Sippican Cottage

Close this search box.

Last Thursday, I Lied

[Editor’s Note: Welcome Instapundit readers. Since you’re new here, I should explain that our little boy in the video is three years older now, and not all that interested in Presidents anymore, but he is the Greatest Ten-Year-Old Drummer In The World.]
[Author’s Note: There is no editor]

Er, I misspoke. I was wrong. Flat wrong. The wrongness, it burns. I messed up. Brain fart. Don’t be mizzled, brother; I misled you. I disseminated misinformation to the point of dissimulation. I bore false witness, even if it was against myself, mostly.

Here’s the whopper I told, almost without thinking:

Our children are homeschooled.

That’s not quite correct. Mi dispiace. I best get to expiating my guilt by explaining myself to you fine people, before I end up asking a ghoul with a hot trident for a glass of icewater for all eternity.

Words mean things. At least they used to. They’re currently debased and euphemized until nobody knows nothin’ about nuthin’ by reading the newspaper. “Homeschooling” has been freighted with meaning, and it’s not the meaning I want it to have, but I used it anyway, because newspapers that call someone’s boyfriend their “partner” have worn me out. I tried using the lingua franca to save time. It was a mistake. Let’s fix it.

It would have been much more accurate for me to tell you that my children are receiving a public school education at home. They are. They simply don’t attend the public school; they’re getting this education from my wife, inside my house.

Hmm. But that’s bound to give you the wrong idea, too; you’ll assume that means we’re giving the kids the same sort of education that’s being offered in those buildings they still call public schools. You see, there are no public schools in America that I know of. They’re reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school. A public school is a really expensive, but shabby and ineffectual, private school that collects their tuition with the threat of eviction from your house.

I grew up in the same town as Horace Mann. I know all about public schools. The concept is as dead as a Pharaoh. The idea that universal literacy and a coherent public attitude toward citizenship would result in a better life for the country as a whole was a sweet one, and it worked for a while, until they “fixed” it. They’ve been fixing the hell out of it for over half a century now. They fixed it the way a veterinarian fixes dogs, to my eye.

Here’s Wikipedia’s list of Horace Mann’s reasons for public schooling:

(1) the public should no longer remain ignorant
(2) that such education should be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public
(3) that this education will be best provided in schools that embrace children from a variety of backgrounds
(4) that this education must be non-sectarian
(5) that this education must be taught by the spirit, methods, and discipline of a free society
(6) that education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers. Mann worked for more and better equipped school houses, longer school years (until 16 years old), higher pay for teachers, and a wider curriculum.

Let’s take them in turn, and see how Old Howlin’ Horace’s ideas have turned out in what’s called the public schools, but aren’t anymore.

1) Is that cursive? I don’t read cursive.
2) The public seems completely uninterested in what happens in public school, or they wouldn’t send their kids there. Anyone really interested in public schools is horrified by what they find out. Talk to a teacher about what they’re required to do in there — after they’ve had a few drinks. I have. One I spoke to referred to themselves as a “tard farmer.” Do you want to sent your children to a “tard farm”? We don’t.
3) My children are from a variety of backgrounds, all by themselves. We didn’t turn either of them away. Tell my Irish grandmother and wife’s Calabrian grandfather that all white people are the same. Bring a weapon to defend yourself. A “back-up piece” is probably a good idea if you’re talking to my grandmother, by the way.
4) Public Schools aren’t non-sectarian. They teach their own religion, and persecute any vestige of any other, except for momentary alliances with subcultures that will help them persecute what they feel is the dominant culture outside the school.
5) Parents are not allowed to enter a public school, even to walk their children to the door. Children are routinely persecuted for any behavior that deviates one iota from the what a militant vegan on a recumbent bicycle prefers. That’s not the spirit, method, or discipline of a free society.
6) Teachers are well-trained and professional — just not in delivering an education to children. They are trained to be vestal virgins in a weird temple that forgot where they put the statue of the deity of mammon they worship. If public school worked, everyone who graduated from it would be capable of teaching in one.

The teachers in public school are as much at the mercy of this weird situation as the students. A teacher recently told us she has to keep a dossier on every child in the class, every day. That’s the Stasi, not Goodbye, Mr. Chips. They said that it’s not possible, really, so they have to make stuff up to finish it. All that time is subtracted from what little time they have for the kids in the first place. The teachers don’t know where all these weird directives come from any more than you do. They just don’t want to get fired for forgetting to rat out little Timmy if he chews his Pop-Tart in to a recognizable weapon-like shape. They go along to get along.

We like our kids too much to go along to get along, so my wife and I set up our own public school. The desks are in a row. There’s only one row, with one desk, but still, it’s a row. There’s a flag on the wall, unironically hung, because we’re not ingrates. The public –our children — have not remained ignorant. My wife and I would appear to an alien as the most “interested public” on the face of this earth, since we’re doing it ourselves, with no help and no money, and a lot of opposition, while the rock-and-roll moms abandon their children at the public school so they can go get their infected tattoos looked at. Oh, and by the way, 100 percent of our students are immunized against childhood diseases, because Jenny McCarthy isn’t regarded as an adequate peer reviewer for Jonas Salk at our school. She is at the public school.

Our children are taught moral rectitude, by word and deed, just like Horace Mann intended. His term, “non-sectarian,” had nothing to do with being irreligious. He explicitly said one kind of Christianity shouldn’t trump another kind in school. That’s it. A very strict Know-Nothing religion, consisting of little more than a fetish for recycling and ancient imaginary score-settling, is all that is allowed in public schools. That’s not non-sectarian. That’s one sect. Hell, we allow our children to know that there’s more than one kind of light bulb. That’s blasphemy in public school.

As I said, I grew up in the same town as Horace Mann. So I know for a dead cert that they tore down Horace Mann’s house and put up a shitty stripmall in its place in the 1960s. It’s the absolute perfect metaphor for what happened to his idea, too.

It’s Disheartening To Consider We’ve Used Up These Proud Giants And Brought Them Near To Extinction

What? No, I’m not taking about the trees. There’s plenty of trees. I live in western Maine. A tree is a weed. I’m talking about the men. Those men you see working there in the video. They’ve been hunted nearly to extinction as far as I can tell. They were marvelous.

The forests shown in this film are filled with sequoia sempervirens again, planted by the same men we just watched cutting them down. There are currently around 900,000 acres of redwoods being “actively managed,” a modern euphemism for being logged and replanted. They do it more intelligently than they once did, I guess; but there’s currently plenty of forest on fire out west that was being “intelligently managed,” so that’s no guarantee that intelligence involves any wisdom.  It’s a dirty little secret that you can cut down the trees and use the wood for something useful for people every once in a while, or wait for nature to supply bugs and fires to get rid of them — but one way or the other, they don’t last forever.

They’re cutting second-growth trees in California now. 900,000 acres is 1.35 Rhode Islands, for those of you keeping score. Rhode Island isn’t that big, you might say, but I wouldn’t want to rake it. They leave a bunch of gigantic sequoias alone in National Parks now, so we can go look at them, which is as good a use for them as building another split-level ranch to get foreclosed on, I guess. I don’t know where you go to look at men like the men in the video now. They’re probably panhandling in San Francisco and drinking mouthwash.

I noticed some inconvenient inconvenient truth at around the six-minute mark. I’m sure they’ll airbrush that out of there next time.

Scary Registered Nurse

My excellent friend and excellent photographer Steve LaBadessa has a photo essay featured in Time magazine about open carry gun law advocates in California:

It’s interesting that it’s a Barney Fife situation; you have to keep your bullets in your pockets until the little Andy Taylor in your head tells you it’s OK to get operational. I didn’t realize that was the case. For all the digital ink spilled on the subject, you’d think that tidbit would have found its way to my eyeballs. But then, you don’t hear much sense about the issue one way or the other about the topic.

I must admit it’s a bit jarring to see people walking around with a holster like that. Not particularly scary, just a little odd. Maybe I got blase while working construction for the majority of my life. We were all carrying around things that could maim or kill you pretty much all the time. Which would send you scurrying off a subway car faster: a guy with a pistol in a holster, or a guy carrying a chainsaw?

People disarmed themselves in the not too distant past. It wasn’t laws that did it, particularly. Guns became mostly superfluous in most places outside a farm or a city with the crime rate through the roof, so people stopped having them around. People stopped having outhouses when indoor plumbing got going, too. The unusual nature of seeing people out and about with guns again is more a signal that many average persons don’t think guns are superfluous any more, and they don’t think the government’s first impulse is to protect them from harm any longer, so they’re doing it themselves.

The question of whether to let people carry guns is plenty argued over. Better to ask why they want to. The registered nurse in the essay doesn’t look like Annie Oakley to me; maybe she just knows something we don’t about being out in the world with a bag full of legal drugs lots of people would kill her over.

What It Was, (And Should Be) Was Football

(Originally offered in 2006. The school banned the fluffernutters and the football and everything past a pulse not long after. Geaux Saints)

When we went out to vote on November 7th, my wife and I had to drive by our son’s elementary school. We were mildly amused to spy him, out for recess, playing football in the schoolyard with his classmates.

We parked across the street and watched for a few precious minutes. Since we were not a butterfly, or a jet contrail, or a candy wrapper, or a penny, he didn’t notice us there, so we got to see him in that rarest of settings: “somewhere else,” without his parents or guardians present.

The football activity was hilarious. It alternatingly resembled an algae bloom and an ayatollah’s funeral– first a kind of milling around in an amorphous blob, then a kind of wild melee over a leathery old totem. We watched them drift back and forth for a pleasant minute, with the odd missile launch of the forward pass rocketing rudderless out of the scrum and landing any old place but that most rarified of targets: a teammate.

It was wry to consider that playing tag is verboten at his school. I’m not joking.

The school is getting comical in this regard. They were terrified of the food the little ones were eating, so they tinkered endlessly with the school lunch menu to make it so healthy that no one purchased it anymore. Now everybody eats fluffernutters they bring themselves.

They built an elaborate and very expensive handicapped playground. That’s a kind and thoughtful gesture. But it is merely a gesture, as there are no handicapped children to enjoy it. There just aren’t that many children of any kind in a little town like ours.

And no tag. Someone could get hurt. Someone could be left out. Someone could sue is the real reason, and the powers that be always point that out right up front.

Tag isn’t allowed, so one of the kids brings a football, and they play that. Football isn’t banned, only because no one thought of it yet. The absurdity of allowing mobs of pre-teens to chase one another if one is holding a ball, but not if their hands are empty, seems to be lost on the school administration. At least for now. And I, for one, am glad of it.

I’m not as worried about my son being injured playing football as I am in contemplating the little straitjacket world he’s being fitted for. Those children decided on the rules, supplied their equipment –a ball– and played their game without any adult supervision; and I saw a lot less kvetching among them than at any organized sporting event they participate in. I’m leery of them being told that someone will always tell them exactly what to do, and simultaneously unerringly protect them not only from harm, but hurt feelings. One aspect of that tandem of supervision is repugnant, and the other unlikely.

I’m living in a strange world where people for whom I have no regard draw finely calculated and ultimately meaningless distinctions about everything down to the scope of activities allowed for pedophiles to roam the earth, at the same time they ban children playing tag in the schoolyard. Such distinctions are meaningless because anyone who is prepared to commit a great offense is not concerned about the rules governing small ones.

I dread the day, which is on the horizon now, not over it, when I’m forced to tell my children that the only sensible course of action is to ignore the rules, as there are so many of them that they become gibberish. And what the hell, the rules only seem to apply to those who wish to live worthwhile lives anyway –who never needed them in the first place.

Sippican’s Snappy Elastic Pricing Synopsis (Electric Boogaloo)

[Editor’s Note: First offered a year-and-a-half ago. Timely, years in advance. There’s a word for that, isn’t there?]
{Author’s Note: Yeah: Broke-ass loser. And there is no editor.}

You don’t understand economics very well.

No offense. I don’t know who you are, but I’m willing to defame you like that. Why do you suppose that is? It’s because nobody understands economics very well, in my experience. When I see the poll question: “Which candidate for President do you trust more to run the economy?” it’s the question itself which bugs me, not the percentages assigned to the candidates. If you’d ask or answer that question, you have a pre-civilized view of economics in my opinion.

I’m not educated in economics, so I know a little about it. If I was educated, I’d know about an economics education. Not the same thing. I learned what I know about economics by getting the treatment a baby gives a diaper every day out in the economic landscape. You’re not allowed to indulge in fantasy very long out here. You can do it for a lifetime in a college. And beyond, if you can get published.

I want to talk about price elasticity, because it interests me. It refers to the relationship between the supply and demand for things as you tinker with price, or supply, or a host of other factors.

In general, people who work with their hands seek price inelasticity. That means that demand falls more slowly than an increase in price. Since the amount of work a person can do is finite you want to raise your price to perform the work without decreasing demand too much by doing so. You work less, for more money.

If demand is elastic, this means if you raise your price, the demand falls, and doesn’t make up for the increased price. You raise your prices but you make less money.

If it’s unit elastic, there’s a direct correlation between price and demand. Raise the price, demand goes down exactly the amount necessary so that revenue stays the same. An accountant is the only person to have ever seen this creature.

Now let’s go out on the economic map where navigators used to see “Here Be Monsters.”

Perfectly elastic pricing is where if you raise the price one iota, the demand drops to zero.

And finally, if we talk of demand being perfectly inelastic, no matter what you charge, the demand stays the same. You’ve got a crack stand in Marion Barry’s living room.

Now I want you to come out to the edge of the map where I live, and have lived for the vast majority of my life. Forget inelastic price, elastic price, and the unicorn of economists, unit elastic demand. Those are just things that determine whether you’ll buy a flatscreen TV or an end table or not. I want to get existential on you.

If you have a sinecure, you will never understand what it is to be in a walk of life where demand for your production risks perfect elasticity. You simply talk about the churn in the economy. No sympathy for those buggy-whip manufacturers. They should have been smart and got a job collecting tolls on the highway and then they wouldn’t have found themselves in that pickle. People with whales on their pants who refer to their significant other as “Lovie” like this line of reasoning a lot, too.

People often tell me that my furniture is very inexpensive for what you get. Raise your prices, they counsel. Maybe. But more likely, they don’t understand that the market often doesn’t make such fine distinctions about your pricing structure. Sometimes it’s pass/fail. I have to be careful never to hit the fail point because there’s no readjustment period. You’re just dead. People with straightforward jobs can picture this best by imagining that if you went into you boss’s office and demanded a raise, the only two answers are: “Sure!” and “You’re fired!”. You’d be less extravagant in your demands then, wouldn’t you?

What about the political angle I mentioned earlier? Oh, that’s where perfect inelasticity comes in. See, you don’t understand it, because if you answered the poll question above, you think the government is the producer in this scenario. You think they produce prosperity, and through some jiggery-pokery with inelastic set-asides, or elastic statutes, or unit elastic Smoot-Hawley tarriffs or raging carpet-bombing wars, they’re going to arrange for the shelves in the US Store to be stocked with goodies for you. But you’ve got it exactly backwards.

The example often used for perfect inelasticity is the human heart transplant. If heart transplants were ten dollars, you wouldn’t want one just because it was cheap, and if it cost eleventy-billion dollars, but you needed one, you wouldn’t care what it costs. You’d beg, borrow, or steal the dough to get it.

So in the real world with the government in the picture, I am the good or service. But the United States Government is not a supermarket. It is a pawn shop. And I am born pawned, and I wake up every morning pawned. And if I want to get myself out of there, to work all day and try to make a few bucks so I can worry about something other than my very existence, I’m going to do whatever I’m told, and pay whatever is demanded of me. My interest in continuing to be me is 100%, and my demand to continue being me will not diminish no matter how abusive the situation you plunge me into.

My demand for me is perfectly inelastic, and the government knows it. Pay up, sucka.

The Mafia always understood perfect inelasticity, too. They’d come in, tell you how much protection money was required, and mentioned that your kneecaps were perfectly inelastic if you bent them backwards.

Get Out Of My Way (2006)

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. Douglas Adams

I found out something fascinating yesterday. You can be educated, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for free.

No, I don’t mean the rheotorical you; I mean you. And me. Anybody.

Well not anybody, of course, because not everybody is educable. But there are no entrance requirements, no interview, nothing; they just put the curriculum up on the internet and let you use it. As Lawrence of Arabia says to Ali, pointing across the trackless waste of the Nefu desert towards Aqaba: “It’s just a matter of going.” Simple, really.

Indeed. Now, you’re not going to get to ask anybody any questions, get help from your peers, go to any keg parties, or clap any erasers for brownie points or anything. The stuff is just laying around there. You’ve got to do something with it, no one’s going to show you the way.

Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn at no other. Ben Franklin

Now, if you know the vernacular of the 1700s, you’d know that “dear” means “expensive” or “difficult” in that aphorism. And Ben knew what he was talking about, because he was talking about himself, really. He’s one of a long list of people that taught themselves what they wanted or needed to know. Like most auto-didacts, he knew amazing and voluminous things, but there were large gaps in his learning. This is the danger in not having a curriculum set out for you.

I’ve never been able to learn things properly. I always just wanted to be left alone in the library with the information that interested me. But you’ll notice that Ben Franklin didn’t espouse his method of learning, and neither will I. It’s a self-selecting cadre I inhabit, and if you join because you think it’s sexy, you’ll likely make a mess of your life. Try going into IBM and telling them you know the things an MIT education encompasses, but you have no credentials to prove it. The tests you didn’t take online aren’t in the Human Resources person’s desk, either. Grab a broom.

The only real way to learn anything in this world is to do it alongside someone that knows what they are talking about. But the person that knows what he’s talking about is a rare thing, and rarer still is that person that will help you. They’re busy. But sometimes they write it down. And you can learn it from them, even if they’re halfway across the planet, or dead as a Pharoah.

People drop out of college now, and say: “Bill Gates dropped out of college, and he’s rich. No problem.” Believe me, you’re not Bill Gates. If you were, you wouldn’t be looking around to see what other people were doing, and mimicking their approach. Being an auto-didact is a force-play. You run to second base on a ground ball or you’re out. There’s no deciding in it. You are or you ain’t. Bill Gates and his ilk stole second and third and home, and you’re still trying to bunt.

A sympathetic Scot summed it all up very neatly in the remark, “You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk dancing.” Sir Arnold Bax

Regular people make the world go round. By definition, most people are regular people. But if it’s enough for you to have the stuff in your head, because you can use it, and know how to pan through the whole placer to find the glittering dust that’s there in the ore, it’s there now.

It’s just a matter of going.

Tag: education

Find Stuff: