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WAS THE CIVIL WAR A MISTAKE?

Could diplomacy have worked?

By Lawrence J. Fedewa, May 4, 2018 — The 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrated his life, his death, and his legacy.  The occasion also brought to mind the strategy he embodied in his quest for equal rights, namely, non-violent civil disobedience. He became the conscience of the nation, a beacon of righteousness in the darkness of an evil stain on America’s dogma of “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. And finally, a martyr to the cause of non-violent conflict. Yet, even in death, he accomplished a volcanic shift in America’s understanding of our failings and our need to change.

The civil rights era of the 1960’s occurred 100 years after the last major civil rights conflict, the Civil War. The contrast between the two events could hardly be more profound. The most obvious difference is in the cost of the violent confrontation. It is estimated that there were 650,000 casualties between 1861 and 1865. Between 1960 and 1968 the most notable casualty was Dr. King himself.

What was accomplished?

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SUBURBAN COWBOY, Chapter Two: The Summer of ’95

The summer of 1995 started at Christmas, 1993. That was when my grown  daughter, Kirsten, announced she was going to learn to ride a horse, and that I was going to teach her. I learned a long time ago to do what women tell me, so I agreed to the project, thinking that it probably would never happen. But she persisted and changed my life.

I had not taught anyone how to ride since I was Riding Master at a boy’s camp during the summers I was in college. My brothers and I had been taught how to ride and how to train young horses by Jim Rooker, at that time a veterinary student at Michigan State College (East Lansing, Michigan). Jim went on to become one of the best-known Arabian breeders and trainers in the country. My Dad had, on the advice of Professor Byron Goode of Michigan State’s School of Veterinary Medicine, bought two Arabian yearlings and an older gelding named Don, who had been used to teach college students how to ride. He also set us up with Jim Rooker.

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Democratic socialism versus democratic capitalism in America

Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, entered the Democratic primaries in 2016 as an advocate of “democratic socialism”. Since then, “democratic socialism” has come to describe what is known as the left wing of the Democratic Party.

So, what is democratic socialism?

The classic definition of socialism is “a system of government in which the means of production and distribution of goods are owned, controlled or regulated by the government.”

The most radical form of socialism is communism, where all property is owned and distributed by the government. Less radical forms of socialism are seen in the governments of Western Europe, where private property is recognized but government has the responsibility of acquiring (through taxes) enough wealth to provide for physical well-being of all its citizens, however that may be interpreted at any given time.

As the demands of the population grow, so does the amount of tax revenue needed to provide for these demands. At some point, especially when unemployment is high, the taxes on the companies producing the country’s wealth get so great that those companies cannot keep up, and the entire system fails. If not stopped, people will start to go hungry, and riots will follow – as is happening in Venezuela right now. American examples of this situation are Detroit and Puerto Rico, which have taxed themselves into bankruptcy.  Keep Reading

What is Democratic Capitalism?

By Lawrence J. Fedewa

The first thing to understand is that “democracy’ is a system of governance, and “capitalism” is an economic system. The genius of America has been to unite these two elements into a synergistic whole with the goal of providing every American “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The foundation of capitalism is “profits.” A profit occurs when you sell something for more than you paid for it. All taxes depend on profits – no profits, no taxes; no taxes, no government. So, if governments (combining local, state and national) take too much of the profits generated by businesses, there will not be any profits, and the economy will fail – and people will go hungry.

Thus, there will always be a tension between government and business over the amount of profits government takes and the amount kept by businesses. Since there is no accepted “balance,” there is always a tug of war between advocates of “big government” and “limited government,” generally represented these days by the Democrats and the Republicans.
There are some basic issues at stake. First of all, governments generally have the guns, meaning the resources to enforce whatever they want to enforce, whether through confiscation (taxes), incarceration (prison), or militarization (martial law). Keep Reading

SOMEWHERE (a poem by Lawrence J. Fedewa)

[A few days ago, a Red State’s Larry Friis  opened a radio interview by asking. “Where is God?” He was quoting an atheist who thought he was proving there is no God. I did answer the question, but this is a better answer:] 

Somewhere, through all the mist and clouds
Somewhere in the darkness you are there.
The beauty of the sunset and the ocean’s power,
and the horror of tsunamis, tornados, and volcanoes —
all say that you must be there.
Somewhere.

Why all things are alive and strive then die,
why crippled bodies and torn souls hurt and cry;
why men can learn all but “Why”?
and cannot love the shame and sadness and pain we see
as much as the power and grandeur of the earth and sky —
all these things I do not understand
all say that you must be there
Somewhere.

But they do not tell me who you are,
or what you are, or what you want,
or why you have made all this.
So how can I know you know me
care for me, try to save me?
Only the bleeding hands of Jesus,
touching, healing, and changing me
telling me you want me happy
make me think you know I’m here.
Through all the mists and clouds,
Right here.

 

School Safety: Three key issues

Sympathize, but not simplify, safeguard the children, upgrade prevention

By Lawrence J. Fedewa 2/27/18

The current debates stemming from the Parkland massacre finally must deal with three key issues:

  1. The emotional climate following this tragedy
  2. The requirements to provide for physical safety of public gathering places
  3. The establishment of a crime prevention capability

 

  1. The emotional climate following this tragedy

The anguish and grief of the victims and their loved ones are not only understandable but are shared by empathetic observers everywhere. The natural reactions to this event are anger, demands for action, and fear for the lives of school children everywhere. The intensity of these emotions can easily lead to hysteria, which in turn can lead to acceptance of simplistic solutions. School safety is not a simple issue; it is a very complex issue. Because this murderer used a gun to execute his perverted mission does not mean that the solution to all the aspects of this type of assault is the further restriction of gun possession.

A determined bad guy can always find a weapon to execute his murders, whether a gun, a sharp knife, a sword, a bomb, another explosive or weapon– and they have. And no matter how good the background check, someone will always slip through the net – by chance or by changing since the check was done. So, other measures must be also employed.

  1. The requirements to provide for physical safety of public gathering places

President Trump has focused rightly on the need to “harden schools as targets” and his public discussions have highlighted many very effective measures which have been developed by numerous school districts. Some of the most effective that have surfaced are: single point of entry to each school with metal detectors managed by armed guards, concealed weapon carrying school personnel, specifically trained to protect students, bullet-proof, locked individual classrooms, and others. It appears that this search is well underway without more attention here. The most successful prevention program in recent years is the way we stopped airline hijacking. Everyone complains about airport security, but we all get scanned, and we don’t have any more hijacking (but it didn’t stop the 9/11 hijackers).

  1. The establishment of a crime prevention capability

The most complicated issue in this whole discussion is the fact that our entire law enforcement is based on catching and successfully prosecuting criminals. Their mission is NOT preventing crimes. The fact is that there is NO law-enforcement agency — or any other government agency — has the mission of preventing crimes. And there is a very solid reason for that. The reason is to protect the privacy and civil rights of individual citizens. The idea of giving the government the power to decide whether I am a threat to society on the basis of my exercise of free speech, or my counseling sessions with a mental health professional, or my history as a prisoner, or wife abuser, or member of an out-of-power political party or partisan organization is fraught with potential for abuse. Especially in view of the current doubts about the FBI and the FISA courts.

The provisions for temporary confiscation of weapons reported by several states, e.g. Indiana, have tackled this problem already and these experiments can set an example of attempts to reconcile crime prevention with catching criminals. The final decision as to the retention of a weapon permanently in these procedures lies with a judge – within 24 to 72 hours. The issue is, what are the criteria on which the judge will make his decision? What is the basis in law?

There is, of course, a common sense, common law rationale for such actions, namely, to protect the common good of society. But the principal thrust of American jurisprudence has always been to protect the individual citizen from an overzealous, even hostile government. Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing glaring examples of the value of such protections, Recent revelations of the federal government’s flagrant abuse of its powers by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts represent the need for very serious caution in giving ANY government body more powers over our lives. Nor is the Judicial Branch of the government any better. How many times have we witnessed clearly partisan verdicts by federal judges, whether district, appellate or Supreme Court? Clearly, the supposedly impartial “wise men (and women)” of the American judiciary are fast disappearing.

Yet, such measures MUST be taken immediately. Today, we live in constant threat for terrorists, whether foreign of home-grown.  We have been attacked since 9/11/2001 by many persons, on many occasions, using weapons ranging from airplanes to butcher knives. Before that were the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), and Columbine school massacre (1999) and other tragic events. It is about time that we face the inadequacy of out current safety infrastructure.

But how? How do we balance individual rights with the prevention of such terrorist acts? My own view is that we must endow crime prevention efforts with aggressive transparency. No more secret arrests. No more unannounced confiscation of weapons or “temporary” incarceration. Our only protection as free American citizens is open courtrooms, public announcements, and provision of competent legal defense. One of the major defenses against unlawful search and seizure should be the press. Unfortunately, like the courts, the press has revealed itself as frequently biased and unreliable. However, the counterbalance to that dereliction of duty is the internet, social media, and an activist citizenry.

These observations and opinions are not answers to the choices which face us. They are reasons to act, cautions against poorly analyzed actions, and desperate calls for doing something to prevent atrocities like Parkland, Florida – but doing the right things.

Copyright 2018, Richfield Press, Ltd,

The controversies around school shootings

A UK interviewer asks for insight into American approaches to the tragic shooting in a Florida school.http://bit.ly/2HLBVs3    (22 minutes)

Student-Centered Schooling: Some Ideas

Hi everybody –
What child-centered education might look like. We need a 21st century system for educating our children for the Information Age. Here are some ideas.
As always, feel free to let me know your questions and opinions.
For more writings, poems, interviews and guest editorials, see my website,

by Lawrence J. Fedewa, Ph.D.
I was recently quizzed by L. A. Batchelor, radio host of the popular “Batchelor Pad” (WCOM 103.5 FM Carrboro, NC) on the topic of “student-centered education”. I am not posing as an expert in US educational reform, but I did have some experience in founding an experimental college many moons ago. However, the emphasis of this conversation was K-12 schools. I decided that my spontaneous description of my model school could use a more organized presentation. Thus, this column.
I believe there is more than one good answer to this challenge, and that these answers will be found only through competition. This means that government monopoly of education must be curtailed, and that the voucher programs being advocated by local pioneers, and now with the encouragement of the federal government, collectively will find the best answers to our contemporary challenges. My own suggestions for a new model of schooling are outlined below.
1.Learning theory  
 
My thinking about schooling starts with the realization that humans are
always learning. Everything we see, hear, and experience is new knowledge in some degree or nuance.
My motto is: Every NOW is NEW!
 
Even the most familiar and routine events yield something new, if only a recognition of their place in our life. Learning is part of the human condition. Place a baby on the floor and the first thing the baby does is start to explore. We never stop exploring. So, the question is not “Do we learn?” The question is, “WHAT do we learn?
The answer is that we learn and remember best whatever we are interested in. The secret to successfully educating people is to find out what interests them. A person’s interests usually have some relation to his or her life – its problems, challenges, ambitions, or moments of joy. In this sense, our interests are very personal. For example, Johnny may be very fascinated with cars. Why cars? Perhaps because of the sense of exhilaration he gets when a car goes fast. Or, because his Dad is fascinated by cars and Johnny sees the shared interest as a bridge to his father’s affection. Or, perhaps he likes to watch NASCAR on television. The point is that his interest motivates his learning and his learning fulfills some personal need or desire.
The key to “student-centered learning”, therefore, is the discovery by the educators of each child’s interests. Johnny’s interest in cars can quickly lead to his need to know how to read, how to write, how to compute numbers — eventually, perhaps to industrial design, engineering, or science. And, his interests will change as he learns more and more. To keep him motivated, his interests must be tracked and exploited even as they change.

2. Implementation

How can the interests of millions of students be tracked and accommodated? Is that possible? Without today’s technologies, it was not possible. Our current educational system of schooling is built on the 19th century assembly line paradigm, which made possible mass production. The child begins on the educational assembly line and accumulates pieces of knowledge and skills as he/she moves from one station (grade) to the next, until that student emerges after 13 or 17 or more years a finished product as defined by the assembly line.
This why is “mass education” is similar to “mass production”. It is all wrong for today’s students. The outcome of mass production is a physical product – a car, a wheelchair, an airplane. This product is the exact replica of every other product which comes off that line. But the outcome of education is primarily the graduate’s capability to earn a living by his/her unique contributions to society. In this, our current educational system is woefully lacking.
Not so long ago, the goal of education could not be summarized as stated here. The goal of education was the development of the whole person, not a bread winner.  But “the times they are achangin'”, as Bob Dylan said.
 
3.     Student-centered education must be individualized.
 
The most promising approach to this task so far is the  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law which requires each school district in the United States to enter into a legal agreement with the parents of all children with disabilities to provide an individualized education program (IEP) for that child.
The fundamental premise of my approach to child-centered education stipulates that an IEP be developed for every single child in the United States.
4. Grades K-3
 
In my system, a temporary IEP would be developed during the kindergarten year, but in any event prior to the start of Grade 1. The focus of this first IEP would be the development of the foundational skills of literacy: reading, writing, arithmetic, and fundamental manners and ethics required by a civilized society.
These four years provide both these skills and an observation and testing period prior to the development of the first version of the Master IEP to be reviewed and adjusted annually for the rest of the child’s school years. Decisions to be made by the IEP team (parents, teachers, administrator and – if practical – the child) are based on the child’s interests, test results, and observed behavior. A strategy is then developed to build a sequence of knowledges and skills related to the perceived data as well as the favored places, instructors, and socialization environments for the student’s progress.
 
5.   The physical environment
 
Homerooms as now used may be obsolete. Various groups of students would be formed around large interest categories, such as, electronics, physical sciences, government, mathematics, and history. Each of the themes would have certain general requirements, such as its history, bibliographies, public speaking, research and (where relevant) experimentation. The “classes”, therefore, would be defined by interest and capability rather than age. Each student would engage in a different sequence of activities, based on an individual IEP. Instead of a “homeroom”. each child would be given a carrel (like graduate students), that is, an individual booth-like space, equipped with a desk. internet accessible computer, book shelves, locker, etc.
 6.     Teaching
 
Instruction would have two modalities: tutoring and classes. The student’s specific interests (e.g. cars) would be furthered by tutoring individually or in small groups (after the Oxford University modal). Classes would be groups, scheduled by interest and capability levels and controlled by computer-managed instructional systems, available to the student on his/her computer. One benefit of this system would be to capitalize on peer teaching and learning – always proven to be the most effective combination for certain types of learning. It also would expand the socialization opportunities for all ages. For older students, there would also be elective lectures on various general topics, such as politics, space, economics, religion, etc.
 
7.      Teachers
 
Teachers would be divided into two basic categories: subject experts and academic counselors. The counselors would be the “customer service” agents responsible for individual interaction with the student. The subject matter experts’ responsibilities would be to see that the students are given proper guidance, information, and training through classes and tutoring. The model for this role would be the graduate student’s major professor, or the Oxford tutor system.  This reorganization of education thus would require major changes in teacher education.
 
8.    Research
 
Academic goals would cluster around the ability to research. In an information age, information is a critical commodity, and the ability to find, analyze and act on information is fundamental to success in the information economy – not to mention success in personal decisions and relationships. Thus, the emphasis on the carrel and the independent access to the unlimited resources provided by the internet. Never before in history have individuals had access to the entire Library of Congress (and more) at their fingertips. Today’s children must learn how to use this priceless treasure.
 
Conclusion 
This outline merely scratches the surface of the possibilities for re-structuring America’s educational system utilizing contemporary technology. It is presented with the hope that it will stimulate creative thinking and actions to upgrade our society’s contributions to human history and to our own happiness.
Copyright, 2018 Richfield Press, Ltd.


                    

A New Year’s Resolution for Pope Francis I: Start Monetizing the Vatican Assets

Pope Francis greets Bishops

by Lawrence J. Fedewa

https://drlarryonline.com/a-new-years-reso…e-vatican-assets/

 

 

 

Pope Francis I earned the admiration of many when he promised to make the Catholic Church “a poor church for the poor.” I think of that every June when the Peter’s Pence collection is taken up in all the Catholic churches worldwide. The purpose of the collection is to support the Vatican’s donations to the poor. A serious scandal occurred when it was learned a few years ago that 80% of the collection’s $80 – $100 million proceeds were used to offset the Vatican Curia’s operating deficit (National Catholic Reporter, 11/23/2013).

The larger question is, “Why does the Vatican have a deficit at all?” In fact, why is there a Peter’s Pence in the first place? The Vatican has accumulated its wealth over 2000 years and no one really knows how much net worth the entire operation has. Britain’s International Financial Times (7/19/14) quotes Italian newspaper, L’Espresso’s estimate of the Vatican’s net worth as nearly 10 billion Euros ($12 billion). But Cardinal George Pell, who oversees Vatican finances, said recently, “In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet.”

Not only is the balance sheet enormous, but cash flow is even more impressive. The 800 inhabitants of th Vatican average $365,796 per capita, making the Vatican the richest state on the face of the earth! (Ibid.)

So, the fact is that nobody knows how much wealth resides in the Vatican. What we do know is that Pope Francis uttered a new standard when he said to a group of seminarians, “It hurts my heart when I see a priest with the latest model car. If you like the fancy one, think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”

Leaving the rest of us to wonder, how many starving children in the world could be fed with $12 billion?

In order for Pope Francis to “walk the walk”, he has to know what he is dealing with. We humbly suggest that his New Year’s resolution be, “Resolved to make Cardinal Pell’s mission to find and record the totality of the Vatican’s resources the top priority for 2018.”

Next year’s resolution should be how to monetize and distribute that wealth to the poor of the world.