s focus on what we gain, not on what we lost.

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After the Pandemic: Back to School, or Forward to a Better Future?

Anyone who tries to tell you that the COVID-19 pandemic, and its associated social, political, and economic panics, are good things is  an idiot, or trying to sell you some kind of snake oil, or both. Society-wide disasters are always net negatives, or we wouldn’t think of them as disasters in the first place. Silver linings are never as shiny as the clouds they run through are large.

That doesn’t mean silver linings don’t exist, though. They do, and some of them are significant.

One major silver lining in the United States is that the nation’s  patchwork of government-operated daycare centers / day prisons / drone worker boot camps, aka “public schools,” have temporarily shut down as part of the effort to slow the spread of the disease.

That’s a silver lining in itself: Even if the kids only miss a quarter-year of classroom confinement, most of them are probably going to advance at least a full grade level where real life skills are concerned. Yes, they’ll lag in terms regurgitating whatever propaganda they’re spoon-fed, but that’s a feature, not a bug. They’re getting a glimpse of what real freedom might look like.

But when the pandemic and its associated panics end, parents are going to be faced with a wrenching choice: Continue educating their kids, or hand those kids back over to the professional parasite class that’s monopolized “education” in America for more than a century?

The tax burden imposed by that parasite class has increasingly forced both parents in most households to work outside the home over the same time period.

But a second silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the discovery that working from home is practical for millions who were previously fooled into thinking it wasn’t.

And a third silver lining has been new attention — beyond even that cast by mass school shootings — to the fact that packing dozens of children into single rooms and hundreds or thousands into single buildings on a daily basis would be a bad idea even if the purpose WASN’T to stunt their intellectual growth and turn them into obedient robots.

Millions of American parents just became homeschoolers. That’s a good thing regardless of the reasons. And homeschooling just became more practical as well.

Instead of handing our kids back over to the parasite class when this crisis is over, let’s not.

And let’s stop handing our money over as well.

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Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking

On March 23, 14 US Senators from both major political parties asked US Attorney General William Barr and Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to “transfer non-violent offenders who are at high risk for suffering complications from COVID-19 to home confinement.”

It’s a smart idea, and one local jails and state prisons around the country are already implementing. But it raises an important question and also points to an important opportunity.

The question: If the prisoners in question pose no threat of violence, why were they sent to jail or prison in the first place?

The opportunity: The COVID-19 outbreak should mark the beginning of mass decarceration, not just a temporary exception to a dumb and damaging practice.

More than 2.3 million Americans live in cages.

The vast majority of them are not murderers, rapists, armed robbers, or kidnappers.

In fact, many of them didn’t victimize anyone at all — they didn’t pick your pocket or steal your car, they just got caught disobeying this or that arbitrary government edict (for example, laws against using or selling marijuana).

But instead of letting them pay their own rent, buy their own food, and provide for their own medical insurance — not to mention earning money to pay restitution to their victims if they have any — American politicians extort nearly $200 billion a year from American taxpayers to confine them in institutions that provide those already criminally inclined with higher educations in their chosen fields while simultaneously promoting the spread of every malady imaginable from anti-social behavior to substance abuse to, yes, infectious disease.

That was crazy before the pandemic. It’s crazier now, as even the most dim-witted among us (our politicians) are beginning to understand. And it would be bat-feces insane to go right back to it once the COVID-19 panic ends.

We already have at our disposal, and are already using, the  technology and manpower we need to do away with incarceration for all but the most violent and dangerous criminals: The electronic tracking devices already used to enforce “house arrest” and “work release” convicts, and correctional institution staff who can be transitioned into jobs as tracking monitors and/or probation and parole officers.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ve had the way for ages. COVID-19 has at least temporarily created the will. Let’s hold on to the lesson permanently instead of falling back into error  when this present crisis ends.

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