Cognitive Dissonance , Gun Violence and Facebook

As defined by Encyclopedia Britanica (bet you haven’t seen that source for a while)
“Cognitive dissonance is the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in people is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers: they reject, explain away, or avoid the new information; persuade themselves that no conflict really exists; reconcile the differences; or resort to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in their conceptions of the world and of themselves.”

Or the short form as stated by Adam Savage of the Myth Busters, ” I reject your reality and substitute my own. ”

This was brought to mind as I read reactions both negative and positive by several people on Facebook to the idea that the U.S. Federal Government was going to fund research on “gun violence”

I have to wonder who will decide the hypothesis to be tested, who will gather the information , where and how will it be gathered, and finally who will frame the language and scope of the final report. Every area of which will be subject to ill defined and often unrecognized bias.

Even more interesting will be the reactions of various factions as the report comes up with “facts” in conflict with their beliefs. A situation that almost certainly will happen. Significantly for Facebook and its problem with cognitive dissonance,. Most facts will be conveyed to most observers in a 30 second sound bite or a lead paragraph without any concern for the underlying depth and methodology of the research.

I’m not sure it is possible to come to an unbiased conclusion on gun violence. The problem is simply too complex and ingrained in our society. Rather than creating a unified plan for reducing gun violence the research is more likely to function as a wedge that divides the true believers even more deeply.

Posted in guns, Political Correctness, politics, Society, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Defining Racism

I have been watching with concern the stories and posts about  a high school teacher and a college professor here in Iowa  being pilloried over “racial slurs” which did not have any racially motivated intent.  They simply used a word in context in their classroom that our society has chosen to ban  A word used as they attempted to do their job of teaching. One was even trying to make a point about unthinking racism.   Both of these people unfortunately and undeservedly  will probably have their careers damaged by cowardly zero tolerance policies,  unthinking students too ready to protest,  and short sighted administrations riddled with fear. All  abetted by a media  too happy to jump on the bandwagon.

Thirty  years ago, thankfully before cell phones were common, I had a white conical shaped hat with stars and comets on it that I used to introduce a unit on Osmosis. I was the Wizard of Osmosis (after the wizard of Oz) One day a black student noted that it looked like a Ku Klux Klan hat. I put the hat away and never used it again. Today a picture would be posted and  I would probably be fired,suspended or at the very least sentenced to a class on sensitivity training.

One of the saddest things about our zero tolerance world is that perception overwhelms truth in too many cases. My paper hat had nothing to do with racism but today it would have been posed as such and I would pay the price for it.

This is not to say that racism does not exist but it is only a short step from banning words to banning thinking and in the cases of these two teachers it appears that the process has already begun.

The cartoon is from Walt Kelly’s Pogo and although he was talking about pollution in the cartoon it echoes an essential truth about our whole society today!


Posted in education, Political Correctness, politics, Society, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

NCAA Caves

I believe that the NCAA knew they were going to lose the endorsement fight so they cut their losses. It does not matter that NCAA stars are already paid for their skills, it’s called an athletic scholarship. free food, free tuition, free housing, free tutoring, clothing allowances, training, trips to exotic locations like Lincoln Nebraska and etc

At most universities it is a deal worth in excess of $20,000 a year for the scholarship athletes.  At some universities  closer to $60,000 or $70,000 a year.

What is to stop a billionaire supporter of a particular university from offering an endorsement deal to a star high school athlete pending their attendance at the university of the Billionaire’s choice. The athletically rich are going to get richer and the poor…….. well it appears, “who cares.”

With this ruling it makes sense to forget the scholarship charade and simply pay athletes to represent the University or perhaps the pro teams could hire universities as “farm clubs”  and take all of the concern about educational success out of the equation entirely.

In fact I’m not sure that the education requirements are not discriminatory to begin with.  Discriminatory  against those who are less intelligent or have a poor educational background. Maybe we should not  even require a high school diploma to attend a university.


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Thinking and Boxes

We often hear the phrase, ” Thinking outside the box.” The phrase usually means being creative but in politics it means something else. It too often means that anyone outside of your box is wrong and incapable of thinking. I would suggest that perhaps we might be better off if we started thinking, ” Inside someone else’s box” The results might be enlightening.

Posted in Creative Problem Solving, education, elections, politics, Society, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Metaphorically Speaking

“The pen may not be as powerful as the sword.”

English teachers deserve a special place in Heaven. I came across this list in a file on my computer. Having never taught Language beyond 5th grade I would imagine an 8th grade Language teacher making this list of metaphoric attempts. I can claim no ownership of this list and do not know where it came from so please accept my apology if it is yours.

He was as lame as a duck. Not a metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something

The plan was simple, like my brother Phil. But unlike my brother Phil this plan just might work.

Even in his last years Grandad had a mind like a steel trap, one that had been left out too long and rusted shut.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star crossed lovers raced across the grassy field towards each other as two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 PM traveling at 55 mph and the other from Topeka at 4:19 PM traveling at a speed of 35 mph

Her hair glistened like nose hair after a sneeze.

The little boat drifted across the pond exactly like the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

He was as tall as a 6 foot 3 inch tree.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

She had a deep throaty, genuine laugh like the sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

Her thoughts tumbled in her head , making and breaking alliances like under wear in a dryer without a cling free sheet

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Some years ago we made a semantic mistake when we called our goal, ” multicultural diversity. ” In fact it would have been much more valuable if we had called the goal,” multicultural unity.” We used to be the world’s melting pot where all cultures were mixed together to create a stronger whole. Now I fear our society is being split apart into various tribes, each with their own goals and no common goals to be reached.

Posted in Cable News, education, elections, politics, Society, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Throwing Money at Education

What Schools Need
The answer is simple and it is not only money it is respect and discipline. Teachers need to respect their students and students and parents need to respect their teachers.
As to the idea that more money is the primary need. WW II classes in England were held in open fields using a portable chalk board and folding chairs. This was done because many schools were destroyed and the Germans did not bomb open fields. Yet even under those conditions learning continued. It is true that you often get what you pay for and many teachers are woefully underpaid for their skills. Truly it would be nice to have higher salaries and castles to teach in but neither are really necessary for learning to take place.
Here are some simple truths to consider.
Not all teachers are good at their job but there are more parents than teachers and many of them are doing badly at theirs.
Nearly all children and parents are capable of shading the truth to serve their own interests or protect their own perceptions. Few parents want to think ill of their own children.
Problems in class rooms do not happen in isolation. No teacher ever taught a child to swear, throw things, hurt others or be disrespectful.
A fair fear of consequences is a necessary ingredient in most classrooms just as it is in society.
Every time a teacher calls home or a parent calls the school to complain they reduce the student’s level of respect for both parent and teacher.
Every time a parent over reacts in a negative way to a perceived minor transgression at school they tend to damage their own child by their actions.
Every time an undisciplined or disruptive student destroys the class room atmosphere they steal time and learning from the other students in that class room.
Too often today the tail wags the dog instead of the other way around.
If you want test scores and learning to increase although it may help to throw money at the problem the simpler solution is to give the control of the classroom back to the teachers where it belongs.

Posted in Education Reform, politics, Society, Uncategorized | 1 Comment