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North Korea at night
credit: military bases.com

On Monday afternoon, 08-30-21, at about 1630 Mountain time, the lights went out in much of our medium-sized Wyoming town.  As I write this, the exact cause remains unknown, and we were without electrical power for about four hours.  This kind of outage is, fortunately, rare.

It was, for us, and I’m sure for most folks, merely an inconvenience.  Indeed, businesses lost four hours of income, people had to do without gasoline if their tanks were dry, and without an outdoor, propane BBQ grill or a fire pit, dinner had to wait.  Our hospital and other essential facilities had generators, and fired those up, reminding Mrs. Manor and I a generator might not be a bad idea.  Readers of this scruffy little blog used to reading the following day’s post at 1700 had to wait a bit.  But for most people, it was no big deal.

As Mrs. Manor and I sat on the front porch in our rocking chairs—never imagined we’d ever do that, but we had a front porch just sitting there–we chatted with neighbors, and all reflected on the fragility of our civilization.  Out here in Wyoming and in much of Flyover Country, an extended power outage would not be nearly as catastrophic as it would be in many of the blue states, particularly major cities.  That is partially because we have retained the rule of law, and should dimwitted politicians try to degrade it, we would set them straight damned quickly.  Failing that, we’d establish the rule of law ourselves.

Not only that, we would band together to help each other.  Would people who would work together to maintain order do less?  No one would be starving or in need of fundamentals if any of us could help it, and we could.

But because of our advancement, our prosperity, our general ease of living, we take much for granted.  We don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, or about having to fight off hostile tribes.  Only occasionally do we reflect on how fragile civilization–all that we have built over generations–actually is.  We have climbed out of tribalism, the ravages of common diseases, and are able to deal with nature, regardless of what the climate change cracktivists say, but we could lose it all so, gradually, then suddenly.

A loss of electricity in a major city for say, two weeks—even less—would quickly devolve to a survival of the meanest state of nature.  Virtually everything upon which we rely to conduct the daily business of living depends on inexpensive, universally available power, electric and fossil fuel.  Yet, a significant portion of our population would impose the Green New Deal, which would make power expensive, scarce, and in places, virtually unavailable.

It is, in effect, an ongoing battle between those who live in the real world of equal opportunity, not equal outcomes, and those that live in the ‘ought to be” world of equity and equal outcomes.  It’s interesting that those living in the “ought to be” world always accuse those living in the real world of intending to do or doing terrible things.  On closer examination, they’re accusing realists of doing precisely what they intend to do or are already doing.

I blame much of it on the fact that a growing number of Americans aren’t readers.  Oh, we are, as a society, pretty much universally literate, though like shooting, literacy is a perishable skill, and I’ve been seeing it perish, slowly, for decades.  What good is literacy if one doesn’t read, doesn’t exercise the brain, build new neural connections, make new connections in experience, ability, logic and thoughtfulness?

There the stuffy English teacher goes again!  Bear with me, and consider Oregon.  Governor Kate Brown has decreed henceforth kids may graduate from high school without demonstrating basic proficiency in English, math, etc.  Why would anyone do anything that obviously stupid?  You know why:

Gov. Kate Brown
credit: atr.org

Charles Boyle, the deputy communications director from Gov. Brown’s office, is quoted as saying that the new standards for graduation will help benefit the state’s ‘Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.’

Here is where the reality vs. “ought to be” clash enters yet again.  In a reality based system, if a given, identifiable group of kids is failing, the solution is simple: provide the resources necessary for them to succeed.  In so doing, one must keep in mind all the best teacher in the world can do is provide the best opportunity for learning their abilities and resources allow.  Each individual student, motivated by their parents if necessary, must do the actual work of learning.  If the schools have done their job, and the kids/parents decide to fail, they don’t get a diploma.  This scheme depends, again, on reality, on the increasingly and bizarrely controversial idea that when one receives a credential, it must mean something, be certification of some level of achievement/competence on which its holder, and society at large, can depend.

Those of the “ought to be” persuasion see things quite differently.  If the aforementioned favored victim groups fail, it can only be because of systemic racism.  And what is the evidence of such racism?  The aforementioned victim groups are failing and they’re not white.  But that’s a circular argument!  Shut up you racist!  Since racism, and the need to ensure no one ever experiences failure or microaggressions, etc., is the proximate cause, favored victim groups must be spared systemic oppression, which means no more testing to ensure they can read, do basic math, etc..  That this relieves the “ought to be” community of having to explain their endless failures is a happy side benefit.  Besides, their policies and beliefs can’t possibly fail.  Ask them; they’ll explain, you racist.

As regular readers know, I’m no fan of mandatory, high stakes testing as it is presently employed.  Prior to the advent of such testing, teachers were more than capable of determining student’s capabilities and achievement, and students were regularly given remedial help, and if necessary, were retained for a grade or two.  This was done in the realistic hope they would take advantage of the opportunities afforded them and learn what they very much needed to learn.  Shame and failure, properly and honestly employed are powerful motivators, and can be again—in a reality-based world.

Of course, when we add in such moral and intellectual imperatives as addressing people by ever-changing pronouns, spending most of our educational time with Critical Race Theory and related race/Marxist indoctrination, catering to gender delusons and all the rest, there really isn’t going to be much time for such things as competent reading, writing and math.

This is, gentle readers, only partially an article about education.  It’s about the fact that unless we build the base for continued learning by the age of 18, and unless we continue to avail ourselves of learning throughout our lives, we’re not going to be living in a real world where people thrive on responsibility, hard work, cooperation, tolerance and accomplishment.  We’ll be living in the “ought to be” world where everyone ought to be “equal” in all ways—that’s called “equity” these days—regardless of their lack of responsibility, hard work, cooperation, and their prejudice and laziness.

Learning to read and do math, for example, is not only making neural connections and building a base of absolutely essential knowledge, it’s preparing the brain for greater things, and establishing personal habits absolutely necessary for success in the real world.  In the “ought to be” world, people pretend to be successful, but aren’t.  They can’t be.

Another way to look at the issue is to consider the world of those with credentials, and those who demonstrate ability and competence every day.  These two states of being need not necessarily be mutually exclusive, but are becoming more and more so.  As we’ve seen with the continuing Afghanistan debacle, there are a great many people with sterling credentials who have, in the space of a few days, done enormous and lasting damage to a nation, even the world.  Tasked with ensuring every American should be evacuated, they refused to allow the people who demonstrate ability and competence every day—our working military—to do the job.  Lives have been, and will be, lost as a result.

So.  The electricity goes out across town.  We rely on competent people monitoring power delivery systems to recognize the failure, to determine, at least preliminarily, the possible cause, and to call out technicians.  All of these people remain employed, providing money which provides jobs for countless others, because they demonstrate ability and competence day after day.

The technicians only get credentials when they’ve demonstrated consistent ability and competence, which is what any apprenticeship system is designed to accomplish.  It is they that will go out into the field in any and all weather conditions, determine the cause of the outage, and immediately repair it, or report back what equipment and parts they’ll need to do it.  Having what they need, they’ll fix things, and mirable dictu, power is restored and normal American life proceeds after a minor inconvenience.

But think, gentle readers, what is necessary to accomplish this?  Without realizing it, we need more than basic reading, writing and math skills, and the neural connections and vital habits learning, maintaining and improving them built, to function in daily life.  Oh, but we have iPads and iWatches and computers of all kinds to do that sort of thing!  Right.  And if we produce generations of the credentialed rather than the capable, of people who live in the world of “ought to be” rather than reality, who is going to design, build and maintain those wonderful devices?  Who will produce the materials?  Who will transport them to the factories no one knows how to design, build or maintain?  The Chinese?

Think of everything we take for granted, and how each and every little bit of the conveniences of modern American life find their way into our homes and hands, that give us the time and space to think about how easily it can all be taken away.  Then think of how about half of our society wants very much to live in the world of “ought to be.”  If they succeed, if pronouns supplant production, if electric vehicles are mandated and the electricity to recharge them and provide all our other electric needs is “ought to be” rather than real, if our credentialed elite are allowed to employ foreign policy that assumes Islamist savages give a damn about what infidels think of them, one day the power will go off, and there will be no one to turn it back on.  Oh sure, it ought to be on, but reality tends to intrude on “ought to be,” unless those living in “ought to be” are allowed to force us all to live in their deranged, dysfunctional fantasy world, in which case we pretend everything is fine because it ought to be.

Maybe the stakes of the culture war are higher than we thought…