27 April 2020

Bess Tuggle's Memoirs of Surviving Children: Rites of Summer

Summer is almost upon us.  Officially summer begins June 20th in Georgia this year.  I don’t put a whole lot of stock in that date.  

Georgia weather is strange on a good day.  We really -don’t- have actual seasons.  All seasons meld together.  Once you think you got it figured out a frost, freeze, drought, or heat-wave can readjust -everything-.

One rite of “summer,” when my Things were coming up, was “The Summer Crew Cut.”  I called that one by the last day of school.

Crew cuts in our household -was- the beginning of summer.  All heads got shaved!  Cooler, easier to clean, no brushing/combing…  Heaven!  I think the boys’ were also ready to get rid of the bowl-cuts I gave them the rest of the year.  (Only exception was the lice letters I got from school.  It was -all- coming off then..  Another respite from Mama’s bowl cuts).  

Thing 3 had a tendency to be last in the hair cut line, by choice.  I don’t know why, but he paid for it dearly.

The last assembly crew-cut line I remember, Thing 3 was at the end of the line.  Bless his lil’ heart.  

I had a chair in the kitchen, clippers plugged up and ready, and sheared the heads.  I even had the ear guards for the clippers that faded out the sides!  Only one problem.  When you’re at the end of the line, you’ve got brothers’ distracting Mama.  This is not a good thing.

Having successfully given 3 outta 4 a good crewcuts, Thing 3 sat down in the chair, with brothers all around him.  They were a -major distraction!

Thing 3, with a smile on his face and brothers’ being brothers
,’ allowed me to cut his hair.  I promise, this one was my mistake.  With all the boys running around being boys, I forgot to put the guard back on the clippers.  I started in the middle.  Thing 3 had a runway down the middle of his head.  No guard.  Skinned clean to the skull.  I did the best I could with the rest, but… 

The last time I cut Thing 3’s hair, same child order, I kinda clipped the bottom of his right earlobe.  Not my fault.  Blame it on his brothers..  By then he -should- have known better!  

The Marines have done a much better job. 

- Bess Tuggle

24 April 2020


“When I am king, you will be first against the wall, with your opinion which is of no consequence at all.” – Paranoid Android, Radiohead
“From time to time, I would watch you sleep. Oh, I wonder how much freedom we can dream.” – Having Been Is No Way To Be, Jeff Tweedy 

Have you ever flipped a coin as a way of deciding something with another person? If so, it was done with the belief you were getting a fair deal. A coin is equally likely to reveal heads or tails after a single flip. 

When a coin is flipped into the air, it rotates about an axis parallel to its flat surfaces. The coin is initially placed on a bent index finger, and the thumb is released from under the coin, where it rested, balanced, and was held under slight tension. The thumbnail strikes the part of the coin unsupported by the index finger, propelling it skyward. This is done with an upward movement of the hand. The coin can fall to the ground or be caught. If caught, the coin is turned onto the back of the opposite hand of the flipper and then revealed as either heads or tails.

Early April 2020. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, in response to combating the spread of COVID-19, announced an executive order closing all businesses determined to be non-essential according to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidelines. The list of non-essential businesses included, but were not limited, to gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, concert venues, amusement parks, body art studios, spas, hair salons, and bars. Restaurants could remain open but were limited to takeout and curbside pickup. All Georgians were ordered to shelter in place, only leaving their homes to work (if their occupation was deemed essential), obtain food and household or medical supplies, exercise, or seek medical or behavioral health services. Social distancing guidelines were established. These measures were set to expire at the end of the month. Anyone caught violating this order, could potentially be found guilty of committing a misdemeanor. 
With the flip of a coin, tens of thousands of Georgians were essentially, unemployed. 

If the private sector is to begin anew following this pandemic, as outlined by politicians, scholars, and economists, we must first acknowledge they carried us through it with unwavering leadership and compassion. 
We would have to begin by giving careful attention to those individuals who, through the calculated risk of restricting civil liberties, sustained us during a perilous time with principled decisions and guidance. This attention must be paid in the presence of examples. Every graph, chart, scientific study, computer model, ordinance, and executive order, were not only accurate and lawful, but presented and implemented flawlessly. 
This effort of thinking must confront governmental assertion of power as necessary, in the best interest of all during a public health crisis, and above everything else, be constitutional. Such thought is authenticated by its compatibility with scientific data, thoughtfully articulated during press conferences and media releases. 
This was not easy in a time overridden by sceptics and naysayers. Honesty was the common denominator found in both political parties and unbound freedom was subject to imposed state-wide government restrictions. 
We acknowledged the danger of unrestrained personal liberty, while voluntarily relinquishing our rights at the request of government. 
We accomplished our goal of flattening the curve, by raising concern for the general public during an unprecedented health crisis, through science and the adherence of social distancing guidelines. 
Opposition raged from a small few, who passionately disagreed with elected officials about the necessity of executive orders during a public health crisis, but ultimately, they complied.
In the end, politicians, scholars, and economists were right. The enacted measures, which only required ignorance of the basic constraints of government established by the constitution, under the threat of imprisonment and violence, worked.
Lives were saved. Suffering and loss, mitigated. 
The economy rebounded. Our temporary suspended way of life resumes normalcy. The uncontrollable was controlled. 

It appears to be commonly assumed by politicians, scholars, and economists, that a competent understanding of our current public health crisis has been achieved. 
Those in power use their understanding - which they do not possess - only to absolve themselves from actual thought about actual concerns, impacting actual lives. These people have found inevitability an adequate explanation for their shameful, collective disregard for intelligent debate and personal responsibility. 
They look at the reason for discontent as fodder for bottom dwellers. What they do not see, behind that frustration, the denunciation that enraged so many from the onset. 
The loss being suffered was pronounced unavoidable and thus easily written off by those in power. In their perceived insignificance and dispensability, the impacted were socio-economically equal. For instance, if one family received assistance, then all would have received assistance, which would have disappointed neither political party come election day. There existed equality for all to share. 
But if the working class are dispensable, when then should they be counted for something and be more than their given titles of uneducated and non-essential
Did they need college degrees to merit worth? 
These uneducated were notified, via televised executive order, their lives were on hold, because they could, in theory, be replaced. Their work is non-essential. The financial impact on their families, of little consequence to those in power. The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. 
These were political calculations, which left many lower-to-middle-class families and small business owners with the inevitable fate of unemployment or bankruptcy. 
This inevitability, termed necessary by those in power, is in fact a poor excuse for the elimination of free will; it is callous and belongs equally to both political parties. Determinism and inevitability overrode the need for common sense and empathy. 
Some of the displaced reverted to anger and protest. 
Later, politicians claim a connection with the adversely impacted tradespeople, to feel their pain, when in fact, they have given nothing more than a rat’s ass about them for decades. After all, their contribution to the GDP, negligible. 
Let us not forget, come election time, the tens of thousands of workers who became obsolete at the instant when an executive order determined them and their families to be non-essential.
The economy suffered greatly and struggled to regain its record growth. Afterall, the economy is comprised of people. Our suspended way of life was forced to define a new normalcy. The uncontrollable was uncontrolled.

Late April 2020. During a televised press conference, Kemp announces he is “allowing” those non-essential businesses to reopen, under strict state regulations and guidelines. The announcement that those businesses could open, if they choose, reverberates positively and negatively throughout Georgia. 
Opposition to one side by the other is scattered about as the coin descends. 

The examined object is a coin. While ascending/descending the coin is simultaneously heads and tails, while being neither heads nor tails. It is, in between states. 
The outcome of the flip remains open until the coin lands on the ground or is caught by the flipper, who reveals its definitive state as either heads or tails. 
Projection moves toward certainty… 

22 April 2020

[Perrin Lovett] - The Coronavirus Hysteria May Be The Best Thing That Ever Happened To The Schools

Hello, beloved readers! Kindly join me for an updated exploration of one of my favorite pet subjects, the terminal decline of America’s government schools. Before we get too deep, as the title suggests, I think the current and ongoing closure of the public schools because of the Chinese chest cold and ensuing mass hysteria may be one of if not the best thing that has happened to these institutions since their inception and near-instantaneous corruption. Mind you, this one is a little long and a little link-heavy. But, it’s one of my most important articles yet. If you value your children, your grandchildren, and the future of society, then the following is of great importance. Besides, under house arrest, you likely have all the time in the world.

We Have A Problem

Now, pick a measure - any measure. If it’s a positive, as in laudatory of excellence, then the US ranks far outside the international elite. If it’s negative - school shootings, wasted money, bullying, teen pregnancy, suicides, etc. - then the US is probably the number one country. Within the states, there is a wide variance between performance levels. Worldwide, there are myriad ranking systems. The US is far off the mark in all of the serious assessments. For my purposes, I picked one:

The Center On International Educational Benchmarking (CIEB) at the National Center On Education And The Economy has posted its Top Performing Countries list for 2018. The top countries are Canada, China, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Notice anyone missing? There are many good (or very bad) reasons for the absence. According to the CIEB, the US ranks just outside the leaders in reading, and just above the world average. The findings regarding science are similar. However, in mathematics, the US ranks well below the international average and ridiculously below the number one nation, China. This dismal performance comes in spite of the US’s massive expenditure per pupil, per year. For 2015, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the US was second ($12,800) in spending only to Norway ($15,100). Norway also failed to make CIEB’s top ten. For reference: China spends approximately $2,400 per child per year (based on 2017 Chinese junior high expenditure and a 2020 Yuan to Dollar conversion). 

Contrary to what the idiot politicians and the make-work educrats say, it is not the money that holds back American children. It is the very (hellish) school system itself. It has been, for over a century, specifically designed to produce failure. Adding more money to the US school budget, in an attempt to boost performance, is akin to the old adage about extinguishing a fire with gasoline. All of this, I have written about extensively, before. My second CFF column was education-related. See, also: HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. That’s in addition to over 250 articles and posts, 8% of the total volume, at my blog. I even set up an education resources page, which has only been viewed about a dozen times. And I also wrote a novel (which you should buy) about these matters. And, here we go yet again.

Things have changed just a bit since I last looked at the schools. Namely, they’re all closed, as I observed and MB re-ran here, back on  March 28th.

The virus: We know, mathematically, it is, as I called it long ago (3/23/20), “a ridiculous low-effort hoax:” mass hysteria and nothing else - over a chest cold. This lockdown, house arrest, and economic destruction frenzy were never about the virus. It’s about total control of the sheeple. Well, at least it got the poor kids out of the schools.

As an aside, the “schools” are still harassing the hell out of the kids, in defiance of common sense, common decency, public health concerns, and the First Amendment. A child in Wisconsin likely acquired the dreaded cold. Like most people her age, she recovered with ease. But, being thoughtful, she tried to warn others. Her school’s reaction? And the reaction of the local Schutzstaffel? Threats of violence, of course. She didn’t take it lying down, at least suing the SS; I suppose there are tactical reasons why she’s leaving the schools off of the defendants’ side of the “v.” Hopefully, she’ll leave off ever returning to them as well.

A Terminal Problem

The schools were changing anyway. Everyone’s favorite quasi-religious phenomenon was taking hold long before the first cough came out of Wuhan. It is Diversity, which amounts to praising an uncommonly-low denominator at the expense of a declining and eviscerated numerator. Here’s the mathematical formula: (X ÷ Failure)^(Fear x Stupidity) = Dark Age [where your child is the value of “X”].  Nationally, in the government schools, the long-sought conversion has achieved its objective: the great flipping of the fraction. This is relevant to the following case study, which demonstrates how the scheme works out in real life. I’d like you to meet Kerstin Westcott, a Wisconsin teacher. She is currently teaching, online I suppose, at Wilson Junior High in Manitowoc, a school more productive and open to intelligence than her previous haunt, Washington Middle, in Green Bay.

Please take a moment and watch her startling, tear-filled 2017 testimony before and resignation from the failed Green Bay School District: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SRCY8FqoyQ

After her remarks, she was gently rebuked by a resident moron on the Board. “Two sides” to violent criminal behavior, and all… In a follow-up session, Kerstin bravely and methodically called out the system’s stupidity and hypocrisy. Promises were made! There would be changes to the horrific, dyscivilizational, anti-academic environment at Washington, they said. They lied. Since 2017, nothing at Washington has changed, except the demographics have continued to shift and the scores have continued to drop. I wonder why.

At Washington, the state’s primary demographic cohort has diminished from 88.9% of the student body in 1988 to 19.6% last year. When Kerstin departed, the school only performed better than 8.8% of all schools in the state. It’s now only a little better than 6.5% of the comparables. Test scores, already low enough, have essentially settled at the bottom of the x-axis. (And, I don’t think anyone omitted a coefficient in the equation or anything). According to Greatschools, proficiency in math hovers around an astounding 10%. English proficiency is 14%. Fortunately, given the decades-long changes, Niche.com rates this “school” an “A+” in “Diversity.” There’s that, right?! Any negative implications must be the result of a lack of funding, except that the Green Bay District is on par with the US spending average, again about six times that of world-leader China. It’s a pathetic mess and representative of 98,000 other public schools from Maine to California. They’re not getting any better. It’s for the best that they remain shuttered.

The 2019-2020 School Year Is Over

As an aside, have you noticed the distinct lack of school shootings lately? It’s no coincidence and we may safely conclude that schools cause school shootings. According to CNN, I think we were averaging 5,000 incidents per day, with millions of deaths (maybe a slight exaggeration). Wu Flu is preventing school violence!

For the most part, the 2019-2020 school year is finished. Any plan to reopen greater society, if that’s possible, under President Trump’s first or second phase would inhibit a resumption of public schooling. Texas is the first state to begin the transition out of Corona Fever, but their schools are still closed for the term. And, sources are beginning to murmur that they may not return this fall. For instance, Mississippi’s Governor stated his public schools would remain closed “at least until the end of the semester.” That leaves open the possibility that they will remain closed afterward as well.  I’ve suspected this for over a month now, being dead serious when I write that America is in terminal decline. This “new normal” will be anything but, in all areas, including education. Dr. Diana Bishop, a Cobb County, Georgia teacher, agrees, though for different reasons. She frames her analysis in terms of antibody testing and vaccines. But, she worries that come Labor Day, the students will still be at home. She (wisely) counsels preparing now for continued online education. I imagine she and I have divergent ideas about the methodology, but her notion is sound.

It just so happens that online schooling, for certain students in certain subjects, has been proven to be every bit as effective as traditional in-class instruction. A recent Cornell University study made the connection, based on college students in Russia enrolled in STEM courses. “STEM” is Science Technology Engineering and Math. It’s all the rage in American K-12 schools at the moment, though as merely another in a never-ending series of fads. With the exception of Advanced Placement or joint-enrollment Calculus and Physics high school classes, American STEM studies are next to worthless. But, in Russia, they seem to work well. The Russians tend to be a little more serious and much more homogeneous than their American counterparts, but there is reason to believe a wider application is viable. We’re in the middle of discovering the extent of that application right now, ready or not, like it or not.

As Jeremy Lott notes in The American Spectator, We’re All Homeschoolers Now. He notes that, in the fall, many schools probably won’t be open, and/or many parents will decide to stick with a home-based approach to learning. This is utterly fantastic news! Two professors at UGA have termed what we have right now as “COVID-19 Schooling.” They correctly deride the “rat race” that our schools have become recently. Like Dr. Bishop, I think they place a little too much emphasis on the chest cold angle. However, they do see this as a great opportunity to re-evaluate what we’re doing, educationally, as a nation.

We have the time. Many school systems, in different states, are either effectively or completely finished for this academic year. Some Georgia schools are closing or preparing to wrap it up early. Out of all these links today, I lost a few. You’ll have to take my word on it, and it’s a systemic, nation-wide problem: several state school superintendents have admitted (damningly) that very little is being lost. They basically assert that the entire second half of the year is reserved for testing and remediation and that the kids, largely, learn nothing. Let that sink in for a second. And, all of the schools are now prepared to forego their precious (if irrelevant and wasteful) tests. An industry built more on the test than the teaching now leans on boards, governors, and legislators to cancel mandatory evaluations. The authorities have uniformly complied. Here is, in a nutshell, how it will all work out: The K-11 kids will be bumped a grade, regardless of performance (see the Augusta Chronicle link, above, for hints). Seniors will graduate, with or without testing, so long as they meet ridiculously low standards (with a very strong emphasis being placed on “helping” them do so). And colleges, many of them, are making entrance requirement adjustments - like waiving the SAT or ACT (yeah) - in order to keep their 2020 fall enrollments intact. Colleges themselves are unsure as to whether face-to-face instruction (or football) will resume this fall. A “gap year” for everyone?

One more fun aside: in 1930, as the last Great Depression got underway, tuition at Harvard was about $400 for a whole year. Plugging that into the CPI Inflation Machine turns the price into $6,400 some ninety years later. That’s an increase factor of sixteen. Of course, the actual tuition at Harvard is now over $50,000 per year (125 times greater than 1930). In 1930, the average income was $1,368; today it’s allegedly around $50,000, so… 

Back to the schools: They say a loss of smell is one of the first signs one might have the bug. If you smell fraud in all of this “education,” then you’re fit as a fiddle.

Concurrently, the systems continue their endless quests to “improve,” “turn around,” “bail-out,” etc. You might recall the infamous Atlanta Public Schools cheating criminal cases from a few years ago. They were only caught in Atlanta. Know that this is likely the case in the majority of school districts. Georgia, as I’ve ridiculed before, had a very special office dedicated to fixing the failed schools. Actually, it was dedicated to paying otherwise unemployable dregs and it collapsed under a cloud of malfeasance. But, at least they almost tried to try! They’re still trying in the same ways. And they’ll get the same results. 

Overall, for the rest of this school year, there are three things going on. First, as noted, they’re busy bumping kids along. I lost another link, which I previously blogged, I think, to a Dekalb county teacher who has had one single student log in since the school closed. Any bets on how many pass her class? Second, the schools are busy spending (or losing?) their cafeteria budgets. A staggering percentage of kids are on the federal free lunch rolls, based on criteria that do not necessarily require them to be nutritionally-challenged. School buses are ferrying lunches and breakfasts to neighborhoods coast to coast. They’re coordinating with larger feeding efforts as well. This, in the richest, most exceptional nation in history… Third, there are a select few students who are still LEARNING. 

Bluntly speaking, the advanced students are still advancing, while their fellows play video games and sleep in. AP classes and examinations proceed apace, although with COVID-related modifications. For most subjects, the exams this year will be shorter, easier, open-book, and online. At least they’re happening in some format.

The rest could easily be written off as a wasted effort. Let’s not do that. Rather, let’s use this chance to terminate the failed status quo and build something better - something at once more modern and traditional.

Building Something Better

Now, what exactly is that better something going to look like? If we’re honest, for most, the answer is going to be a sad return to the proven failure of the status quo. Washington Middle may be a radioactive dumpster fire, but at least it’s “free,” right? However, for those who still value trivial things like grammar, division, and indoor plumbing, there has to be an alternative.

Fortunately, any alternative - including doing absolutely nothing (as most schools and students are doing during Corona Semester) - is still better than what has become of the standard K-12 embarrassment our property taxes prop up. But, if you’re still looking for education, while we await Odoacer’s deposition, then there are still many good options. Some of these I listed out back in May of 2018. Since then I have modified some of my perspectives. All of the options I briefly presented, then, are still valid today. They will provide better results for less money as compared to average public spending per child. Some additional thoughts:

Homeschools, small community schools, and private parochial schools are the way to go. There is a way to combine some of their best elements. There is also a way to put existing good teachers to better use, doing what they love, and likely with higher pay. I think this could work under any “system,” to even include the un-schooled home approach. I tried to think of suitable employment for all of the admins and educrats, but we just don’t need that many ditch-diggers.

A kind of diversity that we always have but nobody likes to talk about is the diversity of ability. Any systematic approach to mass education should be multi-tiered to accommodate the various levels of inherent aptitude or expressed performance among the studentry. Not all are destined for or even made for collegiate rigors. Many find no benefit in even high school curricula. 

Speed it the hell up. For all levels, the relatively new idea that basic education should continue through twelve grades and up until the magic age of eighteen is misguided, artificial, wasteful and stupid. Some kids are essentially knowledge-proof after puberty. Others are ready for graduate school around the same time. Each child is an individual and should be educated accordingly.

My ideal school is Classical and Christian, or at least one or the other. Here, I urge a little caution if one selects a private academy, physical or computerized. There are a number of schools, including classical Latin schools, out there that sell themselves as “secular” but with a “Judeo-Christian” worldview. This is usually said to coincide with their Western tradition or something. Fallacy x Deception = Not Much Better Than The Publics. Truth cannot be founded upon antithetical definitions.

Instead, seek out real devotion to the West: Christianity, Europe, and the Greco-Roman legacy. I’ve previously mentioned Gregory’s Laws, which are most compatible with the precepts of Anthony Esolen and Dorothy Sayers. 

How do we meld all of this together? I’m still not 100% certain but I do know that just about anything works. Long have I considered starting a school. As I currently envision it, it would encompass the best of the afore-mentioned elements. However, I would not even think of starting it until the concept was fully pre-funded. By my calculations, that would mean $3-5 million and three years. Thoughts and well-wishes are plentiful, though donations are scarce. And, I could write many novels and columns innumerable in the same amount of time. I may keep you posted on that notion. Otherwise, while I continue to transition into what I call “extreme social distancing,” we’ll keep on keeping an eye on the affairs of the nation.