Thursday, April 17, 2014

Feelings. Nothing More than Feelings.

This woman is paid to be a spokesperson for what MSNBC views as modern, intelligent, considered progressivism.

These are the folks who are happy to beat Republicans to death with scientific "consensus" on climate change or with charges of being anti-science for believing in intelligent design.  Whatever I personally believe regarding either topic (I'm a climate change moderate who would be viewed as a rabid anti-science zealot by the folks running the IPCC...and I think the intelligent design theory is overly simplistic - I prefer to ground my understanding of God in the science of our universe, which leads me inexorably to the conclusion that God MUST exist for a system that produced the breathtaking order, beauty, and physical possibilities of our universe to be possible)...I try not to go around asserting that someone who disagrees is anti-science.

But to Melissa Harris-Perry, the definition of life is...whenever the parents feel like it's alive.

That is, by DEFINITION (and by her admission) anti-science.  But this brand of anti-science emotionally-driven rationalization is accepted - no, APPLAUDED! - on the left.

I'm sorry...this is not computing for me.  Can someone please explain to me why leftists get to be anti-science on issues like WHAT IS ALIVE! (no...caps and one exclamation mark aren't gonna cut it this time...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but conservatives have no business going with THEIR feelings on other issues?

BTW, I'm not sure why Melissa Harris-Perry doesn't realize how dangerous her position is, but let's do this for her - maybe it'll illuminate the problem - let's consider a would-be mother who is a sociopath.  Sociopaths are, by psychological definition, incapable of empathizing with the feelings of others and thus do not form real emotional bonds with anyone.


Should a sociopath, never having FELT that powerful pull of parenthood, have the legal right to murder her children after birth?  What distinguishes that scenario from abortion brought on by the lack of an emotional tie to the offspring in the making?

I don't think that knot in my stomach while I watched the above video clip was caused by some altered consciousness (a popular idea on the left that suggests that conservatives are living in a reality different than actual reality)...I think that's entirely instinctual and driven by God.  Some would call me anti-science for holding that belief.  But at least I don't go around saying that science is irrelevant in determining what is alive.



Monday, April 14, 2014

The Swooning Victorian Maidens of Feminism & the Abuse of PTSD

Of all the books I was assigned to read for school growing up, perhaps my favorite was To Kill a Mockingbird. My ninth grade honors English class was scheduled to read and analyze this novel a few chapters at a time over the course of several weeks -- but I plowed through it in a matter of days. At the time, I strongly identified with Scout; even now, I think she is one of American literature's finest portrayals of an Odd making her way through childhood. I also appreciated - and continue to appreciate - the classically liberal, Christian values that animate the story. Most people remember Atticus' honorable choice to defend a black man in a criminal case even though, in the 1930's segregated South, he was sure to lose because that's what the Hollywood adaptation focuses on -- but beyond that, the novel is about the dignity of the individual and the importance of recognizing the intrinsic humanity of all of our neighbors even if they are different, behave in unpleasant ways or hold to false views. Tom Robinson's plight is only one part of the story.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a seminal work that, I feel, all American students should read. But if certain radical feminists have their way, teachers who intend to discuss this novel in their classes will have to slap the following warning on their syllabi:

Trigger Warning: Racism, Rape, and Violence Against Children.

Further, said teachers may also be forced to permit students to skip the assignment and the accompanying class discussions if they claim emotional distress.

You may think I'm kidding, but this is already happening on certain college campuses. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, students recently passed a resolution urging campus officials to make trigger warnings mandatory for all classes. Supporters of policies like this claim that such alerts will protect students suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from content that might activate disabling symptoms. But as experts have noted, PTSD doesn't always work so logically. Sufferers can be triggered by stimuli that have no intrinsic connection to their trauma whatsoever -- like, for example, a certain song on the radio, the smell of a certain cologne, or the sound of the shower running. Even the word "rape" poses no predictable danger; one survivor of sexual assault may react very negatively to a particular discussion of rape while another may have no reaction at all. Because each individual reacts to trauma differently, therefore, there can be no rational basis for issuing warnings. So what is likely to happen? Certain works - and certain topics - will gradually become verboten as professors scramble to accommodate every complaint, no matter how trivial and dishonest said complaints might be. After all, there will be no way to prove that a warning is or is not needed. We will only have the word of the people making the demands.

And yes -- many claims of trauma are invalid. I seriously doubt there were that many ladies at Wellesley College who suffered debilitating flashbacks upon viewing a certain controversial sculpture of a nearly naked man. I think what really happened is that a number of women at the college were offended by the sculpture and found it convenient to abuse the concept of PTSD to demand its removal. Likewise, I don't believe there are many students at Oberlin College who are so mentally fragile that reading Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart will send them into a hyperventilating panic. I do think many students might be angered or upset - Achebe's novel does deal with racism, colonialism, and other difficult subjects - but these are healthy emotions, not a cause for informal censorship.

And even if you do have a legitimate disorder, demanding that sweeping regulations be passed to accommodate you is an ultimately Sisyphean endeavor. Because I was evidently born with a bizarrely wired brain, I have trouble filtering out certain sensations -- and in some cases, this inability to filter causes psychological symptoms that do interfere with my daily functioning. But how crazy would it be if I demanded that Congress pass laws outlawing clothing tags, gum or noisy keyboards? No -- it is my responsibility to remove myself from stimuli that trigger me, whether than means ripping out offending tags, going to a different room, or using headphones and a white noise app to block things out. And trust me, I know first hand that this is a difficult principle to live up to in real life. It is, however, more practical to control your own behavior than to attempt to control everyone and everything else

Overall, I think this trigger warning fad is another attempt at a feminist power grab. As I suggested above, the mental illness ploy is a delightfully effective way to manipulate people into accepting politically correct standards they wouldn't accept otherwise because no one wants to be responsible for another's mental breakdown. But we should challenge the PTSD facade and call the whole trigger warning concept out for what it is: another illiberal way to police speech and artistic expression.         

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Blog!

To prevent this political blog from getting completely swallowed up by my Teacher Moments, I have created a new blog on which I will share such ruminations. Please see the sidebar!

Within the week, I will cross-post some of my recent reflections to the new site. As with this blog and the sci-fi blog, my posting frequency there should be once per week.

Leftist Intolerance, Part Eleventy-Billion

As of this week, I no longer use Mozilla Firefox as my default browser.

And just so we're clear, this is not because I necessarily agree with Brandon Eich's decision to support the Proposition 8 campaign. On the issue of gay marriage, I am a true moderate. On the one hand, as an observant Catholic, I do believe that marriage is an indissoluble, sacramental union between a man and a woman whose purposes - procreation and unity - are categorically inseparable. In the realm of politics, however, I lean towards the libertarian position. I question the wisdom of imposing by force of law the true definition of marriage without first doing the cultural groundwork. After all, let's face it: Marriage - genuine marriage, that is - is something we no longer value as a society -- and it was the heterosexual majority, by and large, who brought about this change. Well before gay marriage became a flashpoint for controversy, straight men and women were having children out of wedlock, getting divorced and remarried, having contracepted sex, and basically treating marriage not as the serious commitment outlined above but as a vehicle for adult self-expression -- and until we address this severe erosion of the marriage ideal at the level of civil society, all arguments in favor of officially codifying a proper understanding of the institution will fail to be persuasive.

Additionally, as a person of good will who has gay friends, I sympathize with the homosexual community's yearning to be accepted and included -- and, quite frankly, I feel that some people who oppose homosexual acts on moral and/or religious grounds have failed to acquit themselves well when it comes to treating their gay brothers and sisters with compassion and respect. I hear horror stories - and I have no reason to believe they're not true - of gay young people being thrown out of their homes by parents who apparently have forgotten the principle of loving the sinner while hating the sin. I also had friends in high school who were relentlessly bullied because they were merely perceived as gay. And social conservative rhetoric? I may agree with the baseline principles, but -- well, let's just say I think some serious revision and re-framing is in order. Gays and lesbians are human beings with human longings, and while we should, for the sake of truth, continue to promote the proper definition of marriage, that does not mean we can't - or that we shouldn't - think of ways to answer those longings that hold fast to our convictions while simultaneously acknowledging the dignity of those who must bear the homosexual cross.

That being said, I can't abide leftist bullies -- or the quislings who cravenly yield to their demands. And make no mistake: What happened to Brandon Eich was bullying, and bullying of the most illiberal kind.

It would be one thing if leftist gays and their allies had simply decided not to use Firefox upon learning that its organization's new CEO supported Proposition 8. Hell -- if I were to learn that the CEO of a particular business were, say, an enthusiastic supporter of Planned Parenthood, I would seriously entertain the idea of going somewhere else. Boycotts are an adult, responsible way of showing your displeasure; no one should feel forced to support, monetarily or otherwise, a viewpoint one personally finds abhorrent. Driving a man out of his job for holding an "unpalatable" opinion without presenting any evidence that said opinion would lead to legitimate acts of discrimination against his employees or the customers his organization serves, however, crosses the line into blacklisting -- and if it wasn't okay to blacklist communists in Hollywood in the 1950's, why is it suddenly okay to blacklist opponents of gay marriage now?

The left, it appears, has abandoned critical thought and civility in favor of pure, unadulterated revenge -- which they then seek to justify by blurring the line between social disapproval and outright oppression. I have - no joke - seen leftists argue on Tumblr that if we "rightwing Teabaggers" approve of the Founding Fathers' taking up arms to secure their liberty, we should also approve of gay radicals using aggressive means to achieve their goals. But, of course, the two situations aren't even remotely comparable. There are elements of our legal code that probably should be altered to, as I counseled above, acknowledge the very real concerns of gay citizens, and homosexuals sometimes aren't treated with the charity they deserve -- but these are problems that, right now, can be solved through the democratic process, through conversation, and - for the worst cases - through existing criminal law. 'Tis a situation very different from that which the Founding Fathers faced, in which their assertion of their rights brought an army of musket-armed Redcoats to their doors. 'Tis also a situation very different from that which homosexuals currently face in countries governed by radical Sharia law, where the murder of gays for the sake of religious purity is officially sanctioned. And it's a situation very different from that faced by civil rights activists after World War II, whose attempts to challenge a comprehensive, organized legal structure that imposed second-class status on blacks in every particular were met with government-perpetrated violence.

These leftists also refuse to distinguish between honest, well-meaning opposition and actual hate. If you express any doubts about the crusade to redefine marriage, you are, as far as the left is concerned, on par with the Westboro Baptist Church. But that is not how it works in reality. The Catholic Church is the largest and most prominent institution that opposes gay marriage -- but the Church also offers relief to AIDS patients regardless of their sexual orientation. How does that square with the whole idea that people who promote traditional, biblical marriage can only have malign motives? Yes -- some gays have been hurt by family members, neighbors, and schoolmates just because they're gay. I definitely don't want to minimize that -- and as I suggested above, I think we as Christians have a special obligation to reach out to the walking wounded in the gay community and work to rebuild trust. But -- projecting the image of the father who disowned you onto everyone who does not approve of your lifestyle is no more valid an approach to life than assuming all homosexual men are pederasts.

And by the way, gay activists: You haven't actually helped your own cause. Once again, there is absolutely no evidence that Eich's personal views on the subject of marriage would've impacted how he ran Mozilla in any way; in fact, Eich publicly indicated that the contrary was the case. Thus, in scalping the now-former CEO, you've essentially confirmed the Christian Right's worst fears about your true motives: that you're interested not in "equal rights" but in compelling societal approval by force. Continue on that path, and the tide may turn against you; such is the consequence of vengeance.      

Friday, April 4, 2014

Making Sure Your Kids Can Read

I teach a lot of kids who, by Jerry Pournelle's definition, can't read. Oh, they can usually make out most of the common words, which allows them to muddle through their "grade level" reading assignments without much trouble. But if you hit them with a longer word - like, say, "discrimination" - they're instantly stumped and need to ask me for its pronunciation. I also teach a lot of kids who are basically competent readers on the decoding and fluency level but have trouble processing and understanding meaning. These are the kids who will read that a scientist "uses the data she collects to analyze the greenhouse effect" and erroneously conclude that said scientist has somehow fixed the greenhouse effect.

The kids in the first group have a problem that is relatively easy to solve. They are, evidently, victims of incomplete, incompetent, or absent phonics curricula and are consequently unable to break an unfamiliar word down into its component pieces. The cure, quite simply, is to explicitly teach them the word analysis skills they are missing. Beyond "b says buh," students also need to know that "-tion" says "shun," "ph-" says "f-," and "-ough" says "-oh" in some cases and "-uf" in others. They should also learn where these words come from; if a child knows, for example, that a word has a Greek origin, that's a big hint as to how it should be pronounced (and spelled). And they should learn common prefixes, suffixes, and roots, which will allow them to decipher the pronunciations and  meanings of a whole host of more obscure terms.

The kids in the second group, on the other hand, have a more difficult - and, it seems, more common - deficiency. They are prone to making wild, illogical leaps while reading a passage about the greenhouse effect because, quite frankly, they don't know anything about the greenhouse effect -- beyond, perhaps, some vague suspicion that it has something to do with climate change (which, they've dutifully absorbed, is a bad, bad thing). They don't know that, for the most part, it's good that our nice, thick, substantial atmosphere can trap thermal radiation from the sun -- that without the greenhouse effect, the ambient temperatures on Earth's surface would not be so conducive to the development and maintenance of life.

We comprehend best when we can use prior knowledge as a scaffold; this is the solid finding of cognitive science and also a conclusion backed by common sense. I am an expert reader, by and large -- but if I took a test that included, say, my co-author's masters thesis on atmospheric wave packets, my typically high scores would no doubt plunge, as my background in earth science is surely inadequate for such a task.

Now, of course, most of our students aren't going to go into climate research and therefore don't need a masters-level understanding of atmospheric mechanics. But in order to read and apprehend materials published for the general public (as opposed to technical experts), kids do need quite a bit of basic scientific and cultural knowledge. Why? Because most writers assume that basic knowledge. They have to, or their prose would be turgid and, quite frankly, unreadable. Can you imagine what would happen if, instead of simply saying "Tom had the patience of Job" and being immediately understood, a writer had to add "who, by the way, was a person in the Old Testament who lost his livelihood and his good health and yet still maintained his faith in God"? Good Lord! All of our books would be thousands of pages long and would weigh fifty pounds a piece!

Unfortunately, a lot of my students have been inadequately exposed to our cultural patrimony, so the above-mentioned shorthand leaves them completely lost -- even if they can decode every single word in the sentence "Tom had the patience of Job." The reasons for this are legion, but I think one major contributing trend is our education establishment's anxious desire to teach things that are "relevant" to our students. "Kids won't be interested," so the thinking goes, "if the material doesn't somehow apply to their own lives." But this is 180 degrees opposed to reality. In reality, kids are naturally curious about things that go far beyond their everyday experiences. Remember the sixth grader I mentioned a few articles back who went ape over the word "Brobdingnagian"?  He's also recently developed an obsession with Greek mythology, a topic thousands of years removed from his 21st century existence. No -- youth fantasy writers would not be making out like gangbusters if kids weren't looking for ways to expand their horizons. Teach a bunch of seven-year-olds about ancient Egypt and they'll jump all over it -- provided you present it as a story and not as a list of discreet, tedious facts. It also helps to take advantage of innate peaks in student interest. First grade is a good time to introduce biology because children at that age - especially the boys - are endlessly fascinated by critters and beasts -- and the tween years are a good time to do some basic chemistry and physics because kids then become interested in building things (and, in many cases, blowing them up).

But once again, I digress. Here's the bottom line: If you are a parent (or a future parent) who wants to raise a proficient reader, there are two principal things you must do. First, you must teach your child phonics! Phonics is an indispensable first step for beginning readers; without it, they will always depend on others to sound out unfamiliar words and will never become self-sufficient. Secondly - and even more importantly - you must provide your child with a knowledge-rich and word-rich environment. Leave plenty of time open during the day for free reading -- and reading aloud. Go on nature hikes. Go to the library. Go to museums (most of which are free or pay-what-you-can). Watch high quality educational programs. Don't hothouse your children and drill them with flashcards (unless you're going over the arithmetic tables); do take advantage of their built-in tendency to ask questions about the world and how it works.

Literacy, in my experience, requires cultural capital. Provide that capital, and your children will do well.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Official Forecast from the IPCC Weather Experts

Because I have nothing but respect for the "science" being furthered with the latest release of the IPCC second working group report (released in the last couple of days and being digested by a lapdog media desperate for a story), I would like to share with you the official science-driven forecast for global weather and climate in the next century.  We'll break this into categories so that you can get a better feel for exactly what these people are all about.


The global models predict a gradual northward migration of the common tracks for extratropical cyclones as the arctic warms.  This will lead to warmer winters overall and increased likelihood for winter time droughts in the southern temperate regions.  However, because the arctic is warming, there will be an increased likelihood for the negative phase of the so-called "Arctic Oscillation" - leading to blocking highs over the polar regions and periodic severe cold with southward displaced storm tracks and more snow.  While all of this is going on, expect an increased likelihood for the El Nino pattern over the La Nina pattern, as shown by GCM simulations of the past in the Pacific.  Despite the fact that this El Nino pattern is linked to heavy winter rains in California, expect an increased chance of long-lasting droughts in the Golden State.


In the last 150 years, there has been an observed decrease in the frequency of tornadoes and a similar drop has occurred when looking at hail reports from the past 50 years.  However, as the planet continues to warm, this trend should reverse as regions exposed to wind shear patterns due to terrain experience more atmospheric water vapor and more instability.  Meanwhile, despite the aforementioned risk of more El Ninos, expect the bread basket of America to become a giant dust bowl with heavier individual rain events but rapid diminution of the total amount of rainfall as the storm tracks lift north.  This change will lead to worldwide famine and some of the worst dust storms (simultaneously occurring during severe flooding no doubt) in living memory.

(readers note: there has been no observed increased in atmospheric water vapor since the dawn of the satellite era, but the climate models never'll happen eventually, just keep giving us money to make better climate models so we can tell you when)


Earlier research projecting a gradual increase in the number of tropical storms, hurricanes and severe hurricanes has been discredited by updated modelling, which now suggests that tropical storm intensity will increase, but with fewer overall tropical cyclones.  More Katrinas, less helpful rain-makers for the subtropics.  Storms will also increase in size, until eventually, they will cover entire ocean basins, spin in both directions at the same time, and cross the equator.  Just ask Al Gore.  Also...they might start picking up crazed sharks and spitting them into cities.


Arctic sea ice made a bit of a comeback this winter, but we assure you, this is temporary.  As noted above, this brief pause in global warming (WHICH ISN'T EVEN REAL...BUT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT IT SO WE HAVE TO EXPLAIN!!!!) will give way to more warming, and eventually we will hit a tipping point (or have hit already despite the recent reversal) and lose all of our summer time sea ice.  On top of that, the Greenland ice sheet continues to dissipate, which will increase sea levels by up to a meter.  And I hope you all enjoyed the days of widespread mountain glaciers, because not even Mt. Everest will have glaciers on it by the time this warming runs its course.  Even though we were caught lying about the disappearance of glaciers, the latest papers should be trusted.


Climate change will not only lead to billions of human climate refugees and mass migrations...but will result in the deaths of thousands or even tens of thousands of species of life.  Even though our best scientists can find no evidence whatsoever that global warming has altered the web of life by so much as ONE will totally happen soon.  For realz.

(Readers note: pay no attention to the fact that biosphere productivity as measured by satellite has increased by 14% since 1979)


We know it seems strange to talk about GEOLOGY in a CLIMATE report, but it terms out that melting land-based ice decresaes the natural pressure on tectonic plates allowing for increased plate movement around the globe and thus...more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions...and this may help to explain the recent (NOT REAL!!!) pause in global warming.  Although the USGS says there's been no increase in earthquakes or volcanic activity globally..........................


Global warming is confirmed scientific fact - humans are 99% certain to be the cause and if you disagree with us, you're a mass murderer and denier of truth and should be jailed or shot.  Governments should give us billions more dollars because although you should totally trust our models, we need money to make them better.  Governments should also begin sterilizing the population so that we can stop being so bad for mother Earth.

That is all.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Dirty Jobs Curriculum

Are you also an addict?

I apologize, first of all, for suddenly turning this blog into an education and parenting blog, but as an educator and an aspiring parent, these things have been very much on my mind. What do I wish to give to my future children? A strong grounding in math and science? Yes! A well-rounded exposure to the liberal arts? Absolutely! (As I'll discuss next week, everyone needs to know how to read and write widely and well, and that can only come through accumulating a lot of basic background knowledge in history, literature, art, music, philosophy, etc.) A solid understanding - and, dare I hope, a love - of my Catholic Faith? Obviously!

But any educational program will have many less-appreciated facets that go beyond the academics. Some education writers call this the "hidden curriculum," though it is not exactly "hidden" if you know where to look. I would say, for example, that the "hidden curriculum" of the public schools very clearly teaches students to be compliant and to respect authority. In order to speak, you have to raise your hand. In order to go to the bathroom, you have to ask permission and get a pass. When your teacher - or the bell - says it's time to move on to math class, you have to move on to math class even if you were completely absorbed in what you were just learning in science. Now, don't get me wrong -- this training isn't 100% pernicious. Children do need to learn to listen and obey.  But if, like me, you're vaguely libertarian and fiercely counter-cultural, you should still hold this Prussian regimentation somewhat suspect -- not because it teaches obedience, but because it often teaches obedience to authorities who are practically and/or morally off track.

But I digress. Suffice it to say that I believe giving my children a decent education will go beyond the purchasing of books and curricular guides -- that it will also require conscious thought regarding the intangibles. Hence, my reflection last week on Heinlein-ian self-reliance. Hence, this post, which will explain how my plans have been influenced by Mike Rowe.

For those of you who don't have cable and/or aren't obsessed with the Discovery circuit of channels, Mike Rowe was the host of a show called Dirty Jobs in which he apprenticed under people around the country - like, for example, sewer inspectors and septic tank specialists - who make a living doing things the popular culture considers unpleasant. In the course of shooting roughly 300 of these jobs, Rowe discovered the Skills Gap - i.e., the fact that despite this time of high unemployment, there are millions of jobs in industry that have been left unfilled because there is no one around who is both willing and able to do the work - and made it his personal mission to help close it by promoting the virtues of hard work and vocational education.

As he has stated in several venues - including his website, Profoundly Disconnected - Rowe thinks it's nuts that the entire education establishment is pushing a traditional four-year college degree like it's the only true path to success, and he further observes that such propaganda is a sign that our society has become completely divorced from the very things that keep our civilization functioning. "I think we've simply forgotten about the underlying industries upon which all else depends," Rowe writes in one article on farming, "and as a result, created for ourselves a vocational identity crisis. Our collective definition of a 'good job' has evolved into something that no longer resembles Work, and that had detached us from a great many things, including our food and the people who provide it."

Rowe is right. As a college-educated professional who works what is essentially a desk job in an affluent suburb, I have - unconsciously - taken many things for granted. When I go to the grocery store, I expect it to be well supplied. When I flush the toilet -- well, I don't generally think about what happens next. I don't need to because the vast majority of the time, things operate as they should thanks to millions of people doing jobs that, sadly, have been systematically marginalized by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the dominant political faction in DC. And many people who live in my area are just like me. They reveal the level of their disconnect by the things they champion. They are food faddists who have no concept of what it actually takes to nourish 300 million people. They believe we should reinvent the entire energy industry -- because, of course, no matter what we do, the lights will still stay on. And, of course, they think people should be allowed to "follow their passion" on the public dime; when the CBO announced that the new health care law is likely to encourage people to work less, they considered it a feature rather than a bug.

I don't want my children to be so oblivious. I don't want them to be typical DC elitist snobs who think they can just play with the whole system to enforce their own personal moral sensibilities without causing it to crash around our ears. Consequently, in my school room, Rowe's "Work Smart AND Hard" poster and his "S.W.E.A.T. Pledge" will both be prominently displayed. (By the way, "S.W.E.A.T." stands for "Skill & Work Ethic Aren't Taboo" -- a pretty clever acronym.)  Further, whenever possible, I'm going to expose my kids to kind of work that under-girds the prosperity we enjoy. I'm going to take them to farms, factories and electrical plants and openly discuss how food and other consumer items get to our houses and our tables. I'm going to try to have them shadow plumbers, carpenters, welders, and other skilled tradesmen so they can develop an appreciation for what these people do. And overall, I'm going to emphasize that bad jobs are actually vanishingly rare and that God intended us to exert effort to get the things we need and/or want -- that there is a profound dignity in sweating and getting dirty and slowly working your way up from nothing that you can't get from sitting on your tush and letting "entitlements" come to you.

After such a program, it is my hope that my children will be prepared to sign Rowe's pledge and start looking for ways they can contribute. Not only does America need enterprising self-starters, but it also needs people who are unafraid of discomfort and grime.