Tumbleweed Talks – The Education Dilemma

Nobel Prize Winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats defined education: Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Tumbleweed notes that insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the U.S. public education system as currently manifest is total insanity.  It fails us miserably.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some great dedicated teachers and loving concerned parents; it’s just that the system has let them down…big time.

John Dewey is generally regarded as the father of modern public education.  To put modern in context, Dewey lived 100+ years ago.  Yet Dewey is adored even today by liberal progressives.  However, critics blame him for the decline of American education.  Dewey believed that our democracy must be transformed first by a revolution in education, followed by a social and economic revolution.  His idea was to indoctrinate through education to create a more pliable populace for the transformation.  Little wonder that he was highly regarded by and sympathetic to Marxism.  Like the Bolsheviks, Dewey sought the elimination of religion from the public square, especially the schools.  While he was a Communist sympathizer for many years, he eventually recanted, though Marxist influence pervaded his life work and the evolution of U.S. public education.  We can’t ignore U.S. education history without mentioning now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  When she was an attorney with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, she expounded regularly on building a massive system of child care in the nation such that wives and mothers would be free to join the workforce.  In a huge way, the public education system served that need.

So, what is this education dilemma?  Tumbleweed contends that today’s U.S. public education system is a system of competing interests representing Federal and state education departments, teacher unions, academia, curricula publishers, education bureaucrats, and politicians.  As John Dewey imagined, this system has facilitated the insertion of revisionist socio-political philosophies into the material taught in our public schools.  It enables the perpetuation of powerful interests in an archaic one-size-fits-all system often referred to as the Prussian model.  It has duped millions of parents into believing that it is infallible.  It subjugates individualism to a government system under the guise of some fallacious socialization for the “greater good.”

Education is huge, a behemoth representing nearly 6 percent of our GDP, one of the highest rates in the world.  Yet, there’s been a broken trust.  In his recently published book Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past, James Robbins notes that “schooling is necessary to the development not only of a well-rounded person but also of a strong society.  But tearing down traditional history and civics education leaves children weak in these areas.  With the growing intolerance for the exchange of ideas in colleges and universities, basic knowledge of American identity has become confused.  Students no longer know what America stands for, becoming more aware of what divides us than of what unites us.  This thinking begins in the public-school system.

There’s a certain irony here that is actually rather ludicrous.  Just before I joined the board of the school district where I live in in Pennsylvania, it was ranked well into the bottom half of the commonwealth’s 500 school districts.  This in a state that ranked in the bottom third in the nation.  Yet the school had parents convinced it was a top-performing district.  Broken trust?  Most parents are concerned that their children receive a good education that will prepare them for the challenges to be faced in the world.  Parents have an almost totally blind, even naive trust that public schools will deliver that good education, but the education blob leverages that trust to perpetuate its own agendas while wasting billions of dollars on scams like open classrooms or Common Core Standards that mortgage our nation’s future with flawed curricula and excessive time-wasting testing.  Notably, the students who do well in spite of the education system usually do so because their parents care enough to stay actively involved in their education.  Otherwise, they are taught in most cases to the lowest common denominator.  And it serves to frustrate teachers and often chase good ones from the system.  Plus, teacher pay actually declined over the past two decades while per-pupil spending increased by 27 percent.  School districts are saddled with budget-busting debt and profligate retirement systems.  The outcome as Tumbleweed has experienced it is undereducated graduates unable to perform common everyday functions as simple as a signature on a check or credit receipt or reading a tape measure.  Reading skills are at times horribly deficient.  We dare not lose sight of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said that the sage in the exercise of his governance, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.  Emptying the mind facilitates control.  Dare we refer here to the mindless drivel that passes for education in today’s institutions of higher learning wherein students are unfamiliar with simple civics, unable to name our nation’s leaders, and totally oblivious to the tenets of our Constitution.  Sadly, this is perpetuated by those Federal and state departments of education, teacher unions, colleges and universities, curricula publishers, education bureaucrats, and politicians so they can covet and protect their pieces of the power structure.

            Bottom line, it’s a fraudulent system.  Parents should be outraged, but they mostly stand by benignly as the education system self-destructs at their children’s and our nation’s expense.  For example, in most school districts nationwide, where were parents and Board members when it came time to actually review Common-Core-based curricula page-by page?  I’ve seen that lack of involvement first hand, and we see the result in ever-more progressive socialism-based curricula indoctrinating precious generations of our children.  Equally bad is good teachers being hamstrung by this failed education system, spending inordinate time on standardized testing while scrambling to teach at least some skeletal level of knowledge with the remaining time.  Moreover, under-performing teachers are protected by tenure and receive salary increases regardless of performance. (How many private sector folks would love that?)  The system is a fraud, a total con.  It’s little more than a large, expensive child-care with some education layered in.

So, I’ve framed out the challenge.  Now what?  In my experience most folks from both sides of the political spectrum agree that problems exist.  BUT, how do we solve them?

Let’s first look at local solutions.  We need schools that educate, but throwing money at the problems without achieving true education improvement is a fool’s game.  Without taxpayer largesse propping up their inefficient business model, public schools couldn’t survive.  Academics must be improved and budget austerity must be sustained in an environment of often declining enrollments and ever-lowering tax bases as populations age and dwindle.  (Today’s Millennials aren’t exactly filling the maternity wards.) Progressive-leaning student indoctrination must be squashed, as teachers graduate from colleges featuring overwhelmingly left-of-center political bias.  Bullying must be stopped, and the perpetrators – not the victims – must be punished.  School debt must be eliminated.  It’s imperative to set aggressive agendas for improved academic performance.  STEM and reading programs must be elevated.  Practical labor trades training must be promoted and delivered.  Teaching and learning must feature high goals, give top priority to instructional time, offer ample bonuses for outstanding teachers, and get parents actively involved at ALL grade levels.

Next, let’s consider state solutions.  At higher government levels, states need to end programs like Common Core Standards and associated mind-numbing, resource-wasteful tests, as well as overhaul budget-killing, overly-generous, public-school employee retirement systems to control exponentially rising costs.  These costs cause both school budgets and taxes to increase but not to the direct benefit of students, as public-schools must accommodate those rising retirement system costs.  Budgets must continue to be optimized to meet these concerns without raising taxes that especially impact low/fixed-income citizens and drive them from our communities.  Oh, and the Federal government needs to totally steer clear of education; it’s well above its pay grade.  Best way to do that is to totally eliminate the Department of Education.  It rose to power as part of an NEA voter pact with President Jimmy Carter and has metastasized ever since.  Oh, and do you know any politicians that got elected on a platform of cutting education budgets?  Heaven forbid that we follow the philosophy that it’s not how much money is spent, but how well the money is spent!  Let’s be real.  It’s not about spending more money, it’s about spending it more productively.

Solutions.  In an era of ever easier access to sophisticated technology applications like artificial intelligence or AI based interactive learning, choices in delivering education have grown by orders of magnitude.  Thanks to technology, we can throw away the supposed magic of low student-teacher ratios.  AI-based programs have a 20-year track record of being capable of delivering educational material with 99.6 percent effectiveness compared to a classroom teacher.  Take note of the plethora of online courses available today.  In addition to choices and material customized for individual students, technology has the added benefit of saving taxpayers the expense of brick and mortar infrastructure and large administrative departments.  Great teachers will be able to reach more students more effectively.  And testing students for knowledge retention AS THEY STUDY makes more sense than relying on post-course comprehensive testing.  We might even empower employers to create environments that enable parents to teach and monitor children remotely in both individual and group cooperative environments.  These sorts of solutions destroy the archaic child-care-based public school model and push parents into greater child-rearing responsibility.  We need a radical change in attitude toward education, an openness to new, innovative models.

We must fight back.  Tumbleweed, like many citizens, homeschooled.  My wife and I were nevertheless impacted by public schools as citizens and were concerned about high quality education outcomes.  Our public-school systems are indeed broken but not beyond repair.  The grown-ups must set positive, constructive, adult examples for the students.  Now is when students should truly get to be first.  Boards, parents, administrators, teachers, and students must team to turn back the government public education system behemoth and its legacy of failure.  School choice is an absolute must.  Our children must be prepared to get on in the real world.  We must see that schools deliver practical knowledge for life and careers through optimally educating our children.  If the government education system does continue on its relentlessly destructive path, great alternatives that exist today for parents to fight back include charter schools, home schooling, and private schools.  We just need to get off our collective posteriors and straighten the mess out.  Just sayin’.

Ethics & Morals

Think on: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” EXODUS 20:16

High, unimpeachable, consistently applied ethics and morals are essential to our success in all aspects of life.  In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge said, “If we are too weak to take charge of our own morality, we shall not be strong enough to take charge of our own liberty.”  Enron and Worldcom were just two modern-day examples of how everyone – not just the company employees – pays for unethical workplace practices.  Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance now costs companies millions of dollars which are then passed on to consumers.  Dodd-Frank compliance, legislative reaction to unethical banking practices, compounds that cost.  Both laws were “knee-jerk” legislation in response to perceived failures of securities regulation enforcement.

Examples of unethical practices in business abound.  In addition to the huge Enron and Worldcom scandals of the 1990s, there were the Archer Daniels Midland price fixing scandal brought to light by whistleblower Mark Whitacre, the Koss (headphones) internal $31 million fraud perpetrated by its vice president of finance, the case of CFO Sam Antar who bilked hundreds of millions from consumer electronics chain Crazy Eddie, CFO Aaron Beam’s $2.7 billion accounting fraud at HealthSouth Corporation, and there was Martha Stewart’s insider stock trading and Bernie Madoff’s investment scam.  The corporate executives pay the price for their behaviors, but the investors and consumers never really are compensated.  What can we do?  I’ve personally had sales executives attempt to bribe me to get a sale and even was passed files of corporate secrets from a competitor.  These are among the more heinous lies, especially as they are criminal.

Today’s moral relativism is rooted in moral values that far too often have become a matter of personal opinion or private judgment rather than something grounded in objective truth.  Mostly, it’s about our own selfishness, our immediate gratification mindset; the “I, me, mine” thinking of narcissistic hedonism.   It describes how most of today’s Millenial Generation…and many Baby-Boomers…define their morality.  In my 8 years of teaching as a college adjunct, I have asked hundreds of students what they base their morals on, and very few profess biblical morality.  These students are being fed a “do good, feel good” morality professed by the generations that preceded them and have been raised in a fully atheistic public-school environment.  Little wonder we seem to be breeding successive generations of corporate fraudsters.

Tumbleweed believes that the one of the biggest manifestations of corrupt ethics and morals is the lie.  As an inveterate collector of quotations, a couple that come readily to mind are Mark Twain’s, “A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.” and John F. Kennedy, “The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and realistic.”  What parent can forget “Veggie Tales,” especially the episode about the lie.  Or, recall actor Burl Ives famous reference to “mendacity” in the film, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

For me, the scariest and most tragic lies are those that are rationalized or justified by some relative interpretation of morality.  And perhaps even worse are lies that emanate from the perspective that someone’s lie is okay because someone else had gotten away with it previously – as though that makes it less of a lie.  We see that a lot in politics but in business, as well.

So, I’m afraid it does get down to the basics of ethics and morality.  I rather like Colossians 3:9, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices.”  It can be tough to resist the lure of compromising our ethics and morality, but we cannot serve two masters.  It’s man or God.   What’s your choice?  Just sayin’.


Violence & Vitriol vs Peace & Joy

Think On: “May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies, and quick to make friends.  And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.” IRISH PROVERB

Tumbleweed continues to be horrified at the lack of civility that characterizes today’s leftist progressives.  The far-left progressive choir wallows unhinged in vitriol as they spew forth all manner of hatred for our President, his supporters, and many of the founding principles of our nation.  It’s too easy to write them off as a bunch of whining children throwing a massive temper tantrum.  However, it’s certainly not the first time.  The leftist hatred has been palpable for decades.

First, let’s get a bit of perspective.  That Irish proverb resonates with Tumbleweed.  Also, let’s keep in our consciousness the words from James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  Be assured, perseverance in the face of anger and vitriol is very much in play here.

Back in the 1920s, the liberal left was motivated by Communists lying about Marxism, as the left was easily duped by the Bolshevik propaganda machine.  They attacked Woodrow Wilson and his Attorney General Alex Palmer, painting them as stupid, bloodthirsty anti-Communist savages stirring up a “Red scare.”  The leftist rants didn’t lighten up in the 1930s and 1940s, as the Hollywood liberal elite, leftist academia, and news media (led by the New York Times), harangued Congress as behaving like Hitler’s Germany, supporting fascism, and setting up America as a concentration camp or an Auschwitz.  Famed entertainers of the era like Danny Kaye, Judy Garland, and Gene Kelly spewed the Communist party line.  Even Humphrey Bogart was duped for a while.  Moving into the 1950s, the leftists turned there hate on President Harry Truman, attacking him as the “butcher of Hiroshima” and an enemy of the Soviet state.  Truman was vilified in the media as a warmonger and another Hitler.

Of course, Tumbleweed is scratching the surface.  There’s a temptation to view the Vietnam era of the 1960s and 1970s as the pinnacle of left-wing anti-Americam anger and vitriol.  The USSR, which had a vested interest in the Communist Viet Cong, ramped up a huge propaganda machine enlisting American liberals into convincing U.S. citizens that the Vietnam War was a losing proposition.  Emboldened by their success in controlling public opinion and causing the pullout from Viet Nam, the left sought to build upon their success.  They had torn into one-time Democrat turned conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan, blasting his “Star Wars” missile defense system (actually, Strategic Defense Initiative or SDI) as a threat to cause a third world war.  A leader in undercutting Reagan was none other than liberal darling and hero of Chappaquiddick Senator Ted Kennedy who secretly proposed a deal with Soviet Supreme Leader Yuri Andropov to sabotage SDI in return for USSR support for his own presidential ambitions.  Blessedly, along came the tearing down of “The Wall” along with the socio-economic implosion of the USSR, momentarily taken the wind from the far-left sails.

The Communist threat seemed defused until a succession of progressive-leaning presidencies succumbed to the ascension of former KGB muscleman Vladimir Lenin.  Leveraging terrorism spawned from the Middle East and supported directly by Iran and North Korea, the Russian propaganda machine was rejuvenated and brought to bear to once again recruit liberal progressives in the United States.  Who emerges?  The likes of “Swiftboat” John Kerry, Maxine Waters, and Harry Reid expounded total hatred of President George W. Bush, calling him a liar and betrayer of the nation.  The vitriol quotient was rising exponentially.  Soon enough Barack Hussein Obama arrives on the scene spawning supporters like ACORN and the SEIU and inciting the Hollywood, journalistic, and academic elite to spew forth all manner of hate speech and violent protest.

So, here we are today.  It’s as though Lenin’s “useful idiots” have gone into overdrive.  Supposedly reasonably intelligent politicians, journalists, academicians, and entertainers are caught up in the extreme emotions of hate and exercise of violence.  The vitriol is off the charts, as foul language and unfounded accusations blast across television screen banners and spew forth from the mouths of liberal talking heads.  They seize upon the most insignificant action to go nuclear with their vitriol.  The President can do no right nor no wrong without negative over-reaction.  How sad, indeed.

Hmmmm.  In the United States, we have this little matter of a Constitution that defines how we are governed.  Donald Trump was duly and properly elected by gaining far more Electoral College votes than his opponent.  In establishing the Electoral College, our founding fathers had in mind that representation of the less-populated states would not be diminished.  The idea was to not have the entire nation run by urban centers like New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles while ignoring our vast and just as important heartland.  It’s a similar principle to why we have two Senators from each state versus our Representatives as proportioned by population.

Now, Tumbleweed was far from pleased with the election of Barack Hussein Obama as president.  But the voters – and Electoral College – had spoken, so we strove to accept the results.  Despite the perceived scandals, lies, and far-left progressive autocratic actions of President Obama over the next 8 years, we kept our powder dry until we could elect Donald Trump in November 2016.  There were no violent protests or unhinged vitriol from the conservative right during President Obama’s administration.  Admittedly, while there was peace, there was not much joy.

Tumbleweed reminds of that Irish proverb that concludes with, And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.”   Tumbleweed is especially taken with part of the refrain of the Switchfoot song “Rise Above it,” “It feels so typical, Guess I’m looking for a miracle; Rise above it rise above it; The curse is spoken, The system’s broken; Rise above it, Rise above it.”  The left really needs to rise above it.  Just sayin’.

School Shooting Facts or Fiction: It Depends

Think on: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” MARK TWAIN

Tumbleweed must confess to having actually conducted market research projects.  Market research can be a fascinating area whereby response statistics are gathered, analyzed, and outcomes reported.  Notably, how you ask the question can dictate outcomes, even “engineering” desired outcomes.  Statistics can be shaped and recipients duped.  Think on Mark Twain’s caution.

A few days back, Tumbleweed saw a social media feed announcing that dozens of school shootings had occurred since the beginning of the year.  There had certainly been a couple of mass shootings of grave concern, but the number quoted – 44 – intuitively seemed misleading.  The source of the number was an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety.  Turns out it is a favored resource of the left-wing anti-gun movement.  Mind you, our hearts go out to those whose loved ones were killed or injured, but it seems hypocritical, even deceptive to leverage tragedy for political advantage.

According to its website, “Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives.  But something is changing. More than 4 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans have come together to make their own communities safer. Together, we are fighting for the changes that we know will save lives.”  Sounds worthy enough.  Then, Tumbleweed dug deeper.

Tumbleweed examined each of the 44 incidents in 2018 reported as school shootings through May 21.  We dare not diminish the three horrific mass school shootings at Santa Fe, Texas; Benton, Kentucky; and Parkland, Florida that account for the vast majority of deaths and woundings in the data.  But what of the other 42 incidents.  Thirteen were accidental firearm discharge and 19 of the 44 shootings resulted in no injuries.  Eleven incidents resulted in one or more deaths, including the three suicides.  Thirty-nine involved a handgun, while five used a rifle or shotgun (two AR-15s).  Overall, among 34 K-12 shootings and 10 college shootings, 39 lives were lost and 66 people were injured.  Eleven incidents involved non-students, and in two cases metal detectors were not in use or broken.  Any shooting is scary, deaths and injuries are terrible tragedies.

There are 98,000 K-12 facilities in the United States and 7,200 post-secondary institutions.  Cold, unemotional analysis would reveal that the percentage of incidents – despite tragic consequences – are statistically insignificant (0.0004 percent).  Statistically at least, our institutions are pretty safe.  Keep in mind, too, that many of the incidents reported in 2018 could have been readily avoided.

Everytown for Gun Safety statistics are startling, but hardly a rationale for taking away the right to bear arms.  Everytown is inexcusably deceptive, as it plays with truth.  There are preventive means that are far more complex and effective than stripping away our Second Amendment rights.  The over-reaction of the gun lobby certainly reflects shades of Mark Twain’s caution, as they repeatedly seize tragedies to leverage their anti-firearm message.  Analyzing statistics doesn’t bring back lives or heal wounds, but misusing statistics to gain political ends is a horrific tactic.  Tumbleweed suggest always looking at the political motivations underlying statistics.  Just sayin’.

Resist? Nothing New, But…

Think On: “Did you ever suspect that there are thousands upon thousands of revolutionaries who are daily and nightly planning and plotting to set a torch to this country?  Spread enlightenment…[if] any of your workers have misconceptions concerning what Bolshevism really is, take time to explain matters.” B.C. FORBES, Forbes Magazine, March 22, 1919

Truth be told, Tumbleweed minored in history in college and has spent his lifetime reading and striving to especially experience and better understand U.S. history.  As taught today, history has mostly fallen victim to the PC police, revisionist historians with political agendas, and their minions in academia and media.

All that is past qualifies as history, and it is little wonder that there are many points of view on so vast and complex a subject.  From a historical view, today’s “resist” crowd is bush-league at best, a loud but ineffectual bunch of crybabies.   It’s not enough to simply be “anti” something.  They could take lessons from the resisters to Presidents like James Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt to name a few.  Let’s take a high-level look at an ongoing resist movement that affects our lives us to this day: Anti-Communism.

By now, most of us are aware that Communism and communism (little “c”) have amounted to a total failure wherever and whenever put into practice, having consistently devolved into totalitarian regimes with the deaths by violence and starvation of tens of millions of people.  Few folks are aware of the huge campaigns by the Moscow Comintern to promote communism in the U.S. beginning with the 1917 establishment of the Bolshevik government in Russia and the efforts to fight back, to resist the Communist scourge.  The Communists were experts at duping unsuspecting folks into following their movement, even having visitors tour “Potymkin Villages” in Russia where their citizens were paid to appear successful and happy.  These became Vladimir Lenin ‘s “useful idiots/”

Anyone ever heard of A. Mitchell Palmer?  Likely not.  He was Attorney General under Woodrow Wilson back in 1920.  His “Palmer Raids” – a series of extrajudicial roundups of supposed anarchists and communists – resulted in arrests of thousands of people across the country.  This was serious resistance.  Palmer aspired to the presidency, but great communist-promoted PR frustrated his bid.

Some folks may have heard of Senator Joseph McCarthy who famously sought in the 1950s to identify and purge what he saw as numerous Soviet Communist spies and sympathizers in our nation’s government, universities, film industry, and elsewhere.  From him, we get the term “McCarthyism.”  Horrified by his techniques and fearful of any success he might have, progressive liberals – ironically inspired by communist sympathizers – attacked McCarthy unmercifully as a demagogue.  The Communists reconstituted as far left-wing secular progressives aiming to chip away freedoms and expand “big brother” government to gain control through infiltration and indoctrination.  But McCarthy was a big-time resister.

Anyone remember “My vas pokhoronim!”?  Those were the words in a 1956 speech by Soviet Chairman Nikita Kruschev.  Translated: “We will bury you.”  These words not only fed the aforementioned McCarthyism, but led to long-held paranoia within the U.S.  Seemingly well-intended movements described as social justice, human rights, or social democrats pepper the history of the past century.  Yet, few history books teach the high levels of subversive communication between the central Comintern in Moscow and the Communist Party USA over the past century aimed at in fact “burying” the United States.  Ironically, the most effective resisters to Communism were liberals who were first duped into supporting communism and later became aware of having been duped and fought back.

Where’s Tumbleweed going with this?  Look under the covers of the today’s so-called “Resist” movement, and you’ll find dozens of communistic and socialistic front organizations like Organizing for America, Black Lives Matter, and even the aforementioned CPUSA.  Sadly, much of our population has insufficient knowledge of history to avoid repeating past mistakes.  Thus, we are in danger of succumbing to an inexorable move toward a socialist state destined to fail for lack of scalability and then devolve into communism and then – when all freedoms are stolen – totalitarianism.  The grossly inadequate teaching of history in our education system coupled with widely-duped media and sycophantic politicians has left a huge segment of our population susceptible to being duped by movements like Resist.  Just sayin’.


Meaning of Life

Think On: “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” EMIL BRUNNER, Swiss Theologian

It’s a given that most folks, including Tumbleweed, struggle to find meaning in their lives.  We hope for the best.  What if we lose hope?  What does life without hope mean?

Tumbleweed led a men’s book study a few years back based on psychologist and Christian apologist Dr Larry Crabb’s “Inside Out.”  It’s a great book, but not for the faint of heart who might be put off by its introspection.  God isn’t always gentle.  Anyway, Crabb suggests that we humans have certain longings: casual, critical, and crucial.  Casual longings might be preferring a red colored car or desiring tickets to a baseball game.  They’re not really vitally important to our lives.  Critical longings begin to position us toward being concerned with life’s meaning.  They are comprised of life basics like food and shelter. They are akin to the lower elements of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem).  When critical longings are being satisfied and we have time to dabble in casual longings, we might start to wonder at the meaning of life.  Why indeed are we here on this planet?  We might consider Maslow’s pinnacle of needs: self-actualization.  Ah, dear reader, we open the door to what Crabb calls crucial longings.  Guess what? You are unlikely to achieve them in this life.

Tumbleweed recently read clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning,” a book in which the author articulates his journey of finding meaning in life.  Spoiler alert!  He finds it in the New Testament.  Peterson sees life as a struggle to put order into chaos and has discovered that the solution is found in Christ’s teachings.  Going back to Crabb’s postulation of struggling to satisfy our crucial longings and having linked those longings with the meaning of life, we might be easily frustrated.

Some few of you may have heard of the Stockdale Paradox.  Admiral Stockdale was the highest-ranking U.S. officer held as a POW in Viet Nam.  Despite being kept in solitary confinement for 4 years, in leg irons for 2 years, physically tortured more than 15 times, denied medical care, and malnourished, Stockdale organized a system of communication and developed a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior.  He put order into chaos.  Codified in the acronym BACK U.S. (Unity over Self), these rules gave prisoners a sense of hope and empowerment.  Many of the prisoners credited these rules as giving them the strength to endure their lengthy ordeal. Drawing largely from principles of stoic philosophy, notably Epictetus’ “The Enchiridion,” Stockdale’s courage and decisive leadership was an inspiration to POWs.  Stockdale was able to give the POWs meaning, and with that, hope.  Perhaps, we live our own Stockdale Paradox.

Tumbleweed contends that meaning in life requires hope.  We hold out hope at achieving our crucial longings, at self-actualizing, at attaining a life of significance.  All the riches in the world cannot hope to compare with the satisfaction of these sorts of non-financial achievements.  Just sayin’.

Ideologies & The Red Pill

Think On: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.  It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” WILLIAM PITT, Speech in House of Commons, 1783

Tumbleweed has written before about ideology versus principles.  Some folks took issue with my comparison of ideology resting on a foundation of emotional sand versus principles resting on the bedrock of moral rules.  Folks are entitled to their opinions, but let Tumbleweed suggest that ideologies, as described so very effectively by clinical behavioral psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, are “simple ideas, disguised as science or philosophy, that purport to explain the complexity of the world and offer remedies that will perfect it.”

Tumbleweed suggests that ideologies are mere substitutes for true knowledge and invariably dangerous, as a simple-minded, know-it-all approach – such as utopianism – cannot be a match for the complexity of our real-world existence.   The very word “ideology” has an 18th century French origin attributed to A.L.C. Destutt de Tracy and was to be used to designate the science of ideas.  While it was originally a serious philosophical term, Napoleon Bonaparte borrowed it, used it derisively, and relegated it to the trash heap of now being defined as a systematic body of concepts especially as ascribed to particular groups or political parties.  Tumbleweed has suggested that ideology not grounded in solid moral principles is downright dangerous.  In today’s morally relativistic world, the underlying morality of an ideology is critically important.

For example, there is a growing demographic in U.S. culture that has adopted socialism as its ideological mantra.  These folks are generally labelled as far left progressives, most often of the “new” Democratic Party persuasion.  Most have learned their socialism from media, academics, and political zealots as opposed to any intellectual debate in the crucible of ideas and experience.  No where in history has socialism succeeded as a form of government.  Certainly not Sweden for those not paying attention to that nation’s gross failures.  Socialism either regresses to a dependent culture with widespread socio-economic repression in which capitalistic elements are cherry-picked by the ruling class of utopians in a desperate effort to try to salvage the society or they take the next step to totalitarianism, as in Fascism, Communism, or Nazism.  Of course, the Communists have found the most expeditious way to control their utopian experiment is simply to kill dissenters…like more than 110 million in the past century alone.  Thank you, Karl Marx.  Oh, and the Communists are very much alive and well in the United States…some disguised as socialists.  Indeed, an ideology can be a dangerous, especially when grounded in faulty moral principles.  Tumbleweed argues that socialism seriously threatens our republic.  The sound moral principles embedded in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are vastly superior to any socialistic ideology, yet they are being challenged by mostly what Vladimir Lenin called useful idiots.

Tumbleweed believes it’s important to fight against evil.  Evil is an aggressive, pervasive, often subtle artifice that must be fought and defeated.   The alternative is to live in mediocrity or worse.  It boils down to a natural human tendency to treasure liberty, the opportunity to carve out our own opportunities unencumbered by some ponderous metastasizing supposedly-utopian government’s idea of how we should live every facet of our lives.  So, Tumbleweed has chosen the “red pill” (recall The Matrix) and is fighting  the evils of relativism, nihilism, and utopianism.  Just sayin’.


Think On: “The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and realistic.” JOHN F. KENNEDY, U.S. PRESIDENT

Scandal is defined as an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.  You’d hardly have guessed from the way scandals bounce around these days.

In today’s toxic environment, the term scandal is tossed around so readily as to have become meaningless.  After all, there are rarely any consequences in the political arena.

See whether you can say the following in a single breath: IRS Scandal, AG Contempt, Benghazi, General Motors Bailout, Obamacare, NSA Spying, DOJ Spying on Journalists, National Intelligence Leaks, Fast & Furious, Clinton Email Server, Veterans Affairs Scandal, Iran Deal, Bergstrom Deal, Chelsea Manning Commutation, Solyndra, Investigation of James Rosen, Illegal Executive Appointments, Iran Cash, Food Stamp Mania, Student Loans, Record Executive Orders, FISA Warrants…huff an’ puff.  That barely scratches the surface of “scandals” in the Obama White House.  Of course, some aren’t considered scandals if you’re of the Progressive liberal political persuasion.  The political liberals have their own set of Trump White House “scandals.”

The common thread among these scandals is not so simple.  They are certainly morally and legally wrong and have caused outrage by some segment of the public.  Tumbleweed hopes readers catch the drift.  Your morality or my morality; your legality or my legality?  Arghhh.

In Tumbleweed’s humble opinion, much scandal is a product of the failure of our cultural infrastructure from suppression of free thinking in our education system to the conscious devaluation of faith and family to the erosion of the nation’s founding principles.  In defense, people have learned to look out for themselves, as they seek pleasure in their hedonistic-driven culture and lash out at annoyances (i.e., scandals) that threaten that pleasure seeking.  Tumbleweed suggests that is a quite arrogant worldview given that most of the 108 billion humans that have populated the earth have already come and gone.  An infinitesimal fraction has the gall to complain!

Solutions?  For a start, we might reinsert our nation’s founding principles into the culture.  We might build/encourage families as basic unit of society.  We could stop government from stealing our liberties.  We might avoid addiction or enslavement to any ideology.  WE might strive to avoid taking advantage of others for selfish purposes.  We might try doing all things to the glory of God.  Yep.  There are some solutions.  These but scratch the surface.  Just sayin’.

Political Compromise – A Paradox

Think On: “The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and realistic.” JOHN F. KENNEDY, U.S. PRESIDENT

Like so many folks concerned about the ever-metastasizing Federal government “swamp,” Tumbleweed has observed that the often-manufactured divisiveness of politics layered atop the bloated bureaucracy defies credulity.  As JFK noted, myths abound.  If the myth suits your beliefs du jour, you fly to it like a moth to a lightbulb.  Our President refers to these politically-oriented myths as “fake news.”  But tumbleweed contends that its not really about politics and the accompanying myths, lies, exaggerations, half-truths, and sleight-of-hand, but an underlying paradox.  There is a major philosophical contradiction at work in our nation.

First, let’s consider compromise.  Compromise is the finding of some middle ground that two politically disparate parties can support.  Recall a definition of diplomacy as “the knack of letting the other person have your way.”  Think about if you accept a compromise on an issue that in some part contradicts your core beliefs, you thus have become party to something that thereby compromises your own morals.

Politicians are used to compromise, as they quickly learn to check the latest opinion polling (or convenient nearby lobbyist) and test the political winds of the day rather than reach into their own set of core beliefs.  “There are liars and there are politicians, but I repeat myself.”  So, goes the quote often attributed to Mark Twain.  Don’t we find it refreshing if not surprising, when a politician actually comes close to keeping campaign promises?

Tumbleweed contends that the United States has become a fertile breeding ground for lies and deceit, often cloaked as “news” but actually promoting seditious agendas that would totally undermine the founding principles of our nation.  We dare not lose sight of Adolph Hitler’s “social justice” reforms, Josef Stalin’s ethnic cleansings, or Pol Pot’s genocidal madness, as we listen to wet-behind-the-ears students, elitist academics, and leftist progressive politicians espouse their own agendas of reform that would rip our founding principles asunder in the name of some bumper sticker worthy issue.

Today’s real-world outcomes of progressive socialism-oriented entitlement culture that eschews compromise of their radical agenda, such as found in California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, and more, find themselves in horrific social and financial trouble.  A socio-economic divide of their own making!  Big government entitlements require ever-higher taxes to maintain that safety net that fast becomes a spider web that then envelopes its victims.  Myths of global warming (no such thing as “settled science”), one-size-fits-all education (like failing “Common Core”) rooted in an archaic Prussian model, racism that simply no longer exists, urban “plantations” that enslave the poor of all races, “social justice,” and the plight of women purportedly downtrodden by a male-oriented culture are all fodder for the radical agenda.  Compromise isn’t in the radical lexicon, as it defeats their divisive purposes.

The amoral “anti-establishment” radicals of the 1960s and 1970s sowed the seeds for today’s morality-compromised generation of progressive professors, politicians, lawyers, and cultural absolutists.  Often as followers of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals playbook for the left, these demagogues live by those persistent, persuasive, and realistic myths of which JFK spoke.  They have spurned absolutes of right and wrong.  Little wonder that it seems as though America has lost its way.  As Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias notes, “the power to harness rebellion through media and technology is much easier.  One statement in one minute can reach one million now.  And evil people will harness that.”

Those who ascribe to the U.S. Constitution as the guiding principles for our nation have compromised for so long that they’ve nearly given away our freedoms.  It’s high time that freedom-loving citizens got some backbone.  Compromise is indeed paradoxical; call it absurd, abhorrent, enigmatic, or whatever label we choose to more accurately define it.  The paradox is that in ascribing to compromise, we give away some pieces of our principles.  Do it enough, and we soon discover that our principles – the ones that protect our freedoms – are gone.

Tumbleweed believes that political compromise is a game in which there are no winners but certainly losers.  It boils down to ideology versus core philosophical principles.  Ideology refers to a set of beliefs or doctrines that back a certain social mindset.  Philosophic principles refer to looking at life in a pragmatic manner and attempting to understand why life is as it is what principles govern it.  Leftist progressives see principles as a metaphoric straightjacket rather than as standards for protecting freedoms.  When you compromise your principles, you have lost.

Recent politics have offered a serious lesson in backlash.  Pushed to the brink by years of political compromise and its impact on our daily lives (e.g., sprawling invasive government, loss of freedoms, etc.), frustrated angry Americans elected a non-politician president.  We might take issue with his colorful Bronx style, but love the way it offends the condescending elitist leftwingers.  They call it “Trump derangement syndrome, or TDS.  Draining the swamp, deregulating business, freeing energy resources, cutting taxes, appointing an apolitical judiciary, and hardline foreign policy have answered the prayers of the political right while throwing the political left into pangs of apoplexy.  The president has given hope that the nation might yet be saved from the brink of failure-prone European-style socialism.

Tumbleweed has shared an unusually long post wrapped around a complex subject.  BUT, our nation was founded on important bedrock principles.  Any further compromise will most certainly destroy the freedoms those principles protect.  Just sayin’.


Think on: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, then to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows no victory nor defeat.” T.R. Roosevelt

Tumbleweed spent 8 years in a part-time gig as an adjunct professor of business at a local college, teaching management, finance, marketing, and the like.  It was a joy to share and impart knowledge.  Students would often ask about their careers.  The Tumbleweed answer was simple yet profound; as I’d draw three intersecting circles…a Venn diagram.  In the first circle, the student would put what they were great at; in the second what they were fully passionate about; and the third whether it could earn them a living.  The nexus was what author/researcher Jim Collins in Good to Great called the BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

That’s a long way to getting around to sharing Tumbleweed’s BHAG.  Perhaps, my experience will help you find yours.  As a freshman in high school, my English teacher had us memorize lines from Shakespeare.  I chose Marc Anthony’s soliloquy over the body of the murdered Caesar, “Oh pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth that I am meek and gentle with these beggars…”  I was hooked.  I wrote my first poetry.  Powerful.  Cathartic.  But life went on.  Tumbleweed sort-of-grudgingly majored in English with a history minor in college, partied heartily, then left the creative to get a job writing technical manuals for military systems.  That was a far cry from creative writing.  But the trail led Tumbleweed to other communication forms, like advertising copy, brochures, press releases, scripts, and websites.  In the background, poetry, the music of the soul, kept my creative juices alive.  Business pursuits kept the lights on, but…

At some level, Tumbleweed was fairly good at writing – and even passionate about it – yet couldn’t lift the craft to the ultimate, fully-dedicated heights of passion, as my creative writings weren’t earning income.  A couple of early novels danced from fingertips to computer keyboard.  Tumbleweed self-published a Christian men’s self-help book, Building Godly Manly Men.  (Generally speaking, men’s self-help books don’t sell…no exception here.)

So, have you read Thomas Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities?  I not only read it but attended a talk by the author at a hotel in downtown Washington, DC.  Wolfe was resplendent in white linen suit, expounding artfully on his craft.  Tumbleweed so wanted to be at that lectern, talking about his own books.  The fire had been lit.  I wrote another book, and then another.  The drafts sit gathering dust.  I published a novel for teen boys, Jackson’s Journey. It got good reviews on Amazon, and a few copies were sold.  Nice, but not a way to earn a living.  Had to keep the day job.

Then, Tumbleweed’s writing passion was truly rekindled.  I picked up a dog-eared, coffee-stained copy of part of my Texas ancestral history along with a hand-scribbled family tree.  From that emerged an historical novel, biographical in nature, about Tumbleweed’s great great grandfather Nicholas Dunn titled Long Larry Dunn: A Texas Family Destiny.  (Long Larry was Nicholas’ own grandfather.)  The Texas tale inspired more poetry and led to self-publishing Life Unfettered, a collection of dozens of Tumbleweed’s poems.  I joined the Poetry Society of Texas, the Pennsylvania Poetry Society, and Catoctin Voices, a local poetry group.  Another Texas novel surged from my dreams and passions.  Cowboy Nation: A New Republic is a fictional account of a Texas successfully gaining independence from the United States.  Tumbleweed joined the Texas Nationalist Movement as part of the research for the book.  A third Texas historical novel, Recollections, about a cousin who was a railroad entrepreneur and helped build the Panama Canal is in the works today.

The dream, the vision, the passion lurks within.  Tumbleweed envisions sharing Texas with large audiences of western story aficionados.  And, I hope to vividly capture and share the stories of my own ancestors that immigrated from Ireland to settle the Texas frontier.  They were men and women of faith, hard-working, and able to endure life and find joy on the Texas frontier.  After all, everything is bigger and better in Texas.  No blarney.

So, what’s your dream?  Vision? Passion?  Just sayin’.