Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Of Statues, and Past History

August 26, 2017

Fitzhugh Lee, writing about his father, probably knew Robert E. Lee better than anyone. He served during the Civil War and later as a general in the Spanish American War.
His analysis of Lee’s thinking in 1860 is pertinent.
He pointed out that prior to the war, it was not illegal for a state to leave the union. That became so after the war; had it gone the other way, the union would be a lot different! But the issue was settled by war.
What I see in the current discussion is lack of empathy, of being unable to put yourself in Lee’s place AT THE TIME, knowing only what he knew then.
We cannot accurately judge a historic figure if we use only modern perceptions and ideals. We must look at their history and their times.
The USA had come into existence less than a century before. States were fearful of handing too much power to the newly-formed federal government. We ACCEPT that same federal government without question now (mostly!), but in the 1850s things were very different. STATES were considered to be independent. Hence the name, the UNITED STATES of America. We view a ‘state’ as a subdivision of ‘nation’. But state can also mean an independent nation. Such was the situation in the 1770s.
Lee’s father had fought in the Revolution (‘Light-horse Harry’). Family and ancestry were very important to his family; the ‘melting pot’ was still in the future. Family was not only the Lees who had settled in Virginia (successful, for the most part). There were others, including the Washingtons and many of the early presidents, who intermarried and formed extended families.
Fitzhugh makes the point that R.E.Lee wasn’t willing to lead an invasion of his home, his county, his neighbors. He understood what most didn’t; that it wouldn’t be a short, easy war, that invasion and conquest would be necessary.
So in a time when states were wary of the federal government, he made a choice.
It’s illuminating to look at what Lincoln intended to do and how Grant carried out the terms of Lee’s surrender. Neither intended to humiliate or punish the Confederates or the states of the Confederacy. Including Lee.
That came after Lincoln’s assassination.
It’s fashionable now to claim that the only issue for the Confederacy was slavery. Not so. Lincoln did not free the slaves immediately; that didn’t happen until 1863,  a year and a half after the war began.
There WAS no confederacy at first; individual states made the decision to remain in the Union or leave. Had the Federal government simply decided to leave them alone, there would likely have been no confederacy and no war.
Slavery as an issue would have vanished within a short time. Simply put, machines had already begun to take the place of people. Economics ruled then, just as it does now.
And we’d have a very different history.
But we have to deal with history as it is.
We know a lot more about slavery now than most people did then. We know a lot more about people, period. Not only the people who write history, or lead nations, but about the ordinary person who has no say in what happens. More on that in a moment.
Right now, history is less important than what a significant segment of our American population believes: that the statues represent the worst of the old south, bigotry and white supremacy (hatred came later).
I suspect they’re right. And for that reason alone, the statues have to go.
As some have suggested, we need at the very least balance, where the crime against humanity called slavery is held up for what it is. Because that’s what it was; legalized kidnapping, where the government supported an industry based on raiding, on taking human beings by force. On systematic murder, where victims were chained in a ship under conditions almost unimaginable. Where a significant portion of them died. Because black lives were cheap and economics ruled; a fast trip, very profitable, and if a third of the cargo died, hey, it’s just capitalism. Investors profited. Capitalism then, capitalism now; foreclose, turn people out, let them beg in the streets. Or die without medical care. It’s not about human beings, it never was. It was, and is, about money.
We know more now. But how many knew it back then?
How many now know of the Enclosure Laws in England? (Look it up)
How many know of the Potato Famine in Ireland? (Research that one too).
How many know of the moneyed classes, who ran governments, ALL of them, and how they treated people? Look that up too. Of how press gangs kidnapped men and brutalized them on the British Navy’s ships. Of soldiers who were considered subhuman, gutter sweepings, ordered to charge into cannons because their lives were worthless, and if not killed outright were turned out to starve or beg when they could no longer serve. It’s worth your time to look at WWI, of conditions in the trenches, of incompetent generals and the ‘nobility’ who sent a generation into machine guns to die.
Of the highly moral people in New England who saw nothing wrong with introducing disease into Indian lands to reduce the population, of forcing them systematically from rich lands so that whites could settle it. Slavery was evil; genocide less so. One was unprofitable. Guess which one that was?
Read the full history of the times, the 1700s, the 1800s, and even the 1900s. Understand it.
Then, and only then, can you really judge Robert E Lee and the others in the old south.
But judge softly; future generations will judge US just as harshly as we judge our ancestors now.
They’ll judge us by how many homeless there are in our society. By our inequality. By our unwillingness to make healthcare a human right. By our unwillingness to educate our people, by our willingness to turn a blind eye when our youth are exploited. By our unwillingness to deal intelligently with social issues such as drug use and care for our mentally ill.
By our unending wars, most of which are based on profit for the few, death and misery for the many.
Of our unwillingness to face head on the global climate change that WE, not our ancestors, caused.
By our stubborn resistance to change that would benefit all, not just the few.
You may judge our ancestors (and the statues they put up) harshly.
I, who live in this age, cannot. I lack the moral authority to do so.



A Recommendation

February 5, 2016

I signed up yesterday with They send a nonfiction excerpt to your email every day. I got my first one this morning and I was very impressed.
Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with, nor with the authors of any of their source documents.
As with any email, you’re free to read the excerpt or trash it. I read today’s short excerpt, an article about Thomas Jefferson and how he dealt with what he perceived to be corruption. You can find the excerpt here:

I recommend you also keep an eye on the author of the book, Zephyr Teachout. You may one day get the chance to vote for her to be president of the USA. I won’t be around then, I doubt she’ll be ready in less than 20 years, but many of you will be. She may well turn out to be the philosophical successor to Bernie Sanders. Google the name, then think about it.

What do you think?

Society, and the Judicial System

May 17, 2015

I’ve been commenting about the decision to execute Tsarnaev for his part in the Boston Bombing case. I’ve read other comments about Charles Manson and similar ones that have to do with a different aspect of our system: correction, or punishment?
My first post was about society’s responsibility to remove a danger to society. This time I’ll look at a different aspect: punishment, or correction?
‘Punishment’; what’s the purpose? Think about it for a moment.
We punish children. Why? Consider that too.
Is it done to correct a person’s behavior, or is it a kind of societal revenge? Manson and Tsarnaev harmed our society, so we must have vengeance? Neither will be, probably cannot be, ‘corrected’. They’re a danger to the rest of us.
The main problem with correction is that we don’t have a way to ensure that it happens. Prison doesn’t do it. Far too many come out worse than they went in. Death won’t do it, because the person executed is permanently removed, not ‘corrected’. Society is safer, but that’s it.
Those who favor the death penalty believe that it provides both revenge and conditioned avoidance, in that it will frighten others from doing what got the convicted one executed.
I don’t see that working. Are there fewer crimes in Texas? That’s the state with the most executions, yet murders and crimes of violence still happen there.
How about long years in prison? A judge was convicted recently of selling people, including children, to a private prison company to be locked up. He got 28 years behind bars. If he survives, he’ll be an old man when he gets out. Will this encourage others not to become corrupted? Will he be ‘corrected’? To what end? Can he become a productive member of society when he gets out?
This same question applies to anyone who is incarcerated.
The number of people in prison or awaiting execution in the US tells me something different: our society has failed, is failing.
Too many of our people are exploited, hopeless. They see no better future ahead, just work, be exploited by the neo-nobility until they finally die. And their children will fare no better. They rebel.
To me, the cause of our societal problem is uncontrolled capitalism and corruption. There’s more to it than that, but it’s where the rot starts. Religion plays a part too, as does a kind of faux patriotism. Taken all together, it’s an unholy mix.
It’s a failure. We can do better. And we should. We must, or it will only get worse.
While you’re muttering ‘communist!’ at me, think about sports.
Football and basketball are good examples.
“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.” Ever heard that?
The New Orleans Saints put a bounty on opposing players. Cheating. The coach got a year’s suspension, now he’s back. Tom Brady is facing suspension for cheating, but it won’t be a heavy one. Why? Both men are draws, moneymakers. And professional sports is about money, not sportsmanship. Basketball? Even notice why it takes so long to finish the final few seconds of a close game? Deliberate fouls, deliberate breaking the rules. Cheating. Two or three free throws, no problem. Fifteen yards penalty for deliberate cheating, holding a defenseman or a wide receiver, no problem. If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’.
And oh, the uproar when ‘fans’ hear that their team is moving to another city! More false patriotism, in a sense.
My team right or wrong is pretty similar to my country right or wrong. We never seem to ask why we shouldn’t make both right instead of blindly supporting their wrongs.
Back to ‘justice’. How do we ‘correct’ early offenders? The judge scolds them, gives them ‘probation’. Over and over again. It’s expensive to lock someone up, you see. And they have no money to pay fines. As for the economic conditions that caused them to act out, nothing is said about that. Nothing will be done in Baltimore or Ferguson, either. Rioters will be scolded, most will be released, maybe a few policemen will get fired, nothing changes.
And unless we force it to happen, nothing will change.
Oh, and that youthful offender? Probation, probation, a short lock-up in a juvenile prison (maybe), until he grows up…then lock him up forever.
Or execute him.
After all, he got due process. Right?

Economics, Consumerism, and Individual Responsibility

August 6, 2014

I posted this today on Facebook; it represents my musings about trends I see in the American economy, but it also reflects on world economics.
Something worth considering:
We’ve built a middle class consumer economy in this country based on Henry Ford’s model; pay the workers enough that they can afford to buy the products. I’ll note that Ford didn’t go broke doing that; he got pretty rich, if I recall. And soon other industries leveraged that prosperity by paying steelworkers and miners and construction people better, albeit with a lot of union arm-twisting thrown in.
But then unions became overly powerful and many became corrupt. Membership declined; it’s a great cycle when looked at in this way. Much of the reasoning behind unions went away as government began doing what only unions had done before. To make it seem as if they were still needed, unions demanded ever higher amounts of money, so a cycle of inflation boomed; people got more wages, but they also paid more because everything else went up.
And government pushed quality of life issues; reducing pollution, cleaning up mine and industrial waste residue, things like that; these cost manufacturers instead of increasing profits. So they went offshore.
Gradually we’re taming this; other nations are also being faced with the necessity of controlling pollution of water, earth, air; safety of workers is also a rising issue. The great consumer market in the US, the one China leveraged to raise herself from backwardness to leadership, is faltering.
Competition has become something that companies avoid in the drive for ever greater profits. Those profits are concentrated at the very top. This really is a ‘zero sum’ game; what goes to the oligarchs isn’t available to those who once fueled the great consumer market. Not even the insane advertising industry can prop it up for long. Simply put, there’s just not enough money at the bottom or in the middle.
We once turned our economy ‘outward’ when recessions hit; we employed people making exports and brought in money from other nations. But now they’re largely in the same boat we are. All those developed nations are attempting to export goods and bring money home to aid their economies. Europe calls it ‘austerity’, but it’s the same problem; profit isn’t to be found in manufacturing, in making goods for people to buy, it’s increasingly gained by manipulating money. The stock market is part of that, banking is a large part of it, real estate and speculating in general is a part of it.
And the fallout is distrust in major employers, as well as in the oligarchs controlling our political system. People are fed up in general, disgusted with political scheming and manipulation, they dislike what the president is doing and detest Congress.
One immediate improvement is to begin teaching children that self employment is preferable to employment by a corporation. Once, an employee had a living wage, benefits, and job security if he/she worked for a large corporation; and if the corporation was multinational, that provided security against economic downturns.
No more. All those things have largely vanished. You can spend half your working life becoming skilled at making widgets, only to find yourself turned our with no prospects because a worker in some foreign nation can afford to work for half what you can work for without starving or becoming homeless.
If you become a plumber or an independent mechanic or dentist, you’ll never be unemployed; you might not get rich, but you also need not suddenly find yourself homeless.
It’s time we stopped aiming our children at a future of neo-slavery under the corporate whip; it’s time to emphasize individual initiative, individual responsibility, the necessity of taking care of our individual selves rather than expecting someone else to do it for us.
Corporations specifically won’t. Unions won’t, or can’t. Government won’t, because they’re the lackeys of the oligarchs who run the corporate world.
For those in the middle, there probably isn’t a universal solution. What’s left of your working life is more bleak than rosy.
But maybe it’s not too late to let the future learn from what’s happened in the late 20th–early 21st Centuries.

On Mortality, Memory Loss, and Alzheimer’s (Reference today’s CDC Report)

May 10, 2013

Well, phooey!
I was supposed to attend a Marine Corps dinner tonight, and I forgot. We only got the notice yesterday, and I never put it onto my calendar.
Meantime, that leads me into a discussion (you knew that was coming, right?).
The CDC is now publishing alarming reports that suggest that there will be a surge in the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients. They base this on the numbers who report memory loss.
That would be me.
I first noticed symptoms of memory loss around 1975. I was speaking German regularly, and I noticed that when I spoke English I would sometimes hesitate, not being able to think of the word I wanted. Often enough, I COULD think of the word in German! So I wasn’t worried.
But it’s gotten worse. I find that frequently I can’t think of the word I want; often my sons, who are accustomed to this, supply the missing word.
But I have a huge operating vocabulary. I can either think of another, not so exact, word, or if I’m on the computer, I can think of the definition and use Google to find the one I’m unable to bring out of memory. Google’s been very helpful to me.
So…is Alzheimer’s in my future?
A couple of things to consider. I’m now 73. Statistically, I don’t have much of a future. Add to that one heart attack (the bad news), but that was 16 years ago (the good news). No more blockages, but I do have an enlarged heart as a remembrance. I’m also diabetic. The good news here is that medical science can do a lot to treat diabetes and the secondary effects. I spoke to a man who’d had a femoral artery replaced and another friend had some of the blood vessels in his leg cleaned out, ‘roto-rooted’ so to speak.
I also have an enlarged prostate. The difference between BPH and prostate cancer is the number of indicators in the blood; below a certain percentage, it’s ‘benign’ prostate hyperplasia, or enlargement. Above that point and it’s prostate cancer. Again, good news/bad news. A lot of such are so slow-growing that doctors elect to do nothing, since the patient won’t survive long enough to die of prostate cancer.
So, is Alzheimer’s inevitable. Maybe not.
I began really working on mental or cognitive processes about the time I turned 70. I joined Mensa so that I might have a chance to sharpen my thinking against those who are already noteworthy for thinking skills. I found I could be on an equal footing with Mensans, and without tooting my own horn too loud, I tend to write longer, more thoughtful essays and commentary. So, equal or possibly slightly ahead of the pack. You Mensans can make your own determination; your mileage may differ with this conclusion.
And I became serious about music, which is thought to help with cognition. Plus I’m now adding one or two new songs to my repertoire every week, adding them to memory so that I can perform without aids. This indicates that perhaps my memory might be improving, at least in some sense.
And, FWIW, I wrote this little essay without pausing to look anything up. I called it all from memory and assembled it into a coherent whole. That, too, requires both memory and cognition functioning.
I can analyze current trends, extrapolate from those, and make conclusions about what is probably in the future. I’m more confident about the relationship between my conclusions and the near future than I am about the distant future. And yet, I cannot make any predictions about my own future. It’s a statistical certainty that it won’t be long. Ten years? I’d be 83. Twenty years? Yep, 93. Few achieve that. Many don’t even make it to 73, but I have.
Meantime, if I go bonkers, there’s Jeff.
Maybe we should recruit another moderator for my group, The Intelligent Round Table? 🙂

Cosmology, Dark Matter, and Assumptions

January 13, 2013

Written in answer to a comment by my Australian friend Gavan. FWIW, we’re both members of International Mensa and he’s a believer in currently-accepted theories in Cosmology. I’m a skeptic.

I’ve heard that, Gavan; but at the same time, I maintain that there is much ordinary matter that has simply not coalesced into something that’s visible to us here in any of the spectra that we can detect. As evidence, I cite the emergence of new galaxies and within galaxies, new star systems. And we also keep discovering dim, barely visible items that only our new, more powerful, viewing instruments can detect.
Consider this, as well: most of what we view is seen through a time machine. We’re looking at the events of billions of years ago. We have no way of viewing things that happened this year, or a hundred million years ago. The radiation from those distant events won’t be here for another hundred million or billion years.
So estimating the current total mass of ordinary matter based on an unimaginably ancient photo is simply silly. It’s similar to looking at human populations on the Earth of 1 million b.c. and estimating the current human population…and then declaring that our estimate must be correct, without regard for change that might take place over that time.
We might as well use gravitational influences, which we can detect, as indicators that there was much more unconsolidated matter a billion years ago than there is now.
I could, for example, pencil in a few million new galaxies, enough of them to actually balance the estimates of mass and the observed gravity. And point out that we won’t see them for another billion years, because they’re that far away, and have only begun emitting energy within the last few million years and so aren’t yet visible because the energy hasn’t arrived yet.  Is that less logical than claiming that perhaps 90% of the gravity in the universe is due to some invisible, undetectable (at least, so far) ‘matter’?
Those new star systems and such that we observe in the process of formation and describe with great excitement because they just became visible this week? That happened a few hundred million years ago.
So apply Occam’s razor; there are masses in the universe that we can’t yet see because they’re so far away, or there is some sort of undetected invisible matter that’s here because we need something to balance the equations?
That’s my problem with the math of the universe; the equations may well be right, but the assumptions and estimates and interpretation are much less certain.

Huckabee, and Other Nonsense

December 19, 2012

Mr Huckabee thinks the murders in Connecticut are because schools are schools, not churches. Make that Christian fundamentalist churches; no others will serve. Oh, and don’t allow any gays or such in. That’s sinful too. And his version of God is against sin, whatever Huckabee decides that sin is.
Good thing God’s got Mike to help him, right?
Makes you want to believe in reincarnation. Really; can’t you just imagine High Priest Huckabee standing on top of a pyramid in Mexico and bellowing “This disaster is because you haven’t provided ENOUGH HUMAN SACRIFICES!”

That made me think about this. A fairly obscure Middle Eastern sect was the one who realized just how mighty and all-powerful their God Yahweh was. Yep, this same all-powerful God didn’t have any prophets in the Americas. Maybe he didn’t speak Aztec or Mayan. No prophets in Asia. Or in Europe. At least, not then. There were probably a few later. You know, after a human priest told them about it? Meantime, they got along with Druids, and High-Lord-Heart-Cutter-Outer. And Odin up in the mountains somewhere, amusing himself by tossing lightning bolts, and bunches of Greek Gods who played flutes and drank wine and fornicated with human women and the odd animal or two. A God of War, and one for the oceans, even. And in Asia, probably someone who claimed to speak for the Wind God, for all I know. Pity the Japanese; they couldn’t think of imaginary beings, so they had to make do with their ancestors and the current Emperor.

I don’t expect anything better from Huckabee, or even Santorum. But the news reporters are supposed to be educated and be able to think. I suppose that there are some who think Huckabee is more than a man with early-onset dementia.

Which, now that I think about it, might well describe most of the ancient prophets.

Thoughts on Thinking

October 19, 2012

Most of our thinking consists of a set of responses that I call subroutines. We’ve learned those by education or experience and we can now call them up from memory in response to whichever task we need to accomplish.
Consider the routine of an ordinary day. We get up, brush our teeth, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, start the car and drive to work. During all of this there is no need for any original thinking. It’s all programmed, including driving to work. You can carry out all of these while using your conscious mind for other purposes. Thinking about plans for the evening, or carrying on a conversation, or for some even making a phone call or texting or putting on makeup or eating breakfast on the way.
And during the course of a week, you’ll face nothing at all that hasn’t got at least a partial subroutine in memory. New customer? Routine operations to deal with that. Complaining customer? You’ve seen it before.
Short of suddenly facing a man with a gun or similar unknown event, you’re not faced with a necessity to really think. And when you ARE faced with an emergency (choking victim, drowning person, rescuing someone from a car crash, whatever), most have no subroutine that fits the situation and so they freeze, unable to decide on a course of action. Famously, advice says to do something, even if it’s wrong,because doing nothing is guaranteed to be wrong. But even taking that decision is difficult, because there are inhibitions about making wrong decisions.
For each selected subroutine, there is an expected outcome. It’s a part of a series of probabilities that range from desired outcomes to undesired outcomes. We can modify those subroutines to an extent and even learn new ones that diverge from what we already have in memory. At the same time, there are inhibitions that in themselves are subroutines. Those inhibiting subroutines can vary from mild to absolute prohibitions based on what we’ve acquired as we go through life.
Consider an example: if you’ve been to a public pool recently, you’ve probably observed a child climb up on the diving board. The child ascended the board because he/she wanted the thrill, but then froze when they realized that the water was quite some distance below. Intellectually, they’ve seen others jump or dive, and they want to do that; but fear inhibits that first attempt. Jump? Or face ridicule if they choose to climb back down the steps? They may wait for some time, frozen and unable to make a choice…but then for those who DO jump or dive, they realize that the fear is unfounded. And then they climb back up the ladder. This time, there’s a subroutine to use that tells them they can jump safely and not suffer hurt. They never freeze in place again. There may be a subroutine that urges caution, but absolute prohibition won’t be there.
It’s the same with any fearful thing. Do it just once, and you’ve learned how to deal with the fear. Training and practice can provide that first partial subroutine, and after someone has once added it to their own store in memory, it’s always there. And small steps may be better because they fall within the ‘comfort zone’ of that learned subroutine.
It doesn’t have to be fear that’s the inhibitor. In some cases, it’s simple confidence. Watch a young boy deciding whether to remain with his male friends or go ask a girl to dance (inhibitor here is fear of ridicule or rejection), and then look at older boys who’ve already gone through this and learned how to deal with the question. They’re confident…and it shows.
I’ve concluded that much of success is based on a suite of learned subroutines that we can call on at need; and failure is attributable to the lack of those.
Chemistry also plays a part, particularly the balance of hormones that circulate in our blood as we grow and develop.
Can knowledge of this system of subroutines be used, or even taught?
Yes. It’s the basis for such programs as Outward Bound. Students are exposed to frequent challenges and as they overcome those they gain subroutines that can be used in future to address any similar challenge. Simply undergoing challenges that require courage weakens any subroutine that might prohibit future responses to challenges. Military training addresses this through ‘confidence courses’ and challenging courses for Rangers, Seals, Special Forces, and Pararescue operators.
And knowing what you’re doing can help an individual direct his own development and acquire the confidence that will turn losers into winners in life.
A lot of people are investigating what I cannot, chemistry of thought and how hormonal levels can affect that. So instead I concentrate on a sort of users manual. I know chemistry makes a difference; a friend recently described what happens when he takes his periodic shot to adjust his testosterone levels. He said that for a few hours he simply avoided people because the shot increased his aggression levels. He’s quite an easygoing man, but according to what he reported, he has to control the urge to punch someone. So he avoids people lest he lose his temper.
As I was developing the model I’ve described, it occurred to me that criminals and other anti-social people lack the inhibitors that ‘normal’ people do. Without inhibitors they indulge whatever impulse occurs to them, whether it be aggression or robbery or rape or murder. I also considered whether ‘mental illness’ or conditions such as autism might reflect the inability to form archived memories or those subroutines. And for a few, the archived memories may be formed and not modified when we encounter new conditions. For most of us, forming a new memory or modifying an existing one means that earlier forms are deleted. But for those with eidetic memory, perhaps they’ve bypassed that destruct function? No idea; and I’m exploring ideas that I can’t truly understand in the way that I’ve earlier described.

Political commentary

August 20, 2012

To me, there’s an issue of character about Romney and also Ryan. Bluntly, I don’t see anything I’d label as character about either. And I’m not at all sure that Romney’s evasions are always legal. Show the records; let investigators dig into them.
Meantime, it may be very satisfying to boot Obama. But what will you replace him with?
What will Romney do? He won’t say. So we’re asked to ‘trust’ a man of no demonstrated character to take principled stands regarding jobs and housing and immigration and education? A man who famously has said he’s not concerned with the poor, that he likes firing people, that he thinks we don’t need cops and firemen and teachers? Who would turn more social programs over to the rapacious healthcare insurance executives and for-profit entities to teach children? To care for old people at the end of life? We’ve see what their objective is: profit. Anything else is secondary. We’ve seen rebates from companies that spend less than 80 of the money they collect on healthcare for people; that, after paying executives tens of millions per year. Trust the man who thinks this is good? A man who led the offshoring of jobs? Who deliberately wrecked companies so he could loot the bones, regardless of the human cost?
No character. No ethic, other than personal profit first. No morality beyond “I’ve got mine!” And no openness from a man who conceals great wealth offshore and who now asks you to trust him.
Obama has made some mistakes by not being bold enough, in my judgment. Romney? He’s going to cost lives and increase national misery by exponential amounts.
It’s discouraging that others refuse to recognize this.

Why Students with Disabilities get Suspended.

August 8, 2012

Written in response to an article in the NY Times,

Suspensions Are Higher for Disabled Students, Federal Data Indicate


Published: August 7, 2012

It’s money. Public money, from taxes.
And the article got it right; teachers have larger classes and no support structure. And an evaluation that will measure their effectiveness in teaching the class at the end of the year.
So if you’re a teacher with 35 or more students in a class, and one or more of the students require extra time and attention, you can only provide that at the expense of the non-disabled. You cannot take time to counsel a disruptive student who is also often disobedient (it’s why he’s disruptive, after all) and there’s no place to send him. Choice: suspend that student and get on with the class, or see the rest of the students waste the period without getting the information you planned.
It’s all well and good to ‘include’ students with disabilities, but the flip side is that teachers MUST HAVE SMALLER CLASSES. Even then, a student who can’t keep up is going to be frustrated. And likely bored, and soon he’s disrupting other students. And they, the disrupted, complain to the teacher.
Much of the problem arises from discipline. The students have never been taught self-discipline. For whatever reason they’ve not been required to develop this skill. Life has never handed them boredom and forced them to turn inward to combat it. There have been TV programs, or video games, or a cell phone, or whatever. If you don’t like what’s on TV, change the channel. But you can’t change the channel in class. And so, if you’re an easily distracted and bored student, what do you do? You attempt to gain the attention of other students around you. You disrupt.
Teachers who teach resource classes have smaller numbers of students and typically one or more aides.
Somehow, putting those same students into a regular classroom (which doesn’t have the gifted and talented; those have already been removed to special classes) of 35 or more students and one teacher, means that suddenly they will cooperate and learn math and chemistry and physics and biology. Or reading; they’re almost always below-average in reading ability. Which requires more, not less, teacher attention, attention that then can’t be provided to non-disabled students.
As currently designed, the inclusion policy is a failure. It can work, but only if money is provided. For every 1 to 5 students with special needs, there needs to be one aide in the classroom who can assist the teacher and provide individual attention from an adult as needed. And there needs to be more resources available for students who begin to disrupt, a place to sent them until they’ve calmed down.
Or you can keep suspending them. And in time, they’ll be locked up, a kind of suspension-from-society.
And each time a student disrupts and is referred to the Vice Principal’s office (remember, there’s no place else to send them), a form must be filled out by the teacher. During class. The office won’t accept the student without the form. Five minutes to fill out the form, while the class loses interest, the teacher is distracted, and then another 5 minutes to get everyone back on track after the disruptive student has gone. This from a class that’s typically an hour or shorter in length.
And of course, evaluate the teacher on how well he/she teaches, without regard to the fact that they only have the middle-to-lower students in class, not the top performers; those have been selected out.
That’s the reality of teaching. About half of teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years.