L. Neil Smith's
Number 273, May 30, 2004

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."

—President George W. Bush, speaking at a Gridiron Club dinner, Washington, D.C., March 2001

The Single Biggest Problem
by Ron Beatty

Exclusive to TLE

To me, it seems as if the single biggest problem in this country today, after government, is education.

No longer are our children required to learn to think, but only to memorize, with the material to be memorized strictly controlled by teachers, school boards, and religious groups.

Our children are no longer taught history. Instead they are subjected to socialist propaganda, designed to undermine any attempt to see the failures of socialism in general and to downplay the importance of individualism.

Our children are not taught to appreciate fine music, as a general rule, in the school system itself. What little of this occurs, occurs almost as a by-product, instead of as a primary objective of a good education.

No longer are our children required to read, or to think about what they are reading. Instead, various mind-numbing video games, inane and assinine TV programs, and the miserable excuse for network TV "news" have taken over the conciousness of our young people.

Others have endlessly commented on much of this, but I would like to address two specific issues, reading and music.

As a Navy brat, growing up in the 1960's, we moved constantly, on an average of once every 18 months. The timing of the moves rarely coincided with the timing of the school year, either. We were rarely in one spot long enough for me to make close friends. As a consequence, books were often my dearest companions. This was a direct result of my grandmother reading to me, and teaching me to read. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on her lap, out in the back yard, listening to her read "Supercar" to me, then making me read it back to her. At that time, I was probably about 2 years old, no more than 2½.

By the time I was in first grade, I was reading Burrough's Tarzan books, was already in love with Dejah Thoris, and was reading Howard Pyle's Robin Hood and Men of Iron. The Knights of the Round Table were familiar to me, and Tom Swift, with his wonderful inventions (to a five/six year old) were the new fairy tales. In my first year of school, the teacher had me teaching reading to other students, especially the ones she didn't want to "bother" with. This worked out so well that I never went to second grade, and only went to third and fourth because my parents insisted on it.

About this time, I discovered Heinlein, and one of the first books of his that I read, right after Red Planet, was Have Space Suit-Will Travel. One of the most intriguing passages in that book, to a boy who was bored in school, was the one where Kip's father makes his commentary on the educational system, about how the best way to get ahead was to study the things the school system didn't teach, sciences, math, etc. I did this, especially in regards to fine literature and history, the sciences (especially oceanograpy and astronomy, which at that time seemed to be the wave of the future.)

As you might imagine, this caused me a lot of problems, especially in my fifth grade year. That teacher, who I will not name, seemed to resent me, and did her best to totally destroy any love of reading or learning I had developed, and almost succeeded. I went from an exemplary student to one that only passed the fifth grade because my parents complained vociferously to the principal, who tested me himself, and over-rode the failing grade my teacher had given me.

The next year, sixth grade, one that I consider the luckiest of my entire school career, was solely because of one man, Mr. Ronald Callahan. Mr. Callahan took a stubborn, burned-out kid, re-kindled the love of learning, and taught me the most important lesson of my life: No matter what others do or say, keep learning! He introduced me to Josephus, Diogenes, Shakespeare, Herodotus, Homer, Virgil, and many others, and went far outside the box, much farther than he had to, or was even safe for his career. Mr. Callahan, if you are still alive, and ever happen to see this: THANK YOU!

As far as music goes, again, we were never taught much about the stories behind the classical music, and so never really appreciated it. For me, this continued until I was on a color guard in High School, and we were assigned to present the colors at a classical music concert. We had to sit through two concerts, over four hours of non-stop classical music. At this time, this was torture to me! Eventually, starting to doze, the music started sinking into me, becoming a part of me, fueling almost a trance state, where the images came to life. Suddenly, the Great Gate of Kiev and Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky made sense. The Hall of the Mountain King and Ride of the Valkyries, with their crashing calls to arms became stirring anthems. Rossini's William Tell Overture became more than a TV theme song.

My taste has matured since then, and I still love a lot of popular music, especially the pop/rock/easy listening sound of the 70's. But now I listen to Berlioz, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Rossini and others as well, which I would never even have considered before that "boring" concert. By the way, for an unusual arrangement of the William Tell Overture, listen to the version done by Chris LeDoux and the Western Underground. They are a country band, backed up by an orchestra for this song, and it is done well, even though it is a little strange to hear WTO done with guitar and pedal steel!

The point of all this is: DON'T TRUST THE SCHOOL SYSTEM if you want your kids to have any appreciation of history, of literature, or of music!

I was fortunate, in that I learned in spite of the school system. I still have a long way to go, and will probably never achieve all that I desire in the learning department. I got started too late. Don't let that happen to your kids!

May you learn as long as you live, and live as long as you learn! (paraphrased from Time Enough For Love by Robert A. Heinlein)


The State vs. The People
by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman

Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.

Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?

The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"

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