American Education

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

I spent five years in a university under the assumption that a college degree was all I needed for a decent life as an adult but I feel as if I gained more life experience in the work force outside of the official academia sphere. This general feeling of dissatisfaction is not uncommon among college graduates and it doesn’t help that the cost of college tuition has more than doubled in the last thirty years (Bill McCarthy, PolitiFact, 2019). 58% of Americans say that college is worth current costs and 72% of Americans are in support of free tuition at public colleges and universities (Staff Report, American Public Media-Research Lab, 2019). So about half of Americans do not think college degrees are worth their price and a super majority of Americans are in support of making colleges cheaper in some capacity. I’m with the super majority who wants cheaper college.

Thinking back on my time in American schools, it’s difficult to credit any of that time with any practical knowledge of adult life. Perhaps the biggest contribution schools made to my professional development was knowledge of how to research information and how to distinguish between different sources of information. Practical specifics like job applications, tax documents, and rental agreements I learned on my own after I left the public school system. I think this is an issue worthy of our collective attention. Schools need to place more emphasis on the practical specifics of life especially junior high & high schools. A high school student should be able to navigate the fundamentals of independent living the day that he/she graduates. Basically, high school should be what college is now.

I think there are two primary strategies for reforming American education. The first strategy is to increase funding for public schools allowing for more opportunities for a wider variety of students as well as mandating free tuition for all citizen applicants and increasing pay for teachers. Taking the emphasis off test-taking and giving each student a more hands-on approach with a more personalized curriculum. The second strategy is basically the opposite approach, to decrease funding for public education forcing schools to re-organize and reallocate their budgets and strip down their curriculums with the intention of rebuilding public schools from necessities. Whereas the former strategy is a more Keynesian approach to public education, the latter strategy is a more laissez faire approach to public education.

A separate issue with American education is not the schools themselves but the civil society in which they exist. I think a particular attitude has developed in the American consciousness around educational institutions: that the institutions are beyond criticism with the belief that a college degree is the only way to to make one’s life “successful.” While I agree that more education can only be an improvement to a person’s life, I do not believe that institutions should hold a monopoly on education; a school and an education are two different things. A good education begins with parents and/or family fostering an inquisitive mindset into children. One idea my mother drilled into me in childhood was to never be afraid to ask a question. I think this invoked a curious nature within me about what kinds of questions to ask which people. Curiosity towards the world around you as well as curiosity regarding how the world has been is necessary for an informed populace. Parents need to be more active in their children’s development and push them to ask questions, perhaps even challenge their teachers.

A school and an education are two different things.

I do not believe that any one institution (be it educational, governmental, etc.) deserves a people’s absolute and unwavering trust. Any person is susceptible to corruption and, by extension, any institution is susceptible to corruption. It is healthy to question any decision especially if it comes from a position of authority. Wirelessly connected computers and the world wide web have increased access to information on a scale never before seen in human history but despite that, I fear humans are becoming even more ideologically reclusive. It’s as if too many choices in news media is causing people to retreat into their own comforts and biases further balkanizing the political landscape. There must be ways for communities (and the broader society) to foster curiosity and encourage people to step out of their comfort zones. My advice for now, to anyone reading this, is simply to watch less and read more.

Rediscovering Books & Repeating History

Computers may have ruined my literary attention span. I used to devour books in my childhood but, since I discovered the World Wide Web, I’ve not been as much of a reader of books; I read a lot of news articles and journals but physical books have sadly been fading out of my life. I would like to reverse this trend.

One of my favorite things to do in a quixotic rediscovery of books is coffee shop camping – simply go in to a coffee shop with a book, order a coffee, sit at a corner table, and lose yourself in your book for a couple of hours. Obviously there are a few safety measures to take when coffee shop camping during a pandemic (bring a mask and perhaps a bottle of hand sanitizer and keep a reasonable distance from other people). If the shop is too crowded, maybe turn around, and come back another day. You may find coffee shop camping to be incredibly rewarding for your mind.

My latest literary endeavor is a secondary source of American history, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America by Drew R. McCoy Ph.D of Clark University. At its core, it’s a book about the philosophical foundations of America’s Founding Fathers as well as that generation of people. McCoy references many familiar names such as Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Adam Smith and describes common ideas from that time period revolving around Britain’s apparent corruption and a growing necessity for the colonies in America to break away from the empire. The ideal was for the colonies to become a model for “republican virtue” on the world as well as a trading source of raw, agricultural materials for the rest of the world – an ideal that I think still has merit for modern humans.

The philosophy behind the republican ideal of an agrarian republic is an interesting theory on the development of human civilizations and describes stages through which civilization advance. These philosophical “stages of civilization” are:

  • hunting;
  • pasturage;
  • agricultural;
  • and commerce.

Whereas hunting is the most simple form of civilization and commerce is the most complex, hunting is also referred to as the “rudest” stage of civilization. The republican ideal and a prevailing theory in colonial America preached that the agricultural stage of civilization was the most ideal for liberty because it was the stage of civilization that was most conducive to the human propensity for productivity (the Protestant work ethic) and allowed for the greatest degree of happiness in individual citizens. These supposed stages of civilization was a part of an Enlightenment-era effort to apply a scientific process to human sociology.

This supposed scientific method for sociology largely comes from the French philosophe Montesquieu and his French and Scottish contemporaries including:

  • Claude Adrien Helvétius,
  • Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne,
  • Adam Ferguson,
  • Henry Home, Lord Kames,
  • John Millar,
  • Adam Smith FRSA.

The dilemma amongst purveyors of classic republican theory in colonial America was how to maintain virtuous simplicity throughout the republic’s cultural zeitgeist in an effort to prolong the agricultural stage of civilization, staving off the corrupting influences of the later stage of civilization. This dilemma provided republicans with a convenient justification for westward expansion to provide a surplus of land to “virtuous republicans” looking to establish homesteads for their ideal America.

Is it accurate to classify 21st century America as in a post-industrial stage of social development?

The classic republican ideal for early America revolved around financial independence for each citizen through land ownership. We have to remember that citizenship and civil rights were limited to a select group of people in 17th century America but the ideal was fairly progressive for the time considering it was a divergence from the strict gentry and titled nobility of the old European societies. The ideal was for “virtuous citizens” to become land owners and establish themselves as productive members of society through industrious farming. The antithesis of this ideal was that settlers might become disconnected from the rest of the nation and devolve into a lower stage of civilization in their isolation. The republican solution to this antithesis was to expand public infrastructure to keep frontiersmen connected to the fledgling republic’s internal markets.

Is it possible to maintain the classic, republican ideal for an agrarian republic but with a large post-industrial economic sector?

Reading about 17th century America, I’m noticing similar concerns to the issues that plague 21st century America – worries over large populations of unemployed, skepticism towards immigration and fears over emigration, concern for future generations and changing trends, etc. The predominant political debates seemed to be over the preservation of the agricultural sector versus the growth of the manufacturing sector with the democratic-republicans (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc.) on one side and the federalists (Alexander Hamilton, Robert Morris, etc.) on the other; the fear being that an excessive manufacturing sector would lead to “superfluous luxuries” and ultimately “corruption in government” and “effeminacy in citizens.”

How often do we hear politicians today chastise the population on accusations of degeneracy and a lack of personal responsibility and “masculine values?” It’s funny how history tends to repeat itself.

R&R in 2021

Happy Friday, people. This new year is starting out with a bang, isn’t it? We’ve just witnessed an attempted “rebellion” against our dying empire (a pretty pathetic rebellion at that) and now we have a new strain of this pandemic-causing coronavirus. I guess we can always raise our steins to the next year.

I suppose the next big thing we can look forward to is the day our outgoing moronic president gets kicked out of the White House (only to be replaced by another aging, corporate moron). POSITIVES!

At least we might get some competent disaster relief for this pandemic. I’d be happy with a large stimulus check so I can buy a new computer. The hundreds of billions committed to fighting Covid-19 would be good too.

Of course, every other industrialized nation is still wondering why every American citizen is not guaranteed healthcare but one step at a time I guess.

But enough politics . . .

Instead of dwelling on the negative, we need to at least make an attempt to find whatever it is that makes us smile on this godless planet. Life is what we make it so let’s try and make it a little less shitty. The start of a new year is a good time for self-reflection, it’s a logical place to stop and think within the overall passage of time.

What if we used this new year as a challenge to try and make something? Anything – a fictional story, a memoir, a poem, an anthology of poems, a piece of music, a short film, a documentary, any piece of art that makes you smile.

After all, we’ve got nothing else to do.

Let us use this year to rest, heal, and recover from the previous shit show.

What holds people back?

Take the right turn in Duke City and you can find anything.

The feeling of “living just enough for the city” as Stevie Wonder so elegantly phrased it is becoming more common in American cities.  Housing prices are soaring above wages and the gap between the working lower classes and the upper affluent classes is stark but opportunities remain.  There are always opportunities for the less fortunate, it just requires a little creativity.

I commute to my job on public transit and every day I see people who look as though they are going hard times – not well dressed, poor hygiene, a little spaced out (possibly on a foreign substance) – but they all seem to be able to scrape together enough money for a bus ticket.  What’s even more amazing is that most of these people have a smartphone in-hand with ear-buds or headphones on their heads.  Regardless of how my lower-class peers are able to afford these small luxuries, I don’t think they realize the kind of opportunities they can access with these devices alone.

A mobile phone can provide one with organizational tools for planning a day and recording other phone numbers for future reference (the start of any entrepreneurial endeavor) as well as grant you access to an internet connection via any public library or city-owned building.  Are most people even aware of the existence of public libraries these days?

I’m not the most entrepreneurial or business-minded person but I can still hold a job and keep hold of some money; it doesn’t take a lot of thought or effort.  What is holding so many people back?  Drugs, mental health, an inability to utilize money effectively, obsessive personalities combined with addictive (or even criminal) behaviors?  I genuinely want to know.

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All I ever needed?

When you feel burnt out from your daily grind, a short vacation can be rejuvenating.  My train ride north two weeks was one such get-away.  On my way up to the quiet parcel in the middle of bum-fuck-nowhere New Mexico, my mind was shrouded in an eerie mist of negativity.  On my way back down south, I was much more content with myself.  It was just a weekend away from my city but it was just enough of a change of scenery to reboot my attitude.

There is a peculiar tranquility and a sweet serenity to these mountains.  I’m afraid the Southwest will always be my home.

Milk Mustachio Stout – Tractor Brewing

Creamy, smooth, muted hints of coffee, and superb drinkability – this stout is Tractor Brewing‘s coup de grace (if you like stouts).

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Milk Mustachio Stout, Tractor Brewing Company, 2019.

A smooth coffee-flavored, alcoholic beverage seems perfect for a Friday night as a lone guitarist provides some euphoric background tunes.  I may have been a little harsh in my last review of Tractor, one cannot judge a brewery by on beer.  It’s a good place to relax after a busy day at work serving fried food to fat Americans, a place where nostalgic millennials can go to lament about their lost hopes and forgotten dreams.

Happy holidays, you degenerate pig fuckers.  Be safe out there.

Remember Self-care

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Happy Friday, people.  It feels good to be productive after a vacation, be it your day job hustle or your side hustle, and I’m in an especially good mood considering I get paid today. 🙂

It’s also easy to get caught up in your hustle which is why it’s important to take some time every day to take care of yourself and relieve some stress; working is virtuous but not if you forget to live as well.  Being health conscious includes your mental health as well as physical health (perhaps more so) so remember budget time for yourself to avoid burning out.

Personally, I like putting on some lo-fi music in the evening when I’m unwinding from my day job at Wingstop.  There are several channels to choose from on YouTube but lately, I’ve been tuning in to some synthwave.

The Future is Now

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

I remember when the year 2020 was the quintessential year for futuristic landscapes in science-fiction.  Now, that year is less than a month away.  For myself, it will be the year I turn thirty.

When I was a kid, I thought thirty years of age was “old as fuck” (I still jokingly describe that age as such).  In all seriousness, thirty can be as young as twenty for modern humans considering how long we can live today and the fact that medical science will only improve our lifespans in the future (disregarding a potential apocalypse that sets our civilization back by centuries).  Statistically speaking (assuming that you take care of yourself), thirty-year-olds today are less than halfway through our total lifespan.  We have MORE time today to get started doing what we love to do.

Life is what you make it so, what are you waiting for?

 

Claudio Tolousse Chills Out Zinc Bar

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

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PHOTO: Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 11/21/2019.

Musician/Songwriter Claudio Tolousse jazzed up the Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro Thursday night.  No band, no back-up singers, just Claudio.  It was a chill performance.

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PHOTO: Claudio Tolousse Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro, 11/21/2019.

Albuquerque gets a negative reputation from news media pessimistic attitudes and too few people overlook the city’s gems.  From my own experience, the best neighborhood in the city is Nob Hill (surrounding the University of New Mexico) with a stretch of Central Avenue that caters to nightlife entertainment and chill brew hipsters.  The Zinc Bar is just one of the many hangouts where you can order a beer, listen to some guitar strumming, and forget about life’s troubles for a while.

Claudio Tolousse also hosts a podcast called Art Talk Music in which he talks about “all thing music” with a variety of musical talents.

Embracing the Ordinary

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

* * *

An internet connection is an incredibly powerful tool for storytelling.  Unfortunately, most of the attention on the Web is focused on mindless entertainment over education and productive discourse.  I’m guilty of this (I am human after all) but I try to create something of value on this blog, something with which people can connect.  Perhaps that is all anyone wants out of life, connecting with someone through a mutual value, and we just don’t know how to connect with each other anymore because of all our distractions and superficial life indicators.  There are so many voices shouting into the void today and we are all chasing an image of fame.

Perhaps a key to a fulfilling life is to start turning off much of these distractions and focus more on the physical world, the things right in front of us.  To focus on the extreme examples of fame is to focus on illusions, most people (by definition) are not going to become exemplary.  The best that each of us can do is simply what brings us joy regardless of whether or not it brings you fame.  This may be a hard truth for a lot of young people today: most of your life will not be something that can be turned into an action movie; most of your life will be mundane, tedious, and boring.  However, if you find something to do in life that brings you joy and fulfillment then fame shouldn’t matter.

Take it from Woody Harrelson, “enjoy the little things.”

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Image still from Zombieland.