Wednesday, July 01, 2015

If the Truth Offends ...

If what I am about to say offends you, get used to it and be prepared to be offended some more.  The University of Wisconsin and the University of California, and probably several other colleges and universities that I haven’t found out about yet, have begun requesting faculty to stop inadvertently perpetrating microaggressions.  Microaggressions are statements that may seem to be inoffensive, but that some people may find to be offensive.  Examples of things that professors are discouraged from saying because someone may be offended include the following:  “America is a melting pot.”  “America is a land of opportunity.”  “The most qualified person should get the job.”  “Everyone can succeed in our society can succeed if they work hard enough.”

I teach college classes, but I have not (not yet, anyway) been encouraged to avoid such inadvertent microaggressions.  To avoid being accused of inadvertent microaggressions, I would like to say the following as consciously and aggressively as I can manage:

America is a melting pot; you don’t have to abandon  you ethnic heritage, but you are free to if you want to, and making some adaptations to fit better into the dominant culture you find yourself if will make life more comfortable.  America is a land of opportunity; I have seen too many cases of successful people who came from backgrounds such that no one would have predicted success to believe otherwise.  The most qualified person should get the job.  Hard work may not guarantee success, but working hard and smart markedly improves your chances.  The function of educators is to help students become stronger and more self-sufficient, not to become weaker, more dependent, and whinier.  The truth sometimes hurts.  If the truth offends you, then the fact that you are offended by the truth is your problem; don’t make it someone else’s problem.  Life is sometimes unfair.  Do what you can to make it fair.  Otherwise, get over it and stop making life unfair for others.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Help Create America 2.0

I need some help. I have had an idea for a book bouncing around in my head for a long time. Although I am fairly good at writing shorter pieces of work, I am not, as my wife could verify, a very organized person. Therefore, I've come to realize that, although it may be possible for me to write the type of book I want to write on my own without any help, doing on my own be a very long and inefficient process. However, there are couple of things that have happen that have inspired ideas to make this project work. One of these things was a textbook for a class that I had a few years ago in a course about computer programming in the Java language. The textbook was the second edition of Thinking in Java by Bruce Eckel. What inspired me about this book was not so much the subject matter but the fact that Mr. Eckel published his Book on the Internet at the same time or before he published it in print. Furthermore, he allowed anyone free access to the book without charge and yet he profited from sales of the printed version of the book.  Publishing on the Internet first allowed him to use the various comments and criticisms of the visitors to his website to improve the quality of his book. Another thing that is inspired me is the fact that there are tools on the Internet to ease the process of collaboration. One of these tools is Google Docs. A document in Google Docs format can be set up so that persons who have a link to it can make comments or edit it. That is where some of you who read this, come in. Following are the links to the beginnings of my writing of the book, an outline, and the Google Drive folder that contains them.   If you click on the link for the folder, you can view the documents in it.  To add comments to either the Introduction or the outline, you need to click on the link for each document.

The Outline document also links to the Introduction.  As the work progresses, the headings in the outline will be links to documents that will represent parts of the book.

What I want to do is first make the case that the United States America is on an unsustainable path that is a result of its straying from the principles upon which was founded and accumulating more debt than it will ever be to repay, because of promises the various politicians have made that over the long run cannot be kept. I want to come up with some ideas for slowing down or preventing this destruction, or for re-creating a new United States of America based on nearly the same set of principles on which the current United States of America is founded. In other words, what I have in mind is sort of an America 2.0. I am therefore asking whoever reads this to read my paper and look at my outline and what I have written so far and to give me constructive criticism. Add comments and make suggestions. When this project becomes fit to publish I tend to publish it at least as an e-book and perhaps a printed book as well.  My wife suggested asking other people to write chapters in the book, which is something I am considering, especially considering that one of the points that I want to make is that all viewpoints should be considered and respected.  If anyone wants to be a collaborator, either to add content or to edit, contact me.  Comments about what content should or should not be included and suggestions about how to improve organization are also welcome.

The Creative Commons license at the bottom of each document is to allow anyone to share copies of the documents as long as the license at the bottom is included as part of the copy.  In other words, share them with whomever you want as long as I am recognized as the original author and I reserve the right to be the only person to make commercial use of them.  This may seem trivial now, but the importance of it will grow as the work grows.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rethinking "Rethinkin' Lincoln"

In a previous blog post, “Rethinkin; Lincoln,” (
in January 2011, I pretty much trashed Abraham Lincoln and said because he put such a high value on preserving the Union that he gave it a higher priority than even ending slavery.  I had indicated that slavery was destined to end eventually anyway and that since there was nothing in the Constitution to prevent a state from seceding from the Union, President Lincoln should have let the eleven southern states go that had seceded from the Union because it would have prevented the Civil War, a war that has cost more American deaths than all the other wars in history combined.  Since I published that blog post, I have come to the conclusion that the Constitution, although it does not state so as clearly as I would have liked, does forbid states from seceding, and that President Lincoln’s oath to support and defend the Constitution required him to do what he could to bring the rebellious states back into the Union.  There is still that inconvenient fact that the Civil War cost over 600,000 lives and caused unimaginable suffering.  If Lincoln had known that the war would last so long and cause so much death and suffering, he might have decided differently.  However, at the beginning of the war, nearly everyone on both sides thought that the war would be relatively short and hardly anyone could have predicted the suffering it would cause.  I was wrong to second-guess his decision to bring the Confederate states back into the Union by force.

In his book, America’s Constitution, Akhil Reed Amar, a law professor at Yale University, makes a convincing case that the framers of the Constitution intended the federal government that they were creating to be an indivisible nation which no state had a right to secede from once the state became a part of the nation.  The Constitution begins with the words “We the People” rather than “We the states” or “We the delegates from the states” to indicate that the relationship between the states was to change from a confederation of independent, sovereign states to a federal republic in which each state sacrifices a portion of its sovereignty and its right to break free from the union of states in exchange for the benefits of being in the union.   At the other end of the Constitution, it states that it will become effective after being approved by conventions in the states rather than by state legislatures.  In other words, it was to be approved by the people, or at least by persons elected by the people for the sole purpose of deciding whether the Constitution should be ratified.  In other words, the new federal government under the Constitution was not intended to be a compact among the states as the Congress under the Articles of Confederation had been.  During the period between when the Constitution was originally proposed and the time when all thirteen of the original states ratified it, both the Federalists who argued on behalf of ratification and the Anti-Federalists who argued against it stated in their arguments that they understood that once a state became a part of the form of government that the Constitution was creating there was no turning back.  In fact, that was one of the main points in the argument of each side.  They agreed that the union was to be indivisible; what they disagreed on was what that indivisibility implied.  The Federalists argued that it was a means of protecting the freedoms of Americans; the Anti-Federalists argued that it was a threat to those freedoms.  Eventually, the Federalists prevailed, but not before an implicit agreement was reached to add a Bill of Rights to the Constitution after it had been ratified to protect  the freedoms fo individual Americans from the threats implied by the creation of a more powerful national government.

Although he stated that he gave a higher priority to preserving the Union than he did to ending slavery, Abraham Lincoln was a strong opponent of slavery.  His Emancipation Proclamation freed, if not all the slaves in the United States, at least the slaves that he had authority to free in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States.  The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the states that were still in rebellion against the United States and not yet under control of the Union forces.  That excluded the slaves in the slaves states that had not left the Union, but the Constitution gave the President no authority to free those slaves.

By today’s standards, Abraham Lincoln would still be considered a racist.  He indicated that he believed that European Americans were generally superior to African Americans and that the races should remain separate and should not intermarry.  However, he did believe that all people, without exception, should have equal rights under the law and that no person had the right to enslave any other person.  We have learned from subsequent history that there is no significant difference between the races and that there should be no laws to enforce segregation of races.  Race is very much an artificial concept.  It may take a while, but we do learn from history, and have more history to learn from than Abraham Lincoln did.  Abraham Lincoln was not an angel and had his faults, but he was a remarkable and heroic human being and I owe an apology to his memory.