COVID DAZE

 

Monday, 7:30 AM 

“John, Wake up!” 

“Why?” I am not going to work.” “It’s just going to be another bullshit day spent with you, and the dog, and the computer screen, and the TV, and more bullshit. I am so sick of this. Leave me alone, I don’t have a Zoom call until 9 o’clock. Then they are non-stop until 6 o’clock.”

How many people start the day that way? How many people are afraid to go out to stores, to restaurants, to see friends and family for fear of either catching Covid or spreading it?

How many of us are sick of the “new normal”, and when I mean sick, I don’t mean just annoyed or tired of it. I mean psychologically ailing with what my shrink wife now has dubbed Covid Fatique. Relationships have been strained. Tensions mount. Fear rules…and this is for those who are lucky enough to still have their jobs and can work from home. 

Now add kids. Are they going to school? Who is going to work with them on their remote assignments? 

“Algebra? I don’t know no stinkin’ algebra!”  

“What if they do will they get “it” and bring it home? Will they be able to see grandpa?”

Monday, 10:00 PM

“John, can we talk?”

“No. I am too tired. It’s time to just go the hell to sleep, not talk, or anything else for that matter. “Get me 2 Ambien.”  

“Good night John. Hope you feel better tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Hey, where IS the dog?” 

A Re-Defunding story:


Language:

The “POLICE” is a singular noun. It refers to the system where some humans police others. It is like the old Hitchcock movie, “The Birds” is coming. So when we speak of speak of the police needing reform and re (de)funding, how and where they do that is what they mean. The POLICE must be tamed, retrained, and reassigned. Most schools do not need them.

What comes next is entirely anecdotal from the 1970’s up to ’86. Things have gotten worse since then because of the militarization of the police as armored troops by mayors such as NY’s Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, especially post 9/11.

Back then, in the BX in A.E. Stevenson HS, we had School Safety Officers who were community men and women trained in negotiation and de-escalation to work the hallways of a school with 3,600 kids. But there were never enough of them, and some us had to take on those roles, as “Deans”. It became our job to counsel and deal with disruptive kids, not arrest them. We lost teaching time to do that. LACK OF FUNDING!

Imagine if back then they had hired enough SSOs trained that way.
Imagine if that was now. DEFUNDING THE POLICE COULD DO THAT.

A Police Officer is a singular human. I worked with two Police Officers shower both respected and actually liked because of their ethic, their morality, their humanity, and how they interacted with our kids.

We were in a high crime South Bronx neighborhood. Their presence, based on the respect they earned on our tough streets was one reason we and most of our kids were all ok with them and the School became a haven for students.

Could we have done as well without them there? Maybe, but it would have been much harder, because we would have had to “police” our building more. LACK OF FUNDING!

The POLICE MUST BE REFORMED, but I would add that that reform should include, if not be led by, righteous “Police Officers”. And to do that, all the $$$$ now going to tanks, armor, military style equipment and that training should be DEFUNDED and REFUNDED to more appropriate areas.

FOXES, HEDGEHOGS, MEDIA, AND PARTISANSHIP

 

There hasn’t been much good to come out of the Coronavirus Pandemic. But it has led me to catch up on a lot of reading. Two books I read, David Epstein’s RANGE, and Ezra Klein’s WHY WE’RE PARTISAN, hit me like a ton of bricks. Together, they explained to me… and I hope now to you… the connection between how we think, and how we are manipulated by media, into the extreme partisanship faced by modern America. The problem is, I am not sure we can get out of it. As Klein says, “Absent an external unifying force [Covid?] like a war, the divisions – or worse- that we see today will prove to be the norm, while the depolarized politics of mid 20th century America will prove the exception. And if we can’t reverse polarization… then the path forward is clear: we need to reform the political system so it can function amid polarization. I’ll leave it to younger folk to figure that out.

James Flynn, a New Zealand professor of political studies showed successful adaptors drew on outside experiences and analogies to INTERUPT their inclinations to follow the same old patterns, the skill is TO AVOID those patterns. Detailed prior knowledge is less important than a way of thinking. A little training in broad thinking strategies can go a long way in calling BS.

 

Learning what is both durable and flexible is neither easy, nor fast. Strategies must be more long term and have “desirable difficulty”, not “desirable ease”. For example: To discuss something to come to an agreement or compromise is more difficult and takes longer then to win (or lose) a debate. Yet it trains us to think to come to solutions far better. Frustration is not a sign you are not learning. Ease is.

 

John Dewey said, “A problem well put is half solved.” The best problem solvers are more able to determine the deep structure of the problem BEFORE they MATCH a strategy to it. Less successful ones are more apt to classify problems superficially using overly stated features. Sound familiar?

 

Faced with unexpected findings, rather than assuming what they knew, or thought was correct, students should be taught that the unexpected becomes the opportunity to explore alternatives with analogies serving as the guides. We need to foster more “OUTSIDE IN THINKING” where one finds solutions in experiences far outside of the focused training for the problem itself. Imagine applied not just to STEM, but to politics and civic thinking!

 

What we have in America is a society made up of far too many HEDGEHOGS, those who are deep but narrow expertsand know, or think they know one big thing well. They “toil devotedly and reach for formulaic solutions to ill-defined problems.”  We can apply this to partisans on both sides of the political aisle.

 

Hedgehogs perform especially poorly on long term predictions in their OWN domain. They get worse as they accumulated credentials and experience in their own field. They rely on more an entrenched single big idea about how the world works, even in the face of contrary facts, as they amass information of their mental representation of the world. Unfortunately, they are often who we see in TV and the Media…and mislead the public who “believe.” But they make great TV!

 

What we need to have more of in America are FOXES, those who range outside a single discipline or theory and embody breadth. They “know many little things… draw from an eclectic array and accept ambiguity and contradiction.” Thus, they are able to see all sides of a political argument and come up with a more creative solution.

 

Yale professor Dan Kahan has shown that the better Hedgehogs are in finding evidence of their convictions, the more time they spend looking, and the more hedgehog like they become. He found that curiosity, not knowledge was the key to looking at new evidence, whether or not it agreed with current beliefs.

 

The curious, like a fox, roam freely, listen carefully, and consume omnivorously. Foxes see complexity, not black and white. They know relationships are problematic, not deterministic. They know luck and unknowns are involved. When an outlook takes them by surprise, they adjust their idea. Hedgehogs barely budge or worse yet, become more convinced of their original beliefs that led them astray.

 

Foxier people with wide ranging interests and reading habits but no particular relevant background, do far better in these processes. It was found that they beat experienced hedgehog Intelligence analysts with access to classified data by margins that remain unclassified. In the face of uncertainty, individual breadth was critical. Narrow experts “have blinders on them.” Foxes are also particularly better collaborators. The believe their own ideas are hypotheses in need of testing. Their aim is to encourage their teammates to poke holes in their ideas to move forward.

 

THE CHALLENGER SCREW UP:

 

On January 28, 1986, NASA had the right data to delay the launch Challenger and prevent the “O” rings that led to the explosion from getting cold, hardening the rubber, and not expanding correctly. They relied on the Hedgehogs’ quantitative analysis too much and not a few Foxes’ qualitative, more subjective, observations.

 

To make this brief. The hedgehogs at NASA “sorta” knew that launching below 53 degrees was not a good idea, but couldn’t prove it quantitatively. “Unable to quantify; supportive data was subjective” was their refrain over and over. They were fervent believers of, “In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data”.

 

There were subjective data. There were several examinations of photographs of launches at 53 degrees that showed jet black soot, evidence of O ring hardening. That quantitative assessment was ignored.  They barely budged.  They regressed under pressure to what they knew best, familiar procedures. With Challenger, they were outside their usual bounds.  When you don’t have the data, you have to use reason. They needed to “improvise” like a fox rather than throw out information that didn’t fit the established rubric. We saw the result on TV.

 

In investigating the Columbia NASA accident, it was found that “allegiance to hierarchy and procedure has once again led to disaster.” Like a Medieval guild, NASA created conservatism and stifled innovation.

So, when entire specialties grow up around a devotion to a particular tool, process, or procedure, the result often is a disastrous myopia. This happens often in medicine. For example, repeatedly randomized clinical trials that compared stents with more conservative forms of treatment for stable chest pain prevent 0 heart attacks and extend patient life for 0 years. In addition, 1/50 patients will suffer serious consequences or die as a result. The same is true of meniscus surgeries.

 

We now see it as millions of us grow up politically on FOX or CNN.

 

One big problem in education (especially higher) is our propensity to have courses with a huge amount of very detailed, arcane, specialized stuff often forgotten in a few weeks, so we have people walking around with information stuffed in their head or found in research but without the training in thinking , reasoning, and drawing conclusions using a number or incongruent sources, therefore missing systemic issues. Let’s see where this has led us.

 

All politics is influenced by identity. Our fights over group identity and status express themselves in debates about power and policy. Ove the past 50 years our partisan hedgehog identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities…thus tearing the bonds that hold this country together.

 

This wasn’t always the case. We were once more fox like in our gathering of political information. For example, in the 1950s voting for a Liberal Democrat like Hubert Humphry or a Jack Kennedy for seats in the US Senate also got you a majority that included segregationist conservatives like Strom Thurmond. Republican Nixon created the EPA and proposed both a basic minimum income and a national healthcare program more ambitious than Obamacare. In 1965 Medicare received 70 Republican votes in the House and 13 in the Senate. No Republican voted for Obamacare.

 

Did you know that once upon a time (in 1989 and 1991) both the conservative Heritage Foundation and conservative economist Milton Friedman wanted either “assured affordable health care for all Americans” or “a requirement that every US family unit have a major medical insurance policy’? What happened?

 

Look and decide. In 1980 voters gave their own party a 72 rating on a “feelings” thermometer. However, they also gave the other party a 45. By 2016 that feeling about the opposite party was down to 29 while feelings about their own party also fell to 65. Party affiliation fell, from 80% to 63%, thus increasing the % of those who self-identified as independent. A 2106 Pew poll found that these independents who then tended to vote for one party over another (even though not officially affiliated) did so BECAUSE OF NEGATIVE MOTIVATIONS against the “other party”, whose policies they said were “bad” for the country. This NEGATIVE PARTISANSHIP is the political landscape we now live in.

 

It doesn’t take much to see that. Go to Facebook. Count the number of anti-other side posts and comments vs pro their side? I see it daily. As the parties have grown more different, we have grown more negatively partisan. We have become more like hedgehogs.

 

Let’s look at a couple of hot issues. In 1994 39% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans said discrimination was the main reason African Americans could not get ahead. In 2017, 64% of Democrats believed it and only 14% of Republicans. Similarly, in 1994 32% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans said immigrants strengthened the country. In 2017, 84% of Democrats believed it and only 42% of Republicans. In 1994, 63% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats felt poor people had it easy because they could get government help without doing anything in return. By 2017 65% of republicans still felt that way but ONLY 18% of Democrats.

 

The average partisan gap on all issues grew from 15 percentage points to 36. {note. The 1994 numbers can explain a lot of Democrat Bill Clinton’s turn to more conservative policies regarding welfare reform and criminal punishments.}

 

A 2015 paper by Patrick Miller and Pamela Johnston Conover entitled “Red and Blue States of Mind” noted that “the behavior of partisans from both parties resembles that of sports team members acting to preserve the status of their [respective] teams rather than thoughtful citizens participating in the political process for the broader good.” Election results accentuate the team mentality pushing them to make further “US v them” comparisons that draw attention to the STATUS lost by losing… thus increasing anger and rivalry. They become “fired up team members on a mission to defeat the other team.” My hedgehog is better than your hedgehog.

 

Another big indicator worth noting of how very wrong things are is a 2016 Pew survey. Among Republicans “moving from a ‘mostly unfavorable’ to a ‘very unfavorable’ view of the Democrats increased the likelihood of voting 12 points and the number contributing money went up 11 points. By contrast, developing a deeper affection for the Republican party only raised that 6 points. For donations it was only 3 points.

 

For Democrats is was similar. “moving from a ‘mostly unfavorable’ to a ‘very unfavorable’ view of Republicans increased the likelihood of voting by 11 points, while a more favorable view of their own party did zippo to raise potential voter numbers.

 

The lesson learned by pols? Anger gets more support than love.

 

Now add to all that the connection between identity and politics. “Partisanship can now be thought of as a Mega identity with all the psychological and behavioral magnifications that implies. Living as segregated as we are by zip code and social media accounts also has blown our rage up exponentially.  We live breath and chat mostly with those who agree with us. Our tribal instincts protect us from the foe. Americas political geography (demographically and culturally), have determined voting results.  Our “hedgehogian fact finding” has only made that worse.

 

HOW DOES THE LACK OF RANGE AFFECT PARTISANSHIP?

 

Who are rallying the tribes? Media. The media have become “tribal leaders”. They tell each tribe how to identify and behave and the tribes follow (and retweet.) Most of us act as part of groups and are also hedgehogs. Once group loyalties and therefore group think have been established, Jonathan Haidt says, you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments.

 

“Thinking is mostly just rationalization, mostly just search for supporting evidence.” Psychologists call that “motivated reasoning.” Some look to CNN, some to FOX. When Laura Ingraham or Tucker Carlson, for example say, “it does seem like the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore”, it motivates that tribe. The simplest way to activate them is to tell them their identity is threatened. It is radicalizing. When Rachel Maddow says, “the biggest divide in this country is… between people who care and people who don’t care, it is radicalizing.

 

Most people follow media news as a hobby the way they follow their local sports teams. They can usually only tell you everything about “their” players but nada about others. They follow CNN like YES, or FOX like WGN. News media is primarily for those interested in it, and especially in the “stars” of the shows and their strengths as “players” in the field of news.  Those “players” seek higher ratings and more fame as their corporate owners want more spectators in their seats and therefore higher profits.

 

{Historical note: We have actually reverted back to the 18th and 19th century media circuses when most media (print obviously) was explicitly partisan. For example, “in 1870, 54% of metropolitan dailies were affiliated with the Republican Party, 33% were Democratic, and ONLY 13% claimed independence!}

 

So, to gain fame and profit, media teams have changed the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads” to “if it outrages, it leads.”

 

Again, just like sports fans, media fans are invested in their side winning and the other losing. It has become a matter or group pride and status. The interesting thing here is that those following the two “teams” are more alike than different. The animosity far outweighs the differences. They ae similarly predominantly white, middle class, heterosexual, middle aged, and nonevangelical Christian.

 

The issue is that they perceive each other as radically different. “Democrats believed:

44% of Republicans earned over $250,000. It is 2%.

40% of Republicans were seniors. It is 20%.

 

Republicans believed:

38% of Democrats were gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It is 6%.

46% of Democrats were black. It is 24%.

44% of Democrats belonged to unions. It is 11%.

 

And the more they consumed their “teams” media, the more their “understanding of the other side was WRONG! If you saw Will Farrell in “Anchorman” you saw a satirical look at what has become reality. He says. “What if, instead of telling people the things they need to know, we tell them what they want to know?”

 

This has not only been true in Cable News, it skyrocketed in the Social Media arenas. You Tube, Twitter, Facebook all disseminate and recommend videos or tweets or posts in a manner that ups the stakes through “enragement engagement”.

 

Once again, the hedgehogs win. If you thought by introducing the other sides thoughts changes minds… you’d be wrong. In 2017 this was put to a test using 1,220 Twitter users. After a month’s long exposure to popular authoritative voices from the other side the result was INCREASED polarization.

 

So, what is neutrally newsworthy? An election one would think. The news media, instead of reporting political news has become the biggest actor in creating it.  In practice, newsworthiness became some combination of new, important, outrageous, conflict oriented, secret, or interesting…. mostly outrageous or conflict oriented.

 

Here are some examples that many say led to a Triumphant Trump in November of 2016.

 

May1, 2015-April 30, 2016: Trump’s median share of ALL cable news mentions was 52%…with 17 Republican candidates and even with the Clinton – Sanders thing going on.

August 24- Sept 4, 2015 he received 78% of all coverage on … wait for it… CNN!

By November of 2015 he had received more “evening news” coverage on the major networks than anyone – 234 minutes. Ted Cruz? 7 minutes.

 

A shortcut for the determination of newsworthiness became social media virality. If people were talking about something already through social media, it was “already newsworthy” whether it was true or false. Add to that the narrowing point of view by the algorithms created by those platforms and you have even more entrenched polarization.

 

As a result, we have flipped from a democracy that put forth candidates for office who were broadly appealing to those who adored by base voters…exacerbating group identity conflict and Twitter wars, Facebook fights, and a political scene that is reminiscent of World War One trench warfare

 

The hedgehogs cannot get out of their own trenches, even if they wanted to.

 

What we need far more of is creative thinkers. Our society suffers from too many patterns that inhibit creative thinking. Unfortunately, the traits that earn higher grades in American schools do NOT include critical ability of any broad significance. Schools and universities simply do NOT maximize potential for applying conceptual thinking across disciplines. We must be able to get students to think outside of the box…and that will include how they see politics. They need to be able to…

 

OUTFOX THE HEDGEHOGS.

THE WAR AGAINST UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE IS 70 YEARS OLD

1*ou1OMOrGFNThuu9yKuDragIn 1948 President Truman, with a Democratic majority of both houses of Congress, set out to pass a health care program for all Americans. It did not pass. Why?

The AMA hired notorious political consultants Whitaker and Baxter.

With $3.5 million of the AMA’s money they launched a “National Education (or rather a miseducation) Campaign” to defeat Truman’s plan for a national Compulsory Health Insurance and buy Blue Cross/Blue Shield private insurance.

They generated a public crusade to fight for freedom of choice. Truman’s plan, they pointed out, would allow the US to drift towards socialism and Communism and lead to disaster.

According to historian Jill Lapore, an internally circulated CONFIDENTIAL- NOT FOR CIRCULATION plan was the real plan.  “While the immediate objective was to defeat Truman’s proposal, it’s long term objective was ‘to put a permanent stop to the agitation for socialized medicine in this country by:

  1. Awakening the people to the danger of a politically controlled, government-regulated health system;
  2. Convincing the people…of the superior advantages of private medicine, as practiced in America, over the State dominated medical systems of other countries;
  3. Stimulating the growth of voluntary health insurance systems to take the economic shock out of illness and increase the availability of medical care to the American people.

 “W&B pointed out, Basically the issue is whether we are to remain a free nation…  or whether we are to take one of the final steps toward becoming a Socialist or Communist state. We have to paint the picture…in vivid verbiage that no one can misunderstand of Germany, Russia – and finally England.”

IT WORKED!

After the loss, Truman said there was “nothing to this bill that came any closer to socialism than the payments the AMA made to the advertising firm of Whitaker and Baxter to misrepresent my health care program.”

Sound familiar?

“THE LIE FACTORY”

91nsdb0BwzLIsn’t it a shame that today Trump, not the Democrats, understands how to use the latest media? A dangerous situation: Donald Trump has FDR’s understanding of the most modern communication systems available during his time.

Just as FDR used Radio and his fireside chats to bring Americans to his side, The Donald has figured out how to use TV, Twitter, other social media, and Rallies to continue and raise his support.

Today’s Democrats are (communication wise) yesterday’s Hoovers.

Listen to and watch Chuck Schumer, for example.

What if Obama and his staff used the newest media better than they had? Would we have had a different Congressional election result in 2012 and 2014? Would we have had Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court Justice? What if Hillary had? Would Trump had won in 2016? What if Pelosi, Schiff, and Schumer had?

FDR understood how to use his version of new media. His radio Fireside chats turned the tide to develop American confidence in both him and the economy. In fact, Roosevelt’s critics accused him of coopting radio for propaganda purposes. The 1930’s version of the DNC said the best way of communicating his objectives was “from a source of confidence, like the radio.”

But not all was good.

The phrase, the “lie factory”, was first coined in 1933 when the first political consulting firm was created by Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter.

The first example of their work occurred when former muckraker and self-proclaimed “socialist”, Upton Sinclair, ran for the California governorship, Whitaker and Baxter went to work for his Republican rival. They took lines from his works of fiction and attributed them to Sinclair as if they were real quotes. The lie factory won the election for his Republican opponent. Seems like this has been a Republican tactic for quite a while.

W&B created a prototype for a plan or campaigning that has worked for decades. It should be very familiar.

  • Keep it simple.
  • Rhyming is good.
  • Never explain anything. The more you explain, the more difficult it is to win.
  • Repeat. Repeat.
  • Words must dent the mind not merely lean on it.
  • Simplify. Simplify. A wall goes up when you make Americans work or think.
  • Make it personal.
  • Candidates are easier to sell than issues.
  • You can’t wage a defensive campaign and win.
  • Never underestimate the opposition.
  • Never shy away from controversy. Win the controversy.
  • Average Americans don’t want to be educated. They like a good battle or a good show. If you can’t do one, do the other. It is best to do both.

Versions of this have been used by many…. The first copycat, Joseph Goebbels, hoping to sow division within the American populous, used a shortwave radio station… (early social media) to broadcast “fake news story in “American English” mostly about the American Jewish Conspiracy.

Hello Vlad.

“Experience is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

“#Experience is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

– Aldous Huxley

An event is really two things; the event itself and how we interpret that event. What has been happening more and more over the past 3 decades is that events don’t seem to be driving our political processing. Increasingly, sociology and a central biased media drive it.

Geographic and psycho-sociological patterns now overshadow events in driving political loyalties and national electoral outcomes. Different American regions and subcultures now see reality through nonoverlapping lenses. They interpret in radically different ways.

There are many examples. Here’s one. Do you want to predict how an individual is going to vote? Ask if he or she urban or rural?

Psycho-social categories have hardened. As Jonathan Rauch suggests, polarization is not on the rise, emotional polarization is on the rise. We don’t necessarily disagree more. We perceive our opponents to be more menacing. We see more fearfully.

On top of that, we are unduly influenced by a centrally biased media that all too often reflects the views of the wealthy. For example, Ezra Klein noted when it came to budget deficits it seemed that “the usual rules of reportorial neutrality” didn’t apply; reporters openly advocated policy views that were at best controversial, not widely shared by the general public and, we now know, substantively wrong. But they were the policy views of the wealthy.

And when it comes to treatment of differing policy views, the media often treats those Americans as more equal than others.

The news #media owes the public a serious discussion of all ideas, not dismissal of some because of a combination of reflexive “centrist bias” and the assumption that any policy rich people dislike must be irresponsible.

So, when #Sanders and #Warren talk about the excessive influence of the wealthy, that subject also deserves serious discussion, not the cheap shots we’ve been seeing lately.Add “emotional polarization” and the result is obvious.

Can Science explain Why Trump?

Instead of overreacting to Trump Supporters or calling them idiots or deplorables, maybe we should examine scientific reasons that explain their support of him.

Whoever you support, please try to read this objectively. I firmly believe it will help us all understand each other and be more open in our conversations.

I hope you can.

  1. Practicality

For some, it’s simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America. Some people simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns first.

  1. Trump Engages The Brain’sAttentionSystem Better Than most

According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level.

  1. Americans Love Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of some Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction to entertainment and reality TV. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive things he says.

  1. A Rebellion Syndrome?

Some people are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They have so much distaste for the establishment and democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington

  1. The Fear Factor:

Science has shown that the conservative brain has a greater fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. These brain responses are automatic and not influenced by logic or reason. Fear keeps his people energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

  1. Perceived Existential Threat

A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as Terror Management Theory, explains why fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitably of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface.

When people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their national or ethnic identity and act out more aggressively towards those who do not.

Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they may influence voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump may be creating a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric.

  1. Overestimation of Political Expertise

The under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When told tells that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take it as true.

Often the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

  1. A Misguided Sense of Entitlement

If someone feels they are being deprived of something to which they believe they are entitled, the discontent felt when they compare their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them has an adverse effect.

There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although they may ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation. These Trump supporters are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

  1. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

Contact with members of groups that are outside one’s own has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it’s important to note that there is evidence that Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans.

10. National CollectiveNarcissism

Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one’s national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the ‘true identity’ of a nation — the ‘in group,’ perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them ‘unrightfully. Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being “true patriots” or “real Americans,” he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of “identity politics,” a term that is usually associated with the political left.

11. The Desire for Social Hierarchy

Social dominance orientation refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. They are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

12. Authoritarian Personality

Those with this personality believe in obedience to authority and often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. Authoritarianism is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

 

Those 13 reasons have been adapted from a “Psychology Today” Article.

I know some people would say that article is biased because it is in that publication, but I stand with the science of it. Science was good enough before Trump and will become good enough when he is no longer president.

 

 

 

 

“If you don’t know why, you don’t know”

IMG_0268When we started teaching, we thought our job was to tell students what they needed to know, to “make them learn.” As we gained experience and availed ourselves of the mentorship of veteran teachers, our chairmen and a host of colleagues, we came to the realization that to be a successful teacher is to get the students to “teach themselves”, that is to say to get them to go where you need them to be without them ever knowing they are doing the work to get there.

We learned to challenge students with questions that later became “best practices” for students’ success. One example of this was asking students if the aphorism, “If you don’t know why, you don’t know”, was true or false and have them explain their answer.

Another one was asking them, “What is the most important question to ask in order to be a successful student?” (The answer is the word “why” because you cannot know why the answer is correct without knowing the answer).

Yet another one was asking them why the statement, “What you cannot explain, you do not understand”, was either true or false.

These questions, and others like them, were designed to encourage students to have to examine, analyze, break down into smaller pieces the ideas that were being put before them. This opportunity must made available to all, and those students who chose to accept the challenge and the opportunity will experience learning at its richest level.

Whether in the Bronx or Westchester, we taught students in a way that would guide them in the right direction and lead them to the answer. However, it was they who had to embrace the knowledge, absorb it, take it in, apply it, make it a part of them.

We must encourage the interest, desire, willingness, and curiosity to learn. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” We must engage students in such a way that they want to drink from the trough of education.

Confucius stated, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Socrates said, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”

Absent this quality, no matter what reforms are suggested or put forward, or how many technologically enhanced schools are built, or many students are equipped with the latest and greatest technology, I would argue that little, if any, learning will occur.

Students, first and foremost, must be helped to understand and to recognize their role and/or responsibility in the learning process.

In one of Bernie’s favorite stories, “The Convert” by Leone Bennett, Jr., there is a line that states, “…can’t nobody make you a man.” The story tells us that becoming a man is something only the individual can do for himself. The same is true about learning. No one can learn for you. Until students are made aware of their role and/or responsibility in the learning process, and held to that role and responsibility, we’re going to keep coming up short as it pertains to student success.

But it is our job as teachers to help them get to that point. We must find a way to find that hidden student within each of them, to bring back the toddler curiosity that too many have had stolen.

THE “BETTER ANGELS” OF OUR NATURE

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The odd couple sat on the stage next to the nervous moderator. Ray Warrick,a stocky, white, tough linebacker type from Cincinnati sat on the left. Hawk Newsome, a 6’5 black, tough defensive end type from the Bronx sat in the middle. Neither looked the Kumbaya type.

Ray Warrick, once an ordinary guy who raged against the machine of politicians he could no longer trust, now finds himself the head of the Tea Party in Cincinnati.

Hawk Newsome, who as a youth, dropped out of high school yet pushed forward and earned a GED, Bachelor of Science, and law degree, now is the President of the NYC chapter of Black Lives Matters.

But this was not what you might predict, an “Ebony and Ivory” yellathon. They are both activists unhappy with the status quo.  They are quite angry with government officials and police who forget their responsibility to us, the citizens.  While they both rage against the machine as they each see fit, they do not rage at each other. They are Better Angels.

How many times did you hear, when you were younger and dragged to some holiday gathering, never to discuss money, religion and politicswith other people, then sit at the holiday meal table like a good little boy or girl and watch the adults in the room start to raise their voices, yell, curse, and threaten violence until “Drunk Uncle” said something so outlandish that everyone just stopped and stared at him….and laughed.

Imagine if you will…Twilight Zone theme here… what it’s like for kids today. Their adult “role models” go off the rails reading a newspaper, a screen, a text, an email, or watching TV, then yell at the walls or the nearest target with even a slightly opposite opinion. Stupid !@#$% chair, how could you think that?

Aren’t we all tired of going on Facebook, for example, and feeling our blood boil, not only at the inflammatory third-party posts by so called FB friends, but also by real friends who put up inflammatory memes or posts or articles attacking either side?

Today’s political climate has ramped up this climate so much that people start with vitriol and never back down from there. What do we do not only about the polarization, but about the anger filled tweets, FB comments, and arguments at the dinner table? Often, we too just fume, wondering what the hell is going on. These used to be reasonable people.

As luck would have it, I discovered Better Angels, an organization started after the 2016 elections designed to solve this problem. The name Better Angels comes from the phrase used by Abraham Lincoln in his first inauguration speech, when he referred to the “better angels of our nature” to try to prevent our divided house from falling.

Today “Reds and Blues” are both unhappy with government and media and rage against them. Unfortunately, social media, cable news, lobbyists, and politicians have all found ways to get us to rage at each other, tearing our house apart. Thus, Better Angels was formed.

I signed up for a “Red/Blue” workshop, a highly structured ½ day vehicle that brings Red Trumpsters, AOC loving Sanderites and everybody in between on the political spectrum together to rid ourselves of our assumptions and stereotypes of those “others”. By the end of the session, we went from glares and stares to miles of smiles. I was hooked.

Six months later I was in St Louis for their 2ndannual convention. We came from all over the country: rich, middle class, and poor; urban, suburban and rural; teenagers, octogenarians, boomers and millenials; coastal dwellers and Midwesterners; northerners and southerners; with innumerable occupations. We came to learn about each other, to practice listening to and reasoning with each other, to stop the polarization, yelling, tension, stress and screaming. We came to figure out a way to share our national values as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution and use them to move us past this time of hostile stagnation.

Saturday afternoon I randomly sat next to Carol. We volunteered to do a “1:1” workshop where a Red and a Blue member of BA spent an hour going through a structured conversation to better understand each other. The questions asked why we are participating, about ourselves and our background, where we are politically and how we got there, what’s good about “our” side, and what our reservations are about our side. Then we were to discuss two topics of important to us. The structure provided equal time and stressed listening and not interrupting.

We were quite the pair. Although I have lived in middle class suburban Westchester NY towns for 35 years and was born in LA, I am truly a Bronx tale. I am 6’4 and talk like a “Newyawka”, although I try not to. Carol was more than a foot shorter than me, thin, and looked either my age or a bit older and, according to her name tag, was from a place called Urbandale Iowa, a small midwestern town just outside Des Moines.  What do I know about Iowa? Corn, Primaries, and “Field of Dreams”. She assumed correctly, “You must be a Yankee fan.” So, at first, we talked baseball.

It didn’t take very long for us both to gasp, “We are so alike.” We discovered we were both raised by struggling single moms and had dads who left us while quite young. We grew up day to day, with our tv’s broken more days than working. As young kids we learned to love our neighbors and friends and cared a great deal for them. She became an English teacher and gave back to her rural white kids that way, while I became a Social Studies teacher and gave back to my urban Bronx kids of color. She complained about being a “flyover” that the coastal elites ignored or looked down on, and I explained that my Bronx was a “commute through” place where commuters, driving or riding the rails, scurried through, afraid to be accidently moored there as in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. To them, the Bronx was still burning. We both got it.

We shared the same basic values taught us by our moms, with her church having a great deal more to do with that than my synagogues. We were both there to do our share to heal the wounds of polarization. On the way we discovered her conservative reasoning and my liberal reasoning had the same values as their basis.

When we got to the question about what reservations we had about our sides, she couldn’t hold it in and went first. “TRUMP, she screamed in a loud stage whisper, and all those who have made my party a shambles. They have destroyed the values “for which I stand.” She hated how the extreme version of her party dictated how we saw her and her conservative friends.  My response was virtually the same. Whether I agreed with them or not wasn’t the issue, but I had a big beef with how the more radical squeaky wheels in my party dictated how others saw me and my fellow liberals.

That, in fact became the first topic we discussed. The second came out of that. We were both just as angry at social media, cable news, lobbyists, politicians and their campaigners. We realized, together, that what we are really both pissed at is how they manipulate us through the use of psychometric algorithms that trigger either our fight, flight, or tribal biochemical mechanisms. They know exactly how to press our “battle” button, our “I want no part of this button”, or our “us vs them” button. We looked at each other and then almost said the same thing at the same time. Trump is PT Barnum and naturally does it. I called him an idiot savant. She didn’t disagree.

So here we were, the Bronxite and the Midwesterner, the liberal and conservative, the Jew and the Christian, just like Ray and Hawk the evening before, getting along, talking with each other, agreeing to disagree, marveling at how much we agreed and how much we were alike.

That is the hope of Better Angels. I am sure some will call it naïve, or impossible, but until they have witnessed it, they should avoid passing judgement.

As for you, why not try it? Or do you prefer waiting for Drunk Uncle to say something really stupid?

IT’S ECONOMICS, NOT POLITICS.

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New analyses that examine the political campaign contributions from those most active in “education reform”, find the movement populated by individuals who support Democratic candidates for public office. (Education Reform’s Deep Blue Hue Are school reformers right-wingers or centrists — or neither?(3/11/19 Education Next)

DEMOCRATIC, YES. PROGRESSIVE? NO. 

“True to their findings, the leading participants in the school-reform “wars” are mostly engaged in an intramural brawl, one between union teacher-allied Democrats and a strand of so called“progressive” Democrats more intent on changing school systems through TFA, Charter School, Common Core, and Standardized data driven testing.”See my corrections in bold.

To call that latter group of Democrats progressive is an insult to Progressives who firmly believe in the sanctity of Public Schools and the creative powers of public school teachers, not top down instructional techniques or curricula. It shows the ignorance of these researchers because they looked at political contributions, not education as a core issue.

Why the authors say “school reform is routinely portrayed as a right-wing enterprise” is beyond me.  They say the “education-reform” community defends itself as bipartisan, school reformers are decidedly left-leaning, with 87 percent or more of the political contributions by staff at “school-reform” organizations going to Democratic candidates and causes.

THIS JUST MAKES THEM DEMOCRAT LEANING…NOT PROGRESSIVE.

However, when you begin to throw in the issues surrounding Common Core, the Republican side of these issues comes out loud and clear because of the fear of “liberal brainwashing” through Common Core Curricula. I have been witness to this when I spoke to a group of South Carolina Tea Party parents about why Common Core was bad for us all. Many pulled their kids out of schools to home school.

Trump and DeVos are meaningless to them. The people I spoke with wanted to get rid of Lindsay Graham!

Who says this? Please tell me!

“Close observers of 21st-century education reform know that champions of charter schooling, teacher evaluation, and accountability are routinely characterized as right-wingers bent on undermining public education.”

This has nothing to do with the past 2+ years of Trump and DeVos. This reform has been going on since Reagan, Clinton, and more harshly through both the Bush and Obama years. It has been a truly Bi Partisan effort to destroy Public Education and make teaching less relevant (regardless of TFA Hype).

The authors go on to say, “The most visible symbols of education reform—such as Teach for America and various charter school networks and the foundations that fund them—are characterized as neoliberal, corporatist, conservative, and right-wing.”

Let me set you all straight:“The most visible symbols of education reform—such as Teach for America and various charter school networks and the foundations that fund them—can be liberal or conservative, centrist, or right wing.

The Atlanticattacked the KIPP charter schools for their role “in the project of neoliberalizing public goods.” THIS IS TRUE.

Success Academies founder Eva Moskowitz has been excoriated for promoting a Trojan horse that contains “Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos.” THIS IS ONLY SINCE 2017.What about during the Obama-Duncan years?

The Walton Family Foundation has been dismissed as “conservative” or “deeply conservative” by the Huffington Post3 and historian Diane Ravitch. WHO WILL ARGUE THAT…EVER?

NOW THIS IS VERY TRUE: Regarding Teach for America (TFA), Rethinking Schools has published “An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits,” which reads: “Many of you no doubt believe you are joining a progressive education justice movement; that is the message TFA sells so well. But TFA is not progressive.

The data-driven pedagogy, the fast-track preparation, the union-busting, the forced exploitation of your labor, the deep-pocketed affiliation with corporate education reform are all very conservative, very anti-progressive ideas.”

THE QUOTE SHOULD LEAVE OUT CONSERVATIVE. It is ECONOMICALLY MOTIVATED NEO LIBERALISM!Flow-Chart-Neoliberal-Takeover.Education-Alchemy

“Meanwhile, education-reform advocates like Chiefs for Change describes itself as a “bipartisan network of diverse state and district education Chiefs.” Stand for Children touts its “bold independence” and bills itself as “non-partisan and child-focused.” ALL THAT IS TRUE, IN THEIR OWN MIND.

The question really is how are they tied to corporate interests? Microsoft? Apple? Charters? Data collectors? ED REFORM IS NOT A POLITICAL SCHEME, IT IS ECONOMIC AND WILL USE WHOEVER IS IN CHARGE OF POLICY TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Thus, “While it is not practicable to examine the voting habits or partisan affiliations of education reformers, we can identify the candidates and political causes to which they contribute. And the pattern of their political giving suggests that the people who work at the education-reform organizations supported by the biggest and best-known education-reform foundations support almost uniformly left-leaningdemocratic. In other words, education reform turns out to be neither a red nor a purple enterprise—but a deepblue one.” (NOTE MY CORRECTIONS)

“Teach for America chapters, charter school groups, and education-advocacy groups have gone out of their way in recent years to demonstrate their progressive bona fides (and disagreement with Republicans) on issues such as immigration,10 school discipline,11 transgender access,12 and school vouchers. THAT DOESN’T MAKE TEHM PROGESSIVE EDUCATORS!

SO BACK TO THIS: “We find that the movement is populated by individuals who support Democratic candidates for public office.”

DEMOCRATIC, YES. PROGRESSIVE? NO. ECONOMICALLY MOTIVATED? YES.