Beyond the Cusp

November 15, 2014

Future and Hope for the Western World

 

The future is determined just as much by the nurturing and education provided for the next generation during their youth, formative years and on through their years of education and initial introduction into the workforce as it is by their genetic makeup which is still provided by the natural selection that leads to determining who their parents are. Where we may be on the cusp of great breakthroughs in genetic engineering and closing in on providing parents with choices for genetically altering their future child’s DNA makeup and thus provide for what are called designer children, we have yet to get beyond the cusp and make such opportunities acceptable to the general public. I am sure that should the time come and we are able to literally design a child, leaving only the most minor possibilities of any unseen crisis, and produce a next generation of geniuses, but thus far we are not quite beyond the cusp and stepping into what may be a very strange new world. Once we arrive at the point where the first designer child is produced successfully and a healthy, intelligent, beautiful and handsome wonder-child is born, I suspect rather than being met with cheers and adulation of being the first child in a new era of humanity, we will instead face mobs of protesters demanding this kind of monstrous building of abomination of nature be immediately outlawed and only naturally conceived children be permitted. Of course these demonstrators will eventually tire of their objections, or at least making a public display of those objections, and designer children will be as common as are naturally selected children of today. The problem would be when only designer children or minimally selected pairing of best case DNA from the natural parents for children will be required in a means of aiding natural selection and optimizing the next generations.

 

No matter how close to what is deemed perfect human children biological research may permit society to produce, all of that is worthless if the education system they are given is not up to the optimum level that might be possible. This is apparently a subject of great debate amongst two different generations, the parents of young children through college age young adults and their grandparents whose educational rigors did not grant the wide array of course selection nor did it have the advantages of computers, the internet, social media, and all the other advantages, difficulties, challenges and new educational theories such as the currently very seriously debated and in many cases rejected system known mostly as Common Core. All of that debate aside, the objection appears to be most prevalent amongst the grandparents who look at some of the signs they have observed and the sometimes unbelievable ignorance revealed by numerous interviews and test results given to children in elementary education through to college and university students even those studying for advanced degrees such as Masters and Doctoral programs.

 

One of the glaring recent examples was the interviews of random students at Harvard about current politics and historical questions mostly pertaining to American history. Only a minority could identify Vice President being currently Joe Biden. An even smaller percentage identified John Roberts as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Where I would forgive the average High School student not knowing who was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, these were students at Harvard and whom will be the leaders and shapers of the future of the nation and many of whom will become the lawyers and judges, possible even Supreme Court Judges even to the high position of Chief Justice. These were presumably the crème de la crème of American education; these were students at Harvard. As disturbing as those results may have been, there have been numerous tests performed on students from middle school, there cannot be anything named junior as in junior high school as junior gives of a connotation of inferior and might damage sensitive psyches, high school and through all levels of college which have produced similar indications that the education system is not up to par or students are simply not retaining anything about civics, government or history. The levels displayed often appear like they could use these youths as the stars for a sequel to the movie, and I am reluctant to even let it be known to the world I even have viewed this movie, Idiocracy.

 

Perhaps some examples of questions which stymied so many students, and granted that some of these interviews were handpicked to make the point that there is something amiss in the American, and very likely across the Western World, education systems are in order. When students cannot identify who was the President of the United States during the Civil War as President Lincoln, and I would have even taken President Jefferson Davis assuming the student was from Alabama, Georgia or any of the other southern states which made up the Confederacy, or they cannot name which country from which the United States fought to gain their independence and name Britain or England there is a problem with the education system. Students were unable to name the three branches of the United Stated Federal Government as the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. These are not trick questions setup to fool or mislead the students; they were straight forward and elementary questions. I almost understand when people attending an anti-nuke rally or other ecological rally against pollution or some other similarly themed action are willing to sign a petition to restrict one of the worst greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere named dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) as they are likely to simply take for granted the petition seekers are representing an actual cause celeb and are not pranking them so they do not fully ingest the question and are just signing to support a similarly themed petition, or so they think. In reality, water vapor in the atmosphere is the greatest of the greenhouse gasses but is also so vital to our existence and the existence of virtually every land animal and plant that we accept its presence as vitally necessary so the petition is not false, simply misleading as no such cause has arisen. Asking who the allied powers were in World War II and against whom they were fighting is not a question which should be as great a challenge for the student population in high school or college. Naming the date that we celebrate the United States gaining its independence as the fourth of July is not that difficult. Probably the worst display was on a late night show where they were giving examples of the dumbest of the dumbest set of answers found from archives to history and civics questions from random universities (and I know these were extremely handpicked but with this question that should have been impossible for anybody to miss the answer) and they could not name what nation the United States fought in the Spanish American War. I am at a loss for words to explain how utterly unbelievable it is that there actually were students who guessed at the answer. Some of the examples were, France, the southern states (they did not even call it the Confederacy), Europe (at least they got the right continent even if they missed the actual nation), the Soviet Union, and of course now we get Britain and England. Most of us have heard these questions and answer combinations which would usually be considered outtakes except they were the exact kind of answers they were seeking. I am aware that it probably took quite a number of interviews of students rushing between classes, but still some of these questions are way to basic to have been missed by anyone.

 

Then there is the final point which recently hit the news and was not so much of a surprise as it was the depth and near universality of the criminal deceits that a university would go to simply to have a stronger and more talented football or basketball teams. One of, if not the, best commentaries on the scandal that broke from the University of North Carolina (UNC) was Phantom courses disservice to black students by Walter Williams. In my ‘innocent youth’ I remember the jokes that at some universities there were student athletes taking courses such as Advanced Basket Weaving and other inane and ridiculous courses but never did we imagine phantom courses where students were given grades sufficient to have them retain player status and not be prevented from taking the field due to academic deficiencies. What makes these crimes even worse is that professors received payment for teaching a class that did not exist in reality. These courses were placed within the school for specific social science curriculum and the student’s grade was determined by what was required for their academic qualifications to play their sport as was the number of these courses each student athlete was assigned to raise their averages. These courses and the inflated grades also gave the university the required diversity representation within the student body to qualify for certain Federal Government grant programs which means that these courses were a part of intentionally defrauding the Federal Government and the tax payers of the United States. These frauds, which can be expected, or something similar, to exist in many a university which fields competitive football and basketball teams, are likely to be revealed elsewhere should this investigation be broadened, as it deserves to be, to other universities where such courses may exist. I am sure that other sports programs are likely to be scrutinized and such scrutiny will produce even more and similar problems and frauds.

 

This fraud and any others existing in the American university systems also uncover another even more serious problem, the lack of quality educational opportunity within the public school system as a whole and with particular problems within the schools which serve those troubled neighborhoods which allows certain students to disrupt the education of the entirety of the classes offered. When students are given a passing grade for the reasoning of social promotion both the student and society are being cheated. A major component of this problem is the Federal Government and its various programs and minimal requirements for schools to receive full funding and not be classified as a troubled, problematic or whatever title might be used to classify a school as substandard which places the teachers and administrators of such schools under focus and scrutiny. Needless to point out that such scrutiny due such a rating is anything but friendly and their demands go beyond the schoolroom and into the main office and often will force changed at the top thus great pressure is placed on teachers to assure that every student passes the testing. This produces what is often referred to as teaching to the test where the class becomes practiced in answering the actual questions on the test potentially without having ever studied or been exposed to anything outside of the test regimens. Additionally, over the past couple of decades there has been a litany of schools where cheating on the qualifying tests have been revealed. These deceptions range from teachers prompting the students while they are testing to changing students’ answers to allow for them receiving a higher rating and preventing the school from losing its standing academically.

 

These practices of altering test answers, teaching solely to the test, social progressions through the school system without failing, giving the students answers for the test while they are taking the test and so many other defrauding of students and society has other ramifications such as graduates from high schools not having the ability to read, write and perform elementary mathematical skills. Some of these student athletes learn very early on that they will be exempted from academic requirements and will receive special attention and reprieves which allow them to pass and continue their academic ratings such that they remain eligible for playing their sport. One has to wonder what future many of these athletes will have when they graduate from college still unable to read, write or do elementary arithmetic, not even mathematics, not even the very basics. Providing the student athlete who was granted grades which were not a true accounting of their abilities or actual learning manages to be accepted to a college because of their false grade point average (GPA) and are unable to make the team in their sport or even other less money generating sport, how can they ever pass an actual course when the first time they are being pressed to actually display learned knowledge and retention. In some cases such students may not even be able to write their name beyond block capital letters? They have a high school diploma which they are incapable of reading and will likely have failed and been academically dismissed from college and now need to find work and they realize they have no skill or capabilities that qualify them for employment except menial labors or, if they are fortunate, some trade, operating equipment or performing a specialized skill such as welding or were taken on to apprentice for such a skill such as carpentry or plumbing. The problems arise when there are nowhere near sufficient jobs which require largely physical strength and stamina and then many of such educationally-challenged students who are incapable of filling out an application to receive their paycheck or the required W-2 tax form are unable even to get those jobs. Even more distressing is that the level of knowledge which students taking the required classes to receive a teaching license will also have received an education which potentially will leave them with inadequate levels of knowledge to be fully capable of teaching most courses. This in turn hurts any student who was assigned to have the under-qualified teacher and the cycle begins anew. The areas which have the highest numbers of unqualified or under-qualified teachers are the sciences and mathematics. These particular courses to be qualified as a teacher of mathematics or the sciences are far more rigorous and require numerous hours in higher level mathematics and whatever science one would choose such as biology, physics, chemistry and the numerous others. Since there is a dearth of teachers who become qualified to teach mathematics or the many sciences, the result is that teachers with a general teaching degree end up covering teaching mathematics or some science class despite potentially never having seen that level or even having taken related courses and still be put in a place where they must show proficiency. This begs the question of what would be the advantage of designing students with astronomical IQs if the education system is so broken that it can only provide one with a sub-prime level of education and knowledge. Perhaps the near future we will have a society of brilliantly ignorant young adults holding graduation certificates that hopefully they can actually read. If there exists one school which does not prepare their students with a decent and complete education then as a society we have failed a good number of children which is something which should be eliminated. Our greatest legacies for the most of us are our children and grandchildren and the generation beyond, we must not fail them from the very start with a failing school system; we must not simply trust the education system and should teach them as best we are able. As for any disruptive students who make an education near to impossible we must have a school which deals solely with such students with provisions to take them to those classes thus allowing the rest of the students who are seeking knowledge to receive their lessons without disruption and even intimidations which make learning impossible and murders their future in the process.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

October 29, 2014

Are Civil Rights for Sexual Preferences Tantamount to Civil Rights for Minority Races

Looking back to the first plaintive cries petitioning for acceptance and protection from being segregated against in life; many of their complaints revolved around workplace, refusal of housing or rental properties, refusal of service in restaurants or stores, and other generalities which today are granted without even a second thought. No longer is it acceptable or even forgivable to physically assault same-sex partners simply because they disturb your preference for a normalcy where such a situation either never exists because no one desires relations other than the norm or such relations are barred from the public realm.

The initial indications that the demands from the more adamant, some might even say militant, alternate life partners and sexual preferences began to compare their struggle to the Civil Rights Movement of a half century ago. These statements also brought to the fore the first warning protestations that the gender identity lobby was going to aim to overturn every last vestige of normal sexuality forcing their way into mainstream and eventually making their lifestyle and sexual proclivities the norm and traditional relationships the exception, or at least the perception of such. Those making these warnings were mostly ignored as paranoid extremists. Their main claim was that the alternate gender lobby would eventually demand a change in the definition of marriage and even force religious institutions to perform alternate gender weddings regardless of their religious convictions against such relations. Obviously these people were insane and had a very loose grip on reality. Nobody was thinking of challenging the definition of marriage as being a bond between one man and one woman. Such claims had to be absurd and dismissed out of hand, until when in more recent times this exact demand came to fruition. Recent court rulings have gone even further making objections enacted into laws, even those which have passed as citizen initiatives receiving solid majority backing when placed on ballots, have been overturned using Civil Rights Laws and equal access laws as the basis for striking down enacted laws which ban same sex marriages.

As I wrote back in March of 2013 in the article titled The Sane Solution to Same Sex Marriage, the easiest solution is to separate marriage and civil unions making one the purview of the state and the other reserved for religious institutions. With the individual states and other legally approved jurisdictions issuing a license for a civil union which qualifies those so joined all the benefits currently described as marriage benefits such as tax breaks, visitation in public hospitals and other similar rights while marriages will be issued through a religious ceremony and would have no actual civil benefits under the law. With such a difference established the state would still receive their revenue from issuing licenses for marriages and gain additional revenue for same sex unions without all of the aggravations and protestations from the religious and conservatives who have protested allowing marriage to be redefined by statutes or court decisions. The individual states and even more local jurisdictions such as counties, parishes, cities, towns and whatnot can make whatever allowances and combinations to qualify for a civil union without having any effect on the definitions of marriage which would remain with religious institutions. If an union other than traditional marriage of one man and one woman is permitted by any particular church, synagogue, temple, mosque, cathedral, monasteries or other religious institution desires to issue a marriage license to non-traditional couples, then that would be their right as well and they could attract such couples into their fold.

The coming disaster will be the eventuality when men of the cloth will no longer be permitted to even read scripture wherever the original scripture excludes nontraditional civil unions. Such an atmosphere has already cast a pale over the pulpits of Houston, Texas; yes, Texas of all places but such is Houston where they reelected Mayor Annise D. Parker who lives an open lesbian lifestyle. Her sexuality would have little to do with her position as mayor except that her administration recently was embroiled in a tempest over an apparent attempt to force the religious leaders to turn over any sermons or other material which they may have given, written or otherwise distributed which may have had any relevance to be subpoenaed. This action caught a great amount of indignation, challenges and even some outright refusals all basing their hesitance or resistance on religious freedoms under the First Amendment. This did force the Mayor to redefine the subpoena narrowing its coverage but the argument has been started and is not going to end soon in Houston. This was but the initial shot over the bow, given time this type of action will be repeated and slowly but surely it will become accepted and soon clergy will no longer be permitted free range of subject material and will begin to restrict their public positions to politically correct and approved subjects. This is the first step to thought crimes where people can be arrested for holding certain opinions and is the beginning of a dangerous slippery slope to slide down to a dark and hurtful place.

Meanwhile, the gender identity movement has one glaring difference from the Civil Rights Movement. While a minority individual cannot choose their minority status and in everything they do and everywhere they go they continue to obviously be that minority, they literally wear their minority status wherever they go, whether they are alone or in a group, they remain a minority. There is absolutely no choice or manner in which one can disguise or act in some manner and not be perceived as a minority. The same is not true for people with gender identity issues. A same sex couple when walking down the street would only be identified as potentially a same sex couple if they were walking hand-in-hand or with their arms around each other, though such would not necessarily always be accurate as such acts could have other motivations. Still, should a same sex couple simply be walking down the street or walk into a restaurant to have a meal they would not be depicted as such and could pass as two friends walking or taking a meal together. A minority is a minority walking down the street, having a meal with a friend and that is a simple fact which cannot be altered. That is the difference, a choice is made to announce or otherwise make known when a person has gender identity or sexual preferences which may be considered non-traditional otherwise they could just as easily pass as being no different than the next person or group, a minority individual cannot hide their being a minority, period. That is a large difference but the reasoning made by the gender issues advocates is that they should be able to announce and make their difference from the traditional majority without any reactions.

What does one believe would be the reaction if my wife and I entered an establishment which was known to favor people who live alternate lifestyles and we announced we were a traditional couple. Hopefully we would be accepted and not made to feel out of place and uncomfortable. I would hope in most public institutions that the same acceptance is shown people of non-traditional relationships or gender identities. Where the problem arises is solely when religion gets into the mix. This may be the single place where those who live nontraditional lifestyles or have other than traditional gender identities may have to found their own religious institutions or seek those which would accept them as they are. Should they instead choose a traditional religious institution they should expect to need to conceal, or at the least minimize, their nontraditional lifestyle or preferences. The same would apply to traditional individuals should they decide to become members of a religious institution which accommodates solely to people with nontraditional relations or gender identities.

Beyond the Cusp

March 30, 2013

The Sane Solution to Same Sex Marriage

We have written about this solution that addresses the recognition of same sex couples under the law while also maintaining the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman that should satisfy both sides of the argument. It preserves marriage while granting same sex couples with the legal rights they claim to seek and does so by reducing the intrusion of government into what should be a religious matter decided by each individual house of worship. The answer is to allow houses of worship to issue marriage certificates and hold marriage ceremonies while for those couples who wish the benefits and responsibilities the state applies to couples can receive a civil union contract from the state which will allow their pairing to have all the legal rights which currently are restricted to married couples. The marriage the houses of worship would perform would not allow the couple to claim any of the benefits of those who have a civil union contract unless the married couple also satisfied the state requirements and received a civil union contract. This separates the institution of marriage from any entanglement within the legal workings of the state thus freeing the individual state governments to decide what will be acceptable as a couple in the eyes of the law while the religious institutions decide what defines a married couple. The two are separate from each other and though any couple married by a religious ceremony would very likely also qualify for receiving a civil union contract, not every recipient of a civil union contract would be eligible to be necessarily married by every religious institution. There are also other advantages and options which become available in defining marriage which is currently disallowed due to the state being the issuing body of marriage certificates.

The main advantage is that each house of worship would be enabled to define marriage in whatever manner their congregation decides it should be defined. If the house of worship only wishes to recognize marriages between people of their religion and refuses to allow mixed religion marriages, which would be that house of worship’s right and the state would have no problems as the state has no jurisdiction over any religious service or definition as per the First Amendment. On the other side, if a couple can locate a house of worship willing to marry them, then they can have a marriage license and be considered married. Also, if a couple wishes to be married but does not deem it necessary to have state sanctioning their marriage, they would not be forced to receive a civil union contract but by not receiving the state’s issuance of a civil union contract would negate them of the benefits of being a couple in the eyes of the state and in all state functions. They would not be able to file a joint tax return or necessarily be allowed to visit each other in a state run hospital or have numerous other benefits. They would still be able to be the benefactor in their wills but would face the taxes upon one’s death as if they were not a legally joined couple.

The reason we like this solution is not because it enables same sex unions as much as it removes the government from what should be a purely religious institution, marriage. The further the government can be removed from defining terms in our lives and society, the more free the society will become. It is necessary to have the government define legal contracts as those are enforced in the courts of the state. It is not necessary to have the state define anything that does not require a legal contract. Marriage was originally not a legal contract but was a moral contract issued by the religious culture. The interest of the state in marriage has been as a financial interest, a social interest, a contractual interest, and a left over remainder from when the state and church coexisted almost as one entity through much of human history. By granting the state the issuance of the civil union contract the state continues to have all the jurisdictional constraints which it currently possesses but allows for marriage to be returned to the religious sector of our society. This is something which is desirable as it is fitting to have marriage and civil union contract both exist as the state and religion have been divorced from their previous relationship and thus should have separate interests in the whole idea of marriage. The religious institutions would have their historic interest of defining the basic structure of family and all that entails. The state would have their rightful fee for the contractual legal aspect which has been the main interests of the state as well as defining family for tax and other considerations.

There is one more benefit with this solution. We have heard time and time again that all those wishing to legalize same sex marriages desire is to have the same legal rights as do heterosexual couples. By relegating marriage to religious institutions and removing it from legal and public jurisdiction and in the legal and public forum having the contractual part of marriage relegated to civil union contracts, then all who are accepted by the state, which would likely include same sex couples as the state should not have any legal reason to deny such and moral reasons are not the state’s purview, would have the same identical rights while religious institutions could define marriage in any manner they wish. Religious institutions which allow polygamy or polyandry could allow such and it would then be up to the state on whether such could receive a civil union contract and with what limitations or provisions. Since the state licenses separate from religious institutions such discrepancies should not make for the problems we are currently facing as each would define their own definitions. This is just another application of a kind of separation of powers where the state has its set of considerations, legalizations and limitations while the religious institutions have their definitions and preferences and the two do not necessarily have to match.

Beyond the Cusp

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