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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: HOW TO KILL THE CONSTITUTION (IN 3 SIMPLE STEPS…)

September 3rd, 2019 // 9:43 am @

A Review of 3 Books on the Future of Freedom

[*see titles below]

If you care about freedom, this article may be one of the most important things you ever read. If you care about the U.S. Constitution, it is definitely this important.

Some of the most significant proposals to drastically change our political system were recently outlined in several very interesting books. The first that we’ll address here is entitled It’s Time to Fight Dirty, and the stated purpose of this book is to show how Democrats can fully beat Republicans by circumventing the Constitution, or in some cases just the current political system—within the lines, of course, not by coup or overthrow.

Part I: Gaming the Constitution

To get a sense of the scale and scope of the suggestions, consider the specific proposals in question. Whether upon reflection you conclude that these are dangerous and bad ideas, or on the contrary that they are a bunch of really excellent propositions, or whatever you think of them, understanding them is vital for anyone who cares about the future of America, and freedom. Indeed, I am impressed with the author of It’s Time to Fight Dirty for thinking about the Constitution so deeply. I wish a lot more Americans did so. I believe that given the full light of day, most people will support the Constitution rather than move to some other model of government. But as long as most Americans actually know very little about it, we’re in real trouble. This allows the enemies of freedom to tear it down bit by bit while few Americans even bother to take notice.

Here are some of the major proposals in It’s Time to Fight Dirty:

  • “The 58 State Solution”[i]

By increasing the number of states, and carefully bringing to statehood areas that are already solidly “blue”, this suggestion quickly moves the entire nation to the Left. Then, without much effort, more states and more progressive senators can amend the Constitution at will. Leading candidates to become new blue states include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and “Seven Californias”[ii], as it is described in the book (new states created by breaking California into multiple states).[iii]

Problem: In this scenario, the Constitution quickly becomes the plaything of a small group of powerful elites. They redefine it to their benefit. We would witness major alterations to our system, almost overnight, likely all in the direction of collectivist progressivism for the masses, with major exemptions and increased power for a select elite. Freedom would take major hits, and it would get worse over time.

  • The Neutron Option” or “Packing the Court”[iv]

According to It’s Time to Fight Dirty, this entails ending lifetime terms for justices and letting each president appoint 2 members to the Court. Or, as FDR attempted, wait until a Democrat is in the White House and then increase the size of the Court, with the Democratic president adding all the new justices.

Problem: Court-packing is, of course, always going to be a hyper-partisan venture, but the purpose of the third branch of government is to uphold the Constitution, not decrease its authority, or simply change it (or water it down) without Amendment. Either approach—Neutron or Packing—would almost certainly end the back-and-forth battle between conservatives and progressives, and thus disenfranchise about half the nation’s voters. The implementation of these proposals would mean Court-mandated changes to our entire system—and about half the nation’s voters would be permanently out of government power in all three branches–likely, forever.

  • Scrap the Electoral College[v]

In this proposal, we would elect presidents by a straight national popular vote.

Problem: If the president is elected by straight national majority vote, none of the little states, or less populated states, will have much say in who rules the nation. The Framers wanted a prospective president to have to win “majorities in a majority of states”, with the impact of each state’s majority weighted by population. This is a little complex, but it keeps people living outside big cities, and in small and sparsely populated states, involved in our democracy. Without the Electoral College, most people who live outside the biggest cities and most populous states would have practically no say in electing our leaders. That’s oligarchy, not democracy. Pure national-level democracy is the reason the Framers believed that big republics can’t work; Madison argued at the Constitutional Convention that they can work, as long as we’re smart about it—like using a “majority of the majority of states” rather than a simple national majority that disenfranchises the voters in all but the most populous states.

  • Move to a Parliamentary System[vi]

This means allowing the president to be elected not by a majority of the electoral votes, but rather by the highest percentage of votes (a plurality). In other words, we’d transition from two major parties to a bunch of parties, scrap the Electoral College, and—for example—the person getting 29 percent of the vote, would win—as long as no other candidate got more. So, in this theoretical example, the Democrat gets 29 percent, the Republican gets 27 percent, Democratic Socialist Party gets 12 percent, Green Party candidate gets 10 percent, Violent White Nationalist Party gets 1 percent,[vii] Violence Against Conservatives Party gets 2 percent,[viii] Silicon Techno Party gets 8 percent,[ix] Rust Belt Jobs Party gets 9 percent,[x] and several other parties get a few thousand votes each. Various parties can even combine their votes together in order to win and then divide up the spoils.

Problem: In this model we would tend to get more extreme presidents in each election, because candidates would have little or no incentive to appeal to the center of their own party, much less to the center of the whole nation in general elections. Special interest money would centralize to an even more elite few—causing increased top-down government by a small ruling class. It’s the Military-Industrial-Bureaucratic-Complex on steroids. To make this even worse, the leadership of Congress in this system would always be the very same as the White House, cancelling most of the value of checks and balances between the Executive and Legislative branches. No more Constitution—at least in reality. Gone. Fin. Over. Many freedoms would go with it.

Overall, my perspective is that most of these proposals could, arguably, destroy the Constitution in the process. It’s Time to Fight Dirty justifies this by arguing, in essence, that Republicans started it, that they began the dirty (outside the Constitution) tactics. In fact, this is partly true. The establishment wings of both major political parties have ignored or skirted the Constitution in a number of ways over the course of many decades. Even if Republicans were the only ones to ever undermine the Constitution, however, Democrats (or anyone) choosing to do this a lot more frequently and even more effectively is not good for our nation.

If you believe, as I do, that the Constitution is the best system humanity has developed so far for maintaining genuine freedom in a lasting fashion, anything that undermines it is ill-advised. While the Constitution began with the glaring flaw of allowing slavery, the system it established eventually found ways to overcome this, and a number of other ills, with a lot of pain along the way—and in the process provided more freedom and opportunity to more people than any other governmental form in recorded human history. Destroying it, especially with the short-term goal of winning partisan political battles (no matter which side you’re on) is not a good plan. If the Constitution is destroyed, or significantly weakened, I’m convinced we’ll witness a massive loss of freedom, opportunity, human dignity, prosperity, and happiness for people on all levels of the socio-economic scale in the following fifty years—not just in the United States but in many places around the world—and that it will take decades, perhaps centuries to get back to the level we now enjoy. We don’t want to go backwards; we’ve got too many problems right now that we need to solve, so we don’t want to get stuck just trying to get back to where we already are.

With this at stake, undermining the Constitution makes party agendas look shallow, even petty. I understand that many issues held dear in both parties are infused with high levels of passion in the current environment, and have been for at least the past twenty-five years (and escalating), but from the larger perspective of history they are still trivial in comparison to undercutting the U.S. Constitution. Both sides greatly benefit from its protections, year after year. And nothing I’ve seen proposed to date is anything close to better, or even as good.

It’s important to note that the author of It’s Time to Fight Dirty does outline some very good ideas, putting an end to gerrymandering, for example. It’s also true that Republicans have pushed a number of “dirty” plans, from widespread gerrymandering (realigning voting district boundaries in a way that “your” party will win more elections) to the “W” Bush administration investigating political opponents in election years (accomplishing very little in legal terms, but casting negative light on those running against them). Like twin toddlers tussling in the playroom, it’s hard to honestly say which party first started the “dirty” tactics—just look at local and state elections through U.S. history. Both parties are to blame for undermining the Constitution.

But that’s real the point: Weakening the Constitution for partisan goals is shortsighted and, ultimately, bad for America (and beyond).

Part II: Deep State Rules

With all this said, the proposals in It’s Time to Fight Dirty aren’t actually the worst “dirty” plans to undermine the Constitution. For example, some have proposed “tanking” the economy to stop the reelection of a president they don’t like, by manipulating interest rates through the Federal Reserve or getting a consortium of wealthy banks, billionaires, and other entities with major financial clout to take steps that bring the economy down—“just until after the election” that they want to go their way. Or consider the rising power of the deep state, bureaucrats working within the government who simply use their influence and authority to push personal or partisan agendas—regardless of what the laws require. This is deep power. It also cuts against the positive goals of both major parties, and hamstrings their winning candidates—Reagan and Clinton, Obama and Trump, etc.

This should concern all voters—your power over who rules you is simply rejected and ignored. In this reality, elections matter very little. And, unlike the relatively straightforward proposals outlined above, this occurs almost entirely in secret. Even the media may take months or years to realize what’s actually going on. If the suggestions above are ill-advised, this approach is downright corrupt.

But it’s not theory. It’s already happening. The deep state threat is real, and amounts to:

  • Ignoring Elections

This doesn’t mean the people ignore elections, or the media, or even our elected officials. Our freedoms are never in worse danger than when actual agents of the government, federal employees in any or all of the three branches, especially in executive agencies and courts, ignore Congress, the White House, the courts, and even the law. They make decisions, or don’t, without letting anyone else consider what is needed, and influence our lives in a thousand other little ways. Sometimes these become big issues in individual lives, but we are informed of the bureaucratic mantra: “That’s just the way it is.” This is real power. It always undermines freedom, and it frequently hurts people. It has now reached the level of pandemic, though it remains largely in the shadows. It is a serious abuse of the Constitution.

In fact, the challenge from the deep state is much bigger than most people realize. Consider the following comment by Senator Mike Lee:

“I keep two towers of documents in my Senate office. The first is only a few inches tall. A collection of all the legislation passed by Congress in [a year], it contains about eight hundred pages. The second tower, which is eleven feet tall, is a collection of regulations proposed and adopted by federal agencies in [the same year]. It contains about eighty thousand pages.

“These extraordinarily unequal towers illustrate a startling reality: The U.S. Congress no longer passes most of the federal laws, rules, and regulations that are imposed on the American people. While a mountain of those rules are decreed by an army of unelected federal bureaucrats, only about 1 percent of the rules we must live by are enacted by the most accountable branch of government—Congress.”[xi]

This dangerous reality led one author to write a chapter entitled: “Do Elections Matter?” The title of the book, written by Mike Lofgren, is The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. Perhaps the most consistent theme I noticed while closely reading this book is how many congressmen, senators, and presidents from both parties are now (or have been) in numerous ways subordinate to the bureaucracy.[xii] Not officially, and not in the minds of the regular people, but actually, in real life. It is the bureaucrats who provide elected and many top appointed officials (in all three branches) with the information they use to make powerful, life-impacting decisions on many fronts, and it is usually bureaucrats (often the same ones) who implement such decisions after they are made. If the top official has questions or misgivings about the information that is provided, he/she typically turns to experts for further clarification—such experts are nearly always the same, or other, bureaucrats.

Shadow government, indeed. Unknown. Powerful. Anonymous as well, at least in any practical sense. And while many of these people have amassed decades of employment seniority, they typically face no accountability to voters. They seldom face real accountability at all.

Part III: Quantocracy[xiii]

Another major attack on freedom and the Constitution comes from what Frank Pasquale terms, simply:

  • The Black Box Society[xiv]

This consists of a number of secret algorithms, owned and utilized by various corporations and government agencies. These algorithms, and those who control them, exert significant power over people, organizations, and even governments. They interfere in our elections (all of them, at least at the national level, and many others as well), and in those of other nations. They are even more shadowy than the deep state, and many of them operate without governmental oversight—working for banks, big tech, consulting organizations, Wall Street and Silicon Valley firms, investment, finance, big data, and governmental intelligence agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Orwell’s warning is now reality: they are watching. Some for profit, others in the name of security, still others for information, influence, and/or power.

According to Pasquale, and the ample research he shares in his book The Black Box Society, algorithms and their proprietors literally “control money and information” in the current economy—not only in the United States but around the world.[xv] Pasquale wrote: “As technology advances, market pressures raise the stakes of the data game. Surveillance cameras become cheaper every year; sensors are embedded in more places. Cell phones track our movements; programs log our keystrokes…”[xvi] Devices in our homes, televisions, cars and businesses listen, watch, and record. “The resulting data—a vast amount of data…—is fed into databases and assembled into profiles of unprecedented depth and specificity. But to what ends…?”[xvii] Who controls it? And who could control it next month, next year?

Whatever the answers to these disturbing questions, many of the institutions that collect and control such information about each of us also have direct power over important parts of our lives. Do we qualify for a loan? The algorithms, and those who program them and later analyze their data, decide. Do our politics lean Left or Right, and based on this what news stories and feeds will appear when we search for information online? Will our messages sent be delivered, or “lost”, “masked”, “shadowed”? Will the things that appear when we search online support our leanings, or purposely seek to change our views? Can third parties pay for what they want us to see and read? Can they, in effect, buy us, by buying the information they want us to encounter—information tailored specifically to each of us, digitally individualized, designed to sway our specific beliefs and actions in ways that benefit the buyers? Will they guide us to the kind of news, purchases, investments or connections we want, or those that someone, somewhere, has determined would be best for us? Or for them? All of this is within the power of Black Box algorithms. Moreover, this is already the norm in many ways.

Important question: Is such power subject to any limits, checks or balances, even when it is wielded by government entities or agencies? If not, this undermines the Constitutional structure of adequate limits, checks and balances on all powers delegated to the federal government.

Obviously the Framers didn’t specifically strategize Constitutional safeguards against the government operating (or piggy-backing) algorithms to electronically data mine or apply predictive analytics toward the citizens. But their intent in this arena is clear from the Fourth Amendment language concerning protections from searches of “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Freedom is undermined when personal or business information is being collected, stored, owned, or analyzed by government or other power organizations—whether it is called “mining”, “surveillance”, “data”, “analytics,” “metadata”, “sessionization”, “mix modelling”,  “stemming”, “event processing”, or anything else. This applies to “cloud”, “cluster”, “lake”, “IoT”, “ETL”, “CEP”, “hive”, and anything else that originally belongs to or comes from one person or private group.

Dressing it up in technical jargon doesn’t make it okay for the government or any other powerful computationally-enhanced entity to just take it, or use it, no matter how fancy the math. Perhaps the United States needs to follow the example of Estonia and teach computer coding to all students in elementary schools.[xviii] If our citizens are going to rule their own nation, they need to read and understand our Constitution, and perhaps also read and understand the codes and algorithms their government and other entities can use to control the people.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, except those who code, and especially those who hire the coders and control the coded algorithms and information: some are more equal than others…”

Part IV: The Big Twelve

Orwellian references aside, today’s American citizen is at times alarmingly unaware of the threats to freedom. Consider, for example, the following “declarations” proclaimed by Google in its early years, and still espoused by many tech industry insiders in the U.S. and abroad:

  • “We claim human experience as raw material free for the taking. On the basis of this claim, we can ignore considerations of individuals’ rights, interests, awareness, or comprehension.”[xix]
  • “On the basis of our claim, we assert the right to take an individual’s experience for translation into behavioral data.”[xx]

These are the first two of six such declarations. The others claim the right to own whatever data they take, and to use it however they choose.[xxi] The message is clear, albeit shocking: Someone owns us. This is not good for freedom, except the kind of elitist “freedom” (license) that does whatever it wants, whatever it can get away with. One author called these six declarations the beginning of a new “age of conquest”.[xxii] The strong conquer, rule, and label it “freedom”, “democracy”, “social democracy”, or whatever they choose to call it. This new reality, the new economy, if it succeeds, is built on the poignant question: “Are we all going to be working for a smart machine, or will we have smart people around the machine?”[xxiii] Either way, the hierarchy is top-down, with most people living as part of the “down”.

The real question is right in front of us: “Who knows? Who decides? Who decides who decides?”[xxiv] If so much information about you is legally owned by a Black Box somewhere, and those who control it, and if the owners have all the rights concerning this information, what parts of you are owned by others? And if the owners have the right to convert this information into behavioral data, to analyze it and use it to model your tendencies, to buy and sell it to others, and to directly influence your choices using this same data, how much does this impinge upon your freedom?

For example, if there are five possible paths for a baby to take when he crawls through the doorway leaving his room, but he can only actually see or hear three of these paths, is he really free to take either of the two paths that he can’t detect? This logic applies to the information we access, and all entities (governmental, corporate, and combined) that gather and utilize information about us. If there are five options we can choose from in making a life decision, big or small, and the data collected about us is used to ensure that we are only informed about three of these options, is our freedom reduced? (Some would say “stolen”, or “usurped”.) If a for-profit entity like a bank or corporation does this, what term would we use to describe this action?

What about a “for-power” organization such as a government, activist media outlet, big tech firm, activist online platform, or political consultant hired to target certain voters to make specific choices on election day? How much does such a consultant get paid for your vote? And are such payments for votes legal? What if the payments go to First-Amendment-protected media organizations that are compensated specifically to influence your vote—albeit “indirectly” by paid advertisers who are part of the side arrangement? Can votes be bought? If so, can they also be sold? What if those same media or online platform organizations receive government subsidies, contracts, or tax breaks—and the way they sort and deliver information to you, and how you vote based on the information they provide (or withhold), impacts the level of money (or resistance) they receive from the government?

“Black Box”, indeed…

We are in the “undiscovered country” of 21st Century governance, legality, morality, psychology, technology and business. Which rules are new? Which do we know about? What don’t we understand?

It is this last question that always leads to the loss of freedom—from Ancient Greece, Babylon or Egypt to medieval Italy or modern Ukraine, Egypt, Ohio, or California. Arrogantly, in the United States we tend to think we are on side of “knowledge”. But do we fluently speak R, Python, or Julia, not to mention the really cutting edge dialects of digitized power? Have we even heard of these, or know why they matter? We don’t know what we don’t know—yet we the citizens are supposed to be in charge of our nation. According to Forbes, in 2019 “Data Science is the best job in the U.S. for the last three consecutive years.”[xxv] But how many people with these jobs make the actual decisions—the big ones that steer society? Answer: none. They work for the decision makers, corporate and governmental.

How many government and corporate projects, and technologies, are now dedicated to “behavioral modification”? And do they mainly target conservatives and libertarians, or liberals and progressives? While the blue and the red argue about the issues of the day, passionately pointing fingers at each other, the quiet answer is unflinching: Both. All. Everyone.

We are at times duped by the sideshow. The nightly news broadcasts and hourly feeds keep us tied to the reality-TV shows we call political news. But the worst assaults on freedom frequently happen off-stage. Unless we know where to look, we don’t even notice. We think the news is real. It is often a lot more like clever theater. Is the answer to learn coding, to study C++, SQL, and other big data languages? Or to become a data scientist and infiltrate Silicon Valley? Is working for the “big nine” the path to leadership in our time?[xxvi] The “big nine” are Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent [China], Baidu [China], Alibaba [China], Microsoft, IBM and Apple. The “big twelve” are the same corporations plus the big-data arms of the U.S. government, the Chinese government, and the Russian government, and the workers and thinkers in the “big twelve” community are in some ways more closely connected than most Americans are to each other. The divisions between them, especially those based on the letterhead in their offices,[xxvii] are often much less significant than the blue/red divide in American life. The real story is happening, but often goes unnoticed.

In short, the solutions won’t likely come from within the technology institutions or culture, mainly because expertise is now a “for-hire” sport, not a “change the world” activity. Working for an employer almost always means furthering their agenda. To effect significant change, in contrast, one must engage more entrepreneurial pursuits. Enterprise remains by far the most effective vehicle of innovative leadership.

Part V: Three Steps to Kill the Constitution

In this atmosphere, with the U.S. Constitution pulling in one direction and so many opposing forces pulling the other, how can humanity’s best chance at genuine freedom win the day? The Framers were clear from the very beginning that the Constitution’s success depended on the regular people. If they couldn’t rise to the occasion, the Constitution wouldn’t last. Benjamin Franklin put it succinctly. When asked by a citizen what kind of government the Convention had created, he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.” He put the onus for Constitutional success on the regular people. It remains firmly in the same place today, though few people actually realize it.

In a sense, “killing” the Constitution in our day is an easy task. Get the people to forget it, ignore it, and fail to study it closely or frequently. Check! Done. Step one is accomplished.

The other two steps have proven more difficult, despite the efforts of the sharpest minds elite money can buy and the generational funding of massively endowed and funded universities, trusts, media corporations, K-Street special interest lobbyists, the great banks, and a host of storied private foundations and think tanks. The combined wit and treasure of the elite classes haven’t quite been able to pull it off.

This is all a shocking surprise, to tell the truth. How can the ignorant masses face off against the biggest and best and richest and most ruthless, and keep coming out on top—without even understanding why, and in most cases without even realizing what they’re doing? It defies logic.

The challenge resides in this little-publicized fact: the American Framers predicted the elite, multigenerational onslaught against their most important work (the U.S. Constitution), and they drummed up a little “algorithmic computational code” of their own. So far, it’s been battered, repeatedly put under siege, and even cracked a few times, but it hasn’t quite broken. Much of the “code” remains intact, and the “algorithms” have proven both resilient and, shockingly, self-healing and self-improving.

The Constitution Code

https://tjed.org/product/bbf

The Framers’ formula is, in a way, a self-protecting AI. Every American should know it and understand it. But very few do. Here’s how it works:

  • Governments exert power.
  • This is good when the power is used to protect the life, liberty, property, and inalienable rights of the citizens.
  • It is bad when that power is used against the people, usually by elite groups (inside or outside the government) striving to increase their own power and status at the expense of the masses.
  • The challenge is that no group other than the masses ever adequately protects the people’s interests and inalienable rights, yet the masses themselves tend to get distracted from doing this on their own.
  • The solution to this dilemma begins with dividing the elite groups of power into separate cliques and convincing/incentivizing them to limit, check and balance each other—hopefully dissuading them from joining forces and taking away the rights of the people and simultaneously giving themselves control of the nation’s resources.
  • Such a solution is complex and difficult, but can be achieved by what Jefferson called “dividing and subdividing government” in multiple ways that keep elites from combining their forces against the masses. The key is to keep the elites focused on battling each other.
  • The U.S. Constitution established just such a system and result.
  • It had various initial flaws, particularly slavery, but the overall structure incentivized improvements over time; many of the flaws were fixed, and the basic direction and protections grew in strength and momentum. Elites battled each other in numerous ways, but the masses unwittingly kept most of their freedoms intact. The process was painful and imperfect, but it kept improving, albeit not rapidly. Groups with fewer freedoms slowly gained more, usually without reducing the overall freedoms of the whole society. The “code” worked.
  • The system contracted certain viruses as time passed. One, the old virus of class division, infiltrated the code largely by reviving political party conflict. The parties grew in power, and threatened the entire balance.
  • Another virus, also an old standby of past governmental decline, came in the form of elite corruption in the halls of power. This grew over time, patiently spreading its tentacles into institutions of influence—both public and private. The two viruses learned to work together, mainly through political parties and other special interests (including academia, media, and big business).
  • Both of these dangerous viruses wormed into the Framers’ code, but found themselves strangely limited. They were able to flourish, but not win. Both operated on the assumption that power, wealth, and knowledge eventually win the day, only to discover that the Framers had anticipated this and prepared accordingly. All the power, education, expertise and funding the elites could bring to bear were thwarted by the Framers’ “algorithms”—the people didn’t wither under such attacks (as expected, based on thousands of years of historical precedent), nor did they try to directly fight back (as also anticipated). Instead, they simply took note of, or even ignored, the plans of elites. This was quite unexpected, and quite unprecedented. The Framers’ “code” thrived.
  • But how? How did the masses win in such circumstances? How did the “code” change things? The answers are unconventional and, as mentioned, largely unprecedented. Benefiting from the Founding model, the people exerted voting power in a strange way: regardless of the words of experts, or the powerful spin of academia and media and money, they instinctively pushed back against much of what the elites promoted. The masses seemed to have a sixth sense in these matters. If the elites wanted it, the voters pushed against it. Whatever the elites did to promote their agenda, the regular people quietly, usually without openly realizing it, sensed the pressure and voted against it. Sometimes they failed to do this in a single election, and more rarely for two consecutive elections. But never for three or more. No matter the actions, plans, schemes or grand strategies of the elites, the masses instinctively voted the contrary. They did this even when political parties rose up and tried to inflame the masses to extreme reactions. Many were fooled by this powerful strategy. But when the elections came, the electorate pushed back against the wishes of the elites. Not logically, but emotionally. And, again, they did this quietly, in most cases without fanfare. Elites often didn’t actually know what was coming until election night. This happened numerous times in modern day. In the recorded annals of history, this was new. The Framers’ code created a system where the people, the masses, experienced a new power, a new sense of when elites are pushing for something, and how strongly they are pushing, and a corresponding incentive to push back en masse.
  • This pattern indeed flew in the face of three millennia of written history, but the Framers, who knew this history as well as any generation before or after, coded it into the cells, cell walls, and very syntax of the system. And it held, despite massive pressure brought against it in multiple formats and from all directions.
  • It still holds today.

When the U.S. Constitution has been altered by legitimate Amendment, this Framers’ “code” has strengthened. When it has been circumvented or diluted by “dirty” tricks, weaknesses have appeared. Note that this includes both unconstitutional changes (such as Court decree rather than following the Amendment process, etc.), and also alterations that are technically not unconstitutional, but are still “dirty” because they violate the intent and design of the Framers. Again, it’s worth repeating that both major political parties are guilty of many dirty tricks of this sort.

Now, down to details:

https://tjed.org/product/2019-tjed-freedom-convention/

Step One of Killing the Constitution is to get the masses to shirk their duty to study, know, revere and masterfully apply the Constitution. As mentioned, this is a fait accompli. The enemies of the Constitution have won this part of the battle, at least for now.

Step Two is to get the masses to stop instinctively pushing back against elite agendas and proposals that in any way raise elites above the people and threaten to lessen the freedom or rights of the regular people. To date this has been repeatedly and aggressively attempted, but it hasn’t worked. Not in big ways. The Constitutional code has been weakened some, but not beaten. The Framers’ “algorithms” are working.[xxviii] Note that they work in part by pitting elites on the Left against elites on the Right, and vice versa. While these opposing camps of elites think they are battling each other, they frequently serve to warn the masses about each other—greatly influencing elections, but not in the way elites expect. Elites on both sides tend to believe that when they “expose” elites on the other side they will strengthen their own side—the reality tends more to exposing all elites. Again, this was part of the Framers’ intent, or “code”.

Step Three is to get the few on the side of the masses who deeply understand the code (Albert Jay Nock called them “the Remnant”) to give up, switch sides and join the elites, or stop passing on Remnant-level knowledge and depth to the rising generations. This has proven impossible. The enemies of the Constitution have achieved no significant victories concerning this Step. Today’s Remnant are strong—people who love freedom and understand the Constitution deeply, one could say “algorithmically”, at the level of the Framers themselves.

Conclusion

Throughout the history of free nations, there are constant attacks on freedom and the principles upon which freedom is built. This remains the rule in our world today. The U.S. Constitution, under which more genuine freedom has been experienced by more people than in any other government in recorded history, is a powerful framework for freedom, and it is the best hope for continued freedom for the masses (and also the elites) in the years and decades ahead. Attempts to undermine the Constitution are many. They appear in multiple ways, both old and new, each year, many times a year, employing a variety of sources, methods, and tactics.

This will no doubt continue as long as we are free. As such, it is a good thing, an ongoing sign that people are using their freedoms to explore many options, question what works, and seek solutions to the real problems we still face. But freedom is not guaranteed. Historically, it is quite fragile. It only lasts when the people effectively stand up for it. It disappears when the masses fail to demand it. It is always, as Ronald Reagan warned, just one generation away from extinction. If we don’t protect it, we will lose it. If we are distracted, too busy, or too lazy or ignorant to fight for it, we deserve to lose it.

As mentioned, the First Step in destroying the Constitution is already accomplished. The Third will never be achieved. It is to the Second Step that the enemies of freedom amass their energy. They wield the might and power of all the money in the world, the wit and wisdom and will of the biggest and most prestigious institutions on earth, and the force of many in government, banks, universities, media outlets, corporations, foundations, experts and armies.

Against this stands the yet unexplained habit of the American people to sniff out elite schemes and vote them down, sometimes swinging Right and other times Left in a seemingly illogical, uncanny, and incredibly potent pattern of effective choices—decade after decade. Their actions are far from perfect, and they are not coordinated, yet so far they have kept the regular people’s place above all the polish, erudition and stratagems of the world’s so-called “best and brightest”—those in financial and political power.

Still, little by little, the enemies of freedom whittle away around the edges. Over time, this reduces freedom, slowly but surely. Today this erosion is approaching a serious danger point—especially if “dirty tricks” steal away the Constitution in ways that further undermine its effectiveness. We are living in the times described by W.B. Yeats:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Will the American voters at some point lose their proven “sixth” sense of quietly rebuffing elite agendas? If so, will this happen soon? Or, more specifically, will those who hate our Constitutional freedoms find ways to destroy the system that endows the regular people this power? The pressure to do so continues to build.

(For more on this topic, including effective solutions, read Oliver DeMille’s book Freedom Shift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny>> )


*Books Reviewed:


NOTES

[i] David Faris, 2018, It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Op. Cit., Faris

[vii] No such party actually exists, at least not as such; hopefully, of course, nothing of the sort ever will, or get anything near 1% support in the electorate.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Mike Lee, 2015, Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document

[xii] Mike Lofgren, 2016, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government

[xiii] Quantocracy: Government Rule by Algorithms and Quants

[xiv] Frank Pasquale, 2015, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Questions: Does Estonia still do this in 2019? Have any other nations followed suit?

[xix] Cited in Shoshana Zuboff, 2019, The Age of Surveillance: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] See ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Cited in bigdata-madesimple.com

[xxvi] Amy Webb, 2019, The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity

[xxvii] Anachronistic? Probably.

[xxviii] The American Founding era phrase for what we might term a sort of political “algorithm” was “auxiliary precautions”.

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Book Reviews &Business &Citizenship &Community &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Generations &Government &History &Independents &Information Age &Leadership &Liberty &Mission &Politics &Producers &Statesmanship &Technology

The Jefferson-Madison Debates: Reopening the American Mind

September 12th, 2018 // 8:15 am @

Challenges for the Millennial Generation (and Z)

“Miss Amelia prayed as if the Lord were ten million miles away,
and she would be surprised to pieces
if she got anything she wanted.”
—Gene Stratton-Porter, Laddie

THE PROBLEM?

Millennials. Or, as they are frequently called by critics, the “Snowflake Generation”. Considered by some the weakest generation in the last hundred years, and criticized, fairly or not, as “the Me Me Me generation…lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents”[1] until age 30 or beyond. Born after 1984, the oldest of them are 30-34, the youngest (born 9/11), sometimes called Generation Z) are still 9-17. Today’s older teens and “twenty-somethings” make up the bulk of this group. The typical introduction to Millennials and Z goes something like this:

“Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that…40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.”[2]

Large numbers of them are “technology addicted” and struggle at “keeping a job or a relationship”.[3]

On university campuses, the Millennial/Z’s have headlined numerous trends hailed by critics as spreading emotional weakness. For example, though college was once applauded as a place for young people to challenge themselves intellectually and emotionally by learning a diversity of ideas, the opposite is now true. In a report aptly titled “The Coddling of the American Mind”, The Atlantic noted that in “the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like, and seeking punishment of those who give even accidental offense…. [It is] disastrous for education—and likely to worsen mental health on campus.”[4] Learning opposite views, and how to combat them, is increasingly absent in many classrooms and departments.

This has gone so far that some students at Harvard Law School recently called for professors “not to teach rape law…lest it cause students distress.”[5] Even discussing or pointing out the wrong side of bad things is in many cases becoming taboo.[6] The article questioned: “What are we doing to our students if we encourage them to develop extra-thin skin just before they leave the cocoon of adult protection?”[7] Answer: training them to seek a similar cocoon even as adults, typically from the government. This is the opposite of what Thomas Jefferson believed universities should be. As the founder of the University of Virginia, he wrote:

“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”[8]

The Atlantic closed this article with the following words:

“We believe that this is still—and will always be—the best attitude for American universities.”[9]

Today, in contrast, words that are considered offensive are banned from many campuses, as are many ideas or speakers who differ from the politically correct norm. Such schools, and many of their Millennial/Z students do, in fact, appear “afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead”, or even to listen.

Surprisingly, the military is dealing with many of the same issues. On the one hand, as James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic in January 2015: “Americans admire the military as they do no other institution. Through the past two decades, respect for the courts, the schools, the press, Congress, organized religions, Big Business, and virtually every other institution in modern life has plummeted. The one exception is the military…. In a Gallup poll last summer, three-quarters of the public expressed ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the military. About one-third had comparable confidence in the medical system, and only 7 percent in Congress.”[10] In 2018 American confidence in the military is still at 74%.[11] (Confidence in newspapers is 23%, public schools 29%, banks 30%, courts 22%, TV news 20%, organized religion 38%, small business 67%, big business 25%.[12])

On the other hand, a negative term now used in some circles to describe America is “Chickenhawk Nation”, because many Americans are willing for the United States “to go to war, as long as someone else is going.”[13] While three-fourths of Americans admire the military, less than a quarter support their children joining any of the armed services.[14] Moreover, a majority of parents actively discourage or oppose military service by their own children.

Beyond this, only 29% of Millennials now meet the eligibility requirements for military service, causing shortfalls in recruiting needs.[15] And in recent years, “the number of eligible enlistees has been smaller and smaller.”[16] This is largely a matter of physical readiness—or in this case, it’s lack.[17] The snowflake trend has had a significant impact on the fitness levels of American youth.

On the political front, in the post Bernie Sanders era, many Millennial/Z’s support government-mandated free college, free housing, a monthly wage for everyone whether or not they have a job, and the appeal of “socialism.” Many even like the word or label of “socialism”, with over half of Millennials self-identifying as “socialist”.[18] But, ironically, they have little appetite for the “struggle of the working class to create a socialist society.” [19] That’s too much work. And they certainly aren’t looking for “the long revolution” to bring about socialism.[20] They just want socialist programs handed to them by big government, without the struggle, sacrifice, or effort.[21] Many Millennial/Z’s seem to feel they “deserve” such programs, without doing anything to earn them.[22]

Such young people are, in short, on a path toward something far removed from traditional American values or freedoms. They will become the biggest block of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections,[23] though most of them didn’t actually vote in 2016 and probably won’t until 2020 or beyond.

Is this generation exhibiting the characteristics we want for America’s future? After all, the word “generation” comes from “gene”, or “genes”. What we choose becomes who we are, and influences what we pass on to posterity.

A more immediate question: Why are many Millennial/Z’s this way? Many analysts blame it mostly on helicopter parenting—a generation over-programmed, over-protected, promised success without sacrifice or hard work by doting parents who sheltered their children from hard things. As one report from England put it: “Millennials are struggling at work because their parents ‘gave them medals for coming last’”.[24]  Of course, there are exceptions to these patterns in the Millennial/Z generation, but the trend is still sobering. A lot of Millennial/Z’s do expect college, promotions, income, work and relationships to be easy, and when they aren’t, they expect the government to intervene and somehow make things easy for them. This will certainly impact our politics and policies—and soon.

SOLUTIONS

“The government and its chiefs do not have
the powers of the mythical Santa Claus.”
—Ludwig von Mises

Despite the Tiger-Mom vs. Cool Mom debates,[25] many parents of Millennial/Z’s “have now realised [British spelling] that their well-intentioned parenting strategies have backfired.”[26] As a result, a number of people are trying to fix what many consider the “helicopter-parent/snowflake/wimpy-generation” debacle.

For example, in 2016 Parents.com listed the number one trend in parenting as “Saying bye-bye to helicoptering…just being more laid back when it comes to managing kids’ lives and schedules.”[27] In another trend, Free Range Parenting has recently popularized the “concept of raising children in the spirit of encouraging them independently and with [less] parental supervision”, including more “realistic personal risks.”[28]

Another example: A youth-initiated movement came from teens Alex and Brett Harris in their book Do Hard Things, which called upon youth to expect more from themselves and move past the limiting beliefs of helicopter parents. The subtitle of this book says it all: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. In our day and age, and any other time in world history for that matter, a true “rebellion against low expectations” can only be accomplished by doing hard things, including a lot of hard work.

They wrote: “Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last. We do.” This bestseller helped a number of Millennials embrace the idea of  “doing hard things”, even in the face of a society that too often militates against teens or parents who seek—or even allow—anything difficult. Author Connor Boyack shows young people and their parents how to embrace this at an even higher level in his excellent book Passion-Driven Education.

Despite some real progress for a few families and youth in this arena, for far too many of today’s young people the generational tide continues in the direction of easy or easier, adult-sanctioned snowflake weakness, trophies for everyone, and a culture of “blame your parents” (or your teachers, or anyone but yourself), “embrace feelings of unearned entitlement”, “turn to the government to fix anything you don’t like”, and “never take the hard path of extreme work, sacrifice, risk, and great achievement”. More and more parents are realizing the problem—the disaster, really—with this approach, and looking for an antidote.

We have personally witnessed this generational struggle as we have promoted the principles of great education in our Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) system. Our call for Scholar Phase, an intense teen study program of voluntarily putting in massive effort and work to earn a truly great education, is often considered unrealistic by the old guard. But it has been revolutionary and incredibly successful for those (Millennial/Z’s and parents) who have risen to the challenge.

We have seen firsthand that many teens can do very, very hard things.[29] Moreover, once they get a taste for it, they frequently fall in love with the challenge.[30] This inspired me to write the book Hero Education, which builds on the theme of young people accomplishing great things by voluntary action, personal initiative, and hard work. Also, in our experience with TJEd, the best results frequently come where parents and mentors not only encourage great effort, but also lead the way—showing their teens what to do by personal example.

PART II

A RADICAL (AND SURPRISING) SUGGESTION!

“Did you ever wish with all your might that something would happen, and wait for it, expect it, and long for it, and nothing did, until it grew so bad, it seemed as if you had to go on another minute you couldn’t bear it?” —Gene Stratton-Porter, Laddie

I recently read a report that encouraged even more success of this type. It was both intriguing and fascinating. It may be the best thing I’ve read specifically on the challenges of Millennials and Gen Z (and helicopter vs. leadership parenting) since Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. It is found in Outside magazine, and entitled: “Rewilding the American Child.”

That’s right:

re   –   wild   –   ing

Emphasis on “wild”.

I’m so intrigued by this concept that whenever I think of it I feel this word needs a good     ! ! !    to punctuate it effectively. And note that the word “rewilding” is an active verb, like learning, reading, discussing, or loving.

Or jumping, running, hiking, swimming, etc.

Profound.

The report begins:

“Overscheduled.

“Addicted to screens.

“It’s time to set our kids free.”[31]

Freedom. What a great idea. Especially applied to education.

Indeed, the recommendations go a step past free-range childhood—all the way to the wilds. Literally.

From the report:

“Our children are in crisis…. creating a generation of entitled wimps…. Today, America’s kids are caught up in one of the largest mass migrations in human history: the movement indoors.”[32]

This is a momentous statement. Take a moment to re-read the last quote and let it sink in. This is big. Here’s more:

“Only recently have we begun to spend our lives penned in by walls, staring at screens.”[33]

Indeed, we’re living through a major development in human history. The full ramifications of this alteration from all past history are yet unknown, but it is already clear that the rise of institutionally-designed “wimpy-ness” is both real and, unless something changes, “the new normal.”

The impact on society is drastic. This shift has coincided with a rise in the average age of young people becoming independent—with increased dependence in where they live, their finances, and their emotional development. In a reversal of progress, 30 is now the new 18. Adulthood is increasingly put off until later. Marriage, having children, accepting increased career responsibility—all are procrastinated by the bulk of Millennials. And Z’s are following suit.

The “Rewilding” report recommends things that will seem extreme to some, reckless to others, but get right to the core of what many consider the problem of the so-called “Wimpy Generation”.[34] These suggestions include:

“It’s time to make childhood an adventure again. Kids deserve the chance to explore nature without an agenda or a chaperone, to take risks and learn to get themselves out of trouble, to fall in love with nature…”[35]

I’m reminded of something penned by Lord Byron:

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and the music in its roar. I love not man the less, but Nature more.”[36]

A generation that seldom spends real time in the real out-of-doors is deprived of so much, too often oblivious to large swaths of learning and therefore to key parts of life, self, and purpose. Another important quote, this one from Henry James, further illustrates the challenge:

Summer afternoon–summer afternoon;
to me these have always been the two most beautiful words
in the English language.[37]

But if we’re caught in the Trapped-Indoors rut, summer differs very little from any other season. Screens are all that matter. Trees, waves, leaves, clouds, rain, even books in many cases, are foreign. Alien even.

What kind of education, or life, is this?

“Look deep into nature,” Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “and then you will understand everything better.”[38]

Years ago I took a group of college students on a field trip many hours from home. We stayed one night at a beautiful old estate, and when we first arrived we walked through the house and around the grounds. Almost immediately, as we moved into the large fields at the back of the home, one student noticed a huge old tree and gleefully ran to it and climbed up the branches far above the ground. Several other students followed her, and they sat together in their leafy perch and talked for hours about the books we were covering in class at the time, the connections of these books to life, and other important ideas.

I recently returned to the same estate, and pointed out the great tree to a couple of my own children. They marveled at it, as did I. As they climbed, I found myself surprised that more than a decade earlier I had never even considered the safety of those climbing the tree. The world has changed much during the ensuing years, and in the current environment I quickly realized that an extreme focus on safety would have been one of my first concerns if that event had happened today. To the point that I’m sure I would have told the students to climb down immediately.

That would have been tragic. Yet in our sadly “unwilded” and “newly indoor” world, things have changed, and not for the good. “The undiscovered country”, Shakespeare told us, “from whose bourn No traveller returns.” He was speaking, of course, of death. But could the same thinking be applied to the Generation of Screens—once in their grip, No Traveller really returns? Are we now prisoners of the walls and silicon processors that so dominantly define our age and control so many of today’s values?

Perhaps this goes too far, but does our concern about the loss of nature for so many young people extend far enough? Are we even aware of the problem?

One of the best things about the “Rewilding” report is that is doesn’t fall into the almost universal modern educational trap of recommending a solution for the kids only—while the parents stay inside with their thumbs addictively swiping screens. The parents are in fact counseled that to really see a change in their youth they’ll need to lead the way, by showing “them that we, too, love to play outside.”[39] If we added the words “work” and “read” to this sentence, it would be almost ideal. Plato and Aristotle would agree, I think. Thomas Jefferson, whose two favorite pastimes were walking in the wilds and reading, would certainly approve.

The report recommends a number of options for “rewilding” our kids, including:

  • “Explore together”
  • “Establish Boundaries”
  • “Work the Farm”
  • “Take back roads…”
  • “Fuel their love of games…”
  • “…go rafting, take backcountry ski trips, and spend long days hiking…”
  • “Age-Appropriate Adventure”
  • “A Deep Connection With Animals”
  • “Make Sports Fun Again”

The report in Outside magazine, the September 2018 issue, elaborates on all of these and includes many more suggestions; I highly recommend it. The report notes that it is of course important to establish effective safety and other guidelines and rules in all of this, and to make good choices. (Such a disclaimer is probably NECESSARY if Boomers and Gen Xers are reading. But it increasingly appears that risk is the major ingredient missing in the lives of what so many consider the Wimpy Generation.)

In short, with wise planning and implementation, each young person’s education can be greatly improved through outdoor activities…

HARD STOP. Here is what one Millennial/Z teen told me when I read this article with him (this exact article, the one you’re reading now). He interrupted me at this point, after the disclaimer in the paragraph above, and said: “Fine. But it is just as important, maybe more important, to help them be strong. Far too often, parents equate ‘safe’ with ‘good’, and the result is just weakness. Many kids are held back by frightened, overprotective parents. Our modern society is so skewed to the side of coddling us that strength is usually missing.”

When I tried to point out the need for balance in this, he interrupted again: “In truth,” he said, “strength is ultimately the only safety. Adults know this. But they act like their kids will never need to be strong.”

I tried to reiterate my point about balance, and he shook his head. “Listen to me. At some point, the kid will have to walk out into the real world. Period.” Then, after a pause, “Prepare them now. That’s what we need from parents.”[40]

THE LONELY

“‘Difficulty’ is the name of an ancient tool
that was created purely to help us define who we are.”
—Paulo Coelho

The “Rewilding” report also points out another truly profound reality:

“Today’s kids are lonelier than any previous generation.”[41]

This rings all too true to anyone who works a lot with youth. Modernity has taken its toll. The constant connection with screens, and indoor physical separation from other people, too often gets in the way of other more important connections—with parents, siblings, pets, nature, mentors, hobbies, work toward great goals and passions, books, talents and interests, challenging problems and overcoming them, the kind of lessons that are learned only from struggle, etc. These are seldom the skills learned on screens.

A funny joke circulating on the Internet reads something like this:

The Wi-Fi in my house went down for a few minutes

I had to spend time with my family.

They seem like good people…

But is this really funny? In Millennial/Z humor, the several youth I’ve asked assure me, it’s hilarious. For the rest of us, it’s pretty dark. (When one of my Millennial daughters read this, she said the whole joke was actually terrible. Why? Because she was horrified that the Wi-Fi went out at all. “That’s infuriating!” she exclaimed. Another daughter’s big concern was why the person didn’t have data on their phone so they could stay on the Internet even without Wi-Fi. What is she talking about????)

Humor aside, today’s epidemic of so many teens and twenty-somethings (and even some in their thirties) who put off adult responsibility and remain weakly dependent on authority figures for…well, almost everything…may well be a natural result of the migration indoors.[42] The “snowflake” view of so many on college campuses is indicative of this trend. What is needed in today’s world—our homes, our communities, our learning environments—is a major injection of grit.[43] Of initiative, stamina, guts, and tenacity. And these things are nearly always learned away from screens.

In short, technology is a wonderful and powerful tool; few would dispute this. But it is not the only wonderful and powerful tool. A list of tools that are even more wonderful and more powerful include those just outlined above: parents, siblings, pets, nature, mentors, hobbies, work toward great goals and passions, books, talents and interests, challenging problems and overcoming them, the kind of lessons that are learned only from struggle, etc.

The great challenge—and fix—for Millennial/Z’s is to find and implement the right combination of ALL these tools. To be honest, this is true for non-Millennials as well. Put simply, it’s time to re-open the American mind. And get outside…a lot.

Note that doing this is going to be hard. Which is exactly what we need.

“…what you learn there doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to what you can find out yourself outdoors. Schoolhouses are made wrong. If they must be, they should be built in a woods pasture beside a stream, where you could wade, swim, and be comfortable in summer, and slide and skate in winter. The windows should be cut to the floor, and stand wide open, so birds and butterflies could pass through. You ought to learn your geography by climbing a hill, walking through a valley, wading creeks, making islands in them, and promontories, capes, and peninsulas along the banks. You should do your arithmetic sitting under trees…”
Gene Stratton-Porter, Laddie

(For more on this topic, especially real solutions, see Hero Education by Oliver DeMille)

(For a Funny Video Click Here>>)


NOTES

[1] Time, Joel Stein, May 9, 2013

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] The Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, September 2015

[5] Ibid.

[6] See ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Cited in ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Atlantic, James Fallows, January/February 2015, citing Gallup

[11] Gallup.com

[12] Ibid.

[13] The Atlantic, James Fallows, January/February 2015

[14] See The New York Times, Damien Cave, June 3, 2005.

[15] Military1.com, March 6, 2018

[16] Ibid.

[17] See ibid.

[18] American Institute for Economic Research, Max Gulker, December 2017, “Over Half of Millennials Identify as Socialist: Here’s How to Change Their Minds”

[19] See, for example: The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg, June 30, 2018, “The Millennial Socialists Are Coming”; The American Interest, Ben Judah, “What Is Millennial Socialism?”; chicagotribune.com, Heather Wilhelm, July 9, 2018, “Why are millennials so hot for socialism?”

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] See Politifact, Andy Sherman, February 13, 2018

[24] Independent.co.uk, Rachel Hosie, February 7, 2017

[25] See for example Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, Bringing Up Bėbė, by Pamela Druckerman, and “Are ‘Tiger Moms’ Better than Cools Moms?” (The Atlantic) by Julia Ryan, among others.

[26] Independent.co.uk, Rachel Hosie, February 7, 2017

[27] Parents.com, Melissa Willets, “6 Parenting Trends to Look Forward to in 2016”

[28] Wikipedia.org, “Free-range parenting”

[29] See Hero Education, Oliver DeMille

[30] Ibid.

[31] Outside, multiple authors, September 2018

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Cited in Forest Therapy, 2018, by Sarah Ivens

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Outside, multiple authors, September 2018

[40] Ephraim DeMille (age 18 – son of my brother, William), August 2018

[41] Outside, multiple authors, September 2018

[42] See ibid.

[43] See the following: Angela Duckworth, Grit; Claude Hamilton, Thick-Skinned; Claude Hamilton, Toughen Up.

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The Madison-Jefferson Debates: What Isn’t True

August 7th, 2018 // 1:22 pm @

Reality or… Not?

Some things just aren’t true, even if we think they are. Even if we are assured that “everyone” says they’re true; and even if the experts—almost always unnamed—have formed a consensus on the matter. Actually, the more you get know the experts, the more you realize they aren’t in consensus on almost anything.

Now, let’s be clear. A lot of what we’re told is true. But not everything. And that’s why sometimes it’s important to take a step back and really dig into things. Research. Find out. There are whole websites dedicated to setting the record straight about urban myths, generally accepted “truths”, quotes that are attributed to someone who never said those words, etc. We give “Pinocchios” to politicians who fib, and “Fact Checker” is a growing career field in the Information Age. (Is it really? Or does it just seem like it? Ask the question on Google and you can spend hours studying the various listings. Or ask the same question on social media and wade through hundreds, or even thousands, of opinions.)

Falling for Everything

Here are few items that most people consider truth. Unassailable. Set in stone. Incontrovertible.

  • Lie Detector Tests
  • DNA Evidence
  • Election Polls
  • Carbon Dating

Which are sure? Which are certain? Not all. Do you know which of these are fully accepted by the experts in the field—no exceptions? Answer: none. All of the above are rejected by at least some experts, even where a majority of experts agree. Have you studied the arguments, evidence, tests and conclusions on each? Or any? Note that even where the science is firm, like with DNA evidence for example, the way experts present such science is at times incomplete or misleading. Or, another example, even if the statistics used in a pre-election survey are accurate, the wording of a specific survey question can skew the entire result; and what if survey respondents are afraid or ashamed to tell the truth, like in the 2016 U.S. presidential election when many voters didn’t want people to know they planned to vote for Donald Trump? In such cases, the math and the science can be technically correct, but the way experts use them turn out “wrong”, because all the variables aren’t controlled.

In short, on many things we simply know less than we need to. And yet most people are comfortable making decisions based on things they know very little about—just taking someone’s word for it. It’s a habit for most people.

But things are not always what they seem. Truth isn’t always what the experts claim. This doesn’t mean that every crackpot theory questioning the experts is correct. But it does suggest that we should be independent thinkers who read the original data or studies where possible and scrutinize things for ourselves. Independent thinking is required to maintain independence. This is obvious, isn’t it? But most people don’t follow this approach.

Time to Think

For our Madison-Jefferson conversation this week, I’m recommending the attached article. It is a great read, and an important one. It demands that we look at things more deeply, and think more wisely. It calls us to research more, question more, dig deeper, and not just accept conclusions at face value. It is one of those articles everyone should read and deeply consider. Agree or disagree, this article will make you think!

Enjoy…

How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives >>

 

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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: The Third Layer

July 17th, 2018 // 7:08 am @

“When technology advances too quickly for education to keep up,
inequality generally rises.”
—Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAffee

“Your true greatness comes when you focus not
on building a career but on finding your quest.”
—Vishen Lakhiani

“Engaged students are 16 times more likely to report being academically motivated than students who are not engaged. Finding ways to engage the 40% of students who are not engaged would have a significant impact on their academic motivation.”
—Quaglia Institute

Foundations

Education is like a map. Or, more precisely, it mirrors the entire field of maps and map-making.

Understanding the massive change now occurring in how we make and learn from maps is in many ways directly applicable to the coming changes in education. And like in education, many people in the older generations (born before 1980, or even 2001), don’t understand that a major revolution is ahead—one so big that what we call a “map” today won’t even qualify as a map in twenty years. (And much of what we call an “education” today won’t even count as education two or three decades from now.)

The pre-modern map (Layer One) emphasized the physical traits of the earth: continents, oceans, seas, rivers, mountain ranges, islands, etc. More advanced pre-modern maps included things like ocean currents, the altitudes of mountain peaks, and the trade routes most effectively used by overland and shipping merchants.

During the modern era, we added governments to our maps (Layer Two): national borders, towns, cities, capital cities, provinces, states, counties, etc. This was part of the great shift from pre-modern to modern. Governments and their jurisdictions became as prominent in world affairs as the natural physical features of the earth. People using maps needed to know what government they’d be dealing with in a given spot as much as where the ocean currents would take them and what mountains or rivers they’d need to traverse.

Further Up and Further In

The current shift from modernism to post-modernism is equally momentous. Our maps now require another set of symbols, colors, and words—to tell us what we need to know about our world. The physical features on the maps (continents, oceans, rivers, mountains, lakes, etc.) are still there, as are the political borders that tell us what government controls each area on the illustration.

But now a third layer of understanding is superimposed on top of the physical and political levels of each map. Most people haven’t even seen such maps yet, so they think of a “map” as something made up of Layer One (mountains, rivers, oceans, etc.) and Layer Two (borders, cities, etc.). They barely fathom what else could be needed.

The post-modern Layer Three is based on what Parag Khanna calls “Connectography.” For example, look at a traditional map of Africa. The Nile is there, and the Cape. The Horn of Africa is obvious, along with the Sahara. There are regions of jungle, and large swaths of savannah. Then there are the many nations and their borders—most of them originally established by European plantation owners. Capital cities are listed in bold letters, the names of nations in larger type.

But where is Layer Three? At its most basic, Layer Three shows highways, airports, and hospitals. In a more detailed Layer Three map, you might find illustrations showing the route of pipelines, Internet cables, or even power lines. These were the simple beginnings of Layer Three maps. A little more advanced Layer Three maps don’t just tell you what road to take, they tell you how long it will take to arrive in current traffic—or redirect you if an accident occurs and is now blocking traffic. They are cast in real-time and they are always changing—truly interactive. Layer Three is a major upgrade.

But more is coming. For example, narrow the map of Africa to Kenya or Ghana. Where are the hotspots of Internet usage? Where are the Internet deserts? What about smartphone usage rates? What food is shipped to a place, and can you get the kind of banana and cereal you want while you are visiting? If you want salmon for dinner, will what you are served be farm raised or wild? – Come from the Atlantic or the Pacific? What nation’s laws governed the fishermen who caught your dinner? Such information tells you a great deal about the probable quality and freshness of what you’ll be eating, and whether or not to even order it.

Put these on the map, and you’ll begin to see how Kenya, Ghana, or any other nation in Africa, or anywhere else in the world, is actually connected. Not understanding such connectivity—or its absence in a certain area—is akin to not knowing what the political lines denoting borders signify on the map. Such ignorance basically renders the user of the map illiterate.

Consider an almost-absurd example, to illustrate:

“Are these lines just very straight rivers?” a total map novice might ask. The laughter that follows is kindly, but surprised. “How can anyone not know about government borders on a map?”

In the future, however, this will apply to much more than national borders.

A Missing Piece

Another Layer Three example is very important: For example, on the map of Kenya, what natural resources are owned by or contractually promised to Chinese companies or the Chinese government? Versus what resources are owned by or contracted to U.S. firms? Or Canadian?, Dutch?, Japanese?, Italian?, British?, French?, German?, Korean?, Indian?, etc. What multi-national companies have their own security forces at work in these places—governing, citing, controlling? Where have they blocked mobile phone and Internet service—and why? If you know the Layer Three map of Africa this way, you’ll understand the world in ways other people simply cannot grasp. As Khanna put it: “China’s relentless pursuit of [natural resource contracts around the world] has elevated…to the status of a global good on par with America’s provision of security.”[i]

In other words, if anything happens militarily in the world, the U.S. is sure to get involved (or at least consider getting involved); and if anything happens concerning natural resources—oil, minerals, food, wood, precious metals and gems, water, etc.—China is sure to jump in. It likely already has contracts signed and sealed. In fact, put alliances and treaty requirements on the map, and something stands out: China owns numerous economic resources around the globe that the U.S. does not. Moreover, as of 2015 the United States was bound by treaty to defend 67 nations in the world; China was only bound to protect 1.[ii]

In short, a lot of global resources and money are slated to flow to China in the decades ahead (it has already begun), while huge assets and cash are scheduled to flow away from the United States. One has an economy that is programmed to head up, the other down. If you don’t consult a Layer Three map, this information is unknown.

Look at the map with the Layer Three approach, however, and the future becomes immediately clear: It belongs to China. The U.S. and Europe[iii] are falling further and further behind. This is obvious on a Layer Three superimposition.

But remove Layer Three and all you have are the continents, oceans, lakes, mountains, political borders, cities and towns. Nothing about Levels One or Two tell you that China is on the rise—with contracts across the globe, and a growth rate in ownership of natural resources and supply chains for these resources that all but assure them monopoly status in the decades ahead. And this example, China, is only one of the many hugely important things missing from Layer Two maps—which are the only ones most of us ever engage.

To reiterate: the pre-modern and modern maps fail us. They don’t even tell us what we need maps to communicate (rather than merely travel) in order to help us make the best local decisions. As a result, the old maps are almost worthless. They are historical relics, but not the most effective tools of decision-making or strategy.

For that, we need Level Three maps superimposed on the older models. As Joshua Cooper Ramo put it: “Ball up your right hand into a fist. Take your left hand and open the fingers wide. Hold the hands a few inches apart. You can think of your left hand as the vibrating, living network of connection and your balled-up fist as concentrated power. Right hand, Google Maps; left hand, millions of Android phones. This is the picture of our age.”[iv] But it is only an early picture. By the time you read this, will Google Maps and Android phones be replaced by something more advanced? Not unlikely.

What is Not Seen

Again, most people today have no idea this is happening. At least not at this scope, or pace. Many feel a general sense of a rising challenge, even a threat, from China, for example. But they don’t know what it means, why it is real, or how it is developing. They have no clue how to prepare for or address it.

The same is true of education. To wit: geography is still taught in two layers—much like it was in the 1960s. Technology makes it easier to teach and learn, but Layer Three tools and Layer Three thinking are absent in all but a very few out-of-the-box classrooms or learning environments. As Toffler put it, too many of today’s young are being raised to show up on time, do repetitive tasks without complaining, follow instructions, and memorize a great deal of knowledge without deeply understanding it. This is the focus of most schools.

These three lessons—punctuality, repetitive work, and rote memorization—routinely pass for what we call “education.” They are, in fact, the key lessons of schools in modernism. The pre-modern era emphasized “the 3 R’s: readin’, ’ritin’, and ’rithmetic,” and these prepared the young for success in the agrarian economy. Likewise, the three lessons above were often effective training for landing and keeping a job during the industrial age.

But today’s emerging information economy demands something different. Success now demands the Third Layer of education. It includes the kind of knowledge learned from the 3 R’s and also post-World War II schooling in history, literature, math, science, and social studies, but it also superimposes a Third Layer of education as well, which is more attitudinal and skills based: initiative, innovation, creativity, resilience, ingenuity, tenacity, recognizing opportunities, go-getter-ness, and entrepreneurial risk-taking.

The Third Layer is as different from most modern public and private schooling as the typical 1960s, 1980s, or 2000s high school or elementary was from the one-room schoolhouse. If the pre-modern age gave us Mary and Laura in the Little House series, studying at home or the local school (which was also the town hall, town theater, and community church), the modern age gave us the high school of Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, High School Musical, Dead Poet’s Society, One Tree Hill, 90210, or even 22 Jump Street.

All are outdated now. All fail to prepare our nation’s youth for the actual economy of the 21st century. We are still training the young to succeed in a world they can only study about in history books. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to note that the more time they spend in the modern school system, including the increasingly outdated university campus, the less prepared they’ll likely be to compete effectively in the rough-and-tumble emerging global marketplace with its worldwide competition and demands.

For example, a university degree isn’t what it used to be: The average graduate from the class of 2016 had $37,000 in student debt and couldn’t get a decent job in his or her field—or in any other equivalent field. There are of course exceptions, but the numbers of those leveraging college degrees into effective careers significantly decreases each decade (Note: in North America, Europe, and Latin America, but not in China). In short, today’s young adults are too often receiving a Layer Two education in a world that demands Layer Three knowledge, choices, and skills.

Past, Present, and Future

Few current students are being taught the skills of success that are needed in the new economy. The real economy. Layer Two schools simply do not teach initiative, ingenuity, or innovation. They don’t purposely teach chutzpah, audacity, grit, wise risk-taking, entrepreneurialism, or nerve.

Note that these are precisely the character traits that made America the world’s superpower. And Britain before her, and earlier, Spain and Portugal. These are the very traits that put Egypt at the top, then the Greek city states, and later Rome. These are the characteristics that gave the Gauls, Franks, Anglos and Saxons their edge.

They didn’t have Layer Three maps, to be sure, but they engaged in their era’s “Layer Three” education of the youth, teaching them the skills of resourcefulness, inventiveness, and daring in the face of difficulties. Some of these societies emphasized good purposes (such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, etc.), while others embraced less noble goals (aristocratic rule of an elite class over the rest of the people, dominance over neighboring nations, a pursuit of wealth through violence, etc.).

But whatever their dreams—good or bad—it was Layer Three skills (initiative, boldness, pluck, enterprise) that lifted every great-power nation in history to the top. As the society that now holds this spot, we (North America, and to a lesser extent Europe) are stunningly lax about teaching these traits. We increasingly downplay them as unimportant and even unattractive. Even “against the rules”. As a result, we have lost our edge. We have largely lost our drive. Too many modern Americans have lost our shared vision and purpose. Unity is a thing of the past.

Indeed, Americans were once unified in the goal to spread freedom, opportunity, and prosperity to the world. Now, the best we seem to be able to muster is a hope to afford college for our kids, and that they’ll get a safe, secure career with good benefits—and as little fuss or struggle as possible. Most colleges themselves seem committed to shielding our young adults from challenges, difficulties, thinking, and any diverse or challenging ideas. This is not the behavior of a nation on the rise. It is the opposite. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we are castrating the stallions of the younger generations, then hoping they’ll be fruitful.

But apply Layer Three to the map. Where in the world do we find whole populations burning passionately with drive, initiative, innovation, nerve, entrepreneurial risk-taking, resilience, a hunger to achieve, audacity, ingenuity, resolve, and tenacity? Where do we find the largest concentrations of people who thrive in the face of uncertainty and embrace whatever is hard, and flourish even in an environment of impermanence and difficulty?

When you find a lot of people who have these traits, note where they live. Not in North American or Europe (at least not in large concentrations). In our modern American schooling/career system, for example, our major focus seems to be avoiding uncertainty, impermanence, and difficulty—yet these are the unavoidable realities of the global economy.

Through the Magnifying Glass

Look even closer. Enter this data electronically on a map and you’ll find these traits in China. Indeed, the heartbeat of China is a new “eye of the tiger.” A similar fire burns in India, and a less populated but angrier flame blazes across the Middle East. Layer Three also shows us the rise of such passion in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Russia. These are trigger-points of the decades just ahead.

Where such passion does show up in North America—from California to British Columbia, from Texas to New Hampshire to Newfoundland to Florida, it is usually personal, career-oriented, and commercial. A better job. A marketable education. A promotion.

These hardly match the resolve or intensity of China and its new economic allies across the developing world. They want to lead the world, change the world, and do great things. They want victory, and they see their lives as part of a battle.

In Europe the irony is even more pronounced. The Layer Three map shows numerous pockets of extreme passion in the nations of the E.U.—but zoom in, and you’ll note that most of the people with this kind of fire in the belly are usually recent immigrants from the Southern half of the globe.

The one great exception in North America and Europe is the entrepreneurial class, those who Steve Jobs called the dreamers, the rebels, and the risk-takers. They graduate from college and reject job offers from the Fortune 500 to pursue risky start-ups or launch non-profit charities. Or, increasingly, they skip college altogether, or drop out, and get started on their business or charitable ventures even younger, with an edgier, more idealistic and relevant education.

Their Layer Two parents and grandparents try to talk them out of such endeavors, but these young people have a hunger that typical education and careers won’t fill. They are a Remnant, throwbacks to the earlier Americans who got on the Mayflower, worked and died in Jamestown, went West by horseback or wagon to explore, start, create, and change things. They are the New American Founders, enlightened and ennobled by hindsight of the mistakes of the past, and impassioned by their view of the future – and we desperately need them.

We need a generation of them.

Now.

In the Now

If you are one of their parents or grandparents—worried that your youth are making such choices, decisions that make no sense to you—you can relax. Yes, the kind of risky leadership they are engaging is scary to the older generations who were raised to seek security. But the Third Layer maps clearly show that we no longer live in an era of security.

Even young people who follow the traditional path of college and career suggested by their elders will find that for most people it doesn’t endure in the new economy. We are in an era of tumult, change, and uncertainty—and this is only going to increase for the next few decades.

Those who try to live by Second Layer rules will fall further behind. College degrees won’t bring most of them secure jobs, and seemingly secure careers will suddenly be lost to recessions, new technologies, outsourcing, mergers, regulatory changes, companies sold to foreign investors, and competition, along with a host of other unforeseen realities.

Indeed, those who will do the best in the new economy—whose contributions and livelihoods will end up being the most secure—will be the new entrepreneurial class. The innovators. The roll-with-the-punches change agents. Those who can think, lead, initiate, and wisely assess risk. We are indeed entering the Age of Risk, and this massive shift in the world economy is here to stay. Business has already caught on and is changing things to meet the new reality. But education is still in denial, along with most in government.

Sadly for those who allow themselves to be swayed by the current denial of many in the educational sector and Washington, people caught in Second Layer thinking will be the losers of the next thirty years. The winners will be Third Layer risk takers who tenaciously create ways to succeed in the new environment. Who make a way.

Many of them are already looking at the world through the lenses of Third Layer maps and mindsets, and they understand something very real: The future is theirs. Moreover, our future is in their hands.

The more we can do to help and support them, the better things will turn out for all of us. The successes and failures of our entrepreneurs will determine the future. Just as it has determined the past.

Fall or Rise

This reality causes serious concerns. Anyone who takes a good look at the current university campus model of learning finds a number of problems. Not the kind of challenges that demand reform, mind you, but rather a systemic, structural network of problems that will require a true educational revolution. The need for change is, to put it lightly, drastic.

Just consider the following commentaries by some of today’s top thinkers on the topic of the emerging economy and its ties to the type of education we now need. For example, MIT’s Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAffee wrote, in a section of their book labeled “Failing College”:

“Richard Arum and Josipa Roska…and their colleagues tracked more than 2,300 students enrolled full-time in four-year degree programs at a range of American colleges and universities. Their findings are alarming: 45 percent of students demonstrate no significant improvement on the CLA [Collegiate Learning Assessment, which tests ‘critical thinking, written communication, problem solving, and analytic reasoning’] after two years of college, and 36 percent did not improve at all even after four years.

“The average improvement on the test after four years was quite small…. What accounts for these disappointing results? Arum, Roska, and their colleagues document that college students today spend only 9 percent of their time studying (compared to 51 percent on ‘socializing, recreating, and other’), much less than in previous decades, and that only 42 percent reported having taken a class the previous semester that required them to read at least forty pages a week and write at least twenty pages total.

“They write that, ‘The portrayal of higher education emerging from [this research] is one of an institution focused more on social than academic experiences. Students spend very little time studying, and professors rarely demand much from them in terms of reading and writing.’

“They also find, however, that at every college studied some students show great improvement on the CLA. In general, these are students who spent more time studying (especially studying alone)…”[v]

The authors also wrote: “The good news, though, is that technology is now providing more…opportunities than ever before. Motivated students and modern technology are a formidable combination. The best educational resources online allow users to create self-organized and self-paced learning environments—ones that allow them to spend as much time as they need with the material, and also to take tests that tell them if they mastered it.”[vi]

Futures Past

The quality of learning in such online venues is very often extremely high. For example, when a graduate level AI course at Stanford was opened to participants on the Internet for free, over “160,000 students singed up for the course. Tens of thousands of them completed all exercises, exams, and other requirements, and some of them did quite well. The top performer in the course at Stanford, in fact, was only 411th best among all the online students. As Thrun [the instructor] put it, ‘We just found over 400 people in the world who outperformed the top Stanford student.’”[vii]

Likewise, “…Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president of people operations, notes that college degrees aren’t as important as they once were. Bock states that ‘When you look at people that didn’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.’ He noted in a 2013 New York Times article that the ‘proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time’—on certain teams comprising as much as 14 percent.”[viii]

Mindvalley founder and CEO Vishen Lakhiani wrote: “I’ve personally interviewed and hired more than 1,000 people for my companies over the years, and I’ve simply stopped looking at college grades or even the college an applicant graduated from. I’ve simply found them to have no correlation with an employee’s success.”[ix] Sadly, too many people still hold on to old educational models that no longer deliver what they once did, or what they now promise.

Lakhiani put it this way: “But here’s the problem. Most of us are using systems that have long [since] become obsolete. As Bill Jensen said in his book Future Strong: ‘Even as we enter one of the most disruptive eras in human history, one of the biggest challenges we face is that today’s systems and structures still live on, past their expiration dates. We are locked into twentieth-century approaches that are holding back the next big fundamental shifts in human capacity.’”[x]

Bestselling author Neil Pasricha told the following story: “A senior partner at a prestigious global consulting firm once said to me after a boozy dinner: ‘We find Type A superachievers from Ivy League schools who need lots of reward and praise…and then dangle carrots just over the next deadline, project, and promotion, so they keep pushing themselves. Over every hill is an even bigger reward…and an even bigger hill.’”[xi] This is enlightening. It’s not the actual education the big corporations are looking for as much as a sense of over-achievement and needing lots of rewards and praise.

Look at this same scenario from the student’s viewpoint. Is this really the career environment we want our young people to pursue? Is this the life we want for them, or the use of their talents that will best benefit the world—or bring them the most fulfillment and happiness? Sometimes, the answer may be yes. But very often, it isn’t.

Billionaire Paypal co-founder and educational innovator Peter Thiel said it even more bluntly: “Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation. Why are we doing this to ourselves?”[xii] After happily reminiscing that he eventually took the entrepreneurial path of founding tech companies instead of following his major in graduate school, Thiel said[xiii],

“All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past.”

The Next Normal

The modern college/career system, which is increasingly Level Two education in the new economy, is more and more outdated. In the book Platform Revolution, technology experts Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary argue that the old-style university model is surviving largely because government regulations keep true innovators from competing on anything close to a level playing field.[xiv] If this were to change, no doubt online educational platforms would do for education what Amazon has done for bookstores (and other retailers), Uber has done for taxi services, Wikipedia has done to the encyclopedia publishing industry, and online news sources have done to many newspapers.[xv] Again, over 400 online students tested better than the top Stanford student in the exact same class.

Parker, Alstyne, and Choudary wrote: “The long-term implications of the coming explosion in educational experimentation are difficult to predict with certainty. But it wouldn’t be surprising if many of the 3,000 colleges and universities that currently dominate the U.S. higher education market were to fail, their economic rationale fatally undercut by the vastly better economics of platforms.”[xvi]

Just imagine much cheaper and higher quality higher educational offerings for all. Consider the work by Khan Academy,[xvii] Minerva,[xviii] Peter Thiel, and other educational innovators. If the government ever ends the current educational monopoly supporting the old-style conveyor-belt approach to higher education, the results will likely dwarf the kind of change we witnessed with the advent of cable television programs, or when Ma Bell was deregulated and replaced by an entirely different kind of telecommunications.

Parker and his colleagues also noted:

“In the years to come, the spread and increasing popularity of teaching and learning ecosystems will have an enormous impact on public school systems, private schools, and traditional universities. Barriers to entry that have long made a first-class education an exclusive, expensive and highly prestigious luxury good are already beginning to fall.

“Platform technologies are making it possible for hundreds of thousands of students to simultaneously attend lectures by the world’s most skilled instructors, at minimal cost, and available anywhere in the world that the Internet is accessible. It seems to be only a matter of time before the equivalent of a degree from MIT in chemical engineering will be available at minimal cost in a village in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The migration of teaching to the world of platforms is likely to change education in ways that go beyond expanded access—important and powerful as that is. One change that is already beginning to happen is the separation of various goods and services formerly sold as a unit by colleges and universities. Millions of potential students have no interest in or need for the traditional college campus complete with an impressive library, a gleaming science lab, raucous fraternity houses, and a football stadium.”[xix]

They’d rather pay a lot less and get a better learning experience.

Focusing In

“Education platforms are also beginning to unbundle the process of learning from the paper credentials traditionally associated with it.”[xx] The authors note that many students now “…appear to be more interested in the real-world abilities they are honing than in such traditional symbols of achievement as class transcripts or a diploma.”[xxi] They want to learn knowledge and skills that help them achieve their life and financial goals, not traditional symbols that no longer really work in the 21st century economy.[xxii] Results-Based Learning is increasingly in demand.

For example, “A high ranking on TopCoder, a platform that hosts programming contests, will earn a developer a job at Facebook or Google just as fast as a computer science degree from Carnegie Mellon, Caltech, or MIT. Platform-based students for whom a traditional credential is important can often make special arrangements to receive one—for example, at Coursera, college credit is a ‘premium service’ you pay extra for.”[xxiii] Another example is Duolingo, a crowdsourcing foreign language platform that is teaching more people a foreign language than all the students studying foreign language “in high school in the U.S. combined.”[xxiv]

“Once there is an alternative certification [to college degrees] that employers are willing to accept,” Parker and his colleagues affirm, “universities will find it increasingly difficult…. Unsurprisingly, developing such an alternative certification is among the primary goals of platform education firms such as Coursera.”[xxv] Other organizations are trying to build such educational platforms as well, including Udacity, Skillshare, edX, and others.[xxvi] Even top specialty schools, like MIT and Julliard, are offering open enrollment online courses. (Their selling point is often focused on “Learn from the MIT faculty,” or “Learn from the Julliard faculty,” a nod to the new reality that mentoring is becoming even more important than institutionalism.)

No doubt more innovative higher educational options will thrive (and at the high school level as well), until some of them restructure modern education like eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, the Internet, or Google have done for other fields. As far as student learning is concerned, numerous self-produced online tutorials, on platforms like YouTube and others, provide excellent educational opportunities—both to learn and teach.

All of these developments and trends are part of Third Layer education, and they are almost universally moving away from outdated traditions, methods, and beliefs of conveyor-belt-style education and schools. A new economic era is already here, and for those who know what to look for, new educational models are rising to support what is now needed. Third Layer, Results-Based learning is the future of effective education. The focus is on individualized learning, thinking, and applying rather than conveyor-belt schooling.

The new maps are here, if we’re willing to look.

(This topic is addressed in more detail in Hero Education by Oliver DeMille, available here>>)

NOTES

[i] Parag Khanna, 2016, Connectography, xvii.

[ii] Harper’s Index, Harper’s Magazine, September 2015.

[iii] The Brexit and election of Donald Trump didn’t seem to make much difference in this trend. See, for example, Geoffrey Smith, “The Brexit Crisis That Wasn’t,” Fortune, October 1, 2016; See also, Jeff Immelt, “After Brexit, Global is Local,” Fortune, August 1, 2016, 71-72.

[iv] Joshua Cooper Ramo, 2016, The Seventh Sense, 122.

[v] Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, 2014, The Second Machine Age, 197-198.

[vi] Ibid., 199.

[vii] Ibid., 200.

[viii] Cited in Vishen Lakhiani, 2016, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, 24.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid., 93.

[xi] Neil Pasricha, 2016, The Happiness Equation, 150.

[xii] Peter Thiel, 2014, Zero to One, 36.

[xiii] Ibid., 37.

[xiv] See Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary, 2016, Platform Revolution, 263-268.

[xv] See ibid.

[xvi] Ibid., 268.

[xvii] For example, see commentary in Brynjolfsson, 199.

[xviii] For example, see commentary in Parker, 268.

[xix] Ibid., 266.

[xx] Ibid., 266-267.

[xxi] Ibid., 267.

[xxii] Ibid., 265-268.

[xxiii] Ibid., 265.

[xxiv] Cited in ibid.

[xxv] Ibid., 8.

[xxvi] See, for example, ibid., 265.

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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: The Next Civil War?

May 13th, 2018 // 4:25 pm @

True or False…or False?

It’s getting worse. Just watch the news. This phrase, the “Next Civil War”, was recently used by economic forecaster Harry Dent to describe the growing divide between Red and Blue state cultures. These two sides now disagree with each other to the point that in many cases people experience real hatred for those on “the other side”.

Former president Barack Obama noted that people who largely get their news from the mainstream media and those who get their news mostly from Fox are basically living “on different planets.” They not only disagree on principles and solutions, he pointed out, but they fundamentally disagree on “facts”. What the Blue culture sees as incontrovertible truths, the Red culture frequently sees as lies. Fake. False. And the opposite is just as true: what the Red culture sees as fact is often considered false by Blue culture.

No wonder the two sides are so angry at each other. When you disagree on what the facts are, the solutions promoted by the other side frequently appear ludicrous. Even dangerous. Both sides, each rooted in its own understanding of reality, watch the other side say and do things that are clearly and painfully hurtful—according to the set of obvious but differing “facts” they each believe.

Roadblocks

This divide is widening. We’ve reached the point that one of the worst things parents can learn about their child’s “significant other” or new fiancé is that he/she is a Republican, or Democrat—depending on the family. Religion, career, ethnicity, education, financial status, and even a criminal history, are largely negotiable in most modern families. But the other political party? Many parents turn Tevye: “If I try and bend this far, I’ll break.”

Lynn Vavreck wrote in The New York Times (January 31, 2017): “In 1958, 33 percent of Democrats wanted their daughters to marry a Democrat, and 25 percent of Republicans wanted their daughters to marry a Republican. But by 2016, 60 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans felt that way.” And for many, the feelings run very deep. While in 1994 21 percent of Republicans viewed Democrats in the “Very Unfavorable” category, by 2016 the number was 58 percent. (Pew Research Center) In 1994 17 percent of Democrats saw Republicans as “Very Unfavorable”, but the number in 2016 had skyrocketed to 55 percent. (Ibid.)

Aaron Blake summarized this concern in The Washington Post: “If 58 percent of Republicans hate Democrats and 55 percent of Democrats hate Republicans, that would mean about 35 percent of registered voters hate the opposite political party.” (June 19, 2017) “But that’s not quite hate…. 45% of Republicans see the Democratic Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being…. [and] 41% of Democrats see the Republican Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being”. (Ibid.) When you add independents, the “hate” one of the parties (those who see the other party as a threat to the nation) makes up 39 percent of registered voters or “About 1 in 4” Americans. (Ibid.)

There are a lot of others who see the other side in an unfavorable light, around 33 percent of additional Republicans (for a total of 91% with “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable”) and 30 percent of additional Democrats (86% with “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views). (Ibid.) Note that all of this occurred before the Trump presidency. Again, this divide is real, and deep. In the Trump era the intensity has only increased.

But does any of this justify the phrase “Next Civil War”? Not yet. Not unless we’re going to surrender to hyperbole. Yet this conflict is escalating in many sectors—it’s moved beyond the traditional battlegrounds of politics and news media to additional culture and power centers including education, television, movies, entertainment awards shows, daily and nightly talk shows (both radio and television), sports, and multiple venues on social media. Even social media and Internet platforms are getting involved by adjusting algorithms to promote certain political leanings—or dampen the voice of those they dislike—often without informing their customers.

Platforms and Soapboxes

For many Americans, the sight of some NFL players purposely kneeling during the National Anthem is the ultimate symbol of this divide. One side sees young role models and leaders using their public platform to bravely protest government abuse—especially what they consider racially charged police violence. The other side feels hurt and confused by millionaire beneficiaries of the American Dream figuratively spitting on the American Flag and the sacrifice of dead and maimed military heroes.

It’s difficult to even discuss this situation rationally in many venues due to the raw and heartfelt emotions of people on both sides of the Red-Blue cultural divide.

Sadly, many schools have also become places of great conflict. For example, a national uproar occurred when a middle school teacher assigned her students to write letters to political officials urging them to pass stronger gun control laws. Should teachers tell middle school children what sides to take on political issues? And assign them to engage in activism for one specific side? At what point does teaching become brainwashing? A father of one of the students, a policeman, refused to allow his child to do the assignment. The father deeply disagreed with the politics of the teacher, and many of the other parents disagreed with the politicization of middle school in general. In response to backlash, the teacher allowed students to skip the assignment without penalty, but didn’t suggest writing against stronger gun control if this more accurately aligned with the student’s views. The same week, an elementary student was expelled from school for drawing himself hunting during a “free art” assignment, and a high school teacher was fired for a lengthy history-class soliloquy describing current members of the military as “the lowest of the low” in our society. Red and Blue cultures passionately disagreed on how these events should be handled. Both sides largely see the other’s view as ridiculous and extreme.

Another moment that epitomizes this division occurred on Broadway when the cast of Hamilton stopped the musical midstream to lecture the new Vice President elect, Mike Pence. Hamilton itself is an artistic icon—an American Les Miserables that underscores how the struggles of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and their families and peers unleashed freedom in a way that has now spread to people of all backgrounds. The lecture itself was seen by one side as a welcome comeuppance to a dangerous new administration, and by the other as yet another gauche elitist attack against the will of the voters and the American system.

Networks, Numbers, and New Divides

Thankfully this war is largely cultural—it has not devolved into massive physical violence between the two sides of a nation (like the French Revolution, U.S. Civil War, or Russian Revolution, etc.). Hopefully it will always remain peaceful. But in the fight for hearts, there is no doubt that a major civil war for the future of our republic is already under way.

Worse, it is doubtful that any real solution is imminent. When one part of the nation generally believes most of what airs on CNN, ABC, NBC and MSNBC, while another part tends to place more trust in Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or Trump tweets, the two aren’t going see eye-to-eye on much of anything. And when these two groups are the largest political blocs in our republic, we’re going to have genuine and repeated disagreements.

Perhaps the epicenter of this battle for “the hearts and minds of the people” is found in the media. And this poses a major challenge. Why? Because most of modern media—from both the Left and Right—has three serious problems:

1-It is largely agenda driven (“Forget the facts, full speed ahead!”)

2-It is shallow.

3-It is electronic.

Most people realize the problems with item #1. As a result, they stop listening to media outlets that are clearly against their views—and seem hostile to anyone with a different perspective. This has created another significant problem with modern media:

4-It is isolated. The Right listens to the Right, while the Left listens to the Left. Few listen to both. Few listen to the other side. Over time, media outlets increasingly cater to their narrow audiences, so the extremism increases.

Result: the divisions in our nation are getting wider, deeper, and more susceptible to anger and, too often, extremism and unhealthy thinking and actions.

The Missing Depth

The  2nd and 3rd problems listed just above are equally dangerous. Many people are very busy—work, family, more work, community, more family. Little time is left over for meaningful civic involvement, much less for taking the time to really dig into each day’s news, truly understand what is happening, and go way beyond the 30 second sound bites or even 3 minute segments on any given story. An hour of the news is more than most can spare—and most hour newscasts only provide a very shallow overview of a few of the day’s news topics. In short, shallow. No time for depth.

The result is that nearly all shows repeat a few top stories, with only a bit of detail. Even if a person watched television all day, he or she would usually only hear about the same top stories, addressed shallowly over and over—with different opinions but nothing really weighty or reflective. Depth is almost unheard of in most of today’s media.

This is especially true of the electronic media. Besides, television, radio, and online media typically interact with human brains more like entertainment than like something really, truly important. When we watch or listen or surf our news, in most cases, we are in the mode of moving quickly from one thought to the next. Even if we try to focus, ads, pop-ups and crawlers invade our screen with multiple headlines and distractions all at once. Our devices were purposely designed this way, in fact.

Reading the news, in contrast, naturally moves the focus into our intellect. A good start. “But nobody wants to read anything longer than a page…” today’s editors assure everyone. Many editors put the limit at “two paragraphs.” If we don’t read more deeply, we’ll truly and literally become a nation of sheep. Deep thinking is needed to deal with the reality of today’s complex and globally-interconnected world—for any citizen. And deep thinking about the news is basically impossible unless we’re reading (or listening/watching to a source that takes) much more than 5 minutes to really address an issue in some depth.

The Jefferson-Madison Debates

The term “fake news” means the following to most people: news that pushes a false agenda, distracts from truth, lies. But “shallow news” is just as bad for the nation. Even “accurate news” that is shallow is a major blow to our society. And this accounts for most of what media consumers experience. When it is both fake and shallow, we’re in real trouble.

The Left and Right argue about which news reports are “fake,” but few even claim to offer real depth in their news. And even fewer consumers seem to be actively searching for and embracing deeper news.

To reiterate: the Red-Blue divisions are growing, and intensifying, and this means that major problems are ahead unless we do something about it. My plan is to write a weekly (or, sometimes, every two week) article that treats real topics in enough depth to help readers take a step back from the constant screaming of electronic news, and really understand a topic (one at a time) enough to see behind the scenes of modern media spin and fake/shallow posturing.

More will, of course, be needed to stop our seeming national sprint toward more civil conflict. But I know this weekly column will make a difference—for those who read it.

It was the reading and thinking about articles and pamphlets during the American Founding generation that helped America gain freedom, and deep thinking is vitally needed today. I’m calling this new series of weekly articles The Jefferson-Madison Debates, and I hope you’ll join us.

It’s going to be fun.

— Oliver DeMille

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