Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 Freedom Bowl Winners...

Elijah, Brooklyn, Rachael, and Alex won 2nd place at this years Freedom Bowl sponsored by The Roots of Freedom organization!!!

All four youth were competing for the first time, and they pulled this finishing placement. How fun for them.

I have to admit I'm glad to not have seen them compete until the final 7th round. (I was judging the senior division.) I don't think my nerves would have been helpful because as a mother you hope so much for your children to do well and I wonder if my energy can be negative in a way because I'm expecting too much. So the last round was exciting for me to watch and see my son answer which articles, sections, and clauses cover slavery, commerce, and proportional representation in the Constitution.

They have each earned $110 to be used for this summers week long simulation program.

Good job Eli. Now aren't you glad to have a mom who was dedicated to helping you even when you didn't want it? Yes, mothers do know best...at times.

A big thanks to The Roots of Freedom and AYLI for hosting and providing the awards for all the participants.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years

Here's a reason to read Atlas Shrugged for our March Colloquium... this reporter says just a little of what I have felt since reading this novel. What will you see differently?
___________________

Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.

Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as "the looters and their laws." Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the "Anti-Greed Act" to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the "Equalization of Opportunity Act" to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the "Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act," aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?

These acts and edicts sound farcical, yes, but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and the "Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act." Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by $1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office.

The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls."

When Rand was writing in the 1950s, one of the pillars of American industrial might was the railroads. In her novel the railroad owner, Dagny Taggart, an enterprising industrialist, has a FedEx-like vision for expansion and first-rate service by rail. But she is continuously badgered, cajoled, taxed, ruled and regulated -- always in the public interest -- into bankruptcy. Sound far-fetched? On the day I sat down to write this ode to "Atlas," a Wall Street Journal headline blared: "Rail Shippers Ask Congress to Regulate Freight Prices."

In one chapter of the book, an entrepreneur invents a new miracle metal -- stronger but lighter than steel. The government immediately appropriates the invention in "the public good." The politicians demand that the metal inventor come to Washington and sign over ownership of his invention or lose everything.

The scene is eerily similar to an event late last year when six bank presidents were summoned by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to Washington, and then shuttled into a conference room and told, in effect, that they could not leave until they collectively signed a document handing over percentages of their future profits to the government. The Treasury folks insisted that this shakedown, too, was all in "the public interest."

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"

"Implicitly!"

"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Fire your government employees."

"Oh, no!"

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.

David Kelley, the president of the Atlas Society, which is dedicated to promoting Rand's ideas, explains that "the older the book gets, the more timely its message." He tells me that there are plans to make "Atlas Shrugged" into a major motion picture -- it is the only classic novel of recent decades that was never made into a movie. "We don't need to make a movie out of the book," Mr. Kelley jokes. "We are living it right now.

Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Is America Still Making Men?

I thought maybe I was a lone with my sons need for air soft games. But after emailing our homeschool groups I find other boys with same needs. Maybe the reason is listed below.

________

Every society has to answer a few basic questions in order to succeed and even in order to survive. One of them is, "How do we make good men?"

The reason for the importance of this question is simple: Males untutored about how to control their natures will likely do much harm. Conversely, males who are taught to how to control themselves and to channel their drives in positive directions make the world a much better place. The good man is a glory of civilization; the bad man ruins it.

Throughout American history, American society asked, "How do we make men?" (It was understood that "man" meant a good man.) Anyone who thought about the subject knew that boys who are not transformed into men remain boys. And when too many boys do not grow up into men, women suffer and society suffers.

What is a man (as opposed to a boy)? The traditional understanding was that a man is he who takes responsibility for others -- for his family, his community and his country -- and, of course, for himself. A man stood for ideals and values higher than himself. He conducted himself with dignity. And he was strong.

For much of American history, making boys into men was understood to be of supreme importance, and society was usually successful. When I was a boy in the 1950s, without anyone expressly defining it, I knew what a man was supposed to be. And I knew that society, not to mention my parents, expected me to be one. It went without explicitly saying so that I would have to make a living, support myself as soon as possible and support a family thereafter.

When I acted immaturely, I was told to be or act like a man. I wonder how many boys are told to "be a man" today; and if they were, would they have a clue as to what that meant? It would appear that for millions of American boys, this has not been the reality for decades. Many families and society as a whole seem to have forgotten boys need to be made into men.

There are numerous reasons:

1. The distinction between men and boys has been largely obliterated. The older males that many American boys encounter are essentially older boys, not men. They speak, dress, and act similarly (think of men who "high-five" young boys instead of shaking their hands). And they are almost all called by their first names. Even when a boy (or girl) addresses an adult male as "Mr.," many men will correct the young boy or girl -- "Call me" and then give the young person his first name. This is often true even with regard to teachers, physicians and members of the clergy. When a young person calls an adult by his first name, the status of the two individuals has been essentially equated. Boys need men to respect. It's not impossible to do so when they call men by their first names, but it makes it much harder.

2. Boys today have fewer adult men in their lives than ever before. Many boys are not raised by any father. More are not raised by a father who lives in the home full time. Nearly every teacher and principal American boys have in elementary and high school is a female. The boy's clergy person and physician may well be women. And few male figures in contemporary film radiate manhood as defined above.

3. The ideals of masculinity and femininity have been largely rendered extinct. Feminism, arguably the most influential American movement of the 20th century, declared war on the concepts of femininity and masculinity. And for much of the population, it was victorious. Indeed, thanks to the feminist teaching that male and female human beings are essentially the same (note, incidentally, that no one argues that male and female animals are the same, only human beings are), untold numbers of boys have been raised as if they were like girls. They were denied masculine toys such as play guns and toy soldiers, and their male forms of play -- e.g., roughhousing -- were banned.

4. America has become a rights-centered rather than a responsibility-centered society. Aside from helping to produce a pandemic of narcissism, the rights-centered mindset is the opposite of the obligation/responsibility-centered mindset that makes a boy into a man. It is not good for either sex to be rights-preoccupied; but it is particularly devastating to developing men, as men are supposed to be obligation-directed. The baby boomer generation helped destroy manhood in most of the ways described here. One additional example was its widespread slogan, "Make love, not war." One cannot come up with a more unmanly piece of advice: "Don't fight for your country, screw girls." If the greatest generation had adopted that motto, Hitler and Tojo would have won. A few years ago, the city of Chicago named a street after Hugh Hefner, a man who has played games much of the day and night, lived in pajamas and devoted his life to sex -- quite a model of manhood for American boys.

5. There are few places where men can bond with other men. One major way men become men is by associating with other good men. The only places left where this normally takes place are sports teams and the military. The same holds true for boys. And much of society is now working on breaking the most significant all-boys institution, the Boy Scouts.

6. Males no longer have distinctive roles. Men do best when they are relied upon, when needed; and they feel most needed when they do something distinct from women. This exists today in sports and the military. It is symbolic -- significantly so -- that there are no more "men at work" signs on highways. Now "people" are at work. "Men" have disappeared.

7. Many churches and synagogues have been feminized. This has occurred in at least three important ways: Clergy are increasingly female (and touchy-feely males) -- for the first time in Christian and Jewish history; God is often depicted as androgynous and no longer either demanding or judging (He just loves all the time); and religion has been changed from morally and theologically demanding to a therapeutic model. So religion, too, has become yet another place where boys encounter few men, and few masculine models (even in God, as noted, is no longer masculine).

8. Instead of the traditional American model of masculinity, which was a rare combination of masculine toughness and stoicism with doing good (e.g., Superman), boys are now taught to be preoccupied with their feelings and with (unearned) self-esteem. They are not even allowed to lose; all boys playing a sport are given trophies, not just winners.

9. Increasingly, marriage is regarded as optional. The most obvious expression of men assuming responsibility -- marrying a woman and taking care of her and their children -- is no longer a male ideal. Vast numbers of men quite openly admit to having problems with the C-word (commitment) and responsibility of being a family's sole breadwinner.

When boys do not become men, women assume their roles. But they are not happy doing so. There are any number of reasons American women suffer from depression more than ever before and more than men. It is difficult to believe that one of those reasons is not the very emasculation of men that the movement working in their name helped to bring about. And so, a vicious cycle has commenced -- men stop being men; women become man-like; men retreat even further from their manly role; and women get sadder.


By Dennis Prager

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tia and her Palatometer

This morning was Mattia's first time with her palatometer device. It's hard to tell from this picture but there is a retainer type device placed against her upper teeth with tiny chips that sensor the placement of Tia's tongue. Connected to the computer is a picture of the top of the mouth with dots which light up as you move your tongue.
Today, Tia practiced moving her tongue to certain spots according to a preprogrammed test and then she worked on the "r" sound which requires her to use the back of the top of her mouth along with the letter "e" which she cn do with "e" but not with "r". But within 10 minutes she was seeing how to move the tongue and scored correctly with the "r" .

Saturday, January 16, 2010

By The Way, Welcome 2010

So far so good.

Bethany took third place at the local geography bee for homeschoolers. I could not believe the great guess she made and it was right.

The question was, "The St. Croix River is the border between Canada and what New England state?" Gove and I looked at each other and thought the question was wrong. the St. Croix borders between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Everyone one knows that. Right? Wrong. We did not know that the St. Croix is also the border between Maine and Canada. But that little Bethany pulled it out of her hat. Talk about snagging third. Wow. Way to go Beth. I'll add a picture when she gets her trophy.



Mattia is starting speech next week and will be using a new device called the Palatometer.
I was fasting the first of this month for guidance regarding the kids education, when I spoke with a friend I'd not seen for awhile. She mentioned her son. I knew he suffered with reading and speech. Rebecca told me about testing for dyslexia and speech. This palatometer seems like the way to connect students more fully or rather completely to the movement of their tongues.

Tia is excited to begin as well. Clear speech here we come! Let's not forget Eliza Doolittle hard work too.

Elijah is getting ready for the Freedom Bowl the end of this month. He also participated in the bee and had some major hard questions that even I did not know. He did answer one about men in this large Asian county wear a particular type of clothing. It was India and he was correct. Good for him. He will be very busy preparing to act in mock trials in March with his statesmanship team.

Criminals...

Friday morning I took Eli, along with 13 other statesmanship club youth to the Orem Court house. The youth are preparing for mock trial simulations over the next 10 weeks and this field trip was to give a small taste.

We watched two criminals confess to the guiltiness of their crimes. One had stolen $300 and the other had committed sexual loudness in front of young girls who fortunately were watching a movie and did not see but the off-duty officer with his daughters did see and arrested him.

Here again I was reminded of Les Miserables. This time it was Jean Valjean. He stole a loaf of bread for his starving sisters family. And in return spent 19 years in prison. Five for the crime and 14 for trying to escape twice.

The convict in our day stole 370ish dollars and in return he will now spend 6 months in jail, pay $1,5000 in restitution and fees for counseling. The sex offender will learn of his fate in 6 more weeks.

It was the countenances of these men that were so heartaching. No joy, no love, no self respect, and possibly no awareness of any value within themselves. Kind of like Jean Valjean until the Bishop entered his life.

What will happen to these men?

This was an eye opening experience not just for the youth but for me too. To lose love for yourself and direction. Oh I think I'd rather die then to think of no place for me in the mansions in heaven.

The Bishop...(forward to minute 5:45)

The Bishop...

I love Les Mes the musical and I love many parts in the book. I'm actually reading the first 300 pages again for an upcoming colloquium at the end of this month. I decided to read backwards from page 300. I guess to provide myself with a little entertainment and to see how my mind would recall what occurred prior.

I have been reminded of dear Bishop Myriel and Christ like attributes he and two other characters share.



The first is little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Such beautiful insights and love for others. Her faith and hope comes out of the words and actually lifts the reader (me) to attempt with more effort to be a worthy follower of Jesus.

The second character was found last night in a movie. Beth, Tia, and I watched a family film entitled Children on their Birthdays. The main character is Lily Jane who is about 13 years old. She steps into town and on first glance you might think her to be conceited. Not the case at all. She is Bishop Myriel in child size. Set in Alabama after WWII and with segregation in effect.

I love feeling lifted up by what I hear, see, and read. Uncle Tom, and Eva in Harriett Beecher Stowe's book and Lily in the movie have not just helped me but my daughters saw how important it is to not judge but be a friend to many and especially someone who is without a friend because she is a different color or not like all the other girls at school and church.