Swickard: Each year has a lesson to teach

© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  In a small unscientific study looking only at myself I find that the years go by quickly. They are packed with victories and losses. If we have a loss, at least we should get the lesson. Getting lemons doesn't help unless you have sugar and water for lemonade.
            Let's look at 2015 as we think about 2016. We must remember the mistakes that were made this year so we don't repeat them. We also need to remember our victories so we have some chance to repeat them.
            George Santayana in 1906 wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Our society doesn't seem to learn. Let's make 2016 the year we learn from a previous year's mistakes.
            If there was an organization to remember society's wins and losses each year they would say you must acknowledge both the wins and losses. Losses are difficult because people gloss over them while fixating on wins.
            The biggest loss in the last few years is the loss of the truth. Truth has become the new hate speech. George Orwell wrote, "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
            Many people are afraid of the truth because an expedient political power play has emerged in our society. It is to label as racist or worse anyone who opposes the wishes of the political parties. 2015 was a name-calling year with most of the name-calling being done for political gain.
            A friend runs a political blog and has a hard time with the inclination of some posters to name-call and act ugly. I am glad he is fighting that fight because we can never have truth in our society if the name-calling brigands are allowed to take over public dialogs.
            The year 2015 will be remembered as the year everything offended someone. David Bednar wrote, "To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else."
            This year I found I could concurrently offend both Republicans and Democrats. I got hate emails from both the same week. I have written a weekly column for more than thirty years so I am used to offending people. It happens. But this year it seemed that there was a virulent practiced response to opposing ideas and that was name-calling and ignoring the truth.
            One person was very offended when I wrote about something that happened in the 2015 New Mexico Legislature. The problem for me was that I did not witness this situation myself. But I found four people who confirmed to me what happened along with two others in law enforcement who witnessed it. I would not retract my column.
            This last year the two major political parties were nationally very similar. The only thing they disagree on was which person should be elected, not the will of the people and how Congress should protect the Constitution.
            The emphasis of 2015 for the national leaders of both parties was to make government bigger. This has been covered extensively by the national press that can be identified by their political editorial leanings. Both the liberal press and the less liberal press have their agendas. If it wasn't for the Internet they would succeed.
            Many years ago Bob Hope quipped, "No one party can fool all of the people all of the time; that's why we have two parties." A friend said to one politician, "Please act as if you actually talk to citizens and not just consultants and fixers." That didn't go over well.
            Comedian George Burns was asked, "How's your wife?" He answered, "Compared to what?" That is what we have to realize each year. When we do a year in review in some ways we are often comparing to other years.
            Can we learn from 2015? Yes, but we must want to learn. We may have to change some of our elected politicians if we want real change. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789, "Whenever people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government."
            We have many well-informed citizens but everyone loses when truth is politically inconvenient and so is absent from our society.


Christmas Wish: Intellectual Honesty......fat chance

Christmas is coming. We will have Democrats hanging around the house for the next few days. Deck the halls!

One of the topics that will lead to eye rolling faster than anything else, is a leftist’s reaction to anyone who questions Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. It seems that the leftist’s views are inextricably bound to science.

Well, sort of.

Animal rights activists come to mind in exploring a curious area of "science" that most Democrats express admiration for. It seems animal rights activists always encourage all humans to become enthralled by the fact that we share huge percentages of our DNA with all species in the animal kingdom. This includes 85% our genes with fish and 99% of our genes with chimpanzees. Below is an article on one of the left’s most admired websites, Mother Jones, which posted this article as a case in point:

Among most Democrats there is utter rejection for any idea that might somehow set human beings apart from the animal kingdom especially when we are dealing with ecosystems and "habitats." In their words, we are all creatures sharing DNA with the same basic right to exist on the planet.....or so goes their argument.

Fair enough. Let's run with that line of thought. This viewpoint explains the Democrats ardent support for disruptive regulations and laws that force the displacement of farming operations that feed human beings. It is happening all over California as I write this. Environmentalists, wanting to protect the “habitats” of obscure endangered species like the snail darter, will go so far as to destroy farms to do so. Since we are all members of the animal kingdom they argue, these government actions should be seen as reasonable.

The National Park Service hires armies of Animal and Range Science degree holders. These people put their liberal educations to work doing what is best for our animal cousins. And they do a fine job. In places like Yellowstone there are signs protecting the animals from the irreparable harm that well-meaning but misguided humans can do to their DNA cousins. The explanations for why well-educated animal and range science experts insist on posting these signs in areas specifically set aside to protect non humans are pretty simple. If we allow the feeding of wildlife via handouts, these creatures will learn to become dependent on the handouts, and stop functioning as independent creatures able to procure food for themselves.

Of course these assertions are scientifically sound because they are steeped in fundamental truths regarding ALL LIVING CREATURES. Study after study shows that to survive and thrive, living creatures must be able to fend for themselves.

With a clear conscience Democrats will pound the table declaring that 1) evolution is steeped in truth, 2) human beings are inextricably tied to the animal kingdom with shared DNA, 3) we should respect the fundamental need for the independence of animals and maintain a natural system.......because it what is best for the long term survival of all species

Fair enough......so far.
Next our leftist friends, with an equally clear conscience, will call for a bloated welfare state in the human habitat that offers much more than just free food. We are to simply destroy all references to the need for independence of humans by tearing down the equivalent of all Please Don't Feed The Wildlife signs and policies.

Democrats constantly insist on doing just the opposite of what they argue for with all other species. Somehow, what they think is best for humans is precisely the opposite of what they think is best for all of God's other creatures. Except of course Democrats don't reference God. That would be offensive to atheists.

Somehow Democrats want us to all be part of nature and respect the fundamental laws of nature ….EXCEPT OF COURSE WHEN THESE PRINCIPLES SHOULD ALSO BE APPLIED TO HUMANS. Yep, we are all part of the animal kingdom with shared DNA and shared basic nature…..except when Democrats say we aren’t.

Of course these leftists get the scientific assumptions correct when managing wildlife and wrong when “managing” human beings lives. Accordingly, it is utterly fascinating to listen as leftists never quite figure out why LBJ’s handout driven War on Poverty hasn’t worked. Most call for more free food and other free handout programs. They demand this for members of their own species, while they somehow argue that it is cruel, mean, and shortsighted to do this same thing for our DNA cousins better known as all "other species" in the very same animal kingdom.

Don't feel bad for your Democrat friends and relatives! Their explanations for the arguments they have with themselves wind up on a very positive note. They humbly conclude after exchanges on this topic that they are far more compassionate and morally superior than any mean greedy human bastard who points out the absurd inconsistencies in their thinking.

Merry Christmas!


Swickard: When it is too early for formal public schooling

© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. Question: when is the best age to start children in public schools? This is like the question: why not teach algebra to five-year olds? Answer: our brains must develop before we can do formal logic. The age to start formal public school education is not until the age of six.
            However, a big push in our society by well-meaning people and power-hungry politicians is that earlier contact with school makes a better scholar. They say that while ignoring the research. They have many reasons not involving the welfare of the children when they want to start children younger.
            However, others people, myself included, feel that certain brain development phases must occur for children to thrive in a formal education setting. Research which I will point to suggests you can injure young children by putting them in formal academic settings too soon.
            We should look at the research but the way many professional educators have been operating of late is to ignore all research that doesn't support what they want. They say, "Forget the research we want to have a bigger empire and employ more people."
            When I was young most students began their formal education at the age of six. The generation that sent men to the moon and returned them safely started their schooling at this age. It works. The children were in family or church daycare until it was time to start school.
            Then there came kindergarten. In the 1960s there was the adoption of public school kindergarten for many students. In New Mexico it was the middle of the 1970s when the public schools uniformly started offering kindergarten. But that kindergarten was vastly different than what we see now.
            Back then it was only for half of the day and focused on play activities. Children sang songs and played games and took naps and went home saying, "I love school." Then well-meaning people said, "Why don't we keep them all day." It made sense since parents would not have to accommodate the other half of the day.
            The beauty for the politicians was it allowed public schools to hire twice as many kindergarten teachers. And for a while that was how schools went. But then administrators started talking about changing kindergarten into a formal academic activity.
            They justified changing kindergarten to formal education for five year olds so when these young students are in fourth grade they will do better making the school seem more successful. Kindergarten now doesn't look like it did. The play and informal curriculum is gone and the five year olds are just trying to learn the six year old stuff a year early. How is that working? Terrible but no one is paying attention.
            Research at Stanford University suggests the move to get children into academic classrooms sooner comes with liabilities. There is an interesting study that even mainstream news organizations are noticing. It is: The Gift of Time? SchoolStarting Age and Mental Health.
            This research from Stanford University looks at when students start and if starting a year later would be better. There are countries that start their children later in school. What is the outcome?
            The later starting children do better on the fourth and eighth grade tests and seem to not have as many mental health issues. But the research doesn't fit the political needs of our education leaders. The vast industrial public education complex needs the young children in the system.
            And I am fine with that if these politicians will just read the research and see that they can make the first year a year of curiosity, play and social involvement but they cannot teach formal education to the majority of the five year olds.
            Further, we must see our young children by their number of day alive and not birth year. I was born seven days before the cutoff so I was the youngest and smallest boy in most of my classes. Some of my competing classmates were fifteen percent older than me that first year.
            The Stanford study, which can be downloaded for five dollars talks about all of these issues. I do wish some of our leaders would look at this great research.


Swickard: Free college or free students from college?

Grandfather E V McKim Sr's practical education
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  One of the talking points for politicians is free college for students. They reason that preschool to high school graduation in public education is free, why not college? It is not free, someone else pays.
            Perhaps we should debate the aim of our education system. Thomas Jefferson wrote that education had two aims, "The laboring and the learned. Few students had the ability to be (academically) learned but our country always needs educated labor."
            In today's world our public schools push all students to attend college. In 1968 it was not my intention to attend college. My Grandmother Frieda wanted me to go so I went.
            In 1917 she got a Masters Degree from Western New Mexico University in Silver City. It was then New Mexico State Teachers' College. She had come to New Mexico in 1908 from upstate New York to be a teacher in a one room schoolhouse in Three Rivers. Later she taught in White Oaks.
            Of her children only my uncle went to college. He got a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1952 after serving in the Navy during WWII. I went to New Mexico State University in 1968 reluctantly since I already was a fine photographer. My father taught at the Air Force School of Photography. I thought I had all of the education I needed.
            But my grandmother saw something in me that a college education made better. Ultimately I got a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with a focus on distance education. But I could have just been a photographer and writer. Life is a funny old dog when it comes to what we set out to do and what happens.
            America was built by artisans and laborers. Two of my great-grandparents came to America to work on the railroads, one from Sweden and the other from Ireland. My Grandmother Frieda's husband was a railroad engineer in steam locomotives.
            He only went through the fourth grade but could fix almost anything. Today some are saying that only the academics really matter. Tell that to someone with an overflowing toilet.
            In Junior High I took six semesters of shop covering tools, wood, metal, electrical, automotive, and home building during those three years. It was outstanding. I am handy enough to handle most things and experienced enough to know when things need to be fixed by someone who really knows what they are doing.
            We will always need handy people in our society. Everything will break, we just do not know when. Instead of pushing every student to college we should smile on all education, be it academic or mechanical.
            The movement for free college really is because colleges in the last twenty years have increased the tuition and fees many times the inflation rate. I went to New Mexico State University twenty years ago for my Ph.D. The tuition and fees were about six hundred dollars a semester.
            Currently at NMSU it is nearly four thousand dollars a semester so that either parents must pay the cost or the students incur lots of debt. The student-loan default rate is terrible. The solution for some is free college to keep students from going into debt. But should they be going to college in the first place?
            The college graduation rate in New Mexico is perhaps forty percent with many students just quitting. These students have student loan debt and no degree. That is one of the things driving the horrible student loan default rate.
            Many of the current graduates are either under-employed or unemployed. The college degree for many did not make life better as to supporting themselves. Now one of my favorite classes at college was a wonderful year of Irish writing from poetry to novels. But what pays the bills are the things I do which require my Ph.D. No, column writing does not require a degree, but my statistics and research background helps.
            Perhaps the current generation of college students who have graduated and cannot find a degree-required job should have explored something more practical to do. Would it be better if they had a professional trade to support themselves? They could afford college later if they found a desire to change fields.


Obama the fool: Can we last another 58 weeks

It is strange. Everyone could smell the terrorist attack in the U.S. coming in the wake of Paris. 

Well almost everyone. Barack Obama couldn’t. Perhaps it was because he was too busy trying to convince the world that temperatures climbing into the teens in Chicago instead of staying in single digits was the most troublesome aspect of the future we Americans face.

Two hours after the shootings occurred Kristi and I plopped down on the couches and watched. It was so obvious that is was Paris part two we just shook our heads in disgust at the idea that Obama has been scoffing at anyone questioning whether he should be allowed to import another 10-20,000 Muslims from a country that is famous for an education system that teaches all students to hate America.

We switched the channels frequently to see how the coverage differed between Fox, CNN, and MSNBC.  All three networks purposefully avoided speculating that it was done by radical Muslims. Within a couple of hours of the atrocities Mr. Obama decided it was time to call for the disarming of the civilian population in America through laws that destroy the spirit of the 2nd Amendment.  He never mentioned that they did that in Paris many generations ago.

Image result for San bernardino shootersOf course the world had to wait while the law enforcement authorities worked their way through the evidence, but as soon as it was known that one of the perpetrators names was Syed Farook you could have bet your house on what was to follow.
A couple of things struck us as bizarre. First, radical U.S. Muslim organizations knew the identity of the killers before just about anyone. And they held a news conference to defend themselves. Who tipped them off? How are they privy to information the cops wouldn’t release during press conferences?

Of course the very next day Obama was back at it. Thinking the problem is we don't have gun control like they do in Paris.

It is so sad to see Obama establishing himself as the most dangerous person in the world. He is dangerous because he is responsible for so much that goes undone. Watching repeatedly beg the nation to wheel the Trojan Horse into its interior, is amazing. He will go down in history as the most naïve man to every occupy high office in America. Equally amazing are all his devoted followers who are clueless about his utter incompetence.

One thing that Obama is not naïve about is the fact he will enjoy the protection of armed guards for the rest of his life.

In the end the Democrats showed once again what happens when you put them in charge of national security. Even in an area where you would think we all share the same values.....not seeing our loved ones butchered by people known to hate America, what Democrats really want is more power for government, less choice for citizens, and even larger and more absurd intentional lapses in border security.

The insurgency of American haters was mildly annoying when we watched a World Cup soccer game in the Rose Bowl a few years ago. That was the day 80,000 Mexicans, many obviously here illegally, not only booed the American soccer team, they spit on them as they came out of the tunnel and took the field. In 2015 we realize that ISIS killers are getting free passes from Homeland Security's Democratic appointees and hires. These are the same Homeland Security people Obama would leave in charge of “screening” the crush of Syrians he wants to bring to a community near you. And he will insist on doing all of this while he tries to find a way to disarm America. And if you don't like this, it is because you are an anti-immigrant bigot.

On Friday U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch thought it would be a good idea to wag her finger at the American people and make sure they knew she would stand ready to prosecute anyone who dared cross the free speech line when talking about radical Islam. Now that is law enforcement leadership.......another Obama appointee.

Gun sales in the country are shattering records every month. Gee…….I wonder why?