Rules By Which a Free Republic May Be Reduced To a Socialist One

Despite the scorn leveled at it by the elite mainstream, the Tea Party movement has illustrated something significant about America: we’re fed up with the status quo and its increasing power grabs.  In the last few years, not only have there been Tea Party protests, we’ve also had a popular political tract called Common Sense, and groups calling themselves Sons of Liberty are growing.  The fact that there are so many new things inspired by that volatile time in our history should be sobering for all of us. 

I’d like to offer a humble contribution to this trend. 

On September 11, 1773–the year of the Boston Tea Party–Benjamin Franklin published a satire of England’s poor management of the colonies, presented as twenty pieces of humorous advice for getting rid of them: “Rules By Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced To a Small One.”  Below, I’ve adapted Franklin’s text to include references to current problems.  The scary thing is, I didn’t need to change or add very much at all.  Most of Franklin’s scathing indictment applies just as well to today’s American government as it did to King George’s administration in 1773. 

Make of it what you will, but the fact that Franklin can be so easily adapted to the Tea Party’s concerns should also be very sobering to all of us. 

“Rules By Which a Free Republic May Be Reduced To a Socialist One”

The Founding Fathers accomplished this, that tho’ they were not perfect, they could make a federalist republic out of a chaotic confederacy of former colonies that had been ruled by fascist autocrats. The Science that I, a modern Simpleton, am about to communicate is the very reverse.

I address myself to all Ministers who have the Management of the American Republic, which from its very Freedom is become difficult to govern, because the Degree of its Freedom leaves no Room for Control.

I. In the first Place, Gentlemen, you are to consider, that a free Republic, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges. Turn your Attention therefore first to your remotest States (those on your coasts, like New York, California, &c); that as you deprive them of Freedom, the interior Heartland may follow in Order.

II. That the Possibility of this Control may come to pass, take special Care the interior States are never respected in your public discourse, that they do not enjoy the same common Dignity, the same Privileges in Debate, and that they are governed by severer Political Correctness, all of your enacting, without allowing them any Share in the Choice of the Rules. By carefully making and preserving such Distinctions, you will (to keep to my Simile of the Cake) act like a wise Gingerbread Baker, who, to facilitate a Destruction, cuts his Dough half through in those Places, where, when bak’d, he would have it broken to Pieces.

III.These Freedoms have perhaps been acquired at the sole Expence of the our Ancestors and Military, without the Aid of the Mother Government. If this should happen to increase the People’s Strength by their growing Numbers ready to join in her Wars, and her Commerce by their growing Demand for her Manufactures, they may probably suppose some Merit in this, and that it entitles them to some Favour; you are therefore to forget it all, or resent it as if they had done you Injury. If they happen to be zealous Whigs, Friends of Liberty, Conservatives, or (worst of all) Tea Partiers, nurtur’d in Revolution Principles, remember all that to their Prejudice, and contrive to punish it: For such Principles, after a Revolution is thoroughly established, are of no more Use, they are even odious and abominable.

IV. However peaceably your Citizens have submitted to your Government, you are to suppose them always inclined to revolt, and treat them accordingly. Smear and restrict their Second Amendment rights, and be ever Hostile to those who assert these Rights. By this Means, like the Husband who uses his Wife ill from Suspicion, you may in Time convert your Suspicions into Realities.

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Census Takers In Ancient Rome?

Teaching Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar this month reminded me of the current brouhaha over the supposed intrusiveness of the 2010 federal census.  In Act III, Scene 3, a minor character runs afoul of an angry mob that has been whipped up to a homicidal frenzy by the Machiavellian machinations of Marc Antony.  In the following confrontation, the rowdy gang’s aggressive questioning sounded like something right out of some characterizations of how this year’s census will work:

SCENE III. A street.

 

Enter CINNA the poet

CINNA THE POET

I dreamt to-night that I did feast with Caesar,

And things unlucky charge my fantasy:

I have no will to wander forth of doors,

Yet something leads me forth.

 

Enter Citizens

First Citizen: What is your name?

 

Second Citizen: Whither are you going?

 

Third Citizen: Where do you dwell?

 

Fourth Citizen: Are you a married man or a bachelor?

 

Second Citizen: Answer every man directly.

 

First Citizen: Ay, and briefly.

 

Fourth Citizen: Ay, and wisely.

 

Third Citizen: Ay, and truly, you were best.

Of course, Cinna cooperates and ends up beaten to death, anyway, so perhaps this is less a satire and more a cautionary tale…

Is Harry Reid Secretly A Conservative Saboteur?

I think I finally get it. I understand why Harry Reid is pushing so aggressively for this health care reform.

Remember Atlas Shrugged? Besides John Galt, the capitalist superman recruiting strikers behind the scenes, another freedom fighter was Francisco D’Anconia, who paraded as a worthless playboy so nobody would suspect him of helping to sabotage the whole economic system, overloading it and destabilizing it from within.

Maybe that’s what Reid is doing. As D’Anconia was pretending to be a thoughtless hedonist, Reid might just be pretending to be a clueless elitist. Perhaps Reid is actually a conservative and this is his way of destroying the corrupt, bloated, ineffective machinery of government that progressives have built up over the last century: he’s going to put so much weight on the shaky framework that liberals have constructed that it will finally have to collapse in on itself, exposing the whole thing as a scam and allowing us to start over.

Think about it: if a Randian hero were working undercover to subvert our broken system, a la D’Anconia, wouldn’t this health care bill be exactly the way to do it? Wouldn’t Harry Reid be in the perfect position to throw a great big wrench in the gears?

Maybe Reid knows exactly what he’s doing. Maybe–just maybe–he’s championing a disastrously bad work of legislation on purpose.

Brilliant.

And, Senator, if this is actually true and I’ve just blown your cover…sorry.

The Great Grade Bailout

There is a great inequity in justice in our public school systems.  I refer, of course, to the fact that some students have higher grades than others.  This can only be the result of institutional disenfranchisement, and must be corrected by government intervention.  Besides, our nation’s future faces catastrophic academic failure if we don’t artificially prop it up now.

By which I mean, the failing students need a bailout.

All of those kids who are only half as likely to do any kind of studying or homework as they are to even show up at all will be granted a special dispensation from the Department of Education, something in the neighborhood of, say, 800 billion points.  (Though, what with corruption, unforeseen needs, and poor management, that total will likely exceed a trillion points.)

So every slacker who sat there and chose to finish a class with a 2% grade will now get to graduate, which is perfectly fair.  Uncle Sam will guarantee the success of every student in America.  After all, what with the obesity epidemic, most American kids are “too big to fail.”

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America’s Finances Stabilize: USA Wins Lottery, Gets Inheritance, Sells Stuff On E-Bay

SATIRE

In the face of staggering, record-breaking trillion-dollar deficits for this year and the foreseeable future, America was understandably worried about its financial future.  Luckily, several unexpected windfalls came up and helped America break even.

“I was all sweating about these bills I got coming up, you know, infrastructure and social security and stuff, but then I got this call and it was like a miracle…I totally won the lottery!” an elated United States told the Associated Press yesterday. 

The fiscally irresponsible country will get $10 billion as a reward for picking the right ticket in a scratch-off lotto from a nearby gas station.  The international superpower will, however, have to share their winnings with two housewives from Omaha, who also picked the winning numbers by playing their children’s birthdays. 

Of course, ten billion dollars hardly covers the debt that America, like many impulsive, short-sighted consumers, has racked up in recent times.  The calls from bill collectors were still troubling the distraught democracy, threatening to repossess the volunteer military and bicameral legislature that it got at the mall when the economy was riding high, but against all odds, the U.S. got another fortuitous surprise.

“My great aunt Agatha died!” said America in the same interview.  Trying not to sound too excited about the demise of a relative, it explained, “She wasn’t really close to anybody else in the family–she and Australia haven’t even spoken in, like, fifty years–but she wanted to leave me her life savings.  I guess she thought I had potential or something.”

Aunt Agatha’s will left a plum $50 billion to the spendthrift republic.  “But there’s a catch,” America said.  “She didn’t want me to blow it all on pork and stuff, so I can’t get it until I can show a balanced budget.” 

Such a task might sound daunting for a country that now throws out the word trillion the way it used to say million, but America now sounds more confident.  “I have a plan.  I’ve been saving up my old baseball cards for a rainy day, and I’m totally gonna sell them on E-Bay for, like, a hundred trillion bucks.  Dude, I’ve got a Daryl Strawberry rookie card.  Seriously.”

 

NOTE: The joke being, if our financial woes aren’t solved this way, then what exactly do we expect to happen?  Isn’t this actually the most realistic hope we have?  Also, I liked comparing America to a dumb kid who needs an adult to help it pay the rent, and this time’s the last time, honestly.  I had a really good interview at Burger King, so I’m totally gonna have a job next month!

SATIRE: Telegraph, Railroad, And Steamboat Companies Demand Government Bailout

Washington D.C., A Few Generations Ago–Leading executives from America’s major communications and transportation endeavors are converging on the floor of the Capitol today to plea for federal bailout money from Congress to prop up their flailing enterprises.

A spokesman for AT&T–American Telephone and Telegraph–laid out his case for receiving government assistance to the tune of, say, $14 billion.  “The telegraph industry is suffering a severe economic drought.  If the taxpayers don’t pony up and help us ensure the ongoing stability of the telegraph…the telegraph industry may collapse.  Do you realize what a catastrophic emergency that would be?!”

Representatives from Central Pacific Railroad and the Mississippi Delta Steamboat Company also made their case to elected officials for the critical need to immediately inject gobs of fluid funding into their bankrupt institutions.  “These are American jobs we’re talking about here, people,” they read from a prepared joint statement, getting emotional.  “America needs our businesses to continue operating, and to continue operating exactly the way they always have.  If Congress doesn’t approve a bailout for us, how many good, honest, hard working Americans will be permanently out of work?  After all, nothing could ever come along to replace those jobs.  Railroads and steamboats are all we’ll ever have.  And our stocks have dipped sharply recently.  C’mon, America!  We absolutely need to keep the railroad and steamboat stocks up.  Without them, the future will surely be a barren wasteland.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by several other major American conglomerations of industry.  In fact, when one Senator suggested that some businesses might get a bailout and others wouldn’t, a fistfight broke out between the officers of two of America’s most permanent pillars of stability: Horse and Buggy Franchises and Confederated Slave Holdings. 

 

NOTE: Obviously I wrote this in a hurry, not doing any of the research the idea deserves.  Please excuse the lack of rigorous historicity.  Still, I think the point is pretty clear.

SATIRE: Counterculture Vindicated In Wake Of Local Tragedy

ANYWHERE, U.S.A.–After yesterday’s terrible accident, the details of which will remain mysteriously vague in this report, observers were surprised to see hundreds of society’s hedonistic deviants spontaneously emerge as local heroes.  The scenes of chaos were greatly ameliorated by such visions of mercy as the regional university’s entire Department of Atheism, which immediately organized an ad-hoc counseling center and helped victims get in touch with loved ones, and a group of stoned teenage skateboarders who helped set up a triage and blood donation tent, themselves clamoring to be the first to donate.

Local video game enthusiast Ray Potakis, 24, dropped what he was doing to rush right out and join in the relief efforts.  “I was just surfing the Internet for some por…uh, portable water purifiers…for those starving kids in Africa, you know?…when I heard about the tragedy on the radio, and I put some pants on and went to volunteer to help.”

Another of America’s young who suddenly rose to the challenge of greatness when his community needed him was Jordan Jackson, 17, who described his response thusly: “I was chillin’ wit my boys when we saw what was goin’ on out the window.  We got in the car, turned up the Tupac, and went straight down there to see what we could do.”  Jackson and his friends ended up handing out blankets and water to children, then telling them fairy tales to keep them from going into shock. 

A representative of Def Jam Records quickly took credit for the sudden spurt of altruism from Generation Y.  “A quarter century of popular hip hop culture has produced millions of lives of carefully disciplined sacrifice, ready to put the needs of family and country first.  Continue reading

An Old Man Looks Back On The Obama Administration

“Grandpa, tell me again about the Hard Times.”

“Oh, Jimmy, I love telling you stories, but I just told you that one yesterday!”

“I know, Gramps, but that was just the same stuff they tell us at the new school–the constant experimenting, the violence, the confusion and chaos–but you were there.  Tell me what it was really like, please.”

Grandpa sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair as he sank into his comfortable chair by the window.  “The Hard Times?  You know, nobody thought of calling it that until it had been around for years.  The name first popped up on the underground web sites of traditionalists–‘the haters,’ most people called them at the time; people who ‘hated’ subversion, hedonism, socialism, who wouldn’t ‘tolerate’ the demands of others for radical, unprecedented change in the name of ‘fairness.’  The government took a cue from China and shut down most of those sites just as quickly as they shut down the talk radio shows those rebels started out on, but still, the resistance lingered.

“I was never a part of that resistance.  It wasn’t that I was too young to join in, but that I was too young to know that I should join in.  Especially when so many of my elders sanctioned that radicalism with their zealous endorsements, also all in the name of ‘progress.’  I was taken in by the idea of generations, centuries, of wrongdoing about to be undone by an earth-shattering revolutionary who would finally get everyone what they had been taught by the media their whole lives they deserved.  It was exciting, it felt righteous, it was this mass mob mentality that you just can’t understand unless you were part of it–totally convinced that the more you taunted and censored the ones you labelled the ‘enemy,’ the more just you were.  It was like a contest to see who could be coolest by being the most extreme.”

Grandpa paused for breath and rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, seeming to search for words to give his thoughts form.  His face looked lost.  “Good grief, how did we get so far that the majority of a country could fall for such a childish scheme and think we were saving the world?”

He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees, and when he didn’t speak for a minute, Jimmy tried to get him to continue with a question: “So President Obama was evil?”

Grandpa’s face instantly looked up.  “Evil?  Heavens, no.  Not ‘evil,’ just very, very wrong.  He genuinely thought he was doing the right things, there’s no doubt that he sincerely wanted to do the most good for the most people, with no ulterior motives for his own aggrandizement…but they say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  No, Obama wasn’t evil…but his policies had that effect.  And some of the people around him…yes, some of them were evil.

“They haven’t taught you in school yet about the law of unintended consequences.  That’s one of the very best reasons to be cautious when people want to change what has obviously worked for hundreds of years.  You never know what all the effects of a new action will be.  But in retrospect, I think we should have seen what would happen.  Yes, the chess pieces were all moved into place by 2008.  When the last of our defenses was removed, endgame was ready.

“As soon as Obama was elected, the marginalized anti-social goons came out of the woodwork.  Up until then, there were restraints on public conduct; the leftist fetishists almost reveled in being underdogs.  But the minute they sensed that, after forty years of seeping into the American consciousness, the reigns of power were theirs, what with the Unholy Trinity of Obama-Reid-Pelosi in power, they sprung the trap.

“By the end of the first year, bills fast tracked through the legislative and executive branches mandating that we would never fight another war for any reason, because all violence is always a tool of corporations to exploit peace lovers, that nobody would ever be able to be excluded from anything–especially marriage or citizenship–for any reason, because setting any criteria for anything is discrimination, and that’s an ugly word and always bad, and that everybody would always be able to call on the government to have the exact same quality of life that the most well off Americans could conceivably enjoy, because, again, anything less was clearly evidence of some kind of discrimination, and if ‘all men are created equal,’ then nobody should have to suffer anything that everybody doesn’t have to suffer.

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School Budget Priorities And A Satirical Analogy

So my school’s budget for this year was cut by six figures.  Other schools had even more cut than we did.  This trickles down to my English department, among other ways, in the form of getting far less paper for copies than we have had in the past, which was pretty meager to begin with.

Meanwhile, one of the several videos that every school district employee was forced to watch this week featured a custom built, three foot tall remote control bus with multiple moving accessories.  It helped to teach us, seriously, how not to get hit by a bus.  They can afford to waste our time with this kind of thing, but we can’t afford paper?! 

I responded to this outrageous farce on our school’s email bulletin board in my typical idiom: satire. 

 

In this election year, I know we’re all worried about our constant need to fill up on that supply that we need to function, especially since it’s getting much harder finacially to do so. Therefore, I want to offer this plan for our future…my Paper Plan.

 

 

First, we need to unlock our leaders’ stockpile. It’s time to dip into the Strategic Paper Reserve.

 

 

Second, we have no choice but to engage in offshore drilling. Studies have shown that areas off the coast of Florida are rich in crude paper, and we need to get to it before China does. We also need to start getting paper from our federal lands in Alaska. The caribou will just have to adapt; the Alaskan Paper Pipeline will be able to alleviate our shrinking paper supply as soon as 2025.

 

 

Third, we need to wean ourselves from our dependence on foreign paper. The terrorists in PPEC have had us on a leash long enough. Besides, they’re all in bed with the corporate fat cats in Big Paper who are getting rich off our desperation to have fuel for our copy machines to run smoothly.

 

 

Fourth, we need to find a new resource to replace paper completely. Research into alternatives like solar paper and wind turbine paper are promising, but we have to admit that hydroelectric paper just won’t work. It ends up either getting too soggy to use, or catches on fire.

 

 

Fifth, copy machines need to become more fuel efficient. Japanese engineers have perfected a smaller, hybrid model that combines a sheet of paper with creamed corn to get more material printed on each page. It’s the wave of the future. Sorry, but those cool Sport Utility Copy Machines are no longer in style.

 

Don’t forget to make sure the wheels on your copy machines are inflated properly. That alone could save us thousands of sheets of paper a year.

 

Regarding those several mandatory videos that each employee is subjected to (what a great use of our time as we try to prepare for teaching new students–and haven’t we been told by countless administrators that showing people videos is not an effective method of teaching?  Why use it to teach us something then?), the subjects covered included the following:

 

Anything that you say that any student chooses to feel offended by is an “aversive intervention” and will get you sued and fired (after endless paperwork), try not to spread disease by coming into contact with, quote, “blood and semen” (I swear I am not making this up), and, apparently, according to our intensive trainings this week, you’re actually not supposed to sleep with students.  Huh.  Well, glad they cleared that up.  No doubt that some pedophile saw that and cheerfully changed his mind.

 

Your tax dollars at work. 

 

Ten Best Atheist Arguments?

Presented here for your convenience, for the first time ever and after countless hours of painstaking research by eavesdropping on actual cafe conversations and Internet chat rooms, are the top ten reasons I overheard secular Americans give for dismissing faith.

Well, not really, but it sounds about right.

 

10. “If there truly is an infinitely powerful and all-knowing God, then why can’t I easily understand him right away? He may well be an omnipotent and eternal deity ruling over a universe larger and more complicated than the mortal mind could ever possibly envision, much less comprehend… but I do read The New York Times, you know.”

 

9. “Why are all Christians such closed-minded morons? Their attitude towards atheism is marked by perpetuating generalized misconceptions about honest seekers of truth like me… often in the form of pitifully sterile insults. They should celebrate those whose opinions differ from their own, like we do. Stupid Christians.”

 

8. “Completely unlike us, Christians never demand any more evidence for the validity of their belief than bandwagon appeals to common knowledge. Everybody knows this is true. How could anybody even entertain conclusions drawn about an opposing point of view from such ridiculous ignorance? Hypocrites!”

 

7. “And what about the Bible? If there is a God, reason dictates that the Bible should have compelling, dynamic theological and ethical innovations unlikely to be conceived by human beings alone. It should also offer strong circumstantial support for divine inspiration. Of course it does not. I know this because I heard somebody quote a verse from it once.”

 

6. “The Bible has been proven many times through scholarly critical analysis to be nothing more than a biased collection of fairy tales written for the sole purpose of subjecting the superstitious masses under a code of moral liberty and civil enlightenment. This conspiracy is what allows monsters like Mother Teresa to rule as the despicable despots they are, breaking the spirits of proactive altruists everywhere.”

 

5. “Why is there any degree of disorder and injustice in the world? It’s not like a perfectly black and white world would make the existence of God obvious, thus removing our crucial need to develop faith in God and would reduce us to mindless automatons forced into conformity!”

 

4. “The complex worldview that Christianity posits suggests that humanity is an intricate tapestry of interdependence working towards a fundamentally greater collective good. That selfishness cannot distract us from the more neutral, objective conclusion that life is simply a series of random events, the inevitable result of a physical system that developed completely by chance and that ends in death, rendering life ultimately pointless and devoid of any obligation to improve ourselves or the world in general. I know how ennobling this sounds, but it is merely a fact, unadulterated by any ulterior motive.”

 

3. “‘By their fruits you will know them?’ So has anyone ever abandoned a materially abundant lifestyle or altered behavior inconsistent with their beliefs because of religious conviction? Nobody that I know of! This is because religion is only a selfish delusion of convenience, not a vigorous and vital dimension of life whose empirical validity empowers adherents to make vastly positive personal change. Their wanton mental self-indulgence is starkly revealed when placed in contrast with those of us who so stoically bear the Spartan torch of atheism.”

 

2. “I read this in the correspondence of a European philosopher and scientist to his brother in 1895: ‘If there were in existence some Supreme Being, why has he then withheld from his own children that most natural of blessings, automated wheeled transportation? For, as any fool can see, such a marvel absolutely must be commensurate with the existence of God. If not for this insurmountable flaw, however, I would gladly become a Christian.’ This perfectly logical query was never satisfactorily addressed, and he died a happy atheist in 1948.”

 

1. “Clearly, belief in God amounts to no more than wishful thinking. Simply put, while those of us who accept atheism only do so after the most stringent open-minded research into every possibility, and then often reluctantly, those who embrace any faith-based belief system always do so blindly. The more they explain their opinion, the more they reveal their fundamental ignorance.”

 

Obama “Air” Conspiracy Revealed!

So a lot of conservatives have been making fun of Obama’s pre-Presidential directive requesting Americans to save gas by checking that their tires are properly inflated.  This may seem funny at first, but have we thought about the sinister motives behind this?

How does Obama stand to profit from telling us to use more air? 

“But air is free!” one might scoff.  Yes, but those air pumps at the gas station aren’t.  In fact, the little place down the road where I’ve filled my tires for years used to have a machine that charged a quarter.  Today, that place and most others like it charge a whole dollar.  That’s an inflation rate of 400%, people! 

Somebody’s getting fat off of the air dollars of struggling, working class Americans. 

Then, of course, there’s the ancillary equipment related to this endeavor: those air pressure gauges.  RNC operatives in Washington are giving those away as gags right now, but when the Obama administration jacks them up to fifty bucks a pop, you know who will be laughing then?

Big Air.  That’s right, America.  No more worries about Big Tobacco or Big Oil; Big Air is about to bankrupt us all as it makes Obama’s corrupt cronies in Washington even richer.  You don’t think he has connections that have some vested interest in the success of air?  They all breathe it, you know–him and his whole inner circle of good old boys!

And what about the increase in tire rotations this action will create?  Tire rotations are no walk in the park, friends; all automotive work is dangerous, and people will get hurt doing this dirty work.  How can Obama sleep at night knowing that he plans to send people’s cute little babies into the trenches to do the grunt work that will lubricate his plan, all while he kicks back in the White House dining room, quaffing his brandy and passing around the cigars?  No blood for air, Mr. Obama!

Hey, don’t call this baseless fear-mongering for political purposes.  I know, you liberals have never indulged in snide, sleazy smears about leaders making policy decisions for the benefit of shadowy sweetheart deals that have never been shown to have any merit even as theory, but just because you guys refuse to lower yourselves to such tactics because superficial coincidences in extended relationships present you with an opportunity to take cheap shots, doesn’t mean I won’t. 

More to come as we find documentation that will bust this libelous speculation wide open.

Letter: Tax Breaks For Good Parents

A shorter version of this letter was published in the Las Vegas Sun on Saturday, October 28, 2006.  It got universally positive feedback, including a hand written note of thanks from the superintendent.  Near the end, I say that my idea is tongue-in-cheek because it’s impractical: no doubt the law of unintended consequences would turn this into a circus of manipulation, intimidation, and blame.  Too bad.  In a better world, this idea would work just fine.

 

Dear Editor:
 
As the first quarter of the school year goes out not with a bang but a whimper, this frustrated educator wonders why. Indeed, teachers scrutinize and reform their methods far more often than you may realize.
 
We beat our heads against the wall trying to discover that magic detail that will turn our students into scholars. Is it curriculum? Scheduling?  But these and a thousand others have been endlessly honed! Only one thing has remained constant—apathetic parents.
 
It’s an old observation in teachers’ lounges across America that as society has grown less disciplined, children’s academic achievement has followed a parallel path.
 
Barring a wholesale overhaul of cultural mores, what are we to do to stem this tide of parents who model incompetence and get nothing else from their offspring? How could we actually work within the bloated, entitlement-minded bureaucracy that Joe Sixpack has abdicated his autonomy to and get his attention?
 
Here’s how: let’s give tax breaks and penalties based on children’s performance in school.
 
It’s easy: If your child gets an A one semester, you get a $100 tax credit. Perfect attendance, $50. And what about the cost for someone who has ten kids who always get straight A’s and never ditch school? God bless them. They’ve earned every dollar they get. They’re producing the kind of citizens this Republic needs to flourish.
 
But your kid failed two classes? Ooh, that’ll cost you $50. Skipped class ten times? Cough up a Franklin or two. Got suspended? Goodbye refund.
 
How is that fair? Think of it this way—why does public education exist?  It’s to ensure the future of the nation. And what better indicator is there that someone will be a benefit or burden to society in the future (via welfare, lost productivity, and crime) than performance in school?
 
Finally, parents who are doing their part could get some overdue recognition, and those who neglect to actually provide parenting might get a red flag to help them see their kids’ lives already going down the toilet.  Or at least they’ll pay for the mistakes they’re letting their children prepare to make in a needlessly wasted future.
 
Of course, this is all tongue-in-cheek.  The courts would choke on the glut of petty lawsuits from parents who want to sue their way out of having to pay for their children’s mistakes.  (And they would win—another reason why our schools are so weak: they’ve been neutered by such lawsuits.)
 
Even more distressing is that we even have these ideas.  Nobody wants schools checking up on parents!  But that leaves us where we are now—helplessly tweaking mundane details of education while the real power players, the parents, sit back and do nothing.

The Shocking Secret Truth About The Math CULT!

You’ve seen them.  They go around trying to corner you so they can tell you all about their religion.  They seem like such decent, ordinary people, and they certainly offer easy answers.  They’re math nerds.

And they’re idiots.  They’ll tell you all about numerators and denominators, but their strange theology goes far deeper than that.  After the professional proselytizers get you to agree that the most important things in life are the “first principles and ordinances of the gospel”–addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication–they’ll invite you to their Sunday services, where people who could be your own next-door neighbors will reverently delve into their sacred textbooks and study things like “algebra” and “geometry.”

But there are things they don’t tell you about until it’s too late.  They don’t tell you about…Imaginary numbers!  Binary numeral systems!  Differential calculus!

Clearly, they’re just making all this stuff up.  It even sounds made up.  The next time some guy at work asks if you’d like to come to a math class with him on Sunday, ask him if he knows that Euclid was a mysterious philosopher whose great “scriptural” book, Elements, doesn’t even account for all known forms of geometry.  Watch his head spin!  Ha!  That’ll show him!  Obviously this Euclid was a con artist just looking to make an easy buck and get girls.

Ask them to explain their doctrine of “algorithms” and chuckle softly in your superiority as they attempt to weave a web of mumbo-jumbo about ongoing discoveries and revelations.  Look, if they can’t give you a clear cut history of algorithms, then all this “simple arithmetic” stuff is pure bunk, too.  That just makes sense. 

Don’t even get me started on the ridiculous idea of “pi.”  C’mon, a number that goes on forever?  How gullible do you think we are?  I guess some of this nonsense offers comfort to people and has helped to control the masses, but it’s so dumb.  I’m not “repenting” for playing the lottery “despite the odds” or not balancing my checkbook or anything else just because of 3.1415…whatever. 

The truth is, most devout math nerds don’t know the unsavory details of their cult’s origins.  Those poor, deluded fools are wasting their time, little suspecting that it’s all a conspiracy that’s being covered up by the “Brethren” of the faculty at their main “temple”: M.I.T.  They know it’s all a lie, but they hide the proof so that nobody can find out if math is true or not on their own.

Your well meaning math friends might now try to explain that it’s just the opposite, that math teachers show you how to prove their claims on your own, and put them to constructive use in your own life.  They’ll throw out foggy psychobabble like “axiom” and “postulate” and “theorem,” but that’s all just more lies.  Math is based on blind faith!  It’s not like any of these high priest “mathematicians” ever produced a shred of real evidence for the validity of math.  What suckers.

**********************************

Note: this satire makes more sense if the reader is familiar with some of the breathtaking leaps in logic taken by glib critics of the LDS Church.  Brush up on the zaniness here

 

My Sarcastic Campaign For Superintendent

Looking through my journal this week, I found a printout of a letter that was printed in the January 20, 2000 issue of Las Vegas Weekly.  Checking their web site showed that issues that old are no longer online.  In the interest of preserving one of my first published letters, as well as adding some spunk to this droll little blog and ushering in summer vacation time in style, here it is.

First, some background.  In 2000, I was a senior in college and the Clark County School District, which had ballooned almost overnight into one of the largest in the nation, found itself without a superintendent.  Nobody around here was qualified or wanted to do it.  Seriously.  So a committee scoured the country looking for people.  Some of those seemed promising, but they dropped out of the running.  We ended up with a guy from California who ditched us a couple years ago for a textbook company.  His administration was, uh, less than universally loved.

Anyway, during the debacle of trying to give away a powerful job to somebody, anybody, I wrote in the following:

 

After months of standing by and doing nothing while our city’s educational establishment has been reduced to a quivering bowl of pink jelly, I’ve decided I must act!  I am shocked, even outraged, that this endless search for a new superintendent has produced so little satire, which it so richly deserves.  Accordingly, I am officially throwing my hat in the ring of candidates to be considered for the position.

Months of sitting idly by watching this committee has left me, like most Las Vegans, somewhere between morbidly offended and slightly bemused.  But fear not, for I shall accept my patriotic duty and save you from further embarrassment and costly ad campaigns. 

This process has become a bloated, pathetic farce, and nobody is more prepared to benefit from it than I am.  I volunteer to take the job that nobody wants; I will be superintendent of the Clark County School District.

Who am I?  I am an education major at UNLV.  How can I be qualified for this position, you ask?  I’m the most qualified candidate you’ve had so far!

1.  As a teacher-in-training, I’ve had literally weeks of experience being in the general vicinity of classrooms, which already puts me head and shoulders above most administrative professionals.  Also, my own career as a public school student is much more recent than any other candidate’s, giving me an edge in understanding the issues facing children today and in manipulating the public’s desire to have quirky young people in figurehead positions of authority.

2.  So critical to being an effective superintendent are the abilities of making yourself look good by doing whatever’s trendy in your field and by putting politics ahead of actual success.  I have had ample exposure to the best of the best doing just this.  I have spent the last four years at an American college.

3.  My college indoctrination has prepared me to be a quality leader in cutting edge curriculum and instruction: I can spout all the right buzzwords and quote all the fashionable experts.  Just listen to my mission statement: “Celebrate diversity and multicultural empowerment with a vision of inclusive awareness and raise test scores if there’s any time left over.”  As superintendent, I will spearhead dozens of pointless programs that will consistently disappoint everybody.  Will any other candidate make this bold promise?

4.  Much of the debate has centered on the salary issue.  Let me settle this right now: if chosen to be superintendent, I will sacrifice my entry-level wages as a teacher and work for a measly, piddling $100,000 a year, a mere fraction of what others have been offered.  No, don’t protest.  I’ll get by on bread and water.

5.  What about my career as a teacher?  After researching the superintendent’s position, I have found that he’s not actually required to do anything.  I will delegate paperwork to my army of underlings, make token appearances at social functions, and humbly continue my service as an educator of our youth if my golf schedule permits.

I can confidently assert that I am the best option as I appear to be the only person who’s actually applying for the job.  Let’s end this circus.  Choose me.  I’m a little bit better than nobody, and a whole lot better than the other yahoos you’ve looked at.  Please contact me anytime for a resume and an interview.

Eight and a half years later, I think this holds up pretty well!

“Required New Yorker Short Story Format”

I just got a rejection slip for this story in the mail today (the second rejection for this particular manuscript), but rather than send it out yet again, I’ll share it here.

I got the idea for this piece last Autumn when I read the quote used below to introduce it.  As I drafted the story, I intended it to be a rollicking, silly but of fun.  Looking back on it a bit later, it’s much more serious than I first thought…but still makes a good point.

 

“Required New Yorker Short Story Format”

 

“In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course; the holy grail of the young fiction writer)…. These stories felt show-offy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open…” –Stephen King, The Best American Short Stories 2007

 

“Dialogue that, without context, is intended to create an in media res effect, but only confuses the reader, though precocious readers are used to this and look forward to the background being fleshed out at some later point in the narrative, giving introductory sentence an appropriate air of contemplative gravitas.”

“Terse interrogative?”

Bombastic reply!”

Deceptively meandering description of the weather this time of year (and its implied resonant mood), and several nearby slice-of-life scenes, each more triumphantly obscure than the one before.

Allusions to John Stuart Mill, Too Much Coffee Man, and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Superfluous obscenity.

Bleak interaction between protagonist and colorful minor character. Random childhood memory. Under-punctuated transitions between several paragraphs of sparse prose juxtaposing minute observations of contemporary urban life with a condensed panorama of life’s essential absurdity.

Abortive burst of action; interior monologue meditates on frustration of even simple attempts to connect meaningfully with one’s ostensible community. Casual mention of socially deviant behavior and a scene concerning exotic food.

[insert dramatic line break here]

 

Character foil accosts protagonist and proceeds to launch a verbal fusillade rife with multi-syllabic sesquipedalianisms unlikely to actually be employed by someone who has just been established, via a dismal wardrobe metaphor, to be a suburban zombie. Stale middle-class existence tangentially judged and ironically criticized.

“Breezy dismissal of foil’s argument by means of muttering colloquial slang, possibly ‘whatever’ or even ‘OMG’,” said protagonist, with whom readers are meant to increasingly identify their own neuroses.

Fragment approximates postmodern stream-of-consciousness glimpse into protagonist’s soul. A word whose prefix creates a double-“o” is punctuated with an umlaut.

Onewordparagraph.

A series of narrative sketches advances plot to philosophical extremes, noticeably including the words “surreal,” “remonstrate,” and “ebulliently recondite.”

Auspicious reference to childhood memory from paragraph six. Sudden conclusion sans closure leaves reader successfully denying an emerging sense of self-imposed psychic constipation, and satisfied with a comfortable emptiness. Reader shivers upon turning page, looking for cartoons.