The following statement somehow showed up on my Twitter feed the other day: “Spontaneous reading happens for a few kids. The vast majority need (and all can benefit from) explicit instruction in phonics.”
It got under my skin, and not just because I personally had proven in the first grade that it is possible to be bad at phonics even if you already know how to read. It was her tone; that tone of sublime assurance on the point, which, further tweets revealed, is derived from “research” and “data” which demonstrate it to be true.
Many such “scientific” pronouncements have emanated from the educational establishment over the last hundred years or so. The fact that the proven truths of each generation are discovered by the next to be harmful folly never discourages the current crop of experts who are keen to impose their freshly-minted certainties on children. Their tone of cool authority carries a clear message to the rest of us: “We know how children learn. You don’t.”
So they explain it to us.
The “scientific consensus” about phonics, generated by a panel convened by the Bush administration and used to justify billions of dollars in government contracts awarded to Bush supporters in the textbook and testing industries, has been widely accepted as fact through the years of “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top,” so if history is any guide, its days are numbered. Any day now there will be new research which proves that direct phonics instruction to very young children is harmful, that it bewilders and dismays them and makes them hate reading (we all know that’s often true, so science may well discover it) — and millions of new textbooks, tests, and teacher guides will have to be purchased at taxpayer expense from the Bushes’ old friends at McGraw-Hill.
The problems with this process are many, but the one that I’d like to highlight is this: the available “data” that drives it is not, as a matter of fact, the “science of how people learn.” It is the “science of what happens to people in schools.”
This is when it occurred to me: people today do not even know what children are actually like. They only know what children are like in schools.
Schools as we know them have existed for a very short time historically: they are in themselves a vast social experiment. A lot of data are in at this point. One in four Americans does not know the earth revolves around the sun. Half of Americans don’t know that antibiotics can’t cure a virus. 45% of American high school graduates don’t know that the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. These aren’t things that are difficult to know. If the hypothesis is that universal compulsory schooling is the best way to to create an informed and critically literate citizenry, then anyone looking at the data with a clear eye would have to concede that the results are, at best, mixed.
On the other hand, virtually all white American settlers in the northeastern colonies at the time of the American Revolution could read, not because they had all been to school, and certainly not because they had all been tutored in phonics, which didn’t exist at the time.
Around the world, every day, millions and millions and millions of normal bright healthy children are labelled as failures in ways that damage them for life. And increasingly, those who cannot adapt to the artificial environment of school are diagnosed as brain-disordered and drugged.
It is in this context that we set out to research how human beings learn. But collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.
Since the Enlightenment, every generation of scientists has tended to fall into the fallacy that now we stand at the apex of human knowledge and understanding, that error has fallen away at our feet, and that now we “know” how things really are. Depending on the domain being studied, this intellectual hubris can yield results which are comical, awkward, destructive, or, when it comes to children, tragic. In the 1950’s scientists “knew” that baby formula was better for children than human milk, an absurdity which has been responsible for the deaths by diarrheal disease and malnutrition of millions of infants in the developing world. They “knew” that newborns, like animals, did not have sufficiently developed neural systems to feel pain, so they performed surgery on thousands of infants (and animals) without anesthesia. They “knew” that people learn as a consequence of positive or negative reinforcements for behavior rather than as a result of internal passions, drives, and preferences –- let alone as a result of a celestial river running through them –– so they persuaded an entire education system to train children like pigeons and rats, with incessant scrutiny and “feedback,” punishments and rewards.
Right now American phonics advocates are claiming that they “know” how children learn to read and how best to teach them. They know nothing of the kind. A key value in serious scientific inquiry is also a key value in every indigenous culture around the world: humility.
/pol/ continues to take open source intelligence to new heights.
The largely pro-Trump 4Chan internet message board has recently taken it upon themselves to help ICE agents catch and report illegals entering the United States.
The mostly pro-Trump 4Chan political page is using border webcams to help report illegal alien crossings.
As reported by /pol/’s News Network Twitter account, they just recently discovered that live streams of the US-Mexico border are available via http://blueservo.com/ . The website has become so popular that it has currently exceeded its bandwith at the time of writing this.
One 4Chan user suggested the Administration turn the live feeds into a “game” for users to help spot and report Illegals crossing, potentially earning points. The two screen shots attached to the original tweet purport to show 4Chan users catching would-be illegals in the act
Weaponized autists would take over the whole world in less than a week if someone convinced them it would make a good game.
If you thought the recent women’s march was bad…
US feminists are being one-upped by the vulgarity and blasphemy of the Argentine feminists. International Women’s Day was just marked in the US by encouraging women to protest “inequality” and stay home from work or otherwise shirk responsibilities, not by staging a “bloody fake abortion on a woman dressed as Virgin Mary.”
Feminists in pink masks pretended to commit an abortion on a woman dressed as the Virgin Mary outside a northern Argentina cathedral as part of an International Women’s Day protest last week…
Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, participants in an International Women’s Day march tried to set the city’s cathedral on fire. They attacked a lone man who held a Vatican flag and tried to defend the cathedral.
Or maybe those US feminists are still in the running:
At the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in January 2017, a protester carried a sign depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe as a bloody vagina.
Yet again these “ladies” show their priorities. How does insulting an important female holy figure further female “empowerment?” Perverting and insulting the image of the Virgin Mary doesn’t exactly translate into empowering or respecting women.
This is a very different type of I’m with her: Marine Le Pen as Joan of Arc. She gave a speech standing in front of a statue of St. Joan of Arc and inspired supporters to create images like this one:
Despite recent legal challenges (which illustrate France’s free speech problem), Marine Le Pen “remains in the lead in polling for the first round of the French presidential election, three points ahead of centrist Emmanuel Macron.” She’s certainly got the opposition scared.
French President Francois Hollande has admitted that “There is a threat” that she might actually win and that he would “do everything” in his power to stop her. He also vehemently opposes her desire to sever France from the EU: saying “it was his ‘last duty… to do everything to ensure that France is not convinced by such a plan’ of taking the country out of the EU.” First Brexit and now maybe Frexit?
Although The Spectator is no friend of Le Pen (saying her “victory would be the worst crisis for half a century”), they nevertheless had some interesting observations in their article: The French election is now Marine Le Pen vs a collapsing French establishment.
Is France on the brink of a political revolution? Already, four established candidates for the presidency — two former presidents and two former prime ministers — have backed out or been rejected by the voters, and another, François Fillon, is on the ropes. The campaign is being taken over by outsiders …What kind of shake-up might it be — socialist (the least likely), liberal with Macron or nationalist with Le Pen? Or can the outsiders still be beaten by an electoral system designed to keep them out of power? … the two-round ballot, designed in the 1820s to prevent hotheads … from winning elections. It gives voters and politicians a second chance, not so much to reconsider their own choices as to react against the choices of others. In the first round you vote for the person you want; in the second you vote against the person you fear.
This evolved historically into what was called ‘republican discipline’: in the first round there could be a range of competing candidates of all shades, but in the second round all loyal republicans, from the mildest liberal to the reddest communist, would vote for the candidate best placed to beat the enemy of the republic — usually a royalist or authoritarian nationalist. … The crucial question in this election is whether the republican reflex still operates. If not, Marine Le Pen could win.
France is the most anti-capitalist country in Europe. There are benefits. Many British people have happy memories of French hospitals, schools or trains. But one does not need very right-wing views to see the accumulating disadvantages. The highest taxes in the developed world, especially on businesses. Chronic unemployment, worst among the young and ethnic minorities. Slow growth, including among small companies afraid of the burden of regulation incurred by getting too big. Crumbling infrastructure. Anyone who arrives at the Gare du Nord must see that something is amiss. People in France do too, and have done for years. Even in the 1980s President Mitterrand lamented national ‘moroseness’. Bookshops have long been piled high with works by economists, politicians and academics warning that France was in accelerating decline. Young people emigrate, over 200,000 to London alone.
On top of this chronic malaise has come the tension between republican secularism and Islam, sparked off three decades ago by a row about girls wearing headscarves in a provincial secondary school. It is a fraught mixture of cultural difference, social deprivation and historic mistrust, but none can doubt its brooding presence, hugely inflamed by a series of terrorist attacks. Had I risked forgetting this, I would have been dramatically reminded a few weeks ago when in a quiet street in Paris I walked into a 25-man military patrol in full combat gear.
None of these observations is unique to France. Characteristic of France, however, is the seeming inability of the political system to do much about them, even over many years. Here we come back to the ‘stalemate society’ problem.
So is France in crisis? … many voters really have lost faith in the established parties and see change as coming from outside the system. The main embodiment of disillusion is Marine Le Pen. Her Front National continues to grow in rust-belt regions and those with high levels of immigration, largely by attracting disaffected working-class voters. It is probably France’s largest party, supported by nearly a third of the electorate.
Le Pen has laboured since taking over from her father in 2011 to convince voters that the Front National, though still radical, is no longer ‘anti-republican’, and indeed is the staunchest upholder of republican secularism against Islamic encroachment. The message is that voting for her is not a betrayal of the republican heritage so central to France’s self-image. She has added to her nationalist agenda vehement denunciation of the European Union as a foreign capitalist plot.
Le Pen will surely win through to the second round of the election, and it is quite possible that she will head the poll in the first round on 23 April… Brexit and Trump have created a sense that the unthinkable is possible, which could further weaken the taboo against voting for her. But it will mobilise her opponents too. I cannot believe that enough moderate voters will stay away from the second-round poll to let ‘the fascists’ win. ‘Republican discipline’ should still rally support for whoever polls best against Le Pen, which at the moment looks likely to be Macron.
Nevertheless, few now rule out a Le Pen victory completely, and if Macron’s campaign runs into serious trouble, all bets are off. Every new scandal or terrorist incident plays into her hands. If she did become president, France would face a genuine crisis, the worst for half a century. There would certainly be strikes and violent demonstrations by those who would see themselves as defending the republic against fascism. How she could form a viable government or win a majority in parliament is unclear. We would see a conflict between the Fifth Republic’s powerful president and its parliament under a constitutional system that one liberal critic has called dangerous even in the hands of a saint. The consequences for the euro, the EU, western security and Britain’s relations with one of its closest allies would be dire.
[above emphasis mine] — Sounds like the author is saying is that the establishment, pro-immigration, pro-globalization, pro-EU folks would throw a fit and try to sabotage her at every turn if she were to win the election. They would paint themselves as defenders of the innocent against “fascists.” Sounds familiar. Where have we seen that before?
The battle of the day is about government/leftist attempts to control speech (and just about everything else), but this is a symptom of their core mission to create (force-ably if necessary) the “perfect” society of their dreams — where everyone obeys their wishes. This desire to create their vision of “heaven on earth” comes with a hefty price. Even a cursory look at history paints a somber picture of experiments in utopianism; they tend to fail, lead to great human suffering and frequently high death tolls (of which people today are often ignorant). There’s a reason that depictions of these attempts in fiction, whether text or film, also end badly. Storytellers understand something about human nature that liberals cannot allow themselves to recognize: Eden was lost by the sin of our first parents and there’s no going back; human nature and our world are fallen, broken, incapable of perfection until the end of time. You cannot will Earth back to the state of an Eden.
The term Utopia, from the title of St. Thomas More’s influential book, has a bit of a double meaning even from its inception:
Derived from the Greek, that title means “no place”, but it hints at an alternative meaning: when the book was first published in 1516, it included a short poem claiming that the better world More described really was “Eutopie”, a “happy place”. It’s a paradox and a pun, playing on the British inability to distinguish between the pronunciation of the two terms, and it suggests that something’s not quite right. (The word “dystopia” seems to be a much later invention.) Is this paradise, whichever name you give it, unobtainable? That’s assuming the place really is meant to be a paradise in the first place.
[The] description of Utopia has meant different things to different readers. In the 19th century, it could be drawn on as a prototype for Communism. A historian interested in the Tudor period could draw satirical lines between Utopia and the disorderly London that More knew all too well in his capacity as one of the city’s undersheriffs (he once had to face down a rioting mob). A good Roman Catholic familiar with him primarily as Saint Thomas More (he was canonized in 1935) could point out how divorce, married priests and euthanasia might not fit that easily with their beliefs.
All of these approaches ought to make us question what we think is going on in the book, just as More’s contemporaries and fellow humanists were invited to do… there is also a fine tradition of Utopias going terribly wrong when people tried to put their ideals into practice… acting on a dream can sometimes land you in a nightmare.
Everyone who knows their political philosophy, knows that the main difference between conservatism and communism lies in utopianism – communism supports it, conservatism rejects it. The striving for utopia is old. No-one knows when it started, but the idea of the “perfect society on earth” has always had a strange appeal on humans. However, conservatives, being realists, reject utopianism: We don’t think we can great the perfect society. As a matter of fact, conservatives have always found utopianism – the idea that humans can turn the world into paradise – to be harmful…
Those who believe utopia to be possible are willing to do anything to achieve it. Let that sink in. Doesn’t it kind of make sense? If it is possible to create a perfect world, then we should do whatever it takes to achieve it. It’s basic economics really: The bigger the reward, the more work you’ll be able to put in to earn that reward. You may be willing to work 1 hour for say $25, but if someone wants you to work 4 hours, you want $100. Now, what if the reward is infinite? What if someone offered you an INFINITE amount of money? How many hours would you be willing to work, and what would you (not) be willing to do, to get that? The entire cost-benefit analysis gets screwed up, as the benefit is so big it can’t be measured – it’s infinite. And that, dear readers, is what communism offers – or claims to offer. If you believe in the promises of communism, then you’ll be willing to sacrifice anything to reach the “worker’s paradise” that is promised. Anything.
And that is why communism leads to totalitarianism. Think about it: Wouldn’t it be OK to restrict freedom of speech a little, if it led to paradise? Sure it would – I mean, you get paradise in return, of course it’s worth it. And wouldn’t it be OK to do away with a few dissenters, who might otherwise threaten the coming paradise society? Sure, can’t let them stand in the way. Oh, and what if you had to do away with a little bit of material wealth, just temporarily for a while, just so we can be happily ever after? No problem.
The focus on paradise allows the government to infringe on basic democratic rights – “just give up your rights and paradise will be just around the corner”.
Now suppose someone said “Give up your right to vote and the economy will grow 2 % faster”, or “Give up your right to vote and unemployment will be cut in half” – you probably wouldn’t agree to it. Why? Because now suddenly, the benefit isn’t infinite anymore – it’s measurable. Once goals become measurable, people become less willing to give up essential freedoms, and they begin to ponder other ways of reaching these measurable goals (maybe we could just cut down on regulation to reduce unemployment?). However, with immeasurable, infinite benefits, that isn’t nearly as easy. Utopianism is blinding. It makes us ignore our rights and instincts. Anything can be done in the name of paradise. Those on the far-left like to claim that the fact that every communist country that’s ever existed has been a dictatorship, is just a coincidence. Or that it’s a result of external factors. Or that those weren’t “real” communist countries. And, even among more moderate leftists, you will hear things like “communism was a good idea, applied badly”, or “the concept is good, the leaders were evil”. That to me shows that they just don’t get it – communism is not a good idea, because it assumes that every negative human trait (you know, those traits that makes paradise on earth an impossibility) was caused by capitalism and can be removed. It assumes that humans really have a perfect “core” that has been corrupted by a bad economic system. Therefore, all we need is a state that can remove these traits, and we will get a perfect world – a utopia. Now if this means re-education camps, sending dissidents to Siberia and just in general oppressing free thought – so be it. This flawed assumption – that humans are good – is what makes communism flawed. The totalitarian governments and genocides are just natural consequences.
The Regressive Left is at it again: trying to squelch free speech. Do they ever stop? They’re probably working around the clock to shut up everyone who disagrees. Who’d have thought we’d be rooting for the trolls over “polite society”? We’ll take the internet’s free — even though sometimes “impolite” or even downright nasty — speech over a sanitized, leftist-policed version — if that’s what we wanted, we’d just watch the MSM exclusively. Thinking people can sift through the internet’s chafe to get to the wheat. We’re not interested in having predigested propaganda served up to us. It’s not surprising that the Media are the first ones calling this developing tech a good thing.
Have these people never seen/read any dystopian stories where an A.I.is developed to control people in some way? Yeah, that always ends well. Any time humans try to forcefully create Utopia by taking away the freedom of others, people suffer greatly. Even in the novel from which the term is taken, it quickly becomes apparent that Utopia is really what we’d call today a dystopian society.
Here’s hoping that if this thing ever gets off the ground there will be ways around it and/or a legion of hackers to destroy it. War on Comments: Google Built an A.I. to Censor the Web, And the Media Is Celebrating:
“What if technology could help improve conversations online?”
That’s the lowkey Orwellian message that greets visitors to the website of Perspective, Google’s new AI system for detecting (and potentially deleting, hiding, or burying) “toxic” comments on the web.
Perspective is still in early days of development, but in the future, you may have to adjust your speech in order to satisfy the lofty standards of Google. Otherwise, the company’s faceless AI might just have to “improve” you. Where’s Sarah Connor when you need her?
The good news is that, for now at least, Perspective is about as effective as C-3PO with a lisp. Software engineer and columnist David Auerbach has found the program woefully inept at sorting “toxic” comments from ordinary ones. Because the AI currently focuses on words rather than meanings, inoffensive comments like, “Rape is a horrible crime,” or, “few Muslims are a terrorist threat,” were assigned “toxicity” ratings of over 75 percent.
Of course, even if Perspective could successfully sort “toxic” comments from innocuous ones, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be deleted or buried. According to the project’s homepage, the system performs no function other than detection.
But statements from the project’s developers make it clear that censorship is the end goal. Indeed, the system seems to have been developed to augment the left’s ongoing war on comments sections. The software was initially made available just to organizations that are part of Google’s Digital News Initiative, including the BBC, The Financial Times, and The Guardian, which promptly began testing the software to moderate their comments sections.
“News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content, but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labour and time,” says Jared Cohen, president of Jigsaw, the Google social incubator that built the tool. “As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether. But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want.”
Google couldn’t be clearer: it’s a censorship bot. And just because it’s currently limited to news sites and comments sections doesn’t mean it won’t be rolled out to social networks and the rest of the web. Twitter, which just introduced yet another system to punish users who hurt celebrities’ feelings, would probably love to get their hands on a working version of Perspective.
Twitter already has a tremendous depth of data on its users, including gender, location, and personal interests. Imagine that data, combined with an AI tool designed to pinpoint inconvenient content, in the hands of a CEO who has done little to conceal his political biases.
The idea of an all-powerful Google robot watching over us all, making sure our speech is “improved,” has greatly excited mainstream media…
Target is learning this the hard way — nix that; they actually aren’t learning anything. But it’s obvious to the rest of us that putting transgenders over consumers might not be the wisest business move. I don’t think even the whole LGBTetc. folks can buy enough crap to keep Target going if everyone else drops them. Besides, Target is just a slightly nicer Walmart with much higher prices. Who needs ’em? Target Shares Drop 25 Points:
Just when you thought the news for Target couldn’t get any worse, it did. Turns out, families aren’t the only ones dumping the retailer — so are shareholders. In a report that’s “rattling Wall Street,” Target’s worst fears for the fourth quarter came true, with a stunning 43 percent decline in earnings. For the LGBT ally, the bleak outlook won’t improve any time soon. Already, executives are warning of an “awful 2017,” thanks to the unpopular decision to turn fitting rooms and restrooms into a predator’s paradise.
Now that the stores are gender-free, they’re also becoming profit-free! When the numbers hit the wire, the Minneapolis-based company watched stocks take another tumble, dropping 13 percent before today’s opening bell. CEO Brian Cornell, who saw shares freefall from more than $84 to $59 in a matter of months, has tried everything to revive sales — except the most obvious: nixing its unsafe bathroom and changing room policy. As usual, Cornell tried to deflect attention from the boycott and claimed, “Our fourth quarter results reflect the impact of rapidly-changing consumer behavior, which drove very strong digital growth but unexpected softness in our stores.”
That’s interesting, since this “rapidly-changing consumer behavior” hasn’t affected Wal-Mart at all. In fact, sales at the retailer’s biggest competitor are climbing — and fast. Although Target’s team may be in denial about the boycott’s impact (at least publicly), investors agree “it’s at least part of the reason Target’s top line has been dwindling for most of the past few quarters.” And based on the latest polling, it’s no wonder. Americans by a two-to-one margin oppose extremism like Target’s. They overwhelmingly support common-sense bathroom, shower, and locker room policies that put safety and privacy first. Still, groups like the NCAA and NBA continue to thumb their nose at consumers and chase agendas that show just how far outside the mainstream they are. And what has it gotten them? A decline in respect — and more importantly, revenue.
There’s been a lot of fussing lately about President Trump’s treatment of the media. Oh my, he’s been “combative” and called them “fake news!” He’s called them out on their negative reporting and spinning of what he says and does — how dare he?! But as PragerU put it, “Americans should prefer a president who fights with the press than gets in bed with it.”
A year ago (Jan. 3, 2016), the New York Times reported on Obama’s “off-record” meetings with journalists in Calculated Candor Inside Obama’s Off-the-Record Briefings:
What none of the journalists told readers, because they had promised the White House that they would not, was that their attempts to portray the president’s intentions had followed a lengthy and secret meeting with Mr. Obama the day he delivered the speech.
Technically off the record, the president’s extended conversation in the Roosevelt Room that afternoon with 18 prominent columnists was part of a White House tradition aimed at influencing Washington thought leaders without leaving fingerprints — and without fear that an offhand comment from the commander in chief would spark the latest social media firestorm.
These presidential briefings are “a way for people to be able to set aside the urgency of supplying the latest quote from the president of the United States and sit back and listen to the broader argument,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. He declined to comment on the participants or the content of the discussions.
Mr. Earnest said the unannounced sessions with the president allowed Mr. Obama to speak more candidly than he can in public, especially about issues that defy easy answers. Columnists who have attended one of the more than a dozen private meetings with the president in the last seven years are directed not to quote him, disclose what was discussed or use the information they gleaned in further reporting. The attendees are not allowed to even acknowledge that the discussion took place.
But those restrictions, if followed literally, would serve little purpose for the president and his aides, who are eager to make sure his views are written about with what they consider the proper depth and context.
And so the most Washington of games goes on: Columnists, including several who write for The New York Times, get to describe the president’s thinking with confidence and authority, while Mr. Obama can hold forth at length with deniability. The White House holds far fewer private presidential briefings for news reporters who cover the White House.
The current White House is not unique in using secret presidential face time to try to influence coverage. Previous presidents of both parties regularly invited columnists to the White House for off-the-record sessions. But Mr. Obama is the first president to publish White House visitor logs that document who attends the discussions. It is now possible to match up the columnist briefings with the columns that result.
Liberal-leaning columnists from newspapers tend to dominate at Mr. Obama’s secret sessions, but the White House has invited some new-media journalists, and prominent conservatives have attended as well. In 2013, Mr. Obama invited five conservatives to a Roosevelt Room discussion.
The historical context supports the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to uphold individual gun ownership. Two thirds of Americans agree.