Friday, July 31, 2009

Listening to the wind

Growing up in Arizona, especially in northeastern Arizona on the Colorado Plateau, you get a lot of opportunity to listen to the wind. The wind tells you a lot about what is happening around you and what might be coming. A wind from the south and east brings clouds and rain. A wind from the north and west comes only in the winter and brings cold and sometimes rain. Because of a huge stationary high pressure area over the Four Corners, winds blowing from the south and west seldom bring anything except hot, dry weather.

Since I was a lot younger and spending time outdoors on the Plateau, I have noticed that the wind patterns have changed. Not enough to notice from day to day, but over a year's time the clouds no longer move in the same directions and the weather is not so predictable. I used to watch the sky and could tell within a few minutes when the rain would begin, now it is not so easy. I used to watch the lightning over the White Mountains and now this is a rare event and not just because I no longer live up on the mountain.

Watching the country and our society, I see a shift in the way our country is drifting. It is just like the wind, the changes are mostly subtle and only noticeable over a long period of time, but just like the changes in the storm patterns on the Colorado Plateau, our country is fundamentally different than it used to be.

One marked change is that I notice that people have generally become entirely materialistic. They want the latest large screen TV, the latest, newest and most expensive gadget, car or phone. No one seems satisfied with what they have, they always want more, more food, more entertainment, more free time, more vacations. Almost no one lives a conservative life style, even young, newly married couples I know, want and take international cruises and trips to exotic locations. All people talk about at work, besides the latest illness or accident, is what they are going to purchase or where they are going for their next vacation. These are not wealthy people, but young married and unmarried people who are making an average or below salary.

Recently, I saw an announcement for a business expansion. The Chief Executive Officer extolled the virtues of their newly enlarged business with a "host of guest amenities, including flat-screen televisions" and "free valet drivers to park your car." The public was invited with their families for a free tour and light refreshments "so they can get acquainted with the new space first hand." You might imagine that this was a hotel or restaurant, no, this new expansion was a hospital emergency room! Just think about it, you are in the middle of having a heart attack and you think, I have to go to the new hospital because they have flat-screen televisions.

The fact that a hospital would even think it was necessary to have such advertisements is a clear indication of the change in our society. Who would have thought that I would choose my emergency room based on valet parking and light refreshments.

This attitude towards life is so materialistic as to be offensive. Nothing in the article says anything about the degree of care you might receive or the competency of the doctors, all that seems important to the hospital and probably to the general public, are the amenities. With all the current controversy over the rising cost of health care, maybe we need to see if emergency room patients really need flat-screen televisions.

We often look to a change in the wind as being beneficial. In this case the changes that are coming into our society are destructive and like the wind when it gets too strong, may end up destroying our society entirely.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is the "kiss-in" protesting?

Recent local news articles in the Salt Lake City Deseret News tell about a series of protests held by pro-homosexuals at or near The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters and Temple. The incidents have occurred, as reported, on private not public property.

These incidents could be viewed a highly local disturbance were it not for the overtones of religious persecution involved. Accounts of the incident leading up to the protests do not appear to differ much in the facts, but the characterization of the facts by the gay activists is passing into the propaganda stage.

The supposed treatment of the two gay men cited for trespassing on July 9th, is obviously not the issue. To give some perspective to the incident it is important to know that Temple Square in Salt Lake City attracts some 3 million to 5 million visitors a year, Temple Square is the most popular tourist attraction in Utah. By comparison, Utah's five National ParksZion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches— had a combined total of 5.3 million visitors in 2005. The tourist traffic on Temple Square is also more than that of the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. Wikipedia.

With all these people every year, you can imagine that the behavior of the two men must have been out of the ordinary because over the years I have seen some pretty strange people and incidents in downtown Salt Lake City. But, having been to Temple Square many, many times, I can say that the security is almost invisible.

So why the protests? It goes without saying that if these same people were protesting almost any other establishment their actions would not be tolerated. It is only because they know that in Salt Lake and with the LDS Church, they will not be publicly excoriated that they will protest at all. It is "OK" to blatantly attack the LDS Church's sacred belief's at the center of the religion because, after all, they are just "Mormons" and it is alright to turn the arrest of two drunks into a national incident because the Mormons do not accept the Gay Rights lifestyle or agenda. At its heart, the protests are anti-religious. Their ire is directed at the Church's beliefs. What happens to freedom of religion if Gay Rights activists can attack a Church for its beliefs?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Perhaps it is a time to reflect

Think about the words to this familiar song:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.
How much of what Mrs. Howe wrote would be politically acceptable today?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Failure of Morality

In a descriptive sense, morality derives from either a written or unwritten code of conduct which is held by the society to be authoritative as to what is "right" or acceptable or "wrong" and therefore unacceptable. Descriptive morality is usually based on some ideal code of conduct, one which would be espoused in preference to alternatives by all rational people. Wikipedia.

No society can exist without morality. Because we live together and interact, we must have some predictive norm in our interactions. The Book of Mormon describes, in graphic detail, the collapse of a society that abandoned its moral structure. Quoting Third Nephi, Chapter 7:
2 And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land. 3 And every tribe did appoint a chief or a leader over them; and thus they became tribes and leaders of tribes. 4 Now behold, there was no man among them save he had much family and many kindreds and friends; therefore their tribes became exceedingly great. 5 Now all this was done, and there were no wars as yet among them; and all this iniquity had come upon the people because they did yield themselves unto the power of Satan. 6 And the regulations of the government were destroyed, because of the secret combination of the friends and kindreds of those who murdered the prophets. 7 And they did cause a great contention in the land, insomuch that the more righteous part of the people had nearly all become wicked; yea, there were but few righteous men among them.
This passage describes a society where "secret societies" that is, individuals who had combined to circumvent the laws and morals of the society, had succeeded in abrogating both the law of the land and norms by which the society was able to operate. Today, in the United States, we have the same challenge and perhaps, with the same results. We have specific organizations whose goals both publicly expressed and private or secret, are to destroy the social and moral fabric of our society. The most vocal of these organizations and individuals claim the protection of their rights as the basis for the destruction of the family, community and the government of the entire country. They would remake society in their own selfish, self absorbed goal of power over the rest of the country.

Again, to the Book of Mormon, at one point, the entire society of the people, the Nephites, was threatened by bands of robbers. It is noteworthy that the head or chief robber Giddianhi wrote a letter to the head of the established government, Lachoneus. Giddianhi first claimed that the existing government was not legitimate:
3 Nephi 3:2 Lachoneus, most noble and chief governor of the land, behold, I write this epistle unto you, and do give unto you exceedingly great praise because of your firmness, and also the firmness of your people, in maintaining that which ye suppose to be your right and liberty; yea, ye do stand well, as if ye were supported by the hand of a god, in the defence of your liberty, and your property, and your country, or that which ye do call so.
Noteworthy is how Giddianhi ended his claim to take over the government
3 Nephi 3:10 And I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs. I am Giddianhi.
There is a striking parallel between the attitude of these robbers and those who would challenge our own government today. The key claim was for "rights" and the accusation against the established government was that in denying the robbers their "rights" the established government, not the robbers themselves, was "wicked." Presently there are those who would claim that personal rights as determined by the individual are superior to any other consideration. In taking this position they would ignore the very foundation of our nation, our liberty and ultimately our freedom. As it says in the Constitution of the United States of America:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Our founding fathers did not forge a nation of individuals asserting their individual rights above the common good, but they established a Union in order to establish justice and insure domestic tranquility. Let us remember that we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all and that justice mandates that we serve the common good, not to be replaced with the selfish desires of individuals who would destroy the common good for their own selfish and self serving ends.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

America the Beautiful



O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

America is a really beautiful place. It is through the brotherhood of all Americans that good comes to our fair country and through God's grace.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Isaiah 52:7 says, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" The pilgrim's feet were beautiful because they published peace and because the acknowledged the hand of God in the establishment of this country.

We are so caught up in apologist rhetoric that we can no longer credit the greatness of our past of those pioneers who crossed our continent to establish our great country. America is great because it is good, if it ceases to be good, it will cease to be great.

We need to look to God for divine assistance in mending our flaws, not the government, not welfare not new federal agencies but the God of the Land who is Jesus Christ.

We are confirmed in our position of wealth and prosperity only through self control. Nihilistic self-serving narcissism is not the answer, self control and obedience to law is the answer. Only through observance of our God given system of laws can we have true liberty.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

The negative attitudes against our great country are a sad commentary on the sacrifices made by our valiant soldiers in war and in peace. Our gold is not just in the rocks of the earth but also in the blood running in the veins of those who have nobly sacrificed their lives to preserve our liberty. Our gains must be in accordance with divine will and there is no true success without a noble character.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

It was the dreams of our American patriots that gave us the great system of laws and government we have today. The only way to achieve those alabaster cities undimmed by human tears is to follow the mandates of that just God who gave us our liberty in the first place.

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

May we all so live that we can indeed see our souls wax fair as earth and air and music-hearted sea.

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

Again, we can only negotiate those "wilds of thought" upon the terms and conditions decreed by and through the grace of our just God.

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man's avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

We are now in danger of losing the banner of the free, not just to flag burners and detractors, but through turning from the selfish stains on our banner of the free.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

The American patriots will not be forgotten as long as there is one man or one woman who treasures the hope that nobler men will once again keep God's whiter jubilee.

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written. Ether 2:12.

Friday, June 26, 2009

More Money Does Not Equal Better Education

After a recent post about the quality of education in the U.S., I received a lengthy comment. You may wish to return to that post and read the comment. At the heart of the criticism was the following statement made about student's need to learn history and math, and I quote:
*Should* they know? of course they should. everyone should. but it won't happen until we spend more money on education - until we actually treat education as a priority. right now, schools are basicly "teaching" students how to take tests, because this is the cheapest way to do it. the whole system needs an overhaul.
This started me thinking about school funding and whether or not there was a correlation between increased spending in education and student learning. I was surprised to learn that there is a correlation, but it is a negative correlation. Actually, the more we spend the less we get for our tax dollars and the less the students learn and know.

At the beginning of this post there is a chart showing the increase in spending per-pupil over the past thirty years or so. The Heritage Foundation examines statistics from The National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education, which publishes extensive data on education in its annual Digest of Education Statistics.
The conclusion from an examination of the statistics is summarized as follows:
Many people believe that lack of funding is a problem in public educa­tion, but historical trends show that American spending on public educa­tion is at an all-time high. Between 1994 and 2004, average per-pupil expenditures in American public schools have increased by 23.5 percent (adjusted for inflation). Between 1984 and 2004, real expendi­tures per pupil increased by 49 percent. These increases follow the historical trend of ever-increasing real per-student expenditures in the nation's public schools. In fact, the per-pupil expen­ditures in 1970–1971 ($4,060) were less than half of per-pupil expenditures in 2005–2006 ($9,266) after adjusting for inflation.
From the figures I previously quoted concerning actual declines in academic performance, it is clear that throwing more money at the problem is not the answer, although as expressed by the commentator it is the traditional radical liberal solution to every social problem, either form a new governmental agency or spend more money.

Driven by the need to justify the expansion of spending, the education establishment has focused on extremely narrow indicators of student competence, i.e. standardized testing. It would not look good to the American public to have all that increased spending going to waste, would it? Let's make sure our standardized test scores show that the students are actually learning something, even if what they are learning is drivel.

Who benefits from this increased spending? The teachers? Median annual earnings of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $43,580 to $48,690 in May 2006; the lowest 10 percent earned $28,590 to $33,070; the top 10 percent earned $67,490 to $76,100. Median earnings for preschool teachers were $22,680. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary for traditional public school teachers increased 4.5 percent in 2006-07 to $51,009, according to the AFT's latest teacher salary survey, marking the first time average teacher pay exceeded $50,000 and the first time since 2003 that teacher salaries surpassed the annual rate of inflation. American Federation of Teachers.

In short, even the teachers are being paid more, but money does not seem to address the real issues here.

More later.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No sense of historicity

One of the major developments in education I have seen during my own lifetime is an almost complete collapse of the study of history in schools. By the time I went through grammar school (now a misnomer) and high school, they (the radical liberals) had managed to eliminate geography as a subject, but we did have history, even a course on the history of Arizona that was quite detailed.

With the introduction of standardized testing and standardized lesson plans, there is no longer any room in the curriculum for anything having to do with history. Now, they have "social studies" and include a very limited view of certain historical events. Children now get all the way through high school without ever hearing about the Babylonians, the Romans, the Greeks or anything else, although they might have a unit on some aspect of minority history or the U.S. Civil War but the teachers now manage to teach the Civil War without mentioning U.S. Grant.

Likely, anyone born since 1950 has only a very sketchy understanding of the history of the Americas, including the early colonies and up to the Revolutionary War. Quizzing some of my grandchildren, I find that few have heard of most of the major figures of American history and have only the vaguest idea of even major events in U.S. history, like World War I and many of my grandchildren are in "advanced placement" whatever that means.

In looking at the "social studies" books it is evident that the selection of topics is highly skewed towards those dealing with minority issues at the expense of mentioning even the most famous of our non-minority prominent people. However, this decline in an understanding of real history is only part of a greater decline in Western Culture and Civilization. Cutting ourselves off from the past only guarantees that we will lose whatever measure of civilization and civility we have left.

This decline was noted in a recent news article by the Publisher of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. Quoting from Joseph A. Cannon,"For some years now, notable historians, philosophers and other scholars such as Jacques Barzun, John Lukacs, Alasdair MacIntyre, Pierre Manent and a host of others have diagnosed and chronicled the rise of the modern West and its gradual descent to the present. Barzun's magnum opus, "From Dawn to Decadence, 500 Years of Western Cultural Life" is one such chronicle. Lukacs, in "At the End of an Age," "describes how we in the Western world have now been living through the ending of an entire historical age that began in Western Europe almost 500 years ago."

In another quote Cannon says, "This intense focus on the emancipation of the individual led to a humanism which "is accordingly charged with inverting the relation between man and God, with atheism and the secularizing of society." The result of this individualism, humanism and emancipation from authority results in a culture that "is old and unraveling."

My observations are not unique about the decline of history education, from an article entitled "American Students and the Decline in History, by Michael Streich, he says, "In a November 25, 2007 Washington Post story, Naomi Wolf presented the bleak facts: “…only 47 percent of high school seniors have mastered a minimum level of U.S. history and civics, while only 14 percent performed at or above the ‘proficient’ level…” (“Hey, Young Americans, Here’s a Text for You”). She further writes that middle school students in most states are not even required to take classes in civics and government."

This lack of historical understanding would not be such an issue, if those who are beginning to run the country were not in the same category. The latest crop of government bureaucrats grew up during this dearth and they do not exceed the norm. In a Intercollegiate Studies Institute report on "Our Fading Heritage" the major finding include that Americans fail the test of civic literacy. The Instituter's study noted that the vast majority of Americans can no longer even recognize the language of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and less than half of the Americans tested could name all three branches of the government.

I suggest that it would be hard to find a college student today who had read even one of the The Federalist Papers or who even recognized the name of Thomas Paine.

We are not only on our way to moral bankruptcy, we are already bankrupt of knowledge of our past and like the proverbial ship without a rudder, we are cast on the sea of the future without a guide.

Let's start today by reading some of our basic historical documents, like the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and maybe a good history book about Western Civilization, but nothing written in the past thirty or forty years, please.