Evil Persists

One of the books that recently caught my attention was the diary of a governess for three children on the edge of World War I; An English Governess In The Great War, by Mary Thorp. I bought it and began listening to my wife read short sections to me.

World War I began shortly after Thorp settled in as governess with three little boys in Brussels. The German army made its attack on France through Belgium south curving east through northern France, but failed to drive the British and French out of the war. Belgium became an occupied country which is the story of this diary.

While I have selected German activities that have practically driven my wife out the book, the one that grabbed me most was the gathering up of
men and shipping them off to Germany to perform work there for which there were no longer enough Germans. This, of course, left not enough Belgians to keep that country going. Once in Germany, these men were worked until sick to death when they were shipped home to die. Coal from Belgian mines was confiscated. All metal, including metal household goods (pots and pans, wash tubs) were gathered up in multiple sweeps. And, these are just the beginning.

What I had not realized, was that exactly the same seizures and controls were put in place 20 years later with the Nazi invasion. The more I learn about Nazi behavior which I lived through in WWII, the more I feel the almost complete destruction of German social and physical structure was well deserved.

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New World

New World

The big corporations built up over WWII got their workers from veterans who went to college and were a disciplined and educated group who could fill the jobs in new corporations like camera company Kodak. Pullman porter jobs were gone as airlines hired stewardesses. Auto companies exist only in bits and pieces in this country today. Information work has young people coming and going, but few 20-30 year jobs remain. A recent article describes how convenience stores can (and are) now selling their goods without human clerks.

Marriages are down, but suburban jurisdictions, like Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia, can’t build schools fast enough while rural counties throughout the country have to consolidate schools. Collection of a majority of people in urban areas leads to increased living separation between those with well paying work and those with poorer paying work. Farming, manufacturing, service work are increasingly done by fewer people using various forms of technical assistance.

Medical diagnostic work is also going out of the hands of physicians into those of technicians. Computers have moved into schools, though that has not (yet) reduced the need for teachers. The list could go on. We are obviously in the midst of major change in the way we live our lives. It appears we have even less control over this one than the one I lived through.

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Maybe Not Where We Thought We Were Going

This Fourth of July holiday seemed a good time to remind ourselves of the wars we have been in since this Declaration was approved.

July 4, 1776 Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain.

July 4 1814, United States at once again at war with Britain which was on the doorsteps of the White House

July 4, 1863 found the Union Army victorious at the close of battles in Gettysburg, PA and Vicksburg, Mississippi.

July 4, 1846-48, war with Mexico

July 4, 1898 war with Spain

July 4 1917, War with Germany

July 4 1942-45, War with Japan and Germany

July 4 1950-53,  Korean War

July 4 1956-1975, Vietnam War

When I thought that I would make a few comments about the War for Independence, the Civil War and World War II, it took me a little time to realize that we had much more time at war. For a people who see ourselves as peace loving this expanded time at war has led me to think about our being in conflict that required Congressional support for at least 30 years of our existence (and this does not count the seven years of the French and Indian War while a British colony). Nor, does it count our military involvement in Iraq begun in 2003, and Afghanistan from 2001 to the present. I now see our resemblance to the Romans as they shifted from being a republic to a dictatorship. I have often wondered what led them to move from being a republic to the dictatorship of an emperor. This little exercise puts their political history into better understanding (though it doesn’t make me feel better about what I see as our direction).

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Still Hot Summer

What a week! Relatives came to visit, family gatherings and trips, special meals, much conversation; lots packed into two days. Sorry they couldn’t stay longer.

Now back to real life. Trump and crowd are doing their usual thing. The Republicans in Congress have discovered what most already knew; trying to pass legislation that the constituencies of many members don’t like can lead to shortened terms. What will we hear after the 4th of July at home?

Early the President still wakes up and gets mad at people he can’t fire. Comments are mostly what you would find at all male clubs. The papers have him going to European conference where he will meet with Vladimir Putin. Heaven only knows what will come of that, given that it is reported he has basically taken us out of union with Europe.

I’m trying to learn the various features of a mobile phone. A good part of that so far involves calling friends and family members. I am reluctant to pursue that for too long with one person; how long can I lean on good will. The fourth of July is upon us and the neighborhood party is leading to people trying to find out what food items other people will bring.

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Summer

Well, Summer is here in Washington (DC), the temperature is near 90, and the baseball team just gained a lead in their game. My lawn mower is in the shop, where I should have taken it in the “off season”. Despite promises to have it ready in a week, I am making early inquiries about borrowing one for the next cutting.

Another political excitement this week with the testimony of the former director of the FBI about what the President expected from him has brought on another political scandal that will be investigated into the Fall (at a minimum). The President continues to travel and issue statements that his staff attempts to clarify, downplay, and generally wish had not been made. We can expect this to continue, as will the special committee of Congress that is investigating the whole mess, existing and prospective.

All in all, a more active summer than I had expected.

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My Values

Tuesday was the 72nd anniversary of the invasion of France by Allied armies. Seventy two years ago this past week was the Battle of Midway where the planes from three American carriers destroyed four of the Japanese carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor on the previous December 7th. My father was principal of a rural school (grades 1 through 11) and we had a short wave radio. When school was not in session, I had little to do but listen and ride my bike around the school yard. I was able to listen to DNB, the German short wave radio as well as some stations in the U.S. l had been able to keep up with the war from its beginning.

The excited reports of the battle of Midway and the Invasion of France were not only fascinating, but laid the basis for my understanding of what was to become the history of the times in which l grew up. In the summer of 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. To avoid the draft I volunteered (or was volunteered by an admiral) for the navy and upon graduation spent two years on active duty.

Much of the values which have shaped my life have been shaped by the total process of war: sense of duty

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St. Augustine

Many years ago, further back than I want to remember, I made a professional trip to Central America to visit professional schools of education in three different countries. Since I was going to spend a substantial amount of time on airplanes, I took The City of God by St Augustine to read. I finished it, (all 867 pages) but I had to reread, concentrate and spend a lot of time trying to put his ideas into my context. At the end of this trip, I came home and went to our swimming pool to assume the role of timer in my children’s swimming meets. Without moving directly to a classroom for use,  St. Augustine probably never became an essential part of my professional philosophy.

In looking through our library recently, I found a biography of Augustine, in 149 pages: The Restless Heart, by Michael Marshall. Unlike my first reading, this one focuses on his life and how he arrived at his theology. In his early life he worked his way through contemporary religions, Manichaeism and Gnosticism for example, and then left his home in Carthage for Rome. There, he became much more liberal in his life, dropped his wife for a lover and generally led a more inclusive life. His study of religions led him to Christianity which essentially took hold of his life. He was baptized in Milan in 387 A.D. and later returned to North Africa. He became Bishop of Hippo where he spent the rest of his life in the Christian church studying and writing.

This author takes you through Augustine’s life in a way that gives you the feeling for what the man became: a Christian.  The publishers have provided plenty of photographs to show the area he lived and worked in.

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New View Of The Brain

In this Tuesday’s Washington Post there is an article that reports on research that says our brain rearranges our mind every night, keeps some of the day’s experiences for integration into the pattern that controls our behavior and dumps the rest. The article is about how this takes place. This means we don’t look back, rather we are focused on what will happen to us later today, or tomorrow, etc.

From my standpoint as a teacher of teachers, it helps me understand the lack of interest by education students in the actions and ideas of past educators. It also explains why new methods textbooks sold even though they said almost exactly what previous ones said. Other subjects were similar. Yet, most prospective teachers had stored away selected information about teaching from one or more of their previous teachers. They planned to go out and teach the same way. The problem was that these bits and pieces were difficult to organize in a classroom situation different from the one their model had been in.

It was in student teaching that they got to see that they had to move their thinking to this new situation. The new teaching-learning situations in which teachers and students work together don’t respond to the old method of teaching where the teacher is in charge of everything that goes on in the classroom. Research like this is slowly changing classroom learning. Hopefully educating teachers will get on board.

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What Are Monuments?

Recently there have been a number of articles about monuments in Southern cities about the War Between The States, known more widely throughout the country as the Civil War (if it is known at all). South Carolina flew the Confederate flag on its capitol grounds; Alexandria, Va has its Southern soldier facing south, leaning on his rifle with his head bowed. Richmond has an avenue lined with Confederates on stone pillars. Every Southern city that could afford their version up to the early 20th century has something similar. There are even a couple of statues in the nation’s capitol.

So, how long do/can we keep events alive in our memories? There are a number of attempts to move the Confederacy into the memory cellar of people who still have it in an upstairs room. The flag has been moved off South Carolina’s capitol grounds; it took the murder of nine black people in their church to accomplish this. The mayors of Charlottesville and New Orleans are trying to move their statues to less central places. Depending upon the amount of discord this raises, and it seems to be raising a lot, other cities may attempt the same.

However, this will not be easy. Richmond, capitol of the Confederacy, has a boulevard lined with Virginia confederates and I am sure there is a cleanup group for them. From what I have read and watched on tv, there are two groups with opposite positions, and a majority that really doesn’t care. Paris is full of statues of Napoleon, who was a loser himself. However, his Frenchmen who put them up are the same as Frenchmen today. Like a couple of kings, he represents France in its greatest hours.

In our southern states, there is no such attitude unifier. About half of our black population lives in the south, and they cut the possible number of important Confederate supporters by about half. In addition, there are the Yankees who have moved south since WW II for whom that “War” carries little interest.

As these two examples seem to show, old allegiances can last as long as people have a sense of ties to past events. Germans are an example of what can happen when commitment to a set of values brings such destruction to a social system that it has to be reconstructed. In the case of the Confederate states, they were legally readmitted to the union, but basically walled off economically and socially until Franklin Roosevelt’s administration.

So, monuments seem to be attempts to retain loyalty to people or events from the past that some group thinks important. People such as Lincoln and Churchill and Beethoven have monuments because they contributed to national goals and people. In the case of a divided nation, how do we deal with people whom we have come to view as historically important? George Washington owned slaves, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, in fact, fourteen members of of the Constitutional Convention delegates owned slaves.  Should we remove them from our view?

Using this example, how much of our history do we want to erase? How do we decide?

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Is Any of This Us?

In talking with one of the rectors at our church, she gave me a quotation from Edmund Burke:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I have been thinking about the meaning(s) of this statement and where l can see it today. Having spent my working life trying to help individuals do the most they can with their lives, I see good men and women struggling to make sense of our world. The first place that crossed my mind was in our political life. With change of political life at the national level, it is on my mind every day. Since my party lost the election, and a crowd l could agree with less now holds power, I view every political action with suspicion and worry. With my Republican friends, l have felt for some time that the Federal government ls becoming too big and unwieldy. But, is what the current Republican administration doing is what should be done to reduce expenditures and maintain support where (I think) it is necessary?

In another case, the change in our economic life began, according to our economic experts sometime in the 1960’s. I must say that I did not see it then, and only several years later. All of our economic help, mostly to European countries, created competitors to our steel producers, automobile manufacturers, electronics producers and just about any other manufacturer. By the time I saw what was happening, it had happened. Manufacturing was moving overseas and jobs were going with them, leaving thousands of people unemployed.

In this economic sense, can leaving people without a way of earning a living and excusing it by saying that’s the way the system works be called evil? Government began to respond to this situation by creating new programs of assistance for those in in need, leading to the size and cost of our current government. Unemployment is located heavily among the uneducated and the poor, who stay that way and perpetuate a class society. So, an economic situation of constant invention of machines by humans has created a world in which machines constantly displace people in the economic system. The Democrats have used government to support those who can’t support themselves, spending increasing amounts of money in this effort. The new Republicans see cutting services as the answer to this problem.

Both political parties embarked on routes that if carried to their conclusion, wherever that might be, could bankrupt the government or leave some people starving. Would the breakdown of government be evil?

P.S.  Ford is running a completely automated plant in China.  Will that come here?

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