Yesterday: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Tomorrow: Witch Hunts, Past and Present
Book: The Bubble Boys: How Mistaken Educational Ideals and Practices are Causing a Warped Social Fabric
Okay so I must say I haven’t been this excited in a long time, because I haven’t bought books this interesting in a long time. Last night I took the chance to buy two books, The Baseball Trust, about the legal course that led to baseball’s antitrust exemption, and Thomas Becket, a biography of the priest that I’d wanted for a while. Got them for less than $20 total, which is less than the price of one movie for two people or two movies for one person, from the History Book Club (www.historybookclub.com). A real education is, after all, relatively cheap, and certainly much cheaper than one through the modern school system. The other one I thought about getting, but which will have to wait until next time, is Holy Sh*t, a history of swearing. Really, that would have been cool….
Now, secondly, I want to direct my readers’ attention to a great article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Amanda Ripley about Kim Ki-Hoon, a $4,000,000 a year teacher in South Korea. The South Korean market provides smaller educational facilities in addition to schools, where teachers do not have to be credentialed and where the only factor determining a teacher’s pay is his skill level and success as a teacher. This in essence allows for more innovation and the development of newer, more effective methods of teaching than does the public school. Teachers are assessed based on surveys given to students, most of which ask about the teacher’s passion, preparation, and work ethic. Mr. Kim doesn’t do that much live lecturing anymore–he writes things and creates videos, which allows him to leverage what lectures he does give–and he is very hard-working. This is not altogether dissimilar from what I am trying to present, and I would ask that you give careful consideration to what I am saying. Parents feel that the more they invest in their kids’ education, the better the results, and there is strong grounds to believe this is the correct approach.
As for the actual bulk of this post, I’ll do it briefly. I love John C. Calhoun’s Disquisition on Government. It is a short 85 pages or so, and reads quickly. Calhoun, as you may know, was the leader of the radical South, but up to a point he was very moderate; only when Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren brought in the new democracy of the 1830s and 1840s did he become radicalized, resorting to extreme tactics such as the Nullification Act. Prior to this he was a War Hawk (a term for the supporters of the War of 1812) and a supporter of the American System. Calhoun’s political theory is based upon a strong belief that pure majority rule in fact creates a despotism, not a constitutional government, and he brings into view as an alternative what he calls the “concurrent majority”, which is a combination of a plurality of interests that makes compromises to win support for policies favoring each one. To Calhoun’s eye–and this is 100% correct, by the way–the Constitution of the United States, far from sponsoring a pure democracy, instead deliberately set out to protect political minorities from any overweening majority.
It is worth noting that Richard Hofstadter, the great political scientist of the post-WWII era, believed that Calhoun’s concept of a “political minority” did not include dissent in its modern form. This is partially true, but not fully true. It certainly does not include conscientious objectors from the military, homosexuals, racial minorities as protected classes, or flag burners; in Hofstadter’s words, Calhoun did not care about those who express “unorthodox opinions”. That’s where I see him as overgeneralizing. Calhoun’s minorities did have the right to voice their objections, as did the legendary John Randolph of Roanoke, and they were expected to exercise it. Randolph was anything but orthodox. And while it is true that, in Hofstadter’s eyes, Calhoun was far more concerned with propertied interests, there is much to be said for this point of view. Those who do not have a stake in society and its good governance–those who do not have property to protect–are far less capable of making informed, long-term decisions such as voting requires. This is one of the fatal flaws of democracy. It is why there is something so wrong with the Athenian grab at Sicily, and it is why there is something so wrong with the US welfare state today.
I’ll let you form your own opinions. I’m at my Mom’s house and we have a severe cat problem. They’re everywhere, and should I not pay one enough attention I will get struck and/or bitten.
Until tomorrow, then, CIAO!