Saturday, September 11, 2010


I feel as if we here in the U.S. have gone astray. I feel that something has gone very wrong.

I take myself to know that the Standard American Diet (SAD) has been a disaster. We're fatter and sicker than we've ever been. We're weak and indolent. We're fearful. We're resentful. This is all due in part (in greater part I think) to our diet.

But it's not only our diet that's gone far off track. There's much else wrong too. I see it in my students. Many are passive. Many don't value their education; many don't take an active role in it. Many just sit back, listen a little, work a little, and hope for the best. They seem to have little idea of what it means to actually learn a thing. You can't just sit back. You've gotta get up off your behind and get to work, and you've gotta get help if you can't do it by yourself. Lord have mercy! I don't know how many times I've begged students at risk to come to me with their questions only to watch them miss even the most simple problems on test day. Was it that they didn't really know that they didn't get it? Probably not. It's just that they didn't really care.

Why didn't they care? Why do I watch my foreign-born students work their little brown butts off while their many of their peers from the U.S. just sit there? Here's my guess. We here in the U.S. have come to take our prosperity for granted. We take it for granted that, no matter how much we screw around, everything will turn out fine. This was true for awhile - perhaps from 1945 until just a few years ago. But it ain't true anymore. The economy has tanked, and it's not gonna come back anytime soon. What was true before has become true again: If you screw around, you might just be screwed. My students from India, Mexico and China know this. My students from the U.S. don't. They figure they'll be fine no matter what. I'll predict that they'll suffer for this.

Here's a list of other deep problems in our culture. I'm sure that you could add to the list. I'm sure that I could too.

The sexualization of youth
The proliferation of pornography
The scourge of drug and alcohol abuse
The endless hours spent inside in front of a monitor or television
The endless hours at work and the resultant neglect of family
The millions of children born out of wedlock

But why focus on the negative? Isn't there some good here too? Of course there is. But the good is on the retreat. The bad is ascendant. We have to get hold of the bad and beat it back down. But this we'll never do until we know where it comes from.

I have an idea about the source of our problems. There's a thread that runs through all the problems, a thread that binds them all together. We've come to embrace fakes! Take, for example, the crap that we eat - all the bread, pasta, candy, soda, and all the rest. It's all fake food. Yes, it's food-like. Yes, the body can run off it (not well, of course, but it does at least prevent starvation). But it's not the real thing. The real thing is what we were made to eat. The real thing is meat (and a bit of fruit and vegetable). Grains are new food - a mere 10,000 years old at most. Refined sugar is new food. Soy is new food. Moreover, we've come to find that they're not good food. They rot the body from the inside. I'd call them fakes.

Another example. Students today don't know what it is to really learn a thing. They think that education is something that just happens. Of course that's as wrong-headed as wrong-headed can be. They've accepted a sham, a mock-up, for the real thing. Education is an active, focused endeavor. It's work. Many students don't get that. They've accepted a sham, a mock-up, for the real thing. I suspect that they don't even know what the real thing is.

Pornography is obvious fakery.

Drugs cause fake experiences. Yes I know that the highs are intensely pleasurable. But the mind wasn't made to experience that sort of pleasure whenever we happen to want it. It was meant to be rare, and when we make it common we've created a sham. (We destroy ourselves too, just like with SAD.)

I'll end here. But I have a challenge for you. Look back over my list. In every case we've allowed ourselves to be fooled. We've fallen for the allure of an easy fake. Try to explain why. (It shouldn't cause you too much trouble. The fakery is plain.)

Here's the moral if you missed it. Don't accept fakes. They make you sick, stupid and miserable. Demand the real thing. Do what's necessary to get it. It's out there. Find out what it is and got after it.

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