Monday, June 29, 2009

Adult-Child Affectual Preferences

Or "The Creepy Case of Eno Commons"

I am sure by now everyone is familiar with the horrid story of Frank Lombard, Duke University Professor, accused of pimping his own adopted son.

So far the news media is giving us these details:

Frank is gay, and lived with his gay partner.
Frank had two adopted children, both black.
Frank lived in a cohousing community, Eno Commons Cohousing.
Frank attended an Episcopal church.

I want to just look at Eno Commons, as a cohousing community, and some of its attitudes toward children.

Then you can decide for yourself if this environment facilitated Mr. Lombard.

Paradise for Children

Children learn what they live. Our children are learning about independence, inter-dependence, diversity, ecology, consensus, and how to be good neighbors in a supportive community through their every day experiences. From the time they decide to participate at the age of two or three, children can help make some of the community rules. They clear their places at community meals, leave their shoes on all of our porches, run through the meadow (or more likely around Sam and Margaret's yard) with their friends, get homework help from all of us, follow animal tracks through the woods, or choose to be alone. (The neighborhood is good for parents too - we spend a lot less time in our cars by pooling rides and not having to takes kids to as many play dates.)

There is nothing wrong with neighbors that trust each other, and children visiting their friends houses and leaving their shoes all over the neighborhood. Under normal circumstances though, this happens after the adults get to know their neighbors and trust them. Moving into a community that promises this to strangers breaks down any natural defenses the adults might bring. Intentional or not, it grooms the parents to not be suspicious of any wrong doing.

There's more.

- We provide our children with opportunities to develop their full potential in a safe, caring neighborhood.

- We treat our children with love and respect and expect them to be active, positive
contributors to our community.

- We listen to our children’s ideas and recognize their need for good friends and
playmates, friendly neighbors, fun places to play, and appropriate community and
family activities.

Well, we know how these lofty ideals turned out. (Does this remind anyone else of some of the unparenting rhetoric?) This is a small community of a mere 22 houses on 11 acres. The community has a Common House, where residents meet at least once a week to dine together. The whole point of this community is to create openness, interconnectedness and trust. To let the village raise the child. "They stand as innovative answers to today's environmental and social problems."

Then it gets downright creepy.

'Secret Pal' brings neighbors together. (Click on "cached")
(This link only exists in Yahoo cache now, though just this afternoon it was still active on Eno Commons servers. Go figure.)

Seven years ago Suzanne started the Secret Pal week tradition to celebrate Valentine's Day at Eno Commons.

The goal of Secret Pal week is to promote interaction between adults and kids. Adults are asked to volunteer to be a secret pal and are matched with a child. During the week leading up to Valentine's Day, the adults give their secret pal children little gifts and clues, but the adults keep their identity a secret. At the end of the week, the kids prepare the brunch.

It is fun watching the kids huddling together trying to guess who their secret pal is. Can you think of a better way to connect kids with adults?

Well? Can you? Can you think of any better way to connect KIDS with ADULTS than to have secret pal exchanges . . . on VALENTINE'S Day?

Valentine's Day? Are you kidding?

Wait, isn't Valentine's Day for LOVERS? Maybe.

Our Vision For Eno Commons

• We welcome residents of all ages, races, religious beliefs, and affectional

"Affectional Preferences" is quite a different thing from "Sexual Orientation".

Valentine's Day, however, celebrated with Adult-Child Secret Pal celebrations is a yearly event (click on the "Cached" link on the first search return) at Eno Commons.

Now, you might ask, where did this, um, tradition come from?

It seems to be a favored practice of the Unitarian Universalists.

They celebrate it in Midland Texas, Gainesville Florida, and California. The position of the Unitarian Universalist Church is well known with regards to those of minority sexual orientation.

Did interconnectedness go to far?

Monday, June 22, 2009

UnParenting v. Liberty

Notice: I do not intend to equate the entire concept of attachment parenting with unparenting, or critique every participant. I do want to offer some observations about ideas that are regaining popularity in some circles, and those ideas are generally lumped under the philosophies of attachment parenting.

Let’s start with Ryan W. McMaken’s recent post on The LRC Blog.

Mr. McMaken wrote:
“My wife, an expert in early childhood education, is some kind of libertarian genius. Although she has read very little in the way of libertarian theory, she has come to thoroughly libertarian conclusions simply by studying how the brains of small children work. It turns out that children are rational beings who should not be coerced and hounded every second of their waking lives. Indeed, children have an innate sense of the importance of learning and the importance of justice. Unfortunately, most adults beat these impulses out of children as soon as they can.”

For support of this, he references Naomi Aldort and Maria Montessori. Yikes.

Stephan Kinsella weighed in in support of the Montessori “pro-peace” training method.
Now since I’m all in favor of peace, and teaching children (especially preschoolers) to peacefully resolve disputes (without buckets of tears and hating and ‘writing bad notes’ to each other) I eagerly read the Montessori peace philosophy.

“Dr. Montessori noted that scientific advances had so linked world cultures that our universal social connections were made clear, and she set forth strategies for a "universal, collective effort to build the foundation for peace."”

That sounds good. Now how is she going to accomplish that?

“Dr. Montessori's method respected the intelligence and gifts of the small child, serving her with a prepared environment and materials that engaged the senses in the learning process. Self-confidence, control of environment, joy of learning, and an understanding of connectedness with society resulted, leading, Dr. Montessori believed, to a new social order capable of directing man's technological advances to constructive uses. This would replace accepted educational practices that rewarded competition, discouraged cooperation and independent thinking, and ignored the creativity and deeply moral qualities of the child, a status quo that she believed led to a warring society, one incapable of utilizing its own scientific and technological advances.”

Just a moment. Doesn’t Competition foster independent thinking? Doesn’t competition foster advances? And I have yet to see evidence that children have deeply moral qualities. My kids learned early how to say “it’s not fair”, but what they really meant was “my selfishness is not being fulfilled”.

I’m all for peace, but my eyebrows are starting to go up. Perhaps my problem was I didn’t teach the kids enough about Martin Luther King Jr’s life.

“The peace curriculum at the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School, developed and coordinated by Educational Director Scott Daigler, is enacted through a range of academic studies as well as the development of peacemaking skills, beginning with the youngest preschool group and culminating in the two-year adolescent program. It permits the student to study the history and science of the natural world, the beliefs and traditions of diverse world cultures, and to learn about and finally place herself within society as an active, contributing individual.“

Now that will make the eyebrows of my Christian readers go up. I’m sure many will tell you that faith in Jesus was all they needed to find their place in society.

“Conflicts are resolved verbally, using the peace pole outside the school, or the peace table in the classroom, where peace treaties are crafted by the children in conflict and kept in a binder as a record of disputes resolved and compromises reached. A ringing bell signals the agreement, bringing classroom work to a momentary standstill as students pause to applaud an act of peace. Community circle utilizes a "talking stick" to structure group discussion of conflicts or concerns involving the entire class.”

What happens when the pretty imagery, the peace pole, the peace table, the peace bell, the talking stick, all disappear? What if the “peace” behaviors become respondent to the props? In the real world, there isn’t a peace bell. We have a Liberty Bell, but no one is allowed to ring it.

Scrolling past the peace chants and the United Nation Advocacy days, we get to Martin Luther King Jr. week.

“A week of classroom focus on Dr. King's life and mission culminates in an all-school assembly with presentations by each class.“

“Acknowledged as a model for his commitment to peace and justice, Dr. King is also recognized as a person, and the assembly ends with a singing of "Happy Birthday to You, Dr. King."”

It takes a week to study Martin Luther King Jr., because the training of peaceful children requires not only an examination of his words, but his very life. If teaching peace to young girls means teaching them it’s ok for a husband to run out on his wife, frequently, then perhaps a little more training in competition is in order. Reality, of course, is that the lessons on Dr. King probably skip or at worst gloss over those night-chapters in his life.

I’m all for peace. Dr. King spoke wonderful words. But history is fast doing a “Lincoln” on him.

Purporting to study someone’s life, while looking only at specific aspects that complete the intended picture, may foster ideologies of peace, but it does little to foster independent or critical thinking.

You see, I hold the belief that what fosters libertarian philosophy, freedom and independence of the human spirit, is the ability to think independently and critically. And I question if these attachment parenting philosophies and ‘peace at any expense’ training, fulfill that.

I’m searching for the link between the tenant that “children are rational beings” and how this is a libertarian conclusion, as Mr. McMecken thinks. Maria Montessori didn’t get us to the development of individualism or rational thinking. I would settle for evidence that the innate “rational being” of children leads to rationale, critical thinking adults.

Let’s see if Naomi Aldort can do any better.

Naomi Aldort, a prolific attachment parenting proponent, writes:

“Representation of childhood in modern western culture is based on seeing children as flawed and needing to be shaped into adults. The child is seen as failing to be an adult and therefore represented as inferior and cannot be trusted to unfold correctly on her own.”

Déjà vu.

In 1983, Miss Manners Guide to Excrutiatingly Correct Behavior was published. Early in the book Miss Manners wrote: “There used to be parents who believed that a child should be allowed to develop naturally, with no artificial standards of behavior imposed on his or her innocent instincts, but we have all had a gander at the results of that.” Conclusion: they weren’t pretty, or mannerly, leading Miss Manners to publish the 711 page instruction set to restore respect for the individual.

Many practitioners of attachment parenting also decry formal schooling, even formal home schooling setups, for the same reason they decry formal parenting. They call themselves ‘unschoolers’. I call the practice of the naturally developing child ‘unparenting’.

Ms. Aldorts techniques have already born some fruit, in the form of her own children. Her longest running experiment was recounted thusly at the 22 year mark:

“Yonatan is deeply interested in social justice work and finds inspiration in writers like Richard Wright who used literature as a tool to raise awareness about injustice. Some of his recent activities towards social change include attending anti-war protests, raising money for disadvantaged youth like the Jena 6, and educating people by writing in his school’s student newspaper.”

So critical thinking of the natural, undisciplined child, leads to conclusions such as if the Jena 6 had gotten more freebies, they would have been more peaceful?

The experiment in free love has resulted in an admirer of the Communist Richard Wright, enrolled in a ‘Decolonizing the Mind’ program at a liberal university.

Not your typical libertarian success story. What went wrong? Perhaps nothing went wrong, except that somehow, all of the “hands off” parenting wasn’t as much of an educational vacuum as the parents perceived. Is it possible that some of their ideology influenced the kids despite their best efforts not to influence?
Or is it possible that children, left to their own devices, are communists (at best) at heart? Or maybe, just maybe, if we all experienced free love and unconditional living, we all would embrace the ideologies of egalitarian collectivism. Is it libertarianism that is wrong? Is our cold hearted individualism merely the symptom of our artificially constrained and forcibly respectful upbringings?

I almost think the un-parents might tell you experiments in communism are the normal, healthy result of an unfettered, “free” childhood. But will the baby commies eventually grow up?

Let’s consider another example. Many many years ago, in a case that doubtless sends shudders down the spine of every “un-parent”, a little girl of all of 4 or 5, slapped her bigger sister in the face in a fit of pique. This little girl’s father was an old school parent. He believed children should *learn* to respect their elders, be kind to their siblings etc. He did not believe in waiting around until the kid figured it out for herself. So this little girl was punished. Those expected adult behaviours were beat into her. With a belt. By her father.

What happens next is amazing. The little girl, surely now a complete train wreck of a child with no ability to think for herself, develop real compassion or act in a peaceful manner, spent the greater part of her adolescence earning money to help send that same older sister to college. Shudder.

Okay, by now you have surely guessed that this little girl was none other than Laura Ingalls Wilder, of the classic ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books.

But what about the adolescent foray into communism, that signifies the great job the ‘un-parent’ has done promoting empathy and love for your fellow man?
That, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.

This abused, suppressed little girl grew up to mother a child that did take the commie plunge during young adulthood. That child plunged in, swam through and emerged clear thinking and rational. Brilliant thinking in fact. Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, became America’s foremost female libertarian.

Years after the communist experiment, Ms. Lane wrote

“No one who dreams of the ideal social order, the economy planned to eliminate waste and injustice, considers how much energy, how much human life, is wasted in administering and in obeying the best of regulations. No one considers how rigid such regulations become, nor that they must become rigid and resist change because their underlying purpose is to preserve men from the risks of chance and change in flowing time. Americans have had in our country no experience of the discipline of a social order.“

I would propose that the minimal discipline of a formal parenting home just might provide enough ‘discipline of a social order’, on a miniscule scale, to enable resistance to its application by any but a proper authority. And that proper authority? Parents.

Keep your peace bell. I’ll ring the Liberty Bell, thanks.

I said it first.

Yup, me. Right here is this blog

Just a couple of months ago, in April, I proposed that the swine flu might be the first casualty of global cooling. Now, it seems that, at least, "cooler temperatures" are being blamed for this flu pandemic.

An unusually cool late spring may be helping keep the infection going in the U.S. Northeast, especially densely populated areas in New York and Massachusetts, the officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

If history show us 2009 was the herald year for the 'Gore Minimum', please remember to name something "X".

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Paging the god-king

PAGING THE GOD-KING, the Secretary of Protocol would like to see you RIGHT AWAY!

Remember this incident of international indiscretion?

The venerable Miss Manners has finally taken the players to task.

Dear Miss Manners:

What should an American president do when he greets a foreign head of state? What about his wife? And would that be any different from an average American citizen greeting a foreign head of state?

A handshake and "How do you do?" seem appropriate everywhere, but what about curtsies, head nods and genuflecting? Is a bend at the waist considered different from a bent knee? If anyone can have a final say on this, I believe it would be you.

Final say? If only that were true. Miss Manners has now watched at least half a dozen administrations get this wrong. They go to one extreme or the other, behaving like other presidents' buddies or like monarchs' subjects.

Where is the Office of Protocol, for goodness' sake?

Yes, yes, Americans pride ourselves on being warm and open and spontaneous. But heads of state are the symbolic embodiments of their countries, and the greeting gesture is itself symbolic. If they improvise mistakenly, they can expect a spontaneous outburst of American disdain.

The American greeting routine used to be simple. Because we officially consider all people to be equal and equally worthy of respect, the same gesture, the handshake -- simple, dignified and egalitarian -- would do for all.

We knew it wasn't universal, but it was our way. We felt superior to people who had to bow down to their leaders. And we found it side-splitting to watch news footage of French generals bestowing kisses on their soldiers when they gave out medals.

Then, about half a century ago, came the American huggy movement. Instant intimacy was going to solve everyone's problems by making them feel good, which, in turn, would end war and strife. It took rather vigorous forms among some, but eventually infiltrated even the most staid parts of society, where the handshake had been the greeting that fathers gave their young sons.

And it spread internationally. Heads of state took to kissing and hugging one another, a truly bad idea politically. Those photographs are bound to surface when the loved one or his country does something nasty.

Symbolically, it is bad even in good times. Such bonding smacks of the days when protocol had sovereigns from different monarchies addressing one another as "Monsieur Mon Frère" or "Madame Ma Soeur," regardless of whether they had any familial ties. The idea was that they belonged to an international ruling class as distinguished from the mere subjects over whom they reigned.

And if you don't believe that, you should try a spontaneous hug on any head of state -- your own or anyone else's -- who happens to come your way in a parade or ceremony.

But symbolic subservience to a foreign ruler is worse. When Miss Manners sees American citizens delighting in bowing or curtseying to royalty, she tries to remind herself that they are just being silly, not treasonous. When an American official does it, we can only hope it was because he was noticing that his own shoelace was undone -- and not that he recognizes the divine right of kings in general, or the authority over us of that king in particular.

Police as Parents

It's a new 'keep kids out of trouble' program, coming soon to a school near you!

More than 5,000 state schools in England, including one in five primaries, have their own dedicated officer, it was disclosed.

The Government said the number was around 10 times higher than previous estimates and insisted every school in the country could eventually get its own police officer.

But Rod Jarman, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, said: "Partnerships have helped to make the schools and the surrounding area safer places, evidenced through significant reductions in crime and antisocial behaviour and greater confidence of young people that police will deal with their issues.

Now that's a win-win for the police state. They get to beat you up while increasing dependence on the state.

Oh yes. The police will deal with your issues all right. Just make sure you don't try to deal with them yourself.

But heck! It is better than spanking.

How Green is your Valley?

Well, if you are unfortunate enough to live in Austin Texas, you might be "green" but it won't be the color of money.

The City of Austin has recently passed legislation that will require everyone selling a home to receive an inspection from the city, and the chump change cost of $300 "to inspect windows, insulation, duct work and air filtration.”

Guaranteed to turn the City of Austins' coffers green. Now if only the housing market bubble would re-inflate so people could sell their houses.

Now that homeowners must get a green energy audit, the demand for auditors is red hot,” KXAN’s Mary Lee said. “It’s created more than 100 jobs in the Austin area".

Wow! a HUNDRED jobs screwing homeowners out of 300 dollars each that they could have spent on something USEFUL.

Why doesn't the city just hire someone to drive down the streets throwing baseballs at everyone's windows? Gosh, how many people could that employ, and the baseball manufacturers would boom, not to mention the window repair business, and the car salesmen might even get a chunk of the deal.

Maybe the Onion has the right idea > Wall off the City of Austin.

Pride in Facism...from the Top.

"We control political forces, we control moral forces we control economic forces, therefore we are a full-blown Corporative state." - Mussolini 1926

What better way to demonstrate your Pride in Facism than gloating?

And what better podium for gloating than national television?

In the segment, shown on “Tonight” late Tuesday, Mr. Williams asked Mr. Obama whether he almost canceled his overseas trip this week “to stay and watch” Mr. O’Brien’s “first week as host of ‘The Tonight Show.’’’

Mr. Obama was fully game and, referring to Mr. O’Brien’s succession this week of the former “Tonight” host Jay Leno, joked, “This is something we discussed several times in the Oval Office, how to manage this transition between Leno and Conan. And I think he’s up to the task. But I just want him to know that there is not going to any bailout coming out from Washington if he screws it up.”

Pathetically, the only concern demonstated by the Post writer Jim Rutenberg was whether there would be "blowback" from PrezBO 's coziness with the media.

What, no concern about the fact that the Executive Branch is reveling in its' facist glory?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Cookitarians hit the big time

It wasn't that long ago that I wrote a post about Grainitarians, and mentioned the "Cookitarian" philosophy in passing.

Now, they're making headlines. Headlines at Medical News Today at least.

Richard Wrangham, the father of Cookitarianism has published a book "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human".

The article states

Drawing on a wide body of research, Wrangham makes the case that cooking makes eating faster and easier, and wrings more caloric benefit from food.

This is my favorite part:

By freeing humans from having to spend half the day chewing tough raw food -- as most of our primate relatives do -- cooking allowed early humans to devote themselves to more productive activities, ultimately allowing the development of tools, agriculture, and social networks.

So this raises two questions.

One, our dogs and cats have subsisted on our cooked food for at the better part of a hundred years now. When can we expect them to stop wasting all their non-masticating time laying around the house, and do something productive for the family?

And two, what does this mean for the raw food movement? Ok, that's not really a question. I think we already know the raw food movement accepts the chains - Raw Food: "It’s not a diet. It’s a way of Life."

The Obama media bias

lowers it's ugly head.