It's My Opinion That What's in This Website Is True...

Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art.

- Charles McCabe
San Francisco Chronicle


The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.

- Lowell

Having opinions can be a lot like wetting a dark pair of pants -
it gives you a warm feeling, but the attention you get afterward isn't always welcome.

- Me

Knock, Knock

Who's there?


Hatch who?

Bless you!

(It was a Joke.  I made it up myself.)

A fertile mind?

Hatching a Plan

I looked up "hatch" in the dictionary and found that it can mean (among other things): breed, brood, cover, line, or plan.  I looked up synonyms for each of these words and found this:

bulletbreed: bear, brood, incubate, produce
bulletbrood: (nothing I wanted to use)
bulletcover: deck, door
bulletline: shade
bulletplan: concoct, contrive, design, devise, invent, plot, project

From these choices, I made two sentences:

  1. Breed.  Shade brood.  Plan cover.
  2. Invent door.  Produce design.  Plot project.

There you have it folks - the story of my life according to Random House...

On the left is Alternate Me - the way I would have looked without an eye patch.  On the right is Future Me - the way I'll look in a few years.

When I was a high school student, school was the most important thing in my life.  I defined myself by my performance.  I made straight A's.  I took honours courses.  I was a National Merit Scholar, a Presidential Scholar, and went to SMU on an SMU Honorary Scholarship.  Once there, however, I was lost in the crowd.  No one encouraged me in any way.  No one knew who I was (or seemed to care).  I floundered and eventually dropped out, my self-esteem in tatters.  I married at 19, someone I hardly knew, had an unplanned child at 20 and divorced a couple of years after that.  I never heard from my ex-husband again and raised my child with the help of crèches.

I went on to have a successful career in the field of computers in spite of the fact that I had no degree.  My child was not so lucky.  I did everything wrong as a parent.  My daughter was a mediocre student.  This embarrassed me and caused friction between us.  She was excluded from the "in" crowd.  I spent long hours at work developing my career.  She found a group of antisocials who befriended her.  She experimented with abusable substances.  She left home as a teenager and was eventually murdered by "a friend."

I got another chance.  (Yes, I would've traded places with her if I could.  But life isn't "fair".)

I remarried, and had two sons.  This time, I didn't focus on my career but on my family.  I quit work and devoted myself to being "Mother."  I homeschooled them.  I have never regretted it and neither have they.  The experience has given me a totally different perspective on the education system, particularly in the lower grades - which serve much more to "train" (and, at least in the US, also to "patriotise") than to "teach."

Unfortunately, women today, particularly intelligent women, aren't encouraged to be full-time mothers.  (See Why the Most Important Job Is the Least Valued.)  I was almost restricted from immigrating to New Zealand because I no longer had a career of my own - I was not "productive."  The only thing worth producing seems to be money.  Homemakers are scorned.  (Donatella Versace says she could never design clothes for a woman who does not work, "because a woman must have a relationship with the world.  And the only way to stay in tune is to work.")

Luckily, a few women still feel differently...

"Life Skills" Get in the Way of Teaching

by Sophie Neville

Children are spending as much time in school learning "life skills" - such as how to pat a dog - as they are reading and writing.  Educationists say primary schools have become a dumping ground for programmes that are not necessarily a school's role, such as career planning, hygiene, fire and cycle safety, sun sense and values - and the list is growing every day.  Miramar South School principal Jeanette De La Mare said parents were now too busy to teach life skills and teachers were expected to fill the gap.  "People's lifestyles these days mean these things just won't get taught at home."

Assistant principal Kyran Smith said she often felt smothered by all she was expected to teach in a day.  As well as the core subjects, she teaches year 7 and 8 pupils such extras as career planning, meningitis awareness and Internet safety.  "Teaching things like keeping yourself safe is really important but often the teacher is the first person to even introduce these things."

Primary teachers' union president Colin Tarr said New Zealand had one of the fullest curriculums in the developed world and schools were continually being "lumped with" extra programmes.  "As a principal I was even approached about implementing a programme in the school on how to pat a dog properly.  There's all of these additional things that are made available to schools but they only have very tenuous links to the curriculum."  Society's attitude appeared to be, "right, children need to know these things.  Make the primary school do it.  "Every time something happens, like a child is bitten by a dog or there's a fire, responsibility is given to the school to implement a programme on it.  It's getting out of hand."  Schools had devised ways to integrate several subjects into one curriculum and had become masters at sorting out priorities, Mr Tarr said.

Education Ministry curriculum manager Mary Chamberlain said work was under way to reduce the curriculum.  A "stocktake" from 2000 to 2002 showed it was overcrowded and a revised system was needed.  "We need a different approach now.  There are increasing pressures for schools to deal with every issue."  As well, knowledge was expanding at a huge rate.  "You can't learn everything there is to learn any more."  Ms Chamberlain said a draft curriculum would be issued early next year that would aim to reduce the amount teachers had to get through each day.

Source: 7 March 2005

Teaching a child life skills is one of the more pleasurable tasks of parenthood.  How sad that there are parents too busy and/or tired to make it happen.  I suggest children not begin school until age 10 - more time with parents should help cement those bonds which seem lacking in too many families.  But I suppose it would just mean children spent more time with their caregivers instead.  Something is off the track.


Black Women Dream of - What?

by Constance Hilliard

As a professor, I enjoy the occasional confidences of female students, who share with me their most secret ambitions.  One's deepest desire was to become president.  A second hoped to be Microsoft CEO; another, the first female pope.  But it was a young woman, an African-American like myseIf, whose secret ambition made me laugh knowingly as she whispered it in my ear: housewife.

I once shared her deepest yearning, as have countless generations of black women.  In our lives, this ambition of domesticity hovers like a shimmering but unreachable mirage, unceremoniously shoved into the background by the controlling myth imposed on us: that of the strong, tough-minded, black superwoman and workhorse - one of the most destructive myths of our time.

Each Census shows the percentage of black women in the labour force exceeding that of women in other racial groups.  The painful, exhausting truth is that African-American women have always worked outside the home - starting with our slave ancestors, who were expected to pick 125 pounds of cotton a day, sometimes with infants strapped to their backs.

Given this history, when the contemporary women's movement exploded onto the American scene in the early 1960s, promising to liberate women from their dangerously idle and leisured housewife roles, the reaction of black women was one of puzzlement and ambivalence.  I suspect, in fact, that what still splinters the women's movement are the unspoken tensions generated by the differences in what women of varying ethnic and class backgrounds dreamily yearn for in their moments of deepest honesty.

It is true that the civil rights and women's movements opened new employment doors for some of the descendants of black agricultural workers, maid-servants and laundresses.  Yet I fear that a subtle one-dimensional view continues to define the black female experience in America, whatever her class.  The bottom line remains: work outside the home.

I'm not suggesting that black women trade in one toxic fantasy, the myth of the superwoman, for another, the idle leisure of the suburban housewife.  But as I have grown older, I no longer find appealing those models of female success measured solely by status or wealth.  What I have come to admire most are women who have truly mastered the most delicate art of all: contributing the gift of their labour to the larger society without sacrificing their precious home life and intimate relationships.

Constance Hilliard is a professor of history at the University of North Texas in Denton.

Source: USA Today Friday 17 August 2001

The Last Word...

The Art of Defiance: A Guide for Teenage Students to Resist Social Indoctrination

by Michael and Dima

The meaning of schools

There is nothing I hate more than hearing people's phony justifications about why we go to school.  If you dedicate any serious thought to it, you'll find that there simply is no meaningful purpose to them.  They serve to indoctrinate students with a variety of flawed ideas, which I think are worthwhile examining, and I will in this page.  I will criticise, with every last ounce of energy I have, the sheer stupidity of all the popular values and beliefs that schools all over the world instill into the young.

I'm not claiming that 99% of all students are indoctrinated with the contemporary ideology and made to accept an aimless world.  I am claiming that 100% (or something extremely extremely close to it) of students today are being indoctrinated with the contemporary ideology and made to accept an aimless world.  If you have not yet accepted society, you still haven't been indoctrinated.  You are one of so few.  You might think that the world is so big , there must be a lot of students like you.  Don't think that.  I don't know whether or not it is true, but what I do know is that once school gets done with you, and you haven't yet been indoctrinated, you will literally be one of a handful of students to have escaped.  There are about 6 billion people in this world as I am writing this, and there may be as few as two or three who have escaped.

I don't want to discourage you.  Our world desperately needs students like you who can defy the system and not accept society.  I will personally do everything in my power to help.  You see, the reason it is so difficult is because everybody conforms.  The key is to defy.  You must defy authority, defy school, defy society, defy the media, defy your family, defy your friends, you must defy everything.  Don't think like them or think they are harmless because if you do that you will conform without even noticing, you will become like them.

What is the great danger we are trying to prevent?  Aimlessness.  You might be thinking to yourself, this can't be right.  What about all those students who don't go to school or who are home-schooled?  How are they indoctrinated?  Well, it is not only schools, it is all of society.  But it is easier to just focus on one thing, and once you reject schools, you can reject everything else for very similar reasons.  So I will focus on school, but it is only an example.  I pick it because it is the largest part of most young people's lives.  And really, once you're old, it is too late, you have to escape indoctrination while young.

So how did I escape?  What did it take?  Well, I just graduated from college, but the most important part of my life was when I was about 14.  My memory is fuzzy, I might be wrong.  Plus, it was a very slow gradual process, it took many many years.  Mostly I was just lucky to develop the will to be defiant.  I didn't know why it was good to be defiant.  It was only later that I realised how easily I could have been indoctrinated myself if I hadn't been defiant.  I also believed that I had the willpower to do anything.  I was very defiant, but not from the outside.  You don't necessarily have to be outwardly defiant.  It might even be dangerous because others will criticise you and make you feel bad about yourself.  But you have to be defiant on the inside.  Don't ever be happy, that's what society wants to make you feel, and you will just be accepting it.  I recommend bottling up all your frustration and anger inside you.  Don't let it out, don't tell anyone.  If you do, the world will never change.  But if you keep your thoughts to yourself and use all your determination, you will not give up.  You will simply wait, until you're older and someday you'll meet others like you, and then you'll be able to work together to change society.

These last paragraphs were mostly emotional, I didn't really make any logical arguments or give convincing reasons.  I will give some reasons in the remainder of the page, but my intent is only to define what I am talking about.  I believe future defiants can achieve much more than I did, so I don't want to bother you with my inferior ideas, since you'll probably find better ones yourself.  Also, I am too old to remember much of what it was like when I went to school.  If you are still a student and very defiant, hopefully I can get your help with this webpage.  I actually regret to have to be writing this all alone with my own limited mind, but I don't have any choice, because I am the only one I know who escaped.

Cultural and individual diversity

One of the more popular notions around is that were all different.  We were brought up in different families with different values, lived in different cultures and societies, associated with different groups or friends, and have been speaking different languages.  The contemporary ideology generally claims that we should appreciate this diversity.  No culture can be considered better than the rest, since all such ideas of superiority are subjective and prejudiced.  As for the idea of doing away with prejudice altogether, well, it can't be done, since we're all prejudiced by our environment.  No one is immune.

It is true that this diversity exists.  But why would an individual want to be part of all this?  I grew up speaking the language of the country in which I lived, but why should I respect and appreciate this?  Wouldn't it be simpler if there was just one language in the world?  If everybody spoke the same language, wouldn't things be simplified by eliminating the need for translators, foreign language studies, and difficulty in communication?  Certainly, we don't need 1000 different ways of saying "spoon", "fear", or "hesitate".

Cultural traditions, festivals, and art work are even worse.  Why do we need them at all?  What I am getting to is, why should we tolerate diversity?  Perhaps the word diversity itself is misleading people.  If we really had diversity, then some people would conclude that we don't need it.  Some would conclude that they have no need for all the values, traditions, and habits in the world.  Some would get together and create a society in which there is no diversity.  But you see, our world is making everyone believe in the same basic principles in how to view life.

There is nothing that alarms me more than the thought that millions of children are growing up now, and they are all accepting it, all so trusting and obedient.  If they've already gotten to you, don't bother telling me, I already know all I need to know about you.  I see you guys every day, I hear your pointless opinions every day, one more won't make a difference.  You're all irrelevant, don't you see?  Once you accept, it's over.  Growing up is like a race to find out what the world is doing to you before it's too late.  When you're older, you'll have lost your spark, you'll simply be content and happy.  Happy with the world and the way things are.

Personal opinions

Another common belief is that we all think differently and should have our own opinions.  The concept of an opinion itself strikes me as something rather odd.  Why should I insist on something whose certainty I am unsure of?  As an example, someone might say, "My favourite colour is blue".  That's a fine opinion, but what is its purpose?  Why should I have a favorite colour?  If I need a pen to write my homework, I will probably choose a blue or a black pen, since those colours are most widely accepted by teachers, whereas if I choose a yellow pen, my homework might be rejected.  So there is a logical reason to choose particular colours in particular cases.  It doesn't mean I need a favourite color to decide.  So why?

Some other person might come along and say "I disagree with you.  My favourite colour is green."  So one person likes blue, the other green.  If they need to get a boat, they might argue about whether to get the green or the blue one.  All because they insist on having a personal preference.  It doesn't matter whether we're talking about colours or something else, why should we disagree?  What if I say I don't need any of those values, beliefs, personal preferences, and wants?  I might only allow myself to be controlled by reason and logic.  The conformist will say, "we all have wants and preferences".  If the world is really diverse, then some people will decide not to have them.  They will only believe in logic.

Then how can they disagree on anything?  Society claims that disagreement is natural and should be accepted.  Of course, if I try, I can disagree with everybody.  But you see, it doesn't accomplish anything to disagree; disagreement is meaningless.  Some people will tell you that if everybody agreed with everyone else, this would be a boring world, so we don't want that.  They are wrong because there are plenty of unexplained mysteries in the world for us to solve.  Wouldn't we be able to make more progress solving them, if we stopped being aimless and disagreeing constantly over unimportant things?

What is really boring is everybody being aimless and disagreeing because you already know what the result will be, nothing.  Some people will even say that makes sense, but unfortunately not everybody else thinks like us, so we'll always disagree anyway.  That is a really stupid thing to say.  You see, the problem is not about what the majority thinks or does.  The problem is that the majority today is everybody.  Everybody is indoctrinated.  The exceptions are so rare, we'll be lucky if we ever find each other.

If only a few of us would get together and demonstrate how a group can interact without disagreeing, that would prove how silly it is to be having all these personal opinions and preferences.  If you act stupid just because you think that the majority will always be stupid, you're just being part of the majority.  It takes an extreme degree of determination and discipline to become different from everybody else.  Even if you find yourself conforming to them, it doesn't matter.  As long as you are motivated to escape, you will eventually escape.  It takes years, but you are only defeated when you have lost your defiance.  The emotion of defiance is strongest.  No one can crush it.  The only way to crush it is to make you stop feeling it.  Just keep feeling it, and you'll be fine.

Expressing opinions

At school and in other places, you are often asked to express your opinion.  These social situations are where society tries to force you to think the conformist way.  It is very effective because with enough repetition, you will internalize the concept of opinion, which means you will really think what you say.  In principle, opinions are unnecessary because given enough time to analyse the question, you can come up with a final answer, rather than just an opinion.

The trick, you see, is not to give you any time to think.  You're just expected to blurt out an opinion and keep doing it for a variety of different subjects.  But if you develop an opinion, you will just be conforming to the peer pressure of having to have an opinion.  You can never think too much about a topic.  Some will tell you, "you can keep thinking and thinking, but you'll never come up with a final answer," or something similar.  Well, they are being lazy.  They don't want the best possible answer, they just want different opinions to have the same value, so everybody's opinion counts equal.

When you are asked to express an opinion, it really doesn't matter what you say.  You can say nothing, say you don't have an opinion, make up an opinion, or express an opinion that seems best out of the ones you know so far.  The only danger is when you believe that you really have an opinion.  Opinions are simply nonsense because given enough time and logic, we don't need them.

Michael is an engineer from Germany and Dima is an IT consultant from Russia.  They both currently reside in the US.


No, I don't completely agree with Michael and Dima, but I certainly respect their right to express their opinions (which, in spite of what they might like to think, IS what they're expressing).  At least they've tried to "think outside the box" and don't seem to be "bought" - something we could use a little more of these days.

For articles on education covering subjects taught, tests, costs, boredom, honour, rites of passage, rigid rules, cliques, thinking, learning, homeschooling, creating, brilliance, ongoing education and more, click the "Up" button below to take you to the Table of Contents for this section.

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