Let’s Revolt

Here is a great example of one of the things wrong with our legal and political climate.
Government controls the purse strings, so entities who really only wish to protect their financial bailiwick and act as gatekeepers get government to agree to tax, register, licence and fine anybody who enters ‘their’ field without their permission- in this case, forcing entrepreneurs who merely wash and then braid hair to spend money going to a specialized school to study areas which have nothing to do with washing or braiding hair, in order to get a licence (which must then be kept up to date) to do something totally unrelated to washing and braiding hair.

In this case, a woman is suing the state of Tennessee, and I hope she wins. Her sister, who’s writing her testimony is linked above, had a salon exclusively for washing and braiding hair, and she chose to close shop and move across the state line to avoid the onerous and totally unreasonable regulatory burden the state placed on her.

Our forefathers threw tea in the harbor over less.

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human breeding

eugenics hickory family

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“…It is certain, for example, that an imbecile which has arisen from homozygous defective germplasm carries only the determiner for imbecility in his own germ plasm and when two such recessives mate nothing but imbecile offspring can result, for recessives breed true. Nothing plus nothing equals nothing. (emphasis added)
For practical purposes, it is unimportant to know whether or not feeble mindedness or any similar defect is Mendelian in behavior. The fact that it is hereditary is enough.

Source, Genetics: an Introduction to the Study of Heredity
By Herbert Eugene WalterGenetics an introduction to the study of heredity ill.


As a matter of fact,  defectives usually mate with defectives for the simple reason that normals ordinarily avoid them,  so it comes about that streams of poor germplasm naturally flowing together tend to the inbreeding of like defects. Davenport  lays down the following general eugenic rules for the guidance of those who would produce offspring wisely:

If the negative character is, as in polydactylism and night blindness, the normal character, then normals should marry normals and they may be even cousins. If the negative character is abnormal, as imbecility and liability to respiratory diseases, then the marriage of two abnormals means probably all children abnormal- the marriage of two normals from defective strains means about one quarter of the children abnormal, but the marriage of a normal of the defective strain with one of a normal strain will probably lead to strong children.

The worst possible marriage in this class of cases is that of cousins from the defective strain, especially if one or both have the defect. In a word, the consanguineous marriage of persons one or both of whom have the same undesirable defect is highly unfit and the marriage of even unrelated persons who both belong to strains containing the same undesirable defect is unfit. Weakness in any characteristic must be mated with strength in that characteristic and strength may be mated with weakness. In short the eugenical Cupid does not tell one so often whom to select for a partner as whom to avoid .

(1 Davenport Rep of Amer Breeders Assoc Vol VI p 431 1910)

HUMAN CONSERVATION 1. How Mankind may be Improved.

There are two fundamental ways to bring about human betterment, namely by improving the individual and by improving the race. The first method consists in making the best of whatever heritage has been received by placing the individual in the most favorable environment and developing his capacities to the utmost through education. Such enterprises may be included under this head as improving sanitation, controlling disease, insuring health, safe guarding human life, banishing child labor, lessening drudgery of all kinds, substituting something better for the slums, championing the weak, reforming penal institutions, maintaining charitable organizations, cultivating true temperance, dispelling ignorance, and lengthening life. [note: Observe lack of any mention of teaching personal responsibility, working with individual children on improving personal character- even ‘true temperance’ doesn’t mean what you think it means, it’s mainly about tee-totalling].

The second method consists in seeking a better heritage with which to begin the life of the individual. The first method is immediate and urgent for the present generation. The second method is concerned with ideals for the future, and consequently does not usually present so strong an appeal to the individual.  314
The first is the method of euthenics, or the science of learning to live well. The second is eugenics,  which Galton defines as the science of being well born. Every gain in eugenics, it need hardly be said, will make euthenics more effective,  but the reverse cannot be affirmed. These two aspects of human betterment,  however,  are inseparable.  Any hereditary characteristic must be regarded,  not as an independent entity,  but as a reaction between the germplasm and its environment.  The biologist who disregards the fields of educational endeavor and environmental influence is equally at fault with the sociologist who fails sufficiently to realize the fundamental importance of the germplasm. Without euthenic opportunity the best of heritages would never fully come to its own. Without the eugenic foundation the best opportunity fails of accomplishment.  The euthenic point of view,  however,  must not distract the attention now,  for the present chapter is particularly concerned with the program of eugenics.

2) Human Assets and Liabilities: In an attempt to take account of human stock,  Dr HH Laughlin of the Eugenics Record Office has made the following eugenical classification based on the manner in which families assemble in their offspring heritable traits which determine for their possessors a. social adjustment and b. special talent or defect
I Persons of genius

II Persons of special skill,  intelligence, courage,  unselfishness,  enterprise,  or strength

III Persons constituting the great normal middle class,  the people

IV Socially inadequate persons

The first three groups constitute those eugenically fit from sterling inheritance who produce the socially valuable nine tenths of humanity among civilized people and in the last group are the eugenically unfit from defective inheritance who produce the socially inadequate or the submerged tenth of humanity.  Among persons of genius Dr Laughlin would include the 5000 persons most splendidly equipped by nature throughout historic times,  as,  for example,  Aristotle in philosophy,  Newton in science,  Pasteur in medicine,  Dante in poetry,  Shakespeare in drama,  and Cecil Rhodes in business.   Reckoning that since civilization began,  there have been born and reared in civilized countries approximately thirty billion persons,  the expectation of a genius is about 1 /6,000,000.

In the second group are included the natural and acknowledged leaders in all lines of human endeavor,  the Who’s Who people. The incidence of these in the total population is possibly 1 /6,000.

The third group the people constitute nine tenths of all, since the first two classes, although their influence is very great,  are numerically negligible,  while the fourth group is made up of the residue or the socially inadequate namely:

1 feeble minded

2. pauper

3 inebriate

4 criminalistic

5 epileptic

6 insane

7 asthenic or weak

8 diathetic or predisposed to disease

9 deformed

10 [illegible] that is with defective sense organs


Laughlin concludes: ” The task of eugenics is 1 to encourage fit and fertile matings among those persons most richly endowed by nature and 2 to devise practicable means for cutting off the inheritance lines of persons of naturally meagre or defective inheritance….

All the above, and more, was once Consensus Science….  Search google books for ‘heredity’ and limit your search to published from around 1900 to 1930 and you’ll be astonished- and sickened.  And while we moderns are appalled, this was what all the ‘best and brightest’ in America believed and taught in schools, in lecture halls, even in churches, published in influential magazines and textbooks.  Certain words faded away in the wake of Nazi Germany, but these beliefs of the progressives (because it was entirely a progressive dominated field) didn’t disappear, but rather, camoflauged themselves.


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April, 2016 Books

After finishing the last book this month, I realized that 3/4 of what I read this month centered around rather depressing topics. Methinks I need a more balanced literary diet in the next few months. That being said, what I read was good, and that’s important, isn’t it?
1) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry ~ a re-read, although the last time I read it was probably over 20 years ago. More beautiful than I understood when I first read it ~ because the heart grows bigger between adolescence and adulthood, and because some plotlines were more poignant after reading Lowry’s autobiography last month.

This is such a well-done introduction to WWII for young readers. She doesn’t flinch from the grief and injustice involved, but paces the story well so it’s not an overwhelming, crushing burden for younger ones. I *really* look forward to sharing this with my kids in a few years.

2) Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud To Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox ~ Being someone totally lucky in the family-reading-aloud department, there was not a lot of new or revolutionary information for me here. It was still encouraging and re-invigorating to read, especially as I gear up to teaching my own children to read later this year. It was nice to be reminded that the most important part of teaching reading is something we’ve already done ~ they expect reading to be pleasurable and worthwhile.

Fox spent some time on the reading-wars (phonics? whole words? etc) and I’ve mostly been out of that loop. I think her point that reading involves important things like contextual clues is a good one that I’ve seen forgotten in some of the (scant) reading I’ve done on the topic.

Her tone is sprightly and fun. You can tell she is passionate about sharing books with children, and her joy is contagious.

A favorite quote:

If we sanitize everything children read, how much more shocking and confusing will the real world be when they finally have to face it?”

3) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh ~ a re-read.  I think I was 19 the first time I read this, and a great deal of its deeper meaning seemed to go over my head. The only thing I really emembered about the plot line was that it involved two typical British college guys from the 1920s who liked to drink except one of them was a sad alcoholic, really, from a Catholic family in an England always weird about Catholicism.
Yeah. Not much, like I said.

It’s still a far cry from my favorite novel, but I appreciated more of it this time around. Waugh’s descriptive prose can be beautiful but I *hate* his narrative timelines. Or, rather, his LACK of them. I hated not knowing if we were going to skip a decade, two years, two weeks, WHAT. It was fairly taxing to try and figure out where in the heck we were in the story. Maybe that’s mostly because I’m a Distracted Mommy Of Four These Days? It was still irritating.

Good book with a holy ending, though. I read the last paragraph about a half a dozen times just because it was so stinkin’ beautiful.

4) The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project by Robert S. Boynton ~

Oh So Brief Synopsis: North Korea spent decades kidnapping people (mostly Japanese, although they did South Koreans, Thais, and a few other groups) surreptitiously and using them to teach language or culture classes in North Korea. They did this to young couples, to a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL, and other young people. Their families had no ideas what happened to them. There was some suspicion about it being North Korea, but it was only a faint suspicion and the Japanese government pretty much ignored it. Some of them were released back to Japan a few years ago (North Korea says the 13 yo girl committed suicide in adulthood; her family doesn’t believe the story, but I’m afraid I do, or rather, I believe she’s probably dead ..). Others are still missing. And Japan insists that North Korea kidnapped more than they are admitting to.

thoughts on the book itself:

At first I thought Boynton’s writing style might be too jumpy for me: one chapter would be the 1970s, another the 1850s. Et cetera. But I think he was mostly very careful about laying the groundwork for his story. Japan has an atrocious colonial record, which is how North Korea supposedly justified their actions. Once the groundwork was down, Boynton stayed on target with a chronological storyline. I might also have been impatient, because I was already familiar with some of the long-term rocky relations between both of the Koreas & Japan, but other readers may not be and might need the fish-hook of the kidnapping accounts to make them care more about the colonial period.

Although North Korea is definitely the villain in this story, Boynton also did a *really* good job of sharing some of the deeper complexities involved. some couples got married and had children in North Korea and then were permitted to visit Japan while their children were left in NK. They couldn’t denounce NK; their children were hostages. And after the children were eventually released to Japan, there’s the tricky issue of not wanting to denouncing the only long term home your children knew. Plus there’s the fact that of course not everyone in North Korea is a villain, so you can’t denounce them all. One of the children works in South Korea now; his language is Korean, after all, not Japanese.

There’s a lot of political steam to be used by touting the hostages, and many (but not all) of them simply don’t want to be politicized. They’ve already spent decades wrapped up in this story, they would like to move on quietly now. That’s not so easily done, though, especially with the question lingering of who might still be in North Korea.

It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction of how *wrong* it was for Japan to ignore the kidnappings, and in the balance, it wasn’t the right thing… but instant condemnation is wrong. Japan was soundly trounced in WWII. Their economy was and infrastructure were in shambles. The US moved in and plopped down with their string of military bases. The world was shaky and terrifying in Asia. How could they prove North Korea was kidnapping people? Would anyone in the world care? Would another world war erupt? What if their families were wrong and these people  were really just run aways?

Plus there’s the fact that the world of the 1970s and early 1980s meant much slower and poorer communication lines. One girl disappears in one town, another couple disappears ina nother ~ word might not spread, and you’d have no idea how connected they could be.

It’s a little bit harder now because of the speed of communications these days… but still a long haul, because the world just doesn’t seem to care that much. So familiar.

Big picture: this story is not over, the story of North Korea is not over, and there are so many things deserving of prayers.

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formula fiction

hardy boys nancy drewCharlotte Mason: “We need not ask what the girl or boy likes. She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure. We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature; and possibly such food is good for us when our minds are in need of an elbow-chair; but our spiritual life is sustained on other stuff, whether we be boys or girls, men or women. ”

She also talks about how crime in cinema (movies) provides excitement and thrill to the imagination, but the implication is if the children had the mental food they needed, they wouldn’t require movies about crimes.

OTOH, I once wrote a tongue in cheek post about how this comment from Mason justifies good mysteries:

“We have seen that their reading and the affairs of the day should afford scope and opportunity for the delight in ratiocination proper to children. The fallacies they themselves perpetrate when exposed make them the readier to detect fallacies elsewhere”.

I said this supported the reading of mysteries because Poe called mysteries tales of ratiocination.


But there are mysteries, and then there’s Nancy Drew and her ilk.

I read them all and enjoyed them. My oldest two girls read most of them and enjoyed them. But I must be honest about it even though it makes me unpopular and it’s almost like having to tell some poor mother that her baby is ugly- the truth is, they really are twaddle. That doesn’t make those of us who loved them bad people. It does mean we were the happy victims of a major marketing plot and we all have a few mental cavities from it.

Children are forming their tastes for books as they read, so the literary standard of what they read really does matter.  There is also a certain age where whatever they are reading will be the books they remember most fondly in adult-hood.  So hey are informing their tastes at the age they usually fall prey to the Nancy Drew publishing machine- which is why we feel so defensive 20 to 30 years later (or, ahem, a little more than that…. what? Okay, a LOT more than that) when we are told they are twaddle.

We have this idea that it does not matter what they read so long as it’s reading, and we hate to give that up.  But the idea that it doesn’t matter what they read so long as they are reading is truly a modern fallacy. It’s something we hear from modern educationists a lot, and many of us imbibed it- but we need to think harder about this. If it truly did not matter, then we could forego books and let them read cereal boxes and shampoo bottles, or do all their reading on a diet of People Magazine. But books are not just ‘delivery systems’ for the skill of reading. Reading matters because the content of the book and the style of the writing matters.  Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the others like them are twaddle.

I’m not just picking on the girls.  Hardy Boys, too, are twaddle, the epitome of formula fiction.  The original creator’s  had an actual formula or recipe he assigned to his stable of writers- have a problem on page 14, resolve it on page 33, etc. It’s pretty funny.

Now, while they are all twaddle, it is true that the truly older ones are still better than most of the newer books- because even yester-year’s twaddle has been dumbed down for us today, sad to say. I think that’s one of the things that confuses us about it. The older books do have longer, more complex sentence structure than the moderns, better mysteries, and they are more wholesome (my mother bought one of my girls a modern Nancy Drew written for grade school kids and was shocked that it included a suicide!).

Just keep in mind, they still *are* formula fiction, and even if it seems good to a parent to let their children read some, it’s good to know they are not living books, so you can help encourage your kids to develop those reading muscles and stretch and grow beyond them.


Some caveats:  IF you have the real, *original* Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or Bobbsey Twins, etc, then you have some added historical interest- little things the original writer took for granted, like the slang, or the type of car the kids rode in (or horse and carriage with the Bobbsey Twins), or the food they ate- bring some added ideas that make the originals better than the updates.

Most children do seem to have a real need for a series to read at a certain age/reading level- usually somewhere between 8-10. It’s when they are working on mastery, so a lot of the same thing seems to be helpful to them. The key is to provide just enough of that to meet the need, but not to let them glut themselves on it and never move on. So you might keep, or permit, a set number of the books in the series- 10, maybe, but probably not more than 20

The original Bobbsey Twins story was published in 1904.  they were not written by Laura Lee Hope.  She wrote nothing because she never existed. Neither the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys are not actually a series created independently by a bona-fide author with a story to tell. Both of them (and several others) were formula fiction created entirely by a publisher with a bottom line to sell. They are largely (not 100% of the time, but largely) ghost-written by hacks for hire.


The Hardy Boys formula was first created in 1927, and then largely rewritten in the sixties. A welcome change in the new versions is that the racism in the older books was written out (or at least, an attempt was made) An unwelcome change is that the descriptive style also changed- it was dumbed down to fit the t.v. generation.

But these *are* formula fiction, created for a syndicate that merely wanted to cash in on the market for formula fiction for kids. They were specifically written as formula fiction, and you can read the formula here.  It’s about two pages.  He even assigned a set number of jokes (fifty).

“In this two-page outline for the 1927 Hardy Boys mystery The House on the Cliff, Edward Stratemeyer directed writer Leslie McFarlane in the construction of the plot of the second book in the franchise’s original series. The book was officially published as the work of Franklin W. Dixon, a fictional author whose name appears on all of the Hardy Boys books.”


Heh- one advantage (?) of the formula is that kids who are so inclined can riff off their own versions. I remember my eldest writing her own Nancy Drew when she was around 10- she didn’t finish, it was just a few chapters. But it was *so* perfect. It really could have been a Nancy Drew (with somebody to finish it). That’s when I realized, kf a ten year old can do this, it’s not really a great use of her time.

What we like, what we liked as children, what our children like- Charlotte Mason warned her readers that this was not a useful guide to detecting twaddle vs good books.



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The Century of the Child by Ellen Key (1900)

the bookshelf bannerThe Century of the Child by Ellen Key (1900)

VI: The School of the Future (part 1)

I should like to set down here briefly my dreams of a future school, in which the personality may receive a free and complete self- development. I purposely say “dreams,” because I do not want any one to believe that I am pretending in the following outline to give a reformed programme for the present time.

My first dream is that the kindergarten and the primary school will be everywhere replaced by instruction at home.

Undoubtedly a great influence has proceeded from that whole movement which has resulted, among other things, in the Pestalozzi- Froebel kindergartens, and in institutions modelled after them. Better teachers have been produced by it; but what I regard as a great misfortune, is the increasing inclination to look upon the crèche, the kindergarten, and the school as the ideal scheme of education. Every discussion dealing with the possibilities of women working in public life exalts the advantage of freeing the mother from the care of children, emancipating children from the improper care of their mothers, and giving women possibilities of work outside of the home. Mrs. Perkins Stetson proposes as a compromise, that every mother, pedagogically qualified, shall take care of a group of children along with her own. But what her own children will receive under such conditions is sufficiently shown in the case of those poor children who grow up in educational institutions presided over by their parents; and also by the experience of the poor parents who are not able under these conditions to look after their own children.

From another chapter (3):

Goethe showed long ago in his Werther a clear understanding of the significance of individualistic and psychological training, an appreciation which will mark the century of the child. In this work he shows how the future power of will lies hidden in the characteristics of the child, and how along with every fault of the child an uncorrupted germ capable of producing good is enclosed. ” Always,” he says, ” I repeat the golden words of the teacher of mankind, ‘if ye do not become as one of these,’ and now, good friend, those who are our equals, whom we should look upon as our models, we treat as subjects; they should have no will of their own; do we have none? Where is our prerogative? Does it consist in the fact that we are older and more experienced? Good God of Heaven! Thou seest old and young children, nothing else. And in whom Thou hast more joy, Thy Son announced ages ago. But people believe in Him and do not hear Him — that, too, is an old trouble, and they model their children after themselves.” The same criticism might be applied to our present educators, who constantly have on their tongues such words as evolution, individuality, and natural tendencies, but do not heed the new commandments in which they say they believe. They continue to educate as if they believed still in the natural depravity of man, in original sin, which may be bridled, tamed, suppressed, but not changed. The new belief is really equivalent to Goethe’s thoughts given above, i.e., that almost every fault is but a hard shell enclosing the germ of virtue. Even men of modern times still follow in education the old rule of medicine, that evil must be driven out by evil, instead of the new method, the system of allowing nature quietly and slowly to help itself, taking care only that the surrounding conditions help the work of nature. This is education.

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