Is California Reckless and Irresponsible

I know I do a lot of griping about the drivers in California, but this time I’m going to change tracks just a bit. I’m going to grip about California drivers, of course, but I’m going to pull California road laws into the mix. First off, let me tell you the story that prompted this post:

My man and I were on the highway heading home from an awesome day of putt-putt, bumper boats and arcade games. He notice the motorcycle gang coming up behind us and pointed them out (mostly because he knows I have a fascination with bikes). I was checking out the bikes and noticing that this was a really large gang. Usually you’ll see maybe 15 or 20 guys cruisin’ together. This had to be at least 50 or 60, maybe more. It was obvious that these guys wanted to get by, but we were already going 70. When they got an opening about half the gang were able to pass, but the other half couldn’t get by. A little later there was another break. One of the guys went around, got in front of us and slammed on his breaks, slowing to around 50 to allow the rest of his buddies to pass us.

This biker was inches from us as he did that. He cut my man off to slow him down, putting his life in danger in the process. What bothers me the most about a scenario like this is the motorcycle laws here in California that emboldens people to pull a stunt like that. Motorcycles, by law, can drive between lanes where there is no lane. Much like pedestrians, if there is a wreck involving a car and a motorcycle, the car is automatically at fault unless it can be proved otherwise. These kinds of laws are extremely detrimental. They give a motorcycle driver a sense of invincibility. In reality, a motorcycle driver should be feeling just the opposite.

On a motorcycle, a person is at his/her most vulnerable on the road. Every turn, every acceleration…every decision…is life or death. To make laws that ensure that the people riding motorcycles don’t understand that is both reckless and irresponsible on the part of the state of California.

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Non-Aggression Principle?

I recently found a website, The Art of Not Being Governed, which claims to support the “Non-Aggression Principle. As I read through many of the articles on the website, I found that I agree with the base principles of most things on this website, but there was an underlying confrontational tone that continued to rub me the wrong way. For a group that advertises non-aggression, the site was wrought with aggressive phrases and confrontational overtones.

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I advocate homeschooling. I feel that the knowledge a child acquires in a comfortable environment from familiar and trustworthy sources in a fun and relaxed way will stay with that child easier and better than any knowledge a stranger tries to force on him/her in a strange and uncomfortable, sometimes hostile environment. Regardless of my feelings toward homeschooling, I found the article addressed to teachers confrontational and unnecessary. Teachers, such as myself, do not see ourselves as better than anyone else. Nor do we demand respect from anyone. Every teacher I know chose this profession to help children. There are many children who get lost in the crowd. They do not have loving parents who would do anything to see them succeed. Those children may not get the same quality of education as a child with the loving parents who teach him/her at home, but I still feel that every child deserves some chance.

As far as anarchy goes, the group should do a little research. History will clearly define what happens to anarchists. There is no such thing as a lack of government on a large scale. That is a pipe dream that can never truly happen. If your current government somehow dissolves, there will be chaos for a while. People will panic; many will take advantage of the situation through theft, looting, murder and other crimes because there would be no one to punish them. Eventually order would start to come about in the form of a person or group of people that would be stronger than the others. This person, or group of people, would begin calling the shots, and others would fall in line. In the end, you’d have a dictatorship. Throughout history, every period of anarchy or lack of government has been immediately followed by a dictatorship. Complete freedom sounds good on paper, but unfortunately most people are sheep, so its practical applications are quite limited.

I do think that despite the confrontational nature of the site, there were some good tips:

  1. Dig up your lawn and plant a garden (and check out Grow Food Not Lawns on Facebook, while you’re at it). If you’re renting, plant a container garden.
  2. Get to know your neighbors. Divided we are weak and afraid, together we look out for each other.
  3. Learn a useful skill.
  4. Enjoy your local farmers’ market.
  5. Try bartering for goods and services.
  6. Watch and read alternative news sources. Mainstream media is an insult to journalism and a mouthpiece for the state.
  7. Find like-minded friends to discuss and debate with.
  8. Be charitable and volunteer for causes you are passionate about.
  9. Start prepping for disaster. The less dependent you are on the government, the better. Have a “bug out bag” and a plan.
  10. Consider investing in gold, bitcoins, or other alternative currencies. Or, if not invest, at least use.
  11. Learn to debate without being a jerk. Be open to new ideas.
  12. Stop letting petty shit divide you from other people. Your color, gender, sexual orientation, and religion are just ways to keep you separated. The powers that be encourage this. Better to keep people at each others throats rather than focusing on the real issues.
  13. Parent peacefully. Teach the next generation about liberty, responsibility, and self ownership. Treat them as you would another human being, because that is what they are.
  14. Homeschool.
  15. Film the police whenever you see them. Badges should not grant extra privileges. Try to resolve conflict on your own. Become familiar with your civil rights.
  16. Just like all the creatures of Earth, being free is the natural way of things. Even though the government is obnoxiously large and invasive, it only truly effects a small portion of our every day. Treat them like the bullies they are. Refuse to be intimidated. Stand up for yourself and enjoy your life!

That last one still seems a little bit confrontational to me, but I do agree with it. I’m still not sure why this site rubbed me wrong. Like I said, I agree with most of the things on it. I guess I had a pretty strong emotional reaction to the way it was presented. In my opinion, you just can’t claim to be peaceful and non-aggressive, then go out and pick a fight.

The Illusion of Kowledge

One of my all time heroes, Steven Hawking, once said, “The enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” I’ve always found that statement to be both profound and fascinating. It makes perfect sense, though. Ignorance is simply the absence of knowledge. That absence can easily be filled with information, through research, study, experience, application or a host of other means. Now, not all information is sound. Just because one study came to a particular conclusion, doesn’t mean that conclusion is necessarily true. There are many factors that affect the information we take in, so we must be vigilant about screening the sources and understanding the value of the information we take in.

If a person is not so vigilant concerning his/her sources of information, s/he can fall victim to illusory knowledge. Being confident in the truth of false information can be catastrophic. This is often how studies get tainted in the first place. When the person conducting the study is already convinced of the outcome, s/he will unconsciously do things to ensure that result, thus tainting the entire study. It’s not a matter of ethics, it’s a matter of human nature. People see what they want to see. When they have a preexisting idea of what the results of their study or experiment will be, it is human nature to push the results in that direction.

Illusory knowledge can affect people on a more personal level. Knowledge passed down from generation to generation is often thought to be ancient wisdom. In some cases this is not true. For many years it was passed down in my family, and probably many others, that hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that kills germs. I was told as a child that the “fizzing” that occurs when the peroxide is applied to a cut is the solution “eating away” at the germs and bacteria. As an adult I’ve found that to be untrue. The hydrogen peroxide chemically reacts with human blood, destroying it. Applying the peroxide to cuts does nothing to kill germs, but it does kill blood cells. (Interesting to know if you ever need to get a blood stain out of something. Working in a kitchen for several years, this knowledge came in handy for me.)

How can illusory knowledge affect people in other ways? Well, the myth about hydrogen peroxide was passed down through generations of my family. If people are convinced of the accuracy of their false truths, they pass that false information down to their children. Once the children are convinced of its accuracy, they too, will pass it on. It’s a whirlwind of false truth and inaccuracy being passed on from generation to generation.

Why should we care if someone else is convinced of a lie? Whether we like it or not, humans are pack animals. We are part of a larger community in which these people who are convinced of lies have powerful positions–positions that often times affect our lives. My life, the lives of my children, my grandchildren and all of the people I love mean a lot to me. To think that our futures are in the hands of people who are delusional, who are convinced of lies, is frightening, at best. In my opinion, everyone should be concerned about putting their lives in the hands of people who pledge their lives and allegiance to  an imaginary friend with absolutely no evidence that such a being even exists.

What About Freedom

I have a lot to say, and now I have a little more time to say it. People who have read my blog have probably deduced by now that I have a lot of liberal views. I believe very strongly in the concept of freedom. Perhaps that comes from my study of US history (I did get my degree in that field), or maybe I just like the idea of being free. Our forefathers came to this country to escape religious persecution. Europe was being overrun by zealots who thought that everyone should think, feel and act exactly the same way. Once they got here, they went to great pains to set up a form of government that ensured that one branch would not retain too much power. The reason for this was to stave off corruption. They did not want the government to be able to force the people to do things against their better judgement. They purposely made the Constitution an evolutionary document with the understanding that times would change, and that the document would need to change with them. These were brilliant men who held to the belief that we should be wary of government and ever vigilant in our effort to educate and protect ourselves.

I find it ironic that that a mere two centuries later most people in this country look at this government as some sort of parent figure. Instead of being wary of the freedoms we are losing to the government, most people thank the government for its protection. My question is, what, exactly, is our government protecting us against? With each new freedom the government takes from us, the crime rates in this country either stay the same or go up. So is gun control and the “war on drugs” really protecting us from anything?

My answer to that question is, NO. What does the government really achieve by stripping freedoms from its citizens? First and foremost, it gets more complacent citizens. With less freedom, the citizens feel helpless and powerless. How can a powerless, weaponless republic fight back against such a formidable foe such as a well armed government? Well, they can’t, as long as they perceive themselves as powerless. Perception is a very important tool. People are never powerless, especially when they share the same goals.

Again, perception comes into play. By telling people that something is bad, hence, illegal, people begin to believe it. It does not matter whether or not it’s true, the fact that the law says so, means that we must treat it as fact. This concept is one of the most frustrating for me, as a parent. How do you explain the difference between fact and political law to a child? Just because something is law, doesn’t make it true, but you still have to treat it like it’s true or you will go to jail. It’s a bad, bad, concept, and one that doesn’t belong in a civilized society.

Then you have the effects these things have on our society as a whole. By creating superfluous laws and filling our jails with victimless “criminals,” the government creates ghettos and “rap sheets” for people who should not have them. The number of jails that have to be built to accommodate the outrageous number of superfluous, victimless crimes is absurd. The neighborhoods that are forced to house the jails almost immediately fall into disrepair, becoming what is commonly referred to as ghettos. Then you have the people. All it takes is for a kid to get caught with a joint at school. If s/he is 17 of older, that offense can be put on his/her permanent record and follow that child to every school intake interview and job interview s/he goes to for the rest of his/her life. That one incident could ensure that the child never gets a good job or into a good college. Because of one mistake, that child could end up dealing drugs on the street because s/he had no other options. In a free society, such a thing should NEVER happen.

I find it utterly appalling to know that our laws are set up to ensure that one mistake can ruin a child’s life. How many mistakes do our politicians make every day? Everyone makes mistakes, and no one should have to suffer so severely for it. We learn from our mistakes. It’s called being human.

In the end, our freedoms should be important to us. We should not watch them be systematically stripped away. With each freedom we lose, we lose a little of ourselves. With each invasion into our privacy, we lose a little of our dignity. Every time we let someone else take from us, we lose a little of who we are. It’s important to remember who we are and where we came from.

Let the Children Lead the Way

I have been teaching science to elementary aged children for a few weeks now. The curriculum for the classes remains constant from one to the next in each week, yet each individual class tends to be very different from the others. Why is that? I mean, the subject matter we’re covering is the same, the materials I’m using are the same, often times the order in which we cover it is even the same, yet each class is different.

The only thing that changes from one class to the next are the children in the class. Each child has different interests and different question s/he wants answered. By letting the children ask their questions and contribute their knowledge on the subject at hand, each class turns out very different from the others. Though the children are learning the same material, they are learning it in a different way…their way.

Each child, each person has his/her own way of absorbing knowledge. By sparking curiosity, then letting the questions come in, the information is revealed in a way that suits the child. When a curriculum is set up in such a way to shut down the questions, and douse that spark of curiosity, the children will learn nothing, or next to it.

The key to ensuring that our children learn to the best of their ability is to let the children lead the way. Our children want to learn, all we have to do, is let them.

The Game of Learning

How, exactly, do children learn? The most effective teacher is experience. As parents, we understand that we cannot have our children experience everything we want them to learn. First, many of those things are dangerous. Second, it simply isn’t practical. How many parents have the money to take their children all over the world to help them experience everything this planet has to offer. Not only do we not have the money, there isn’t enough time in our lifetimes to cover the information that way. So what other methods do we have?

Traditional schools have gone the route of textbooks and lectures. A few colorful pictures here and there along with the droning voice of an instructor telling the children about things that could be cool, if the children were given a reason to be interested in it. From there the children are expected to remember what the teacher said, write papers, take tests and be evaluated on how well they retain the droning voice of some anonymous teacher.

Some schools try to spice things up by adding some activities, either field trips, computer content or outdoor activities to go with the droning voice, but in the end, the curriculum is still the same, and the children are still subjected to the same kinds of pressures.

Is there a better way? Of course, there always is. Did you know that video games have been proven to Improve a vast array of skills? My biggest complaint concerning the use of video games in education is the fact that these video games are advertised as “educational.” Children have been conditioned from a young age, because of how our public school system is structured, to view education negatively. They see the learning process as grueling and boring, therefore if something is labeled as “educational,” they will automatically steer away from it, or predetermine that it is of poor quality.

Imagine an RPG (role playing game) where the child chooses to be an historical figure, traveling across geographically correct terrain to achieve an historically significant goal. His/her choices throughout the game would affect the details of the story, the things history cannot know. In the process they have to solve puzzles, calculate distances, read maps, find clues, and depending on the historical figure, possible engage in epic battles. This game would teach them math, cartography, history, geography and much more, all in the course of one game.

Of course, fictional characters can use real geography and still teach children. Illusion of Gaia was a game on the Super Nintendo that had several “real world” settings. As the children were playing the game, the names that sounded familiar to them sounded that way for a reason…because they were real!

Many other games utilize in depth puzzle and strategy  aspects that promote high end critical thinking and  analysis skills. That is almost a staple in games now days. To get from one area to another you have to solve the puzzle that blocks your path. In racing, fighting and shooting games, children’s reflexes are heightened. The more they play, the quicker and more observant of their surroundings they become. In those kinds of games, if you don’t know what is going on all around you, at all times, you will be eliminated. I find it interesting to note that some kids I’ve known could keep track of their score in their heads, to avoid having to look at the scoreboard. That’s some pretty neat math on the fly while under fire.

Video games, as they are, can be wonderful tools in helping our children learn, but if the video game industry were to realize the potential of this medium, and use it to that full potential, the sky is the limit. What we could teach out children would be endless. Of course, I’m sure that’s only wishful thinking. These guys only think with their pocketbooks. They have no idea if an idea like creating a full course educational video game would make money, because they aren’t willing to take that chance. What a shame…

Social Education

One of the main arguments I hear against the concept of educating children at home is the idea that they will be deprived of social interaction with their peers. I’d like to explore this a bit. What is the social interaction at a typical public school really like? In truth, there are a select few that enjoy free interaction with the peers of their choice without any issues. These are usually children who come from well-off families who are well established in the community. These children have no visible ailments to set them apart from the other children and they are all a part of a social click that passes judgment over other children who do not live up to their standard of perfection. This leads to a sense of power and bullying. From there you have a hierarchy of power among the students. Now, you’d think that the adults in the school would be at the top of the this power pyramid, but you’d be wrong. Ask the children on the lowest tiers and you’ll find that the people they are most afraid of are the popular kids who are bullying them. The concept of turning their terrorists in is so frightening, that some would rather hurt themselves or not go to school at all. They believe that that the school officials are simply unable to control the behavior of these children, and for the most part, they’re right.

So who are the children at the bottom of this pyramid. Any child who has a defining physical feature, like a birthmark, stutter or limp. Children who are new to the school are a prime target. Any child who has made a mistake, (is known to have gotten in trouble for shoplifting, a girl who is rumored to have had sex) is also a target. These things don’t need to be true, they are simply excuses to bully and push a child toward the bottom of the hierarchical pyramid.

Another huge drawback to the social aspect of public schools is the fact that they limit the social interaction to children of the same age.  They keep all of the children in one grade level together, while separating the grade levels from the each other. If children only learn to interact with children their own age, how will they react to children much younger than they are, or much older?

Isn’t homeschooling just as bad? It deprives a child of that social interaction completely, doesn’t it? Not necessarily. If done right, homeschooling will give a child the comfortable and stimulating environment s/he needs to learn as well as the opportunity to interact with other children.

One of my favorite homeschooling ideas is the homeschool group. Several parents come together to teach their children in a fun and productive way. The ages of the children do not matter because older children can help younger children grasp concepts in the process of learning new material. This also helps to broaden the children’s social scope and ability to interact.

Even without the group, there are many ways to bring social interaction into play. Homeschooling parents can schedule field trips to coincide with public school trips, as well as park outings. There are plenty of social clubs for children, such as Spiral Scouts, Boy/Girl Scouts, as well as many others.

When it comes down to it, the choice is either poor education and poor socialization or a proven higher quality education, and if you put the effort into it, higher quality socialization. I believe that every child is worth that effort.